It seems odd to look towards many second and third-tier manufacturers of HD-compatible televisions and computer monitors for innovations in the field, but given the current economic climate for some people that’s not entirely a bad thing. Those seeking out good, dependable and (most importantly) high-quality viewing devices needn’t break the bank any longer as a number of incredible options have swooped in to save the day (and pocketbooks) from certain doom. Incredibly, Hong Kong-based Hannspree is leading the charge by offering the most inexpensive full-HD compatible screen yet with their amazing HF199H multi-function computer monitor.
Wait, did I say computer monitor? That’s only giving away half the fun, as the HF199H is also a fully functioning display for HDMI-outputting devices, which of course includes most current videogame consoles, Blu-ray players, and any number of newer home computers. Sporting a sleek and sexy glossy frame, this wall-mountable option is ready to replace older CRT or inferior monitors in your workspace, or maybe even find a spot somewhere in your house. Easy to use buttons and picture/audio adjustment make it a snap to use, and quite simply for the price you won’t find a better deal anywhere – period.
If you plan on using the HF199H to replace your current computer monitor than you’re in for a treat, especially if you’re sporting Windows Vista as you won’t need to worry about driver updates (there are some reports of slight aspect-ratio problems with Windows XP users), although a full system restart may be necessary to take advantage of the full resolution available. Suddenly my home PC was now sporting a vastly improved 1440×900 widescreen resolution, leaving me plenty of more desktop space to play around with. Those users with DVI-cables may want to invest in a DVI-to-VGA adapter as the monitor only has the VGA input, however.
A few quibbles regarding the HF199H’s sound output and headphone jack layout didn’t sit well with me, but considering it’s a monitor that actually has built-in (and hidden) speakers, you won’t hear me complaining much. The actual audio output, while welcome, is easily the worst thing about the product and certainly shouldn’t be considered a selling point. Tinny and without the faintest trace of anything resembling bass you’d be forgiven for thinking it was shut off, as it’s so faint. Similarly, the headphone jack (again, a welcome touch) is actually located at the very back of the monitor in the most difficult spot to reach possible, requiring you to physically turn the thing around to plug in a pair to listen with. Fortunately, even a cheap headset or speakers will be an improvement, as the monitor’s jack acts as a pass-through cable, although if you plan to use headphones I encourage you pick up a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack extender – you’ll thank me for it later!
The most astonishing thing about the HF199H has to be its built-in HD support, thanks to its handy inclusion of a single HDMI cable. While some may scoff at the idea of using their computer monitor to play HD content, with full 1080p (yes, 1080p) support, 800:1 contrast ratio, 16:10 aspect ratios, and built-in speakers (however tinny sounding), you simply won’t find a less-expensive option for a true HD experience on the cheap. The only option this monitor lacks is a tuner, but that’s a problem easily remedied by attaching any HDMI-outputting device such as a cable/satellite box, Blu-ray player, or game console. Considering that tuner-enabled LCD televisions can cost two, maybe three times as much as the HF199H, the inherent value speaks for itself.
If you’re set on using the HF199H as a second (or even primary) option for HD gaming, don’t fear the low price-tag. Savor it, as the monitor managed full and glorious 1080p display resolutions with both my Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, easily exceeding the output of my considerably larger (and considerably more expensive) HDTV in the living room. Of course a wide-screen, 19” display can’t match the visceral excitement of its larger TV cousins, having the option of a portable screen (can you say LAN parties?) that displays such a gorgeous and game-ready picture practically sells itself. Artwork designed for HD-out (such as the new Super Street Fighter 2 game) looked unbelievably gorgeous, even bringing out faults in the drawings themselves…oops! 3D-intensive and fast-moving graphics were silky smooth, although some slight blurring did occur (as LCD displays are often known for). First-person shooters, racing simulators, and stationary puzzlers all looked and performed like the HD-troopers they were.
As for any out-of-the-box value, don’t waste your time looking for any hidden goodies – it’s a barebones affair and at the price Hannspree is selling the thing, we should be lucky to get anything at all. A nice swivel-base helps keep things stable, and included power and stereo cables will help get you going. No monitor cable is included, so you’d better have one ready to plug this thing into your PC already. Likewise with the HDMI cable, but for that I’d recommend staying away from overpriced retailers and hitting the bargain shops. After all, this is HD on the cheap!
Frankly, the Hannspree HF199H blew my mind – and conceptions – about just how affordable true HD displays could be. While most will likely pick one up thinking it an unbelievably cheap computer monitor, its native support as a fully HD-ready display (complete with speakers) effectively makes this the most affordable solution for the cost-conscious consumer who wants to keep up with the Joneses. Gamers will shed tears of joy when they see how beautiful the picture quality is, and parents will likewise weep over how much money they’ll be saving. An outstanding value from a company on the rise, and definitely one I’ll be trusting a lot more from now on.