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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  • cremefilled - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    Even putting aside your syntax issues, almost all audio equipment depreciates in value quickly. The rare exceptions would be (the minority of) tube based amplification, and maybe a very few speakers (Quad ESL 63's).
  • Calista - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - link

    What's even worse, judging from the pictures of the homes of audiophiles the same person spending 10-20k or more on his stereo spend little to no thought on how the room effect the sound. Something we all know is incredibly important for the way sound-waves behave.
  • cheinonen - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - link

    As an audiophile as well as a video guy, I don't think the problem is that audiophiles are the worst hobbyists when it comes to paying for diminishing returns. I think the problem is that the press around audio focuses far too much on those diminishing return pieces. I'm considering writing a piece on budget phono amps, as more and more people buy turntables, but it's going to be hard. You can find 100 reviews of a $2,500 phono stage, but none of a $130 one that most people might buy. I think audio has a bad, bad marketing problem that the press reinforces.
  • vgroo - Monday, July 29, 2013 - link

    Diminishing returns is an understatement. Whenever I hear the word "audiophile", it always reminds me of those numerous sound-clarifying snakeoil products (e.g. the magnificent Bedini Clarifier, and the praising reviews they get around the web.
  • Shadowself - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    The low end of what anyone with any knowledge of the subject says is *easily* discernible by a person is one arc minute per pixel. (There are things like vernier acuity, rotational acuity and such that can push that by a factor of 10 or more -- to 0.1 arc minute per pixel or less.)

    A commonly accepted, comfortable viewing angle is 60 degrees. (Some "experts" put it at 90 degrees or more.)

    Combining the minimum 1 arc minute per pixel with the minimum 60 degrees gives a horizontal pixel count of 3,600 as the minimum that the average person can easily discern given an optimum viewing distance. (If you take that to the other extreme of 0.1 arc minute and 90 degrees this becomes 54,000 horizontal pixels at the optimum viewing distance.)

    So is 2160 (v) x 3820 (h) worth it to the average person with good eye sight? Absolutely. It just barely crosses the 3600 horizontal pixel count.

    If you can't tell the difference between UHD (2160p) and HD (1080p) then I humbly submit you need to get your eyes checked. If you can't tell the difference between 720p and 1080p then you REALLY need to get your eyes checked.
  • 1Angelreloaded - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    No believe me playing games for long enough, on low end and high end screens def makes you more aware to PPI, in fact it is funny that most HDTVs look horrible to me, even at the optimized distance. There are things you just notice, if anything I thing being around PC for 2 long makes us somewhat sensitive just like the difference between 30fps and 60fps typically you shouldn't be able to tell a difference but as so many had said yes you can.
  • cremefilled - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    Anyone with knowledge of the subject knows that 60 Hz versus 30 or 24 Hz is easily discernible, and 120 vs 60 is also easily discernible. The confusion here stems from 24 fps being the standard for film, but the difference is that film has built-in artifacts like motion blur that make 24 Hz the bare MINIMUM for smooth motion.

    If you've seen IMAX presentations, you know that even for true film, 60 vs. 24 is a huge difference.
  • entrigant - Friday, May 30, 2014 - link

    Sound is as quantifiable as video. The accuracy of each can be measured and known beyond question. It's just that nobody does it because they don't want to admit their $2000 stereo is measurably terrible despite how good they've convinced themselves it sounds.
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    They sit too far away ON AVERAGE.

    Sitting distance is a random variable and it has non-trivial variance.

    I made a spreadsheet to measure this effect:
  • n13L5 - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - link

    I'm glad I don't have to worry about yanking $ 3.5k from somewhere, cause years of computer use has caused my 20/20 vision to weaken to the point where 1080p on a 27" screen works just fine...

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