When we first laid our eyes on the Sharp LL-S201A at GITEX at the end of last year, we made a mental note to keep an eye on this beauty. The gorgeous 20” display begged us to touch and drool over it, and indeed we did. We didn’t hear much about it post-GITEX, but as if by magic, Sharp very kindly sent us a review unit for us to test out this week. I both love and hate touch-panels, so to truly test it out I decided to connect the LL-S201A to my Windows 8 machine and disconnect my keyboard and mouse, to see if I could actually get through the week using the touchscreen alone.
Build Quality & Design
Unboxing the LL-S201A made me remember why we drooled over it at GITEX. The screen is gorgeous, measuring 25.2mm at its thickest point, and when laid flat on a table would quite literally blend in with your surroundings. The LL-S201A can be set up in three different ways; with the accompanying stand it can be used as a regular display monitor, or flip out the small stand underneath to tilt the display at a 10-degree angle for on-screen typing. Lastly, you can lay the device flat onto a table, to allow for multiple viewing angles or for applications that require multiple on-screen input.
Apart from the lonely menu button hidden on the right, there’s nothing else to see with the LL-S201A, which makes it one of the most minimalist displays I’ve used. Of course, since it’s touch enabled you can navigate through the menus via touch, thus eliminating the need for additional physical navigation buttons. Connectivity-wise, you can only connect HDMI or DisplayPort devices to the LL-S201A, so PCs without these ports will have to grab an adaptor. You’ll also find a microUSB port at the back which you’ll need to connect if you want to use the touchscreen features. The LL-S201A also comes equipped with internal speakers, which are loud enough for basic desktop use.
The LL-S201A also features a touch pen with a 2mm tip for precision input and drawing. It isn’t pressure-sensitive however, so users thinking that they can use the LL-S201A as a gigantic drawing tablet will have to think again. While Sharp didn’t provide the stylus along with our review unit, we were able to use a metallic ball-point pen to navigate around the display, though I kept this to a minimum as I didn’t want to damage the unit. With the accompanying stylus the LL-S201A supports handwriting recognition through Windows 8, as well as annotation through Microsoft Office Ink Tools.
Performance & Touch
As mentioned before, I chose to test the LL-S201A without my regular keyboard and mouse, to see what the experience would be like. The display was propped up horizontally using the kick stand at the back, and after adjusting the brightness a bit I was ready to go. The first thing I noticed was despite the LL-S201A being a fairly crisp display, a lot of the screen appeared to look a bit blurry. That’s because when set up at a reclined angle, you actually end up staring at the touch-sensors on the screen. These tiny dots are almost invisible from afar, but when you’re up close it looks like everything has a faint blur to it. Even white areas didn’t appear as white, but instead showed up with slight shimmers of red and green. When set up as a regular display, this issue disappeared and everything appeared as normal.
The second thing to note is just how uncomfortable it is to work when you’ve having to look down all the time. Most of us tend to have our displays either at or a little below eye level, but having the display resting on my desk really started to strain my neck after a few hours.
Using the LL-S201A with the Windows 8 on-screen keyboard was interesting, if not entirely accurate at times. While the display certainly is as responsive as Sharp claims, I still had to frequently retype words and correct spellings. It’s also a bit awkward to have Windows 8’s keyboard in the middle of a 20” screen, although I think if it was any bigger it would result in even more mistakes while typing. But for the most part, typing on the LL-S201A was generally quite good, with most of the guys in the office clocking in anywhere between 52 to 78 wpm on it.
When it came to input via stylus, the LL-S201A did quite well. Handwriting recognition was near-flawless, and the device’s “Palm Cancellation” feature meant that resting your palm on the display while using a stylus won’t interrupt with your inputs. But as mentioned before, the display and stylus aren’t pressure-sensitive, so designers who require this feature will have to resort to a regular digitizer setup.
So all of this sounds like the makings of a fairly good display, but of course that would be wishful thinking. The one place where the LL-S201A made me gasp in horror was at the price tag. This 20” beauty queen weighs in at a nice sum of AED 4,000 which puts it miles above any displays we’ve seen. Yes, the fact that it’s touchscreen does justify Sharp to charge a bit extra, but at that price tag I doubt that anyone besides corporations would want to invest in this thing.
The LL-S201A is a beautiful and responsive display that will certainly win you over with its looks before stabbing you in the heart with its price tag. And while the ‘Pen Style’ setup is an interesting way to use the display, it’s uncomfortable for prolonged use and was not designed for close-up viewing. If you don’t want to invest in an all-in-one PC, and want to build your own Windows 8 PC with touch capabilities, then this is the touch panel to get. The LL-S201A certainly has many perks, but its unrealistic price tag could shun away potential buyers.