There is no shortage of widescreen LCDs available these days. 19″ Widescreens have become the norm, and 22″ Widescreens are not much more. Manufacturers need to do something to differenciate themselves from the others, be it with available connections, built-in card readers and USB hubs, contrast ratios, viewing angles, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
AOC have decided to do something a little bit different. Their latest model, the 22″ 2230Fm, makes it possible to do away with the PC altogether, and brings new meaning to “Digital Photoframe”.
It is a good looking screen, something I can’t say for the AOC screens I have seen previously. It’s made from glossy black plastic, which looks quite stylish. The power button and arrow buttons are very cheap feeling however, wobbling about with a general dissatisfying feel when pressed. My review unit seemed to have a defective remote, so I was pushing them a lot.
On the back is a standard four-point bracket for mounting to a wall.
The 2230Fm has the obligatory DVI-D and VGA ports for connecting to your PC, a pair of pathetic 2W speakers for system sounds, and even chucks in a USB hub and memory card reader. It also a includes a HDMI connector, and what AOC call their “Digital Media Player Engine”. Basically, you can play media files directly on the monitor, no PC or box required. A similar model, the 2230Fa, will be available without HDMI and DMP.
You have the option of using a memory card (SD, MMC, XD and Memory Stick are on offer) or a USB drive to feed in multimedia, mounted on the left side of the display, making them easy to access.
The monitor doesn’t automatically open the DMP interface, you have to do that yourself. The DMP appears as a source on the inputs list.
Once open, you’re presented with a menu with the three playback modules: photos, music and video. There is also a settings panel.
The photo viewer basically turns the 2230Fm into a massive photo frame, scrolling through your images. With it’s high resolution, photos looks fabulous, with excellent detail and colour reproduction. The transition animations are a bit tacky and have a very low framerate, so it may be worth disabling them. There is also no adjustment on how photos are displayed. Images are scaled to fit the display, and there is no way to change that to crop images to fill the screen, which would have been a nice feature.
The music player feels completely pointless. I can’t think of any reason why you would want to use your LCD display to play music. The interface is poor, and offers no features beyond playback. MP3 and WMA files I tried played fine, both through the rubbish speakers and external speakers using the audio out jack, but it’s not a feature I can see people using. “Hey look, my new LCD can play MP3s!”.
The video player is probably the most impressive feature of the DMP, offering playback of video files from your memory card. Details on this are sketchy, I couldn’t actually find a list of valid files or extensions. I did test a variety of files, and almost all of them played just fine.
First I tried some high bitrate Xvid files, all of which played without any hiccups. Quality was excellent, the monitor doing a commedable job of scaling them up to the monitors native resolution. The display recognised both .AVI and .DIVX file extensions.
I also tested playing videos captured with a Nikon L10 digital camera, which had a .MOV extension, and they too played fine.
The press release mentions using these displays to play product advertisements without requiring a PC, and they certainly would work perfectly for this purpose. To be honest, I can’t see a lot of use for them in a home enviroment for video playback, for the simple reason it will likely be hooked up to a PC, where your videos are stored.
Of course the 2230Fm can be connected to a computer, either via D-SUB (VGA) or DVI. I can safely say it looks outstanding. Connected to my MacBook Pro, it looks absolutely stunning. Videos and photos are vivid and bright, and blacks look like blacks, not wishy washy greys, thanks to the 20,000:1 contrast ratio. AOC advertise the 2230Fm as having a 2ms response time, and it shows. Ghosting is non-existant when watching fast action sequences.
I really like the AOC 2230Fm, it is fabulous both as a computer monitor and a standalone media playback machine. The one issue I have is with its price tag. Here in Australia the RRP is AU$549 (about US$530). In the US it’s $399. The price difference between markets is outrageous. I’d be willing to pay $399 for this monitor, it is very good and worth the extra over cheaper models. But here in Australia, at AU$549, it’s too much.
If they pricing comes down, then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the AOC 2230Fm as an excellent monitor for your computer, or even as a large digital photoframe. It looks good, the display quality is excellent and it offers some handy extras to differentiate it from it’s competitors.
MSRP: AU$549 (ridiculous), US$399
What I Like: Display quality, design, feature-set
What Needs Improvement: Pricing outside USA, quality of the controls, the remote didn’t work on my review unit.