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NEC MultiSync LCD2690WUXi2 Review

By: John "Award" Del Percio

A Subjective Review For Gamers

Presenting the NEC 2690WUXI2. A monitor designed for graphics, photography, and print professionals who require the utmost precision in color accuracy. While it indeed bears a price to match that noble description, it's not priced at quite the king's ransom as monitors such as LaCie and Eizo's professional offerings. For the average PC user, the price is prohibitive, but we're not average PC users. We're gamers. And higher cost performance products go with the territory so long as they're not priced too far outside the range of the required performance. Fortunately the 2690WUXI2 falls within the range of being a costly upgrade from the norm, but not so far beyond as to be exorbitant.

Before we begin our overview, a forewarning: this is NOT by any means an in-depth monitor review. There are plenty of sites that specialize in such reviews, Prad being the most prolific that comes to mind. For more intensive objective specification review and analysis, I urge you to take a look at such sites. This is a product mini-review directed specifically at the monitor's subjective application for gaming, not at the objective specifications and graphs. It was written to fill a void of information on these monitors on a topic that often appears on forums about this monitor and its predecessor, yet is seldom answered: "But how good is it for gaming?"

Disclaimer aside, let us begin. Without question, the 2690WUXI2 comes in the best packaging I've ever seen a piece of hardware come in. The extra thick, double-width corrugated box gives way to an extremely thick two layer mylar bag filling the entire cavity of the box and enshrouding both the monitor and the massive foam blocks between which it rests in it's heavy foam bag. It's very clear at first glance that care was taken with these monitors to prevent any possibility of terror from raining down upon them, be it of the impactful or saturating variety. This is special cargo! Within the box, the monitor is already attached to it's heavy wide-footed stand which features every imaginable feature, from a hydraulic lift, built in swivel, tilt, and rotation, perfect for sliding around any gaming peripherals, or angling for others to take a look at the action. "But how good is it for gaming?" Read on.

NEC 2690WUXi2 Controls

As many a forum poster points out, this is a wide gamut monitor, and, uncalibrated, can horrifically oversaturate images. This is, however, not as large a problem as many would make it appear. Upon first connecting the device and setting the early settings such as EDID and device type so that Windows will properly recognize it (or Linux, or MacOS for those inquiring,) it's obvious that icons such as Firefox's are now seen in Day-Glow Orange. This can't be good. Older Windows operating systems like XP and 2000 have some trouble with their rudimentary color management systems. Vista and most modern Linux distributions, however, handle global color management quite well. Installing a basic ICC profile for either the 2690WUXI2 or the earlier 2690WUXI will noticeably tame these out of control colors in most applications, even if it's not a "managed application" such as Photoshop, Bibble, or ACDSee. It's also worth noting that Firefox 3 now supports color management, though it must be enabled through a plugin (or a config hack.)

As most of us who owned former aperture grille CRT monitors, otherwise known by their trade names of Sony Trinitron and Mitsubishi DiamondTron, among others, know, over-saturation, within reason, can actually be visually a good thing for gaming. Thankfully, Vista's color management appears to tame most saturation problems within games too, though it's likely a side-effect, not an intended consequence. In either case, unless you're going for print-quality colors in-game, and I can assure you even for screenshots here we really couldn't care less, the in-game appearance is beautiful. Breathtaking even. Certainly on par with the finest CRTs of yesteryear, assuming you can get over the inherent issues of LCD tech in general. The output of a still screen easily replicates a print medium as opposed to computer graphics. Assuming you have the video hardware to drive the massive 1920x1200 resolution, that is. But hey, it could be worse: It doesn't need dual-link bandwidth!

NEC 2690WUXi2 Logo

In the quest for the perfect display we tend to boast phrases like "CRT-like." While the image of the 2690WUXI2 is certainly CRT-like in most ways, it must be said that the black levels suffer a bit, both by way of being an LCD, and specifically by being an H-IPS panel. While the IPS panel is the cause of the great image quality, it's also the downfall of the darkest black levels. Within a calibrated norm, the blackest black is still dark gray. The ATW polarizer does a great job at mitigating the "white glow", but as IPS panels tend to have a worse white glow than other monitor types, this brings the shift back to "slightly above average." This is not an image destroying trait, however, as the image is overwhelmingly stable and will make most wonder how they ever used the TN panels that completely saturate the market. "Overdrive" as it's sometimes called, or "response improve" as the 2690 tends to refer to it does a commendable job at keeping the screen refresh lightning fast with little to no artifacting detectable. There was no feeling of a delayed refresh or "ghosting" in even the most intense battles, with all screen motion being satiny smooth. When the little GeForce 8800 video card could keep up with it, anyway.

For us PC/console hybrid gamers that like to take todays consoles and use them on a PC monitor, the 2690WUXI2 offers a full assortment of inputs. There's a VGA port for connecting analog devices that support it (XBox 360, namely,) and HDCP support on BOTH DVI ports, meaning PlayStation 3 can run over an HDMI-to-DVI adapter in full 1080p in the three or four games that support it. The HDCP handshake can be slow enough at times to require turning off the "off on signal loss" feature, however this can be accomplished with two button clicks when the signal loss dialog appears. With this, the expense of buying separate monitors and televisions is spared, making the 2690 a great value for a traditional gaming setup for all devices.

Also, thankfully for consoles the display supports "unscaled", "aspect" (16:9 with "letterbox" bars), and "expansion" (full screen stretch) scaling modes. This means 720p games for the PS3 and XBox 360 don't need to be stretched out of proportion to display on the screen. Also supported is a custom resolution scaling, a feature seldom seen even on dedicated scaling units. On the 25.5" 16:10 display, 16:9 content is displayed at a height of just slightly shorter than full screen height on a 20" 4:3 LCD or 22" 4:3 CRT. With a custom scaling output, a slight stretch can be applied to bring this back to the same vertical height with negligible stretching appearance. Most console gamers will choose aspect mode, but options are always great to have. In addition while there is no way to calibrate a console using the hardware LUT's ala Spectraview II and a proper colorimeter, a vast array of settings are available in the menu that would normally be accessible only via the service menu of most HDTV's. With a colorimeter such as Spyder TV and more advanced software such as that from the HCFR project, purists can do a lot of tweaking. Those less prone to play with color wheels will be delighted at the extensive array of basic options all the same, brightness (with "auto luminosity" it is measured in cd/m2 for an absolute intensity,) contrast, black level, gamma curve, gamma offset, and color temperature. Also thankfully is the fact that with a little attention paid to initial configuration, "over-saturation" rarely becomes an issue on consoles intended for HDTV, HD content rarely ever specifies an unrestricted "full intensity" value for any color.

NEC 2690WUXi2 Back

There are some minor issues with the display, however, for the most hardcore gamers in the crowd. For the lightning-response driven FPS gamers in which a lost frame costs a frag, this monitor is absolutely not for you. Boasting a small two frame average input lag, that will be enough to put off the elite gamers in the crowd. For those looking for beauty over speed however, the screen will not disappoint. Considering the immense amount of processing going on behind the scenes, there is some very powerful hardware behind the panel to do all that in only two frames lost, however there is a noticeable amount of heat generated by the device resulting from the combination of processing and the pure nature of power-hungry IPS display technology. Also, from the beauty aspect, there can, at times, be a noticeable glow from the edges and corners, as was noted about the predecessor, the 2690WUXI. This issue has not been fully resolved in the 2690WUXI2, though I have not found it to be a significant nuisance in testing.

There's an advantage behind all this processing, however, that may help to lure in a few of the performance oriented gamers. How does "free FSAA" sound? Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? While it's not directly FSAA as we know it in video card terms, the built-in scaler has a slight blurring effect designed to yield smooth images on video content. The net result is, as a little trick, rendering slightly below the monitors max resolution and allowing the very high quality internal scaler to do the scaling work instead of the video card produces an analog CRT-like effect, negating the need for frame-killing FSAA on the video card in many games. For that, a two-frame loss may be worth it. SLI-fanatics running 8x full screen anti-aliasing at 1920x1200 won't care. The rest of us, however, will.

As this is a subjective review, not an objective hardware review with bells, whistles, charts, and graphs, it would be inappropriate to include an actual numerical score at the end of the review. We're only looking at a single use of the monitor: gaming. As such, while a physical score is absent here, I would have no hesitation recommending the MultiSync LCD2690WUXi2 to any gamer, PC or console, that doesn't mind doling out a bit of a hefty fee for one of the most beautiful and accurate monitors capable of handling games exceptionally well. It's also an obvious choice for those gamers that also have need of top quality easy-on-the-eyes text or precision colors in graphics editing for professional purposes. For hard-core competitive gamers that need frame-perfect output and zero input lag, you're going to be stuck looking at lesser quality monitors that have lightening response times as the two frame loss may be a bit much for you. If you're a competitive gamer that still doesn't get the whole input lag thing and haven't noticed any problems yet on other monitors, ignore it, only the truly hardcore seem to care, and this is by far not the worst lagging monitor around. The 2690WUXi2 will most certainly be near the top the wish list for obsessive gamers everywhere!

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