ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ Monitor Review: Glorious 4K HDR, 144Hz G-SYNC Gaming

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ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ: Calibration Controls And Setup

The PG27UQ arrives already calibrated from the factory, so you shouldn't have to spend much time fiddling with the controls. There's also a color calibration testing report included in the box. One thing ASUS points out is that your own measurements may differ, depending on the test equipment you're using. The factory calibration is performed using a Minolta Color Analyzer CA310, a pricey piece of professional equipment that runs several thousand dollars.

ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ OSD

Firing up the OSD tells you at a glance if G-Sync is enabled, whether or not HDR is turned on, the resolution and refresh rate you're running, and the lighting scheme. The main options are clearly labeled: Overclocking, Blue Light Filter, Color, Image, Input Select, and System Setup. There are sub-menus for each one, which appear to the right. This orientation makes it easy to wade through the different options without getting lost, and is one of the more user friendly implementations out there. We also find the joystick and paddles to be intuitive.

Before we dive into the performance of the PG27UQ, let's look at what's required for setup.

Setting Up The ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ

While you don't necessarily have to spend time calibrating the PG27UQ, you will have to perform some housekeeping in order to take advantage of the PG27UQ's full feature set. To start with, make sure your GeForce driver is updated to the latest release. You should also be running Windows 10 with at least the Fall Creators Update (build 1709), and ideally the more recent April 2018 Update (build 1803).

Assuming all of that is already in place, one of the first things you'll want to do is check your graphics card's firmware and update it if necessary. This is important in order to take advantage of newer DisplayPort 1.3 and 1.4 features. If you're running a card with older firmware—and you probably are—NVIDIA warns that you might experience blank screens on boot until the OS loads, or in some cases your system could hang. You don't want to deal with that.

NVIDIA Graphics Firmware Update Tool

Some users might find the prospect of updating their graphics card's firmware to be a bit scary. Not to worry though, NVIDIA has made available a special tool that makes this a quick and painless process. Don't be alarmed if your screen flashes a few times while updating—that's perfectly normal. Once it's finished, it will prompt you to reboot your PC.

NVIDIA Control Panel Refresh Rate

Now it's time to tweak some actual settings. To enable a 144Hz refresh rate, bring up the OSD and navigate to Overclocking > Max Refresh Rate 144Hz and check the On box. After you've done that, right-click on your desktop and select NVIDIA Control Panel > Change Resolution and select 144Hz from the Refresh rate pull-down menu.

While you are in the NVIDIA Control Panel, also check to ensure that G-Sync is enabled. Click the Set up G-Sync option and check the Enable G-Sync box. You can also choose to enable G-Sync in full-screen mode only, or in both full-screen and windowed modes.

The last order of business is to enable HDR in Windows 10. You can do this by right-clicking on your desktop and selecting Display. Here you'll find a switch labeled HDR and WCG. Flip this on. If you're running the April 2018 Update, you can also click on the HDR and WCG Settings link right below the button to access a brightness slider for SDR content. We found that setting this to around 75-80 percent offers a nice level of brightness to Windows as a whole, without melting our eyeballs.

HDR And 144Hz Growing Pains

There are some things to note about HDR. For whatever reason, Google still has not updated its Chrome browser to play nice with the HDR setting in Windows. Everything is darkened in Chrome, making it borderline unusable. There isn't a fix available, but there is a temporary workaround. Type chrome://flags into the URL bar, search for HDR, and disable HDR mode. Voila, Chrome is bright and vibrant again, you just won't be able to view HDR content in Chrome.

Another issue you might run into involves running SDR games at the monitor's overclocked 144Hz refresh rate. ASUS explains it as such:
"We received some feedback that the appearance of SDR games in YUV color format at 144Hz is darker when compared to sRGB color format. This is because the gamma standards for sRGB and YUV are different. We have added an enhancement to new firmware that gives the user the option of using the sRGB gamma when in YUV color format. This harmonizes the experience between sRGB and YUV color formats."
This is a somewhat complicated issue to understand, as it deals with the bandwidth limitations of DisplayPort 1.4 and the use of 4:2:2 chroma subsampling, the latter of which some users might find disappointing in a $2,000 monitor. There is a lengthy and detailed explanation on Reddit covering this topic, and another one on Rtings.com that does an excellent job of breaking down 4:4:4 versus 4:2:2 and what it all means. The general takeaway is that non-HDR games (and other SDR content) look darker when running at 4K and 144Hz, which some have dubbed a "black crush" issue.

The updated firmware that ASUS references in its FAQ is not yet available to download, but will be sometime later this year. Furthermore, ASUS tells us that only the initial batch of pre-orders shipped with the older firmware—everything since then comes with the newer firmware. If you happen to be in the former category, ASUS is offering to pay for return shipping so it can flash the newer firmer in-house, if you don't want to wait for the end-user friendly download. That deserves a first-bump.

Refresh Rate Cheat Sheet

At the risk of further complicating things, let's quickly go over the supported refresh rates and settings for SDR and HDR content. Here are the ones for SDR:
  • 98Hz, RGB (4:4:4), 10-bit color depth
  • 120Hz, RGB (4:4:4), 8-bit color depth
  • 144Hz, YCbCr 4:2:2, 8-bit color depth
And here are the supported modes and settings for HDR content:
  • 98Hz, RGB (4:4:4), 10-bit color depth
  • 120Hz, YCbCr 4:2:2, 10-bit color depth
  • 144Hz, YCbCr 4:2:2, 10-bit color depth
At full bore, the PG27UQ can use every bit of available bandwidth via DisplayPort 1.4 to deliver 4K content at 120Hz, which is the monitor's native refresh rate. So for 4K HDR content, you have two options—run at 98Hz without any chroma subsampling (RGB, or 4:4:4) for the best possible image quality, or either 144Hz (overclocked) or 120Hz (native) with 4:2:2 chroma subsampling (8-bit color depth). Put another way, the PG27UQ uses chroma subsampling to deliver 4K HDR content at refresh rates higher than 98Hz.

Now that we've gotten the technical bits out of the way, let's see how this monitor actually performs...

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