Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
The ViewSonic VSD220 is a strange bird. Well really, it’s a strange droid. This 22-inch monitor is a Smart Display, featuring Android OS 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Now you might ask yourself, “Why manufacture a smart monitor?” It’s a little too large to be considered portable, but not quite large enough to make the rounds as a classroom teaching tool or a modern day conference whiteboard. It’s also the first display of its kind that we’ve reviewed, so clearly, ViewSonic is branching into unexplored terrain with the VSD220—its answer to the question is likely, “Why not?”
One Amazon reviewer bills it as “a computer for the price of a monitor.” We can see some truth in that statement. For its MSRP of $419.99 ($399 online), this Wi-Fi ready device certainly has the ability to stand in for a number of displays: its touch screen and Android OS allow it to potentially replace a tablet; built-in speakers and a native resolution of 1920 × 1080 mean it could feasibly pinch hit for your television; and its USB and HDMI inputs make it a viable contender for your monitor’s desktop spot.
However, the only way the VSD220 can back up those claims is if its performance is good enough to compete with the traditional iterations of Android devices. Many consumers on Amazon are entirely pleased with this device, and those that aren’t have thorough and apologetic responses directly from the manufacturer explaining how to remedy their problems. Good on you, ViewSonic.
The truth of the matter is that a few praise-heavy reviews from consumers can’t redeem this monitablet. It’s heavy in features and is a decent performer, but at the end of the day feels much more like a prototype than a marketed product should. Further, the lack of a battery and the design itself mar any attempt at portability, slimming its archetypical capabilities. Its Android OS, 4.0, is as of now quite out of date.
It certainly deserves praise for its innovation and worthy attempts to bridge build, but we’re much more excited for ViewSonic’s sophomore effort.
For being one of the first of its kind, the ViewSonic VSD220 has an acceptable design, when used as a monitor. ViewSonic’s 25+ years of display experience likely played a hand in this result. The 22-inch panel isn’t terribly thin, which is likely due to its housing of speakers along the bottom of the panel’s bezel, much like a TV. It is VESA mountable (100mm x 100mm), but really, wall-mounting a display of this size seems like an odd choice, especially considering that the stand—which pops out at an angle like those commonly found on picture frames—is so easy to use.
Within the realm of tablet functionality, the VSD220 needs some work. Due to its size, holding it in your lap just isn’t an option (unless you’re André René Roussimoff). You could lay it flat on a table, but the rounded back makes this an awkward and unstable venture. The only convenient way to use the VSD220 is to find a flat surface to stand it on so that you can sit close enough to work the touch screen, or use a mouse or keyboard.
The VSD220 probably could have been thinner and lighter, but to stand in as a monitor or TV, it needs some weight to throw around. The thickness of depth and bezels allow for USB/mini-USB inputs, speakers, a headphone jack, and the durability of the touchscreen. Its very nature as a multi-use device harms its ability to function as a tablet, which is a shame. The bottom line here is that this “all-in-one smart display” is, from a design standpoint, still a monitor at the end of the day.
In the Box
The ViewSonic VSD220 display comes pre-assembled to the stand and includes a quick start guide, a USB to mini-USB cable (which allegedly allows a Windows 7 or 8 computer to take advantage of the monitor’s touch screen functionality), and an HDMI to mini-HDMI cable.
The VSD220’s contrast ratio was its strongest area of performance. Its black level of 0.16 cd/m2 was lower than the three monitors we pulled for comparison, each of which are around the same list price. Further, it’s really a rather deep black level (where monitors are concerned) overall.
While the VSD220 is not as bright as ViewSonic claims on their specs page (it peaked at 190 cd/m2 rather than 250 cd/m2 ), its contrast ratio was actually larger than ViewSonic boasted, and should provide ample black and white differentiation for all general purposes. More on how we test contrast.
The VSD220 tested with excellent uniformity. We test screen uniformity subjectively, using our calibration software to view a 100% white and a 100% black screen. The uniformity test reveals the capability of the monitor’s backlight (or lack thereof) to maintain an even, well-lit screen at both its brightest and darkest possible shades.
The VSD220 did very well here, better than average. Its white screen was very smooth and uniform from centers to perimeter, though the thick bezels did create notable shadowing along the perimeter of the display. The black screen was, on the other hand, one of the best we’ve ever seen, as the difference between the full black screen and the display’s sleep mode was almost impossible to tell. More on how we test uniformity.
Color temperature is not usually a problem for computer monitors; the VSD220 did alright during this test, but it did show some visible error at the darkest side of its greyscale input spectrum. Color temperature refers to the temperature of the light being used to transmit colors and shades from a display’s screen to human eyes: A consistent light means that the colors, no matter what they are, will be consistently the same “flavor.”
The cooling towards the shadow side of the spectrum is about -400° K from the starting input, meaning the darkest shades and colors will harbor a slightly blueish tint. This isn’t something that’s overtly distracting or notable, but it is a testament to this monitor’s nature: it’s meant for a wide range of functions, not really as a nuts-and-bolts performance machine. More on how we test color temperature.
A display’s color and greyscale curves reveal the way it manages its signal intensity. We want neighboring and gradually brightening/darkening shades and hues to transition smoothly to and from one another; to do otherwise results in color banding, which is especially notable during film content and high resolutions photos.
The VSD220’s white, red, and green curves were about in line with one another: unfortunately, its reds ramp up a little too quickly, resulting in loss of detail amongst the highlights. The blues performed worse in the opposite fashion: they ramp up much slower than the others, never quite reaching their maximum luminance potential. More on how we test color curves.
We consider color gamut to be the most important aspect amongst professional graphics monitors. A display’s color gamut is an illustration of all of the colors it is capable of displaying. Compared to the sRGB ideal gamut for computer monitors, the VSD220 falls quite short in its production of peak blue. Its red, green, and white points are fairly accurate, though green is somewhat under saturated—not nearly as much as the blue point, however.
For general purposes, this probably isn’t a huge concern. We definitely don’t recommend this display as a tool for photo editing or graphic design, as tempting as the touch screen might make it: The added optical touch control does not trade off evenly with the lack of color integrity. More on how we test color gamut.
Despite claims to the contrary, the VSD220’s horizontal viewing angle is somewhat poor. At 45° from center, its contrast ratio (essentially, how legible and clear the screen is) drops from 1156:1 to 55:1, with peak whites plummeting by over 100 cd/m 2.
Considering the variety of angles this monitor sits at upon its angled spring stand, getting the screen perpendicular to the floor is somewhat difficult, and holding it in your lap isn’t really an option due to its size and weight. One of the first things ViewSonic needs to do when it manufactures the next monitor in this series is decide on its dominant means of use: it can’t be everything at once.
Compared to the standard monitor, the VSD220 actually has a very odd set of ports. Most of the monitors we review have VGA and DVI ports, but the VSD220 only has an input for mini-HDMI. It’s a different animal, however. Every monitor we’ve tested before now has been a window to content provided by a computer, gaming console, or cable box. The VSD220 creates its own content, and is also a window to Android 4.0 and everything that comes with it.
That said, there are a few ports you typically don’t see on the average monitor, but which are more common on tablets (especially Android tablets). Like its design, we suppose the VSD220’s port options are also attempting to do everything at once. Unlike its design, it covers most requisite bases, as long as you’re not needing a DVI or VGA connection.
On the VSD220’s right side, users will find two USB 2.0 inputs. These peripherals are useful if you want to attach a wired keyboard or mouse directly to the display, which might seem a little like overkill if you’re also using the touch screen, but there are definite advantages to using a real keyboard over punching in letters one at a time. On the left side, there are inputs for headphones (which is found more often on televisions than monitors) and a mini-USB input, which is used primarily for pairing the VSD220’s optical touch abilities with a Windows 7 or 8 computer.
The display’s rear cutout houses a mini-HDMI input, a LAN input, a microSD card slot, and the AC input. The VSD220 has a good selection of ports that just about line up with the versatility it’s attempting to offer.
Controls & Menus
The VSD220 differs from the common monitor in another way: it allows for much less user customization of display output than is normal. For instance, the menu allowing for adjustments to brightness, contrast, and speaker volume (nothing else) is only accessible during touch-screen operation. There are no “on-set” controls other than the power button, and once you’ve connected to a source via mini-HDMI, you can’t do anything to adjust the display short of tweaking it via the source.
The USB to mini-USB cable that comes with the VSD220 allows it to continue touch screen operation for Windows 7 and Windows 8 only. This means that using the VSD220 as a display monitor for your Windows XP tower or MacBook Air will disable the ability to utilize the touch screen. We’d also like to note that switching between any mini-HDMI source and the base Android OS is as simple as unplugging the HDMI source—however, if you want to switch back to that source, you will probably have to restart it. Many consumers have complained about this problem, which ViewSonic claims to be working to fix.
The ViewSonic VSD220’s most exciting feature is its Android 4.0 OS. This version of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich) is a little outdated at this point in time, but most of its basic functions work well. Users can connect to a Gmail account, access the Google Play store, and install apps and widgets.
The VSD220 functions rather quickly off of a Wi-Fi connection, and can download and install apps in about the same amount of time as modern smart phones. Not all apps are available for this monitor, and it doesn’t appear that ViewSonic intends to update the VSD220’s software any time soon; at least not with the VSD240 on the horizon.
Once an app downloads, it’s categorized in your applications folder in the same way as more traditional Android OS devices, like phones and tablets. Like those devices, the files stored on the VSD220 can be managed via a mini-USB connection—but only if you’re running Windows 7 or 8. ViewSonic has its own app selection called “AppZone,” but we really recommend sticking to Google for most of your needs.
The touch screen on the VSD220 is… okay. ViewSonic claims a hardness of 8H, which in layman’s terms means it’s as hard as topaz.
Well, that’s all well and good, but it feels just as rough and unpolished as rock, too. You’ll notice after a little bit of use that, compared to your smart phone, the VSD220 feels inflexible and imprecise. The touch function itself is perfectly responsive, but moving at smaller, more precise intervals can be a little trickier than on smaller, more precise devices.
Processing and Scaling
One thing we were immediately concerned about was that apps and games designed for smart phones or smaller, 10.6-inch tablets would either upscale terribly to the VSD220’s 22-inch screen, or would run at a poor frame rate after overtaxing the processor. Fortunately, the VSD220 is capable of running and scaling most apps to match its size and specs.
We installed and launched the free MMORPG Arcane Legends to put the processor through its paces. We created a character, ran through the tutorial, and even entered a world hub where some thirty or forty other players were running about, spouting nonsense. The VSD220 never lost its connection, and it rendered the game fairly well. Be warned, though, that it will start to get quite hot after 15-20 minutes of high-intensity apps and games.
One thing we found bizarre was the way the VSD220 handles videos. Unfortunately, certain videos on YouTube and Netflix cannot be sized to fill the screen. We watched a few YouTube videos—they loaded up fine and were perfectly clear, but were locked at a particular size with no discernible way to resize them to full screen.
Speakers, Camera, and Microphone
The last few features are not terribly interesting, but they all work decently. The VSD220 features a top-mounted camera and microphone. We tested these by making a Skype call to a co-worker’s smart phone, after downloading and installing Skype from the Play Store. The results were mixed: everything worked, it just didn’t work very well. You could Skype and take photographs and videos with the VSD220 if you wanted, but just imagine how silly it would look holding it in front of a mirror. This isn’t really one of the device’s core strengths, and feels more tacked on.
The same can be said for the VSD220’s speakers. They work, and that’s about it. The Angry Birds audio was plenty loud, and the plethora of sounds from the multiplayer game we played never caused clicks or buzzing. However, we could only barely hear the instruction prompts during the Skype call, so it could be a toss up as to how the speakers perform during various apps and functions.
The ViewSonic VSD220 bills itself as an “all-in-one” smart display: part TV, part monitor, part tablet. While it sounds great at first, the truth about the VSD220 is that it’s 75% potential, 25% execution.
We think it’s an interesting and unique product, but not the kind of thing that anyone needs to run out and buy right now. If you had no monitor, tablet, or smart phone, then it might be a good purchase; its ability to fulfill multiple niche roles at once is noted. There are a lot of places that need improvement, though, and ViewSonic seems to be well aware of that.
For an MSRP of $419.99, you’re getting a very innovative, truly unique prototype—this is where our qualms lie. First of all, the design needs work: this display is heavy, thick, and not portable. The power cable isn’t even very long, and battery operation is not an option. That’s not nearly as egregious as the quality of the VSD220’s touch screen, though. The oddly rough screen has trouble with precise tracking, and tends to stop receiving inputs while it’s loading anything, such as websites.
There’s also the problem of spreading menu items almost twenty inches apart when they were designed to be two-and-a-half inches apart. The VSD220’s employment of Android 4.0 is a little behind the times—both upcoming series models will feature the next iteration, which unfortunately will itself be out of date this May.
As far as core performance goes, the VSD220 is far from perfect. Its contrast ratio is decent, but its color integrity is sub-par. The standard microphone and camera are somewhat iffy, and aren’t high enough quality to suit the size and versatility of the display itself. The VSD220 also has an awful vertical viewing angle: viewing it from above or below by even a small amount causes whites to shift to pink, which is a problem for any monitor, but especially one of this orientation.
The VSD220 is a valiant effort by ViewSonic to bridge the gap between traditional PC-monitor setups and the new, Android-fueled smart market. They’re on the vestibule of victory, but the VSD220 is a better glimpse into an über-connected future than it is a current, usable product. We advise waiting at least until the VSD240, which was unveiled at this year’s CES and should be on the market sooner than later.