Review – Acer T231H Touch Monitor for Windows 8

Acer T231H bmid is the only reasonably priced monitor capable of multi-touch with Windows 8

Acer T231H Windows 7 and 8 touch monitor

Surprisingly the Acer T231H bmid is the only $300 monitor that delivers a multi-touch in Windows 7.
 
Once I started using this monitor, it was hard to give it up, so I bought another one to replace an old Samsung.
There is only a small cost premium over a non-touch monitor. 
Acer doesn’t claim compatibility with Windows 8 but we’ve tested it on that basis and it works well with Win 7 and 8.

In the box
The Acer T231H shipped from Tiger Direct in a consumer sales box that survived the trip intact. A review unit came from the Midwest via FedEx in excellent shape.

Acer Touch Monitor applique (photo John Sokol)
 

The monitor is protected by a foam protective bag and the usual Styrofoam inserts. The screen is protected with another sheet of thin foam which also has the quick connect instructions. The screen has two point-of-purchase appliques that promise touch control.
 
There are more than enough cables neatly packaged in the box: VGA, HDMI, DVI-D, power, USB (for touch control), and stereo audio. The 3 video cables are the optional ways to make the connection. If HDMI is used, you don’t need the stereo audio cable to use the in-monitor speakers.

Making the Connections
Connection is fairly straightforward except for the USB cable. Acer recommends powering down your computer before connecting.
Of the 3 choices, analog and 2 digital, I chose DVI-D. There aren’t really many differences in the connections in terms of picture quality. I wanted to try HDMI but the connector on the NVIDIA GTX-580 card was too tight with the computer case. For more on the technical details of connections, see DVI vs. HDMI vs. Component Video — Which is Better? and DVI v. HDMI v Component.
The monitor is big – 22″ by 13.5″. I recommend cabling all the connections – power, video, audio, power and USB – first on the monitor by holding it upside down and backwards, then turning it right side and putting it on the desk.  It’s a big monitor. You can make the computer connections with ease once the monitor is on the desk.

The screen
Power on the Acer T231H by pushing the button on the lower right side and Windows 7 automatically detects and identifies the Acer T231H at the maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080.
 
Acer T231H 23" multi-touch monitor - widescreen at home with Windows 8 Metro

The Acer T231H touch monitor has a diagonal viewing area of 23″. The most popular monitor sizes today are 23″ to 24″ with some use at 27″ to 29″. The Acer T231H is different from the pack in that it is a widescreen monitor and reflects the drive towards widescreen in movies. It will show movies full screen in their standard 16:9 aspect ratio. The Acer T231H is the correct aspect ratio of Windows 8.
 
That’s almost identical to the 1920 x 1200 of my other monitor, a Hanns G. iF281. The Acer T231H though is a widescreen display with 20″ x 11 3/8″ viewable. That takes a minute to get used when the Hanns G is 14.5″ high and puts more height on the screen. It is a bigger monitor at 28″ diagonal versus 23″ for the Acer T231H.
The Acer T231H looks awesome. Sorry to enthuse but it is an addictive monitor to use. Watching movies in iTunes there are smaller black bars on the top and the bottom of the screen. The picture is sharper and more natural compared with the Hanns.G.

Watching movies
While computing is an obvious task for this monitor, viewing HD videos and movies will become a normal task when Windows 8 ships.  Watching “The Bucket List” (Blu-Ray) both monitors looked sharp. I would give the Acer T231H the edge for sharpness, vivid picture and lack of black bars on the top and bottom.
On the DVD version of “Tron”, the Acer T231H aced the sharpness of Disney’s digital effects, which has a soft out of focus look on the Hanns.G.

Sound
The sound is acceptable for Windows and video calls but can’t handle the dynamics of movies. You need a decent sound card and speakers to hear movies on your computer. I would skip the cheap consumer products and consider near-field monitors and a sub if movies and games are your pastime. For listening to sound, nothing beats a good pair of headphones or near-field monitors. Near-field monitors are used in recording studios when your ears are less than 3 feet from the speakers.
Last year I gave away my Logitech and Creative speakers and replaced them with Dynaudio BM5As. I can finally hear the detail of music and the woofer is capable of enough bass without a sub for music and movies. Games need a sub-woofer.

Enabling multi-touch

Touch setup

Windows 7 has multi-touch. Windows 8 of course comes with a more extensive Touch features which make a touch monitor mandatory.
 
The calibration process is virtually identical in Windows 7 or 8.
  1. To calibrate the monitor, enter ‘touch’  under ‘Start – Search for programs and files’.
  2. Select ‘Calibrate screen for pen and touch input’.
  3. Display Options – pick the Acer T231H.
  4. Configure…Setup – this will turn one or two screens white. If a non-touch screen is the first one on your video card, hit ‘enter’ to move the configure screen to the Acer T231H. Just touch the screen gently and you’ll see a white circle indicating it is touch enabled.
  5. Details: Calibrate – sometimes Windows 7 doesn’t allow calibration in which case, check the USB cable connection and re-boot. The white calibration screen is a series of cross-hairs that you need to touch as they move around the screen. ‘Touch’ don’t press.
  6. Once all the calibration points are done, save the calibration and you’re finished.
Unless something changes, the calibration stays intact.

Using the Acer T231H

 
I’ve been using the T231H on Windows 8 for two months. It was amazing to touch the screen and move things around in Windows 7. After awhile it’s frustrating that the Hanns.G monitor doesn’t support touch when you move from the Acer to the Hanns.G. We get spoiled easily with new technology.
I’ll post a video of actually using this monitor with Windows 8. Once Windows 8 ships, I predict very few people will want to go back to mouse/keyboard only again. It has all the ease and user fun of the Apple iPad only on your main computer or laptop.

Supplied software
Windows 7 and 8 already have drivers for the Acer T231H monitor.
Acer supplies free software called Acer Touch Portal Express. It’s a preview of how Windows 8 Touch might work but fairly useless since it can’t differentiate that some displays are non-Touch. In my case, the touch screen would not stop loading on the non-touch monitor.
ADM for Acer Display Management provides some management of the touch motions. They didn’t work on my Windows 7 computer and don’t seem to be essential in any event. The monitor works quite well without the extra software.

Ergonomics
Most monitors, including all laptops, are positioned to create neck strain, back pain and headaches. They used to specify the monitor should be horizontal with your eyes and the center no more than 15 degrees downward. Watching people with bowed heads and curved spines tapping into laptops and tablets, I wonder how long they will last without need physiotherapy.
Think of your head as a bowling ball. If it is balances on your neck and shoulders, your muscles have decent change of supporting it. Tilt the head downward and the muscles on the back of the neck start overworking. Eventually, that cause neck strain and headaches in most people – take some Tylenol or Aspirin to mask the problem
The Acer T231H needs a monitor support but then so does the monitor on my desk which is 2-4″ too low. The three-legged stand on the Acer T231H is excellent for supporting the monitor as a touch screen but about 4-6″ too low for my height, using it with this computer.
The Windows 8 computer I use, is on a higher table which is not suitable for my keyboard but perfect at 4″ higher.  Today a proper monitor stand is essential, if you want to keep the  keyboard at the right height.
The monitor has standard VESA 100mm X 100MM mounts on the back so it can be used with standard monitor mounts. Like most people, I just put monitors on the desk and hope the best. In my studio we installed the proper monitor mounting bracket for two monitors. I will have to do that for the Acer T231H as well.
Neck strain is like carpal tunnel syndrome. We ignore bad human mechanics until the pain is too great. At that point, there is serious damage that takes years to heal.

Price and competition
The Acer T231H retails for $310 in the US at Tiger Direct and slightly less in Canada. Be careful to spec the ‘Acer T231H bmid’ model. Some earlier models were reported with USB port problems so “old stock” is a bad choice.
Planar make several touch screen monitors for commercial and consumer user. They would not confirm that the Planar PX2230MW 22″  (about $270) was compatible with Windows 8 and refused to comment.
The Viewsonic VX2258wm retails for $350 and gets good reviews on Amazon.com. It is an older model and we suspect it will be replaced by fall when Windows 8 ships.
HP have monitors with touchscreen that carry premium price tags. They are also selling under the Dell brand.
There will be more manufacturers shipping touch screen monitors this fall but for now the Acer T231H is the best choice in a consumer touch monitor.
Thanks to Acer America for supplying an Acer T231H monitor for Windows 8 review.
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

Where to buy
 
   
   
Tiger Direct – USA Price $309.96
Amazon.com – USA
   

Tiger Direct – Canada

Price $289.99

Amazon.ca – Canada

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