Per our normal tests, we first calibrated the monitor with Datacolor's Spyder3Elite before conducting our visual tests and video benchmark. Do note that we kick-started the series of test with these settings: changing color settings to the sRGB preset, with a contrast setting of 90 and brightness at 60. Also, do note that the sRGB scheme cannot be activated when SmartImage is in use. Needless to say, we disabled SmartImage via the control on the front of the monitor in this instance.
DisplayMate is an application which generates a sequence of test patterns to determine the capabilities of imaging devices like color and gray-scale accuracies. Here's what we gathered:
Screen Uniformity test:- Screen Uniformity was tested across all primary and secondary colors with no irregularities in tint or hue observed. While backlight bleeds weren't overtly prominent on the monitor, they were visible around the perimeter of the screen.
Stuck Pixel test:- No dead pixels were visible on the screen across all the colors.
Dark Gray Scale test:- Blacks were accurate, with little to no irregularities across the blocks. Grey blocks were noticeable from level 4 onwards.
Color Tracking test:- No abnormal variations apparent.
256 Intensity Color Ramp test:- Compression artifacts appeared briefly in the middle, only showing up prominently at the end. Otherwise, gradation was smooth, with all colors reflected accurately. We noticed that the white was too cool for our liking (it had a slight tinge of blue), but that didn't deter much from its overall performance.
Color Scales test:- Smooth gradation was spotted across the color scales. All primary colors were accurate.
Scaled Font:- Fonts were very discernible even up to the smallest size on both black and white backgrounds.
As per normal, part of our video playback tests involves us playing two 1080p trailers - namely, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Star Trek - to get a good gauge of the monitor's ability to render colors, dynamic contrast ratio performance and so forth. Both of the clips also offer a mixture of dark brooding and fast-moving action scenes that are great for testing out a monitor's video playback performance and responsiveness.
A minor inconvenience that we have encountered sometimes with touch-sensitive controls is that they do not light up when the lights are out, making them hard to discern in the dark. Thankfully, on the Philips 234EL2, control buttons will light up once you tap near the power button, making it easy for users to discern where and what to press in the dark. The visual performance on the 23EL2 was definitely one of the better ones so far - viewing the clips was a pleasant experience, especially so with the 23EL2's accurate color reproduction (including skin tones, and blacks) and crisp details. We also observed pretty good viewing angles (Philips rated them at 176° and 170° for horizontal and vertical respectively).
Watching clips on different monitors with dynamic contrast ratio on has always been one with patchy results. The Philips 23EL2 has an above average contrast ratio of 20,000,000:1. Most other monitors average somewhere from 5,000,000 to 8,000,000:1. With Smart Contrast turned on, videos appeared dimmer on the whole, but with smooth contrast transitions that were not overbearing. Visual details still remained crisp and clear with accurate skin tones and colors. Overall, the Smart Contrast experience on the 23EL2 was commendable. Thankfully, switching it on in this case actually enhanced video playback, with fluid transitions that did not compromise visual details in dark scenes.