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With an in-plane switching (IPS)-based screen, a useful assortment of connections and ergonomic options, and a price at around $300, the VG23AH might sound like a monitor worthy of praise.
However, once you've experienced the monitor's sorry excuse for 3D, you may find yourself singing a less supportive tune.
Design and features
At first glance, the Asus VG23AH bears more than a passing resemblance to the company's VG278H. Aside from a small color highlight difference, both the foot stand and neck at practically identical. Like the VG278H, the VG23AH's circular foot stand measures 9.9 inches in diameter, with a 3.1-inch-wide neck extending out of it and the screen height can be adjusted by 3.7 inches.
That's where most of the physical similarities end. Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the VG23AH more closely follows the design of many older Asus monitors, like the VH236H, with a glossy, sloped, piano-black top and bottom edge and as well as a glossy 0.8 inch-wide bezel.
The monitor sports a 23-inch screen, with a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. The panel's full width is 21.7 inches, with an initial depth of 1.2 inches and a complete panel depth of 2.6 inches, once the connections and ventilation system are taken into account.
The VG23AH includes a 15-degree back-tilt option and the monitor thankfully does swivel, but unfortunately rotating the panel takes greater physical effort than you'd expect and seems like it would benefit from a little WD-40. Like the VG278H, the foot stand does little to keep the entire unit from violently wobbling when knocked from the sides, regardless of its current screen height. Unscrewing the foot stand from the panel, fortunately, reveals a VESA wall-mounting option, allowing you to circumvent any wobbling issues if you desire. No pivot option is included, but Asus places the connections to the right of the neck, offering a fairly clear path to them. Still, connections that face out, not down as these do, is always ideal.
Connections include two HDMI ports, DVI, and VGA. There are also two audio jacks: one that enables the built-in speakers and another for connecting headphones.
The onscreen display array resides in the lower-right corner of the panel and features five buttons placed on the bottom edge: from left are the S/A button, down/3D button, Menu, up/brightness button, and source. The power button is located directly to the right. OSD options include brightness, contrast, six different presets (Scenery, Theater, Game, Night View, sRGB, and Standard), three different color temperature options, as well as the ability to adjust the red, green, and blue values individually.
The actual interface navigation, however, is a bit clunky. First off, the Menu button functions as an Enter button would. Confusing, but you do get used to it after a while. When navigating, the S/A button acts as the "back" or "previous menu" button, which feels weird since it's located at the far left and not directly to the left of the Menu button. Also, when adjusting red, green, and blue values, the arrow buttons no longer act as navigation buttons and are instead used to adjust the values. Menu then becomes the sole navigation button, where pressing it takes you to the next menu selection. Please forgive the irony of my convoluted and possibly confusing explanation of why the VG23AH's interface is convoluted and confusing. I just think it's worth pointing out, as I'd like to see Asus improve upon it in future monitors.
As for overall build quality, the monitor has a typical-for-most-monitors-of-this-size-and-price-range plasticky feel, while not giving an overly cheap impression.
The monitor includes Asus' passive-3D glasses, which fit snugly over my average-size dome. Also, a pair of 3D clip-on lenses are included if you're having trouble getting the glasses over your own spectacles.
|Design and feature highlights|
|Connectivity:||DVI, HDMIx2, VGA|
|Ergonomic options:||15-degree back tilt, 4.5-inch height adjustment, swivel|
|Audio:||Built-in speakers; headphones jack|
|VESA wall-mount support:||Yes|
|Included video cables:||DVI, VGA|
|Number of presets:||6|
|Picture options:||Brightness, contrast|
|Color controls:||RGB and 3 color temperature options|
|Additional features:||Passive 3D|
I tested the Asus VG23AH through its DVI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using the included DVI cable. The display posted a composite score of 94 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.
DisplayMate: The VG23AH displayed light gray up to level 254; 255 is considered white and every level in between it and 1 is a variation of gray, so 254 is the highest possible level. As for dark gray, the VG23AH easily displayed down to level 4 in its Standard preset, but was able to hit a dark gray level of 2 in when I switched to Dark View preset. This points to the display possibly crushing dark gray in movies, unless using the Dark View preset is used.
The VG23AH excelled in most of the color tests, with only a barely noticeable green tint in the color tracking test. Though faint, none of the six presets completely exorcises the green tint. Even after switching to the Standard preset and lowering the amount of green saturation, I still had a very difficult time completely getting rid of that green impression. Also note that the green impression is still very faint and only really noticeable next to reference monitors; in this case, the Samsung PX2370.
In DisplayMate's Dark Screen test, backlight luminance can be seen in the lower left corner and along the left edge.
Text: Black text on white looked clear, without any obvious color tint problems. Also, fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8-point size.
Movies: I tested the Asus VG23AH using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." Under the Theater preset, the movie displayed rich colors and deep blacks, giving it a particularly authentic-looking cinematic feel. Unfortunately, the Theater preset has a tendency to crush dark gray, resulting in the disappearance of some dark detail in dark scenes, particularly the details of the Na'vi's hair during nighttime scenes. Thankfully, the Night View preset is a fine compromise. It loses a bit of that deep, eye-popping color and convincing cinematic look, but as a trade-off, dark detail can be plainly seen.
Games: When evaluating the look of games on a monitor, the two most important features to consider are vibrancy and color. If the monitor can display games with a bright and vibrant cleanness, this goes a long way toward benefiting its looks. If colors can also pop with fullness and depth, games can usually look great. Streaking is a different concern that honestly isn't very pervasive with most modern monitors, but if you're concerned about it, be sure to check out the last paragraph in this section.
Different still is input lag, which is, put simply, the time it takes from when you input an action through your keyboard, mouse, or gamepad to when you see that action represented onscreen. Every monitor has a degree of input lag, but only a very small percentage of people would even notice it. Given that, it's not something I find valuable enough to test for. PSA over.
Under the Game preset, Dragon Age II displayed with a high vibrancy and deep color saturation. The Game preset actually may be a bit too saturated in color, which while great in certain games, can be distracting in games going for a more somber tone. This is more of a personal preference, however. If you find that the Games preset teems with too much color, the sRGB preset is a great alternative that still retains some vibrancy.
To test refresh rate, I used DisplayMate's motion graphics tests and stared at a number of colored blocks as they moved around the screen at various speeds. The VG23AH surprisingly displayed only slightly more noticeable streaking than the Samsung PX2370 did. That said, both monitors' levels of streaking were more than some of the faster, 120Hz displays like the Asus VG278H.
3D performance: I used Crysis 2 and Diablo 3 to evaluate the VG23AH's 3D capability. The VG23AH uses a passive solution for 3D, which by its nature only sends half the horizontal lines (540; half of 1080) of resolution to each eye. Conversely, active-shutter 3D solutions send the full 1080p image to both eyes. Compared with another passive-3D solution I recently tested, the HP 2311gt, the resolution downgrade wasn't as noticeable as it is here. That's not to say that 3D images on the VG23AH look like they're running at half the resolution. They don't, but they definitely don't look as sharp as the full 1080p image.
However, the real problem with the VG23AH's 3D performance is the offensively high amount of ghosting that occurs. In Diablo 3 especially, the level of ghosting is so egregious that game assets like your character's icon on the minimap, are doubled instead of just showing one image. Moving away from the screen diminishes the doubling effect somewhat, but not enough that I'd want to continue playing the game in this way.
Reducing the 3D depth helps as well, but even when turned up to max, the feeling of depth is slight at best, especially in Crysis 2. And while the effect was more prominent in Diablo 3, turning the depth up increased the amount of double-image occurrences.
To put it quite bluntly, the implementation of 3D on the VG23AH is bad. Really bad.
Photos: Thanks to its color accuracy, the sRGB preset was best at viewing. The preset doesn't oversaturate and has no real perceivable tint problems. Though you do lose a bit of color pop and vibrancy, it's a small price to pay for accuracy in this case.
Viewing angle: The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a quarter of the screen's distance down from the top. At this angle, you're viewing colors as the manufacturer intended. Most monitors aren't designed to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on its panel type, picture quality at nonoptimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when not viewed from optimal angles.
Antiglare (AG) screen coating plays a part as well. Some viewers prefer the coating not be applied at all, while others favor only a limited amount. Still others are completely indifferent; however, AG coating doesn't adversely affect quality, and its merits, or lack thereof, are strictly a question of preference.
The VG23AH uses an in-plane switching (IPS) panel, which provides a wide viewing angle from the right and left sides, as well as the top and bottom. Changes in color that you'd see very quickly on a twisted nematic (TN) panel, aren't apparent here until viewing at an extremely lateral angle from the left or right.
The amount of AG coating is light, evidence by the fact that I could easily see the reflection of the fluorescent ceiling lights in my test room when the monitor is tilted back and my viewing angle is from an extremely low position.
Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.
Service and support
Asus backs the VG23AH with a three-year casing-and-panel warranty that covers the backlight. This includes its Zero Bright Dot guarantee, which promises full monitor replacement if any stuck pixels are found. The company also offers support through a 24-7 toll-free number, e-mail, and Web chat. At the time of this review, no drivers were available on the company's Web site for the VG23AH; that's surprising, given that the monitor was released weeks ago. That's not a deal breaker, of course -- the monitor does come with these files -- but an online repository for such support is always welcome. The monitor's manual, however, is available on the site.
The VG23AH costs about $300, which is a great price for an IPS display, especially since the overall performance is good, particularly when displaying movies. I'd have no trouble recommending it, simply based on that, but it also helps that you get some useful ergonomic options options and two HDMI ports. Also, the OSD navigation design is clunky, but the options within are robust and useful.
If you've never experienced 3D however and are excited to try it, don't make this monitor your first experience. After experiencing its 3D, you likely won't be too excited about the tech anymore. Luckily, there are other monitors that do 3D much more justice.
My advice: ignore the 3D. This is a great media consumption monitor that offers IPS performance for a low price and excels at displaying movies.