The HOLY GRAIL Of Gaming Monitors

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Right before the end of 2019 a a pretty interesting monitor hit the studio. I know gaming monitor tech isn’t all that interesting these days, because every company tries to implement high refresh rate panels, while others like Razer tend to focus a little bit more on the exterior design to make it look more unique compared to the competition. Meanwhile picture quality has gradually improved as well, because there are now higher refresh rate IPS panels, which is pretty awesome.

Explaining ELMB Sync

This is the TUF Gaming VG27AQ. Yes, it has a confusing name and it looks like every other gaming monitor out there, but it might actually be one of the most unique. This is because ASUS has added a technology that as far as I know no one else has right now. It is called ELMB or in other words Extreme Low Motion Blur Synchronization, which is quite a mouthful but is worth learning.

All right, so first up this isn’t a full monitor view because we’re in the process of updating our testing methodologies for 2020. However, ELMB Sync did help me try out a few new tests that I’ve been working on. So think of this as an overview of a cool technology, and we will be doing a few fun comparisons to show it off. The Holy grail of moving image quality is to completely reduce artifacts like ghosting, motion blur, tearing, and stutter. Every one of these factors could negatively affect your gaming experience, and in some cases without even you knowing it. Over time, new technologies were introduced to address a lot of those issues in modern displays. For instance, if you take a look at FreeSync and G-Sync, they took care of things like tearing and stuttering, while ghosting was reduced but not eliminated by faster pixel response times.

I won’t go into detail about what it is or what causes it, but motion blur can be a positive and negative thing in games. Some titles use it as an intentional onscreen effect, but in many cases it’s distracting to some people and it can even lead to eyestrain. Monitor brands have found one of the best ways to eliminate motion blur, which is to strobe or turn off the backlight at a rapid pace. This inserts black frames while the monitor waits for pixel transitions while the fully refreshed frames are displayed as usual. It’s an interesting idea that has been named things like Light Boost, ELMB, and Aim Stabilizer. The problem is blur reduction can make micro-stutters worse, so people tend to enable VSync when it’s used. Well, that’s a serious no-no for many gamers who want the best possible frame rates.

Now this at point a lot of you might be thinking if VSync is compatible, what about Adaptive Sync, FreeSync, and G-Sync? Can they eliminate or reduce stuttering? Well those couldn’t be turned on alongside motion blur reduction until now. That is where ELMB Sync and the ASUS TUF Gaming VG27AQ come into play. Basically what this monitor allows you to do is turn on both Adaptive Sync through FreeSync or G-Sync and motion blow reduction at the same time. That’s a pretty big deal.

Specs

Alongside that feature the VG27AQ has a pretty straightforward design, and for gamers it checks off almost every box. It has a 27-inch 2560×1440 8-bit IPS screen that operates at 144Hz normally, but it can be overclocked to 165Hz by just one setting in the OSD. HDR10 is also supported, though I didn’t really see much benefit of that during gaming. There’s plenty of pivot, tilt, and height adjustments to the point where this whole monitor can be set up in portrait mode. And for all of you wondering, it also has standard VESA mounting support as well. Meanwhile, the I/O is handled by two HDMI 2.0 ports and one DisplayPort 1.2 connector. The price of this monitor is between $400 to $450 USD.

Monitor Testing Methodology

Above you can see the setup we used to put this monitor to the test. My camera is set up on the slider and then I have the monitor running the BlurBusters UFO Test. The shooting setting on my camera set to 720p at 120 FPS, and then I made sure that the refresh rate on the display was set to 120Hz, because I wanted to make sure that both frame rates and refresh rates matched so I don’t get any flickering. The goal here is to make sure that when you’re shooting you’re basically lining up with the UFOs in line. You want to be able to move the camera across the slider and make sure that it matches the same straight line as that UFO. If you have a camera that shoots at a high frame rate this is definitely something that you can try out for yourself, provided that you have a slider. It is certainly going to take a couple of tries to get right.

Now that he knew the basics, let’s take a look at what we were able to capture, but do keep in mind that in some cases the camera wasn’t able to sync up with the panels refresh rate, so you might start to see moving horizontal lines. Let’s get started. Without ELMB Sync turned on, motion blur is pretty evident in the moving UFOs, and you can hardly see the little alien sitting inside. Even in a still shot, you can’t clearly make out the blur. Now enabling ELMB Sync adds a lot of motion clarity in almost every way. Another thing that’s obvious is a very very faint double image in the front and back of the UFO. This looks like something called a Strobe Crosstalk, which is normal for motion blur lower reduction, but in this case it’s very well controlled. It wasn’t evident in any games, at least in my opinion.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Moving onto a quick side-by-side comparison. The benefits are pretty evident, but what these moving images can’t show is how this all translates into games. The effect in games was pretty interesting since moving around at high speed didn’t really show much of a difference to the naked eye. However, when you slow things down to 120 or even 240 FPS, the benefits of this technology are pretty evident. When it comes to racing games reducing motion blur can really come down to personal preference, but they also give a chance to show this tech in action. Any object that’s moving by the camera can have a clearer look to it, but I have to wonder is this really worthwhile in this situation?

The real game changer is the addition of Adaptive Sync, since with just ELMB on there were a ton of other artifacts and turning on VSync introduced way too much input lag. However, enabling G-Sync through DisplayPort Adaptive Sync eliminated most but not all of the micro-stutter and tearing, while ELMB Sync took care of the motion blur.

Now that you’ve seen a few snapshots of the results, there are a few things that I want to bring up that are quite important. You do need a powerful GPU to take advantage of the VG27AQ’s true capabilities, since both Adaptive Sync and ELMB Sync can’t be operated between 60 and 165 FPS. This is because if the frame rates dip below that you lose the benefits of both. Also you can’t turn on ASUS’ Trace Free panel overdrive when ELMB Sync is on, but at least the option is there in the OSD. Another thing you probably noticed is gameplay shots with ELMB Sync enabled were a bit darker than those without it. That’s due to the strobing effects basically inserting black frames between panel refreshes. Luckily the effect isn’t as drastic as I saw on monitors like the Razer Raptor, but it’s still something to take into account.

Mike Chimes In

Now I’m going to let Mike chime in for a bit because he’s been using this monitor for over a week and playing a lot of games. He gets to play more games than I do, which I don’t think is fair, haha.

Mike: Here I am giving my opinion about a monitor again after using it for a little while. And let’s talk about that use, because I never even noticed a difference when I first started using the monitor along with ELMB Sync and Adaptive Sync. I think the reason for that is my brain was still attuned to the blur that I was seeing on a standard monitor. The real difference came when I ended up turning it off, and that sort of led me down a path saying this is the monitor that I’m going to be using going forward, at least until something better hits the office. And the reason for that is that I can’t really go back to a monitor that either only has G-Sync or FreeSync or Adaptive Sync and can’t enable something like ELMB Sync. Like I said, this is probably going to be my main gaming monitor going forward, ands that’s my really quick opinion about this monitor.

So there you guys have it. Let me know what you guys think about this cool tech called Extreme Low Motion Blur Synchronization. Quite a mouthful, but it’s a term that you will want to learn and probably want on your next gaming monitor.

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