Acer's monitors have been praised in the past for providing lots of bang for your buck, and its latest 24-inch model isn't about to break that streak. For $239 (MSRP $299), the S243HL offers a stylish, super-thin design, and a very good viewing experience. Even users who don't know much about calibrating or tweaking monitor settings will find this model easy to set up and use.
The Acer S243HL immediately struck us as very modern due to its spare, angular design. The ultra thin, 0.55-inch display panel sits atop an artistic brushed metal, L-shaped base. Though the main portion of the base is to the right of center, the monitor doesn't feel unstable. However, the display and casing betrayed an alarming amount of flex when we moved it around before attaching the base. The S243HL isn't height-adjustable, but the screen does tilt in a 20-degree range. With the base attached, the monitor only has a 7.6-inch deep footprint. Unfortunately, there's no integrated way to mount the monitor on a wall.
Buttons for power and the on-screen display (OSD) menus sit on the front of the base. Navigating the menus and options is fairly intuitive. We particularly like the pre-set adjustments found under Empowering Technology in the menu or accessed by pressing the stylized e key. Users can choose from Graphic, Movie, Standard, or Text modes, plus a user-defined mode.
Both the monitor's buttons and the inputs and ports are found on the base. We appreciate that the ports in the back are easy to access. There is one VGA and two HDMI ports, plus an audio-in jack, but no DVI. Acer includes a VGA cord and stereo audio cable, but no HDMI cord with the S243HL.
Display and Performance
The matte 24-inch, LED-backlit 1920 x 1080 display offered a crisp picture with excellent color depth. Compared to other budget monitors in its class, the Acer offers colors as rich as the ASUS ML228H, second only to the Samsung SyncMaster B2330HD.
While testing contrast in PassMark, we noted that there was little difference between the darkest shades, and on screens showing degrees of brightness in green and blue. The lighter shades ranging from 80 to 100 percent brightness didn't have a discernible difference, indicating that lighter colors will wash out. When viewing solid colors fading vertically from dark to light, we did notice the steps between colors from some angles, particularly on the blue screen, but not to an egregious degree. Smaller fonts--6 and 7 points--weren't as crisp as we'd like, but were readable at the native resolution.
Viewing angles on the S243HL very wide--even at extreme angles, we didn't note any distortion--and the matte display means no reflections and some protection from glare, even in sunlight. While watching a Blu-ray of Iron Man and playing Batman: Arkham Asylum, we were pleased to find movement stutter-free, even during scenes with fast action and complex visuals. Though the built-in speakers aren't very powerful or rich, they do offer decent audio quality and volume.
We found Graphic and Movie Modes provided the best color depth, but switching between those and the Text mode is simple enough that we expect many users will do so when they need to work on a document or surf text-heavy websites. Those who want a finer level of control can adjust everything from brightness/contrast to color temperature under the main menu. Though the available tweaks aren't as robust as the Samsung SyncMaster, most users will be able to get the picture quality they want.
Model Family and Warranty
Though Acer's S Series monitors come in 20- to 23-inch sizes, only the S243HL has this exact design. Acer offers a generous 3-year parts and labor limited warranty.
Consumers can find the Acer S243HL for as low as $239, an aggressive price point for a 24-inch monitor with a good picture and slim profile. The 24-inch Dell ST2420L benchmarked better when comparing contrast and scaling, but ultimately, we prefer the 23-inch Samsung SyncMaster B2330HD for $269 or the 24-inch version (B2430HD) for $289. These monitors offer superior color accuracy and far more features, but don't have the Acer's style and super-thin profile.