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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  • 1Angelreloaded - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    Your brain can process more than that from your optical socket.
  • Kamus - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    What a load of crap. You have no clue what you are talking about do you?
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - link

    I can 100% tell the difference between 720p and 1080p on my 24" monitor at a reasonable difference.

    The fuzzy edges and aliasing are a dead giveaway.

    Film on the other hand, tends to soften the crap out of edges anyway, and has natural motion blur built in, and at only 23.976 frames per second, tends to give little in the way of real resolution when motion is occurring.

    However, games are not film. They are not rendered at a low framerate, and objects and absolutely, perfectly crisp. Rendered geometry. You can easily tell the difference.
  • SlyNine - Friday, July 26, 2013 - link

    Where did you come up with that?? You need to substantiate your comments with some sources and objective tests.

    I can DEFENETLY tell the difference between 720 and 1080 on SOME moving content. Even if it is not as noticeable.
  • mdrejhon - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Integr8d, that's only because the display has motion blur. On a CRT, motion clarity is the same during stationary motion and fast motion (this is known as the "CRT effect"). You get that on LightBoost LCD's too as well. So fast-panning motion of a constant speed (e.g. horizontally strafing left/right while you track eyes on moving objects), the panning image is as clear as stationary image. This is the "CRT effect", and you don't get that on most TV's except for certain modes like Sony's new low-latency interpolation-free "Motionflow IMPULSE" mode (Game Mode compatible) found in some TV's such as KDL55-W802A -- it's essentially Sony's version of LightBoost.
  • 1Angelreloaded - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    Your statement would be fine if we came from the same mold, but we don't people vary and the capabilities of their bodies also vary, kind of why certain army personel are chosen to become snipers.
  • random2 - Friday, July 26, 2013 - link

    People need to look a the the recommended viewing distances on HD TV's. Most people sit way too far away to take advantage of HD content. Distances are recommended between 5.5 ft to 6.5 feet for 42" to 50" TVs. The whole idea being to move close enough to replicate the feel of a large movie screen.
  • Impulses - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    Audiophiles are just terrible at objective testing, but the differences between a $500 stereo and a $2K one are definitely measurable and not terribly hard to pin down... They're also not very large in many cases (audiophiles are also amongst the worst hobbyists when it comes to paying for diminishing returns).
  • 1Angelreloaded - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    Huh? you could have fooled me vintage stereo equipment goes for thousands over the original retail. Cars have the worst diminishing return of any other hobby that exists btw.
  • cremefilled - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    "Diminishing returns" != "depreciation." He's saying that if speakers that cost $500 would rate 90/100, and $5,000 would rate 95/100, and $50,000 98/100, audiophiles would spend the $50,000 or more if they had the money, even though each 10-fold price increase gets you a smaller increment of quality. Average people would say that they all sound pretty good.

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