ASUS PQ321Q UltraHD Monitor Review: Living with a 31.5-inch 4K Desktop Displayby Chris Heinonen on July 23, 2013 9:01 AM EST
If you are going to use the ASUS PQ321Q, you’re going to want DisplayPort 1.2 support. HDMI will work, but it’ll be choppy with its 30Hz refresh rate. If you have a video card with dual HDMI 1.4 outputs, you can use both of them to drive it at 60Hz if your video driver supports it. DisplayPort 1.2 allows for Multi-Stream Transport (MST) support, letting you drive two displays with a single DP cable. But why does that matter if the ASUS is your only monitor? Because to get the full 60Hz refresh rate out of it, DisplayPort needs to see it as a pair of 1920x2160 monitors that each get their own signal.
The ASUS has MST mode disabled by default. With my NVIDIA GTX 660 Ti I had to manually enable it in the monitor for it to turn on. I’ve been told that with ATI or Intel GPUs over DisplayPort 1.2 it is automatic, but I don’t have those to test with. Once enabled, it quickly went from 30 Hz to 60 Hz while staying at 3840x2160 resolution.
Since I run multiple displays like most people, this seemed to be an ideal time to test out Windows 8.1 and its ability to offer individual DPI scaling on monitors. For this test I used the ASUS PQ321Q, connected over DispayPort, and a Nixeus VUE 30 (review forthcoming) connected over DVI running at 2560x1600. With a single universal setting, you use a percentage setting for scaling in Windows 8.1. With individual control, you use a slider more like on a Retina MacBook Pro. The percentage is hidden, which I dislike. I don’t understand why we have a different way to select the scaling level if you have two monitors versus one. Perhaps it is a beta issue, but I think they should be uniform.
Moving beyond that, when I attempted to scale the PQ321Q, I had an image that was still fuzzy instead of sharp. Thankfully a driver update (as 4K MST panels are new) fixed this issue quickly. The independent display scaling in Windows 8.1 still didn’t work the way I wanted it to. The choices are unclear, including which monitor you are adjusting, and I never could get it setup exactly how I wanted it. I wound up setting it to 150% for both displays and dealing with my 27” running with larger icons than I prefer.
Now I have an effective 2560x1440 desktop, only everything is sharp. Amazingly sharp. It is like moving from my iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4 and its retina screen. The text as I write this in Word is crisp and clear, and editing gigantic spreadsheet in Excel is much easier when the cells are so easy to read. Unfortunately not every application in Windows plays well with DPI scaling.
Chrome is scaled 150% as Windows asked, but it is hazy and blurry. Disabling DPI scaling for the application and then scaling to 150% inside Chrome produces crisp, clear text. Firefox also didn’t scale automatically, but it has a setting to adjust to make it follow the Windows DPI scaling rules. Once set, Firefox looks very nice and crisp. For most people, that setting should already be set to follow DPI scaling.
Finding a chat client that works well is a challenge. Both Pidgin and Trillian don’t do DPI scaling and are fuzzy by default. Another app that had issues is Steam. Right-clicking in the System Tray icon brought up a menu in the middle of the screen, where it would be without DPI scaling. The reality is that some apps are great and support DPI scaling, and some need work, just like when the retina MacBook Pro was released. Evernote looks great, but Acrobat is a fuzzy mess. This is all a bit of growing pains, but I find myself disabling DPI scaling on applications that don’t support it because I prefer tiny and sharp to fuzzy and large.
Because the 2560x1440 resolution is what I’m used to with my usual 27” monitor, I found there to be no real difference in how I used the ASUS monitor. I typically split items to different sides of the screen, with Word on the right and Evernote on the left as I type this. The application that benefitted for me was image editing. Being able to fit more on the screen, or zoom in to higher levels, made working with images on the ASUS better than on a 27” of the same effective resolution. I don’t do that much image editing, but for the work I have done it has been wonderful.
You’ll also quickly find out how much people need to go back and fix up programs or websites to use images and text separately. Text combined in an image scales very poorly, but is often easier than doing proper layout for two separate elements. I feel a bit bad for all the developers that need to go back to fix everything to work with high-DPI screens, but that time has come.
The only way to sum up daily use of the ASUS PQ321Q is “awesome”. It’s not perfect, but much of that is the fault of Windows or other programs and websites. When you have something that can scale and look correct, it is amazing how much the extra pixel density and sharpness helps. Yes, this is the future for displays, and we are entering the transition period to get there.
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msahni - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkvery costly..... hope these displays become mainstream soon....
Higher resolution/ppi does make a big difference atleast for people using their computers all day...
Even when I jumped from a 1366x768 laptop to a 1920x1080 laptop and then to a rMBP the difference is truly there.... Once you go to the higher resolution working on the lesser one really is a pain...
airmantharp - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkThe cost is IZGO; 4k panels cost only slightly more than current panels when using other panel types like IPS, VA or PLS.
Death666Angel - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkAnd where can I buy monitors with the panels you speak of? I'd like a 4k monitor for about 800 €, maybe even 1000 € (I paid 570 for my Samsung 27" 1440p, so that seems fair if the panels only cost slightly more)....
airmantharp - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkLook up Seiko, they're all over the place. 30Hz only at 4k for now, but that's an electronics limitation; the panels are good for 120Hz.
Gunbuster - Monday, July 29, 2013 - linkSeiki
sheh - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkWhy does the response time graph show no input lag for the monitor?
Can it accept 10-bit input? Does 10-bit content look any better than 8-bit?
"Common film and video cadences of 3:2 and 2:2 are not properly picked up upon and deinterlaced correctly."
Why expect a computer monitor to have video-specific processing logic?
cheinonen - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkBecause I had to change from SMTT (which shows input lag and response time) as our license expired and they're no longer selling new licenses. The Leo Bodnar shows the overall lag, but can't break it up into two separate numbers.
It can accept 10-bit, but I have nothing that uses 10-bit data as I don't use Adobe Creative Suite or anything else that supports it.
The ASUS has a video mode, with a full CMS, to go with the dual HDMI outputs. Since that would indicate they expect some video use for it, testing for 2:2 and 3:2 cadence is fair IMO.
sheh - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - linkThanks.
Alas. It'd be interesting to know the lag break down. If most is input lag, there's hope for better firmware. :)
Are 10-bit panels usually true 10-bit or 8-bit with temporal dithering?
DanNeely - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - linksome of the current generation high end 2560x1600/1440 panels are 14bit internally and have a programmable LUT to do in monitor calibration instead of at the OS level. (The latter is an inherently lossy operation; the former is much less likely to be.)
mert165 - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkI'd like to know how a Retina MacBook Pro and a new MacBook Air hold up to the 4k display. The Verge com a while back published a demo and the results were not spectacular. Although in their demo they didn't go into depth as to WHY the results were so poor (weak video card, bad DisplayPort drivers, other???)
Could you connect up the new Haswell MacBook Air to see performance?