If you have ever sat with friends and discussed hypothetical situations, a question about what current technological marvel would you bring back in time as a means to shock and awe would eventually crop up. The uncreative answer usually involves bringing back a devastating weapon of some kind, but I think bringing back the current crop of 3D Displays from 2011 to a time as recent as 5 years ago would produce almost the same result. Even though there were active shutter 3D solutions available then, the rest of the technology needed for smooth operation, as well as the 3D content, did not exist. Even though LCDs offered a smaller footprint and better image quality than CRTs, the refresh rates were too low and incapable of displaying full resolution shutter-lens LCD 3D technology. CRTs with refresh rates of 100Hz or higher could be used but display modes are limited up to 1024 x 768. When NVIDIA announced 3D Vision initially in 2008, many were very skeptical about the future of the technology.
A few years later, 3D is back in vogue, not just in movie theaters but at home theaters, as well, through Blu-Ray 3D. 3D Gaming is not just exclusive to PC gamers either; PS3 users can now enjoy 3D gaming through 3D capable displays with an HDMI port. Most importantly, NVIDIA has invested heavily and is ahead of everyone on their 3D Vision technology, and now enjoys full support from various manufacturers’ 3D displays. Acer is one of the first companies that released a full HD 3D Vision compliant monitor. Now with home 3D usage extended beyond PC gaming, the race to release a display that can be used not just as a 3D gaming monitor but a lower cost alternative to a full size 3D HDTV is on. Acer is back, once again, ahead of everyone else to deliver the world’s first 27-inch Full HD 3D monitor.
The Acer HN274H 3D Monitor is a widescreen monitor with an LED backlit Twisted-Nematic panel. The Acer HN274H 3D Monitor has a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz at the native resolution of 1920x1080. Users who have multiple devices can make use of the Acer HN274H’s four HDMI 1.4 ports, as well as the Dual-Link DVI port, for 3D entertainment. At the back of the Acer HN274H, there is a VGA port, as well as an Audio-in jack for use of the built-in speakers. The 3D Vision emitter is also built into the top front bezel of the Acer HN274H, so it is ready to be used with the bundled 3D Vision glasses right out of the box, after the user installs the latest NVIDIA 3D Vision drivers.
|Display||27-inch (diagonal) Widescreen 3D-LED|
|Active Display Area||23.54 × 14.24 inches (597.89 × 336.31 mm)|
|Pixel Pitch||0.3114 mm|
|Maximum Resolution||1920 × 1080|
|Maximum Refresh Rate||120 Hz|
|Panel Technology||Twisted Nematic (TN)|
|Contrast Ratio||Dynamic: 100,000,000:1
|Viewing Angles (CR = 10)||Horizonal: 170°
|Number of Colors||16.7 million|
|Speakers||Two 2W speakers (optional)|
|VESA Wall Mounting||100 × 100 mm|
In lieu of using hardware based monitor testing equipment for quick testing and calibration, HiTechLegion will utilize the multiple award-winning DisplayMate for Windows software to optimize, tweak and test our test unit before any viewing tests. DisplayMate for Windows presents multiple sequential slideshows each designed to test a very specific function and primarily for visual adjustments by eye. The reviewer has to go through each slideshow and manually adjust the display using the built-in hardware controls provided by the display manufacturer. Before running DisplayMate, the appropriate video card drivers must be installed so that the display output is the monitor’s native resolution. DisplayMate test patterns are automatically generated to match this resolution through mathematical adjustments instead of fixed image sets found in other calibration products. The images provided in the DisplayMate section are full-size, native resolution PNG screenshots of the actual tests so readers can see and compare some of the tests conducted with their own monitor.
Other tests will include testing for backlight bleeding, input lag, viewing angles and subjective testing through gaming, multimedia and productivity tests. Since the Acer HN274H is a 3D Vision capable monitor, HiTechLegion will also run a series of 3D specific tests, like crosstalk/ghosting tests, 3D gaming and 3D multimedia playback. Also, the Acer HN274H comes with a built-in 3D Vision emitter and glasses, so HiTecHlegion will use these for testing instead of the regular NVIDIA 3D Vision USB kit we use for our 3D reviews.
Video System Info:
Default settings upon boot-up
|Current Windows Video Mode Information|
|Screen Pixels||1920H x 1080V|
|Screen Orientation||Landscape 16:9|
|Reported Screen Size||677 x 381 millimeters|
|Screen Aspect Ratio||1.78 H /V|
|Pixel Aspect Ratio||1.0 H/V|
|Color Capability||True Color|
|Color Depth||24 Bits per Pixel|
|Color Palette||Not Available|
0.35 x 0.35 mm
|Dots per cm||28 x 28 dpcm|
|Dots per inch||72 x 72 dpi|
|Screen Memory||8100 KBytes|
|Pixel Memory||32 Bits per Pixel|
|System Font and Display Driver Information|
|System Font Pixels||7H x 16V|
|System Font Format||274 Columns x 67 Rows|
|System Font File||vgasys.fon|
|Enhanced or Accelerated Video Capabilities|
Set Up Display
Set Up Display is the initial set of tests that must be first conducted before proceeding with the rest of the DisplayMate Suite. The initial test involves adjusting the brightness and contrast controls for optimal gray-scale and contrast. This determines the monitor’s black-level and white-level performance, all other tests after this test assumes that this fundamental test has been conducted. Brightness heavily affects a display’s black-level and can produce washed-out blacks if set too high. If set too low, however, the lower grays will be indistinguishable from black, which affects image contrast. It is best to conduct this test in a room with the ambient lighting set to your regular usage and not disruptive from the display which can be hard when setting up the white-level (highest intensity). Displays with a white-level set too high can cause eye strain significantly faster than a well-balanced level and if the contrast control is too high, the white-level will appear somewhat out of focus.
The next tests involve checking for proper colors starting with low saturation and eventually looking at color intensity scales, as well as checking for image overscan. The initial patterns for low saturation colors examine color reproduction at the high-end of the gray-scale near peak white. Displays that are incapable of displaying will have some bars that are indistinguishable from the white background. The next series of tests involved adjusting tint and saturation controls, if your display allows for it, which is very useful for television displays. The color intensity scale test, displaying 25 intensity levels for 10 principal colors from black to maximum brightness, will determine if your display is capable of producing accurate hues properly while the intensity changes. Tint changes on the scale indicate color tracking error.
Before moving on to the end of the initial check, basic geometry and interference checks are conducted. The overscan test pattern allows the user to measure the percentage of overscan on all four edges and also allows for asymmetrical and aspect ratio checking. The next test checks for geometry distortions and convergence. All circles must appear round and not elongated or oval, which would indicate a problem with the aspect ratio. Variations along the circle will indicate geometric distortion. The cross-hatch across the screen allows the user to check for uniformity and should appear completely horizontal and perfectly vertical along their entire length. Each line is also equidistant from each other so all the squares should be of equal size; otherwise your display has problems. Also, watch for color fringes on the periphery of the lines which indicated misconvergence or color misregistration.
The next screen involves high sensitivity test for Moire patterns. These patterns appear as ripples and waves of intensity fluctuations that are present on the image. These multiple patterns were designed to enhance Moire interference visibility. Pixel Tracking and Phase errors can occur when the display is using an analog interface and is also possible when viewed on the non-native resolution. If your display is showing Moire interference, it can be reduced using advanced filtering and sharpness controls, if provided. After the interference checks, the user can now make some final adjustments through the standard screen color test and the master DisplayMate Utilities test screen. Examine each color for accuracy starting with the whites and blacks. Tints of pink or blue can be visible on the Whites, for example, depending on the display, so the user should adjust until the accurate color is satisfactory.
The geometry tests under the Tune Up section expand on the initial Set Up testing and features tests like aspect ratio, pin cushion/barrel distortion test, screen regulation, text scale, linearity, offset, and screen framing.
Sharpness and Resolution
Sharpness and Resolution tests are designed to improve image detail and sharpness by testing for video bandwidth, point shape/visibility, and Moire interference patterns.
Screen Pixel Resolution
By generating various simple shape patterns on the screen, the Screen Pixel Resolution test determines the pixel behavior on the monitor. Each screen under this test is designed to produce a progression of image detail from easy to difficult, usually in the form of open-to-tight or large-to-small. Watch out for Moire patterns that are out of place and object fusion.
Tune-up and Color
The final step involves testing the colors starting with grayscale moving on to a full color spectrum. The initial test involves comparing the appearance of text and graphics on different color combinations. Variations in sharpness, contrast and visibility may vary significantly with foreground and background color. Watch out for halos or dark ridges around text or graphics. The grayscale tunnel test is a pattern designed to highlight irregularities with a four-fold symmetry that has the appearance of a tunnel. Artifacts like jumps, ripples, bumps, etc. will show up on some inferior displays and on video cards that have irregular signal production.
After running the display through the gauntlet of tests, users can run a preset LCD Test Script to further fine tune the display settings. For this test, an initial run of the LCD Test Script was conducted prior to running the Set Up Display and Tune Up so the final settings can be compared with the initial test results. Even right out of the box, the Acer HN274H had decent image quality for a TN panel. Even with the brightness set to zero, it still looks brighter than some displays I have used. I’ve had similar experience with the first generation 3D Monitor from Samsung, the 2233RZ, which was very bright out of the box and had decent picture quality with a slight bluish tint. The Acer HN274H is even brighter out of the box than the Samsung 2233RZ and a great deal brighter than the Acer GD235HZ. The specification sheet indicates a 300 cd/m2 rating but from previous experience with other 300 cd/m2 rated monitors, I’m sure it’s a lot higher than that. After calibration and testing, despite lowering color temperature and brightness from the default, the result is still a very bright monitor, better than most 300 cd/m2 displays, while having surprisingly great color accuracy for a TN panel.
2D Viewing Tests
Compared to the Acer GD235HZ 24" monitor, which uses CCFL backlight, the Acer HN274H's LED backlight produces good black uniformity and no light bleeding on the edges. The images below have been slightly enhanced for easier comparison.
Input Lag Comparison
TN panels have very good response rates, so they are perfect for gaming, 3D monitors with TN panels are even better, since they can do 120Hz refresh rates, which is fantastic for 2D gaming that rivals CRT response time performance. This however is not to be confused with Input Lag. Input Lag is the delay from the video card before that information is displayed on the screen, while response time deals with how fast the image on the screen changes, aka ghosting on a moving object on screen.
For the Input Lag comparison, the Acer GD235HZ (on the left) is compared to the Acer HN274H (on the right) below, the brightness level on the HN274H has been set to the lowest setting for easier readability, while the Acer GD235HZ is on default setting. 3D 120Hz LCD monitors generally exhibit some Input Lag but the Acer HN274H performed better than the GD235HZ.
Ever since I have played in 120Hz TN panels, I have never looked back. To show just how resistant I was to LCD monitors, I have been gaming on a CRT monitor up until late 2008 when Samsung came out with the 2233RZ 120Hz display. At 120Hz refresh rates, high octane, fast paced FPS gaming is extremely smooth while having all the advantages of being an LCD,screen, like lower power consumption, smaller table footprint and sharper detail. Gaming on the Acer HN274H continues this tradition, but now because of the LED backlight instead of the CCFL backlight of previous 120Hz displays, the colors across the screen are much more uniform and the sides do not have light bleeding out.
In terms of productivity, there were no problems with rendering text, unlike the Acer GD235HZ, which had a problem with sharpened text due to the Overdrive. After calibration, colors were very good for a TN display and had a decent side to side viewing angle (vertical viewing angles are not as good, unfortunately). While the colors may not be accurate for print work, it is still very good for average use.
The Acer HN274H is a very bright monitor, even after calibration, but it still renders grays very well and does not wash them out, so after viewing multiple movies of varying color tones, saturation and black levels, the Acer HN274H left a very good impression as an HDTV alternative for media playback.
Unlike the previous generation 3D monitors, the Acer HN274H has zero problems with ghosting on the top and bottom of the panel when in 3D mode. Photos below are taken through the left lens of the 3D Vision glasses and with the default 3D mode settings*. A photo from Burnout Paradise below demonstrates no sign of crosstalk from the middle of the screen all the way to the top edge of the panel. In my previous experience with the Samsung 2233rz and Acer GD235HZ, about 3-5% of the top edge has problems with properly displaying the stereoscopic effect uniformly. On the next photo from Tomb Raider Underworld, similar 3D performance can be observed and there is no crosstalk at all at the bottom edge.
*Brightness = 100, Contrast = 40, Color Temp = Warm
The Acer HN274H is still a TN panel and has some limitations in accurately displaying colors in some instances. Extremely bright white scenes, like snow levels in Battlefield Bad Company 2 or this scene from Tomb Raider Underworld, usually cause a fair amount of ghosting. In the first photo below, you can see this problem. The high brightness setting of the Acer HN274H makes these flaws very easily visible. The next photo after it is what the naked eye sees (not photographed through the 3D Vision lens). You will notice some banding and pixel artifacting on the edge of the deck. Adjusting the Color Temperature setting into 70/70/70 (RGB in USER mode) without changing contrast can minimize this problem significantly, as seen in the last photo below (shot through the left 3D Vision lens).
Otherwise, 3D performance in the Acer HN274H is the best I have seen so far in a 3D LCD display. In our previous review of the Asrock Vision 3D mini-HTPC we used the Acer HN274H to test 3D Video playback and the video quality was just as crisp in 3D as it was in 2D, especially with the GPU accelerated features enabled in Cyberlink PowerDVD 10.
It is nice to see the flexibility of a 3D Vision ecosystem in action in the HN274H as users can easily switch between different 3D modes if they want to watch 3D Blu-ray via HDMI or play full 1080p 3D gaming via DVI-DL and even plug in their PS3 for 3D gaming, all with the convenience of a single display unit with a built in NVIDIA 3D Emitter. Convenience is pretty much a big selling point for 3D, as users just want to plug-and-play and have it work out of the box from a single driver package instead of having to go through multiple hoops just to get the 3D to work. Kudos to NVIDIA for also making the 3D Vision driver much easier to install now in the latest drivers instead of having to install a separate 3D IR emitter driver.
Provided by: Acer / NVIDIA
No Compensation was received for review of this product.
Price: $719.99 USD MSRP ($699.99 from NewEgg.com)
Class: 3D Gaming Monitor
It is 2011 and 3D is alive and well with the amount of manufacturers and software offering support growing constantly. It is also nice to see Acer with a new 3D monitor which blows away their previous model in terms of performance. Despite having a 1920x1080 display on a 27-inch screen, sharpness was not an issue with the display and it is actually one of the best TN monitors I’ve seen. Yes IPS panels are still superior but there is no point comparing the HN274H to an IPS panel since it is designed for gaming, specifically in 3D, and offers feature sets which make it a cheaper alternative to full size 3D HDTVs while having standard 3D LCD monitor capabilities. If this monitor was advertised as a professional display for serious photographers and videographers, then comparing it to an IPS panel would make sense.
The Acer HN274H has a 3D notification OSD that pops up whenever the user enters 3D mode, either for gaming or media playback. This actually led me to find a bug in Bulletstorm where the display remains in 3D mode after you exit and in PowerDVD 10 where the source format wasn’t detecting properly. Although it would been nice if the user could adjust where on the screen the notification would pop-out, it also asks you right after if you want to skip it once or forever, every time it pops up, which can get really grating.
The quick volume control (if you are going to use the speakers built-in) and the quick input selection button are also very useful. The speaker itself is just a basic 2-channel speaker that may not have the best sound but is sufficient for general tasks. Having 3 HDMI 1.4a inputs was a very nice touch, since this means you can connect your PS3, Blu-Ray player and an HD camcorder, while your PC can be plugged in on the DVI input. All four inputs will support 3D playback and gaming, as well (only DVI supports full 1080p 60Hz per eye via Nvidia 3D Vision).
Price might be the only thing holding back users from going out and getting the Acer HN274H. People might think that the Acer HN274H 3D monitor is expensive, especially when you factor in the fact that it costs $300 more than a 24” 1080p 3D monitor, but you have to also compare this price to 3D HDTVs since the HN274H shares some of the features of a full-size 3DTV as much as a regular 120Hz monitor. $699 is a lot to swallow for most users, unless you are the Sultan of Brunei, especially if you are looking for a 120Hz monitor for 3D Vision Surround (x3 = $2100 vs. $1200 for 3x 24” 3D monitors). However, if you are a user looking for a single immersive display that can do full 1080p PC 3D gaming while able to play 3D PS3 games, 3D Blu-Ray videos and be a regular TV, then the Acer HN274H’s price is more than reasonable. Also, considering the fact that the LED backlight panel is a lot better than the CCFL backlight of the previous generation 120Hz 3D monitors, giving you superior image quality without the uneven color and stereo edges, it is an easier choice.
I wish I was a more eloquent writer so I could express the joys of playing 3D Vision. Initially, I was expecting this to be a quick review since I have a lot of hardware on my plate but found myself testing more and more games. Specifically, I was just going to test Metro 2033 and Battlefield Bad Company 2, since both games are excellent at testing real world extremes of 3D Vision gaming (really dark for Metro 2033 and blinding white scene in battlefield Bad Company 2) which easily expose ghosting and crosstalk. After being satisfied with the excellent results, I installed Bulletstorm, which is a very colorful game that runs on the Unreal 3 engine and has a lot of wide open areas with a lot of bloom applied. Typically, low saturation games fare better in 3D, like Batman and CoD4, but Bulletstorm had an “Excellent” 3D Vision rating and had very little problems with the white areas, easily fixed by adjusting the contrast a bit to minimize. Finally, I realized I have not touched my StarCraft II account (with the exception of running it for benchmarks) since December, so I fired it up in 3D Vision for a game or two. I still think RTS games are my favorite for 3D Vision as it is the closest in taking you back to when you played with toys as a kid, except the individual units move on their own. Needless to say, 3D gaming on the Acer HN274H 3D monitor was a blast and if I wasn’t on a deadline and did not have to write this article, I would probably still be playing right now.