This is big news. To date, the HDR displays we’ve reviewed have made do with a mere handful of backlight zones, making it impossible for them to deliver the high-contrast HDR we’ve got used to seeing on mid– to high-end TVs. Now you’re getting the real deal.
There is a but, however. Despite costing a considerable £2,300, the PG27UQ is a mere 27-inch monitor. If you’re after a gargantuan big-screen or ultrawide display, then you’ll just need to look elsewhere – until Nvidia’s BFGDs finally go on sale to the public, this is as big as HDR gaming monitors get.
The Asus’ appeal is that it promises pristine image quality, ultra-high 144Hz refresh rates, and top-notch HDR performance. The IPS LCD panel is a boon, too, as it ensures both good viewing angles and SDR image quality that’s up to the challenge of professional image and video editing.
Factor in the presence of Nvidia’s G-Sync technology for eliminating image-tear and stutter alongside premium touches such as a fully adjustable stand, several decorative lights and a generally high level of build quality, and it’s easy to see why you’re paying the premium.
Design, features and build quality
Asus’ gaming monitors have never been shy of making a style statement. Sure enough, that’s the case here too. Lights shine out from just about every angle, and the stand and rear of the display are sculpted into distinctive angular patterns.
The lighting is something to behold. There’s a large RGB-backlit ROG logo on the rear of the display, a small red ROG logo on the top of the stand and, as if that weren’t enough, Asus’ Light Signal and Light in Motion features project light onto the desk and rear wall.
Light Signal actually projects an Asus ROG logo onto the wall behind and, similarly, Light in Motion projects a light down onto the desk below. However, in the latter case you can insert little clear plastic discs onto which you can put your own design, rather than being stuck with the default ROG logo.
I suspect 95% of buyers will immediately disable these features, but there’s no argument that it gets the branding across.
Elsewhere, the stand has a wonderfully elegant all metal base that rears up on its tip toes. It looks gorgeous, but it’s not as practical as a flat-based stand – if just a few centimetres of it goes over the edge of your desk the whole lot will come tumbling down.
Thankfully, though, the stand also offers a full range of ergonomic adjustments, so the height can be altered, the display rotated left to right and the tilt and pivot angles of the display changed too. The stand can also be removed so the display can be used with a VESA wall mount instead.
One thing you won’t find here, though, is an ultra-slim design or an ultra-narrow bezel around the edges of the screen. This has become something we generally expect from premium displays, but here the sophisticated backlight system has forced Asus to put up with a somewhat bulkier design and traditional bezel.
There isn’t much in the way of extra features. While some displays include headphone stands, audio pass-throughs and side-mounted USB ports, here you get none of these.
Instead, you just get two video inputs – one DisplayPort 1.4 and one HDMI 2.0 – and two USB 3.0 ports at the rear of the display. Like most G-Sync displays there’s also no room for an internal power supply, so you’ll just have to find somewhere to stow the external power supply.
The only other physical feature of note are the controls for the OSD. These sit on the rear right edge of the display and consist of a mini joystick and four buttons. Here we have no complaints at all: they work fantastically well together, and make it quick and easy to navigate the OSD and get things set up just so.
Few monitors make quite such a fantastic first impression. The PG27UQ’s triple-whammy of fantastic overall image quality, HDR-like high contrast and 4K clarity is incredibly striking.
We say HDR-like as, out of the box, it’s setup such that its clever multi-zone backlight is functioning but HDR isn’t turned on. This means you don’t get the super-bright peak brightness of 1000nits and the extended colour range of HDR but you do still get the high contrast enabled by having the backlight zones brighten or darken in accordance with the onscreen image.
This is perhaps most noticeable when watching widescreen movies where the black bars above and below the image appear truly black. By comparison, standard monitors make the black bars look more like washed-out grey.
|Picture mode||IQ default||IQ without dynamic backlight|
|Delta E average||0.14||0.19|
Putting this performance into numbers emphasises just how good the PG27UQ is. In its default configuration the display hits a modest maximum brightness of only 269cd/m2 (default brightness in the OSD is set to 80 out of 100), but black level is an incredibly low 0.0419cd/m2, which makes for a contrast ratio of 6424:1. That’s double that of even the very best VA-type LCD panels and six times greater than typical IPS-type LCD panels.
Colour balance is also all but perfect, with a colour temperature of 6573K – just 73K off the ideal of 6500K. Gamma measures at an almost perfect 2.24 – the ideal is 2.2.
You also get 97.5% sRGB colour space coverage and a Delta E score of 0.14, both of which highlight how the 10-bit colour processing of this display allow it to reproduce a wide range of colours at high accuracy.
Note, the panel isn’t true 10-bit but uses 8-bit with FRC. However, it can accept a full 10-bit signal. Also, if you’re running the display in HDR, you’ll want to limit the refresh rate to 98Hz to get full colour accuracy at 4k. Above this, the sampling rate of the display drops, slightly reducing colour accuracy.
As for viewing angles, they’re excellent. You do still get some IPS glow but the impact of this is greatly reduced thanks to the local-dimming backlighting.
ASUS PG27UQ 27-Inch ROG Swift 4K HDR Overclockable 144 Hz G-Sync IPS Quantum-dot Gaming Monitor - Black
However, it’s also important to test how the display performs without the local dimming enabled – after all, you’ll need to turn it off for things like photo and video editing.
With this disabled, contrast drops massively to a far more typical 1083:1, but otherwise performance remains all but identical – the colour accuracy is easily good enough for professional level photo and video editing.
As for HDR, this isn’t something we’re able to directly test as our test software doesn’t support HDR. However, there is a setting on the display that allows you to extend the colour gamut of the display to that which will be used by HDR.
Turning this mode on and the display’s DCI-P3 colour space coverage – the extended colour space used in several HDR standards – goes from 69% to 91.6%. Asus claims the display can hit 97% but a result of above 90% is still enough to qualify for the HDR standards.
With basic image quality accounted for, the next big challenge for the PG27UQ is HDR, and it’s fair to say that it delivers – and in spades.
The 384-zone backlighting presents truly dazzling levels of peak brightness for highlights, but it’s the increase in colour gamut – the variety of onscreen colours – which makes the biggest impact. Bright greens such as grass on a bright sunny day pop in a way that non-HDR simply can’t manage. At first it looks excessively vivid and over-saturated, but once you settle into it you realise this is how the world should look we’ve just been missing out on so much previously.
That said, there are times when the difference more subtle. HDR that only really delivers its full potential in extreme circumstances, when there’s strong contrast and bright colours. If the image doesn’t have those elements anyway, you don’t see the effect on screen.
Moreover, the amount of content out there that supports HDR is still very limited. A reasonable amount of video supports it but it’s not always easily accessible on a PC – often streaming apps only work on consoles or TVs or with certain browsers.
Meanwhile, when it comes to gaming, the situation is even more stark. Just a handful of games support the technology and there isn’t a great deal of talk of more games coming out with support. This will steadily increase over time but it could be years before the technology is common place.
Thankfully, support for HDR in Windows has now improved, so that’s one area that is no longer holding back HDR uptake.
The PG27UQ’s 4K resolution is interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact that this is the first 4K display that can refresh at up to 144Hz, which means you can game in a way that you never could before.
Whether gaming competitively or just on your own, the extra smoothness (particularly when coupled with G-Sync) and sharpness is something to behold. Whether there’s any competitive advantage to such fidelity is difficult to say but it certainly looks good.
The display is responsive too. Its rated 4ms response time can’t compete with 1ms TN gaming monitors but there’s no particularly egregious ghosting, and neither is there any perceptible input lag.
However, there are some downsides to that 4K resolution. In gaming, even the very fastest graphics cards struggle to provide much over 60fps at 4K resolutions in more graphically demanding titles. Something like PUBG, for instance, is a dead loss at 4K, even with a GTX 1080 Ti. This is a monitor that’s just begging to be partnered with one of Nvidia’sa new GeForce RTX cards.
Less demanding games are playable but the majority of titles will require you to turn down in-game detail settings or resolution to make them fly, which rather defeats the point of having a 4K display in the first place.
There are similar issue in general desktop use. The 4K resolution allows for incredibly sharp looking pictures and video but, unless you have ridiculously good eyesight, you’ll have to use Windows’ scaling setting to increase the size of text and other desktop elements to make them readable.
Set Windows scaling to 150% and the panel will run at the equivalent of a 1440p resolution, which is no larger a desktop than a normal 27-inch monitor. If you’ve already invested in a larger, high resolution display, such as the PG348Q, the PG27UQ may feel like a downgrade.
For many buyers, price isn’t going to be the only issue – after all, size matters. A 4K resolution simply can’t make up for the drop in desktop space compared to 32-inch or 34-inch ultrawide displays that cost half as much.
If your priority is image quality, however, then you won’t be disappointed. This is the single finest 27-inch gaming monitor you can buy, and we’d argue that it’s the best gaming monitor of any size thanks to the sheer quality of its HDR and SDR images.
The combination of 4K, a 144Hz refresh rate and proper HDR makes for image quality and gaming performance that no other monitor comes close to matching. The Asus PG27UQ is a monitor that is a gaimg dream come true.