Hands On: HP 2311gt gives you 3D On a Budget

When it comes to buying any 3D display, there are a couple concerns that pop up: 

 

  1. How much is this ocular miracle gonna cost me?
  2. Does the screen look good in 2D as well as 3D mode?
  3. Is there actually enough good content that I’d like to actually see in 3D?
  4. How often am I gonna actually use the 3D to justify this to the spouse?


At least that’s what comes to my mind. So, for the sake of this hands-on…I mean EYES ON… look at the HP 2311gt, I’m gonna try to tackle these questions in order.

 

 

How much is this ocular miracle gonna cost me?


Probably the biggest reason to consider the HP 2311gt – as alluded to in the title – is the price. $299 for a 23-inch, 3D monitor with a 1920 by 1080-pixel resolution and a 5ms response time. Sounds pretty not bad, right? Well, they get the price low because this uses a passive film patterned retarder technology. Film…what? (One description of FPR tech is here). A non-technical breakdown for everyone else: It relies upon a specially-treated polarized screen. (I’m gonna go a little more into this in the next section, so hang tight.)


3D_M.jpgThen, the viewer needs to strap on some polarized plastic lenses – the similar to the unpowered 3D shades you might’ve slapped on your dome for films like Aliens vs. Monsters at the theater. The 2311gt comes with two pairs of these specs…and the good news is that if you want to crowd more than two people around your screen, it’s easy to find passive glasses for buddies. Y’know, in case you forget to return the 3D glasses after the last time you were at the theater. (Not that I condone that behavior). 


Just remember one thing that I will repeat a couple times in this story to bang into your head: This is a passive, not active 3D screen. But let’s go a little bit more into how it works….


Does the screen look good in 2D as well as 3D mode?


Remember how I was just going into how the screen works? Well, here’s the deal. Looking at it without any special specs, it looks normal. 2D image, 2D screen. No problems. While I didn’t have a protractor in handy – I left it in my pocket protector around here somewhere – I’d guesstimate that the screen has a 30-degree viewing angle. It was able to get a ton of content pushed into 3D. Even stuff that wasn’t originally created to jump off the screen. That leads me to….

 

Is there actually enough good content that I’d like to actually see in 3D?


I’m glad you asked! Well, first, you need to make sure that you install the software that comes with the monitor. I know, I know. I usually plug in hardware and never install what seems like shovelware. Trust me. The stuff in this box is NOT shovelware.


Movies / TV
Firstly, you install the drivers. Doy. Second, Install the CyberLink PowerDVD 10 software that comes in the box. This is what makes the 3D happen when watching videos and looking at photos. This is your new default Blu-ray movie player as well (provided…you know…you actually have Blu-ray drive installed in your computer). Drop a movie in – even if it’s an old-school 2D DVD and the software can convert it into 3D. Got some old AVI videos? Ditto. You get the idea. You can toggle 3D on and off to see the difference (on 2D content it pushes depth a little further back into the screen).  Of course, if you have content specifically made with 3D in mind, then you can fiddle a little more with the 3D depth settings.


The only thing I’m hoping to find a workaround for:  I’m one of those knuckleheads that watches a LOT of TV through my PC. Netflix. Hulu. Heck, I’ve even have a couple HD TV tuners plugged in back. I’d love to be able to see that content in 3D on-the-fly.


[Bonus alert: For all you kids crazy for the upcoming DreamWorks movie, Puss in Boots, there is a special 3D demo that comes on the disc]


Photos
Photos in 3D.jpg

That PowerDVD software you’ve now got also adds a 3D layer to old 2D photos. Just click the 3D button at the bottom of the frame (pictured here). As a gag, I just downloaded an old Facebook profile pic and –boom – it’s jumping off the screen.  Not that I need to see myself in 3D….but you can!

 
In the box: There are 25 native 3D photos on that CD in the box…just to give you a good taste of what you can do with the monitor. [Here’s a fun fact for ya: These photos come from a former HP-er that started up his own company, www.cyclopital3d.com.]

 

Games

What I will admit is that I was initially concerned that having a 5ms response time on the screen could spell trouble when trying to play games in 3D. This, of course, is where your experience will vary a little. Remembering that 3D means the PC is doing a little extra work to render frames, I adjusted resolutions and settings a little…and the games I tried performed fine. 


Before you can go 3D, though, you need to first install the TriDef 3D Ignition software that’s also on that disc. This is the same software that we used on the Envy 17 3D to give games a 3D kick in the pants. Basically, you need 3D Ignition to serve as the launcher to your games. 


A while back, we had Cameron from the Envy team go into how it worked on a basic level. The short version: The TriDef software looks into the DirectX 3D calls within a game and translates that into 3D gaming. I went on to show exactly how to set up 3D profiles inside of 3D Ignition launcher. (Just follow the steps in this story and you should be fine.)

 

A couple games worth giving a go:


The Fallout 3 games

Assassin’s Creed series

Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2 (and just about anything else made by Valve)

World of Warcraft

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (in Call of Duty: Black Ops, I ran into a slight graphic issue with broken textures.)


Speaking of games, all this testing gave me a bright idea: Since this is a 3D display packing VGA, DVI-D and HDMI ports, I should be able to just plug in my PS3 and go 3D hog-wild, right? Not quite. Fair warning guys: As you probably know that just because a device promises 3D, doesn’t mean it’s ubiquitous. For example, I tried playing Sony’s Resistance 3 on this screen because it’s been touted to have great 3D effects. It didn’t work. Why? My best guess: That game is trying to drive two stereo images to the screen. Other games such as Sega’s Captain America and Ubisoft’s Avatar give you options to get the effect through a variety of different 3D technologies. So those games can work.


In short, since the 2311gt relies upon the software that you need to install on your computer, you’re only going to get the effect when you plug in a PC that has the right software installed to run the show. 


How often am I gonna actually use the 3D to justify this to the wife / husband / person who’s gonna give me guff when I tell them I want to buy this thing?

 

Remember how I mentioned up top that you’re getting an inexpensive 3D monitor? Well, since it’s a passive screen (not running at 120Hz), it saves you a little money in the upgrades department as well. The passive screen means that you don’t always need to sweat grappling with buying the latest graphics cards in order to make the 3D effect work. So long as the above-mentioned software bundle is installed, it just does. 


….And a couple things about the non-3D stuff.

I like that the monitor – while not crazy-thin – is roughly the same size as the 2310e and has all the buttons lining the lower right section of the bezel…juuuust on the edge of the undercarriage so that they are easy to get to, but not easy enough to accidentally bump. Another bonus, besides the free CyberLink PowerDVD software and TriDef software, is that you get all the cables you need in the box – HDMI and VGA.


Now, I know I say this often but it bears repeating, this is the sort of thing you need to see for yourself to see if it’s right for you. I know some buddies that have problems seeing 3D content altogether. And some methods make people’s eyes hurt. “Try it before you buy it!” is my mantra with stuff like this. All right, I’ve spoken my piece after playing with the 2311gt for a couple days, now’s your chance to fire away with any questions that you might have. Hit me in the comments!





Darren Gladstone

Darren Gladstone (@Gizmogladstone) TNB's Blogger-in-Chief geeks out over games, gadgets and hot laptops.

 

Tags: 3D| display| HP| monitor
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