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High Definition (HD) TV was first introduced in Europe in the 1990s, but it has taken some time for HD to gain market share, so it really doesn't seem that long ago when the buzz was all about HD with its '1K' resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. Now Ultra High Definition (UltraHD), with a resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, is here. UltraHD is also known as '4K' because it delivers four times the pixel count of 1K — 8,294,400 versus 2,073,600.
This review is of ViewSonic's only 4K monitor to date, although there are more on the way. From the X series — aimed at the professional, gamer and 'prosumer' markets — the VX2880ml is a 28-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio display with a White LED backlight and a 5ms response time. It has a native resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels (at 30Hz refresh), provides 10-bit per channel colour depth and supports daisy-chaining through DisplayPort connections and MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) via HDMI. The ViewSonic VX2880ml costs £359 (ex. VAT, or £430.80 inc. VAT).
ViewSonic provides a two-part, cast metal and plastic quadropod stand with the monitor, which attaches with two bolts at the back in the centre of the bottom edge. The rear two legs are on a spring-loaded swivel, allowing tilting between -5 ddegrees and 25 degrees. A standard four-bolt 10cm VESA mounting point on the back of the display allows for more flexible mounting options.
The VX2880ml's input connectors and the power connector are mounted on a recessed back panel approximately 10cm above the bottom left hand corner (viewed from the front of the display). There are two DisplayPort (DP) sockets (one in and one out), a Mini-DP socket, an HDMI connector and a jack for stereo headphones. A co-axial jack connects the outboard 19 Volt D.C. power supply.
The VX2880ml supports DisplayPort daisy-chaining via the full-size DP-out connector. ViewSonic claims that "Quad HD [2,560 by 1,440] is supported on two daisy-chained displays (two screens total), while Full HD [1,920 by 1,080] is supported on four daisy-chained displays (four screens total)". However, due to the current DP bandwidth limits, if the VX2880ml is to be driven at its native UltraHD (3,840 by 2,160) resolution, only the single full-size DP input can be used.
The touch-operated user controls are on an unobtrusive rectangular panel projecting beneath the centre of the bottom edge of the displays frame. To ViewSonic's credit, and unlike many other monitor designs today, the touch panel is plainly visible, easy to access and has clearly labelled touch pads. A multi-colour LED behind the power symbol indicates the display's operating status.
Repeatedly touching the '1' pad will toggle the main on-screen menu on and off, while tapping the '2' pad (with the on-screen menu off) cycles through the display inputs. The main on-screen menu offers a range of choices: Contrast/Brightness; Input select; Audio adjust; Colour adjust; Information; Manual image adjust; Setup menu; and Memory recall. When switching between the three possible inputs with pad 2, the display takes around three seconds to first flash up a message showing which input is selected; it will then either show a 'no signal' message or display an image, so a little patience is required.
Tapping the down arrow brings up the Blue light filter adjustment, while tapping the up arrow opens the ViewMode menu. When the on-screen menu is selected from the 1 pad, the arrow pads become vertical menu navigation controls and the 2 pad the item select control; within menus, 1 is used to exit.
A 3cm-high perforated grille runs the full width of the monitor above the control panel and conceals two small loudspeakers which are driven from a built-in 2W/channel stereo amplifier. Audio is controlled through the Audio adjust menu selection, with options to either adjust volume for both channels up or down, or to toggle muting on and off.
Colour settings: The Blue light filter and ViewMode
The 'Blue light filter' shortcut, via the down arrow, allows fine adjustment of the blue channel to set the display to 'warmer' tone or lower colour temperature, without having to select the main 'Color adjust' menu, the 'User Colour' controls and then the blue channel. Strictly speaking this isn't a filter, but an alternate colour balance control. The rationale behind it is that working with displays set to a high colour temperature can lead to viewing stress in the long term.
Like the Blue light filter, the ViewMode menu is another shortcut to making quite drastic global changes to the colour balance. There are six menu choices: Standard; Game; Movie; Web; Text; and Mono. Standard selects whatever colour selection has been made through the main Color Adjust menu. The Game and Movie settings make changes to the brightness and contrast to make deep shadow details more visible. The Web setting provides saturated colour, while the Text setting selects a cool colour temperature. Mono is the most drastic selection as it switches to a monochrome display. Switching between these modes takes about two seconds and the display blanks to black as the change is made. Switching between, for example, Mono and User Color can be disconcerting because, rather than stay on the the Color Adjust menu for access to the individual R, G and B sliders, the monitor switches directly to whatever the last user setting was.
The colour menu has five presets: sRGB; Bluish; Cool; Native; Warm; and the User Colour sub-menu, which allows individual settings for red, green and blue. The sRGB choice looks obviously a smaller gamut and lower brightness than the other settings; Bluish sets a relatively high colour temperature and the other four settings produce progressively warmer tones and lower colour temperatures. The Native setting is surprisingly warm in tone.
Whatever Blue light filter or ViewMode selections are made, these are always overridden by selections from the main Color Adjust menu, and User Color settings are always remembered.
Colour, viewing angle and response time
Like the majority of monitors today, the VX2880ml uses a White LED backlight, which provides a wide colour gamut. Colour performance is further enhanced by the provision of 10-bit colour depth, allowing 1.07 billion (1,073,741,824) distinct shades. ViewSonic emphasises this monitor's Flicker-Free backlighting, with the LED brightness modulation by direct current control rather than pulse width modulation, which is used on many other monitors. Like the Blue light filter, this feature helps to minimise viewing fatigue.
The TN (Twisted Nematic + film) panel in this monitor provides a wide viewing angle of 170 degrees horizontal, 160 degrees vertical and a reasonably fast typical response time of 5ms.
The VX2880ml comes with three signal cables — a standard DisplayPort cable, a mini-to-standard DP cable and a Mini-DP cable. Both a three-pin UK and a continental CEE 7/16 Europlug mains cable are supplied, which plug into the external power supply via a three-pin 'cloverleaf' connector. The power brick measures 13.4cm by 6cm by 3cm, automatically adapts to mains input between 100 and 240 volts AC and supplies 19 volts DC to the monitor via a captive cable with a co-axial connector.
Basic setup instructions are provided on two paper sheets, while the multi-language user guide is on a CD. Also supplied is the bolt-on quadropod stand.
The VX2880ml is a well specified and reasonably priced 28-inch monitor that represents a worthy entry into the 4K market for ViewSonic. As it should be for a 4K monitor, the image quality at the native resolution is stunningly sharp and clear. There is, of course, competition from other manufacturers: 28-inch 4K monitors are available, for example, from Samsung with the U28D590 at £375 (ex. VAT, £450 inc. VAT) and Iiyama with the ProLite B2888UHSU-B1 at £370.44 (ex. VAT, £444.53 inc. VAT).