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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  • psuedonymous - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    The paper also mentions that cycles/degree is only ONE of the ways that the eyes perceive 'detail' When it comes to line misalignment (i.e. aliasing), we can see right down to the arcsecond level. If you want a display that does not exhibit edge aliasing, you're looking at several tens of thousands of DPI.
  • twtech - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    Even if you can't see the individual pixels, you'll still notice a difference in the clarity of the display.
  • EnzoFX - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    I cannot believe people who are saying 4k is a waste on TV's, this is asinine. 1080p on a large tv is terrible, the pixels are clearly visible.
  • 1Angelreloaded - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    Well lets be honest, its only usefull to us if the PPI is high enough to throw AA out the window, or atleast down to 2x of any iteration. I can see some uses in productivity or workstation applications. As for the TV market they aren't even fully at a standard 1080p in content, and they invested a lot into upgrading content as Hollywood started upgrading the cameras for higher resolutions, so I don't see the industry on a bandwagon to keep upgrading.
  • SodaAnt - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    720p is about as good as you need if you have a 50" TV and you sit 10 feet away from it. If you have a 30" display that you sit 18 inches from, it makes a huge difference.
  • smartthanyou - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    No person has ever made such a blanket statement. It has always been in the context of what was being viewed and the distance to the display.

    In the future, consider your posts more carefully before you put in writing that you are an idiot.
  • NCM - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    So evidently you didn't make it even to the end of the article's first paragraph?
  • CalaverasGrande - Thursday, December 26, 2013 - link

    I suppose since I work in broadcast I am special but 4k, HD and 720 are all apparent when you have a decently sharp display. Even from several feet away.
  • karasaj - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    I just had an argument with my friend over why laptops around 15" are getting 3200x1800 displays but we still have < 100 ppi on desktop displays.
    We both agreed that it would be nice to have high DPI desktop monitors but i insisted that they're too expensive and more niche than laptops and tablets.. It's crazy to see the first 4k monitor ever get such a nice reward, what do you think prevents the cost from going down yet?
  • bryanlarsen - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    Displays, like IC's, get exponentially more expensive as the size increases, especially for newer technologies. It's mostly due to the defect ratio. A 30" screen is 4 times as large as a 15" one, but it's way more than 4x as expensive. Suppose that there's a single fatal defect; the 30" screen would have to be discarded, but 3/4 of the 15" panels would be fine.

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