Of course what you really want to know about, and what you’ll be buying if you decide this monitor is for you, is its 3D capability. This is turned on and off using a button on the front of the casing. There’s no point looking at 2D images with the 3D facility switched on, because the monitor delivers the two kinds of images in vastly different ways.
Switching to 3D mode enables a barrier which sits between the backlight and the LCD and ensures different images are sent to the left and right eyes. Your eyes have to be in the right place to receive these two images, and when you are correctly in position for this to happen, your brain combines them into a single 3D image.
Getting things just right requires a certain amount of fiddling, both with yourself and the monitor. This is where I found the ability to tilt and swivel the monitor especially useful, but I also had to work on my own seating position a bit too.
I found getting into and then maintaining the right viewing position far more difficult than I had in the laboratory conditions in which I’d experienced the Actius RD3D. But at least I was the only user, and once I had things set up, there was no need to change them. I suspect that a second user may need to position the monitor differently and that this could get to be a bit of a nuisance: I imagine it being a little like the repositioning involved if you share a car with another driver.
On the subject of the number of users, it is worth making the point that because of the need to carefully position yourself, it is only possible for one person at a time to view 3D output. One of the potential uses for this monitor is gaming, but if you like to share the gaming experience with others, you may have problems.
These negatives noted, the 3D experience itself is stunning. It is somewhat uncanny, and takes a bit of getting used to, but the quality of output is remarkable. It’s actually a pity that this is only a 15in display, as peripheral vision makes it difficult to get lost in the images being rendered – a nice big widescreen display would make it far more immersive experience, although achieving the 3D effect might be more difficult on a bigger and wider display.
Of course, the 3D experience is not worth having if you don’t have software to take advantage of it. Sharp ships two applications to help. SmartStereo Photo Editor which formats pairs of digital images for viewing through the LL-151-3D, and SmartStereo Camera Calculator, designed for use with a stereoscopic camera to ensure production of images appropriate for the monitor.
When it comes to running third party software, this needs to be designed for use with the LL-151-3D: the monitor can’t convert 2D graphics on the fly. Sharp is a key member of the 3D Consortium and has partnered with a number of players to ensure that the software and hardware components come together. The best known of these is probably nVidia and the full list is available at Sharp’s US website.
Even with this effort, the number of real-world applications supporting the technology is relatively small: Sharp was only able to provide me with demos rather than full applications for testing purposes. The bottom line is that even if this monitor appeals, you could be waiting a while to take full advantage of what it has to offer.
There is no doubt that the LL-151-3D does precisely what it claims to, and does this impressively well. But you need to work with it in order to get its best performance – not least by finding a position away from a window, and justifying its price tag without a huge army of supporting software could prove a bit of a stretch.