Acer DX241H review
A neat idea poorly implemented: you can buy a cheap PC and a better quality screen for a similar price
We’ve seen Linux-based software used before to provide a quick way to boot into a basic, internet-enabled OS, but usually it’s been in a motherboard or laptop. Acer’s DX241H extends the idea to the world of monitors.
From the outside it looks like any standard 24in monitor, and it has the usual 1080p resolution. The difference is that at the rear, alongside the standard HDMI and D-SUB outputs, are four USB 2 ports and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Hook these up to your keyboard and mouse, an external hard disk or USB thumb drive and your network connection, and you have a standalone internet-cum-media playback terminal. No need for a PC at all, in fact.
Switch on the DX241H and in around ten seconds you’re thrown into Acer’s proprietary UI. This is dominated by six buttons: one launches a simplified version of Google Chrome (complete with Adobe Flash compatibility), while the rest provide links to popular social networks and search engines, with YouTube, Twitter and Facebook alongside Bing and Yahoo.
A group of buttons in the bottom-right of the screen hide the Acer’s true selling point, though: the CyberLink-developed clear.fi software. This picks up any DLNA-compliant client on your network, as well as files on drives connected to the USB sockets at the rear, for music, movie and photo playback.
In practice this is a good idea, but it’s ruined by poor performance and design. The chip used inside the DX241H clearly isn’t up to task: HD clips on YouTube and BBC iPlayer were unwatchable thanks to constant juddering; only SD clips played smoothly. Video file playback was better: we managed to get some of our test 720p clips to run smoothly, but we found file compatibility patchy, with many files failing to play and some causing the DX241H to crash.
The UI doesn’t help. It’s slow and unresponsive, with options taking a couple of seconds to initialise once selected, and graphical glitches mar the slick-looking software. You can’t build playlists, the device navigation interface doesn’t support mouse scroll-wheels, and the lack of tool-tips makes already-unfamiliar icons even more difficult to understand.
Issues abound elsewhere. There’s no indication of network connectivity once you’ve left the setup wizard. Photo slideshows are plagued by sluggish image transitions and playback controls that are unresponsive in the extreme. The browser is better, gaining a SunSpider score of 4,119ms, but that's not much compensation.
Image quality, meanwhile, is a mixed bag, with colour accuracy not far behind the A-Listed ViewSonic VP2365wb, but a low contrast ratio of 238:1 gives a slightly washed out, tepid look. The built-in speakers are nothing special either.
The Acer’s main attraction is undoubtedly its software front-end but, when the software is this poor and the price this high, we can’t possibly recommend it, either as a standalone device or a PC monitor.
|Price ex VAT||£249|
|Price inc VAT||£299|
|Features & Design||3|
|Value for Money||3|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Pixel response time||2ms|
|Dynamic contrast ratio||80,000:1|
|Upstream USB ports||4|
|USB ports (downstream)||4|
|3.5mm audio input jacks||1|
|Other audio connectors||0|
|Dimensions||574 x 172 x 430mm (WDH)|