The monitor’s menu is Acer’s typical, and I must once again repeat that it is typically unhandy. You can quick-access – by a press of a single button – the auto-adjustment feature and the sound volume setting. To adjust the brightness and contrast settings and to switch between the monitor’s inputs you have to get into the main menu which does not remember where you left it last time.
The image quality of the employed S-IPS matrix from LG.Philips LCD was, however, a pleasant surprise for me: mild eye-pleasing colors, very wide viewing angles (black backgrounds have a violet sheen which is characteristic of all S-IPS matrixes, but it is not as strong as to disturb you at work) and an excellent response time (the matrix subjectively felt like the fastest I had ever tested).
I should say that Acer’s website claims this monitor model is based on an MVA matrix, but the onscreen picture as well as the results of my tests leave no doubt that it uses an S-IPS one. We took an off-the-shelf sample for our tests, so there can’t be any confusion about test samples like when Samsung once sent out to testers their SyncMaster 172X on PVA instead of TN+Film matrixes.
I don’t think you’d want to use the analog input due to the above-mentioned fuzziness of the image, so the numbers and diagrams below refer to the digital connection only (as a matter of fact, I did some measurements with the analog connection, too, and got almost the same results). The monitor’s contrast and brightness stand on 80% and 100% by default; to make the screen shine with a luminosity of 100 nits (1 nit = 1 candela per sq. meter) I set the brightness and contrast settings to 70% both.
The gamma compensation is set up very accurately by default (the graph above was taken at the monitor’s default settings, but it is no worse at the 100nit screen brightness). The monitor carefully reproduces all the colors, both dark and light.
The measurements of the matrix response time confirmed my visual impressions, yielding 18 milliseconds on black-white-black transitions of the pixel’s state and growing only to 31 milliseconds on transitions between black and different shades of gray. This is an excellent performance (for example, 19” S-IPS matrixes with a declared response time of 25 milliseconds are only as fast as 35-40 milliseconds on black/gray transitions). Note also that the pixel rise and fall times are equal on black-white-black transitions (for example, the rise-to-fall ratio is about 3-4 to 1 with TN+Film matrixes). Particularly, it means that thin black lines become lighter when you’re scrolling text, but do not change their width. This is another factor contributing to the positive visual impression from the speed of this matrix.
This monitor’s white color lacks intensity. It is enough for work, but more brightness would be desirable for playing games or watching movies in a brightly lit room. The contrast ratio isn’t very high, but typical for an S-IPS matrix – even at daylight you can notice that it displays a dark gray rather than pure black. I don’t publish the numbers declared by Acer since they refer to a different type of the matrix and are obviously irrelevant here.
So, the Acer AL2021 is overall a highly appealing monitor with excellent image quality and matrix speed. As for its disadvantages, the analog input isn’t quite good, the menu isn’t very handy, and there is no portrait mode. These minor drawbacks are, however, well compensated by the low price, which is currently about $700 (you could buy only a low-end 19” model for that money just a little while ago). The AL2021 will suit nicely for work (due to its high resolution and good color reproduction) as well as for games and movies (thanks to the fast matrix).