Zalman ZM-M240W Stereoscopic 3D Monitor

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Product: Zalman ZM-M240W 3D Monitor
Provided By: Zalman USA

Price: Find Lowest Price Online

 

Introduction:

Zalman is not the first company you probably think of when it comes to 3D monitors and 3D gaming.  Traditionally, this company has spent a lot of time and effort in the cooling market.  They were the pioneer in quiet "enthusiast" computing and still maintain a line of CNPS (Computer Noise Preventative System) products.  Today we are looking at the culmination of years of research and development into 3D technology as we take a look at the ZM-M240W Stereoscopic 3D monitor.  This is not your 3Dwann Vision compatible display that requires $150 glasses.  This unit we have uses an interlaced polarizing technique to tune the image for your right and left eyes.  The upside is that glasses for this unit will set you back as little as $3.  It's not all upside though and we'll take a closer look at this as we continue through this review.

Box

 

First Impression:

We've been following the progress that Zalman has been making with their 3D monitors for a while and it appears that they have a unit ready for retail with the ZM-M240W and it comes in a very nice retail package.  The display also comes with glasses, a driver CD (iZ3D drivers) and a power brick as the monitor's power supply is located out of the screen instead of built in.  I'm not sure if I'm a fan of this idea as it is nicer to not have to worry about bringing this along when you pack it to your favorite VulcLAN.   Also, the monitor is not height-adjustable, but it does tilt up for a better viewing angle if required.

Bundle
Bundle
Glasses In Case
Glasses in Case
Clip-on & Full
Clip-on & Full Glasses

 

The stand feels a bit flimsy on this unit, but it is priced accordingly.  It's not a $400 24" unit - like the ASUS 120Hz 3DVision-compatible monitors.  I guess you get what you pay for in terms of build quality.

LCD Front  LCD Rear

 

Closer Look:

The monitor look and feel isn't all that special in a lot of ways.  Just underneath the screen in the center are the typical menu buttons that allow you to adjust brightness, contrast and more.  The center of these buttons holds the power button and just above it a small LED that indicates power status.  The monitor can use either VGA or DVI connections and this gives you a bit more flexibility that some 3D Vision monitors don't.

VESA Mount
VESA Mount
Screen Buttons
Screen Buttons
Connections
Connections

 

There is also an audio port that allows you to pump some tunes into your monitor and listen to audio over the small speakers.  While this may be overlooked, this is a nice touch that gives you audio from a desktop if you don't have speakers or headphones handy.  The quality is not super great - but I've yet to hear great sound coming from a computer LCD.

If you don't like the stand and you have a 100mm x 100mm VESA mount you can remove the stand and use this instead. This is pretty standard and is nice to see included on this display.

 

ZM-M240W Features:

The following features and specifications have been pulled from the Zalman product page and posted here for your convenience.  For up to date info, make sure you head on over and get the latest details, but for now you can skip through some of the features that we believe to be more relevant.


 Feature-1

 Feature-2

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 Feature-4

 Feature-5

 

 

 

  Specs



 

A Word About Testing:

In everything we try and be fair, accurate and as objective as possible when it comes to testing hardware.  In the past, LCD reviews were done completely subjectively, but we have purchased some equipment that takes some of this out of the equation.  Take a look at our LCD Testing methodology over here to get a better idea of how we test LCDs.

We won't spend much time in the menu; it is pretty standard although a little stripped down in terms of contrast, color adjustments and the like.  The only real setting in the menu that will help you tweak your screen is the "Brightness" and "Contrast" control.  We weren't able to do the Color Accuracy testing as we didn't have access to the Colorimeter at this point.  As this LCD is designed for gaming and 3D images, we'll focus more on brightness, contrast ratio and actual gameplay experiences.

Contrast Ratio & Uniformity: 

With the brightness and contrast set to defaults, we take our contrast readings.  With this setting chosen and the display calibrated we set out to find the "real" contrast ratio of the ZM-M240W. 

 Black Spot
White Spot
Contrast Ratio
1.1
229 208:1

 

I know we may take some flak for the above results, but this contrast ratio is exactly what the consumer will see when the display is set up properly.  It doesn't come close to being 1000:1 and even when we maximize the contrast and brightness, we don't get much above 250:1.  Keep in mind that this display is still very nice, clear and doesn't burn your eyes with too much brightness.  Companies pad their specs, much like gamers pad their stats in their favorite online game.  It doesn't mean the product is bad, merely that specs are over-rated.

 

We use our luminance meter in a dark environment to measure brightness uniformity.  To measure brightness, we use a bright white screen and measure across the screen in a grid to get our readings.  The brightest spot is considered to be 100% and the blackest point (with a black screen) is considered to be reference 0%.  The other values are obtained by calculating the difference between the two.  The screen is often brightest near the center. 

 3D Brightness Chart
3D Brightness Uniformity
2D Brightness Chart
2D Uniformity

 

 

As you can see the backlight drops off in certain areas of the display, but never drops below 78% of the brightest point.  While that may sound like a lot, often other "premium" displays from other companies can vary as much as 30%.  The Zalman ZM-M240W comes in with a maximum 22% variation.

On the last page we'll cover some real-world applications including gaming and movies in 3D as well as day-to-day tasks before we wrap things up.

 

 

Performance - Text:

The majority of my use and is text and internet browsing and I used the ZM-M240W in this regard as a primary display on a gaming PC for several weeks and was very pleased with the overall text quality.  The resolution on this 24" unit is fairly typical 1920x1080 and the fine dot pitch makes it very clear and readable.  One thing that you may not realize however, is that when you wear the glasses on a 2D desktop, the text it almost totally unreadable as the screen has a fully interlaced appearance.

 

Performance - Video:

I didn't have much time to watch movies, but I did make sure to watch some movies and 3D clips on the ZM-M240W.  Both VGA and DVI connections performed well and I noticed no issues with the screen for watching movies.  Keep in mind that you will need 3D movies in order to take advantage of the screen when watching movies.  A Samsung TV on the other-hand can up-convert 2D into 3D and this will give the consumer more 3D content to look at.  Thankfully, Zalman has included 3D Video player software and even a tool to make Stereoscopic desktop wallpaper.

 

Performance - Gaming:

I'm spoiled when it comes to gaming on LCD displays.  I currently use a 30" Samsung 305T or an ASUS 24" 120Hz display and am used a pretty fluid gaming experience.  In terms of 2D gaming, the Zalman ZM-M240W is pretty much flawless as it has enough brightness and contrast to make your games shine.  This is a 3D monitor however so we must spend a bit of time on 3D performance.

Crysis 2 3D

Crysis 2 3D

Crysis 2

MW2 - 3D

MW2 - 3D

Modern Warfare 2

 

I've done a fair bit of gaming over the past few months with the NVIDIA 3D Vision kit on the ASUS LCD and this gives be a base-line for comparing the Zalman passive solution.  Active 3D shutter glasses always provide you with a full-resolution experience, but at the cost of a 60Hz flicker that can cause extra eye-strain.  The passive Zalman solution doesn't pose this type of eye-strain, but you do lose half of the horizontal resolution.  Another drawback is that the convergence and separation have to be set to a static setting and while the iZ3D driver tries to "auto focus" for some games, it is very hard to setup the distant objects to be clear when keeping the foreground objects clear as well.

After a fair bit of tweaking, I was able to play Unreal Tournament 3, Modern Warfare 2, Crysis 2 and more games in 3D with great results.  Even though the image does look a bit interlaced through the glasses, I found there to be a lot less eye strain with the Zalman solution than with 3D Vision from NVIDIA.  There is no flicker and if you can get convergence and separation nailed down, you'll have a good experience.

As with most 3D games and movies I've watched; less is more.  If you set the separation too high, you expose the problem with 3D content that cannot be overcome: the point of focus (screen 24" away) and the point of convergence of your eyes are at two totally different lengths.  This is what can cause eye-strain and why 3D doesn't "work for everyone".  Most of the time I set the separation to about 5 - 10 and had a great experience as this added depth to the game without making my eyes strain off into the distance that really isn't there.

 

I can game for hours on the Zalman ZM-M240W LCD, and even though the image quality is half-resolution of the NVIDIA solution, it does provide an experience that is easier on my eyes - once you get the settings tweaked just right. 

 

Conclusion:

The 3D debate is long from over and there is not a definitive winner at this point.  Active shutter glasses do provide the best image quality - but at the expense of eye-strain and cost.  Polarized (passive) solutions like the Zalman ZM-M240W can ease the eye-strain, but are a bit more finicky to set up and provide their own sets of challenges.  I've been using a 3D display for over 6 months as well as 3D HDTV's - all with shutter glasses, so I've seen enough flickering in my life to last my lifetime.  I really appreciate the fact that the Zalman unit uses "cheap" polarized glasses that are RealD compatible.  That is possibly one of the best reasons to pick up the ZM-M240W - price.

Image quality is average and I had trouble getting one game to render properly at all - but overall the experience was pretty decent.  I actually used the ZM-M240W one evening for a bunch of online play and I found that it wasn't a hindrance in performance like I've seen with active shutter glasses.  I was able to keep gaming for hours with these and didn't do too bad.   Any competitive gamer will tell you that gaming competitively in 3D is impossible.  With the Zalman ZM-M240W - it was possible and it did so without making my eyes bleed.

3D technology is probably here to stay (in one form or another) and this screen enables you to find yourself a bit more immersed in your favorite game.  Is it the best solution on the market?  Probably not, but it is affordable and is one of the first polarized displays we've seen to hit the mainstream.  There will be a lot more competition in the near future to keep Zalman innovating.  That is important as products will get better and the consumer will win!

 

Pros:

  • Polarized glasses are affordable
  • Decent contrast ratio
  • Adequate 3D effect
  • Comes with software for playing movies and creating 3D wallpaper
  • Fully HDCP DVI + VGA connections
  • Built-in speakers 
  • Less eye-strain than active shutter-glasses

 

Cons:

  • Stand feels flimsy
  • Doesn't work on all games
  • Hard to tweak so everything remains converged and focused
  • Interlaced method cuts vertical resolution in half (540px)

 

BCCRating

Silver

I'd like to thank Zalman for sending us this display for the review.  It will be a shame going back to a lame 2D display.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.