Philips 231C5 SmoothTouch 23″ IPS Touch Screen Monitor Review
Chris Hadley / 10 months ago
When Microsoft announced the imminent launch of Windows 8, one of the revolutionary aspects of the new operating system was its more streamlined integration into touch screen devices. Since that time we have seen touch screen capable notebooks and Ultrabooks swarm the market and the era of the touch screen computer has changed the way that many of us have interacted with our systems. For the most part, this interaction has been on mobile devices such as Microsoft’s Surface 2 Pro Tablet and Intel’s range of Ultrabooks, however we have also seen a number of touch screen enabled AIO’s (All-In-One Systems) appearing on the market, however their appeal is not as great as that of mobile devices.
The reason for this general lack of interest is the relative performance that they have to offer in comparison to an enthusiast or gamer spec system and this is where the deciding point has been left for many users. Touch screen monitors are obviously not that new to the market, but up to this point there has not been that much of a strong appeal within the consumer markets, however since the launch of Windows 8, the interest in purchasing an after market monitor with touch screen capabilities has been growing at a steady rate.
Philips as some may or may not know are very closely related to AOC who produce some of the top gaming monitors that we have seen over the last year or so and with this partnership we have seen a range of monitors that almost covers each and every sector of the tech market. To broaden their product catalogue that bit more, Philips have been developing an all new multi-point touch screen LCD panel that offers up all the image clarity that we have come to expect from the brand, with the quality and precision that the Philips brand also has to offer.
Built in to a 23″ frame, the SmoothTouch 231C5 offers users a glorious 1920 x 1080 LCD IPS panel with a touch screen element added on the top. To set the 231C5 apart from other panels as well, there is not a stand as we would typically see, but instead a foot that extends out from the back of the panel, allowing the screen to either sit upright, or lay right back for easy use of the touch screen in design applications for example.
Included alongside the monitor Philips include a wide variety of cables including VGA and HDMI display cables, a USB3.0 lead for the touchscreen element, a kettle lead and AC adaptor, 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable and also a quick start guide and driver CD to install the drivers for the touch screen element of the display.
A Closer Look
Placing all the accessories and packaging aside, we can first off see where this monitor differs from most other displays with the screen itself sitting directly on the desk. Around the edge of the IPS panel Philips have left a reasonable amount of bezel and to cover the front of the display is a gloss effect plastic cover which contains the touch screen elements of the display.
Protruding out of the upper edge of the display is a 1MP web cam and to either side of that we just see two small holes, behind which sits the microphones for stereo sound.
Running along the lower edge of the display is the controls for the On-Screen display. As you may be able to make out however, there are no actual button within the frames of the monitor, instead each of the icons on the framework itself is touch sensitive.
Turning the monitor around, the first thing that we catch our eyes on is the stand that allows the screen to sit at a rather shallow for ease of use whilst using the touch screen for painting applications for example. Directly above this is a VESA 100 mount point, to which we find a slot either in the casing. Looking through these slots we find that the monitors 1W speakers are mounted here and above everything else a third slot sits in the middle of the panel towards the top of the screen to vent any heat away from the panel during use. Whilst the front of the display has a glossy coating, the rear of the monitor is finished in a matte effect with a series of randomly spaced ridges running from the upper edge of the panel right down to just above the input ports.
Tucked right underside the panel we find an array of inputs, including two HDMI ports – one with MHL capabilities, a full-sized DisplayPort, VGA, two USB3.0 ports and a native USB3.0 input, stereo audio in/out and a DC power jack. Running parallel to the inputs on the lower edge of the screen we can see a rubber foot which stops the display from sliding around on a desk. This is especially important with a touch screen panel as the last thing we want to see is the screen moving back when we press it!
To the right hand side we get the obligatory Kensington lock point. As I highlighted in one of my other recent reviews, Kensington lock points are a highly overlooked feature, after all the last thing that any of us wants to find is some expensive hardware and peripherals going missing whilst we are away.
On Screen Display (OSD)
When I recently had a look at Philips own 242G5 gaming monitor, one of the things that I picked out about the panels features what the SmartImage preset menu which allowed one of a set of predefined image modes to be enabled, adjusting the colour, brightness and contrast ratios, given the type of content that is on display. The 231C5 gives us the exact same option with a menu showing from the lower edge of the panel and offering one of six modes to be enabled, whilst another one turns off the SmartImage settings and leaving everything totally down to the users own preference.
Unlike the 242G5 however, the 213C5 does not offer up any desktop control software which, given its USB connectivity, is a little bit of a surprise to be totally honest. The OSD however does give us all the usual options that we would expect from this type of panel.
Usage And Performance
Before I get too much into how the screen feels and looks during use, we do need to do a little bit of driver installation in order to get the touch screen element of the panel up and running. To do this Philips include a CD with the display drivers on, allowing the monitors touch screen features to be used alongside a traditional mouse and keyboard setup.
Once the drivers have been installed, getting to grips with the monitor is very simple and straight forward. For the most part the 231C5 is just like any full high-definition panel and through its 23″ 1920 x 1080 IPS panel, it is able to give a bright crisp image with deep blacks and bright whites. Do note that if pure black colour objects appear more grey than black, then you will need to check your graphics card’s colour output settings and make sure the output mode is set to YbPrCr and not RBP as commonly seen set by default.
Using the monitor for general day-to-day operations, including office type work and some recreational film watching after, the SmoothTouch panel gives a surprisingly clear and well-defined images with bright, crisp colours and deep blacks – all of which came right out whilst watching the old favourite, Toy Story 3. Office type work was also similarly impressive and even after a long period of use, I didn’t feel as though my eyes were tired so-to-speak.
Where the 213C5 really comes into its element is with the touch screen capability. In a standard Windows 8 environment with the metro interface, everything feels far more natural and fluid, much like it does on Intel’s Ultrabooks and it helps to define what makes Windows 8 what it is. Tilting the screen back to have it almost lay down on the desk changes once again the way in which one can interact with their system. On one hand it makes playing two-person games that are designed for touch screen displays much easier and on the other hand, I can see how creative users would find the angled screen more like a drawing board with a more natural working angle to use.
The built-in webcam, albeit a low resolution 1MP camera, is surprisingly good for what it is as well. The image that it gives is both clear and bright and its more than adequate for a bit of light use through the likes of Skype.
On both sides of the Atlantic, the 231C5 carries very different price tags in relation to its competing models. On the US side of the pond, the SmoothTouch panel is a shade over $500, making it slightly cheaper than the two AOC monitors that I’ve seen and also a price point that is manageable. On the UK side, the pricing is a little more steep making a large number of 24″ panels far more affordable.
The justification of cost all comes down to the user experience in the end and if it’s a Windows 8 or POS (Point Of Sale) environment where you are likely to use this, then adding the touch screen features on the top makes this monitor worth every penny / cent and it will make for a far more fluid user experience.
When you look at the broad range of monitors that are on the market today, especially when compared to a few years ago, there is almost an option out there to suit every users needs. Philips’ 231C5 is yet another example of a product that is suited towards a certain market, although its deployment can be made easily elsewhere with ease. Touchscreens are by no means a ‘new’ technology in themselves, especially when we look at the wider world and see that they are all around us; in our smart phones, tablets, iPods, till systems and now our laptops. It has only been a matter of time before they start to appear on the consumer market at a more affordable price, especially now that Windows 8 and its touch screen optimised metro interface has made its mark and is here to stay.
As with all things the I get in to review, there are a few pro’s and con’s to consider when looking at any product. In the case of the 231C5 SmoothTouch monitor, things generally are on the good side, with a crisp bright picture to hand through a good variety if display inputs and this is defined by the IPS LCD panel that Philips have opted for in this model. Other good features obviously have to include the touch screen capability and the ability to have the display lead right back and into a more natural position of ‘creative’ types of work. The slight downside that I do find with this design is that the monitor does sit a little low in the desk, well it sits right on the desk in fact and when you’re used to having the monitor lifted off the desk by a couple of inches, this does take a bit of getting used to.
In general though Philips have got the design of the 231C5 spot on, simple things such as the rippled effect to the back of the monitor and the sweeping curves that run along the lower edge of the display made for a product that is pleasant to the eye and one that would not look out-of-place in any home or office. The choice of getting this or not does come a little bit down to the pricing and whilst I can say that for the US this is very good, UK buyers may want to either look at what else is out there or wait a little while longer for the price to drop down a little more and become that bit more affordable.
All in all, I’m quite surprised with this screen. When I first had it out of the box and had a look around it, I was a little dubious about its style and the positioning of the screen on the desk, but as time as gone on and I’ve had it in place as my main monitor for a few days, its come to grow on me and the touch screen functionality surprisingly does come in handy. If you’re a Windows 8 user who would like to have a more ‘in-touch’ experience to the way that you use your computer, then certainly this is an ideal solution for you and even if you don’t use W8, consider it, but remember that there is a whole world of other options out there that may suit your needs a little more than having a touch screen capable panel .
- IPS LCD 1920 x 1080 panel
- Well recognised brand
- Touch screen functionality
- Strong price point in the US
- Screen does sit directly on the desktop
- Display inputs on the rear can be a bit awkward to get to if you’re connecting in a second source after first setting the monitor up.
“Windows 8 and its metro interface came under strong criticism when it first came to light, however the evolution of the Ultrabook with its touch screen capabilities has brought it all back to life with a new way if interacting with our computers. The 231C5 SmoothTouch monitor from Philips is simply an extension of this immersive experience that we all long for with our desktop computers, with the addition of style and quality dressed over the top.”
Thanks to AOC for providing us with this review sample.