Asus VG278H is just the second 27-inch 3D Vision-ready monitor that is going to be available on the market this month around the world, it is a model that we’ve been waiting for quite some time now and it is finally here. The previous 27-inch model compatible with Nvidia’s 3D Vision technology was released earlier this year and it was Acer HN274H that I’ve also reviewed and liked a lot. So the Asus was not only a bit late, but also already has a good performing competitor on the market that it needs to beat in order to take the position of the best 3D Vision monitor on the market so far. But the Asus VG278H is up to a good start, it comes with integrated IR emitter and bundled with the new 3D Vision 2 glasses as well as with support for the new Nvidia 3D Lightboost technology that is promising a brighter image in stereo 3D mode. It also has HDMI 1.4a interface with support for stereoscopic 3D input with various other S3D-capable devices, but only frame packaged input. It seems that the company has also learned from some of their previous mistakes with the first 3D Vision-ready monitor they’ve had, the VG236H and the new 27-inch model is not with a glossy screen. So I started testing the monitor with very high expectations and it has managed to respond very well to most of them, but there were a few things that I was a bit disappointed with. Generally speaking however I really liked the performance and features that the 27-inch Asus VG278H 3D Vision-ready LCD monitor has, but let me get into more details starting with the official specifications…
Asus VG278H Monitor Specifications:
Panel Size: 27″ (69 cm) Wide Screen 16:9, TN, LED backlight
Native Resolution: 1920×1080 pixels
Pixel Pitch: 0.311 mm
Brightness (Max.): 300 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio (Max.): 50,000,000:1 (dynamic)
Viewing Angles (CR>=10): 170° H / 160° V
Response Time: 2 ms (GtG)
Video Inputs: Dual-link DVI-D, VGA, HDMI 1.4a
Power Consumption: 65W On, <1W Sleep, <1W Off/Standby
Integrated Audio: 2x 3W stereo speakers
Monitor stand: tilt +15°~-5°, swivel and height adjustment
Dimension (WxHxD): 643 x 460 x 220 mm
Weight: 8 kg.
One thing that I found interesting in the new Asus VG278H monitor is the fact that the infrared emitter for the 3D glasses, located at the top of the display is placed in an adjustable “box” that you can rotate in order to better fit to your specific style of use of the monitor. And together with the highly adjustable stand of the monitor you get more flexibility when setting up the display (higher/lower positioning or near/far usage scenarios). I also want to focus your attention on the fact that the manufacturer specifications of the display state 300 candelas per square meter maximum brightness, similar to the specs of the 27-inch Acer 3D monitor, but when measuring the actual brightness I get readings for much higher brightness levels… and the 3D Lightboost technology is not responsible for this, but I’ll get back to the brightness level a bit later on. Another thing that caught my attention in the standard specifications of the Asus VG278H is the relatively high power consumption the monitor has and that made me measure the actual power consumption. It was like that: around 45W with 60Hz refresh and around 50W with 120Hz refresh rate in 2D mode, and switching to 3D mode between 30W and 40W, depending on the setting of the Lightboost technology (Off – MAX). It is interesting to see how the Lightboost technology affects the power consumption and what are the brightness levels per eye and with different settings for the Lightboost, but that is something that needs further investigation and I’ll post about at a later time.
The OSD menu of the monitor has the option to control the level of the Lightboost technology as well as to completely disable it which is a good thing to have in order for me to test and compare different settings. Visually the difference between the setting with Lightboost to off and to the maximum does not seem that big, you can certainly notice that there is difference in darker areas of the image as they seem brighter, but it is hard to tell if the image is actually twice as bright or less than that. I’ll focus on measuring that in a separate post as I’ve already mentioned, so stay tuned, the important thing is that you really get brighter image in stereo 3D mode thanks to the Lightboost technology and it really looks better than on older 3D Vision-ready displays, especially in games with darker environment. When using the 3D Lightboost technology you can say that the experience you get in 3D and the level of brightness now seems to be almost like what you get with a good 3D HDTV, something that was really needed as an improvement for 3D Vision.
Now, moving on to the color accuracy and brightness of the display. Here I’ve got interesting results, measuring the default color accuracy that the display offers as well as the level of brightness and these results kind of reminded me of something. The level of brightness is 427 cd/m2 which is way over the 300 cd/m2 advertised by Asus and by pushing the monitor to the maximum I was able to get 450 cd/m2 as a maximum brightness level. And considering that the level of brightness is quite high, you can even visually notice that as image on the monitor looks really bright even with the naked eye, it is expected to also not have very accurate color reproduction, although only the gamma level was a bit off as yo can see.
After doing a calibration of the monitor, and getting some of the brightness reduced, the color accuracy becomes very good with a brightness level a bit below the 300 cd/m2. Now, what I see in images for both before and after the calibration are results that seem very similar to these from Acer HN274H monitor, although the brightness levles are a bit lower. This has made me start thinking that it is not impossible that the two monitors are based on the same 27-inch LCD panels from LG, although the Asus monitor comes with support for 3D Lightboost technology… or at least that LG may have further developed the same LCD panel by adding support for the Nvidia tech to it. Unfortunately as I could not get to the service menu of the monitor I’ll have to open the monitor to be able to confirm this suspicion and this is something I cannot do at the moment.
One thing that is different here however, when comparing the Asus monitor to the Acer is the level of input lag I was able to measure. One thing that I’ve noticed immediately after getting the Asus VG278H monitor for testing is the good responsiveness I’ve got from it, although I’m not overly sensitive to input lag. After measuring it I can confirm that the Asus is better than the Acer in that aspect, although the VG278H is not totally lag free, the input lag at the default factory settings is very low… something very close to 0 milliseconds and less than 5 ms for sure. So even if you do not plan to use this monitor for gaming in stereo 3D mode (although you get it ready for that with 3D Vision glasses and IR emitter bundled), but instead plan to use it as a 120Hz gaming display in 2D mode (non-stereoscopic 3D), then you should be quite satisfied with the very low level of input lag that you will be getting.
Here is how the backlight uniformity of the display looks like, no serious backlight bleeding, apart from the slightly brighter top and bottom of the display (the blue color). There is some slight variation that is more easily noticeable if you look at the display at a high angle, but normally when you look directly at it you can hardly see anything non-uniform apart from the slightly brighter top and bottom pars of the display. Of course the the backlight uniformity can vary from unit to unit, but generally you should not be expecting to get serious issues with backlight bleeding on this monitor.
Now I’m going to start with the usual tests for crosstalk/ghosting as this is still one of the most serious issues that the makers of 3D displays need to deal up with in order to be able to deliver the best user experience in stereo 3D mode. I’m using a set of specially selected tests to get idea about the performance you should expect as well as to compare to other products that I’ve already tested. All of the following tests are performed with the standard factory settings of the display, so be aware that there is a possibility to get better results and performance if you tweak the monitor a bit in the OSD menu. So now moving to the extreme crosstalk test photos, as expected some crosstalk is still visible with both the white and black. Again very similar results to the 27-inch Acer monitor, although the brightness here is higher and the crosstalk is slightly lower, so there is some improvement, but I expected to see more. Especially after seeing some presentations about the new 3D Vision and 3D Ligthboost technology that were talking about “ghost-free” images. But lets us move on to the more actual usage scenarios to compare the levels of crosstalk/ghosting as these specially made test photos are showing ghosting even on good 3D HDTVs.
Next is the sailboats stereoscopic 3D test video, a real world crosstalk test to show the level of crosstalk/ghosting you can expect from a 3D video. Slightly visible crosstalk if you pay enough attention to it, if not you may not notice it at all.
Going to the game Tomb Raider: Underworld for one more crosstalk check in a real world game, there still some faint ghosting present at the top of the screen and there is also some color ghosting at the bottom. Again very similar to what could be seen with the Acer HN274H 3D monitor. A very important thing here is that all of the above crosstalk/ghosting tests were made at the factory default settings for the monitor, so it is what you get when you open up the monitor and start using it. But you should be well aware that with some tweaking of the default settings you can get even better results without having to compromise much of anything.
So can you do something about reducing the crosstalk and make things better? Yes, you actually can do something and that is to reduce the contrast of the monitor a bit from the default setting of 76 in stereo 3D mode to about 55. Thanks to the significantly increased brightness due to the 3D Lightboost technology you can sacrifice some of the brightness levels in order to get rid of most of the annoying crosstalk, although not to have it completely gone, while still getting quite bright image. Actually I’m wondering why didn’t Asus decide to do this as a factory default as it really works well and leaves only hardly visible traces of crosstalk that won’t bother you like for example the color ghosting that is easily visible with the default setting and is really annoying.
But what is the conclusion in terms of the crosstalk/ghosting with the new Asus HN278H 3D Vision-ready monitor? Personally I’ve expected more from it right out from the box and what we get is just slightly reduced ghosting level with the factory settings as compared to the Acer that was released a few months ago. However, as I’ve already explained you can get even better results with manually tweaking the settings. The Asus VG278H is definitely a move in the right direction, but we need the crosstalk/ghosting reduced more in order to get better stereoscopic 3D experience and apparently Asus has decided to focus more on the higher brightness level than on reduced ghosting and they could’ve done a better balance with the out of the box settings, fortunately you are free to do it yourself. Another thing that I have kind of expected is some improvement in the non-PC 3D support, the new Asus monitor also works only with HDMI 1.4 frame packaging, just like all other 3D monitors with HDMI 1.4, but there is still no support for Side by Side and Over/Under input modes and this limits the usability of the monitor with other 3D-capable devices. With that said I can say that I’m actually very happy with the monitor, even though you need to play a bit with the settings to really get the best results in terms of crosstalk reduction, the brightness increase in stereo 3D mode is really good. The improvement of the brightness level in stereoscopic 3D mode was the other thing that was really needed and we got it and it is working well in order to improve the user experience. And all this when combined with the new 3D Vision 2 active shutter glasses that come with bigger lenses, block better the external light and come with a more comfortable design is another good improvement. Adding the very low input lag of the Asus monitor things are looking good not only for stereo 3D gamers, but for people willing to use the high refresh rate more and not for gaming in stereo 3D mode. So if you are looking for a new 27-inch 3D gaming display then the Asus VG278H should be your primary candidate, and if 27-inch is too big for you, then you should wait a bit more for the smaller 24-inch monitors with 3D Lightboost support (as a must have feature) to start coming out on the market very soon. And you can expect some more interesting things from me about the Asus VG278H monitor in the next few days as there is a lot of extra testing and comparison going on…