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Too much minimalism

I’ve had my new computer monitor for a week, and I only just discovered it has any buttons other than the power button.  They’re mounted on the underside of the frame and nearly flush against it, so even though they’re slightly lit up, I can’t see them unless I duck way down.  And they aren’t labeled, since they access a series of menus and the functions of the various buttons change depending on which menu I’m in (with the functions listed on the menu screen above the respective physical buttons).  Once I found out there was a menu, it took me a while to figure out that was how it worked, and only by trial and error.

And that’s because the instruction manuals have gotten too minimalist as well.  The only physical booklet included is a “quick guide” which is just 4 pages’ worth of safety instructions and specs in nine different languages.  I had to put in the enclosed CD-ROM to open the PDF users’ manual, and that didn’t even include a diagram or a description telling me where the buttons were or how to work them.  It discussed the menus pretty well, but assumed the reader would understand how to access and navigate through them.

Why make it so difficult to figure this out?  Why not put clearly visible, labeled buttons on the front?  Or at least make the manual more accessible and detailed so it’s easier to find out where they are and how to use them?

The reasons I wanted to check the manual were twofold — one, because my eyes were getting sore and I needed to adjust the brightness, and two, because I wanted to find out if I could tilt the monitor.  I succeeded with the former, but though the manual says it can be tilted, it won’t budge when I actually try it, and online reviews seem to confirm it doesn’t tilt even though all the sales sites’ descriptions say it can.  (It’s the Acer S201HL, so caveat emptor.)  I have the front of the stand resting on a stack of 3×5 cards to give it a slight tilt.

I’m also bothered by a lack of adjustability with the speakers I bought.  There’s way too much bass in them, which is uncomfortable for me and creates too much distortion and muddiness in some music.  And there doesn’t seem to be a way to reduce the bass.  There’s a “tone” knob that seems to adjust the peak of the higher-pitched part of the sound spectrum, but it doesn’t have much impact on the bass.  I think it has to do with the speakers’ use of passive radiators, as indicated on the box (and again, there’s virtually nothing in the way of an instruction manual).  I was hoping I could find a way to ameliorate the problem, but after reading up on PRs I fear I may have to return the speakers and try a different model (since the linked article says that PRs in small speakers can have the sort of problem these seem to be having).

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  1. May 26, 2012 at 3:32 am

    I’ve given up on instruction manuals and started entering detailed questions into Google instead. Usually, somebody out there has figured it out. Even when one got a book sized manual in twelve languages, they were usually pieces of abstract fiction, I found.

    Can you adjust the bass level via the detailed volume control panel in the software?

    • May 26, 2012 at 11:29 am

      That was the first thing I tried, checking the audio settings in Control Panel for some kind of equalizer menu. I couldn’t find one.

      I do actually have an old portable equalizer meant to go with a Walkman-style tape or CD player (that’s how old it is), so the jacks are the right size that I could plug it in between the computer and the speakers; but it’s battery-powered and I’d have to remember to turn it on every time, and I don’t know if it would even still work or have good sound quality after all these years.

  2. Eike Hein
    May 27, 2012 at 7:04 am

    I’d also suggest that the next time you’re in the market for a monitor, you avoid one using a panel built on the Twisted Nematics (TN) technology and aim for something using either a S-PVA or (S-)IPS panel. The have much better black levels, contrast ratios, shading and color reproduction, which means a crisper, less washed-out image even at lower brightness levels. It’s really not a good idea to skimp on a monitor given the amount of time we tend to be staring at these things.

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