The Blog

Sep 27, 2008

Review: Dell SP2208WFP 22" Monitor With Web Cam 

by Maxim Porges @ 1:17 AM | Link | Feedback (0)

There was a time when I thought my 15" MacBook Pro monitor was plenty large for any given task. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending upon how you look at it), I've been totally spoiled with my dual monitor setup at the office, and found myself sorely wishing for a similar computing experience at home.

I've been out of the monitor market for a while, but a little Googling made it abundantly clear that the Apple Store is out of their gourd if they think I am going to spend $899 for a 23" Cinema Display when there are so many bargains on the market, many of which are a step-up in terms of tech specs.

My monitor at work is a Dell Ultrasharp. Now, I have had really bad past experiences with Dell hardware. I once had a work laptop that would literally fall to pieces as I picked it up, with the removable drive falling out just from the amount of torsion applied to the case by the act of lifting. That being said, it was after sitting for ten minutes one day waiting for this same Dell laptop to wake from sleep that I decided I was never going to work on a Windows PC again, so I suppose I should be grateful to it for pushing me over to the Mac full time.

However, unlike that laptop, I like my Dell Ultrasharp a lot - it has great build quality and is a solid performer. Unfortunately, looking at the Dell site, Ultrasharps seemed somewhat on the pricey side as they are considered the higher-end option, and I wanted to keep my purchase between $300 - $400. So, after consulting our resident IT guru at Highwinds and talking amongst some peeps, I decided on a 22" Dell SP2208WFP, which has a built in web cam. I was going to order it through work for about 10% off retail, but Dell ended up doing a $70-off special that was more worth my while, so I ordered it last week directly through their site. Dell promised me the item was in stock during purchase, then told me after the fact that it wouldn't ship until October, and promptly delivered it to me three days after I ordered it (arriving September 24th). So, they get 0/10 for the web site experience, but 10/10 for a speedy delivery.

As for the monitor itself, it is super nice. Along with everybody else on the Internet who bought one of these monitors and chose to comment on forums, I immediately discarded the factory settings (which make the monitor look like total ass) and tuned its internal settings, along with Apple's built-in color correction utility which I've personally never had success with before now. Luckily, the planets aligned, and I must say the picture is even better than my Ultrasharp at work. I almost bought a 24" model, but having put the monitor in situ in my home office, I am glad I didn't because the 22" is plenty big; seems bigger at home than at the office for some reason. Along with my PodiumPad, I get dual screens by leaving the laptop open, and find myself happy as a clam.

By far the best moment of owning this monitor came when I realized that it had three inputs: DVI, HDMI, and VGA. Along with my collection of laptops, my office at the house is home to my first Mac, a Quicksilver PowerMac G4 tower. Under the impression that the tower only had an ADC connector (hooked up to the 17" Cinema Display I bought back in the day), I was searching online for an adapter to convert ADC to DVI when I stumbled across some information about PowerMac video cards. I was reminded on this web site that the 2002 Quicksilver models came with dual-head video cards, with one VGA and one ADC connector. Crawling behind my machine for the first time in about four years, sure enough I was met with the VGA output. I happily plugged in the Dell-supplied VGA cable, and there was much rejoicing. I have a wireless Apple Bluetooth keyboard and Mighty Mouse combo, so all I need to do is push the button to switch video inputs and I don't need no stinkin' KVM switch.

One note to potential buyers: to switch video inputs, you have to press a button on the front of the monitor. The first press prompts you with "Auto Detect", which (if you are dumb like me) you will interpret to meaning that it will determine which inputs are active and give you a choice to select the one you want. Not so. It took me a few tries to realize that "Auto Detect" is one of four options, the other three being "DVI", "HDMI", and "VGA".

Other nice features include the glossy monitor coating, solid build quality, USB hub, and built-in web cam with microphone. A total of four downstream USB ports (two on the back, two on the side) and the web cam can all be hooked up to your computer using one USB cable. The web cam has a similar focal range to the one built in to my MacBook Pro, with the only noticeable difference being that the Dell's webcam has slightly softer focus (instantly earning it the nickname "Barbara Walters-Cam"). Both the monitor and web cam worked flawlessly after hook up (without drivers) on both my MacBook Pro and Quicksilver tower, both of which are running the latest versions of Leopard; note that you need to power down the tower and connect the monitor before it is recognized, and you should never unplug an ADC connector from a running computer.

iChat instantly recognized both web cams for video conferencing, and let me choose between one or the other in the Preferences dialog. The only other thing I had to do was go in to the "Audio Midi Setup" application and set the monitor's microphone resolution to 48 Khz before it would start recognizing input.

All in all, I'm really happy with my purchase. I got a beautiful, seemingly better-than-Ultrasharp quality 22" monitor including shipping for just shy of $300. I'd definitely recommend the monitor to anybody who is in the market for something that is decent quality without breaking the bank.