Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

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Discorz
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Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

Post by Discorz » 19 Jun 2022, 13:31


Sample and Hold Performance

Default VRR Range: 1-360 FPS for Nvidia, 1-255 FPS for AMD gpus
For AMD range must be manually modified to 360 with CRU. LFC starts kicking in at around 30 fps and I wasn't able to modify this value anywhere. Disabling g-sync is only virtually available through Nvidia or AMD panel, there is no option within OSD.

Custom refresh rates are not supported. Nvidia is being very strict here. Only available refresh rates are 360, 300, 240, 144, 120, 60 Hz, custom ones are "out of range".

Variable Overdrive: Fast, Super Fast, Extreme
Thankfully variable overdrive is fully working on AMD cards.

Some might think what you see in test ufo is what you get in game but that is not always the case. To demonstrate this I used Smooth Frog for pursuit camera and custom TestUFO pattern. Fixed refresh rates (TestUFO, no VRR) and in-game (Smooth Frog, with VRR) frame rates can sometimes behave very different and AW2521H is a good example of that. For reviewers and testers reading, keep that in mind. This is even more true for today's vrr + strobing implementations such as ELMB-SYNC, MPRT-SYNC, Aim Stabilizer Sync which will always strobe different at fixed and vrr situations.

Copyright/Trademark acknowledgement:
Blur Busters granted unique permission to me (Discorz) to use the UFO temporarily in SmoothFrog. Normally, Blur Busters only gives automatic UFO permission only as part of posting TestUFO results anywhere on the Internet. No permission is required to post www.testufo.com results anywhere, since TestUFO results are generally self-crediting. However, due to the problem of browser vendors not yet supporting variable refresh rate, I asked Chief Blur Buster directly and obtained unique permission to temporarily use the Blur Busters UFO trademark in SmoothFrog for the purpose of posting VRR UFO results on Blur Busters. Currently, Blur Busters is working on an eventual VRR-compatible (FreeSync, G-SYNC) solution to certain TestUFO tests. These are interim results. Chief Blur Buster Mark Rejhon requests that any reviewers who want to use the copyrighted UFO trademark outside of an official TestUFO test, to contact Blur Busters for explicit permission first.


Ones framed in cyan is what testufo will show.

View images in full resolution for detail! (5972 x 2370)

Overdrive Fast

@360 Hz
Image
360 Hz input, 60-360 FPS, G-SYNC enabled, Overdrive Fast, ∼960 pps

We don't get to see panel's native performance (very likely same as PG259QN OD OFF) but we can see Fast successfully removes some of the ghosting with no overshoot and that holds true through full vrr range. This is well tuned overdrive. However ghosting is still visible down to 200 fps or even lower. There is still quite a bit of room left for improvement.

Next images are at different input refresh rates.

@240 Hz
Image
240 Hz input, 60-240 FPS, Overdrive Fast, ∼960 pps

A good eye will notice ever so slightly more ghosting as we decrease input refresh rate, more about that in Super Fast section.

@144 Hz
Image
144 Hz input, 60-144 FPS, Overdrive Fast, ∼960 pps

@60 Hz
Image
60 Hz input, 60 FPS, Overdrive Fast, ∼960 pps

Overdrive Super Fast

@360 Hz
Image
360 Hz input, 60-360 FPS, Overdrive Super Fast, ∼960 pps

Super Fast @360 Hz/fps looks ok I guess. Normally I wouldn't prefer this settings due to some presence of overshoot, but for 360 Hz I'd say it is necessary because we want to fit those response times within 360 Hz refresh window of 2,8 ms as much as possible. Unfortunately Super Fast is not fully there, some ghosting can still be spotted. Which means this fast IPS panel is not fast enough for such high refresh rates. If we were strict, this would of been a 144 Hz panel max.

Weirdly enough Nvidia/Alienware somehow managed to make this mode look like it's not fully variable. It's ok down to ~300 fps, bellow that overshoot starts intensifying, ~240-144 looks worst, from ~144 and down overdrive gain is lineary decreasing, nicely 60 Hz/fps is always overshoot and ghost free. Something in-between Fast and Super fast would be ideal, perhaps closer to Fast. Saying this for a monitor that has variable overdrive is not good. What is the point of having such feature when ideal setting is not met. Manufacturers tend to do this quite often. We want more options, preferably a 0-100 gain, yes even for variable overdrive.

@240 Hz
Image
240 Hz input, 60-240 FPS, Overdrive Super Fast, ∼960 pps

One way to reduce overshoot and ghosting is by decreasing monitor's input refresh down to 240 Hz. Notice how different the overdrive behaves. This is what I was refering to when saying TestUFO sometimes doesn't match what you get in game. This amount reminds me of VG279QM OD 80 which I believe is the maximum of what can be achieved with these 2019/2020 fast IPS panels without going too far with overshoot. All manufacturers should of stuck with this imo. For today's standards 240 Hz performs good here.

Does this mean 240 Hz is better? Well not really and it depends. We still get faster 360 Hz MPRT but due to non-instant GtG this LCD panel is not fully 1.5x better over 240 Hz. For those who are very sensitive to ghosting/trailing specifically 240 Hz or lower would suit them better.

@144 Hz
Image
144 Hz input, 60-144 FPS, Overdrive Super Fast, ∼960 pps

Reducing refresh rate further keeps improving things for this overdrive and this is nice because if overdrive gain was kept the same for all fixed refresh rates (like on most non-variable overdrive monitors) overshoot would unnecessarily worsen at lower refresh rates.

@60 Hz
Image
60 Hz input, 60 FPS, Overdrive Super Fast, ∼960 pps

Overdrive Extreme
Extreme is very similar to Super Fast and has just a little more overshoot so I didn't bother doing pursuits. This is a wasted setting imo. It would be better if Alienware left Fast as first, renamed Super Fast to Extreme and tuned something more balanced in between the two. Bellow are some existing images (from Bijan Jamshidi) so you can see what I mean.

@360 Hz 360 FPS, ∼1920 pps
https://i.ibb.co/TrQJ4bD/AW2521-H-360-H ... 920pps.jpg

@240 Hz 240 FPS, ∼1920 pps
https://i.ibb.co/vDMP95c/AW2521-H-240-H ... 920pps.jpg

Response Times
I don't have any gtg measuring equipment so I came up with these response times which are manually measured out from RTINGS charts. I haven't used any tolerance so numbers should be more realistic compared official ones. Overshoot can't be trusted since there is no information on light level and gamma correction wasn't used anyways. Unfortunately at the time of making this review monitor wasn't re-tested with new 1.2 test bench which would of include VRR 60, 120 and 360 fps data.

Fast @360 Hz 360 FPS
Image
See DIY charts of linear responses

Super Fast @360 Hz 360 FPS
Image
See DIY charts of linear responses

And here is XV252QF, Normal chart for comparison. AW2521H could of been pushed faster than Fast with no distracting overshoot.

And some extra pursuits, but at 780 pixels/sec ufo speed which the actual speed of 390Hz at 960pps preset comparison. Check what real speeds of other refresh rates here.
AW2521H, 360Hz, 780pps Fast: https://i.ibb.co/n8vp1Lx/AW2521-H-Fast-780pps.jpg
AW2521H, 360Hz, 780pps Super Fast: https://i.ibb.co/6b5H5Tv/AW2521-H-Super-Fast-780pps.jpg
XV252QF, 390Hz, 780pps (from Techless): https://youtu.be/x7PDKjUhi_I?t=149

Fast @60 Hz 60 FPS
Image
See DIY charts of linear responses

Super Fast @60 Hz 60 FPS
Image
See DIY charts of linear responses

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Last edited by Discorz on 30 Aug 2022, 16:05, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

Post by Discorz » 19 Jun 2022, 13:42


ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur)

Before enabling ULMB make sure to disable g-sync within Nvidia Control Panel, otherwise ULMB option will be greyed out.
I must warn that Nvidia's ULMB will not work with AMD cards. Stuff like this makes me and probably many others very mad. Nvidia better have a good reason why they did this.

Working with VRR: NO
Currently there are no indications of Nvidia releasing ULMB-SYNC and that is disappointing. Considering how expensive these monitors with G-SYNC module are it better be good. Hopefully we see it happen very soon. To make ULMB work G-SYNC must be disabled within Nvidia Control Panel otherwise the ULMB setting will be greyed out.

There is a +5 VT mod that allows ULMB and G-SYNC to work simultaneously, but it doesn't work as well as some might think. More on that later.

Range: limited to 144 Hz and 240 Hz only (and 60Hz with hack)
Custom refresh rates are not supported. Nvidia is being very strict with strobing flexibility.

Overdrive Adjustment: NO
For some reason Nvidia and others have been locking the overdrive when strobing modes are activated. Ok, I could accept that, but if overdrive they chose to lock to has too much overshoot then its just nonsense. That is confusing because leaving overdrive adjustable is probably an easier task than intentionally locking it.

Pulse Phase Adjustment: NO
Phase is aesthetically well tuned for all refresh rates so I guess we don't need adjustment. Although esports gamers might prefer lower lag phase which is usually less aesthetically pleasing.

Pulse Width Adjustment: YES, 10-100% in 1 step increments
Longest PW results in brightness of ∼220 nits, shortest PW is ∼30 nits.

Pulse Amplitude Adjustment: YES

Full Screen Crosstalk Reduction: YES

View images in full resolution for detail! (5972 x 2370)

PWM 100
Image
ULMB with Pulse Width 100% (max) at middle screen, ∼960 pps

More images (from Bijan Jamshidi, ∼1920 pps):
https://i.ibb.co/7gQfGsq/AW2521-H-ULMB- ... 920pps.jpg

240 Hz ULMB is only... usable, disappointingly. Nvidia opted with what looks like Extreme overdrive with too much overshoot. This amount is easily noticeable in games, therefore can be distracting. This goes to prove how much they had to push the gain to remove most of the double image caused by not fast enough GtG. Now this is only 240 Hz, imagine how would 360 Hz look if they allowed. Also 360 Hz would have more crosstalk (no QFT at max Hz).

As we decrease the refresh rate ULMB experience becomes better. There are fewer ghost images and overshoot is less distracting but still visible in some scenarios. At lower refresh rates GtG becomes much smaller proportion of refresh window so we don't need as much overdrive, which is what Nvidia did here. Motionwise I found 144 Hz ULMB to be the sweetspot. It's noticeably better experience compared to 240 or 60 Hz.

There is a 60 Hz single strobe hack which should work on all these Nvidia tuned 360 Hz monitors. The only catch I found was that games need to run in borderless or windowed mode, otherwise in fullscreen it switches back to hardcoded 59,9 Hz which does not work with ULMB. For some reason I was only able to customize resoultions from nvidia control panel, CRU didin't work. Personally my eyes can't handle strobed 60 Hz flicker but the clarity is very good. However overshoot can be noticed, but it's not strong. Timings for this one were derived from 144 Hz base, that's probably why overshoot amount is about identical for both. If this is true than deriving timings from 240 Hz would probably result in more overshoot, crosstalk and dimmer picture.

PWM 55
Image
ULMB with Pulse Width 55% (half) at middle screen, ∼960 pps

Shorter strobe durations keep improving MPRT and motion becomes sharper. Fun fact, the ∼55% 144 Hz ufo is very close to how sharp would a 1000 Hz non-strobed display look like. The future is exciting.

PWM 10
Image
ULMB with Pulse Width 10% (min) at middle screen, ∼960 pps

Motion sharpness at 10% is just insane. What is also insane is how dim the screen becomes. I purposely made the pursuits look dark to demonstrate this. Notice 60 Hz is always dimmer than 144 or 240 Hz. But ofcourse noone plays at such low brightness, I hope.

Some might notice decreasing pulse width helps with overshoot so that's one way to tame it down.

Strobe Crosstalk
Image
ULMB with Pulse Width 100%, fullscreen crosstalk, ∼960 pps

Nvidia looks to be utilizing some sort of crosstalk reduction technique such as QFT (Quick Frame Transport/Large Vertical Totals) or internal scan conversion. Full screen crosstalk is better when compared to other average displays like VG279QM. Although it is still present at 240 Hz. Too bad the overshoot is interfering. This would of been ok 240 Hz strobed display.

At 144 Hz the crostalk is almost completely gone which makes motion noticeably clearer and experience more enjoyable. We need more manufacturers to use QFT for strobing.

Because of similar timings 60 Hz looks to have identical crosstalk as 144 Hz, but due to slower refresh rate space between ghost images widens making it look worse. In this case it's inverse ghost images.

Brightness

Image

According to Tom's Hardware there is a 48% brightness reduction when strobing. Proportionally scaling the linear line down to more realistic max brigthness other reviewers measured we get around 220 nits max. I can't be sure if these numbers are correct, but it should be close enough. With 60 Hz hack brightness is lower, around 130 nits max. Classic backlight brightness (pulse amplitude) is also adjustable on top of PWM. But if 220 or 130 nits is too bright better use PWM settings to adjust it since you get MPRT improvement.

Duty Cycle

Image
ULMB, one pixel wide line panning across the screen, middle screen, ∼2000 pps

Measuring duty cycle or MPRT from pictures can't be perfectly accurate because we are limited by physical pixels or sub pixels. Just like being limited to 1 ms minimum when measuring click to photon latency with 1000 fps camera. But we can get close to accurate.

Image

For 240/144 Hz and PWM 100% I measured fixed 28% duty cycle. At PWM 55% it's around 18%. Interestingly 60 Hz and 144 Hz will have identical MPRT because of similar timings which is why it appears much darker. Looks like Nvidia is restricting resolutions flexibility based on offset from hardcoded clock frequency.
Last edited by Discorz on 20 Oct 2022, 05:17, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

Post by Discorz » 19 Jun 2022, 13:43

More coming up!
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Re: Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

Post by kyube » 19 Jun 2022, 15:58

As always, fantastic in-depth review of the motion performance of one of the 360hz panels! What I'm really baffled about is how well the 144Hz ULMB mode performs, never knew it's that good. Hopefully Nvidia will allow for more finetunning on their new +360hz panels, the future is exciting!

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Re: Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

Post by Crazyness » 19 Jun 2022, 17:56

Bravo drugar odlican posao,samo vozi! = Good job friend,keep it up dont stop!

"Disabling g-sync is only virtually available through Nvidia or AMD panel, there is no option within OSD"

bcs of that i would never ever buy this monitor.

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Re: Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

Post by ysenojftw » 19 Jun 2022, 22:52

I have mine on 360hz, on fast and notice extreme blur when I get 499 fps locked. Smooth but blurry, should I try 240hz at super fast?

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Re: Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

Post by Discorz » 30 Aug 2022, 07:46

More stuff...

Other

Brightness
Image
Regular brightness
Image
Regular vs ULMB brightness, ULMB at brightness at 100%

To capture the brightness over different OSD brightness values I used this technique. This method can't accurately measure the brightness but it can capture the curve. Then if we adjust/stretch the curve to real min and max brightness found online then the result should be accurate enough. It matches what I see, ULMB OFF and ON intersect exactly at point shown in charts. Weird 10-75-95 behavior is real, brightness doesn't change lineary.

Reaction Times ("Input Lag")
Although I'm aware humanbenchmark is not the most reliable way to test input lag but I used it anyways to see what numbers say. Input lag is very impressive, best I've experienced so far. Very similar to VG279QM. For me ∼200 ms is bad, ∼150 ms is best average I can get.

Image

Active pixels with monitor turned off
Image

Looks like the power botton only switches the backlight off/on but pixels stay active. One strange behavior reported by many with Alienware monitors. Flashing light onto screen really helps accentuate the issue.

Cooling fan
There is a fan built in to cool Nvidia's g-sync module. Fortunately fan is very quiet and I expect most people won't notice it unless you really try to. Now I have room full of acoustic panels, my pc is silent so I did notice it. The issue is the fan is always running, even when monitor is powered off. Only way to get it stop working is by unplugging the power cord. I have no idea why they made it work when monitor is doing nothing. In my case I found it quite annoying.
Last edited by Discorz on 30 Aug 2022, 16:47, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

Post by Kyouki » 30 Aug 2022, 08:43

As a owner of this monitor this review has been very insightful. Having used the monitor for so long with many ULMB and VRR combinations I can confirm most of these findings by playing.

What would you suggest the best ULMB PWM setting is and at what refresh rate?
Currently playing on 70/75 brightness I think with PWM to 60%, trying to aim for lower to slowly adjust to it overtime.
Response time set to Fast I think (trying to remember / typing on work)

Your findings in 144hz 55% PWM seems very interesting, didn't know it would improve clarity going down in refresh rate - this might come in handy for games I like to play competitively-ish but not have the needed framerate due to other factors in the game engine or hardware.

Thank you for your time/testing/post!
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OS: Fine tuned Windows 10 Pro, manual tuned.
Monitor: Alienware AW2521H ~ mix of ULMB/Gsync @ 240hz/360hz
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Re: Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

Post by Discorz » 30 Aug 2022, 10:04

More stuff...

As said earlier there is a +5 VT mod that allows ULMB and G-SYNC to work simultaneously, but it doesn't work as well as some might think. With this mod MPRT is stuck to fixed value (not a percentage of refresh cycle) for all framerates so brightness will change together with framerate, therefore flicker with framedrops. It will adopt the MPRT and overdrive of input refresh rate. In this video I used 240 Hz which is max. In conclusion it is not usable. It basically behaves the same as Gigabyte's bugged Aim Stabilizer Sync mode.

phpBB [video]
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Re: Alienware AW2521H Quick Review

Post by Discorz » 30 Aug 2022, 10:27

Kyouki wrote:
30 Aug 2022, 08:43
What would you suggest the best ULMB PWM setting is and at what refresh rate?
Currently playing on 70/75 brightness I think with PWM to 60%, trying to aim for lower to slowly adjust to it overtime.
Response time set to Fast I think (trying to remember / typing on work)
144Hz ULMB is the way to go on this panel. For best PWM keep the regular brightness at max and use PWM instead to reduce brightness/MPRT. Keep reducing it until you're satisfied with overall brightness - The lower the PWM the sharper the motion.

With ULMB overdrive is locked to Extreme or higher. Outside strobing Fast is the most balanced option for 360Hz. If the overshoot of Super Fast doesn't distract than why not use it too. Although I'd prefer they gave us something in between these two.
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