Vega's review of the world’s first 120 Hz strobing backlight VA panel monitor, the Eizo Foris FG2421.
This monitor really caught my attention as we all know, all current 120+ Hz gaming models use TN panels. TN panels are very quick, but alas, that is the only thing that they excel at.
Issues of TN panels (especially ones in Lightboost mode) include: horrid viewing angles, washed out/lack of colors, poor black levels, very poor contrast ratios. Most in Lightboost mode have contrast ratios in the 400-700 range. This Eizo has static contrast ratios (even in strobe backlight mode - 240Turbo) of 4000-5000! So, is the king of blacks, the VA panel going to be the frontrunner in the gaming monitor segment? Let's take a look.
This mini-review will be based solely on use as a gaming display, and hence all images of all monitors that are capable, will be in strobing backlight mode. There will be no colorimeters or oscilloscopes used here. Those tests have been completed already on various professional review sites. My input will be based solely on a couple decades worth of high end monitor ownership and testing of all types, counting fifty plus models.
The packaging is fairly plain brown box. It is a bit thinner than I would prefer for shipping, but none of my monitors were damaged and the boxes look great. The monitors came well packed and wrapped. The stand riser is already attached to the monitor, simply mount the base with a single thumb screw.
Aesthetics on this monitor are very good. A simple matte black bezel surrounds the display and appears to be of good quality. As others of stated, there is no VESA mount. I know this is disappointing to some, but the aesthetics of the back are quite nice. There is a gloss orange trim around an illuminated EIZO branding. Inputs face down and are easy to access. They include DL-DVI, and DP 1.2 (both able to run 120 Hz), and an HDMI port (able to run 60 Hz).
Amazingly, in a time when it appears virtually everything is made in China, these displays are manufactured in Japan. Obviously, the quality of Japanese made electronics are quite high, as is apparent with this monitor. All of my three samples were manufactured in early October 2013. For a delivery date of November 2013, around a month from manufacture to in customer hands is very impressive!
The back also houses an on/off power switch next to the power input. Another nice touch that shows this is not your standard low end monitor. The design of the back casing also acts as a convenient hand hold. One reason I believe this monitor was not designed with VESA in mind is that Eizo may have thought it would be mainly for FPS players. FPS only players generally don't play on multi-monitor setups, generally the users requesting VESA mounts. While I do think it would have been possible to include a VESA mount with some sort of removable cover, doing a custom bracket is not out of the question. The stock stand mount to the chassis has easy to access screws. A custom VESA to these particular screw holes would not be terribly difficult. As an individual that always DE bezel’s my monitors for Surround/Eyefinity, this has no consequence for myself.
Switching to the front, we have mechanical buttons! Yes, I know such a simple thing gets me excited. I am not a fan of touch sensitive buttons. Touch sensitive buttons are notoriously flakey and a tactile feel cannot be beat. Another bonus of mechanical buttons is once the bezels are removed, they are generally easier to relocate. Touch sensitive controls are generally glued to the front bezel, making relocation a real pain.
The on-screen display is simple and easy to use. The monitor includes a direct shortcut to the brightness button. It is amazing how many monitors overlook this very important feature, and hide brightness controls in sub-menus. That is pretty annoying. 90% of your adjustments on a day to day use will solely be brightness. Eizo also includes software to control monitor controls, but all monitor must be plugged in via USB. I really look forward to testing that feature, as being able to adjust all monitors from their desktop instead of reaching for the relocated buttons on all three monitors will be a boon.
Some great features of the OSD include:
Usage time in hours. Another great feature only found on high-end monitors.
A quick information screen showing resolution, refresh rate and if Turbo240 (backlight strobing is engaged).
There is also the options of turning off the rear logo and even the front power indication light. More features that are only found on high end monitors. Very impressive attention to detail, and this monitor makes for stellar dark room viewing.
The screen has a "semi-gloss" type anti-reflective film applied. Ever since I demoed the new Dell series with a similar film, I was very impressed. I do not like the strong matte films applied to IPS panels, especially the older ones. They made the screens "dirty" looking, with distracting sparkle. Before "semi-gloss" film became recently popular, gloss was the only alternative. I do enjoy gloss as I have a light controlled environment. It really makes the blacks look wet and the colors "pop". Overall though, this new line of semi-gloss AR films is a great compromise. Reduce most of the glare, yet retain a clearer image and hardly any sparkle. This monitor will not require the film to be removed.
There has been some discussion on various forums about "cross-hatching", or faint diagonal lines on white/grey or other light colored backgrounds. I will state that all three of my panels exhibits this phenomenon. But before you stop reading there, let me say that it is VERY faint. On average, the lines go from the bottom left to the top right, at maybe a 30 degree angle. I only notice them on aforementioned white/grey images, and in normal use I do not notice them and they do not bother me. Once and a while I will be reading something and or viewing an image and I will perceive them, but they are generally very faint and not worth fixating on. The cross hatching also appears to be slightly stronger in some areas of the panel over others. I suspect this may have something to do with how the film was applied by roller at the Sharp factory (and associated optical adhesive), rather than the film itself.
The screen does tilt, but the height adjustment is fairly short. The monitor includes a swivel in the stand base plate. The power consumption of this monitor should be well into the low range. The LCD panel barely gets warm to the touch, and the case stays at room temperature. There are small vent holes on the back/top, but after hours of use there is barely any heat being emitted from it.
On all three samples, there is no audible whine from any coils at any brightness. Some monitors exhibit this behavior, especially while adjusting brightness levels on bright or white backgrounds. Zero noise on these models may be attributed to their DC voltage control, with limited (high frequency) PWM at low brightness levels. After many hours of using this screen in 240Turbo mode, I am pleased to say my eyes are doing great! The brightness levels of this model are incredible. You have enough brightness range to handle a well lit room, all the way down to a dark room and maintain a comfortable brightness level.
Monitors in this multi-screen comparison test are the Eizo in the center, a new model BenQ VW2230H on the right, and the BenQ XL2720T (gloss modified) on the left. I've selected the BenQ VW2230H as my "web surfing" monitor that will swing out on its own arm in front of my multi-monitor portrait setup. I don't particularly enjoy web surfing on 1080P portrait, so the small size 21.5" 1920x1080 on the little BenQ and its zero-PWM VA panel offer great desktop viewing. The XL2720T is included in this review, as I believe it is the king of Lightboost featured displays. It offers good motion clarity with the best image quality in Lightboost mode. All NVIDIA control panel sliders are at default.
Black levels and contrast ratios have always been a strong suit of VA panels. There is absolutely no exception to the Foris FG2421:
Above, I left the mouse cursor on the Eizo just to show that the display is on. In a pitch black room, with 240Strobe the black levels, lack of back light bleed, haloing, or any other defects is astonishing. You can almost tell the monitor isn't even on when displaying a black background. The BenQ on the right, being a VA panel to boot also has stellar blacks but falls behind the Eizo. IPS panels, or the TN on the left aren't even on the same planet as the Eizo. If you like dark, scary titles, look no further. Below is an image of a very dark/murky image, also revealing amazing blacks and contrast:
Take a look at the vertical striped background in this image:
The TN panel has such low contrast in comparison, it basically cannot make out the background. Remember though, photographs from a camera may not tell the whole story, so I will add input from in-person viewing as appropriate. Another image of contrast, and I prefer the Eizo in the center:
From my subjective viewpoint, the Eizo appears to have fairly good uniformity, and the white quality is also pleasing:
I have no issues with banding. Black levels and white saturation are also very good. Contrast steps are also very good at all brightness levels. I find around the default value of 50 contrast works well. Sub-pixel layout is as standard for portrait. Not optimum as it is for landscape, but not overly intrusive.
Viewing angles for the panel have exceeded my expectations. If IPS were a 10 on the scale, and TN is a 0, I would rate the Eizo in the 7-8 range. There is some contrast shift from center, but after having dealt with TN panels for so long, that is like complaining about finding $900,000 instead of a million on the street. Head on-view:
Vertical view (most important for portrait):
Video of viewing angles (all angles): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQux5_7VwZM
Colors and various image quality tests:
Maximum brightness for all monitors:
Here, you can see the brightness of the Eizo, even in strobing backlight mode exceeds its sister non-strobing VA panel on the right. The TN falls considerably behind.
I've found reds to be the weakest color on the Eizo. Disregard the white hazing on the blue photo, which is simply a camera anomaly.
Now for what we all came here for, motion quality! During the MPRT test using Mark Rejhon's (blurbusters.com) at testufo.com, revealed a low to mid 2ms backlight strobe length. This equals quite impressive motion clarity. Unlike traditional Lightboost monitors, the strobe length does not vary with brightness, and also retains virtually 100% of the image quality of the VA panel. Lightboost fails greatly in that regard.
First up is your standard 60 Hz non-strobing monitor, the BenQ on the right:
Remember, these images are only going to capture ghosting, not motion blur. You cannot capture motion blur with a camera, so you will have to pay attention to my notes. The 60 Hz panel had very pronounced and strong ghosting images. During the motion test, the blur was severe. Individual items like eyes and the dots on the spaceship cannot be made out.
BenQ XL2720T at 10% brightness (fastest 1.4 ms strobe):
Above, the BenQ wins the flying saucer test. There is very faint ghosting / afterimages. Testing with various shutter speeds, I was unable to get an image that accurately represents what I was seeing, so this is the closest I could get.
Above, the Eizo exhibited what I would call darker "smearing" after trails. Interestingly enough, when I first tested for ghosting during the first 15-20 minutes of setting up the first monitor, I was somewhat disappointed. On some colored backgrounds, there was upwards of 5-6 after images and smearing in 240Turbo mode. After the monitor had "warmed up" a bit more, the trailing reduced to 3-4 and were not nearly as pronounced. I was given this tip by Mark, as apparently the VA panel operates more efficiently with overdrive at a warmer temperature. This is the first time I have noticed "warm up" image changes since the CCFL and CRT days. For motion quality, the Eizo has some advantages, over the BenQ, but also some disadvantages, more below.
I play a lot of flight simulators, so dark objects on white backgrounds is very important to me. Previously, Lightboost monitors have struggled with that. They typically have performed better with light images on dark backgrounds, versus the inverse. I am happy to report this is where the Eizo excels! Confirmed with both Falcon 4 BMS flight simulator, and Mark's tough Eifel Tower test. First up, the 60 Hz VA BenQ:
Firstly, disregard the "split" of the Eifel Tower in all images. That is from the nature of the cameras interaction with the refresh. The most important thing to notice is the after images, or ghosting to the sides of the tower. Above, you can see the after image on the 60 Hz display is strong and pronounced. Individual cross-braces on the tower are impossible to decipher due to sample and hold motion blur. Next up is the BenQ TN at 10% Lightboost:
Above is where Lightboost monitors have a chink in their armor. Obvious double after images. Before I move onto the Eizo, I would like to point out something in this photo. On Lightboost monitors, especially the 27" panels, I have noticed a peculiar behavior as yours eyes "Scan" or "traverse" the panel. When yours eyes are focused on a single spot, the behavior is not apparent. When moving your eyes, what appears to be a "pixel inversion" or a honeycomb/screen-door type effect occurs. This is a serious image quality reduction on Lightboost monitors. This phenomenon can somewhat be shown in the above photo.
Above, the effect is much less apparent. Image quality stays relatively constant as your eyes scan the screen. Most importantly, take a look at the after images on the tower. Exactly, there are hardly any at all! Virtually crystal clear when viewed in real life. Yes, the Eizo does have some light smearing in certain situations versus the Lightboost monitors. It also has a clearer image with zero screen-door effect in motion, and terrific dark image on light background motion clarity. This, combined with the natural image quality increase of the VA panel, makes the Eizo a hand down winner.
More gaming shots. Eizo versus BenQ VA on right:
The Eizo had a nice balance of contrast, the 60 Hz VA has somewhat exaggerated blacks in shadows.
Eizo vs. TN BenQ:
Nothing needs to be said as the photo is self-evident.
For those interested in debezeling for Eyefinity/Surround. The chassis bezels underneath are not as thin as I was hoping for. The Samsung Ultra Clear line has definitely spoiled me. Those panels had an ultra-thin 1/4" (6.3mm) internal bezel gap. On the top and bottom (for portrait users), the bottom gap from lit pixel to edge is just a hair under 1/2" (12.5mm). The top of the screen, where the ribbon cables connect the panel to the electronics, the gap is approximately 7/16ths (11.6mm). The sides for you landscape lubbers are not an insignificant 5/8ths inch (16.5mm).
Below, panel electronics. Warning, this panel is more involved than similar models in disassembly. There are hidden screws, multiple ribbon cables with short connections, and various other hazards to disassembly. Be cautious! If there is enough interest, I may come up with a DE bezel guide. This panel has a full three separate PCB's. Mounting the panel to a VESA mount will require some creativity. I will dedicate a separate thread to that endeavor.
1. Pay to play. This is not a budget monitor, and was not designed to be.
2. Just a small hint of input lag. All strobing backlight monitors will have some input lag.
3. On some backgrounds, there is some smearing/ghosting.
4. No VESA mount.
5. Some very faint cross-hatching on light images.
1. Amazing brightness adjustability.
2. Overall motion clarity is great.
3. Semi-gloss AR film.
4. Strobing backlight built it, no messing with certain GPU brands, drivers, fixes/work-around’s. It just works!
5. Great bonus features you only find on high end monitors.
6. Blacks and contrast ratios off the chart.
7. Great quality control seen in my three examples. All three have virtually zero back light bleed, haloing, and glow. All three monitors are pixel perfect and are very hard to distinguish between them in image quality.
8. 5-Year warranty.
9. Colors and overall image quality are good and remain good in 240Turbo backlight strobe mode.
10. Simple, attractive housing.
Now that image quality is possible in addition to motion clarity, my desire for a 4K monitor has diminished. The only downside to Eyefinity/Surround now is bezel gaps. Image quality and viewing angles have been nipped in the bud with Eizo. Gamers are no longer saddled with TN as their only option for motion clarity. I applaud Eizo for taking lead on this revelation in display technology. There is always risk in such an endeavor, but I feel they may do well on such a stellar display.
Vega's rating: 9.0 out of 10.
Stay tuned for my next multi-monitor display setup thread featuring these wonderful Eizo displays!