Asus 4K monitor is not ready for prime time

High-resolution technology is promising, but the PQ321Q monitor's $3,500 price tag puts it out of reach of typical consumers

Published: October 29, 2013 10:30 AM

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A new monitor from Asus provides a look at some of the advantages that 4K high-resolution technology brings to the table. But the monitor also has some shortcomings that prevent it from living up to the full potential of 4K. Then there's that $3,500 price tag, which places it out of reach of typical consumers.

Resolution on the 31.5-inch Asus PQ321Q is 3840x2160, the first we've tested at that high a resolution. What it gives you is really fine detail, bringing out all the particulars you may have missed in a high-res photo. For example, we viewed a photograph shot in high resolution of a street scene that included a small sign over a storefront. On a typical high-definition monitor (1920x1080), you wouldn't have been able to read the words on the sign, but on this Asus model, they were clearly visible. The photos below show how the larger pixel size of the HD image affects the amount of detail depicted in the photo, while the 4K image has much more clarity.

Here's the street scene viewed on a monitor with typical 1920x1080 HD resolution.
This shows the same street scene as viewed on Asus' 4K display.

For more on the latest monitors tested in our labs, take a look at our computer monitor Ratings.

But while this monitor might be great for graphics pros who need the exceptional clarity it provides, our tests uncovered some problems. First, it's less well-suited to those who want to watch movies on a large, high-res display like this. That's because this monitor had a problem with "backlight bleeding," meaning when viewing dark scenes in a video, for example, you'd notice bright spots such as a flashlight shining where it should be dark.

We also noticed blurring during fast-motion video scenes and jitter on video shot at 60-frames-per-second in a typical monitor connection and setup. But games and most film or video online shot at 30-frames-per-second or less, which is the case with many of the latest titles, looked okay.

In order to get 60-frames-per-second from this display, a more detailed setup will be required with regards to in-monitor menu settings, cable choices, and making sure your video card can provide the necessary mode, connections and resolution requirements. The setup divides the display to run like dual displays, which some may find takes a bit of getting used to working with. Those who manage to accomplish this setup will find that 60Hz video looks right.

In addition, the new HDMI standard expected later this year—HDMI 2.0—is not supported on the PQ321Q. That's a problem, considering HDMI 2.0 adds more 4K support, along with support for higher frame rates for video. The lack of support for the new HDMI makes this a lame-duck monitor when it comes to video. If it was HDMI 2.0, you wouldn't have to jump through hoops to get 60Hz as a single display.

Finally, while overall color was very good, fleshtones had a yellowish tinge that you wouldn't expect in a monitor at this price.

Still, for graphics pros looking for the finest detail, this is an excellent monitor with a wide viewing angle. Despite its shortcomings, the Asus PQ321Q provides a look at what's coming up in monitor technology.

—Donna Tapellini

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