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Review of the 23″ Planar SA2311W 3D Vision-ready LCD Monitor

January 10th, 2011 · 37 Comments · GeForce 3D Vision

The 23-inch Planar SA2311W 3D Vision-ready LCD monitor is one of the newer 3D display solutions designed to work with Nvidia’s 3D Vision technology that just became available on the market and I already had the chance to get one of the first units available in Europe to test. When Planar, a company that is specialized in high-end professional stereoscopic 3D displays announced that monitor I was quite eager to test it and I was already set with high expectations for the performance it should offer. Have in mind that the SA2311W monitor is Planar’s first consumer oriented 3D product, designed for use by both professionals for work as well as by gamers. As usual the review is focused mostly on the stereo 3D performance of the monitor, although I will cover some general aspects as well that might be interesting for gamers that prefer to play with 120Hz refresh rate in “plain 3D” instead with 60Hz per eye in stereo 3D mode.

Planar SA2311W is a 23-inch 3D-capable Full HD monitor with a height adjustable stand that makes it more flexible to different work places. The display comes with Dual-Link DVI, HDMI (1.3) and VGA ports, but for stereoscopic 3D use you can only rely on the DL DVI interface. Below you can find the full officially available specifications of the monitor…

Planar SA2311W Specifications:

Panel Size: 23″ (58.4cm) Wide Screen 16:9, TN
Native Resolution: 1920×1080 pixels
Pixel Pitch: 0.2655 mm
Brightness(Max): 300 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio (Max.): ?
Viewing Angles (CR≧10): ?
Response Time: 2 ms (GtG)
Video Inputs: Dual-link DVI-D, HDMI, VGA
Power Consumption: ?
Monitor stand: tilt +20°~-5°, swivel and height adjustment
Dimension (WxHxD): 21.5″ x 14.8″ x 8.3″ (546.33 x 377 x 210.5 mm)
Weight: 7 kg

Here are the two menus you have available for control of the monitor in 2D mode through the DVI interface. Notice that the monitor has an ECO mode that can reduce the brightness level and also save energy, the default brightness and contrast settings for 2D mode are a bit high anyway, so activating the ECO mode makes the image more easier on the eyes. Another useful feature is the option to enable and disable the OverDrive (OD) function and also the ability to control the sharpness, the display does not have problems with over-sharpening with OD active, but you generally don’t need the overdrive mode active in 2D mode anyway. In stereo 3D mode of course the OverDrive function is active by default as you need the faster response it gets you and thus you get reduced crosstalk/ghosting, and we’ll see the level you can expect from this new monitor in a bit. When in stereo 3D mode most of these controls are being disabled and you are pretty much left with controlling the contrast (the actual level of brightness) of the display with the default setting being at 80.

Here is how the service menu of the Planar monitor looks like in 2D and in stereo 3D mode with its default settings as a reference should you mess them up in some way without having recorder their default settings. If you’ve read the Acer GD245HQ/GD235HZ monitor review from last year, you’ll see that the service menu is very similar to that of the Acer, and you can get into it the same way too. But there is no need for you to mess with the service menu of the monitor, except for seeing the hours the monitor has been used as a reference. What is interesting as information that I’ve learned from the service menu however is that the Planar monitor is using the following LCD panel SEC LTM230HU01, apparently Samsung Electronics has a new 23-inch 3D-capable LCD panel that they are not yet using in their own products. And here comes the question how good is the new panel as compared to their previous 22-inch one?

Accessing the Service Menu on Planar SA2311W LCD Monitor

– Turn off the monitor by pressing the Power button
– Press and hold the Menu button and then push the Power button to turn on the monitor
– When you see the image on screen you can release the Menu button and press it again to call up the Service Menu
– When you finish with the service menu you can turn the monitor off and then on again to be back in the normal mode

The gamers that prefer to play in “plain 3D” and not in stereo 3D might not be very happy due to the fact that the Planar SA2311W monitor exhibits some input lag, the values measured vary from 0 to 24 ms with an average of about 10 ms, something which is quite good considering that most of the 3D-capable 120Hz monitors do have some input lag. Next comes the question about backlight bleeding, the Planar unit I reviewed has quite even backlight with a slightly brighter areas at the top center corner and the lower end a bit on the left, but nothing that is seriously disturbing. So you can consider the new Samsung panel to be quite good, but not quite there yet in all areas, especially considering the fact that their early model had no input lag at all, but it also was not with a perfect backlight distribution. But Anyway, these are not serious issues, so we can move on to the color accuracy next and after that to test the performance you get in stereo 3D mode and the part I’m sure you are most eager to find out about – the level of crosstalk you can expect.

The default settings of the monitor show colors that are a bit of from their optimum, however the gamma and color temperature is with much less deviation. And the maximum brightness measured was 259 cd/m2 with the monitor not being pushed to maximum brightness which means that it can push up to 300 cd/m2 as an absolute maximum. The contrast level is 952:1 which is very close to 1000:1 that this panel from Samsung should be rated at |(non dynamic contrast) and the black point measured was a bit high, due to the higher brightness, measured at about 0.28 cd/m2. Visually, aside from the higher brightness, the display looks quite good even in its factory settings, but let us see how things change after calibrating it.

Have in mind that the calibration results above were achieved with a setting that is trying to preserve the maximum possible brightness level of the display, so if you are going for a lower and more comfortable brightness level for work in 2D mode then you might be able to get even better results. Even though with an average difference of just 0.6 and a maximum one of 1.4 (partly due to the higher brightness), the color deviation is quite low, making the display rate as a very good one after being calibrated even for work with colors. But this is related only to working in 2D mode and doing tasks where color reproduction matters, as when gaming in plain 3D or stereo 3D mode the color reproduction is the least of the things to worry about.

I’m starting with one of my more recent tests using special photos for finding the level of crosstalk by going to black and white, the test photos are available here, so if you wish you can compare your monitor as well. As you can see quite good performance as compared to other monitors, but there is still some crosstalk present, not that I expected it to magically disappear, as this is something that is still a technological issue. And even though things develop and the level of crosstalk gets lower on a newer LCD monitors, we a re still a bit far from getting completely rid of it. This however is a specially developed test to show the issue and actually does not represent the real usage scenarios, as there the situations are usually not as extreme as with the test photos. In this test I’ve noticed something strange and that is the slight gradation in the white as you can see on the left part of the image, so I went and investigated further in this…

Unlike in the tests above, where I shot the test photos only through one of the lenses of the glasses, on this test photo I’m not using the shutter glasses, but instead I shot directly the monitor showing a 3D image. So do not use the photo above to judge for level of ghosting as it is not intended for that, but it is to investigate the strange gradation of white I’ve noticed in the the above test photos. This photo uses black on white for the two eyes as this makes the strange color gradation of the white to be most apparent and it turns out that this issue is somewhat related to the OverDrive function as well as the current level of brightness (the contrast setting) of the monitor. If I disable the OverDrive through the system menu the problem with the gradation of the white disappears, but in turn I get a lot of crosstalk which is to be expected. If I push the contrast setting (the brightness) of the display to the maximum value of 100 again the problem disappears and the white is even again, but then I get more ghosting and more specifically color ghosting. The best choice I’ve found to minimize the issue was to lower the contrast setting a bit to about 50-60 which almost gets rid of the white gradation and lowers a b it more the crosstalk as well, but the image on the screen also gets slightly darker in stereo 3D mode. I should note that this white color gradation issue is only noticeable in some specific extreme scenarios that normally would not appear in real world use, so you should not be worried about experiencing it normally. Meanwhile I’ll see if it can be resolved in another way by also talking with Planar about it, so stay tuned for more information. And now lets wee how things look like in real world usage of the monitor for stereoscopic 3D entertainment…

Now, moving to one of my favorite tests – the sailboats stereoscopic 3D test video, finally a real world crosstalk test to show you that the specific issue described above does not create problems with normal use for stereo 3D content. Planar SA2311W is actually the first 3D-capable LCD monitor that I’ve tested and that does not show any, and I really mean any ghosting in this video, the previous monitor from Asus I’ve tested was almost there, but there was still some slight ghosting. So in this test the Planar SA2311W performs as good as a good 3D HDTV like the Panasonic VT20E for example that also does not show any ghosting in this test video. But lets see how things move on with some more real world applications like game sin stereo 3D mode.

Moving to Tomb Raider: Underworld and one of my favorite scenes in the game that I use for checking the 3D monitors of the level of top and bottom ghosting due to the contrasting scenes that are more prone to having crosstalk/ghosting. Starting with the top ghosting, again surprisingly good results with a very faint afterimage leaking at the top of the screen and again making the Planar the best performing in this test monitor that I’ve tested so far.

Moving to the bottom screen crosstalk/ghosting test, again by using the game Tomb Raider: Underworld, this time looking for color ghosting… another issue that is caused by the OverDrive function that leads to pixels not appearing as faint dark shadows in terms of crosstalk, but as much more apparent brightly colored afterimage. Again very good results, probably the best so far as although there is some color ghosting it is quite faint again and much better than the previous results I’ve got. Of course pushing the value of the contrast setting in 3D mode to the maximum can make the top and bottom ghosting more apparent, the default factory setting of 80 does produce really good results.

As I’ve mentioned above already, by lowering the level of contrast (the brightness of the display) from the default factory setting of 80 to something in between 50 and 60 you can get even slightly less crosstalk with the image getting a bit darker, so you have an option to get even better results. But as I’ve mentioned, even at the default settings the Planar SA2311W performs very good with the smallest levels of crosstalk I’ve seen so far through all the 3D Vision-ready LCD monitors I’ve tested. It has become somewhat of a tradition that every new model of a 3D-capable LCD monitor I test here is performing better than the previous and has less crosstalk than the previous one and Planar SA2311W is no exception. With that said I think it is about time that I replace my old and trustworthy Samsing 2233RZ monitor with the one from Planar which also uses an LCD panel made by Samsung Electronics.

The 23-inch Planar SA2311W 3D Vision-ready monitor is available here…

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Review of the ASUS VG236HE 120Hz 3D-capable LCD Monitor

November 15th, 2010 · 48 Comments · GeForce 3D Vision

It has been a while since I’ve tested a 3D-capable LCD monitor with the LG W2363D being the last one back in July. And now, finally, I had the ASUS VG236HE available for some time to test, so below you will find the review of the monitor and as usual my focus will be on the stereo 3D performance, although I’ll also cover some other aspects when using the monitor in plain 3D mode too. ASUS VG236HE is the version of the VG236 model that does not come with the 3D Vision glasses bundled, the other available version VG236H comes with the glasses bundled which makes the total price a bit more attractive than buying the two products alone, but the both monitors are exactly the same. So now let’s start with the ASUS VG236HE…

Asus VG236H Specifications:

Panel Size: 23″ (58.4cm) Wide Screen 16:9, TN
Native Resolution: 1920×1080 pixels
Pixel Pitch: 0.265 mm
Brightness(Max): 400 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio (Max.): 100000:1 (dynamic)
Viewing Angles (CR≧10): 170°(H) /160°(V)
Response Time: 2 ms (GtG)
Video Inputs: Dual-link DVI-D (support NVIDIA 3D Vision*), Component (YPbPr), HDMI
Power Consumption: < 60W operating, < 2W in standby Monitor stand: tilt +15°~-5°, swivel and height adjustment Dimension (WxHxD): 550.2x419.5x250mm Weight: 7 kg

* Have in mind that the stereo 3D mode is only usable with a Dual-Link DVI cable and through that interface on the monitor, as neither the Component, nor the HDMI do support stereo 3D!!!

Asus VG236HE is one of the latest 120Hz 3D-capable LCD monitors compatible with Nvidia’s 3D Vision technology, but what sets it apart from all other such products is the fact that this is the first 3D-capable 120Hz LCD monitor with a glossy screen, as all others so far were with matted screens (not counting the 120Hz LCD panels used in 3D-capable laptops that are also glossy). Now this kind of reflective coating over the screen can create some reflections when darker image is being displayed and some people do not like that much, although more and more monitors in general are being made like that, but you can get used to that or just avoid it by choosing another product.

The reflections on the glossy screen are visible only when you have dark image shown on screen and you have some light coming either from the lamp in the room or from the sun outside. However following Nvidia’s recommendations you should play in stereo 3D with no external light and in a dark room for best results and in such case the glossy surface should not be an issue whatsoever. Of course you can get used to it after a while, so the occasional reflections you will see won’t bother you, but it is a matter of personal preference and it is not like you don’t have a choice of other 120Hz 3D-capable LCD monitors with a matte surface. With that said, the glossy screen has some advantages too and these are in the form of more vibrant colors you get, deeper black and brighter white as well as more sharper looking image and these do have their own appeal for the users that are Ok with the side effects in terms of the occasional reflections in some conditions. But how does the glossy screen affect the monitor when you are using it in stereo 3D, well I strongly suggest that avoid playing in S3D mode on a darker games where you have reflections on the screen as it creates a weird feeling and may lead to faster tiring for the eyes. So just keep up with the recommendations to use the monitor in a darkened room with no external lights or best experience when playing in stereo 3D mode. Another thing worth mentioning is that the Asus monitor barely has any backlight bleeding, aside from the top and bottom edges of the screen, where it is kind of expected to have a bit higher brightness.

Now let me just show you how the monitor performs in terms of input lag. I’ve compared it to the LG W2363D-PF, as this model from LG is the last Full HD 3D-capable 120Hz LCD monitor that I’ve tested and that does not have input lag when the special THRU Mode is active. I’ve used a DVI splitter cable I connected both the Asus VG236HE and the LG W2363D-PF and started testing for input lag with the LG in its THRU mode and the Asus set in its gaming mode. As you can see from the photo above, there were moments when the LG and Asus were performing the same, meaning that there was no input lag at the specific moment, unfortunately the situation was not like that all the time. The minimum input lag measured on the Asus was indeed 0 milliseconds, meaning no delay at all from the moment of receiving the image and displaying it on the screen, however the average and maximum delay was more than zero.

The maximum input lag I was able to measure was 17 milliseconds which is not that bad, but for a high-end gaming monitor with 120Hz refresh rate and intended for playing games in stereo 3D mode one would expect to have no input lag at all, right? And the average delay measured was about 8 milliseconds for the Asus as compared to the LG, that has no input lag at all or at least it is much less than one millisecond making it really insignificant and hard to measure anyway. 8 milliseconds was the average input lag measured from the sequence of over the 300 photos, taken in high-speed mode with a digital camera, of the timer you see shown on both displays. So the Asus doesn’t seem so appealing anymore for more demanding gamers, looking to use it in 2D mode with the full 120Hz refresh rate instead to play in stereo 3D mode.

Measuring the color accuracy of the display with factory settings revealed that there are some quite high deviations from the reference values of a color calibrated display. That however is to be expected as the Asus VG236HE is a high-brightness display (400 cd/m2 by specifications) and it is designed to be used for gaming in stereo 3D mode. That is why Asus probably have decided to turn up the default settings for higher brightness instead of color accuracy, as when wearing the 3D Vision active shutter glasses some of the light coming from the monitor is blocked. So instead of being optimized for use in 2D or plain 3D mode, the default settings are definitely designed for stereo 3D mode and the colorimeter has show quite high brightness level – 383 cd/m2 with the factory settings. The level of the black color measured with the factory settings was quite high at about 0.44 cd/m2, but that is to be expected with such high brightness, but still the contrast level was quite good with a ratio of 944:1.

You can however calibrate the color accuracy of the Asus VG236HE to a pretty decent levels as you can see from the image above, just compare the deviation (delta E) before and after the calibration and an average of Delta E of 1 you can say that the colors are quite good for a TN panel. However there is a side effect after the calibration and that is the fact that you need to significantly lower the brightness in order to improve the color accuracy. The maximum brightness was just 142 cd/m2, with a black point measured at 0,29 cd/m2 and a bit disappointing contrast level of just 503:1. But this was completely expected as all 120Hz 3D-capable displays are mostly designed for gaming (plain 3D and stereo 3D) and multimedia use and not for working with colors. So calibration is in order only if you need it and will not play in stereo 3D mode, but then again why would you need to buy this monitor, instead of a cheaper 60Hz model?

And now it is time for some testing of the stereo 3D capabilities of the display. I’m starting with the crosstalk (ghosting) as this is currently one of the major issues that all 3D LCD monitors have more or less trouble with. The first test is with the sailboats 3D video that I find great for testing crosstalk as it has higher separation and higher contrast and is thus prone to having more ghosting than usual videos that were shot and post-processed to minimize all possible issues. Looking at the sails of the boat you can barely see some ghosting on their left side (the photo was taken through the right lens of the shutter glasses) and that shows quite good performance in terms of crosstalk. So far things look a bit better than on the LG W2363D and the Acer GD245HQ that I’ve tested earlier this year in terms of crosstalk, it seems that Asus were able to further lower the negatives from that.

Switching to a game in stereo 3D mode and that game being Tomb Raider Underworld I’m going for further testing of the crosstalk exhibited by the Asus monitor. TRU is one of my favorite test tools for that, because the game looks and performs great in stereo 3D mode with 3D Vision, but it also has some great scenes that work perfect for checking out the level of ghosting. Of course in order to make the ghosting more visible the level of separation has to be increased quite a lot. As you can see from the photo above, the ghosting at the top of the screen is not that much as on previous monitors I’ve tested, although it is still present as expected.

The bottom of the display also reveals more ghosting then for example the center of the display, but that is also to be expected. Here the level of crosstalk is pretty much the same as on the LG and there is also some visible color ghosting and the responsibility for that goes to the OverDrive function used to drive the pixels’ response time to a lower value. This monitor does not feature an OverDrive control function that will allow you to disable and enable it at will, although disabling it in stereo 3D mode will significantly increase the level of ghosting, so there is no point for that. In 2D mode you have the “Trace Free” option that apparently can influence the OverDrive function in some way, but changing it hardly makes any visible change int he performance. The good news here for the people that are not happy with the over-sharpening of some other monitors in 2D mode is that here we don’t have that problem.

In general I can say that I’m quite satisfied with the performance of the ASUS VG236HE monitor. It shows good potential and works well enough, with further reduced crosstalk as compared to the competition. The rotating and height adjustable stand as well as the presence of component input also makes the monitor more flexible, although these are not directly related to the performance in stereo 3D mode, they just contribute to the overall picture. I was a bit disappointed from the presence of some input lag even in gaming mode, something that is not desirable for a higher-end gaming product such as this display, but is not actually that much of an issue for stereo 3D gaming for most people. The glossy surface of the screen adds in some advantages, but also comes with a disadvantage and that is the reflections that you may see, but liking that or preferring a matte screen is a matter of personal preferences and following the guidelines for best results in stereo 3D mode that shouldn’t be much of a bother anyway (ie playing in a dark room with no external light). So all in all a ASUS VG236HE is a good monitor for use with stereo 3D with both pros and cons, so whether you like it or not depends more on your personal preferences than on the performance and the results it displays.

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