ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ Monitor Review: Glorious 4K HDR, 144Hz G-SYNC Gaming
Gaming On The ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ
Playing games in HDR at 4K is a sublime experience on the PG27UQ. If you are not a believer in HDR, this monitor will quickly change your mind, though the level of awe depends on the specific game title at play. Titles with brightly lit scenes and lush, detailed venues tend to look better than darker themed games.
One of the best demonstrations of HDR that we have seen so far is Final Fantasy XV, which Square Enix ported to Windows with 4K support earlier this year. This is not something we can really quantify, outside of perhaps measuring the luminance, but has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
This is evident from the opening scene as you push a broken down car (it looks like a Maserati) through the desert. Specs of sand cover parts of the vehicle's glittery paint job, and if you look up, fluffy white clouds with tinges of gray float across a bright, blue sky. This is where HDR really shines, literally and figuratively, as it's a brightly lit outside scene with lots of contrasting colors and detail. It would be ruined if the colors were washed out (as they can look in SDR settings on other panels), but they're not on the PG27UQ. The colors and visual splendor in the sky are similar to looking at it in real life, as wild as that is to fathom.
We also took a look at Destiny 2, another game in a comparatively short list of current PC titles with HDR support. Here again, the opening scene underscores how HDR enhances the visuals. The actual gameplay, however, isn't quite as stunning as it is in Final Fantasy XV, though it's still delightful to see lasers shoot across the screen and strike their target in HDR.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III was another title where the effects were more subdued compared to Final Fantasy XV. However, the PG27UQ did a good job with shadow variation. The same goes for Hitman, another game that supports HDR. Hitman also serves up several sunny locations with a varied mix of bright colors on different outfits (shirts, caps) and background items (table umbrellas). Having HDR enabled doesn't add to the realism in this case, though it does add some pop.
Overall, HDR looks better on the PG27UQ than most other displays, and when fully utilized it rivals OLED in our opinion. This is gaming at its most vibrant best, folks.
Sadly, there are way more SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) games than there are ones that support High Dynamic Range, though the list of titles that fall into the latter category will continue to grow. In the meantime, we played a handful of SDR games on the PG27UQ.
HDR gaming is where the PG27UQ really struts its stuff, though SDR games look very good as well. They aren't as vibrant, but that is going to be true of any monitor when switching from HDR to SDR content. Even without HDR, the PG27UG still delivers a high level of brightness, along with a 4ms response time and accurate (and calibrated) color reproduction.
Enabling G-Sync keeps the on-screen action smooth and free of jitter and tearing, assuming own a GeForce GPU (we don't imagine many Radeon owners will be shopping a $2,000 G-Sync display). And of course the high refresh rate benefits fast-action gameplay as well.
Performance And Chroma Subsampling
Our test unit arrived without the updated firmware that we mentioned earlier, and we did in fact notice that SDR games appeared a little bit darker when running at 144Hz. This is a byproduct of the monitor using 4:2:2 chroma subsampling to handle SDR content at that refresh rate. The effect is far more pronounced when testing black levels, whereas games just look a little darker overall, and are not ruined by any stretch. It's also a moot issue for most users—ASUS tells us that all retail shipments after the initial pre-order lot will have the new firmware that fixes this.
What about running SDR games at 120Hz with an 8-bit color depth versus 98Hz with a 10-bit color depth? To our eyes, they look virtually the same. We couldn't tell the difference between one over the other, which is good news if you want the faster 120Hz refresh rate and have the hardware to keep up.
All that said, graphics cards are probably a generation or two away from being able to take full advantage of the PG27UQ. Running games at 4K and hitting 144 frames per second is a tough ask for today's hardware; that includes the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti that we used to test this panel. Whether that will also be the case on NVIDA's GeForce GTX 11 series, which is right around the corner, remains to be seen.