ViewSonic Returns to Gaming in a Big Way

The day before our flight to IFA (watch for the full report soon!), we attended an event by ViewSonic, in London, where the company was introducing new gaming monitors. ViewSonic has recently partnered with Epsilon eSports (Display Monitor Vol 21 No 31), which the company hopes will help to inform decisions about future gaming screens. When the sponsorship began, the team members told ViewSonic about features they would like to see – some of which were already on the new products, said European MD Mark Lufkin.

Lufkin explained that ViewSonic Europe has moved from mostly producing small, value screens to larger, premium models after he joined two years ago. The company offers the VP (CAD/CAM), VG (graphics), VX (gaming and home entertainment) and VA (value) ranges; the new products will be premium models positioned between the VG and VX series.

Desktop computing is moving towards UltraHD, which has “huge potential” – even more than the format does for TVs. There is little TV content available today; however, PC users benefit from a larger display area to work in and are more likely to watch user-generated content, such as that from UltraHD camcorders. There is also, of course, gaming.

At Computex 2014, Intel said that the price of UltraHD monitors could go below $400 this year (Display Monitor Vol 21 No 23); ViewSonic is working towards that goal, aiming to put the format into mainstream use. The VX2880ML, first seen at CES 2014 (Display Monitor Vol 21 No 3), is the first step.

Why is ViewSonic looking to gaming? It is a huge market, bigger than the whole music and film entertainment industries, and almost as large as film and video. According to New Zoo, there are 553 million gamers in EMEA, spending more than $19 billion annually.

Worldwide, the gaming market is dominated by PC gamers (40%), followed by console (29%), mobile (19%) and handheld (including tablets) (12%). ViewSonic is producing displays for the PC, console and mobile (via MHL) market segments. High-end console gamers prefer them over TVs because of their fast response times.

It’s All About the Refresh…

Clare Chuang, desktop monitor product manager, introduced the new products. The first and standout model is the VG2401MH, a 24″ monitor with a TN panel, providing a 144Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time. Game Mode enhances visibility in dark areas and the Aim Point Assistant brings up a large crosshair in the centre of the screen when activated.

Gamers often use their screens for long periods of time. ViewSonic caters for this with a blue light filter, cutting as much as 87% of blue light from the screen. The image is also flicker-free (we asked which technology this used and was told it was DC modulation, not PWM – “It’s the superior technology”, Lufkin told us later), and the monitor has an adjustable stand.

Resolution is 1920 x 1080, with 170 deg /160 deg viewing angles and 350 cd/m² of brightness. The VG2401MH features DisplayPort, HDMI (x2), dual-link DVI and USB ports, as well as two 3W speakers. It will be available in October for £250 ($410).

Next, Chuang talked about the VX2880ML – ViewSonic’s ‘affordable’ UltraHD monitor. It was launched in July (Display Monitor Vol 21 No 29) and can be purchased now for £400 ($660). Because price is a focus with this monitor, it shows UltraHD content at 30Hz, not 60Hz.
The VX2858SML (Display Monitor Vol 21 No 29), VX2263SHML-W, VX2363SHML-W (launched in June) and TD2340 and TD2740 touch displays (Display Monitor Vol 20 No 3) were also highlighted for gaming use. ViewSonic is offering a free PC game to users who purchase the VG2401MH, VX2880ML or either touch monitor.
…So What About Freesync?
As well as Epsilon, ViewSonic is working closely with AMD. Chief gaming scientist (could you ask for a better job title? – TA) Richard Huddy took the stage to talk about AMD’s advancements in this area, and for gamers in general.
In June, AMD updated its Eyefinity multimonitor software. Eyefinity can now control up to five (!) monitors at once, in landscape or portrait modes. It’s not for everyone, of course – Richard ‘Shox’ Papillon, a pro Counterstrike gamer and member of Team Epsilon, uses a 4:3 aspect ratio to focus his eyes on the action, said Huddy. For those gamers that do want to use several monitors, it’s now easier than ever: Eyefinity can now be enabled with a single button click.
Huddy spent a lot of time explaining Freesync (AMD’s anti-screen tearing feature (Display Monitor Vol 21 No 4)) – we had an advantage in that we’ve been covering the technology since January! He said that there wouldn’t be an announcement from ViewSonic today, but hinted strongly that a product is under development. Lufkin said the same when we talked to him later on, and added that ViewSonic has trialled both Nvidia’s G-Sync and Freesync. “We didn’t think that G-Sync offered enough advantages to be worth the cost”, he said, “but Freesync is really interesting”.
Freesync is only a codename, Huddy said at the end of his talk. When it is released, it will be known as something different.
After his talk, we caught up with Huddy to discuss interfaces. He had made a big deal of framerates in his talk, but it doesn’t matter how powerful the GPU is or how fast the display – if the interface is too slow, it becomes a bottleneck.
Let’s assume that an UltraHD display shows 8 million pixels (actually it’s almost 8.3 million, but this was napkin maths). Huddy worked out that, to transmit UltraHD content at 60Hz and 32-bit of colour, an interface would need to support almost 2 billion bytes per second – roughly 16Gbps. DisplayPort 1.2 can reach this speed, but the HDMI connections ViewSonic is using (HDMI 1.4) cannot – so content is limited to 30Hz.
The full range of human vision is about 8k resolution, “So future connectors need to be able to transfer a whole load more data if we want to deliver a system that can saturate the human visual system”, said Huddy. We look forward to seeing these connectors (and the accompanying displays)!
The event closed with a series of competitions, being run on the VG2401MH. Attendees had the chance to test their gaming skills against two of Epsilon’s pro players, with the chance to win a full gaming set-up (mouse, keyboard and mouse mat) in Team Fortress 2, or a VX2880ML monitor and AMD R9 graphics card in Counterstrike: Global Offensive. I tried my hand, but was destroyed in short order (I kept looking for my Fireball spell – only gamers will understand this joke – TA). To put it in perspective, the winner in CS:GO only had three kills, but was killed 10 times by Shox!
All of the above prices are ex VAT.