Introduction & Specifications
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).
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.
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.