Many consider me to be a 4K hater. The past few trade shows I’ve attended have been pushing it on consumers to replace their TVs, but I see less value in it. When it comes to a computer display, it is a different game. Unlike a 50” TV, we sit close to our monitors, even if they are 30” in size. We also have no worries about a lack of native content, since everything is rendered on the fly and native. There are no issues with the lack of HDMI 2.0, as DisplayPort 1.2 can drive a 3840x2160 screen at 60 Hz.

When it comes to 4K on the desktop, my main question is: how much difference will I see? ASUS is one of the first with a HiDPI display in the PQ321Q. While not truly 4K, it is a 3840x2160 LCD display that can accept an Ultra High Definition (UHD) signal over HDMI and DisplayPort. It also clocks in at a wallet-stretching $3,500 right now. The question is, are we seeing the future with displays here, or are we seeing a niche product?

What does 4K/UHD/HiDPI bring to the desktop? We’ve seen it for a few years now in smartphones and tablets, making their smaller screens more usable for reading and general work. My initial thought is more desktop space, as that is what it has meant before. With a 32” monitor and a pixel density this high, running it without any DPI scaling leads to a desktop where reading text is a huge pain. Instead I believe most users will opt for DPI scaling so elements are larger and easier to read. Now you have something similar to the Retina screen on the iPhone: No more desktop space compared to a 2560x1440 monitor, but one that is razor sharp and easier to look at.

To get to this pixel density, ASUS has relied upon a panel from Sharp that uses IGZO technology. IGZO (Indium gallium zinc oxide) is a material that replaces amorphous silicon for the active layer of an LCD screen. The main benefit is higher electron mobility that allows for faster reacting, smaller pixels. We have seen non-IGZO panels in smartphones with higher pixel densities, but we don’t have any other current desktop LCDs that offer a higher pixel density than this ASUS display. IGZO also allows for a wide viewing angle.

ASUS has packed this LCD into an LED edge-lit display that only extends to 35mm thick at the maximum. Getting to that thinness requires a power brick instead of an internal power supply, which is a trade-off I’d rather not see. The 35mm depth is very nice, but unlike a TV most people don’t mount a desktop LCD to the wall so I’d take the bulk to avoid the heavy power brick. It does lead to a cooler display, as even after being on for two consecutive days the PQ321Q remains relatively cool to the touch. The power brick itself is quite warm after that period.

Unlike most ASUS displays that click into their stand, the PQ321Q is screwed in with four small screws. This seems to be another attempt to cut down on the thickness of the display, as that mounting mechanism takes up space, but I like the quick release that it offers. Inputs are provided by a single DisplayPort and a pair of HDMI 1.4a inputs. In a nice touch these inputs are side mounted, instead of bottom mounted, making It easy to access them.

Be aware that HDMI 1.4a is really not designed around UHD/4K resolutions, and so your maximum frame rate is only 30p. If you’re watching a 24p film it won’t matter, but there is no real source for those right now anyway. HDMI 2.0 is supposed to resolve this issue, but that was promised at CES this year, and I think we’ll be lucky to see it at CEDIA in September.

One area that the ASUS falls a bit short in is the On Screen Display (OSD). While clear and fairly easy to work in, it takes up most of the screen and you can’t resize it or reposition it. Moving to 4K might have required a new OSD to be developed and it just isn’t totally refined yet, but it needs some work. It isn’t awful as it’s easy to work in, and offers a user mode with a two-point white balance, but it isn’t at the top of the game.

The full specs for the ASUS are listed below. Once this beast is unboxed, lets set it up.

Video Inputs 2xHDMI 1.4a, 1xDisplayPort 1.2 with MST
Panel Type IGZO LCD
Pixel Pitch 0.182mm
Colors 1.07 Billion
Brightness 350 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio 800:01
Response Time 8ms GTG
Viewable Size 31.5"
Resolution 3840x2160
Viewing Angle (H/V) 176/176
Backlight LED
Power Consumption (operation) 93W
Power Consumption (standby) <1W
Screen Treatment non-glare
Height-Adjustable Yes, 150mm
Tilt Yes, -25 to 5 degrees
Pivot No
Swivel Yes, -45 to 45 degrees
VESA Wall Mounting Yes, 200mm
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 29.5" x 19.3" x 10.1"
Weight 28.7 lbs.
Additional Features 3.5mm Input and Output, 2Wx2 speakers
Limited Warranty 3 Years
Accessories DisplayPort cable, USB to RS232 adapter cable
Price $3,499


Setup and Daily Use
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  • DanNeely - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - link

    Probably never since margins are higher on 16:9 screens; a 21" 2560x1440 screen could be made from the same line just by cutting the panels smaller.

    In that general size bucket though I'd like to see them jump directly to 4k too though for ~200DPI. This is high enough to make AA mostly unneeded when gaming and to allow for 2:1 scaling for legacy apps.
  • jasonelmore - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    UHD or 4k is gonna be good for the living room simply because TV's will get bigger, and that's where 4k really shines.

    Back in the day, i remember 32" was massive. Then when HD first came out, 42" was the standard when talking about big screens. Now 55" is the new standard, and 70 inch will probably be common place in the next couple of years. 4k on a 70 inch will look great.
  • DanNeely - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - link

    Maybe. 70/80" TVs require rearranging your living room in ways that smaller sizes don't; and take up enough space that in smaller houses they've often impossible just because you don't have any blank wall sections that big that you can orient furniture around.
  • yhselp - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    PixPerAn Feedback

    The PixPerAn test looks great, you’ve done nothing wrong; on the contrary, the idea is to show the realistic best and worst case scenario out of which the former should be more representative for most users. However, some of your results, namely pictures 2 and 3, seem very optimistic. In my opinion, and from my experience, pictures 4 and 5 show the real best (4) and worst (5) case scenarios. How did you capture the results and under what settings? I could try to replicate the test on my U2311H and compare the results to those that I did when I purchased the monitor and upload the results.

    It might be a good idea the crop the relevant pictures (those above), pick out two that are most representative for relevant best and worst case scenarios and create a single picture instead of a gallery. If you decide that more cases should be shown that’s perfectly alright, but an organized single picture would still be easier to read. Also, some context for readers unfamiliar with what this test shows and how to read it would be quite useful.

    It’s a common misconception that monitors with higher response time than 2ms are not fast enough. Believe it or not, a lot of people, especially gamers, steer clear of monitors with higher response time. In reality things are much different; the ms rating alone says little. Not all response time ratings are created equal. One might write an article solely about the response time of a monitor, however, without going into technicalities such as RTC, PixPerAn can give an easy to read and understand representation of what a user can actually expect to experience in terms of RT in a monitor. For example, a lighter ghost image or a pale overshoot behind the moving car is usually harder to spot in actual use. PixPerAn is also good for testing stereoscopic 3D ghosting and S3D performance in general; you can clearly see the benefits of NVIDIA LightBoost in the test.

    A picture is worth a thousand words, especially in this case. Just by looking at a PixPerAn result you can derive almost everything you need to know about how fast a monitor should actually feel like (and what kind of visual artifacts you might experience). I would be really glad if you make this test standard on all your future monitor reviews, at least here on AnandTech. It wouldn’t take much space in the reviews and should be relatively quick to take. Please, let me know whether you think it’s a useful test, etc.

    Thank you for the great review.
  • sheh - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    3D graphs of response times for all combinations of start/end pixel lightnesses, which were in Xbitlabs reviews, are also interesting.
  • DesktopMan - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    Response time: 8ms GTG

    Everyone who writes about Igzo (including Chris in this article) talks about how Igzo allows for higher electron mobility which makes a faster display. Then why is the GTG this bad?

    Does it do 1080p@120hz? Might not matter if it really is this slow though.
  • ChristianLG - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    Hello. ¿Why the monitor you are reviewing isn’t a true 4k monitor? ¿ What is a true 4k monitor? Thanks.
  • cheinonen - Friday, July 26, 2013 - link

    True 4K, when it comes to digital cinema, is 4096 pixels wide, but the height can vary depending on the content. Since this is only 3840 pixels wide, it falls under the UHD heading, but everyone uses 4K anyway because it sounds good.
  • joshu zh - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    You can find 4K TV in stores now. I can see clearly the difference between 1080P and 4K. You should try it and you may change you thoughts about 4K TV. To me, the issue is you could not find enough 4K materials to watch now. I hope this situation will change in 2-3 years.
  • Sabresiberian - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    One of my "pet peeves" is the fact that the display industry goes out of its way to blur the monitor/TV line. They aren't the same, and selling them as though they were is disingenuous at best. It has given us a 16:9 standard where it doesn't belong - and now we are crashing up against the limits of standards essentially made with low-res and TV in mind.

    Putting speakers in a $3500 display is like putting a $5 tuner in a Marantz amplifier. Certainly if I have the money to pay for one of these things I'm not going to put up with crap for speakers! It is just about as useless a thing as can be done.

    I think the best thing I can say about this monitor is that finally someone has broken the ice, and I give Asus a lot of credit for that. Not saying it's bad, just saying for $3500 I'd like to have seen more polish (better OSD) and better calibrated performance. Nice job Asus, but you could have done better.

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