Sunday, December 04, 2011

Playstation 3D Display: An in-depth review

The Playstation 3D display review:
 The world’s first truly in-depth review of Sony’s new 24inch 3D display.



Forward: 
     First things first. This is NOT a TV. This is a display. It does NOT have a TV tuner from which to receive channels from. If you have a cable provider this won’t be a problem. If you don’t watch much TV (like me), this is also not a problem. If not having over-the-air television is a deal breaker, you’ll need to pay for cable, buy a tuner with component/hdmi output, or buy a different gaming monitor.

Prologue:
     I read quite a few reviews of Sony’s new display before deciding to finally pick one up. After reading said reviews, I was prepared for a few things off the bat. I knew the display wouldn’t have the brightest screen out there and that there would likely be a lot of glare. In my time with the display, I have learned quite a bit more.

The Form Factor:
     The Display looks like a giant unopened PSPgo. For me, that is definitely a positive thing. For you, that may not be. The screen is protected by a nice glossy finish that, regardless of its effect on image quality, looks sharp and classy. A Playstation logo adorns the bottom of the screen and is an unobtrusive but effective reminder that one is using branded technology.
     A happy surprise for me in regards to the display’s thickness (about an inch) was that it was a perfect fit for the Wii’s sensor bar. With so many TV’s these days having curved tops/edges, it’s nice to see a TV that has a completely flat top from which to apply a lightweight sensor bar or a Playstation Eye or both. 

Eyetoy w/PDP stand + Wii Sensor Bar = No Problem
Side View
   
     The display’s stand feels good and sturdy. It allows for very limited movement. The screen can tilt back about 10 degrees and seems to always be tilting at least 1 degree back even when the display should be at a perfect 90 degrees. This could, however, simply be a trick of the eye as I was used to my old Sammy Syncmaster that perpetually tilted forward (worst display stand ever). Essentially, it’s a good display stand that feels well made and will leave you worry free. Its low resting position also helps give the impression that this Display isn’t going to fall over during even the largest of earthquakes. A Sony logo adorns the stand to happily compliment the Display’s Playstation logo.
     According to Sony, the Display is NOT wall mountable. According to whomever set up this display at Best Buy, it is. Meaning that if you really really want to mount this bad boy, you’ll likely find a way to do it, but don’t expect any mounting points to make use of the commonly available mounting arms. It’s simply not designed for it. What a shame.
     All of the inputs for the display are located on the back. The power cable is centered and towards the bottom. The video/audio inputs are all on the right side of the set. It’s a strange position for them and they sort of ruin the elegance of the set because you see hints of cable peeking out from behind the beautifully designed screen. 

Peek-a-Boo! I see cables.

     Right under this jumble of inputs and cables are the set’s buttons. From there, you can do things like turn the set on/off, change the volume, and navigate the display’s menu system. Having the buttons on the back can be a bit difficult to work with, but after you press one of them, an on-screen GUI shows up to mirror what the buttons on the back of the display look like. These 1:1 scale GUI buttons help you to find your way around the button options. It is not a perfect solution, but it is certainly better than having the kinds of touch-buttons that have become popular in many new sets.
     Of course, none of that would be a problem if the display came with a remote.

Hi buttons!


GUI Buttons
 
The Remote:
     There is none…

So, go out and buy Sony’s new PS3 remote:
     Sony’s new Bluetooth/IR remote should have been included in this set. In fact, Sony’s new remote is the remote that Sony should have sold the day they released the PS3. It’s almost perfect in every way.
     The Remote supports 3 different devices: The PS3, a TV (or display), and an Amp. The PS3 part of the remote utilizes Bluetooth tech while the TV and Amp parts of the remote work via the remote’s IR support.
     Though the remote is universal, it is set up to work with Sony products out of the box. It has no trouble controlling my new display or my old discontinued Playstation brand sound bar. 
     Of special note, I am very pleased with what I assume is an accidental but valuable feature for this new remote. The old Bluetooth remote (which only had PS3 support) had the unfortunate problem of turning the PS3 on when buttons where accidentally pushed. Because this new remote switches between 3 modes, if either of the two non-bluetooth modes are active, the remote will no longer accidentally turn on your PS3. For households with adventurous pets, this is no doubt fantastic news.

Better Newer Remote on Top

     I said earlier that this remote should have been included with the 3D display. I did not mean that it was wrong for Sony not to include a remote with what is essentially a computer monitor. That actually makes a fair amount of sense. No, the reason this remote should have been included is that it really ties the whole PS3 experience together. It acts as such a complete hub that its omission is profoundly confusing. If Sony’s going to design the perfect remote to compliment their new Display, they should probably go through the trouble of including it.
     That said, since it’s not included, if you buy this display, you MUST buy this remote. It is invaluable.

The Screen:
     Let’s get this out of the way. The screen is glossy. It is prone to glare. It’s not a big deal. Unless your screen is directly opposite an open window in the daytime, I can’t see this as being a problem. If it is, there is a simple fix. Close the blinds. No blinds? Buy some blinds. Moving on…
     The screen, as already described by many other reviewers, is beautiful. Colors are rich. Details are sharp (but not too sharp). Blacks are deep. But it’s not perfect.
     The Brightness is a bit on the low side. I wish I could tell you how low it is but, unfortunately, the brightness specifications are not listed in the display’s manual. As such, all I can tell you is that it’s not as bright as my old Sammy Syncmaster. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s worth mentioning. I have emailed Sony for information on the screen's brightness and will edit this post with a specification once the information has been made available.
     Also worth mentioning is the display’s light bleed. The right side of my screen exhibits a bit of light bleed. This means that the edge of the display is brighter than the rest of the screen. Its presence is not as distracting as you would imagine. It is also not very consistent. There are times when the light bleed is quite bad and moments when it is virtually non-existent even though the content being viewed should be causing the light to bleed all over the place. Case in point, Sin City on Bluray, with its heavily contrasting blacks and whites showed no light bleed even though Call of Duty World at War’s very balanced images showed an almost ever-present bleed.
     The display allows you to change a variety of settings to best suit your purposes. You can change display brightness, contrast, brightness (different than screen brightness), color, hue, temperature (love when this is included), and sharpness. If you don’t feel like calibrating these yourself (though you should), you can always choose between the display’s built-in default settings. They are: standard, cinema, dynamic, and custom. Even though there is only one custom setting, unlike most TV’s, this display actually lets you customize and save each of the 4 settings. So, if you want, like me, to make the dynamic setting heavy on the brightness to overcompensate for 3D content’s need for dark glasses, you can do that. Also unlike most TV’s, the customizations you make are shared by all of the display’s inputs. You can easily have a different calibration saved for each input. For example, standard for me is calibrated for PS3 use. Cinema for my DVD player, Custom for my Wii, and Dynamic for 3D content.

Inputs:
     The Display comes with 3 different inputs. There are 2 HDMI inputs and 1 Component input. It is unfortunate that the display has omitted standard AV, RF, or even VGA support.

Input Detail (HDMI):
     What can I say. Content that is displayed through the HDMI input is amazing. While in this mode, the Display can cycle through various 3D modes. There is Side by Side, Top and Bottom, and Auto. Auto is what you will need to use if you want to view 3D that is in Frame-Packed format. Other than that, there are no other screen options available (save for modes that effect contrast, color, etc.). That means you don’t get things like TruMotion (which is terrible anyway), screen zooming, Dynamic Noise Reduction, or even screen stretching. If you want such effects, you will need to make sure that your player/console will support them. Even though the Display comes with zero options for screen effects, the image coming through is clean, crisp, bold, and beautiful.

Input Detail (Component):
     This is where things get weird. When fed from the Display’s Component input, the Display automatically uses a screen effect that is not present when fed through HDMI. The screen effect looks like a light application of DNR and is comparable to things like Adobe Photoshop’s watercolor filter, Skyward Sword’s built-in engine filter, or even old-school emulation filters like those on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. 

Will Smith's been DNR'd

     At first, I thought the filter was being auto-activated because of the low-resolution content being fed through component. However, that turned out to not be the case. I fed both HD and SD content through component and nothing seemed to prevent the Display from filtering the image. Then, I fed the Display low-resolution content through one of the HDMI inputs and found that the filter did NOT come on. So, the filter is not a result of the Display scaling content. It is related, instead, to content coming through the component input regardless of the source’s resolution.  

HDMI Blu...

Vs. DNR'd Component Blu

      This filter is a curious addition. There are benefits to it and there are, of course, determents. The biggest issue I have with the filter is that it CAN NOT be turned off. I cycled through all available options and none of them were able to turn off the display’s post processing. I have emailed Sony for more information regarding this feature and will edit this review with any and all clarifications they make available to me.
     The other big problem is that the filter makes video content look horrible. Absolutely horrible. Even high quality blu-ray video becomes a mess when viewed through the display’s component input.
Thankfully, the news isn’t all bad. In regards to game-related content, the filter is actually a really great addition. Keeping in mind that, as a gaming display, most people will only use the component input for low-resolution content from their PS2’s or Wii’s, the filter only works to improve what would normally be a terrible image when scaled to conform to an HD set. This is the first TV (or display) that I’ve ever been able to play DMC3 on that didn’t make the game look like muddy garbage. Curiously enough, the filter even seems more conservatively applied when it’s being used on game content. I can only assume that this is a result of the filter being optimized for use with game content over video content.
     Considering that the filter on component sources is not completely a negative addition, it is all the more aggravating that it can not be turned off to better suit the various kinds of content that could potentially be viewed through said input. 

Sammy + BC PS3 + HDMI = Blurry Mess


PS 3D display + Component Filter + PS2 (not the best, but quite good... especially from about a foot away)

PS3's Backwards compatible smoothing... still the best option for PS2 games (this is the Sammy)
Input Detail Continued (Component PSP Zoom)
     Unlike the HDMI inputs, which don’t have any available options, the component input comes with 3 different video settings. There’s a normal setting (for 4:3 content), a full setting (for 16:9 content), and a PSP Zoom setting for PSP game content. The PSP Zoom here should NOT be confused with regular zoom modes found on every TV except this one. Most zoom modes simply zoom non-anamorphic widescreen content so that pillar-boxing is eliminated. The PSP Zoom is a kind of zoom that works specifically with the PSP’s video-out.
     To understand why this is a valid feature to include, I’ll give some background info. With the 2000 revision of the PSP, Sony finally added video-out capabilities to the PSP. Unfortunately, though, the PSP’s output was limited to a pillar-boxed (black borders on ALL sides of the screen) and distorted image. When users tried to eliminate the pillar-boxing, they could either use a TV’s zoom mode (which made the PSP screen too tall) or a 16:9 stretch mode (which would make the screen too wide). Neither option allowed the PSP to be viewed in full size at its correct aspect ratio. The only way to see PSP content in such a way was through the purchase of a third-party PSP-specific scaler. 

Sammy PSP video is pillar boxed

Sammy PSP 16:9 in Stretch is too Wide

Sammy PSP in Zoom is too tall

    The Playstation 3D display’s PSP Zoom eliminates the need for an outside scaler. The display presents the PSP’s game screen at full size with a perfect aspect ratio. For PSP owners, this is fantastic news. If the PSP was more popular, I’m sure this feature would have been one of the display’s best selling points. As it stands, though, it is sadly overlooked in press materials and editorial reviews. 

3d Display's PSP Zoom is PERFECT!

Output (Audio):
     Audio output comes in two flavors. The first is through a headphone jack and the second is through the set’s built-in speakers.
     The headphone jack is a huge disappointment. Through headphones, the audio quality comes with an ever-present white noise hiss. The hiss is almost unnoticeable through my soundbar (which I connected to the headphone jack), but since it is a headphone jack, the fact that headphone audio quality is lacking is very disappointing. For the record, I used Grado SR80’s and Koss Porta Pro’s to test the audio jack.
     The second, and much publicized Audio option is the built-in speaker system. The set comes with two side speakers and a rear-facing subwoofer. Even though I have a soundbar, I tested the speakers for the sake of this review. I tested them using Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks.
     The speakers are underwhelming. On the default setting (though you can also use dynamic and custom settings), the speakers sound incredibly tinny and the subwoofer is almost entirely absent from the sound footprint. The other settings don’t help much. However, I was able to get a richer sound by boosting the Bass to +7 and lowering the treble by 2. I’m surprised that the display’s default settings weren’t optimized to better suit the included speakers. The speakers, after properly being tweaked, can definitely offer better sound than you would think possible after hearing the default settings but they will never sound as good as even a moderate pair of non-included speakers.
     It is all the more disappointing, then, that the display does not come with more audio-out options (such as L/R, or optical).
     The best option for audio enthusiasts will be to get the sound directly from the source instead of routing the sound through the Display. But I’m sure you already knew that.

The 3D (finally):
     In order to take full advantage of the display’s 3D support, you’ll need to go through your PS3’s menu and change the display settings. The PS3 will recognize that you have a 3D display connected and help you set up the PS3’s video output. It is super easy to do.
     If you fail to do this, games with 3D support will show you options like Side by Side and Top and Bottom but won’t give you access to the superior Frame Packing 3D format. Some games, like Uncharted 3, won’t even give you access to 3D unless you remember to change the PS3’s display settings.
Assuming you have taken the necessary steps…
     Movie content in 3D can be displayed in 1080p and at 24hz with no problem whatsoever. I am certain that 60hz will also be supported but since I have no 3D video content in that format, I am unable to test for it.
EDIT: Movie content through Bluray is available in 3D at the 24hz option.  For broadcast content - Side-by-side horizontal, 1080i@50 or 59.94/60Hz; Top-and-bottom, 720p@50 or 59.94/60Hz and 1080p@23.97/24Hz. These specs are part of the HDMI 1.4a standard.
     Game content that I tested was only available at a maximum of 720p while in 3D. This seems to be a limitation of the available game software and NOT the display.
EDIT: Game content is supported in 720p at 60Hz. This also is part of the HDMI 1.4a standard. Thanks go out to Guitar_Nerd_23 for bringing this to my attention.
    The quality of 3D available is very much at the mercy of the particular title that you are playing. For the record, all of the games I tested had good if not great 3D effects. Most titles come with a 3D slider to change the amount of 3D to best suit your eyes. It’s a helpful tool that ensures that your eyes never feel too strained while marathoning a particular title.
     As can be expected, the brightness of the games take a hit due to the nature of the 3D glasses. Thankfully, as already noted, raising the TV’s brightness compensates quite well for the loss in visibility.
EDIT: Keep in mind, that boosting the brightness here will make the light bleed very noticeable. Not a game breaker, but you should be aware of it. 
     Another strange effect of the 3D is that frame-rate drops are tougher on the eyes than what you see when you are playing in 2D. At first, I thought something might have been wrong with my display until I noticed that the weird jitteriness I was noticing was only occurring in places where the frame rate took a dip. This was very noticeable in crowded streets while playing Assassin’s Creed Revelations. As bad as I originally thought it looked, though, I eventually got used to it and it became a non-issue. I just felt I should mention it to prepare anyone who decides to purchase this display.
     One last issue I had with the 3D was with crosstalk. Crosstalk is when you see a doubling effect of what should be blocked out by the lenses. The crosstalk is a very very rare occurrence. There are situations, though, that seem to bring it out. In areas with lots of darkness and areas with high contrast, the doubling can become quite distracting. In these situations, lowering the 3D’s intensity can clear up the problem to non-issue status.
     I don’t want to make it sound like the display is a crosstalk mess. From what I understand (and correct me if I’m wrong), 3D in this format (single screen) will always have just a little bit of crosstalk when the conditions are just right (or wrong). I was able to notice similar problems while watching Martin Scorsese’s Hugo in Theatres last week.
     On the whole, I am incredibly pleased with the 3D effect. Not only is it well presented, but I feel as though it adds a bold new dimension to the immersiveness of the medium of games. Once the technology becomes more affordable, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to play games in 3D. Unlike the movies (which I feel rarely make proper use of 3D), the effect afforded to games by 3D, during my tests, seemed like a natural and unobtrusive one that could easily benefit a wide variety of future titles.
     In short, going forward, 3D support is something I will actively seek out in future game purchases.

The Glasses:
     The Playstation 3D Display is an active 3D Display. This means that the user must use active shutter glasses. The display comes with one pair. The glasses come with a soft fabric pouch to be stored in. They also include the smallest USB cable I’ve ever seen. The cable is used to charge the glasses. After giving them a full charge, I was able to use them for more hours than I could count. I’ve had the display for 2 weeks, and I’ve only had to charge the glasses once. The only inconvenient thing about charging them is that the Display doesn’t have a USB port to use for charging. It’s not a huge problem, but it would have been a nice addition.
     The build quality of the glasses is on par with comparable 3D glasses. They are large enough to fit over most pairs (including mine) of regular glasses and are very comfortable for semi-regular use.
I say semi-regular because they do begin to hurt the bridge of the nose when worn for too long a time. As lightweight as they are, they start to feel heavy at about the 3 hour mark. Even then, though, wearing them isn’t too uncomfortable. It just gets to a point where you become very aware of the fact that you are wearing the 3D glasses. 

Nice Fancy Pouch

Nice Fancy Glasses

Random Extra Things:
• I read on some forums that text was hard to read from computer output. With my imac outputting over HDMI, I had no such problem. 

Mac Text? No Problem Here (except the typo on HDMI)

• The Playstation Network comes with a free download of software that allows you to view 3D photography on the display. This allows for one to view pictures taken on the 3DS on a nice big screen. Very cool.
• When outputting from component, the Display allows for overscan compensation.
• The Display has a quick auto-shut-off that takes place when there is no video detected. It is a nice feature that can, at times, be annoying. 


HDMI Cable:
     The set comes with an HDMI cable. This might seem sort of ridiculous as most people have one of these by now, but 3D requires the use of newer HDMI cables. It was a smart move for Sony to have one of those cables already included. Kind of like a preemptive strike to help combat a potential flood of support calls that were all related to people using out-dated cables.

Motorstorm Apocalypse:
     The included title is simply amazing. It is an adrenaline rush of a title that does a very good job of showing off the display’s abilities. It even comes with the much heralded simulview tech.

Simulview (must buy second pair of glasses):
     It is a technology which allows two players (while both using 3D glasses) to see a completely different screen while playing the same game in co-op or versus modes. The technology is incredibly cool. Right now, the number of titles to support it is very limited. The usefulness of this display's exclusive feature is very much contingent on how many games choose to include Simulview support. As it stands, it is an exciting new option for developers to toy around with.
Since the simulview tech uses the same principles needed for 3D to function, Simulview is understandably only available in 2D.

Final Thoughts:
     This was my longest review yet. There was a lot to discuss. There was a lot to like. There was a lot to dislike. There was a bit that was just plain confusing. I wish that I could just say that this display was a homerun. Considering how expensive it is, I really really really wish I could 100% recommend it to everyone… but I can’t. So, for the sake of a final assessment, lets recap things a bit.

Pros:
• Great image quality
• 3D is the future of gaming
• Very little crosstalk
• Form factor can’t be beat
• Display is well made and sturdy
• The problem of glare has been over exaggerated
• Good included glasses
• Incredibly fun included game
• HDMI cable in the box
• Easy to set up and use
• Simulview

Cons:
• Not a TV
• No remote
• Occasional Light Bleed
• Crosstalk in high stress places
• Can’t turn off Component filter
• limited inputs
• limited and poor audio out capabilities
• less than spectacular speakers

     So is it worth the 500 buck tag? That depends on what you’re looking for. The display’s best quality is its screen and 3D support. Looking at comparably sized displays that offer the same types of specs that this display offers, the price is about what you could expect to pay. So, in that sense, it is very much worth the 500. However, if you are looking for an all purpose TV, this is most definitely not the way to go. This display is made to game. If gaming is what you want it for, aside from some strange design quirks, this display will give you what you’re looking for.

     As such, for regular users, I would not recommend it. For gamers, it is a confident recommendation. And if you could get it for 100 bucks cheaper, you’d be crazy not to pick one up.

Epilogue: 
Well played Sony. My brand loyalty has given me some really great toys to play with over the years. Playstation 3D display, you are a worthy addition to the family.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

great review! thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great job very informative review.

Jonathan Ruiz said...

Thanks for posting guys. Glad you liked the review.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review, Engadget should take note seeing as you used their level of detail on a product in dire need of exposure. Great job, thought i'm afraid this display really isn't for me.

Dr. Knockboots said...

I love this Display. My only problem I have is not being able to use an external sound source. I replace it with my computer monitor and it automatically turns on when I turn on my computer or PS3. Also I got Resistance 3 and Motor Cross with TV because I preorder it.

Anonymous said...

great in-depth review. very helpful

GJevon said...

I just purchased this yesterday after researching for a 2 weeks. I read all types of blogs and comments from people that did not buy it but had a lot of negative things to say. but when you look at reviews of people who did buy it almost all of them gave it 4 of 5 stars. I was torn because I like 3D but don't have the money for a large 3D TV that has the great ratings they are simply to expensive. I caved yesterday and decided to get it at Best Buy because they have a sale for $399 I thought that was a good price to try it as an entry level 3D system and at the moment i live pretty much alone so it's a personal thing. Bottom line I was blown away at how sharp and beautiful it looked hooked up to my PS3 this monitor is like the head extension of the PS3 hands down. I downloaded Wipeout HD and could not believe the visuals I am astounded and have no regrets buying this hardware why I hesitated is beyond me. I stayed up all night watching Thor and Captain America in 3D even though I had to work this morning. I would give it 5 stars but the lack of connections a remote and one pair of glasses I have to downgrade it to 4 stars. Other than that this is a winner the 3D is on par with the best TV in Best Buy if only it was bigger. When they do release a bigger version I will be first in line.

Anonymous said...

I THINK IT'S A PERFECT PLAYSTATION 3 ACCESSORY. IT HAS BEEN DESIGNED TO SHOW THE EARLY CAPABILITIES OF 3D GAMING ON A PS3. BUT WHAT IF SONY WANTS TO DRAW THE LINE

WITH "GAMING ON THE DISPLAY THING" RIGHT HERE.

I THINK SONY JUST WANTED PEOPLE TO GET FAMILIAR WITH IDEA OF 3D ENTERTAINMENT VIA PS3, BUT THERE WILL BE MORE TO PLAYSTATION FANS IN THE YEAR AHEAD...

Sony PlayStation 4 WILL BE OUT
SOMETIME SOON AND I DO BELIEVE THAT THE FUTURE OF GAMING WILL BE REVOLUTIONARY.

WHAT IF THE NEXT GAMING DISPLAY WILL BE WEARABLE 1080P HD 3D VIEWER BY SONY DESIGNED FOR THE PS4.

SOUNDS EXTRAORDINARY ISN'T IT.

AS PER THE REVIEW IS CONCERNED, I WOULD WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT IT'S SONY, AND IT KNOWS WHAT GAMERS WANT AND THEY HAVE BEEN CONSTANTLY UPGRADING THE TECHNOLOGY AND THE

EXPERIENCE ASSOCIATED WITH IT.

Thank You.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic review! Quick correction, the display does have a hidden USB (service) port on the bottom right side that can be used to charge the glasses.

SpooNMan said...

Nice review.

I just recently purchased one when the price dropped to $199.

The picture quality in both 2D and 3D is excellent. Probably even better than my 52" Samsung TV purchased just a year ago.

The only thing I am worried about is that it will fail within a year like so many other people are claiming. I purchased a SquareTrade warranty just in case, but I hope I don't have to use it right away.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the review, but what's the lowest supported resolution from the component port? Thanks

Anonymous said...

This is a great, informative review. I already own this set and learned a lot more about it (like using the PSP Zoom feature). One thing I can't get to work is the component for PS2/Gamecube. Whenever I hook them up the picture is in black white.

Jerry Gene said...

I like your style of writing. You break it down nicely. Very informative post. Keep up the good work.

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Mark Thomas said...

Great review, great display! Only one question, what is it's RGB range? Limited or Full?

Mark Thomas said...

Great review, great display! Only one question, what is it's RGB range? Limited or Full?