As LED-backlit monitors become more mainstream, competitive prices have made them increasingly more attractive to customers over their conventional, cold cathode fluorescent lamp-backlit counterparts. Add in the fact that they have a smaller carbon footprint, slimmer bodies, and richer colors, customers definitely have more reasons to invest in the former. In comes the Philips 234EL2, an affordable 23-inch white LED-backlit monitor with some pretty good specs to boot. With a 20,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, a widescreen 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution, and a low price point, the 234EL2 looks set to be a worthy choice in its category.
The design of the monitor is relatively charming, coming in with a rounded and friendlier looking set. Like most monitors, the 234EL2 is covered with a glossy bezel at the front that's prone to fingerprints. Surprisingly, it sports a smooth, matte black surface at the back. On retrieving the monitor out of the box, we realized that there were a few unsightly scratches on the glossy base stand - so do practice some caution.
The setup was stable with only slight wobbling observed during tilting - which to us, is not a major concern. Overall stability was good due in most part to the display's short neck and large circular base. Like many entry-level monitors, you can only tilt, but not swivel or make adjustments to its height. The two latter features would allow users to personalize their viewing experience further.
Like most newer monitors these days, the Philips 234EL2 showcases a set of touch sensitive controls instead of physical ones. The power button, as seen from below, is the only one demarcated with a symbol; the rest are visible only upon start-up, or when you tap near the power button to activate them while they're in sleeping mode. As superficial as it might sound, this adds a futuristic and modern feel to the monitor. The "buttons" are very responsive without being overly sensitive, making it easy for one to navigate from one section to another.
The GUI is simple and extremely straightforward, and doesn't deviate much from the usual GUI that's present on most monitors. On the extreme left, you've the SmartImage control where you get a total of three presets: Standard, Internet and Gaming. Each of them uses a its own combination of brightness, contrast, color saturation, and sharpness levels. That being said, the preset selection here is considered bare compared to other monitors out there which come with more variations like Text and Movie. It's entirely up to you to decide which better complements your experience, but for most tasks, Standard is a safe choice. On the other hand, choosing the Gaming preset would turn on the overdrive circuit to achieve a fast response time (rated at 5 ms) to minimize jaggies on fast-moving objects. In other words, if the display were to be used primarily as a gaming monitor, this preset might be a better choice.
The second and third controls lead to standard options, such as input selection (VGA, HDMI, DVI) and volume control (the monitor comes with built-in stereo speakers).
Lastly, the fourth control paves the way to the Monitor Setup, where the usual settings like Brightness, OSD, Contrast, Smart Contrast, Audio and Color Temperature are. The Philips 234EL2 is a fuss-free monitor with no frills, and for a basic monitor, a basic GUI and a basic set of controls work pretty fine in its stead.