Can't decide whether to invest in a 3DTV? Acer's HN274H, a 27-inch PC monitor that uses an active shutter 3D system might be the perfect stop gap.
Although hardly a good-looking design, with a gloss black chassis that's a tad grating, this 1920x1080 pixel resolution panel can display all the detail from a Blu-ray disc.
But surely this PC monitor can’t host a watchable 3D movie? Actually, it can, and then some. Designed primarily to supply 3D graphics to those using 3D applications or playing 3D games at a desktop, the HN274H comes prepared for anything – with a nod to Nvidia’s 3D Vision format, which isn’t supported by 3DTVs.
A VGA and D-sub port on the rear panel is par for the course, as is a HDMI input, but the HN274H goes into 3D overload by fitting an extra two HDMI slots onto the side. All are HDMI 1.4-compatible, so can be attached to all manner of 3D devices.
Used purely as a PC monitor, the HN274H does a decent job, with an exceptionally bright screen and plenty of detail. The only issue is a tight viewing angle, which sees contrast drain from dark areas if you watch from the wings – and contrast isn't great to start with.
The magic comes when you attach it to a 3D source. In our test we pumped-in Avatar from a 3D Blu-ray disc, and the results were awesome. We did notice the odd jagged edge, but the all-round picture is detailed enough to convince. Don the specs - Acer puts a single pair of rechargeable (via USB) active shutter 3D glasses in the box - and the perception of contrast skyrockets. The effect of active shutter specs on lowering brightness is well known on 3DTVs, and it's arguably even more noticeable on this small screen, but here it’s a good thing. With brightness lowered and more convincing blacks on show, it helps bring a sense of realism to 3D movies primarily by bolstering the colour palette, and partly makes up for the small screen size.
It's not the smoothest 3D picture we've seen - let’s not pretend that it would do battle with a 42-inch Panasonic 3D plasmas - but it’s very involving, comfortable to watch, and with some excellent and clean depth effects.
A 100Hz screen that claims a response time of just two milliseconds, the HN274H is nevertheless not quite quick enough to prevent the odd blur. As for crosstalk and ghosting, which plague many a bigscreen 3DTV using similarly backlit-LCD panels, the HN274H manages to swerve that particular 3D nasty.
Sit too close to the screen and the pixels become visible, and the picture becomes less involving. Less immersive than big screens it may be, but we're pretty impressed by the HN274H 's 3D performance. That said, the HN274H is clearly designed as a desktop PC monitor for general use and 3D gaming, where realism isn’t as important as total immersion.
One drawback is the built-in audio. The HN274H 's speakers are so weak that we're instantly drawn out of the involving 3D images from Avatar. We don't mean weak as in treble heavy or bereft of bass, we mean tinny, thin, despicable sound.
If at all possible switch the source to picture-only over HDMI, and route an audio cable from whatever source you use – be it a PC, Blu-ray player or a games console – to a separate sound system (even small desktop speakers would be preferable).
Best used in a bedroom where a PC monitor and a TV screen will be one and the same, Acer's HN274H is well-connected and makes both an excellent desktop upgrade and a great option if a 3DTV would be too much of a stretch.
Although the gloss black design won't excite and there is a viewing angle issue, the screen is capable enough both as a PC display and with a 3D video or games source to consider if a full-blown 3D home cinema is out of reach.