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Asus VG236H 120Hz 3D Vision LCD Monitor Review
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Date: Jul 19, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction

There is a big push for various 3D technologies in the current market. Whether you're a fan or foe, the industry is pushing forward with 3D at a torrid pace. Recently, we had a chance to test 3D Vision Surround from NVIDIA and came away impressed by the experience. It was only a matter of time before we got our hands on more hardware featuring the technology though and Asus stepped up to the plate without missing a beat.

Today, we're checking out the latest 3D capable monitor to hit the market, the Asus VG236H. The VG236H display from Asus is a 23" widescreen panel that features a 120Hz refresh rate, 1920 x 1080 resolution, and an NVIDIA 3D Vision kit to get you on the road to stereoscopic 3D bliss. 23" monitors are currently the sweet spot for displays, so it makes sense for companies to introduce new products at this specific size. Do yourself a favor and give the specs a once over. Then, check out the rest of the review to find out what else the Asus VG236H has to offer.

Asus VG236H 23" LCD 120Hz Monitor
Specifications and Features
Display Size
23" Widescreen
Resolution
1920 x 1080 (up to 120Hz)
Aspect Ratio           16 : 9
Brightness
400 cd/m2
Intrinsic Contrast Ratio
1,000:1
Response Time
2 ms (Gray to Gray)
Viewing Angle
170º / 160º (Horizontal / Vertical)
Color Saturation (NTSC)
16.7 M
Connectors
Dual-link DVI, HDMI, Component
Power Consumption
60W On / 2W Power Saving / 1W Off
Speakers
No
Stand
+15° to -5° Tilt, Vesa Mounts (100mm x 100mm)
Dimensions
(with stand)
21.7" x 16.5" x 9.8". (WxHxD)
550 x 420 x 250 mm
Weight
15.4 lbs / 7 kg
Included Accessories

Support CD, Quick Start Guide, Power Cord, Dual-link DVI Cable, NVIDIA 3D Vision Kit, Warranty Card
Warranty
3 Years Limited (Parts/Labor)
Price
$499


Within the box, is a bundle with all of the accessories you'll need to get the display set up quickly. It includes the NVIDIA 3D Vision kit, a dual-link DVI cable, power cord, quick start guides, a warranty card, and driver disks. We normally find monitors with only the basic essentials, but with 3D technology starting to take off, its great to see Asus include the 3D Vision kit with this monitor.

You don't need a powerful computer to run 3D Vision. The minimum requirements consist of Windows Vista or 7, Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon X2 processor, 1GB memory, 100MB of free disk space, and a GeForce 9600GT videocard (or better). Of course, more eye candy and higher frame rates will require beefier parts.

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Design

Even before turning on the monitor, we found the VG236H aesthetically pleasing. The VG236H features a shiny, black bezel and matching stand that would fit in any environment. But there's no mistaking the mission of this display, with a large 3D logo printed in the center of its circular base and a thin red stripe accenting its perimeter. As with all glossy items, periodic dusting and fingerprint removal will be required to keep it looking its best.




One of the first things we noticed about the monitor is its glossy screen. In general, glossy screens provide a richer, more vibrant display than matte screens usually offer, but at the cost of increased glare and being more prone to attracting fingerprints. While each type of screen (glossy vs matte) has its advantages, consider your environment and personal preference when shopping for a monitor. With that said, we didn't run into any problems with glare during our testing and the screen is free of fingerprints up to now.


 

From the side angle, the VG236H looks a bit clunky. The base measures almost 10" deep and the monitor stands over 20" high, fully extended.

The display features a height adjustable stand that raises 4 inches (100mm) and tilts from -5 degrees to 15 degrees. In addition, it swivels on its base from left to right for 150 degrees. Both the monitor and stand actually move when you turn the display, as the base has a bottom plate with rubber strips on which it rotates on. 



HDMI, Dual-link DVI, YPbPr Connections

On the rear panel of the monitor, there are three options for connectivity--HDMI, DVI, and component jacks. 3D Vision requires the use of dual-link DVI on this monitor, so keep that in mind during installation. Unfortunately, the monitor does not provide a DisplayPort connection. 

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Test System and 3D Vision Kit

 

HotHardware's Test System
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7 980X Extreme Edition
Overclocked 4.38GHz

EVGA Classified 760 Motherboard
X58 Express Chipset

EVGA GTX 480 1.5GB

6GB OCZ Blade DDR3-1857
(3 X 2GB) 7-8-7-20 1T


Crucial M225 128GB SSD
Firmware 1916

Display:
Asus VG236H 120Hz LCD Monitor
Acer GD235HZ 120Hz LCD Monitor

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Professional 64bit
NVIDIA GeForce Driver Release 258.96
NVIDIA 3D Vision Driver 258.96

Games Used:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Dirt 2
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat
Just Cause 2
Batman: Arkham Asylum
FarCry2
H.A.W.X.



 

The NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision kit consists of rechargeable 3D shutter gasses, an infrared emitter / base station, cables, and software. On the glasses, there's a power button and indicator LED on the top of one side (visible at the upper-right in the image above), and a USB port on the underside. The USB port is used to charge the glasses, which can operate for about 40 hours between charges. 40 hours of use should be plenty for a couple of days of gaming--that is unless you're a marathon gamer that never sleeps.



The GeForce 3D Vision glasses work by blocking the light to alternating eyes in-sync with the frames being displayed on-screen. Each lens is essentially a monochrome LCD display that can be turned on or off. When off, light can pass though; when on, it cannot. This effect allows only certain frames in a game to be viewed by each eye, and each alternating frame is slightly offset, which in turn is perceived by our brains as a 3D image. Much in the same way our eyes actually work in the real world. We should note that the glasses provide better viewing angles and resolution than most passive glasses, through the use of higher-quality optics. 

Also, we have the base station / IR emitter. It is used to sync the glasses to whatever is being displayed on screen. The emitter transmits data directly to the wireless shutter glasses, within a 20 foot radius, and also features a real-time 3D depth adjustment dial on its back. This feature is crucial for those that tend to get pseudo-motion sickness using stereoscopic 3D glasses like these. Turning the dial alters the 3D effect, which can help users more easily get acclimated to wearing the glasses.

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3D Vision Installation

One of the things we really like about 3D Vision is that it is easy to install and usually works without any hiccups. Assuming you've got a compatible GeForce graphics card along with this monitor, the entire process consists of connecting the base / IR emitter to a PC, installing the necessary drivers, and running through a setup wizard. 

There is nothing out of the ordinary to consider when connecting the base to a PC, other than to ensure the base has a clear line-of-sight to the glasses. The infrared signal emitted from the base needs to be picked up by a receiver in the glasses to keep everything in sync. 

 

As we've mentioned, the base itself has a thumbwheel on its backside that's used for real-time adjustment of the 3D depth effect. There is also a power indicator light, USB connector, and a VESA stereo cable port on the back. On the front of the emitter, there's an On / Off button that's backlit and shows whether or not stereoscopic 3D has been enabled. An NVIDIA logo on the button glows bright green when 3D is enabled and a dim green when it is not. 

The glasses are fairly streamlined with only a power / charge indicator LED and power button on one side and a USB charging port on the other. At the front edge of the glasses is a tiny IR receiver, which again is used to sync with the base / system. And the interchangeable nose-guards snap right on and off the glasses. 



As we mentioned, the software setup is very straightforward. Once you install the drivers, a few icons will be placed on the desktop. The setup wizard runs users through a series of test screens, and then you're basically done. The glasses work with most games, which are automatically detected via the drivers. There are profiles within the drivers for each game, similar to SLI profiles. The GeForce 3D Vision profiles, however, store information on compatible games and recommended settings. Launch a compatible game, for example, and an overlay will come up on-screen with recommended image quality and in-game settings to get the best 3D effect.

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Controls


There are six control buttons found on the lower right corner of the display's bezel. From left to right, we have the Splendid hotkey, Down, Menu, Up, Input Select, and Power buttons. The Splendid hotkey allows you to switch from five video preset modes, and acts as an exit button when the OSD menu is active. Additionally, the Down button is also a hotkey for contrast adjustment, while the Up button gives you brightness adjustment. Remember that you have three input options - DVI, HDMI, and YPbPr component connectors.


Push Buttons rule and Asus styles them nicely...

We've mentioned our animosity towards touch sensitive button in previous monitor reviews. Its refreshing to find the VG236H sporting traditional push buttons that register our touches the first time, every time. Although Asus embedded the push buttons within the bezel, we found them to be very responsive and much easier to use than touch sensitive buttons.


On Screen Display (OSD)
Menus and Options

 
 

Menu Options

Five menus are available when the OSD is activated. The Splendid menu consists of five modes for different tasks. According to Asus, Scenery Mode is for photos, Standard Mode for document editing, Theater Mode for movies, Game Mode for gaming, and Night View Mode for low-light gaming or movies. After testing each one, we found Standard Mode to fit all our needs rather well. But of course, your personal preference will vary. 

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Everest Image Quality Testing

We put the Asus VG236H through an assortment of monitor diagnostics using Everest Ultimate Edition from Lavalys. These tests provide key patterns that allow us to evaluate various aspects, such as color accuracy, and uniformity. In order to test the monitor, we entered the OSD menu and reset the monitor to its factory defaults. Once this was done, all relevant tests were run and image quality was noted. We then captured a few screenshots from a few points of interest.

Everest Ultimate Edition  
Monitor Diagnostics
everest.jpg
 

Everest Ultimate Edition is a popular system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning Everest Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. Complete software, operating system, and security information makes Everest Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your system.


180 Degree Color Palette Diagnostic Screen

After going through the entire suite of LCD diagnostic screens, Everest confirmed what our eyes had been telling us from the very beginning. The VG236H looks great and provided excellent results in every test screen we looked at, while checking every box on on our list. Gamma screens revealed the appropriate brightness, color patterns looked perfect, reading tests were accurate, and solid fill tests were uniform. Although there was a hint of backlight bleed in the solid black screen test, it was minimal. The cherry on top was finding absolutely no dead or stuck pixels, which is expected, especially for a panel of this class.

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Subjective Analysis

Test patterns like those offered by Everest can be extremely useful for diagnostics and gauging a monitor's performance. This is especially useful to people who need their monitor to be perfectly calibrated for design work and photography. However, the VG236H is a 120Hz 3D monitor with a TN panel, which consumers won't necessarily purchase exclusively for work. We'll conduct some real world tests and give you and idea of how well the monitor stands up to the sort of content it was designed to handle.

Subjective Tests
Blu-ray Movies and 3D Gaming


"Give me the book"

For our subjective analysis, we loaded up a couple of Blu-ray movies, sat back, and watched HD video in all its glory. The Book of Eli looked incredible on the VG236H with scenes featuring high dynamic range, and a few fast action fight scenes thrown into the mix. Accordingly, the display allowed the colors to come alive with stunning clarity, and blurring was kept to a minimum whenever the action heated up. Furthermore, much of the film consisted of dark scenes, which looked appropriate to our eyes, with a good balance of dark shadows and incandescence.


In addition, we loaded up several of the latest gaming titles and ran through them with NVIDIA 3D Vision enabled. Using identical settings, we compared Acer's GD235HZ 120Hz monitor to the VG236H and found the Asus panel produced a better 3D image in every game we tested. Specifically, colors seemed brighter and more vibrant, while stereoscopic 3D appears enhanced, with a greater effect. In all, games looked fantastic across the board on the Asus monitor. Moreover, if we had to choose between these two models, the VG236H has the upper hand by a wide margin.

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Conclusion

Performance Summary: Throughout testing, the VG236H did very well. In 2D mode, it's easily one of the best looking TN panels we've tested. The colors are vivid, images are clear, and text is sharp. Although Everest Monitor Diagnostics revealed evidence of minor backlight bleed, every other test screen appeared perfect. 3D gaming performance proved to be a strong suit for the VG236H, as scenes looked clearer and brighter when compared to the Acer GD235HZ 3D monitor. Lastly, we appreciate the traditional push buttons Asus included on this monitor and much prefer them over touch-sensitive buttons.

 

What about the price? At this stage in the game, cost is still an issue for 3D capable monitors, and the VG236H is no exception. But its $500 price tag is deceptive in that the monitor is bundled with NVIDIA's 3D Vision kit, which retails for about $180. Without the kit, the monitor costs roughly $320 which is relatively affordable when you consider Acer's less impressive 3D display currently sells for $370. Still, that's roughly a $100 price premium you have to pay over a standard 23" 60Hz monitor, and part of the early adopter premium you'll pay, to make use of this technology.


In all, we were pleased with the VG236H from Asus. It consistently hit the mark in our testing and produces a fantastic image, whether it be 2D, 3D, work or play. There's a very short list of 3D capable monitors and we've now had the chance to test two of them. Without a doubt, the VG236H is far superior to the Acer model we looked at. Both LG and Alienware also have 23" 3D displays on the market, and we hope to get our hands on them in the near future. Also, there is a 27" model (PG276H) rumored to be coming out later this year from Asus, which would be the largest display of its kind when it hits the market. But as of today, Asus has an extremely solid product here and enthusiasts looking to make the move towards 3D computing should definitely take note. Bottom line is that If you're ready to take the dive into stereoscopic technology, you should put the Asus VG236H at the top of your upgrade wish list.

 

 

  • Magnificent colors
  • Excellent 3D performance
  • Fast 2ms response time
  • Height, swivel, tilt adjustments
  • Expensive
  • No DisplayPort


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