By Andres Hernandez
As was mentioned in the front page news, MTBS has maintained a position of not reviewing 3D hardware because there wasn’t enough in the market, and we didn’t want to give clear advantages of one solution over another when things were at such a young development stage. Now that nearly every major display maker has a 3D solution of some kind, it makes sense for MTBS to put out credible hardware reviews without concern of how it will benefit or harm the industry.
Our first official hardware review is the Acer HN274H 27” 3D monitor. Featuring Nvidia 3D Vision support and HDMI 1.4A compatibility, it’s a great starting point for this new MTBS hardware review service.
This review is divided in two parts. The first focuses on the monitor’s compatibility with Nvidia’s 3D Vision glasses and software, and the second will discuss its compatibility with DDD and iZ3D drivers on AMD graphics cards (HD3D).
The HN274H is one beast of a monitor, weighing in at just over 27 inches. It also sports a 2ms 1080P display with a 120Hz refresh rate. The unit feels well made with a smooth matte finish screen and a glossy rounded bezel. The base is in a black ellipse shape with a clear plastic edge, giving it a unique look.
On the lower-right side are five touch-sensitive “buttons” which are a little difficult to use but are functional nonetheless. Thankfully, the power switch is still a real button. Aside from that, this monitor looks physically very similar to many others on the market. It’s the features of the panel itself that set this one apart, as you’ll soon find out!
While 3D applications are great, the vast majority of day-to-day computing is done in 2D. So if a monitor does not perform well in 2D, then it hardly matters how good the 3D looks. Luckily this monitor excels in this department.
At 1920×1080 in 120Hz the picture quality is absolutely great. The image is sharp, colors are nice and bright, and the movement is silky smooth. Although 27” is getting large for a 1080P display, it still looks fairly crisp for a PC display. A 2560×1600 class display is probably crisper, but the difference is not as large as you might believe. I don’t think Acer could have bumped the resolution up any more because the bandwidth limitations of DVI and HDMI would have prevented 120Hz or 3D support from working. Really though, this is a nice 2D monitor and would probably be a worthy product even without the 3D functionality.
The refresh rate refers to how many times per second the screen gets updated, and the faster the refresh rate, the smoother the display. 60Hz means the screen is updated 60 times per second. It’s amazing what the human eye can perceive, because the 120Hz refresh rate is a significant improvement over almost any standard 60Hz panel.
Once you experience the smoothness of a 120Hz display, it is hard to go back. Even just dragging a window around the desktop takes on an almost “next-generation” quality. There still is some motion-blur, but it is literally cut in half from what I am used to.
While gaming also benefits from the smoother screen, it’s not as obvious as I hoped. This is because some games are designed around the expectation of a 60Hz display and therefore won’t benefit from the better screen performance. For example, Left4Dead was silky smooth at 120fps, but Unreal Tournament seems to be stuck at 60fps. As the new panels grow more popular, I’m sure game developers will account for this.
I wish I could demonstrate how everything feels more real and immediate with a 120Hz panel. Unfortunately, I have no way of recording a video of how this monitor looks at 120Hz (and even if I could, you’d have no way to view it on your end). In many ways, this is the same problem display makers have in selling 3D products: you really do have to see it to believe it. Trust me, you’ll believe it when you see it!
Acer has chosen to partner with Nvidia, who provides their Nvidia 3D Vision glasses with this kit.
I think this was a smart choice for Acer rather than designing their own shutter glasses exclusively for the monitor. The advantage is that the Nvidia 3D Vision glasses are widely available, and will probably continue to be for some time. Acer has also integrated the IR emitter into the top of the monitor, which makes for a clean, streamlined experience. It’s also a plus that the glasses come included with the monitor, so gamers don’t have to make extra purchase decisions.
I have to confess that while I’m an experienced S-3D gamer, I’ve never owned Nvidia’s glasses before – so these are my first impressions.
From a physical standpoint, the glasses look nice and have a futuristic design without being too cheesy. Granted, you’re not going to win any fashion contests wearing these, but they are at least slick compared to the older shutter glasses I’m used to. They are also really light, and very comfortable to wear. You can easily have these shades on your face for hours at a time without worry of the weight.
The Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision glasses come with three different nose-pieces, although I found the default ones to work best. Also in the package are a soft carrying-case and cleaning cloth, which is a nice bonus.
How do the glasses perform? Not bad, actually. The 3D effect works well, and they’re fairly comfortable to use. There may be a short adjustment period when you first use the glasses, especially if you are accustomed to the passive polarized glasses used in many movie theaters. After the first couple of sessions this ceases to be an issue and the glasses can be used comfortably.
This biggest downside of the 3D Vision glasses is that they significantly darken the image. This happens with all shutter glasses, but this is more of an issue for Nvidia – especially in comparison to the glasses used on high-end 3D HDTVs. Despite this caveat, the image quality still looks good and its certainly not a deal-breaker. The Acer HN274H is also a very bright monitor in general, so this compensates nicely. Overall, while I am happy with the Nvidia 3D Vision glasses, I think there is room for improvement.
What can I say: the 3D looks nice on this display. The large size makes for an immersive experience, and the 3D has a richer quality than smaller sized monitors. Even the same content with the same settings ends up looking better on this monitor just due its large size. So you get greater depths and better out-of-screen effects with this package. In some cases, you may even want to tone the 3D settings down a notch, or sit further back in order to get a more comfortable experience – it can be overwhelming at times!
Those experiencing 3D for the first time may want to cut back on the 3D settings to reduce the risk of eye-strain when using the monitor. It’s best to start low and work your way up with experience and comfort. The culprits of 3D eyestrain are usually aggressive 3D settings too soon, or having to get used to the flickering shutter glasses for the first time, or in this case, the sheer size of the monitor. These problems quickly wear off and the setup is natural to use. For example, I was able to have 3D gaming sessions lasting a couple of hours and then afterward watch a full-length 3D Blu-Ray without any adverse effects. You may want to take a break every hour or two, but it’s not a problem to hold longer sessions if need be. And the more you use the monitor, the more natural it becomes.
During my testing I played a number of different games and watched some 3D Blu-Ray movies, and they all worked nicely. Some of the titles I played include Left4Dead 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Unreal Tournament 3. In terms of 3D Blu-Rays, I watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and My Bloody Valentine 3D. In all cases I was greeted with a pleasant looking stereoscopic picture. Although some titles worked better than others, the display was able to handle a wide variety of different types of content. From the dark scenes in Metro 2033, to the bright colored vistas of Unreal Tournament 3, the monitor was struggle free.
Any review of a 3D display wouldn’t be complete without some discussion of ghosting. Ghosting is the perceptual experience of something called crosstalk, which is when the image for the left eye bleeds into the right or vice-versa. Pretty much any type of 3D display will exhibit some degree of ghosting, and this Acer monitor is not immune. That said, it’s well within acceptable limits and I think it’s pretty good.
When first testing the monitor using the default settings, I did notice a moderate amount of crosstalk; most apparent on scenes with dark objects against a light background. Even then, it wasn’t so bad as to ruin the experience, but it was noticeable. After reducing the contrast all the way to zero, the ghosting sharply dropped to the point where it’s no longer an issue. This adjustment does mute the picture slightly, but it does wonders for the ghosting. I will go so far as to say that you will barely notice any ghosting unless you make a point to look for it.
I have read about Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision users complaining about more crosstalk at the top of the screen with other displays. I have found the picture quality to be consistent through-out the screen without any additional ghosting on the top or bottom of the display. This could be one of the better LCD monitors in this respect – maybe one of the best.
As demonstrated above, you can see a ghosting test image taken through the glasses. There is some faint ghosting, but it is not enough to be distracting while you play.
Testing was done with the Nvidia 3D Vision driver and their Nvidia 3DTV Play add-on for HDMI 1.4 support.
Using the standard Nvidia 3D Vision driver with a Dual-Link DVI cable, users will be treated to the full-quality 1920×1080 @ 60Hz 3D picture quality. This is the best quality the display can handle, and looks simply stunning. The Nvidia 3DTV Play mode can also be used over HDMI, however you will be restricted to the HDMI 1.4 modes of 720P @ 60/50Hz or 1080P @ 24Hz. Running at a lower resolution may be advantageous if you have an older or mid-range PC, but if you have a higher-end gaming rig, then you will want to reach the full 1080P quality.
While using an Nvidia card and the 3D Vision driver is probably the best solution for use with this particular monitor, there are additional options. For example, you will be able to hook up a PlayStation 3 or stand-alone 3D Blu-Ray player. I will discuss this in part two, but HDMI 1.4 is supposed to also be supported by stereoscopic 3D drivers on the AMD platform in 3D.
While the display technically supports HDMI 1.4a, it is not fully compliant with the spec. This is because it only supports two of the required modes: 1080P24 and 720P50/60. Acer has left out some other mandatory modes like side-by-side, which means this display is useless for watching broadcast TV in 3D. It would have been nice if this display had an advanced 3D menu where other 3D modes could be chosen and the glasses could be manually turned on. Not a deal-breaker, but something to watch out for.
This is a top-of-the-line offering from Acer and Nvidia. While it is not the best 3D display out there – that crown would probably go to some of the higher-end 3D HDTVs recently released – it is certainly a worthy package. Being the only 27” monitor on the market puts this product into a league of its own, and the addition of HDMI 1.4a support really takes it to the next level. If you are on the market for a cutting-end large-sized LCD computer monitor, this really is the only game in town at the moment.
Although there are other displays with larger sizes or higher resolutions, none of them support the 120Hz refresh rate, let alone stereoscopic 3D. In light of all these things, I would say that this product stands alone and is a worthy addition to the market.
Is it worth the ticket price? That is something only you can decide. What I can say is that with this monitor in your setup you will be the envy of all your friends. And that’s got to be worth something.
This isn’t the end of the monitor review! I made some discoveries that I’m still testing out, and next week, I will have a follow-up addition to talk about this display’s compatibility with DDD and iZ3D stereoscopic 3D drivers.