Asus MG278Q 27-inch QHD FreeSync Gaming Monitor Review

Recently we checked out Asus' MG279Q, a stunning-looking 27-inch IPS gaming monitor with FreeSync, 144Hz and a premium price. Today we're reviewing a cheaper alternative -- the TN-based MG278Q.

Though many gaming enthusiasts are willing to spend a lot of money creating the ultimate system, there are just as many, if not more, who want to maximize performance on a budget. Unfortunately, the addition of FreeSync and G-Sync to the feature lists of many gaming monitors has raised the price of admission somewhat.

We've talked about specific things that must be present for a display to qualify as a "gaming display." A high refresh rate is the first box that needs checking. 60Hz just won't cut it when even value-priced graphics boards can drive FHD and QHD resolutions to 80fps or more. The market is responding to that fact with plenty of choices that can hit 144Hz without overclocking.

But equally important to have is some flavor of frame-rate matching. The best way to ensure smooth motion is to lock the video card and display together so the panel only draws frames when told to. By putting the signal source in the driver's seat, you'll never see any tears or stuttering caused by mis-timed frames hitting the display during its refresh cycle.

Nvidia was first out of the gate with G-Sync, and we've reviewed several excellent monitors using G-Sync technology. The promise of value however, comes from AMD's FreeSync, which simply adds functionality to the existing DisplayPort interface and is a completely open standard, which means manufacturers don't need to pay a license fee to include the feature in their products.

Recently, we reviewed the MG279Q, one of the first FreeSync/144Hz IPS monitors to hit the market. Asus' MG279Q monitor is priced at a premium level, so the company decided to create a less-expensive alternative, the MG278Q. It differs in two main areas: it's TN-based and has a maximum FreeSync rate of 144Hz versus 90.

Specifications

If you've narrowed your 27-inch gaming monitor choices down to Asus' two MG-series screens you're probably contemplating what the extra cost of the MG279Q will get you. First off, it sports an IPS panel where the MG278Q uses TN. It should be noted that it's one of the better TN panels we've seen lately. It won't give you the viewing angles of IPS but it does offer good color accuracy, plenty of brightness and decent contrast.

The second consideration is the FreeSync range. The MG279Q will run at 144Hz but in FreeSync mode it tops out at 90Hz. In practice that's only a limitation if you're running a very fast video card. Our R9 285 testbed was not able to exceed 90fps in the games we played.

Finally, there's the price. You'll save anywhere from $50 to $200 (depending on where you buy) by choosing the MG278Q. In both cases the resolution is QHD, so it really boils down to the panel tech and the upper limit of the FreeSync range. Otherwise, the less-expensive screen has the same bright LED backlight and all the other features a gamer could want.

So if you've decided to compare performance, please read on because we'll show you just how the two Asus FreeSync screens stack up to one another. Can the MG278Q satisfy at its lower price point? Let's take a look.

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  • Rishi100
    I am flummoxed why even at this stage, the displays are being churned out with HDMI 1.4 and Displayport 1.2 standards. They should have been HDMI 2 with HDCP 2.2 and DP1.3.
  • TeamColeINC
    From what I've seen in reviews so far, then TN model is better anyway. But I would think ASUS fixed all the issues that people were reporting with the IPS model...
  • 10tacle
    The last time I tried an ASUS 1440p panel was with their PB278Q (60Hz IPS). The first one I got had terrible back light bleed on the left side and two dead pixels right in the middle. Couldn't live with that. So I returned it and got another. The second one was sealed up on backlight bleed (good enough for the typical PLS/IPS anyway) but had four dead pixels, two which were close together on the center right side and the other two in different spots but in the general viewing area. Again, couldn't live with it and returned for my money back.

    I hope their quality control has improved, because for a $500+ monitor, any dead pixels and manufacturing tolerance defects are unacceptable. I paid a little more for a Dell U2713HM and have been happy ever since. I'll be in the market for a 1440p G-sync next year as an SLI 970 owner and would not rule out ASUS if they have improved their quality control. One thing I am not clear on is if you can select custom Free-Sync or G-Sync frequencies to better match your GPU power beyond factory monitor Hz settings (90Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz).
  • alextheblue
    Quote:
    At speeds below 40fps, you'll need to turn on V-Sync to prevent tearing, though by that point stutter is the bigger problem. It's better to either reduce resolution or turn down the detail level to keep frame rates above 40.


    Uh, what about turning on LFC? LFC will work on monitors with a good variable refresh range such as this Asus unit. I'd like to see that tested for those cases where you dip in frames occasionally.

    Quote:
    One thing I am not clear on is if you can select custom Free-Sync or G-Sync frequencies to better match your GPU power beyond factory monitor Hz settings (90Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz).


    Wait, what? As long as you're within the variable refresh rate range, you're good to go. If you want to save power and reduce the framerate on a low-demand (old) game something like FRTC should work if there's no in-game cap.
  • 10tacle
    Anonymous said:
    Quote:
    One thing I am not clear on is if you can select custom Free-Sync or G-Sync frequencies to better match your GPU power beyond factory monitor Hz settings (90Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz).


    Wait, what? As long as you're within the variable refresh rate range, you're good to go. If you want to save power and reduce the framerate on a low-demand (old) game something like FRTC should work if there's no in-game cap.


    No what I'm talking about are complaints about (and this was from G-sync users) that they couldn't set a custom refresh rate to something like 100Hz or 110Hz in the Nvidia control panel on a G-sync monitor to better match their GPU power FPS and cap it. Maybe something's changed or they didn't know what they were talking about (or doing).

    I don't have one so I can't comment. I overclock my 1440p monitors to 75Hz (Dell) and 90Hz (Crossover) and cap frames accordingly, but just have never been clear on what that meant to a G-sync monitor that advertises 120Hz/144Hz capability.
  • M for Moartea
    Quote:


    No what I'm talking about are complaints about (and this was from G-sync users) that they couldn't set a custom refresh rate to something like 100Hz or 110Hz in the Nvidia control panel on a G-sync monitor to better match their GPU power FPS and cap it. Maybe something's changed or they didn't know what they were talking about (or doing).

    I don't have one so I can't comment. I overclock my 1440p monitors to 75Hz (Dell) and 90Hz (Crossover) and cap frames accordingly, but just have never been clear on what that meant to a G-sync monitor that advertises 120Hz/144Hz capability.


    I'm not sure I fully understand your concern but, if I may, I'll give it a try.
    As a user of Asus PG278Q (with G-sync) for a year now, I can tell you this much:
    G-sync, much like FreeSync, works within a frame rate range, depending on the monitor and not the adaptive sync technology behind it, in my case within 30-144Hz. Between that frame rate range, the refresh rate is variable and depends on how many FPS your GPU can push.
    This is where the similarities between the two stop because outside of that range the two technologies behave differently. Below the minimum range, 30 FPS in my case, the G-sync module automatically displays the same frame twice, making the frame rate appear double than what it is and the gameplay feel smoother. At the other end, G-sync module automatically caps your frame rate to the maximum refresh rate of your monitor (144 in my case).

    That being said, having nothing to do with these adaptive sync technologies, Radeons do have a frame rate target control feature in the Catalyst control center (or whatever it's called nowdays) for power savings reasons, feature that you don't have as a Nvidia user.

    Now, regarding your concern, a custom refresh rate simply defeats the purpose of having an adaptive sync technology and, outside of power savings reasons, I fail to see how a custom refresh rate target would help since G-sync (and FreeSync for that matter) already cap the refresh rate of your monitor "to better match their GPU power FPS".
    If you prefer a custom refresh rate, you can chose do simply disable G-sync and set your (G-sync enabled) monitor to a fixed refresh rate (in my case I have the following options: 24, 60, 85, 100, 120, 144 Hz).
    I hope that was helpful.
  • Verrin
    Quote:
    At speeds below 40fps, you'll need to turn on V-Sync to prevent tearing, though by that point stutter is the bigger problem.


    This technically isn't true any more, if you are using the Crimson driver and have a panel with a maximum refresh rate that is 2.5 times greater than the minimum (e.g. 144Hz panels).

    AMD refers to this new tech as Low Frame Rate Compensation (LFC), and it effectively does the same as Nvidia's solution (although by different means) by duplicating frames to maintain the refresh rate above a minimum refresh value (such as 40Hz). I've been playing around with it on my 390X and my Acer XG270HU and it's been working great, no stutter or hitching, just the usual expected loss in fluidity from going that low in the first place.
  • picture_perfect
    Tearing happens when fps are higher than hz (multiple frames per refresh appear as horizontal tears in time)
    Stutter/Judder happens when fps are lower than hz (multiple refreshes per frame appear as double vision judder)

    To sync the two:
    Freesync/G-sync adjusts a monitor's hz to match fps.
    V-sync adjusts fps to match a monitor's hz.
  • Andrew Pacely
    This is cool and all... but where's that new 34 incher they revealed last September?
  • jdwii
    Threw up a little when i heard TN, little to no excuse anymore not to own a IPS monitor since latency is as low as 4ms and i bet 99.9% of you guys can't tell the difference
  • King Kii
    Quote:
    Threw up a little when i heard TN, little to no excuse anymore not to own a IPS monitor since latency is as low as 4ms and i bet 99.9% of you guys can't tell the difference


    did you finish the article? right in the conclusion. ----->

    " Color, grayscale and gamma accuracy are similar enough that it will be hard to tell the two apart in a side-by-side comparison. The all-important input lag and response tests are so close that even the quickest gaming hands won't be able to discern between them. In fact, the only tests where the more-expensive screen won decidedly were contrast and viewing angles."
  • photonboy
    I see a lot of confusion above:
    1) AMD's new Crimson drivers can sort out the issue of being out of asynchronous mode by causing the same screen to refresh, though to work properly you must be able to stay in asynchronous mode at least 2.5X the minimum.

    i.e. 30Hz to 75Hz supported for asynchronous mode

    2) Some FREESYNC (not GSYNC) monitors don't support asynchronous mode for the entire range (such as 30Hz to 75Hz supported, but 75Hz to 100Hz not supported).

    *I really wish they'd made it FULL range support for Freesync or not at all because this gets horribly confused really quick.

    3) Frame rate cap?
    Someone said that's not needed for asynchronous mode? Actually, it's one of the most important features to have enabled so you can STAY within this mode. Imagine toggling in and out of asynchronous mode.

    It would be best just to set the highest cap that lets you stay in asynchronous mode.

    4) TN vs IPS?
    Yes, TN has gotten better but IPS isn't just slightly better to some people. Unfortunately you'd really have to see the panel in the intended environment to see if it's good enough.

    TN helps to reduce the price, especially if comparing TN/Freesync with IPS/GSync. The bottom line is that they have pretty half decent panels now and everything is a trade-off at some point, whether it's motion blur, black levels, contrast or whatever.

    5) "I am flummoxed why even at this stage, the displays are being churned out with HDMI 1.4 and Displayport 1.2 standards. They should have been HDMI 2 with HDCP 2.2 and DP1.3."

    What's the mystery here?
    The level of input only has to support the specs of the device. Creating an HDMI2 input only adds to the cost and serves no purpose.
  • triplexone
    Is it possible to enable Freesync when you select 1:1 aspect ratio?