ViewSonic's 22-inch wide-screen VLED221wm is the world's first low-cost LCD monitor with LED backlight technology, which delivers an evenly bright screen and a wide colour gamut.

The VLED221wm, which should be available in late February, offers a 12,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio that allows the display of impressive blacks; provides great color reproduction due to its ability to represent up to 118 per cent of the NTSC colour gamut; has a 1680-x-1050 native resolution; and boasts a 5ms response time.

The cleanly designed VLED221wm has a thin, glossy, deep-black bezel. Most glossy bezels collect fingerprints and dirt, making the monitor look as if it were part of a CSI crime scene. The VLED221wm, however, proved smudge and fingerprint resistant, despite my repeated attempts to dirty it up. The built-in stereo speakers blend nicely and unobtrusively into the bezel, too. Though the display tilts, it does not swivel or pivot. In the user-friendly OSD (on-screen display) menu, you can adjust the color settings, the brightness and contrast, and the audio volume by using the up, down, and select buttons on the front of the display.

Sound quality was lacking. In my informal audio-quality tests, the high frequencies were too high, and the lows lacked the punch that a stand-alone speaker system would provide. While the tinny sound won't please audiophiles, it is satisfactory if low background music is all you want.

In image-quality tests, we were surprised to see the VLED221wm fail to outperform all of its cheaper, non-LED-backlit competitors. Nevertheless, it didn't score poorly, ranking fourth in our graphics tests overall and sixth in our text-clarity tests. This display produced better-quality images than 18 other 20- and 22-inch displays we looked at.

While viewing a scene from Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, I noticed that the colours seemed inaccurate, but a quick tinkering with the colour-temperature settings fixed the problem. Afterward the on-screen colours were bright and clear, not oversaturated. Red lasers shot from starfighters looked so brilliant and intense that they reminded me of images from Mitsubishi's Laser HDTV, which exhibits the latest in display technology and, in a demo, showed the brightest colours I've ever seen.

Though ViewSonic packed a lot of high-end features into the VLED221wm, the impressive specs did not produce a huge image-quality boost in our testing. This monitor is best suited for a movie buff, for a multimedia/graphic designer who needs to see a wide gamut of bright colors, or for any tech enthusiast with money to burn. For the price, though, $800 would be better spent on a larger LCD monitor, or even a dual-monitor setup.