Back in October, during the //BUILD/ conference, I attended the Microsoft DPE Party Cruise. Let’s just say the DPE group knows how to throw a party. I’ll leave those stories for another day. During this party, Planar was raffling off three of their much anticipated Helium 27” touch displays. Well, that was my lucky day, because I was one of the lucky winners of the Helium 27” touch monitor. This display retails for $899. What is a Helium display?
“The Planar Helium™ 27-inch multi-touch monitor is a bright, slim profile interactive touch display with a smooth all-glass front surface, wide viewing angles and a built-in full HD webcam. With very light pressure from the user, the unique, easy-to-use desk stand is easily adjustable from 15° to 70° and flat, creating the ultimate touch experience on the desktop.”
Here are the key specs of the device:
- 27″ widescreen interactive display with a 16:9 aspect ratio
- Multi-touch with up to 20 touch points
- Ultra-thin profile – less than 2″ deep
- Unique, easy-to-use desk stand capable of 15° to 70° and flat tilt range
- Smooth zero bezel all glass front surface
- Analog, HDMI, DisplayPort video inputs
- Built-in Full HD webcam and microphone
- Recognizes touch input from finger, thin gloved hand, or conductive stylus
- Multi-touch when using Microsoft Windows® 7 and 8 operating systems
- Compatible with mounting options that use the VESA standard
- 3-Year Customer First™ Warranty featuring FREE 2-Day Advance Replacement
Looks pretty sweet right!? I have been using this for a week now and thought I would share with you my impressions and experiences with the display. Keep in mind, that my review will not be all that technical, but rather concentrate on the user experience of using the display in my daily life.
As the specs state, this monitor has HDMI, analog, and DisplayPort video inputs. I was surprised that it didn’t have a DVI input. This monitor has all the display ports you need to connect this to a device of your choice. It even ships with the cables necessary to make those connections. My biggest issue with these connection inputs is their location. They are at the bottom of the display and are very difficult to connect.
The best way to connect these inputs is to lay the display on its glass face (on a soft surface so you don’t damage the glass), and then make the necessary connections. Trying to make connections while the display is in an upright position is just a pain.
The 27” screen supports a resolution up to 1920 x 1080 and a contrast ratio of 5,000:1. I was hoping that this display would go up to a resolution of 2560 x 1440 to compete with Dells XPS One 27 All-in-One. Even though it doesn’t go any higher, the resolution is comparable with all other touch displays on the market.
My biggest problem with the screen is its reflectiveness. It’s like a mirror.
My office has a lot of light during the day, and staring at a mirror all day is a deal breaker. I was hoping to use this monitor to test my Windows 8 applications as I develop them, but the amount of reflection immediately eliminated it from my daily work.
Another issue I had is with the color. Out of the box, the color is not even close to being correct. Look at the difference between my 1 year old Samsung BUILD tablet I got last year, and the brand new Helium display.
You can easily notice the difference in black levels around the image (me back in my military days), as well as the color of greens and browns. There is no contest. The Samsung wins hands down. Luckily you can adjust the color of the display using the display’s built in menu.
Unfortunately, the menu doesn’t respond to touch and is a pain to adjust with the buttons on the bottom of the monitor.
Another disappointment for this display came in the form of touch points. The specs clearly state that the monitor supports up to 20 touch points. Unfortunately I never even got close to that. I could only get 10 touch points to register at one time. 10 touch points seems to be the standard with all the touch displays on the market today, but I was told 20, so I expected 20.
I do really like the tilt options with this display. It tilts anywhere from 15 degrees to 70 degrees. You can even collapse the kickstand completely to lay the display flat.
Although, because of the location of the connection inputs, when the display is in the flat position, all the cables are now pushed forward. This is a little awkward because the cables are normally routed to the back of the display to be hidden behind the desk. Once it’s flat, it will need much more slack in the cables and require you to reroute them around the front of the display.
One place this display shines is with the sensitivity and the accuracy of its touch support. Grabbing resize handles of application windows is not an issue. Wherever you put you finger is where your touch gesture will be registered. This is probably the BEST feature of this display.
One last thing I would like to mention about the screen is that when I received my display, it appeared to have imperfections in the glass. Not sure if this is debris trapped between the glass and the screen, or if I have pixels burnt out, but I have quite a few of them in various locations on my screen. (Circled in red)
The Helium does come with a built in webcam and microphone. Sadly though, the webcam is nearly useless from a sitting position. With the display angled slightly you will only see the tip top of my head.
If I adjust the display to be angled at it’s minimum 15 degrees, you can only see the top half of my head.
Keep in mind, I am 6’ 3” tall and I am only getting half of my head in the camera from a sitting position. This was another deal breaker for my office use. I work remotely and I am always in video meetings. Can’t have a video meeting without being in the video, and I don’t want to have to stand up the entire meeting.
The speakers are another issue for me. The speakers are located on the top-rear of the device. This projects the sound away from the user.
I am assuming that Planar was planning on the sound bouncing off the wall behind the display, but what if there is no wall behind the display. In my case I have stairs behind my display, so the sound will easily travel down the stairs because the volume will have to be up so loud for the user to hear it.
I personally can’t get the sound to work consistently. I have my Helium connected through HDMI and have selected to use the Helium as my default sound device.
Unfortunately the sound is flaky. What I mean by that is that sometimes I will not get any sound coming from the Helium speakers. Event though the sound bar reports sound being output, there is no sound coming from the Helium speakers. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t work, I have to log out and then log back into Windows to get the sound back.
Final Grade – F
I am extremely grateful for winning the Planar Helium 27” touch display, and I would like to thank
Planar Microsoft for being generous enough to raffle off three of these devices to the developer community. Unfortunately, based on the display I received and my experience using the display, I cannot recommend this monitor. There is nothing this monitor provides that warrants a $899 price tag. If I would have bought this monitor, I would have returned it.
So what did I do with the monitor? Since I can’t use it, I gave it to my two daughters (ages 2 and 6). If you have had a different experience, I would love to hear about it.