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NVIDIA 3D Vision 2 and The Asus VG278H LCD Review
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Date: Oct 14, 2011
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and 3D Vision 2

When we first took a look at NVIDIA’s 3D Vision technology a couple of years ago, we came away impressed. We understand that gaming and watching video in 3D isn’t for everyone, but after using NVIDIA’s first 3D Vision kit with one of Samsung’s then-new 120Hz LCD displays, we truly enjoyed the experience. Not only was a new dimension (literally and figuratively) added to the games we played, but there were inherent advantages to using a 120Hz LCD, both when 2D gaming and just working on the desktop. There was no denying NVIDIA had an uphill battle convincing gamers to put on a pair of beefy, active-shutter glasses, and spring for a new monitor, but for those that took the plunge, there were definite benefits.

Since its initial introduction, NVIDIA has put significant effort in to continually improve its 3D Vision technology and ecosystem. Almost 600 games—both old and new—are now supported, the price has come down significantly on the glasses, tons of 3D content is now available on 3DVisionLive.com and YouTube, and a number of partners have released 3D Vision capable monitors, like Asus, Planar, Acer, Viewsonic, LG and of course Samsung. There are also some monitors and notebooks now available that feature integrated 3D Vision IR emitters (and bundled glasses), so users don’t have to have to use an external USB emitter at all. We actually took a look at a couple of 3D Vision ready monitors not too long ago if you’d like to see some examples.

If you are not familiar with NVIDIA’s 3D Vision technology, take a look at our initial launch coverage for the complete low-down, because we’re not going to cover everything again in this piece. Our launch articles explains how the technology works, how to install and use it, and features a few example videos of 3D Vision in action—although the videos cannot and do not do the technology justice. To quickly reiterate some of what is covered in the launch article, 3D Vision basically takes a pair of high-quality active-shutter glasses, and couples them with a USB IR transmitter, which keeps the shutters in-sync with the 3D content being displayed on a compatible screen, using NVIDIA’s proprietary software / drivers. Since launch, the base technology hasn’t changed much, but NVIDIA has learned much from the initial batch of products and is ready to unveil its newest iteration, 3D Vision 2.

On many levels, 3D Vision 2 is very similar to 3D Vision. The technology works in exactly the same way. It uses the same software, and the new glasses we’ll be showing you later are backwards compatible with the original emitters. Conversely, the original 3D Vision glasses are forward compatible with newer 3D Vision 2 kits. But NVIDIA has made a number of physical and technical tweaks that enhance the technology in a few key ways. NVIDIA has redesigned its active-shutter glasses and incorporated 20% larger lenses and worked with ecosystem partners to bring new, larger, full-HD 3D Vision compatible monitors to market. They’ve also developed a new technology dubbed LightBoost that ultimately results in brighter on-screen imagery and better environmental lighting characteristics as well.

We’ll talk more about the new 3D Vision 2 glasses and a new Asus VG278H monitor that works with the technology a bit later. For now, let’s talk LightBoost for a bit.

One of the complaints from users using virtually any active-shutter 3D technology is that on-screen images appear darker than they normally would when viewed in standard 2D mode. The darkening of on-screen images is an unfortunate side-effect of the glasses alternatively blocking light to each eye in rapid succession. Lightboost combats this issue in a couple of ways.

Lightboost is enabled by the LED backlighting in the display. Lightboost pulses the backlight at double brightness when in 3D mode, to brighten on-screen 3D images. 3D LightBoost increases the power of the LED backlight in the monitor to pulse twice as brightly in unison with the LCD lenses in the 3D Vision glasses. This simply wasn’t possible with older 3D monitors and laptops that featured CCFL lamps, because they can’t pulse or switch on and off fast enough, with consistent brightness.

Another advantage to Lightboost has to do with how the active-shutter glasses and screen are synched. With older monitors that feature CCFL lamps that are on all the time, both lenses in the original 3D Vision glasses were forced into a dark phase, where both lenses were blacked-out, while the image shifted from the left to right eye, and vice versa. Since the LED backlights can switch on and off so quickly in-between frames with Lightboost capable monitors, refreshing at 120 times per second (120Hz) with a 2ms response time, the 3D Vision 2 glasses can ultimately let more light through because they don’t have to enter this double-black phase.

The end result is that more ambient light gets through to your eyes, so you can see things in the environment, like your keyboard or mouse for example, much better.
 

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NVIDIA 3D Vision 2 Glasses

NVIDIA’s new 3D Vision 2 glasses share some similarities with the originals in terms of their lense shape overall look, but a number of aspects have been tweaked for better performance and comfort.


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As we mentioned on the previous page, the lenses used in the 3D Vision 2 glasses are 20% larger, to allow for wider viewing angles. The shape of the glasses has also been changed slightly to better wrap around the wearer’s head and there is a ridge along the inside-top end that helps block more light, for better immersion.

 

 
Click For An Enlarged View

NVIDIA says the glasses feature a “gaming inspired design”, but what that means isn’t exactly clear; they just look like a hardcore pair of sunglasses to us. Additional design cues include NVIDIA badges on both sides, and new, slimmer arms, made from a soft composite material. Instead of wrapping around the wearer’s ear, the arms on the new glasses hug the head, so they’ll fit easily under a headset and are more comfortable during longer gaming sessions. The glasses also include adjustable nose-pieces to ensure a better fit for users and even allow enough room to fit over some prescription eyewear underneath.

In addition to the new 3D Vision 2 glasses, NVIDIA has also worked with its partners to help bring Lightboost enabled notebooks and monitors to market. Toshiba has a couple of notebooks already in the works, and although we don’t have confirmation just yet, others are likely to follow suit. Asus is also at the ready with a 27” Lightboost enabled LCD—the VG278H—which we were able to test out with a pair of the new 3D Vision 2 glasses.

 

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Asus VG278H 120Hz LCD Monitor

The Asus VG278H monitor is a non-nonsense display that’s unmistakably geared for gamers. The fact that the VG278H will ship with a pair of 3D Vision 2 glasses is the obvious first hint that the display is 3D capable and supports NVIDIA’s 3D Vision technology, but there are other cues throughout that hint at this monitor’s gaming prowess as well.


Click For An Enlarged View

For a 27” LCD, the Asus VG278H sports a relatively thin bezel; it’s not tiny by any means, but there is only about .75” of bezel that wraps the top and sides of the screen and about 1” along the bottom edge. Centered along the top, there is an angular protrusion that extends upwards about another .5” that houses the built-in IR emitter. Said protrusion is adjustable so users can set the perfect angle for a good line-of-sight shot at the 3D Vision 2 glasses and it features a small, silkscreened tagline that reads, “Ready for 3D games and videos”.

 
Click For An Enlarged View

The Asus VG278H features height and swivel adjustment, a built-in cable guide, and a heavy round-base that is emblazoned with a “3D” logo. The entire enclosure, with the exception of a small area on the IR emitter is a flat black and the screen has an excellent anti-glare, matte finish. The overall look of the screen is somewhat subdued and really nice, in our opinion.

Others features and specifications of the Asus VG278H include:

  • Display size: 27″, 16:9 Widescreen, LED backlight
  • Panel Technology: TN (Twisted Nematic)
  • Resolution: 1920×1080 @ 120Hz
  • Contrast ratio: 1000:1 / 50,000,000:1 (Dynamic)
  • Brightness: 400 cd/m2
  • Response Time: 2ms (gray-to-gray)
  • Internal speakers: 3W x2 Stereo
  • Connections: HDMI, DVI-D (Dual-Link), D-Sub, HDMI 1.4, Earphone Jack


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In terms of its specifications, there isn’t much that jumps out as extraordinary. The Asus VG278H has a 27” panel with a native resolution of 1920x1080 and a120Hz refresh rate. Brightness is rated for 400 cd/m2, which is above average, and its grey-to-grey response time is a snappy 2ms. Inputs include HDMI 1.4, DVI-D (Dual-Link), D-Sub, 3.5mm audio in and an earphone jack. We should also point out that the monitor has built in speakers and can play audio from both the analog and HDMI inputs. That means users can connect a device like a Blu-Ray player or console, and have audio. And surprisingly, the speakers aren't half bad. Highs and midranges are crisp and clear, but bass levels leave something to be desired. What the specs don’t convey is the uniformity of the backlighting, but we’ll talk more about that a little later.

At the lower, right corner, along the bottom edge of the Asus VG278H is an array of controls, which thankfully use actual buttons. The buttons are clearly labeled with small icons printed on the edge of the front bezel and offer unmistakable tactility. The buttons are big enough, and have enough travel that they can’t be missed which is a nice surprise in this day and age of tiny or touch-sensitive buttons.

Hitting one of the controls brings up an easy to navigate on-screen display that give’s users access to a plethora of options. All of the typical controls for brightness, contrast, color temperatures, etc. are present, along with some options to alter the IR mode and Lightboost settings. There are three IR modes that control the power of the IR signal to minimize interference to nearby devices. The intensity of Lightboost can also be altered, or toggled on or off as well.

 

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3D Vision 2 Impressions, Gaming & Movies

User Experience - Asus VG278H:
Almost everything about the Asus VG278H’s performance was great. Out of the box, we found the brightness to actually be too high and colors appeared somewhat muted, but these issues were easily resolved after spending a few minutes in the OSD tweaking the display to our liking. Using the Langom LCD monitor test images proved that the Asus VG278H offered excellent color uniformity and black levels. Contrast was also excellent and the monitor suffered from minimal pixel walk. Since the VG278H uses a TN panel, viewing angles and color uniformity will never be quite as good as a higher-end IPs panel, but they were both about as good as we have seen from a TN panel to date. This is an excellent monitor.

Watching videos and gaming on the VG278H were both great. The combination of large screen, bright, uniform backlighting, zero ghosting and fast refresh rate all contribute to an overall excellent experience. We did find ourselves lowering the brightness in a couple of videos, but once dialed in to your tastes, the VG278H will not disappoint.

User Experience – NVIDIA 3D Vision 2:
We wish there was an easy way to show you all the effect of NVIDIA’s 3D Vision technology in-game or in-movie, but there’s just no way to do it. 3D Vision is just something that has to be experienced firsthand to be appreciated. With that said, we’d like to convey our thoughts on 3D Vision 2’s effect on gaming.

To put it simply, 3D Vision 2 is a clean step up from the original kit. The glasses are more comfortable and having a larger viewing area (due to both the larger lenses in the glasses and big screen) helps keep you more immersed in the on-screen action. LightBoost is also a definite plus. On-screen imagery still appears somewhat darker than it would in 2D mode, but it is much brighter than the original 3D Vision on a CCFL backlit screen. In fact, we’d argue that 3D Vision 2 offers the best 3D gaming and video playback available to consumers currently.

In the short time we’ve had with 3D Vision 2 and the Asus VG278H on hand, we were able to play a number of games and watch some snippets of 3D Blu-Rays to get a feel for its performance. We mostly played Left 4 Dead 2 and Dirt 3, and also tried some older titles like FarCry 2, in 3D stereo mode and can say that the 3D effect produced by the 3D Vision 3 glasses is excellent. In our opinion, the effect is most impressive when there are some static elements on screen mixed with 3D, like when looking through a sniper scope for example. In addition to gaming, 3D Photos, video clips, live streaming from the web, 3D Blu-Ray discs, and games all worked perfectly as well.

 

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Our Summary and Conclusion

The Asus VG278H (which includes the newly redesigned 3D Vision 2 glasses) and NVIDIA 3D Vision 2 glasses and full kits will be available very soon. In fact, Asus launched a promotion just today in which they’re giving away one of the monitors to one lucky winner. Should you want to buy one of these puppies, however, Asus has priced the VG278H at an MSRP of $699. That’s definitely on the high side for a 27” display with a 1080P resolution, but the excellent performance, 120Hz refresh rate, integrated 3D emitter, and included 3D Vision2 glasses help justify the additional cost.

NVIDIA’s full 3D Vision 2 glasses kit, which includes one pair of 3D Vision 2 glasses and a wireless USB IR emitter will be available this month for $149. Extra 3D Vision 2 glasses will also be available for $99 a pop. At those prices, NVIDIA 3D Vision 2 options are right about on par price-wise with existing 3D Vision kits. Considering the improvements to the glasses, we have to commend NVIDIA for not jacking up the price here.

Overall, we have to say NVIDIA’s 3D Vision 2 kit, when paired to a Lightboost-equipped monitor like the Asus VG278H is a clear step ahead of the company’s original solution. 3D Vision already offered arguably the best 3D experience for PC gamers and it only gets better with 3D Vision 2. If you were thinking about taking the plunge into 3D, you’ll most likely be pleased with this new solution from NVIDIA. We have yet to come across a competing 3D technology that offers the kind of compatibility, support, and performance of NVIDIA’s 3D Vision 2. If these things don’t offer the kind of 3D performance you’re looking for, nothing on the PC is going to.

  • Excellent 3D Effects
  • Tons of Supported Games
  • LightBoost A Definite Plus
  • 3D Vision 2 Glasses
  • Asus VG278 Monitor Is Somewhat Expensive
  • 1080P Resolution Is A Bit Low For a 27" Screen


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