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The Asus PQ321Q In Use

Asus PQ321Q 4K Monitor Review: Top-Shelf Ultra HD For $3500
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Installation

Like any bleeding-edge technology, the PQ321Q isn't as easy to use as simply plugging it in and enjoying. There are a few requirements that must be satisfied first.

First is your choice of graphics card. Obviously, it needs to support a resolution of at least 3840x2160. That’s the easy part, since a quick search on Newegg produced 59 results ranging in price from $65 to $1020. But don’t close that browser tab just yet. You can drive this particular screen using one DisplayPort or two HDMI interfaces.

If you read Gaming At 3840x2160: Is Your PC Ready For A 4K Display?, then you know the PQ321Q is not a typical LCD panel by any stretch. The real trick is achieving a 3840x2160 picture at a refresh rate of 60 Hz using the connection options that Asus gives you.

As far as your graphics card is concerned, the PQ321Q is actually two 1920x2160 panels seamlessly connected together. No, you won’t see a line down the middle. In fact, the only visual giveaway is that the two halves turn on in sequence. You’ll also see them refresh separately when you change display settings. The reason for this is that there are two scalers at work behind the scenes. Each one is responsible for half of the image. Why two? Because there is still no single-scaler solution that supports Ultra HD at 60 Hz.

None of this has any bearing on the monitor’s day-to-day functionality, though. So, returning to your choice of graphics card, you’ll need two HDMI outputs (or another digital connection adapted to HDMI) or one DisplayPort 1.2 output. Why 1.2? Because multi-stream functionality is required to make this work, and revision 1.1 doesn’t have that.

Out-of-the-box, our sample monitor was set for DisplayPort MST. We used a GeForce GTX Titan for testing, which supports DisplayPort 1.2 and multiple digital outputs that can be adapted to HDMI, so either configuration would have worked. Most folks are going to use DisplayPort though; it's just easier. Since the graphics card sees the PQ321Q as two monitors, you need Surround mode (on an Nvidia card) enabled. This happens automatically with the latest GeForce drivers.

Alright, so the DisplayPort setup is easy enough. You use one cable, a compatible output, and so long as the monitor is set to accept an MST signal, it'll run at 3840x2160 at 60 Hz. Dual HDMI connections can be a little trickier, since most graphics cards have one HDMI output, but rarely two. That's what you need, though, to provide enough bandwidth for both 1920x2160 panels at 60 Hz. Of course, the HDMI 2.0 specification was just recently released, so we expect future screens to get the throughput they need through a wider pipe. Bottom line: pick a video card that supports DisplayPort 1.2 with MST. It’s by far the most straightforward way to make the PQ321Q work.

Windows Image Quality

A monitor this expensive will appeal to well-heeled gamers and graphics professionals. Either way, you will have to live with this thing in Windows at least some of the time, so we played around in a number of applications to gauge whether Ultra HD would enhance or diminish our experience.

If you’ve made the jump from FHD to QHD, then you know that text and icons become much smaller. How you live with that depends on the quality of your eyesight. With most QHD screens, we have to employ at least some font scaling. Windows font scaling is poor at best. Text does get bigger, but it softens in the process, making it just as difficult to read as at its native size. The same thing applies to the PQ321Q. Our 200 cd/m2 calibration suddenly looked too dim because text and other on-screen objects became blurred. Turning up the backlight help, but in my opinion, using Windows 7 like many enthusiasts still are, image quality takes a step backwards. This is in no way the monitor's fault. Windows 8.1 does add scaling enhancements for high-DPI displays and per-screen scaling adjustments. However, scaled text still looks distractingly blurry to me.

The best way to retain clarity is to employ scaling options in your individual apps. Every browser has its own scaling function. These work much better than Windows’ global one. Productivity apps are the same; sizing windows to taste or setting screen font scaling options almost always results in a better image than using the OS.

Where this screen excels over all others is in graphics. Viewing a photo on the PQ321Q is an almost religious experience. Even a few inches away, you can’t see the pixel structure. A photo shot at the display’s native resolution or higher is simply stunning. Color gradations are super-smooth, jaggies are non-existent, and everything takes on a vibrancy you just don't see on a lower-resolution monitor. Gaming inspires the same reaction. The depth and clarity of the on-screen environment achieves a realism that’s leaps and bounds better than even the best QHD monitor.

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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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