When it debuted a few years ago, the Nvidia 3D Vision Kit required four components to work properly: 3D glasses, an Nvidia graphics card, a compatible display, and a separate, USB-connected 3D emitter.
In the time since that debut, not much has changed. But, while all four of those things are still required, some manufacturers have figured out how to make the process a bit more streamlined, and instead of a separate USB-connected device, Asus builds the emitter into the monitor.
Design and features
When first laying eyes on the Asus VG278H, it's difficult to ignore its most aesthetically distinctive feature: the built-in 3D emitter. At the top edge of the panel, above the top bezel is the built-in Nvidia 3D emitter with "Ready for 3D games and videos" written in fine print, just in case its purpose was unclear. In the past, in order to deliver active-shutter Nvidia-style 3D performance, a separate USB 3D emitter was required. The emitter was connected by a USB cable and while not obtrusive to the experience, it did add to the clutter. Making it a part of the monitor gets it out of the way, and its angle adjustability means you can still fine-tune the signal it emits.
The monitor sports a 27-inch screen, with a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. The panel's full width is 25.3 inches, with the left and right bezel measuring 0.76 inch wide. The panel is unusually deep for an LED-based twisted nematic (TN) display, starting at 1 inch and stretching back another 1.8 inches to include connections and the ventilation system.
The VG278H's screen height is adjustable, with the bottom of the panel measuring 2.1 inches from the desktop at its lowest height and 5.9 inches at its highest. There's also a 15-degree back-tilt option. 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. The circular foot stand measures 9.9 inches in diameter; however, even given its wide dimensions, the monitor wobbles like a crazed Weeble when knocked even slightly, 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; though usually this isn't a great concern, the feature would have come in quite handy when attempting to access the connections, resident in a downward-facing nook, that are safely (and annoyingly) blocked by the neck of the stand.
Connections include HDMI, 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 six buttons placed on the bottom edge: from left are the S button, A button, down/speaker volume button, Menu, up/brightness button, and source. The power button is located directly to the right. OSD options include brightness, contrast; seven 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 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 VG278H'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, while I wouldn't call the monitor badly built, I also wouldn't go out of my way to say it's well-built, either. It has plasticky feel, while not giving an overly cheap impression.
The monitor includes Nvidia's 3D Vision 2 glasses, which fit more comfortably than the first-gen glasses. Thanks to their much thicker rim, they also do a much better job at keeping ambient light out.
|Design and feature highlights|
|Connectivity:||DVI, HDMI, VGA|
|Ergonomic options:||15-degree back tilt, 4.5-inch height adjustment|
|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:||Nvidia 3D, 120Hz refresh rate|
I tested the Asus VG278H through its DVI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using the included DVI cable. The display posted a composite score of 91 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.
DisplayMate: The VG278H displayed light gray up to level 253; 255 is considered white and every level in between it and 1 is a variation of gray, so 253 is fairly high. As for dark gray, the VG278H easily displayed down to level 2 while still maintaining a deep black, pointing to the display being capable of retaining dark detail during dark scenes in movies.
The VG278H excelled in most of the color tests, but did show a slight propensity to wash out certain light colors. In DisplayMate's Dark Screen test, the monitor offered one of the most egregiously bad cases of backlight bleeding I've seen in recent memory, with very noticeable light seeping through in nearly every section of the screen.
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 VG278H using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." The Theater preset pushed a bit too much green, but I found a nice color balance by using the Standard preset and lowering the green between 80 and 84. Dark detail could be seen in dark scenes, and overall vibrancy was fairly high.
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 game pad 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.
Using the Game preset, Dragon Age II looked looked a bit too foggy and drab. It's best to use the Scenery preset instead, in which images remain vibrant and the contrast stays high. You will see a bit of a green push, but as with movies, switching to Standard and lowering the green to about 80 worked wonders. The trade-off however is that you lose 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. With the refresh rate for the monitor switched to 120Hz, I witnessed some of the smallest afterimages I've seen on any monitor. This thankfully carries over a bit when playing games. When panning the camera in a first-person shooter, screen motion blur wasn't as noticeable.
3D performance: I used Crysis 2 to evaluate the VG278H's 3D capability. Thanks to Nvidia's 3D Vision Kit with LightBoost, the monitor delivered the best 3D I've yet seen on a monitor. LightBoost allows for brighter images than are typical with 3D, and the multiple levels of depth demonstrated in Crysis 2's interface were impressive. Even after increasing 3D depth to its max level, the effect never felt disoriented or distracting, aside from one exception. Whenever text-based keyboard prompts would appear on the screen, my eyes experienced that familiar "pulling" effect and took a few seconds to adjust back.
Photos: In the Standard preset, the VG278H's colors sometimes dip ever so slightly into a greenish hue on faces and light-colored hair, but the bright colors of clothing and environments pop with vibrancy.
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 VG278H uses an TN panel, which provides narrow viewing angles. Here, color and contrast changes are clearly seen only a few inches off from center. The viewing angle seemed even more sensitive than other TN panels, as I found myself constantly adjusting the screen after changing my position only by a few inches.
The AG coating works dramatically well here, keeping out nearly all reflections.
|Asus VG278H||Average watts per hour|
|On (default luminance)||46.8|
|On (max luminance)||46.8|
|On (min luminance)||25.3|
|Calibrated (200 cd/m2)||32.8|
|Annual power consumption cost||$14.47|
Power consumption: The Asus VG278H achieved only fair power consumption, with a Default/On power draw of 46.8 watts, compared with the Samsung SyncMaster S23A750D's 20.8 watts in the same test.
In our Sleep/Standby test, the VG278H cost 0.74 watt, and the S23A750D pulled a slightly higher 0.8 watt. Based on our formula, the VG278H would incur slightly more in cost, with a per-year pull of $14.47 per year, compared with the S23A750D's $13.35 per year.
Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.
Service and support
Asus backs the VG278H 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 VG278H; 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 VG278H excels at 3D and its 120Hz refresh rate creates a noticeable (if you look for it) improvement in the amount of motion blur in games. 3D technology has still yet to make a convincing-enough argument to persuade me appreciate it the way I'm sure most movie and video game companies out there would like me to. However, when things are done well, the giving of props is warranted.
Normal games and movies performed well after a bit of tweaking, but didn't match the best monitors out there. Also, its connection options are difficult to access and the OSD has a clunky design, but I do appreciate the ergonomic options.
For $600, you get a 27-inch monitor that does excellent 3D, but not really much else. If you're riding high on the 3D hype train and don't mind the price, this is probably the best pure 3D monitor experience out there. For passive 3D fans and those not interested in the additional dimension, there are better options available.