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Asus PQ321Q 4K Monitor Review: Top-Shelf Ultra HD For $3500
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Covering the latest and greatest technology is what we do, and we enjoy most of the hardware we get our hands on. Asus' PQ321Q represents the highest of high-tech in computer monitors right now. And as we saw at CES, Ultra HD is the next big thing in displays. Despite the sub-$1000 TN solutions introduced at the show, Asus' screen remains a premium product for the most discerning enthusiasts. This monitor (and indeed 4K technology as a whole) has some growing pains to overcome. But for a first-gen manifestation, it's a fairly polished piece.

If you're considering spending $3500 on a new monitor, then you probably already understand this display's requirements. 3D performance aside, you need a graphics card that can output to 3840x2160 using DisplayPort 1.2 or a pair of HDMI interfaces. You're also going to want the latest drivers for your Nvidia or AMD graphics card with support for DisplayID 1.3. Otherwise, configuring this display can be a bit of a pain. Fortunately, our test platform worked just fine with Nvidia's most recent software and a GeForce GTX Titan.

While we applaud Asus for giving enthusiasts a way to connect the PQ321Q via HDMI, driving each 1920x2160 tile independently, it's a far less elegant solution. If you have GPUs fast enough to make gaming at Ultra HD viable, then you probably have DisplayPort 1.2 support built-in already. Believe us, you don't want to spend money on a 4K screen only to run it at 30 Hz. It won’t flicker like the under-driven CRTs of old, but just moving your mouse cursor around on the Windows desktop is a choppy experience.

You'll notice that I didn't cover gaming performance in this review. Fortunately our esteemed editorial director covered that subject thoroughly in Gaming At 3840x2160: Is Your PC Ready For A 4K Display? back in September. His conclusion was that you need quite a bit of graphics horsepower to even approach 60 FPS in fast-paced titles like BioShock Infinite and Battlefield 3. And remember, in that test, an pair of GeForce GTX Titans in SLI only managed 38 FPS or so.

In the end, you need to consider what you want a resolution of 3840x2160 for. No matter the answer, you need a deep wallet. But if your desire is gaming specifically, plan on buying at least one $500 or higher graphics card, in addition to the PQ321Q's $3500 price. Why not just grab one of the cheap 4K TVs everyone is talking about? They're inexpensive for a reason; you don't get Ultra HD resolution at 60 Hz, and must instead drop to 30. Upconverting lower-resolution signals works fine for video content, but 30 Hz, personally, is a big problem for gaming or even using the Windows desktop.

For photographers and graphics professionals, this monitor is more than a shiny new toy. It has the accuracy to match other pro monitors and only lacks the Adobe RGB 1998 gamut to make it an ideal anchor for a photo editing workstation. With its pixel density of 140 ppi, there is nothing else in this screen size that can display an image with greater clarity and smooth-toned loveliness. Since the death of the CRT, we’ve had only fixed-pixel displays and the constant battle to eliminate visible dot structure. Asus' PQ321Q gets us to a point where we cross that threshold, yielding a film-like on-screen image.

If you're shopping for the most formidable-looking monitor available, that's Asus' PQ321Q with its imposing size and amazing resolution. You'll spend a fair amount of money in the process, but all of your friends are guaranteed to be envious. Make no mistake; this is a luxury item that demands a potent complementary graphics subsystem. There are some idiosyncrasies associated with the two tiled 1920x2160 panels, which may compel some enthusiasts to wait until later this year for single-scaler monitors. But practically, there should be little difference between those screens and the PQ321Q.

Your number of Ultra HD-capable options will multiply in 2014, and we want you to know what you're getting into before you buy. Asus' PQ321Q isn't new, but it remains in the top tier of monitors able to display 3840x2160 at 60 Hz. A crop of TN-based panels were announced at CES for sub-$1000 prices, and as those become available to test, you can bet we'll review them. Just bear in mind that vendors changing display technology and maximum refresh rate alter the 4K experience significantly. For now, this is as good as 4K gets.

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  • 9 Hide
    cynic77 , January 23, 2014 1:05 AM
    "We’re sure it’s only a matter of time before an Ultra HD panel becomes available in wide-gamut form."That time is now. The Dell 24" UP2414Q and 32" UP3214Q are Ultra HD monitors that cover 100% sRGB and 99% AdobeRBG. This Asus you've reviewed has already been outclassed.
  • -6 Hide
    cynic77 , January 23, 2014 1:12 AM
    "We’re sure it’s only a matter of time before an Ultra HD panel becomes available in wide-gamut form."That time is now. The Dell 24" UP2414Q and 32" UP3214Q are Ultra HD monitors that cover 100% sRGB and 99% AdobeRBG. This Asus you've reviewed has already been outclassed.
  • 2 Hide
    cats_Paw , January 23, 2014 1:34 AM
    Dat Price...Good thing is you need a crazy GPU to use that resolution anyway so by the time the 4k Monitors and tvs drop down in price we might have gpus that manage them in the upper midrange of the GPU segment.
  • 2 Hide
    Shneiky , January 23, 2014 2:24 AM
    In the last chapter of the article, last paragraph:" crop of TN-based panels were announced at CES for sub-$1000 prices, and as those become available to test, you can be we'll review them. "Shouldn't that "be" be "bet"?
  • -1 Hide
    lockhrt999 , January 23, 2014 2:30 AM
    If they are putting that much resolution on this screen then why not make it 3D too (polarized)? I think it's perfectly doable and won't exceed budget.I'm talking from professional point of view. I bored of using anaglyph 3D for content creation.
  • -3 Hide
    panzerknacker , January 23, 2014 3:43 AM
    For me this is just a gimmick that can't be taken seriously. The way they had to logically divide the screen in 2 because there are no scalars yet simply screams 'niche product that you pay way too much for only to be the first person on earth using it'. Also for gaming this screen is completely useless to me with a input lag of 80ms, you take this to a LAN party and get crapped upon by those using a $100 tn panel. In the end I think this screen is a step in the right direction but for me personally they could rather revert to producing crt's again.
  • 1 Hide
    wtfxxxgp , January 23, 2014 3:48 AM
    Wow. That's pricey. O,o
  • 1 Hide
    huilun02 , January 23, 2014 4:08 AM
    Tiled screens but at least its 60Hz goodness. And proof that no bezel is possible.
  • -2 Hide
    zodiacfml , January 23, 2014 4:50 AM
    Good job but too pricey. The backlight used is for cheap TN screens. There still is no single port/cable in the market. The cutting edge is too inconvenient.
  • 2 Hide
    AMD Radeon , January 23, 2014 5:00 AM
    i bet no one will use the internal speaker
  • 1 Hide
    santiagoanders , January 23, 2014 5:51 AM
    That resolution comparison chart is quite misleading, I think owing to the 4k label with 3840x2160 underneath. The sizes show that 2k is half (in both dimentions) of 4k, but that 2k is larger than 1080p, leading to the conclusion that 3840x2160 is more than 4 times the pixels of 1080p (which it is not).
  • 1 Hide
    santiagoanders , January 23, 2014 6:10 AM
    I see that you lifted the image from wikipedia, where Accuruss made the mistake. He supposedly extended the 4k image from here, which equates 4k to 4,096 × 2,304 (the RED ONE format), but he mislabeled it as 3840x2160.
  • 3 Hide
    clownbaby , January 23, 2014 7:18 AM
    I'm seeing a lot of shallow criticism to this monitor. Many of the "problems" are not problems on the professional end as I would view them. High accuracy monitors have always demanded a substantial premium and been designed with only the professional sector in mind. This is certainly not a piece of hardware with gaming in mind. I see the dual hdmi input option as a secondary input. Lots of monitors still have VGA inputs, but nobody complains about them. Anyone with the thought of buying a $3500 monitor and not matching it with an appropriate system is putting the cart before the horse.It wasn't but 2 years ago that I started replacing my 16:10 1920x1200 IPS panels with 2560x1440 IPS/PLS panels. Color accuracy isn't of the utmost importance for me, so this model reviewed won't be on my radar, but 4k screen real estate is something I'm very much looking forward to. I'm also very much looking forward to monitors with similar pixel density in a 21:9 ratio, maybe 39" width. I'm sure there will very shortly be 4k TN options designed for gaming, and the top of the next generation of graphics cards will be ready for them. For now however, the only benefit to 4k is in the professional sector as consumer level gaming and video content are quite a ways off.
  • 0 Hide
    geok1ng , January 23, 2014 7:32 AM
    Just to add about the cheap 4K TVs: The Seiki 39" is only 30hz at 4k, but true and real 120hz at 1080p, and this without the "tiled display" cavets.
  • 0 Hide
    dgingeri , January 23, 2014 8:09 AM
    To cynic77: Those Dell monitors are only 30Hz at 3840X2160, so they aren't going to be nearly as good as this Asus. The Asus outclasses everything right now. Asus also outclasses Dell's 2560X1440 monitors because it's capable of 144Hz refresh rate, where the best Dell can do it 60Hz. It is looking more and more like Dell's days as the average user near top tier monitor supplier are ending, with Asus taking over. Sure, there are higher end monitors, but not that most people could afford.
  • 0 Hide
    Sparq17 , January 23, 2014 8:14 AM
    At this price, really more interested to see if Asus will plan to release a 4k at 120Hz refresh rate? I think this sort of future proof would justify an upgrade for a lot of people. Just wish we knew when??
  • 0 Hide
    Sparq17 , January 23, 2014 8:18 AM
    At this price, really more interested to see if Asus will plan to release a 4k at 120Hz refresh rate? I think this sort of future proof would justify an upgrade for a lot of people. Just wish we knew when??
  • 1 Hide
    ceberle , January 23, 2014 8:35 AM
    Quote:
    "We’re sure it’s only a matter of time before an Ultra HD panel becomes available in wide-gamut form."That time is now. The Dell 24" UP2414Q and 32" UP3214Q are Ultra HD monitors that cover 100% sRGB and 99% AdobeRBG. This Asus you've reviewed has already been outclassed.


    We are aware of Dell's new 4K screens. In fact, both the UP3214Q and UP 2414Q are sitting in our lab right now!

    - Christian -
  • 2 Hide
    ceberle , January 23, 2014 8:37 AM
    Quote:
    To cynic77: Those Dell monitors are only 30Hz at 3840X2160, so they aren't going to be nearly as good as this Asus. The Asus outclasses everything right now. Asus also outclasses Dell's 2560X1440 monitors because it's capable of 144Hz refresh rate, where the best Dell can do it 60Hz. It is looking more and more like Dell's days as the average user near top tier monitor supplier are ending, with Asus taking over. Sure, there are higher end monitors, but not that most people could afford.


    Dell's UP3214Q will handle 60 Hz via DisplayPort 1.2. We've had this monitor in the lab for a few weeks now and it's quite impressive! Reviews of it and the UP2414Q are coming soon!

    - Christian -
  • -2 Hide
    panzerknacker , January 23, 2014 8:56 AM
    For me this is just a gimmick that can't be taken seriously. The way they had to logically divide the screen in 2 because there are no scalars yet simply screams 'niche product that you pay way too much for only to be the first person on earth using it'. Also for gaming this screen is completely useless to me with a input lag of 80ms, you take this to a LAN party and get crapped upon by those using a $100 tn panel. In the end I think this screen is a step in the right direction but for me personally they could rather revert to producing crt's again.
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