Setting up the Asus VG236H isn’t an easy task. You can run through a series of stages to get the various components up and running, although in practice we had to reinstall the Windows drivers several times before the IR emitter for the 3D glasses would work. And we had to hunt down an additional software patch to get the flat panel working properly in 3D. Clearly the software will need to be tweaked and the drivers improved before this becomes as easy a process as it needs to be.
Once up and running, the Asus VG236H grabs the attention immediately with a number of three-dimensional JPS files. These are stills which contain two images, so allowing them to create a three-dimensional still when viewed through the glasses. 3D users can download a number of impressive JPS images over the internet. Alternatively, you can take in-game 3D screenshots or use compatible cameras (such as the Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W1) to create your own 3D snaps.
However, the excellence of these stills is no substitute for full-motion 3D. We next tried a number of different Windows games on a system kitted out with an nVidia GTX 470. The most impressive of the titles was Metro 2033. Until you’ve experienced 3D gaming for yourself, you can’t imagine how immersive it feels, nor is it easy to describe.
The characters and objects aren’t fully-rounded (the effect is a little like looking at a series of flat cardboard cut-outs placed at different distances), but the impression of depth still manages to impress. On many an occasion, we couldn’t believe that we couldn’t just reach out and put our hand through the flat panel screen, which is surely a sign that the magic of 3D is working.
Whether moving through crowds of characters, opening heavy doors or fighting lunging monsters, the 3D effect made a huge difference, and every time we took the glasses off and went back to 2D mode (you can switch from 2D to 3D and back at the touch of a button), the game felt very distant and dull in comparison.
Watching films was no less impressive. We tested the screen with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and found the 3D to be quite amazing. Again, it feels as though you can peer right into the screen, and the sequences where the camera floats through groups of people gives an incredible feeling that the action is happening around you.
The 3D isn’t entirely without drawbacks. We were never able to get a totally smooth picture from the Asus VG236H, and the feeling of wearing glasses was slightly offputting. Would we want to sit there for hours a day looking through these glasses? No. We’d almost certainly have a headache and/or strained eyes if we used it for prolonged periods.
Some users have remarked that the 3D wears off after a bit. In our experience, that wasn’t the case though, and we were still finding 3D effects amazing a significant time after first firing it up. It does take some time to adjust to the glasses when playing games, and for the first few days we found ourselves being slightly less accurate than normal. Also, games were noticeably less smooth, so for situations where top framerates are vital we can imagine gamers might want to keep the 3D switched off.
We stress that we couldn’t see 3D being something we’d want on the whole time. But if we wanted to spend an hour immersed in our favourite game title of the moment, it would be hard to imagine how the experience wouldn’t be enhanced considerably by slipping on the glasses. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but gamers and movie enthusiasts need to at least see this technology in action. Gamers, in particular, might find the lure hard to resist.
Take away the 3D aspect, and the Asus is still a very decent (if a rather expensive) 23in flat panel. Its sleek black casing is attractive, and the stand is height adjustable. No separate RGB connector is included, although you do get both HDMI and DVI, as well as YPbPr component video. We like the menu system, and the preset screen modes are conveniently accessed from a single key.
Capable of using the full 120Hz in 2D mode, the Asus feels extremely smooth to use. Given the price, it’s disappointing that the Asus only uses a TN (twisted nematic) panel, although the viewing angles are actually quite adequate in reality.
Image quality is sharp and packed with colour (aided perhaps by Asus’ Splendid Video technology). The glass screen is extremely reflective though, making it a difficult flat panel to use in well-lit rooms. It’s also very bright, so you’ll want to tone it down a touch for everyday PC tasks.
Although the Asus is expensive for a 23in LCD monitor with a TN panel, the cost may be more than worth it should you have the necessary 3D kit as well. The reflective glass screen is annoying, but otherwise this is a very decent flat-panel and a suitable introduction to the world of 3D. We’d suggest you should try before buying, if possible. For those who want a fully immersive visual experience, and want it now, the Asus VG236H could literally unlock a whole new dimension.