A Monitor for All Seasons

The NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2 provides plenty of evidence that the line between gaming and traditional monitors is quickly blurring

Editor's Rating:

The Good: Extremely easy to set up; built-in speaker system reduces desk clutter

The Bad: Rather expensive for its size; possible compatibility issues

The Bottom Line: A good buy for increasing screen space without cluttering a desk; also good for gaming

There was a time when I believed that the world of computer monitors could easily be broken down into two distinct categories. On one side were the gaming monitors—light, portable, and boasting a high response time, they served gamers well. On the other were the traditional monitors used in home and office settings. These monitors did a little bit of everything. From gaming to word processing, they needed to be flexible enough to survive multiple users and multiple computing habits.

But the line between gaming and traditional monitors is quickly blurring. This is no more evident than in the NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2. On the game-play front, the monitor stands apart from the crowd. But I was surprised to find that the NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2 performs quite well when going about everyday tasks as well. At a decent size and weight, the NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2 is one of the most flexible monitors available this holiday season.

My first test of the NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2 began when I opened the box. Computer monitors are usually bulky and awkward—removing them from the box often requires superhuman strength and an advanced degree in engineering. Since I possess neither, I was relieved when the NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2 proved to be easy to set up. With a 20.1-inch display and weighing only 15.4 pounds, the monitor easily slid from the packaging and onto the desk. I didn't break a sweat, I didn't need to summon help, and I didn't injure my back. Keep this in mind if you're buying a monitor this holiday season—size matters. You don't want to be stuck at a mall because you can't hoist the box into your car.

Plug and Go

Setting the monitor up was as simple as removing it from the box. Much like the Gateway FPD2485W monitor, the NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2 was up and running in under 30 minutes (see BusinessWeek.com, 12/18/06, "This Gateway's Good to Go"). While I had spent a few moments popping and sliding the Gateway model into place, the NEC model came preassembled, making my job even easier. Whereas the Gateway model has the option of adding a speaker, the NEC comes with a speaker system pre-attached to the underside of the monitor. While the speaker system wasn't anything to write home about, it still made the plug-and-go experience of the NEC that much nicer.

I began by testing out a video game. I connected the monitor to a Dell Latitude D600 laptop and popped in the PC version of Sierra's popular game F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon. It was evident within a few moments that the NEC was made for gamers. The NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2 has a 1600:1 contrast ratio, which is somewhat higher than some similarly priced monitors. The NEC monitor also boasts an extremely quick response time. This is an important indicator of how a monitor will perform during game play. Response time is how long it takes a pixel in an LCD monitor to go from black to white and then back to black. A slow response time will make game play look slow and blurry. Although a response time of eight to 16 milliseconds is typical of liquid-crystal-display monitors, the NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2 scored an impressive six ms response time.

The NEC monitor certainly didn't disappoint. It actually heightened the already spectacular game play. I won't ruin the plot, but let me just say this: F.E.A.R. is a bloody, disorienting video game that actually scared me when I first played it. Combine that with the NEC's crispness, and I was downright terrified. The game-play was more realistic, and the colors seemed to jump off the screen.

Confronting Compatibility Issues

After I had been thoroughly scared, I decided to test the monitor's video-playback capabilities. As with the Gateway model, I watched the movie Airplane. Again, I was pleasantly surprised by the video quality. Airplane was crisp and looked as good as it did on larger monitors, except this monitor left me with considerable desk space. The NEC model also scores points for coming equipped with four USB 2.0 ports, allowing the user to connect cameras or high-speed gaming peripherals directly to the monitor. As for everyday use, the NEC performed admirably. While you may have to adjust the resolution, you won't feel as though you're straining your eyes to compose an e-mail.

Of course, it wasn't all roses for the NEC. I ran into a number of compatibility issues. As I did with the Gateway, I began by attempting to pair the NEC monitor with an Apple MacBook. Unfortunately, the hook-ups weren't compatible. The NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2 accepts S-video, component video, and composite analog inputs. Again, if you're going to purchase any computer monitor, be sure to check that it's compatible with your computer. If it's not, the purchase of adaptors and cords could grow hefty.

If you're a serious gamer then the NEC monitor is right for you. But don't discount the NEC if you're looking to upgrade your monitor for everyday use. While the $615 price tag is hefty when compared to similar models, it's worth every penny. The ability to increase screen size while keeping desk clutter to a minimum is priceless. With its sleek thin-frame design, countless on-board gadgets, and stunning video playback, the NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2 is a can't-miss gift for anyone wanting to upgrade their monitor this holiday season.

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