Lately, ASUS has produced several lines of budget monitors that definitely don't look like they belong in the bargain bin. The ML Series continues this trend, but it's not just a pretty face. ASUS packed a high-quality display technology and a versatile base into the $189 ML228H, making for an inexpensive monitor that holds its own against higher-priced competition--and sometimes comes out ahead.
Though the ASUS ML Series isn't quite as eye-catching as the MS Series (with its single hoop for a base), the ML228H has some of the same aesthetic sensibilities. The slim, 0.6-inch wide display rests atop a base made of two hoops that allow not only a 25-degree horizontal tilt range, but also 20 degrees vertically. Unfortunately, there's no height adjustment. With the base attached, the ASUS ML only takes up 8.3 inches front to back on a desk.
The glossy plastic casing does collect fingerprints, but otherwise the ML228H's piano black design is elegant. Instead of this color continuing to the back, the ASUS ML features a pearl-white backing. Though most people won't see it often, it adds a bit of flair.
On the bottom right of the ASUS ML's bezel sit the on-screen display (OCD) controls. These capacitive buttons offer quick access to the most common settings--brightness and contrast--plus a Source switch. There are a few other settings under the Menu button, though nothing as robust as what the Acer S243HL and Dell ST2420L offer. Moving through the menus is pretty intuitive, and ASUS makes it easy for users to make tweaks.
The ports and inputs in the back face outward and are easy to access. Though there are only two video inputs--VGA and HDMI--we were pleased that ASUS included an HDMI-to-DVI cable along with the standard VGA, which will be useful for desktop users. The ASUS ML doesn't integrate speakers like some competing displays, but it does include an audio output.
Display and Performance
The 22-inch, matte, LED-backlit, 1920 x 1080 display offers great color depth plus crisp images. While watching a Blu-ray of Iron Man, we were impressed that the images were almost as rich as those on the Samsung SyncMaster B2330HD, the best monitor we've tested this year, and on a par with the Acer S243HL. On the PassMark contrast test, we noticed that the very darkest colors weren't very distinguishable, but from 6 percent brightness all the way to 100 percent, each step was clearly delineated. Unfortunately, on the scale test, where solid colors (blue, green, red, white) gradually fade from dark to light vertically across the screen, the steps between colors weren't very smooth. Fonts as small as 7 points remained crisp; and even though 6 point text was a little fuzzy, it was still readable.
Viewing angles are comfortably wide on the ML228H, and the matte display meant we didn't have to contend with annoying glare and reflections. Action was smooth while watching our Iron Man Blu-ray and while playingBatman: Arkham Asylum. Unlike most other monitors in our roundup, the ASUS ML228H boasts a 2ms response time instead of 5ms. However, when we ran tests that specifically measure ghosting, we didn't note a significant difference.
Model Family and Warranty
Aside from the 22-inch model, ASUS offers one other monitor in the ML Series, the 23-inch ML238H ($214). ASUS covers the ML228H with a generous three-year limited warranty.
The $189, 22-inch ASUS ML228H offers picture quality that rivals pricier models and an aesthetically pleasing design. For $20 more than the ViewSonic VX2250wm-LED, users get more features and a better display at the same size. Though consumers will have to make some minor trade-offs to come in under $200, such as the lack of integrated speakers, ASUS has created a high-quality monitor for the money.