ASUS PQ321 Ultra HD 4K 31.5-inch Monitor Review

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Introduction & Specifications

We have a confession to make (well, several actually, but all the rest date back to our college days, and some secrets are best left untold). Reviewing monitors isn't as fun as it once was. It's not that we've grown jaded over the years, but plain and simple, the monitor market has become stale, lacking the kind of 'gee-whiz' innovations that tend to excite us. Panel makers seemed to stopped pushing the envelope once they developed 30-inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) screens, and for the longest time, that's where the high-end has sector been stuck, as if caught in quicksand with no rope in sight, or so we thought.

Out of all the monitor manufacturers out there, it was ASUS that showed up to the panel party with rope in hand, marching through the muck and mire tugging the first consumer 4K display ahead of the competition. And for adding bragging rights, the ASUS PQ321 True 4K Ultra HD measures a just a little bit bigger than current flagship models with a 31.5-inch LED backlit panel, giving monitor enthusiasts yet another reason to upgrade.

Not that the PQ321 is lacking a sales pitch. Boasting a 3840x2160 display resolution, this 4K display floods your eyeballs without four times as many pixels as that of a standard Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) display. To squeeze that many pixels into a 31.5-inch form factor, the PQ321 uses what's called Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide (IGZO) rather than traditional amorphous silicon for the active layer of its LCD panel. IGZO supports much smaller transistors, which in turn paves the way for greater pixel density (and other benefits).


ASUS PQ321 - world's first consumer 4K monitor

So, what can you do with over 8 million pixels at your disposal? Put simply, you can do everything with the PQ321 that you can on lower resolution monitors, only with more detail and a larger workspace, depending on the application. There are some downsides to current 4K technology though -- the refresh rate is capped at 60Hz and it can be a little tricky to setup/configure -- but there is also plenty of upside, especially for professional photographers and graphic artists who demand a high level of detail. We'll cover both ends of the spectrum, but before we do that, let's have a look at the spec sheet.

ASUS 31.5-inch PQ321 4K Ultra HD Monitor
Specifications & Features
Display Size
31.5-inch IGZO
Resolution
3840 x 2160
Aspect Ratio     
16:9
Brightness
350 cd/m2 
Contrast Ratio 
800:1
Response Time
8ms (Gray to Gray)
Viewing Angle
176° vertical / 176° horizontal
Display Type
IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide)
Connectors
2 x HDMI; DisplayPort; RS-232C; 3.5mm mini-jack
Power Consumption 
93W (Typical); <6W (Power Saving); <1W (Power Off Mode)
Speakers
2 x 2W stereo RMS speakers
Stand
Tilt (+25 degrees to 5 degrees); Swivel; Height
I/O Ports N/A
Dimensions (with stand)
750 mm x 489 mm x 256 mm (HxWxD) / 29.5 inches x 19.2 inches x 10.1 inches
Weight
13 kg / 28.7 lbs
Included Accessories

Cable clamp; power cord; power adapter; DisplayPort cable; Warranty card; RS-232C conversion cable; Setup manual
Warranty
3 years casing; 3 years panel; 1 year parts and accessories (optional)
Price $3,499 street




There are couple of things in the spec sheet that we'll play close attention to in this review. The response time, for one, is bit higher than we're used to seeing, and the contrast ratio (typical) is a little lower than most panels. At the same time, bear in mind that monitor specs are general guidelines at best. There are different ways to measure a monitor's performance, making it relatively easy for monitor makers to fudge the numbers if they're so inclined, so we don't put a ton of stock in them to begin with.

The elephant in the room is the price. At $3,499 street, the PQ321 carries a premium price tag that was once occupied by 30-inch IPS panels not that long ago (some still hover in that range). Expect 4K monitors to come down in price once they become more commonplace, but for now, there's a premium attached for being an early adopter.
 

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