Review: Viewsonic Monitor with Webcam—Not Ready for Its Close-Up

Viewsonic's affordable VX2255wmb monitor sports built-in webcam, microphone and speakers, suitable for telecommuters and remote workers who are ready to crank up instant messaging with video. Our hands-on conclusion: The monitor looks great. The webcam chats? Not so much.

By , Esther Schindler
Fri, July 13, 2007

CIO — It's an appealing idea for any employee who works remotely, and any IT manager who supports such users: Slap a webcam on the computer, and actually see your coworkers. Webcam technology has improved vastly in the past several years, with video well past the blurry postage-stamp stage. And network bandwidth is more manageable.

Desk space is always precious, however. Viewsonic's VX2255wmb monitor at first appears to offer a great solution: The 22-inch widescreen monitor has built-in webcam, speakers and microphone. Even better, street price is only about $30 more than the company's non-multimedia-equipped monitors. When we were given the opportunity to review the new monitor, we snatched it.

Esther in a videoconference
CIO.com's Esther Schindler

We had a personal agenda here, since we're CIO.com's two full-time telecommuters. We hoped that for little cost and even less technical attention, a webcam could improve our collaboration and communication. In other words: This is not a dispassionate, "how nice for you" review. Our skin—and eyeballs—were in this game.

The bottom line: Viewsonic has a great idea, but while we love the monitor quality, the video chats themselves fall far short due to so-so video quality and spotty audio. If you've used a webcam on an Apple machine, you're going to be disappointed at how much you'll have to futz with this monitor. And enterprise users eyeing this unit for use in home offices aren't going to like the install process.

Install Glitches and Webcam Hitches
One benefit to buying an integrated device is that the installation is accomplished in one fell swoop, right? Wrong. Our reviewing rule is to ignore the installation process unless it's remarkable in some way. In this case, it's remarkably poor. We tested the monitor with ThinkPad notebook computers, both running Windows XP, with and without docking stations. At one point the monitor was also connected to Esther's older Dell notebook running Windows Media Center.

Hardware connections are persnickety but acceptable. The wires plug into a little overhang on the back of the monitor, which keeps things looking organized, but unless you have excellent light in your office, it's hard to see where you're aiming.

Bigger problem: The instructions are minimal, contradictory and already out of date, which is quite a trick for a new product. The first clue that something isn't quite right: The startup CD installs Adobe Reader 4.0 by default instead of the current version, 8.0. Then when you go to register the product, the "print the registration" dialog box (instead of online registration) has a drop-down date box with 2004 as the latest date. When Meridith used the wizard for product installation, nothing happened at the end. Since she expected to read, "Congratulations! You've successfully installed your hardware and the software that runs it. Go forth and start videoconferencing!" she went through the installation process three times. She also would have liked it if the instructions and the plastic bags in which the cables were packaged identified each cable.

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