NEC E232WMT 23-Inch Touchscreen Monitor Review

When Windows 8 added 10-point multi-touch support, we expected a flood of desktop touchscreen monitors to hit the market. That hasn’t happened yet but NEC is making maximum effort with the E232WMT. Today we check it out in our lab.

The touchscreen has been around in various forms for many years. But until recently, you would only see them in places like science museums or at restaurant server stations. They didn’t really hit the mainstream until Apple introduced its iPhone. Then the floodgates opened with hundreds of me-too products from other mobile device manufacturers. Now we have tablets, phablets, and phones in every imaginable shape and size.

Adoption has been much slower on the desktop, since the two major operating systems, OS X and Windows, have only gradually enabled multi-touch functionality on hardware platforms. Why this is the case can be debated, but I think it comes down to a matter of ergonomics.

Using a touchscreen with a graphical OS is a good deal slower and less-precise than what we can do with a keyboard and mouse or trackball. Windows does a decent job with its Metro interface and those large buttons that require no precision at all to operate. Once you start scrolling through menus or try to select tiny radio buttons in a dialog box, though, navigation becomes a more difficult proposition.

We thought Windows 8 might spawn a multitude of new touchscreen-based displays. However, to date, we have only reviewed one monitor fitting that description, Dell’s P2714T. Today, we look at NEC’s entry, the E232WMT.

Panel Type & Backlight
AH-IPS / W-LED, edge array
Screen Size & Aspect
23-inch / 16:9
Touch Layer
Projected capacitive
10-point multi-touch
Max Resolution & Refresh
1920x1080 @ 60 Hz
Native Colour Depth & Gamut
8-bit / sRGB
Response Time (GTG)
5 ms
Brightness
250 cd/m2
Speakers
2 x 1 W
Video Inputs
1 x DVI, 1 x HDMI, 1 x VGA
Audio
1 x 3.5 mm, 1 x headphone
USB
v3.0: 1 x up, 4 x down
Camera
2 MP, 1920x1080, 30 FPS
Microphone
Stereo, digital
Panel Dimensions
W x H x D
22.1 x 14.3-16.4 x 9.8 in
561 x 363-417 x 250 mm
Panel Thickness
2.25 in / 57 mm
Bezel Width
1 in / 25 mm
Weight
16.8 lbs / 7.6 kg
Warranty
Three years

NEC obviously started from scratch for the E232WMT’s design, beginning with an LED-lit AH-IPS panel at 1920x1080. Why not 2560x1440 or higher? You have to consider the size of on-screen objects and how that affects usability. Let’s just say that the resolution of the average index finger is poor, and if you want to interact with a PC's desktop, it can’t be packed with tiny icons and buttons. With a density of 96 pixels-per-inch, Windows objects are just the right size for easy selection.

The other major component in any touchscreen design is its stand, which most of us take for granted in typical desktop monitors. But a touchscreen only works if it is positioned comfortably. Interacting with a display in an upright position is impractical for anything but basic object selection like opening apps or placing a cursor, as examples. You really need to be able to lay it flat or at a steep keyboard-like angle.

NEC addresses this with a special stand that works accordion-style. It can position the E232WMT anywhere from perfectly flat to fully vertical and everywhere in between. An on-screen virtual keyboard suddenly becomes quite usable, and dragging or sizing objects is much easier when the screen is near-horizontal.

If you think about how people typically use tablets in their laps, the NEC’s design makes perfect sense. Like the Dell P2714T we reviewed back in January, the E232WMT supports 10-point multi-touch gestures like flick and pinch-to-zoom, which work in most applications.

NEC also adds a webcam and microphone to extend its functionality. These features are common on laptops and other portable devices, but only a few desktop monitors incorporate them. It all adds up to a potentially slick product. Let’s take a look.

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