HP Display Assistant: Monitor Control From The Desktop
Included on the E271i’s CD-ROM is a copy of HP Display Assistant. This monitor management software puts all the controls from the OSD onto the desktop, and adds a few extras. You can also do a calibration by eye with the app’s internal test patterns and wizard feature.
Install it once you have the E271i connected though, because the tool looks for a compatible monitor before it activates. Once installed, you can access HP's utility through a right-click on the desktop.
Here’s the Basic Mode. From left to right, the icons represent brightness, contrast, color temp, desktop partitions (very cool, more on that below), and portrait mode. In the portrait mode options, you can have the monitor flip the screen automatically when you rotate it.
Switching to the Advanced Mode opens up a lot more features. The menu across the top is the gateway to the different adjustment categories. The Adjust screen contains Brightness and Contrast sliders, as well as the means to adjust your video card’s resolution to the E271i’s native 1920x1080 pixels.
This is our favorite. Here you get high and low RGB controls. Very few computer monitors have these in their OSD. With them, you can adjust grayscale at the upper and lower ends of the brightness range. This typically gives you much more accurate grayscale tracking. In practice, the E271i doesn’t need the extra adjustment because it already tracks extremely well. If you want to try them out with your calibration gear, we recommend adjusting an 80 percent brightness signal with the high controls and a 30 percent signal with the lows.
Selecting the Color Calibration button brings up a special pattern for calibration by eye.
You need to consult the manual to use this pattern properly. The slider on the right adjusts brightness, and the center square can be moved with the mouse to change the white point. Move the square until the color white appears neutral. Then, adjust the slider until the square blends into the background. What you’re actually changing here is the gamma preset. The little graph in the lower-left corner shows you the changes you’ve made. Again, this monitor is so close to solid right out of the box that we'd recommend leaving things alone if you don’t calibrate with a meter.
You can also do a by-eye calibration using the built-in wizard, which is found on the Options tab.
First up is the brightness test pattern. Move the slider until you can see a difference between the left two bars. This gives you the deepest black level possible without losing any low-level detail. If the darkest bars blend into one another, you’re clipping blacks and you need to move the slider further to the right.
Next is a similar pattern to set contrast. Again, you want to adjust the control to its highest possible setting while still keeping the numbers visible. As soon as the one disappears, you went too high.
Step three sets the white point. You simply change the presets with the slider until the white field appears neutral. While this method can’t replace an instrumented calibration, it’s a step in the right direction.
The Desktop Partition feature is especially cool. Choose one of the screen configurations shown, or create your own with the Custom button. From there, a purple multi-monitor icon shows up in the title bar, right next to the minimize button, of any active window. You can use this feature across multiple HP displays too.
Clicking on the icon pops up a little window that lets you select the screen or partition to place the window in. It's then resized and moved. This is a great way to arrange windows quickly without moving and resizing them.
The last screen is called Extras. We already explained Desktop Partitions. Power Savings lets you do things like dial down the backlight, engage a preset brightness, or set sleep timers in order to reduce power consumption. Theft Deterrence is a security measure that requires the user to enter a PIN when the display is disconnected and reconnected to another computer. Pivot lists the options for rotation (Auto works just fine). And Asset Management allows the monitor to be controlled remotely.
While we preferred to calibrate the E271i in the menu, HP's Display Assistant is a very handy tool for making adjustments and accessing the monitor’s feature set. Doing everything from the Windows desktop is far easier than manipulating the physical buttons up front.