Asus Brings Full-Array Backlighting To ProArt Monitors

Asus has packed the ProArt PA32UC with more features than a typical professional monitor. With its wide-gamut, native 10-bit color, full-array LED backlight, and HDR support, the PA32UC is geared for photographers, videographers, and enthusiasts of high-quality imaging alike.

The Asus ProArt series of professional monitors has seen a few generations already. Long before the appearance of HDR, or even 4K, Asus jumped into this market that has traditionally been dominated by companies such as NEC and Eizo. Asus’ approach to it was slightly different: drop some of the professional and enterprise guarantees to deliver similar features and panels at lower prices. Asus ProArt doesn’t target Hollywood color mastering professionals; it targets enthusiasts and working professionals.

The PA32UC is the latest addition to the line. It has a 32-inch, UHD (3840 x 2160), IPS panel with native 10-bit color. The panel is wide-gamut, but we’ll get into its color specifics later. The screen stands on a surprisingly non-utilitarian-looking stand that’s finished in brushed metal. The stand enables all the expected adjustments: swivel, pivot, tilt, and height. Finally, the PA32UC has a thoroughly modern set of I/O, including a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 input, a USB-C charging output, four HDMI 2.0b inputs, and a DisplayPort 1.2 input.

All of that really just ensures that the rest of the PA32UC can live up to its most compelling aspects, though, and that’s its panel and backlight. Looking at the screen’s color gamut, 99.5% of AdobeRGB and 95% of DCI-P3 suggests that quantum dot materials might have been employed. According to Asus’ press materials, the PA32UC’s gamut is pretty closely aligned to AdobeRGB, which has greater coverage of green but less coverage of red compared to DCI-P3.

Asus is lighting that panel with a 384-zone, full-array backlight. We’ve heard a lot about this configuration--the Asus and Acer HDR G-Sync monitors, which are practically vaporware by now, were supposed to have it--but Asus finally seems ready to productize it with the PA32UC. The expected use case of full-array backlights is, of course, HDR. The PA32UC can reach a peak brightness of 1,000 nits and has a static contrast ratio of 10,000:1. Asus is taking advantage of the array backlight in another way, however.

The PA32UC’s hardware calibration actually allows user reprogramming of the backlight for brightness uniformity compensation. Typically, on monitors that have such a feature, enabling uniformity compensation will severely restrict all other calibration or tuning settings. For example, it’s not uncommon for uniformity compensation to disable brightness adjustment. This happens because the feature is typically implemented by applying a set of pre-programmed offsets to the screen’s color. These offsets are created during calibration in the factory and will be thrown off if the base values are changed from the default. More often than not, the restrictions render uniformity compensation features essentially useless.

If we understand it correctly, the PA32UC’s uniformity compensation can actually change the brightness of the backlight by region. That means that the feature is actually uniformity calibration, as opposed to compensation, and that it should work independently of the screen’s base brightness value or color calibration profile. We’ve contacted Asus for more details on this feature and will update this article accordingly.

The Asus ProArt PA32UC is available now at B&H for $2,000.