HP has made a massive effort of late to push their consumer display lines, and it feels like they still have a ways to go in terms of playing catch up. Releasing a 25.5" full 1920x1200 monitor certainly goes to rectifying that -- in a big way. With an amazingly bright screen, built-in speakers, webcam, microphone, task light and remote control, the HP w2558hc is a beautiful, but imperfect monitor.
Build and Design
The HP w2558hc is a large monitor. The current standard for large computer displays is 24 inches with a resolution of 1920x1200. The HP display bumps that maximum up to 25.5 inches but keeps the same resolution. Fortunately, the increased size doesn't cause the dreaded screen door effect; the pixel pitch is 0.270mm.
A 25.5" panel isn't lightweight, and the stand is more than sturdy enough to handle it. In fact, the stand for HP's w2558hc is incredibly well designed; the display can easily be moved up and down, as well as tilted back and forth. The very bottom of the stand has spots of slippery material that glide effortlessly across a desk or table. While the unit as a whole remains securely in place, the display can be turned side to side, as if it were pivoting on a point.
One very cool feature in the design of the stand is how versatile a view of the display it can give. The way the hinge works, the w2558hc can be lowered so far as to rest the bottom edge of the monitor on the surface of the desk. This means that users don't need to worry about craning their necks to look up, and notebook users who wish to use this display in conjunction with their laptop screens won't have to suffer with a dramatic split between the bottom edges of their screens.
The back of the stand also features tunnels to help organize the cables running from the back of the display, and with as many ports and inputs that the w2558hc has, that's no mean feat. Cables snap into place through a narrow gap; while it's a little tough to get the cords down into the space in the first place, that stiffness also ensures that the cables will stay put, no matter how often the display gets moved around.
Just beneath the stand on the rear of the monitor is where all of the ports and inputs for the w2558hc are found. In addition to the standard DVI-I port, there are two HDMI ports, two USB2.0 ports, audio in and power in, as well as a USB out port, used to connect the monitor's USB ports and card reader to the computer. The 3.5mm audio in jack pipes audio to a pair of built-in stereo speakers.
The speakers themselves are sort of an afterthought; since they're on the back of the display, they face away from you, and even when bounced off a wall, the 3 watt drivers aren't exactly pulse pounding. A small but bright white LED on the bottom can be activated to provide task lighting at night. This is a nice feature we first saw with HP's IQ500 series TouchSmart all-in-one computers. Using a computer in the dark can force some serious eye strain on users, and task lighting like this helps to alleviate that while illuminating a keyboard so it's easier to type.
On the left side of the display are another set of inputs, with two more USB ports nd a 7-in-2 multi-card reader. The top USB port on this side can also be used to turn the w2558hc into a digital multimedia frame by displaying pictures stored on the flash memory, or playing back video and audio clips. Above the card reader and USB ports is what looks like a narrow plastic button. Pulling on this "button", however, yields a remote control hidden in its own slot. Unfortunately, the remote control can only turn the display on and off outside of the media playback modes; even though the remote shows a slideshow button, users have to first hit the button on the front of the display before it's of any use.
The w2558hc's multimedia viewing mode, with options
Once going to the trouble of hitting the slideshow button at the bottom of the w2558hc, though, the remote does become more useful. The playback capabilities are limited at best, but pictures look absolutely beautiful cycling through the automatic slideshow programs.
In addition to watching videos, the webcam on the w2558hc lets you make them, too. The camera ranges up to 1.3MP in resolution, and can capture VGA (640x480) video at thirty frames per second. Obviously, the monitor needs to be hooked up over USB in order to capture any video on a computer. Built-in stereo microphones, located on either side of the camera, serve to capture any necessary sounds for the video.
Along the bottom right side of the front of HP's display is a series of buttons that control all of the monitor's various options. The two on the left, set apart from the others, activate the task lighting and slide show functions. The LED light has three settings, from dim to fairly bright. When the slideshow mode is activated, the computer will think that the display was disconnected even though there isn't anything wrong with the cable.
The four buttons to the right directly control the on-screen menus and other functions. Tapping the menu button brings up an easy-to-read menu right in the middle of the display. While the box does seem a little heavy and imposing, HP helpfully includes an option to change the opacity of the menu, letting whatever is up on the underlying display shine through. One interesting quirk: when any of the on-screen menus are on, the slideshow mode is unavailable. The menus are concise and easy to understand, and provide a fair amount of control over the monitor's color temperature and image controls. HP includes several different specialized display modes, depending on whatever task the user is completing at the time: reading text, looking at videos, browsing the internet, etc. Unfortunately, none of these modes were terribly pleasant to use, being either too bright, too dark, or with too severe a shift in color.
In addition to drilling through menus, the three right-most buttons can be used without having to search through a big list of options. It's a good idea, since consumers can use them to change the built-in speaker volume, choose between the three video inputs or run through a series of auto adjustments when running over an analog (VGA) connection.
Picture and Performance
A display is only as good as the picture it can produce, so how good is the HP monitor? The panel is outfitted with a glossy plastic cover, which can dramatically increase the contrast and vibrancy of colors on the display at the cost of glare and reflections. The image quality of the w2558hc was surprisingly nice; HP used a TN panel in the monitor, noted for their low cost compared to other panel types. TN panels, however, do have a weak point: viewing angles. This monitor has viewing angles of 160 degrees vertically and horizontally, and with such a large expanse of display, the color shifts are noticeable. Sitting directly in front of the monitor, it's possible to see slight color shifts toward red on the extreme left and right edges. Moving toward those areas, the color returns to normal.
At extreme angles, it's easy to see severe red shifting in the display, with everything changing as the entire spectrum shifts over. The horizontal shifts are worse than the vertical shifts, with vertical angles showing some degradation of quality, but not so much as to complain over. Something to keep in mind is that the closer someone sits to the display, the more noticeable the horizontal color shifts are on the edges. Sit back three or four feet, and the color looks more uniform across the entirety of the screen.
The backlight of this display goes from slightly dim to eye-searingly bright. It's always nice to have options, and if the display needs to go in a very, very bright area, the very bright backlighting will come in handy. I had to leave it at fifty percent most of the time, however, since at 100% the eye strain was unmanageable. Many monitors with very bright backlighting setups often suffer from severe bleeding issues, where bright patches are noticeable on an all black screen. The w2558hc does have some light bleed, but it's minor at worst, and only really noticeable on dark displays when the backlight is turned up very high. The above example shows a little bit of light bleeding at the top and a small light patch in the middle, but PLEASE TAKE NOTE that it doesn't look anywhere near this bad in real life. The picture was deliberately over-exposed in processing just to show the areas with which we had an issue.
Power and Heat
The w2558hc is an Energy Star certified appliance, meaning it meets a set of stringent standards imposed on products to guarantee a certain minimum of energy efficiency in daily operation. At minimum, with the brightness turned all the way down, the monitor used only 40 watts of power, which is good considering that it's a massive 25.5-inch monitor. At 50% brightness, the display consumed around 70 watts of electricity, and with the brightness maxed out, the w2558hc used no more than 99 watts of power. Again, the numbers aren't too bad, considering the size of the display and strength of its backlighting system.
The real issue ended up being the temperature of the monitor. When the backlight was turned down to its minimum, the monitor was warm, but far from unmanageable, and no worse than a medium-powered desktop computer. Sitting at its highest brightness level for more than a few minutes, however, heats the display up to almost unbelievable levels. The center of the display, right at eye level, rose up to 108.5 degrees, radiating that warmth straight at the user. The shock, however, came at the top of the display. The plastic on the rear top of the monitor, just above the heat vents, got up to an astonishing 143 degrees Fahrenheit. If someone needs to use this display in a smaller space, or perhaps on a corner desk without much cross breezes, the backlight really shouldn't be kept on high settings. Fortunately, lower brightness levels are more than bright enough for the vast majority of environments this monitor is likely to see.
The w2558hc monitor from Hewlett-Packard is an interesting display. It offers users an extra one and a half inches over similar 24-inch 1920x1200 resolution monitors, which can come in handy when viewing from across the room. It's not too much to suggest that HP is looking for users to do precisely that, with such media-centric features are dual HDMI ports, built-in speakers, media slideshow modes and an integrated remote control. Its extra features, such as task lighting, USB ports and card reader, are both useful and welcome additions.
The panel isn't entirely without flaw, however, and suffers from high temperatures when the backlighting is turned up. Similarly, users who work with the display set to full brightness may notice a lack of uniformity in brightness when the display is showing a black screen. Color shifts, thanks to the monitor's TN panel, are present but not really noticeable unless viewing from extreme angles, and chances are that most people will never have a problem. Little things, like the remote being unable to enter slideshow mode on its own, are annoying, but could be fixed in future firmware updates. In short, while the HP w2558hc isn't perfect, it's not bad, either, and its unique features and additions can make for a compelling argument in favor of purchase. The $550 price tag is a bit much, but the display is already available on sites such as Newegg for a more reasonable $490.
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