Before you scream, “Who in their right mind would pay $500 for a 23-inch twisted-nematic panel?!” know that this is a 120Hz monitor, and that Asus is putting Nvidia’s 3D Vision kit—a $200 product—inside the box. If you’re excited about 3D gaming and Blu-ray 3D movies (and have the appropriate videocard, playback software, and games), $500 is a compelling value. Oh, and the monitor’s pretty good, too.
Let’s discuss the aspects that temper our enthusiasm first, because this monitor isn’t for folks with critical applications such as photo and video editing. In fact, some of you probably stopped reading at “twisted-nematic.” Asus hasn’t magically avoided all the problems we associate with TN panels—e.g., limited color gamut, backlight leakage, inability to distinguish between the lightest shades of gray and full-on white—but it has done a great job mitigating those problems.
It's too bad Asus didn't go the extra step and incorporate Nvidia's 3D Vision USB dongle into the stand or bezel.
Before we sat down for a gaming session, we used DisplayMate Multimedia with Test Photos (www.displaymate.com) to evaluate the VG236H’s productivity prowess. This being a 6-bit panel, it relies on frame-rate control to cycle between different shades during screen refreshes to simulate intermediate colors it can’t produce natively. We noticed that colors at the high end of the scale were oversaturated, so that we couldn’t distinguish between the steps leading to peak values. The display was equally unable to separate very dark grays from absolute black. As a result, we had a difficult time seeing what was happening in the Blu-ray version of Watchmen’s opening fight sequence.
And in the low-saturation color test, color bars at two-percent saturation—very near peak white—either disappeared into the background or shifted tint: Pink became orange and green became yellow. We’ve yet to encounter those kinds of problems with a true 8-bit IPS panel that doesn’t rely on dithering.
We were very impressed, on the other hand, with the VG236H’s screen uniformity: Many of the TN panels we’ve reviewed suffer from blotchiness and varying degrees of intensity while displaying a single shade across the entire display. This monitor produced a uniform shade nearly edge to edge. We did encounter a very slight degree of backlight leakage along the top and bottom edges. Not surprisingly, the leakage was most acute while the monitor was displaying uniform black, dark red, or dark blue. A very solid performance overall—considering this is a TN panel.
Most people contemplating a VG236H purchase will have gaming in mind, and from that perspective, it’s a great choice—especially with games that take advantage of Nvidia’s 3D Vision. (Asus plans to offer a second SKU sans Nvidia’s glasses, but the company hadn’t announced pricing at press time.) In addition to its ability to sync to a 120Hz video signal—an absolute requirement for compatibility with Nvidia’s LCD shutter glasses—Asus claims the monitor is capable of a response time of just two milliseconds. We didn’t encounter any ghosting while wearing the glasses and playing Metro 2033, Just Cause 2, and Batman: Arkham Asylum in 3D Vision mode; more importantly, the 3D effects added appreciably to our overall enjoyment of the games—especially when we had the luxury of connecting three of these displays to this year’s Dream Machine. One feature we didn’t appreciate, though, was the mirror-like glass reflecting everything in the room behind us.
Asus VG236H 120Hz Display
Compatible with Nvidia's active shutter glasses and associated games.
Highly reflective screen; no DisplayPort; relatively wide bezel; no portrait mode.