Image quality and performance
It was mentioned earlier that the VG236H features a TN panel. TN panels are known for their high speed, low cost and traditionally poor viewing angles. It’s clear, however, that significant engineering has gone into creating TN panels that have overcome some of these limitations. The ASUS VG236H is one of the nicest TN monitors we’ve seen. While there is definitely still some color shifting present at moderate horizontal angles, it doesn’t render content unwatchable like the TN monitors of old.
Whites tend to turn pinkish or orange, and blues will turn a bit green. Primarily black and white content is mostly unchanged. If there’s a few people gathered around to look at something, it’s probably not going to be an issue. Vertical viewing angles, however, haven’t evolved nearly as much. Extreme color casts and inversions happen at both high and low angles, which makes the inability to tilt it back very far a bit annoying.
Colors were vibrant, thanks in part to the glossy screen, but not overly saturated. Some people do like that saturated, “wet” look, and the monitor will oblige. Most of the modes, aside from Standard and Night View, turn that saturation level up a few notches.
The specifications claim a brightness of 400 cd/m2, and actual testing proved it to be almost – but not quite – there. No monitor has perfectly even brightness levels, with the center generally sticking out as the spot closest to its listed maximum brightness, gradually falling toward the edges of the screen. That brightness is both a blessing – since shutter glasses drastically reduce the brightness of a display – and a curse – when it’s time to take the glasses off, the display can seem painful.
Of course, the brighter a display can go, it seems, the higher the chance it’ll suffer from backlight bleeding. Backlight bleeding is a phenomenon in which the lights powering a display can cause noticeably uneven brightness on a totally dark display. The VG236H isn’t immune, but the effect is pretty weak, when compared to some displays. Even at maximum brightness, it’s only really visible when the lights in the room are off and the whole screen is dark.
Backlight set to maximum
Backlight set to minimum
Brightness levels at max (cd/m2)
ASUS includes a dual- link DVI cable in the box with the monitor (see above) – and it’s extremely important to check and make sure either it or another dual-link cable is being used. Single-link DVI doesn’t possess sufficient bandwidth to carry a 120Hz,1920×1080 signal – only 60Hz. Using the wrong cable can cause blurred screens, fuzzy text and even headaches (Editor’s note: ask me how I know).
Obviously, the real draw to the VG236H is the fact that it runs at 120Hz – and the fact that it can accept a 120Hz signal over DVI. That means that it can run 3D content using a number of different standards. The most popular one is NVIDIA’s stereoscopic 3D, which requires a pair of active shutter glasses (currently included with the monitor) – these glasses alternately block the view of one eye at a time, tricking the brain into perceiving a jumbled mess of 2D imagery as 3D content.
It sounds complicated but at the end of the day, it works – and it works well. With a compatible card, all gamers need to do is pop on the glasses and launch their game. Past the initial configuration of the glasses, there’s nothing to do on the monitor itself. Just make sure the refresh rate is running upwards of 100Hz – ideally 120 – and not 60 or something else by default.
The display is fast enough that blurring or tearing wasn’t readily apparent with standard games. Moreover, the 120Hz display modes make a noticeable difference with even normal Windows content. In the traditional 60Hz display mode, rapidly shaking a window, say of Explorer, seems pretty smooth. Bump the display up to 120Hz, however, and the same window shaking is obviously much smoother.
Power and heat
On maximum brightness, the VG236H was warm, but not too warm. After being powered up for several minutes, the rear of the display maxed out at 109 degrees Fahrenheit, which should make customers with small rooms happy.
At maximum brightness, the monitor drew 48 watts of electricity. In a geometrically perfect fashion, the display pulled 36 watts at 50 percent brightness and 24 watts at minimum brightness.
ASUS offers a lot with the VG236H. In terms of image quality, it’s easily one of the best TN-based displays on the market today – due in no small part to excellent (for its panel type) horizontal viewing angles. As mentioned previously, however, the reason to buy this display is for its 120Hz refresh rates and 2ms grey-to-grey response times. For gamers, that means solid 3D performance when paired with an NVIDIA card and shutter glasses (the latter of which, again, are currently packaged with the monitor).
Of course, that solid performance and 3D capability don’t come cheaply. At $499, ASUS’ new 23-inch 3D-capable display carries a premium over more traditional 2D and even other 3D displays. The fact that a $180 pair of shutter glasses and transmitter are included certainly helps to smooth that sting.
For gamers looking to break into 3D gaming, it’s hard to look further than the VG236H. Bring a compatible card and take part in the newest trend in PC gaming. As 3D monitors go, this one isn’t perfect – but it comes admirably close.
- Smooth 120Hz performance
- Component, HDMI & DVI inputs
- Includes shutter glasses
- A bit pricey
- Poor vertical viewing angles