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

Results: Brightness And Contrast

Uncalibrated

Before calibrating any panel, we measure zero and 100 percent signals at both ends of the brightness control range. This shows us how contrast is affected at the extremes of a monitor's luminance capability. We do not increase the contrast control past the clipping point. While doing this would increase a monitor’s light output, the brightest signal levels would not be visible, resulting in crushed highlight detail. Our numbers show the maximum light level possible with no clipping of the signal.

Our comparison group consists of the last six desktop monitors reviewed at Tom’s Hardware.

The PQ321Q slightly exceeds its claimed spec of 350 cd/m2. There is more than enough light available from the display for just about any environment.

Unfortunately, the effect on black level is negative.

A result of .5088 cd/m2 is fairly high compared to the competition. And it is higher than the Planar’s value, even though that screen is almost 100 cd/m2 brighter.

Here’s the final contrast result.

Asus' PQ321Q won’t be sold on the basis of its contrast performance. Since this is our first IGZO-based display, we can’t say if low contrast is inherent to the technology. We currently have Dell’s 4K screen in the lab as well, and we expect to be looking at Sharp’s model soon. After that parade of Ultra HD decadence, we'll know if IGZO gives up contrast superiority to IPS, or if Asus simply made influencing design decisions.

We believe 50 cd/m2 is a practical minimum standard for screen brightness. Any lower and you risk eyestrain and fatigue. Many monitors do measure under that level. While the comparison chart shows the absolute lowest brightness for a given monitor, we also comment on the contrast and black level results at a 50 cd/m2 setting.

The PQ321Q has a maximum output of 49.7378 cd/m2 when brightness is set to zero, which is right at our standard! We’ve been a bit concerned about the trend towards brighter monitors because some of them can’t be turned down to 50 cd/m2, which is preferable in a dark environment. Fortunately, the PQ321Q has enough luminance range to reach both very high and low brightness levels. For these tests, we only turned down the brightness. Black Level and Contrast were left alone.

The PQ321Q’s black level improves mightily when you turn the backlight down. A result of .0729 cd/m2 puts it right in the middle of the pack.

The on/off contrast ratio stays about the same whether the backlight is turned all the way up or down. The image is very consistent in quality regardless of your preferred light level. Even though the contrast numbers are on the low side, perceived contrast is pretty good thanks to spot-on gamma performance which we’ll talk about on the next page.

After Calibration

Since we consider 200 cd/m2 to be an ideal point for peak output, we calibrate all of our test monitors to that value. In a room with some ambient light (like an office), this brightness level provides a sharp, punchy image with maximum detail and minimum eye fatigue. It's also the sweet spot for gamma and grayscale tracking, which we'll look at on the next page. In a darkened room, many professionals prefer a 120 cd/m2 calibration. We find this makes little to no difference on the calibrated black level and contrast measurements.

Hitting the 200 mark on the PQ321Q is tricky because the Brightness control is extremely coarse. Each click of the 30-step slider results in a change of almost 12 cd/m2. After tweaking the Contrast control, we got it to settle at 197.3585 cd/m2.

You’ll want to lower the Black Level control to a point just before detail is clipped. Anything below 28 and you won’t see the darkest steps. We used 30 so we could comfortably see detail in a moderately-lit room.

This is a good but not great result. We are glad that calibration doesn’t seem to cause any penalty in black level. Of course, the changes made to grayscale are small because the PQ321Q has such good out-of-box accuracy. And we do recommend calibration, especially considering the PQ321Q's price. If you’re going to put a $3500 monitor on your desk, it should perform at its absolute best.

Here are the final calibrated contrast numbers.

Again, the PQ321Q’s on/off contrast ratio comes in just under 700:1. Compared to most of the screens we’ve tested, that's a below-average result. At least it has excellent gamma to improve its perceived contrast.

ANSI Contrast Ratio

Another important measure of contrast is ANSI, which we measure using a checkerboard pattern of sixteen zero- and 100-percent squares. This is somewhat more real-world than on/off measurements because it tests a display’s ability to simultaneously maintain both low black and full white levels, and factors in screen uniformity. The average of the eight full-white measurements is divided by the average of the eight full-black measurements to arrive at the ANSI result.

It always impresses us when a display maintains an ANSI contrast ratio close to its on/off one, demonstrating the use of high-quality components, particularly the grid polarizer. Light leakage between dark and light portions of the image is almost non-existent.

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49 comments
    Your comment
  • "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.
    9
  • "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
  • 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
  • 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"?
    2
  • 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.
    -1
  • 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.
    -3
  • Wow. That's pricey. O,o
    1
  • Tiled screens but at least its 60Hz goodness. And proof that no bezel is possible.
    1
  • 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
  • i bet no one will use the internal speaker
    2
  • 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
  • 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.
    1
  • 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.
    3
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 1559186 said:
    "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 -
    1
  • 312980 said:
    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
  • 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.
    -2