Philips 221S3UCB USB monitor review

Pros

  • Business-friendly design
  • Above average stand

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No OSD
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Philips is a well-known name in the world of consumer electronics but hasn't had much impact in the computer monitor market recently.

The 221S3UCB/00 is part of Philips' S-Line office monitor (S standing for Sense and Simplicity) tries to fulfil a growing gap in the market - namely, monitors that are simple to connect, regardless of the video options on the source computer.

It looks like a standard monitor but with a single USB port for connecting to a PC. There is an optional 5W power supply, presumably if you don't have two free USB ports on the host computer. The company warns though that in rare instances, even two USB ports may not provide enough power for the monitor.

Philips engineers have swapped a standard display for a special low-power LED backlit one which consumes only 9W, around half the equivalent of a standard monitor, and zilch in stand-by mode. Its eco-friendly credentials are boosted by the fact that its display is free from mercury, making it safe for disposal when it reaches end of life.

Philips is clearly marketing this monitor at the business market, by equipping it with a fully height adjustable stand (which Philips calls a “people friendly” Compact Ergo Base). The screen also has a traditional VESA mount at the rear. Compared to some of its rivals, it is bulkier but not significantly heavier at just under 4kg with the stand.

The 221S3UCB monitor is quite flexible; it has a 70mm height adjustment which removes the need for third party stands. The display can be both tilted and swivelled but not pivot to portrait mode. The screen is matte and the bezel, for once, is matte as well.

This is a 16:9 aspect ratio 21.5in screen with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. The 1000:1 contrast ratio, 150cd/m2 brightness and 5ms response time are pretty average compared with other USB monitors we’ve tested. There are no power buttons, no display inputs, no on screen display menus or configuration options.

As expected, users will need to grab the latest DisplayLink USB graphics driver for Windows (from Windows XP to Windows 8) which includes support for audio and Ethernet as well. Mac users (from Tiger to Mountain Lion) can use the monitor as well (but no 3D acceleration) but Linux users will have to use udlfb, an open source driver for DisplayLink devices.

Note that, as it is the case for all DisplayLink monitors, you cannot use the monitor as your primary display unless (and until) you have DisplayLink installed, which can be problematic on a desktop with a broken monitor. Performance wise, don’t expect any miracles. As for all USB monitors on the market, the Philips 221S3UCB is good only for light tasks like office applications, web browsing, emailing etc.

Full screen video playing, games and everything else is likely to be stuttered not only because USB 2.0 doesn't have enough bandwidth to sustain high transfer rates but also because USB sucks processing resources from the computer, up to 25 per cent on average.

Being a USB monitor means that you will be able to connect, in theory, more than two of these to a single computer, a limit that can only be overcome on a traditional desktop PC by adding more graphics cards.

Ultimately, this monitor suffers from a fatal flaw, it's too expensive compared to the competition. It's not as portable as competitors like the AOC e2251FWU and at £146 it's much more expensive than similar size non-USB units.

Monitor size

21.5in/547mm

Screen format

16:9

Brightness (typical, in cd/m2)

150

Contrast ratio (typical)

1000:1

Pixel size (mm)

0.2482 x 0.2482

Display Area (mm)

477.5 x 268.5

Viewing Angle (in degrees)

170

Response time (in ms)

5

Scanning Frequency (Horizontal/Vertical, in Hz)

60, 60

Pixel Frequency (in Hz)

n/a

Maximum Resolution

1,920 x 1,080

Colours (in millions)

16.7

Signal inputs

USB

Connectors

USB

Power consumption (On in Watts)

9

Regulations

CE Mark, FCC Class B, UL/cUL, GOST

Dimensions (W x H x D, in mm)

507 x 400 x 220

Weight (in Kg)

4.55

Warranty (in Years)

1