ASUS is first out of the gate with a consumer 4K Ultra HD monitor, and in essence the company has, by default, set the bar for others to follow. As such, it's impossible for us to know how it will stack up against the competition, though on its own merit, the PQ321 is a promising first effort, albeit a slightly unfinished one.
The PQ321 is a little ahead of its time, not just in being a 4K monitor, but by wielding a 4K panel capable of 60Hz rather than 30Hz. To run at 60Hz off a single cable, you need to enable the multi-streaming transport (MST) capability in the PQ321's DisplayPort. After that, you have to mess around with updated drivers and GPU software settings, which is easy enough, but also a little annoying. Fortunately, ASUS is hard at work on updated firmware that will enable the monitor to automate the process; drivers will recognize when a 4K display has MST enabled and the panel will auto-configure itself. It's coming soon, and in fact we're holding onto the monitor for awhile in hopes of adding an updated impression.
Until then, we can talk about the PQ321's other traits. We're impressed with how slim the monitor is, especially compared to the current crop of 30-inch LCD displays, and the overall design of the stand. Our only gripe is that the base of PQ321 doesn't offer rotation, though it does support height, tilt, and swivel adjustments. To put the panel in portrait orientation, you have to disassemble the base from the panel. Regardless, this is likely not much an issue, for most users considering a 32-inch panel like the PQ321.
If you've never experienced a high-quality monitor before, firing up the PQ321 will change your outlook on things. Simply put, it's hard to go from a 4K resolution back down to 1080p, though it's a little easier to 'settle' for a 2560x1600 resolution, as is typical of 30-inch monitors. In fact, if you already own a 30-inch panel, we wouldn't suggest dropping $3,500 on a 4K upgrade, not unless you're a graphics professional who can truly take advantage of the added detail and real-estate. If that's the case, then by all means, treat yourself. It really is an impressive, gorgeous display.
The price tag is the real rub here, and not the lack of 4K content. That's always the case early in the game, as it is for the emerging 4K standard, but assuming you have the requisite disposable income and have no qualms spending it, the PQ321 will reward your investment with a brilliant display and a future-proof design, provided ASUS can deliver the promised firmware update. The PQ321 is a premium display, to be sure, and contrary to popular belief, you don't necessarily need dual-graphics cards to game on the panel's native resolution, though the extra horsepower of a second GPU certainly wouldn't hurt. We pulled upwards of 50fps running 4K on a Radeon HD 7970 GPU.
While ASUS left some room for improvement, they ended up putting together a 4K monitor that represents this new class of ultra-high definition panels very well.