Looking like a small flatscreen television instead of an LCD monitor, the Asus MS236H features a glossy black bezel at the front. The back is coloured white, with a distinctive hollow circular stand to support it. This 23.6 inch full HD monitor manages to stick out from the crowd and does not skimp on too many features. But there are some negatives about it that this reviewer dearly wished did not exist.

The circle-shaped stand is the most distinctive design feature of the Asus MS236H. Though it will certainly contribute to a more stylish looking office or computer room, it lacks the adjustability and effectiveness of a regular monitor stand, with the stand only allowing for a slight bit of screen tilt. Other monitors can be tilted more, and some of the premium ones even allow for "swivel" - in this monitor's case, you simply swivel and turn the screen to the left or right yourself manually.

When placed on a smooth, flat table the Asus MS236H will tend to slide around a little too much. Asus seems to be aware of this and so includes a plastic wedge in the package for those who need it, to keep it a little less prone to slip. On the positive side, it is easy to adjust the angle of the MS236H with a simple push.

The Asus MS236H's glossy white and black finish provides a distinctive look and feel, though it's prone to picking up fingerprints and smudges. The glossy surface reflects lighting, which can be distracting. Thankfully the screen itself has a matte finish, so reflections are minimised. Glossy screens indeed might give the eyes a feel of being more "vibrant" and colourful than matte screens, but your eyes won't thank you for the extra strain caused by reflections seen on a glossy screen. The unconventionally designed stand of the MS236H means it cannot be wall mounted.

The Asus MS236H has touch sensitive buttons. Though the soft white light certainly looks great, a button has to be pressed for the keys to light up, which is annoying. The buttons also hit and miss, often not registering presses. Nor does the On-Screen Display (OSD) offer all of the settings one might expect from a monitor that looks quite high-end. One case in point is the lack of "scaling" controls, to let you choose whether the monitor should display what the graphics card sends as-is (called a "1:1 ratio"), or scale it up to the entire screen whether by stretching the image or by retaining the original aspect ratio.

The monitor is a Full HD screen, thus offering a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels (also called 1080p). This means an aspect ratio of 16:9 which allows for watching widescreen-format video such as Blu-ray disc movies without any black bars. An HDMI input means you can connect to any of the high-definition gaming consoles, including Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3. The Asus MS236H also includes a standard VGA port, but lacks a DVI input port. Our package only had a VGA cable, with neither a HDMI cable nor a DVI-to-HDMI adaptor bundled together. Due to the design, it uses an external power brick that then connects to the power socket through a plug.

Using DisplayMate, we put the Asus MS236H through its paces and were not disappointed. The colour gamut measured using GamutVision was along expected lines. Though it is not particularly geared towards office use, it displayed sharp and clear text with no visible aberrations. Like most TN (twisted nematic) panels today, horizontal viewing angles were acceptable and vertical viewing was alright from above. As expected, viewing from an angle below the monitor was not good, since there was noticeable vertical colour shift. So don't think of lying down on the floor to watch a movie on it since you'll not see normal colour reproduction.

However, the Asus MS236H's viewing angles are still very acceptable for a monitor of its size, since budget monitors and laptop screens are even worse when viewed from the same vertical angle below. Its handling of fast motion was pretty good, as expected from its response times of 2ms. Movies and fast-paced games were fun to play during our tests, even if the screen contrast was only average. The much reviled "input lag" curse of higher-end large screen LCD monitors was non-existent since it benefited from the 2ms response time.

It performs fairly well when compared with regular LCD monitors of a similar size, but the Asus MS236H's performance characteristics are only average and not good enough for gamers. The annoying touch sensitive buttons may cause some frustration. Some more negatives for a home user are the lack of a DVI port/cable, inability to scale video input and lack of wall-mounting. This is an LCD monitor, even if it looks thinner than most others. Those wanting to purchase a monitor that employs an LED-backlight should look for the Asus MS238H instead.

OUR VERDICT

The most distinctive feature of the Asus MS236H LCD monitor is its gorgeous design. But it is not a great buy despite the acceptable price for the screen size. Buy this monitor only if you are interested above all in the style of the Asus MS236H, and the negatives mentioned above do not matter to you.