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Asus ROG Swift PG278Q 27-inch G-Sync Monitor Review

Asus ROG Swift PG278Q 27-inch G-Sync Monitor Review
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We’ve been waiting to experience the wonders of G-Sync for months, and Asus is the first company to deliver a finished product. Its ROG Swift PG278Q is a 27-inch QHD TN-based display with G-Sync, 144 Hz operation, and ULMB, a new blur-reduction feature.

Ever since G-Sync Technology Preview: Quite Literally A Game Changer back in December of last year, gamers have been anxiously waiting for compatible monitors to appear. Nvidia satiated the impatient by releasing an upgrade kit a few months back that allowed adventurous owners of Asus' VG248QE to modify the display themselves, enabling G-Sync functionality with an appropriate GeForce GTX graphics board.

Today we have the first G-Sync-enabled screen in our labs, Asus’ ROG Swift PG278Q. It’s a 27-inch TN-based monitor with 2560x1440 resolution, selectable refresh rates up to 144 Hz, and motion-blur reduction courtesy of a variable backlight strobe option. Asus also confers the elite Republic of Gamers branding, reserved for the company's hardcore gaming products.

Brand
Asus
Model
ROG Swift PG278Q
MSRP
$799
Panel Type
TN
Backlight
W-LED, edge array
Screen Size
27-inch
Max Resolution
2560x1440
Max Refresh Rate
144 Hz
Aspect Ratio
16:9
Native Color Depth
8-bit
Native Gamut
sRGB
Response Time (GTG)
1 ms
Brightness
350 cd/m2
Speakers
-
VGA
-
DVI
-
DisplayPort v1.2
1
HDMI v1.4
-
Audio In
-
Headphone
-
USB
v3.0 - 1 up, 2 down
Media Card Reader
-
Panel Dimensions
WxHxD w/base
24.6 x 14.4 x 9.4 in
620 x 363 x 237 mm
Panel Thickness
2.6 in / 66 mm
Bezel Width
.3-.5 in / 8-12 mm
Weight
15.4 lbs / 7 kg
Warranty
Three years

Priced at $800, the Swift certainly isn't cheap. Then again, it also doesn't have any competition at present. Cutting-edge tech is packed into this new screen. The only thing that seems out of place is the TN panel it employs. This brand-new-for-2014 part comes from AU Optronics. It uses a white LED backlight and has a true 8-bit color depth.

We won’t go into a detailed explanation of G-Sync here. That was already covered thoroughly in the previously-linked preview. Simply, this is a new technology able to match the monitor’s refresh rate to the actual frame rate of the input signal.

Why is this important? To answer that, we need to look at how video signals originate. When you watch your television, the broadcast, streamed, or disc-based content is encoded at a specific frame rate. The output device sends it out at either its native rate or a modified one depending on the components in your signal chain. The point is the rate never changes. Therefore, it always matches the refresh rate of your display. Each frame is drawn from top to bottom at the beginning of each scan cycle.

In computer games, however, the frame rate is constantly changing. Because each image is rendered rather than simply displayed, processing overhead makes the draw time for each frame different. Of course your monitor doesn’t care about that. It just keeps drawing each frame from top to bottom 60 times per second (typically), regardless of when that frame actually arrives from the video card.

This means the display is usually in the middle of a refresh cycle when the frame arrives and therefore only draws part of it. The next frame arrives in the meantime and it’s just a little different, the image appears to tear horizontally. While higher refresh rates can mitigate the artifact, it can still show up even at 144 Hz.

G-Sync removes the monitor’s fixed-rate limitation and locks the input and output refresh rates to each other. Presto! No more screen tearing. No matter what the frame rate is at any given moment, all you see is perfectly smooth motion with no artifacts.

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  • 6 Hide
    ubercake , August 11, 2014 9:08 AM
    That Amazon link is to the PB278Q, not the PG278Q! ARRGGGGHHHHH!!!
  • 2 Hide
    TechyInAZ , August 11, 2014 9:12 AM
    Nice! This is great since I am one of those picky guys that believes that 30fps doesn't bring a good enough gaming experience.

    But one thing I do hope for is a 144hz g-sync IPS monitor, ever since I've gotten my new Asus MX239H the ips makes a huge difference in games.

    But besides that, it is a glorious monitor, resolution is great, 144hz, and of course g sync makes it a wonderful monitor.

    But really $800? I know that it is one of the few g sync equipped monitors, but you can buy a 4k monitor for $650!
  • 7 Hide
    CraigN , August 11, 2014 9:29 AM
    Yes - please fix that Amazon link. I almost shat myself thinking that was available already.
  • 0 Hide
    apertotes , August 11, 2014 9:36 AM
    Anybody knows if the incompatibility between G-Sync and ULMB is something that will get fixed or is here to stay?
  • 0 Hide
    CraigN , August 11, 2014 10:09 AM
    Quote:
    Anybody knows if the incompatibility between G-Sync and ULMB is something that will get fixed or is here to stay?


    Pretty unlikely. ULMB requires a static refresh rate, because it has to strobe the monitor at a constant rate. GSYNC would mean that it would have to strobe in time with each frame, at a variable rate. You would introduce a lag time on the strobing if you tried to do this, since it would be at a variable rate instead of a constant one.
  • 3 Hide
    rh_dog , August 11, 2014 10:43 AM
    I know it's expensive for 2560x1440, I know it's not IPS, but to get the refresh rate @144hz and the 1ms g2g and g-sync? The few reviews for this monitor that are out there are all glowing. Come on, Asus, release the thing already, I've been waiting since the Jan announcement for this monitor. Shut up and take my money!!!
  • 1 Hide
    pchampn , August 11, 2014 11:21 AM
    Guys ROG Swift PG278Q is not even listed on Amazon. Update your links, please!!
  • 3 Hide
    Rendezvous , August 11, 2014 11:29 AM
    Omg! I need this now..... I alrdy have 800 set aside for it...I need a exact release date now!
  • 0 Hide
    agentbb007 , August 11, 2014 11:48 AM
    Asus has said on Twitter it should be in the US by the end of August. I can't wait for this, I'm checking newegg everyday to see when it shows up! I hope they have enough of these coming in because there seems to be a lot of people waiting to buy this monitor.
  • -2 Hide
    Merry_Blind , August 11, 2014 11:53 AM
    Yayy finally a review for this monitor! Thanks Tom's!

    Off to read it now! lol
  • 2 Hide
    Rendezvous , August 11, 2014 12:24 PM
    Quote:
    Yayy finally a review for this monitor! Thanks Tom's!

    Off to read it now! lol


    There have been plenty reviews for this monitor just Google it. And they have all been great reviews...makes me want it even more
  • 0 Hide
    Merry_Blind , August 11, 2014 12:24 PM
    As amazing as this monitor looks, it still sucks that you can't use ULMB with G-Sync.

    Personally, I'm sick of the crappy motion resolution in LCDs. It's not so bad in some games, but it's nigh-unbearable in certain games. My next monitor/TV WILL have Strobing-Backlights since it's the best way to get rid of motion blur.

    However, maybe someone can help me out on this, I don't understand why monitors that feature such motion-enhancing technologies seem very nitpicky with which frame rate, refresh rate, etc. it's being used with. I'm saying this because more and more TVs are coming out with such Strobing-backlight technology, and I'm pretty sure those don't require an absolute steady framerate for it to work.

    For example, if I were to connect a console to this ASUS Swift monitor, could I use ULMB in 120hz mode with a 30fps game?
  • 0 Hide
    CraigN , August 11, 2014 12:47 PM
    No, because the console won't output 120 Hz, especially not through HDMI to DisplayPort conversion.

    It's not the framerate they're being picky about, it's the refresh rate. The light has to strobe in time with when the next frame is being introduced. When the refresh rate is constant (i.e., locked at 80, 100, or 120 Hz) then the strobe knows exactly when the next frame will be displayed. You're asking the display to strobe the backlight at will whenever the GPU can put out a frame. You're essentially asking the GPU to not only handshake with GSYNC when to render a frame, but to trigger the backlight to strobe then too. The tricky part here is that's another layer where you will have to reduce response time (response from the GPU's frame being rendered to backlight being strobed) since the refresh rate is no longer constant (it's now dependent on your game's refresh rate - which is barely ever anywhere near "constant").

    How awful would your strobing backlight look if it came a few ms after your frame rendered? That'd probably screw all of the blur reduction qualities you want from it. At best, you could make an algorithm that would strobe at the *average* framerate you're outputting since framerate can rise and dip so quickly, but that could still cause a lot of problems
  • 0 Hide
    agentbb007 , August 11, 2014 12:53 PM
    Quote:

    For example, if I were to connect a console to this ASUS Swift monitor, could I use ULMB in 120hz mode with a 30fps game?

    I'm definitely not an expert on ULMB or Gsync but the blurbusters website says "LightBoost motion blur elimination is not noticeable at 60 frames per second." So even if you could get a console hooked up to the Asus Swift I don't think you would be able to notice any difference unless you get 85+ fps.
  • 0 Hide
    Merry_Blind , August 11, 2014 12:57 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Yayy finally a review for this monitor! Thanks Tom's!

    Off to read it now! lol


    There have been plenty reviews for this monitor just Google it. And they have all been great reviews...makes me want it even more

    Oh I know that, it's just that I was waiting for Tom's Hardware specifically to do a review since I like their reviews!
  • 0 Hide
    Merry_Blind , August 11, 2014 1:08 PM
    Quote:
    No, because the console won't output 120 Hz, especially not through HDMI to DisplayPort conversion.

    It's not the framerate they're being picky about, it's the refresh rate.


    Ok, let's forget consoles then for a second, because I didn't think of the fact that they can't output at 120hz. If, for example, I had my PC hooked to the Swift monitor, set to 120Hz, and that the game I play has a fluctuating framerate going anywhere from 30fps to 90fps. Would I be able to use ULMB since the monitor is running at 120Hz? Despite the framerate being all over the place, and not ever at 120fps?

    Thanks for your reply btw.
  • 0 Hide
    Merry_Blind , August 11, 2014 1:09 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:

    For example, if I were to connect a console to this ASUS Swift monitor, could I use ULMB in 120hz mode with a 30fps game?

    I'm definitely not an expert on ULMB or Gsync but the blurbusters website says "LightBoost motion blur elimination is not noticeable at 60 frames per second." So even if you could get a console hooked up to the Asus Swift I don't think you would be able to notice any difference unless you get 85+ fps.

    But like I said, more and more TVs are being released with a 'Black-Frame insertion' option, and from reviews, it gets rid of motion blur very well, even for a movie, which plays at 24fps.
  • 0 Hide
    CraigN , August 11, 2014 1:18 PM
    Quote:

    Ok, let's forget consoles then for a second, because I didn't think of the fact that they can't output at 120hz. If, for example, I had my PC hooked to the Swift monitor, set to 120Hz, and that the game I play has a fluctuating framerate going anywhere from 30fps to 90fps. Would I be able to use ULMB since the monitor is running at 120Hz? Despite the framerate being all over the place, and not ever at 120fps?

    Thanks for your reply btw.


    No problem. I enjoy discussing the topic.

    Yes. You would. Because with ULMB on, the REFRESH RATE stays constant, despite your varying frame rate. The monitor (In regular, or in ULMB mode, with Gsync off) will only refresh the frame at a rate of every 8.33 ms (1 / 120Hz), regardless of your framerate. This has nothing to do with the 1ms response time. That's where your keyboard or mouse input lag comes in. This is also what causes horziontal tearing, which is what GSYNC aims to remove. If your FRAME rate is much higher, or much lower, than your monitor's REFRESH rate, you will observe lots of tearing. ULMB does not reduce tearing, just motion blur.

    You don't have to hit 120 fps to refresh at 120 Hz, but you get the most benefit out of your monitor that way. So yes, you can play ULMB at any framerate, but you *will* notice stutter if you're playing in the 90s and then drop into the 30s. This is what traditionally VSYNC tries to remove, but introduces input lag as a side effect.

    Gsync removes the stutter and the tearing with virtually no input lag. It makes it so your monitor will refresh at the same rate as your framerate. So if you set your monitor to 144 Hz, and turn GSYNC on, then suddenly your *Max* framerate becomes 144 Hz (can't update faster than the panel), and the refresh rate of the monitor (when the monitor displays new frames from the GPU) varies with the framerate of the game from any range of 35 FPS up to 144 FPS. If you drop below 30 FPS, the GSYNC module switches to traditional VSYNC.

    GSYNC can be toggled on and off from the Nvidia Control Panel. This is how you can switch between GSYNC or ULMB depending on what type of game you want to play.
  • -7 Hide
    redgarl , August 11, 2014 1:45 PM
    It's made by Asus and it is not a motherboard... stay away from it...
  • 5 Hide
    CraigN , August 11, 2014 1:49 PM
    Not sure why you feel that way. Several of their other products I own have been outstanding. My VG248QE is great and so is my G750JX laptop. Their $650 4K monitor got fantastic reviews.

    Some of their lower-end products have some quality issues I hear, but you see that in Dell, HP, Acer... It's not exactly a new trend.
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