Friday, April 4, 2014

Counting Down

As per usual I've had a few false starts to this post. I'm struggling to focus. Too many distractions and the subtle suggestions from an achy head and body that I might be coming down with something. Also whoever made the coffee at the office didn't add enough coffee. A grumpy start to a busy morning.
My wife has been very good to me in the last few days. She brought home three boxes of cookies, so I'm not allowed to divorce her for a while. And I haven't received any grief over my self indulgent technology purchases. I've been chipping away at my computer, gearing up for a bit of an update to tide me over for another year or so. For the last... really long time I've been using Dell Ultrasharp monitors. I spent a ridiculous amount of money to get a 24 inch screen when they became available. And then an only slightly less ridiculous amount of money to get a newer 24 inch screen a few years later. (I decided to dig into my old e-mails and found the order confirmation for that second purchase. January of 2009. Only five years. And to be fair that monitor is still going strong. It predates the LED craze so it kicks out quite a bit of heat, but it hasn't given me any trouble. Dell Ultrasharps are expensive because they used LCD panels that are manufactured to provide better color reproduction than the panels made for most consumer devices. Crisp, clean, photo-realistic colors on a high definition display. Well worth all the money I spent. But now technology is going in different directions. On the one side we have super-high resolution displays. On the other side we have super-high refresh rate displays.
There was some controversy over picture quality when the first 3D TVs were released. Most 3D TVs rely on high refresh rates to create the illusion of depth, so when those higher refresh rates were used to display normal content the result was disconcerting to some people. The picture seemed too crisp. Too clear. People looked plastic and moved too smoothly. Many TVs now have an option to limit their refresh rates when displaying regular content. Well that's the kind of clarity I want when I'm playing video games. I now have a relatively 'cheap' Asus monitor that is capable of displaying images at 144hz. So far I'm pretty impressed. It definitely has a much narrower 'sweet spot' than my Dell IPS panels, and I'm still fiddling with the color temperatures, contrast, and backlight settings to mitigate some of the loss in color clarity... but wow. When playing a game that can take advantage of the higher frame-rate the other issues just fade into the background.
I tried a few games that I have spent quite a bit of time with... I saw things I've never seen before. In Borderlands, when fighting up close and personal I could make out individual details that were usually just a blur of motion. It's interesting to think about how much I was compensating for the input lag inherent in IPS displays. Slowing down my actions and delaying trigger pulls to make sure what I saw was actually where I was aiming/jumping, steering. It's the same issue gamers encounter when playing timed games like Rockband or high speed driving games. Most TVs use scaling circuitry to enhance and translate inputs so that they look better on the screen. That processing causes a delay. If you're lucky it's imperceptible. If you're unlucky it means that by the time you see the prompt to press the button on the screen you've already missed your cue and failed. An easy test is to connect speakers directly to the console instead of going through the TV audio. If the audio and video isn't synched up then your video signal is being delayed by the screen.
But I'm rambling. If multi-display setups were a little more friendly I would hook up two displays to my system. One for photos and static screens and one for rapid action.
More soon!

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