Finding content for a 3D television is like trying to find a decent pizza on the west coast. You just have to look too hard. The current selection of 3D Blu-ray discs mostly consists of post-processed garbage, Sony only offers a handful of 3D titles for the PlayStation 3, and Microsoft is sitting 3D out entirely on the Xbox 360 until its future becomes less hazy.
Meanwhile, just about any blockbuster PC title can be played in 3D, which makes 3D-capable monitors like LG’s Flatron D2342P a tempting purchase for the 3D early adopter. Call of Duty: Black Ops? Check. Crysis Warhead? Absolutely. Civilization V? Sure, if you really want to rearrange your phalanxes in 3D.
The D2342P rises to that need with passive 3D technology (no batteries needed for the glasses) and retails for a reasonable $349.99 — a much smaller investment than your typical 3D TV. Is the D2342P an effective 23-inch gateway drug to the 3D lifestyle as LG hopes? Let’s find out.
Features and design
No shiny holographic logos here. Despite its gaming-oriented 3D aspirations, the D2342P looks fairly unremarkable from the outside . It’s framed by a thin, squared-off black bezel with a strip of unmarked menu buttons, and a glowing blue power button.
Thanks to LED backlighting, the display measures a thin half inch or so around the edges, and tapers back to about 2.25 inches deep at its thickest point. Even with the stand on, it weighs about 7.5 pounds, making it easy to setup and position on a desk. LG’s stand does pivot up and down, but the range of motion is quite limited, and the cheap hinge has a spongy feel to it that makes you wonder if it will even hold the angle you leave it at (it does, somehow).
Around the back, you’ll find every connection a display really needs: VGA, DVI, and HDMI, along with power and an audio jack for connecting headphones. Unfortunately, the headphone jack’s location on the back makes it tricky to access in a hurry, and it only pulls in sound via HDMI (there’s no analog audio input to make it effectively serve as an extension).
The D2342P uses a 23-inch LED-backlit panel with 1920 x 1080p resolution, making it nearly indistinguishable from its 2D peers. Nearly. On close inspection, you can actual spot the alternating horizontal lines that give the D2342P its 3D capabilities — a polarizing filter that polarizes one line for the right eye, the next for the left eye, and so on. It takes a close look to even notice, but if you look close enough this “comb effect” definitely becomes more pronounced. While you might inadvertently notice it now and then in odd lighting, it’s not much of a nuisance.
We have to give LG credit for its “out of the box” settings: The image looked about right as soon as we powered it up, and further evaluation with test patterns and photos did little to disprove us from that initial impression. Whites popped, blacks were respectably black, and colors had a natural feel without the overly warm or cool color temperature that’s common without thorough calibration.
Our biggest complaint was minor banding visible in gradients — not enough to show solid “stripes” of color but more like pronounced “ribs” within what should be a smooth transition from white to black. Off-angle viewing angles were also merely average.
Setup, menus and calibration
It’s a good thing the D2342P looks good right out of the box, because we were never able to adjust it when it was on a DVI input. For some reason, many of the most important adjustment menus on the on-screen display were greyed out when we used it, and no amount of correspondence with LG’s tech gurus (or upgrading software) got them to work. Switching to HDMI cured the problem, but be warned if you plan on actually using the DVI input and want some say in how the picture looks.
All five of the monitor’s front buttons are unmarked — you need to press one before the on-screen settings pop up, at which point they act as “soft” buttons for the menu options that appear on the screen above them. Cruising through the fairly limited options for adjustment is simple, but the lack of an “up” button can be a pain when scrolling through long lists — miss the option you want and you’ll need to cycle all the way back through to select it again.
As usual, you can adjust brightness, contrast, color temperature and black level. Of the three color temperatures (warm, medium and cool), only warm resembles anything close to an image a sane person would look at. “Cool” has such an intensely unnatural blue cast that feels like looking at your display through a tank full of Cool Mint Listerine. You can also throw the switch to user mode and adjust the RGB channels individually. In its default state (all channels balanced at 50 out of 100) the user mode is indistinguishable from the warm preset.
It would be nice if 3D applications could simply turn the effect on and off with a button press… but we’re not there yet. In the mean time, you’ll need software to render 3D worlds in a way the D2342P can actually display them in 3D. LG supplies a disc with TriDef 3D, which basically serves as a gateway to 3D content on your PC, including photos, videos and games. Mostly games. After installing TriDef, you’ll be prompted to adjust your monitor to the right angle, then you’re free to view any of the above in 3D. TriDef can convert existing photos and videos to 3D, but the effect is next to worthless. Instead, you’ll likely want to head straight to games, where TriDef will detect any titles on your machine that it has support for and offer to launch them in 3D mode. Check out the TriDef site for a continuously updated list of titles.
How does this unassuming desktop monitor fare when it’s tasked with enveloping viewers in a 3D world? Surprisingly well. You might even like it more than the 3D demos you’ve seen on big screens down at the local big box retailer. Just don the included 3D glasses (or the clip-ons for normal glasses, also provided) and games come alive. Distant enemies aren’t just tiny, they seem far away. Weapons and graphic overlaps pop out of the foreground. Glass doesn’t just make whatever’s behind it look a little grey, it suddenly has substance and body.
These are all attributes any good 3D monitor could display, but they’re especially true thanks to the D2342P’s use of passive 3D technology, which uses polarized lenses rather than LCD lenses that have to flick on and off dozens of times a second. Because polarized lenses don’t have to sync up the way active-shutter glasses do, you’ll get very little “crosstalk” (ghost-like images) unless you move your head far outside the display’s intended viewing angle. This might be a bigger limitation for a TV, but for extended Call of Duty sessions where your eyes glass over from concentration, you’re not likely to be wagging your head around much anyway.
Of course, there are trade offs, as we have discussed before. By displaying images for the right and left eye on the screen at the same time, passive 3D displays technically display half the resolution of active 3D displays.
Make no mistake, it’s a convincing technical argument, but the 3D image on a set like the D2342P still looks shockingly good. Viewing 3D content on the D2342P creates an immersive sense of depth with a “solid” feel to the image that can go missing when active-shutter glasses allow crosstalk. Bigger is always better with 3D, and although the D2342P is only 23 inches across, it fills your field of view the same way a much larger TV would. And thanks to the display native brightness, the dimming you experience when putting on 3D glasses is quite tolerable. No batteries to replace or recharge makes this experience quite livable and maintenance free, too.
Be warned, if you’re a first-time 3D gamer, that while 3D creates a sense of depth in games, it doesn’t necessarily make them easier, as a number of lousy Call of Duty scores can attest. It’s an entertaining trick, not a tool.
If you want to experience 3D without shelling out over $1,000 for a 3D TV, only to watch the same three Blu-rays over and over again, the $350 D2342P can serve as a much more practical stand-in. Above-average 2D performance makes it a reliable desktop companion, and passive 3D technology gives it a convincing and comfortable-to-watch 3D presentation, too. You’ll pay about a $100 premium for it over a comparable 2D monitor, but even the mildly 3D-curious will likely find it worth the price of admission. Our menu issues were inconvenient, but evidence suggests it’s an isolated problem, and using an HDMI input is an easy $5 workaround.
- Convincing 3D performance
- Passive glasses are inexpensive, comfortable
- Reasonably bright, even in 3D
- Respectable 2D performance
- Flimsy stand with little adjustment
- Menu options inexplicably locked out on DVI input
- Faint “comb” effect up close