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Review of the 27″ Acer HN274H 3D Vision-ready LCD Monitor

February 1st, 2011 · 627 Comments · GeForce 3D Vision

Acer HN274H is going to be the first 27-inch 3D-capable 120Hz LCD monitor as well as the first one to feature support for both frame sequential stereo 3D over the Dual-Link DVI interface (used by Nvidia’s 3D Vision technology) as well as stereoscopic 3D support over the HDMI 1.4a interface (all three ports that the monitor has). The bigger size of the monitor as well as the enhanced support for using stereo 3D content from a PC, as well as consumer devices such as Playstation 3 console, a standalone Blu-ray 3D player or a 3D-capable Set-Top-Box is what is making it a very interesting product. You can say that this monitor can successfully compete with 3D HDTVs in some aspects, especially if you are looking for a more affordable 3D-capable display. But is the level of quality in stereo 3D mode comparable to that of a 3D-capable HDTV and is this new monitor better than the already available other 3D LCDs in terms of further reduced crosstalk/ghosting? These are just some of the questions that I’m going to try to answer here…

I’m starting with the unboxing video of the monitor that I’ve already posted a few days ago, you can watch it if you’ve missed it as it covers things like what is the monitor bundled with as well as what video input ports it has and where they are located. The 27-inch size of the display kind of makes it perfect to cover your whole vision while you are sitting in front of it in a normal way – like about 20 inches (50 centimeters) from it. So you can say that 27-inch is the perfect size for a 3D-capable computer monitor that you are going to use on a desk, for larger size you should consider a 3D-capable HDTV that will be sitting further away from you for the best possible experience. And then there is also a matter of the bandwidth requirements that are covered by the DL DVI interface at Full HD, but going a step further to lets say 2560×1600 would be a problem for 3D content transmission as well as providing enough FPS in games even with high-end GPUs. But let us see what are the specifications of the new Acer 3D display…

Acer HN274H Specifications:

Panel Size: 27″ (69 cm) Wide Screen 16:9, TN, LED backlight
Native Resolution: 1920×1080 pixels
Pixel Pitch: 0.3114 mm
Brightness(Max): 300 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio (Max.): 100,000,000:1 (dynamic)
Viewing Angles: 170° H / 160° V
Response Time: 2 ms (GtG)
Video Inputs: Dual-link DVI-D, VGA, 3x HDMI 1.4a
Power Consumption: 45W On, 1.7W Sleep, 0.65W Off/Standby
Integrated Audio: 2x 2W stereo speakers
Monitor stand: tilt +30°~-30°
Dimension (WxHxD): 25.5″ x 18.5″ x 7.6″ (648.1 x 468.5 x 192 mm)
Weight: 13.2 lbs (6 kg)

What I want to direct your attention to in the specifications is the maximum level of brightness that is rated at 300 cd/m2 and the maximum dynamic contrast ratio of 100 million to 1. You should have these values in mind so that you can compare to what I was able to measure during the testing of the display as there were some interesting difference, mostly int he level of brightness… but that of course also reflects on the contrast ratio. And one more thing, the dynamic contrast ratio is not available when you are using the 3D mode, it is automatically forced to off state no matter if you have activated it in 2D mode or not. The value of 100 million to 1 of course seems way too high, especially considering the fact that specialists say that after a certain number it is not only hard, but impossible to measure and that is something in between 1 to 5 million to one according to different sources. Still having a LED backlight with ability to independently control the LEDs behind the LCD panel and not edge LEDs can allow you to get higher dynamic contrast depending on what is being displayed. And just one more clarification as a lot of people are confused by this, there is no such thing as LED display, these are LCD displays with LED backlight instead of the more traditional CCFL backlight, but these are still LCD displays. Go ahead and blame the marketing on this confusion.

Not, lets take a quick look over the menu of the monitor and what options and settings you have available in both 2D and 3D mode. The two menus you see on the pictures above are the ones that are available to you in 2D mode, notice the contrast level is 50 and the color temperature is set to Warm (6500K). The dynamic contrast control function (ACM) is disabled by default, there is no option to control OverDrive from this menu (you can from the Service Menu, but more on that in a moment). The IR Mode option is there, because the display has a built in IR transmitter, but besides the Normal mode (on by default), the other Consumer and LAN modes do not change anything and they are not mentioned as something more specific…

Taking a photo in the infrared spectrum shows the integrated IR emitter in the top frame of the display, in the middle, without having to open the monitor to see it. Of course peeking through the plastic does not produce great image quality and level of detail, but it is enough to see what the emitter looks like and that it has four LEDs used to sen the synchronization signal to the active shutter glasses. The interesting thing is that since the IR emitter is integrated into the display, there is no need for the use of external device, but there is also no need to connect any USB cables between the monitor and the PC, no matter if you are sending 3D content over the DVI or the HDMI interface. Of course you can also use an external IR emitter should you need to, but plugging in such in the PC will disable the built-in one the same way as if you try to connect two emitters to the PC at the same time one gets disabled. The built-in IR emitter and the 3D Vision active shutter glasses that are bundled with the display are used for both when playing games in stereo 3D mode or viewing 3D content from your PC over the DL DVI interface and when using a 3D-capable consumer electronic device connected through HDMI 1.4a interface. Acer HN274H works just fine with 3DTV Play, although you should not need to use that when using your PC as you can get even 120Hz at 1080p resolution when using the DL DVI interface, so you don’t have to limit yourself to either 720p 50/60Hz or 1080p 24Hz 3D modes that the HDMI 1.4a supports for 3D. With that said you should not have trouble using even AMD-based video cards over the HDMI 1.4a interface just like you would with a 3D-capable HDTV with the 3D Vision glasses, so you can say that this monitor is kind of an universal solution. Console gamers should also be happy due to the fact that they can use PlayStaion 3 consoles in 3D mode together with this monitor, and it will work with standalone Blu-ray 3D players for watching movies and even for watching 3D TV with the help of a 3D-capable set-top-box. You should also be able to connect 3D-capable consumer cameras and camcorders to preview photos and videos you’ve taken in 3D and so on…

Now I’m going to take a quick look at the Service Menu as there is some interesting and important information that you cam find there and some more advanced users might want to play with the settings. However I should advice you to be careful what you are playing with in that menu and if you don’t know, you better not touch anything and just use the information provided to you like how many hours has the monitor been used. Below you will find a short guide on how to enter the Service Menu, I’m using the term “button” as besides the Power button all the rest are capacitive (tough) buttons and not physical ones.

Accessing the Service Menu on Acer HN274H LCD Monitor:

– Turn off the monitor by pressing the Power button
– Press and hold the leftmost “button” and then push the Power button to turn on the monitor
– When you see the image on screen you can release the “button” and press the Menu button (the middle one) 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 interesting find here is the LCD panel type used by Acer, it is an LGD LM270WF3 (made by LG), although I’ve had some suspicions that it might be from Samsung before actually checking the Service Menu. The previous 3D-capable LCD monitor form Acer (GD245HZ/GD235HQ) used a panel made by CMO (Chi Mei Optoelectronics). Samsung is also apparently going to soon have a 27-inch model that will most likely use their own panels, so that we are going to have some choice and competition. It is interesting to note however that LG still hasn’t announced their own 27-inch 3D-capable monitor to use their own panels that Acer apparently already is using for the upcoming 27-inch HN274H.

One thing that I’ve noticed right from the first moment I’ve turned on the monitor was that it was very bright, but measuring the color reproduction as well as the maximum level of brightness kind of surprised me. 492 cd/m2 as a maximum level of brightness when the specifications say 300 cd/m2 for the monitor kind of surprised me and at first I though there is some sort of a mistake, so I’ve repeated the measurements multiple times restarting the system and doing factory reset of the display settings. Int he end the results were all very close to the 500 cd/m2 mark, so I can assume that the monitor should actually be rated 500 cd/m2. This of course was measured with Contrast setting of 50 which is the default for 2D mode and in 3D mode the default setting is 40 which means a little less brightness, but still quite high at about 400 cd/m2. Lowering the Contrast setting to 0, the minimum level of brightness for the display, leaves the display still very bright at about 269 cd/m2 and this also leads to reduced level of crosstalk/ghosting. And when having such high level of brightness it is normal to have higher color deviations as you can see from the measurement results before doing a color calibration…

After doing a color calibration with a setting to preserve the maximum possible brightness the results were quite impressive with significantly reduced color deviations and actual color reproduction turning to be quite accurate while at the same time maintaining a maximum level of brightness of 395 cd/m2. And due to the high maximum brightness levels that the monitor has the level of the black was also a bit high at about 0.6 cd/m2 while the actual level of contrast measured was around 700:1. The monitor exhibits some input lag, the values measured vary from 0 to 16 ms with an average of about 8 ms, something which is quite good considering that most of the 3D-capable 120Hz monitors do have some input lag anyway. Next comes the question about backlight bleeding, the Acer unit I reviewed has very even backlight with no brighter areas at any of the sides, so the LED backlight is apparently used quite good.

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 performance is quite good as compared to other monitors, but there is still some crosstalk present (the red in the left corner is just a reflection in the glasses). Have in mind that this 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 familiar from the test of the Planar monitor and that is the slight gradation in the white as you can see on the left part of the image. At first this made me think that this is again a Samsung panel and that we have something happening with them having even backlight with OverDriver active, however seeing that Acer uses a new LG panel made me think otherwise…

After making another test, this time without shooting through the glasses’ lens with a black on white 3D test photo I saw a situation that very closely resembles that with the Planar SA2311W with the white not being evenly distributed, but gradating over different shades. Here as well increasing a bit the Contrast level from its default setting of 40 can help make the white seem more even and get rid of the gradation effect, but this can also increase the level of ghosting/crosstalk a bit. Disabling the OverDrive from the Service Menu did fix the problem as well, however this also leads to having more ghosting and you should not disable the OD in stereo 3D mode anyway. In the case with Planar’s monitor the gradation effect was hardly apparent in normal use, but with the Acer, probably due to the higher level of brightness there were some situations that I could see some side effects caused by it in real world use. I hope that panel and display manufacturers can take a note at this and find a solution, so that we won’t be seeing the issue anymore with the default settings on the display. Although you can usually see it only with some photos, that doesn’t mean that the problem should be there… as using the same extreme test photos on older models of 3D-capable LCDs the same problem with different gradation of the white was not present.

Moving to the the sailboats stereoscopic 3D test video, a real world crosstalk test to show you that the specific issue described above does not usually create any problems with normal use for stereo 3D content. Here there is almost no crosstalk/ghosting visible, although there is some slightly visible, but the end result is still very good, although it is probably slightly worse as compared to what most 3D HDTVs show as result here.

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 good results with a very faint afterimage leaking at the top of the screen, although pretty close to the best performing in this test Planar monitor, the Acer’s ghosting is slightly more apparent, probably die to the increased level of brightness.

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 good results, very close to the results provided by the best performing in the test for now Planar monitor, although the color ghosting is a bit more apparent here as well, again probably due to the higher maximum brightness of the Acer.

I should state the fact that I don’t yet have information about exact release date and price of the 27″ Acer HN274H monitor, but if I have to guess it will most likely be available at end of February, beginning of March. And the prices could be something around $600 USD and 500 Euro as the monitor comes bundled with a pair of glasses and an integrated IR emitter. Do have in mind that these is not official information, but something that I’m assuming as a possibility, so the actual date and price can be different, but these mentioned by me above do sound reasonable… I’ve got some official information regarding the pricing and availability of the 27″ Acer HN274H with my initial forecast being close to the official numbers. The monitor should be available by the end of February with a suggested price of 689€ (Euro) for Europe and probably the same amount, but in US dollars for the North American markets. So the wait for it won’t be long…

In terms of features, the 27″ Acer HN274H monitor does a great job in offering the flexibility you’d expect with a 3D-capable solution that will work not only with your computer, but also with consumer electronic devices. The Acer HN274H comes not only as a good solution for gaming in stereo 3D mode on your PC with 3D Vision, but also for using with multiple consumer electronic devices that do support S3D, and the three HDMI 1.4a ports make it easier to have multiple devices connected at the same time. In terms of performance, the Acer did have some good and some not so good surprises in stock, but you should have in mind that I’m reviewing an earlier sample of the monitor, so the final production units might be better. The level of crosstalk/ghosting in stereo 3D mode is just slightly more than the Planar SA2311W which is still providing the best results. The reason that the Acer monitor has slightly more ghosting as compared to Planar is most likely due to the higher maximum level of brightness that the Acer has as compared to Planar, but all the tests I’m doing are at the default factory settings of the displays, so you can know what to expect out of the box. In overall, the 27-inch Acer HN274H 3D Vision-ready LCD monitor is a great choice for everyone considering a bigger and more flexible (supporting not only 3D Vision on PC) 3D-capable monitor with the idea to use it with more different stereoscopic 3D devices, including consumer electronics. Not to mention that it can be considered as a good 3D HDTV alternative, smaller in size, but also more affordable and flexible as it supports 120Hz at 1080p on your PC, unlike all of the currently available 3D HDTVs ;)

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