ASUS PQ321Q UltraHD Monitor Review: Living with a 31.5-inch 4K Desktop Displayby Chris Heinonen on July 23, 2013 9:01 AM EST
If you are going to use the ASUS PQ321Q, you’re going to want DisplayPort 1.2 support. HDMI will work, but it’ll be choppy with its 30Hz refresh rate. If you have a video card with dual HDMI 1.4 outputs, you can use both of them to drive it at 60Hz if your video driver supports it. DisplayPort 1.2 allows for Multi-Stream Transport (MST) support, letting you drive two displays with a single DP cable. But why does that matter if the ASUS is your only monitor? Because to get the full 60Hz refresh rate out of it, DisplayPort needs to see it as a pair of 1920x2160 monitors that each get their own signal.
The ASUS has MST mode disabled by default. With my NVIDIA GTX 660 Ti I had to manually enable it in the monitor for it to turn on. I’ve been told that with ATI or Intel GPUs over DisplayPort 1.2 it is automatic, but I don’t have those to test with. Once enabled, it quickly went from 30 Hz to 60 Hz while staying at 3840x2160 resolution.
Since I run multiple displays like most people, this seemed to be an ideal time to test out Windows 8.1 and its ability to offer individual DPI scaling on monitors. For this test I used the ASUS PQ321Q, connected over DispayPort, and a Nixeus VUE 30 (review forthcoming) connected over DVI running at 2560x1600. With a single universal setting, you use a percentage setting for scaling in Windows 8.1. With individual control, you use a slider more like on a Retina MacBook Pro. The percentage is hidden, which I dislike. I don’t understand why we have a different way to select the scaling level if you have two monitors versus one. Perhaps it is a beta issue, but I think they should be uniform.
Moving beyond that, when I attempted to scale the PQ321Q, I had an image that was still fuzzy instead of sharp. Thankfully a driver update (as 4K MST panels are new) fixed this issue quickly. The independent display scaling in Windows 8.1 still didn’t work the way I wanted it to. The choices are unclear, including which monitor you are adjusting, and I never could get it setup exactly how I wanted it. I wound up setting it to 150% for both displays and dealing with my 27” running with larger icons than I prefer.
Now I have an effective 2560x1440 desktop, only everything is sharp. Amazingly sharp. It is like moving from my iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4 and its retina screen. The text as I write this in Word is crisp and clear, and editing gigantic spreadsheet in Excel is much easier when the cells are so easy to read. Unfortunately not every application in Windows plays well with DPI scaling.
Chrome is scaled 150% as Windows asked, but it is hazy and blurry. Disabling DPI scaling for the application and then scaling to 150% inside Chrome produces crisp, clear text. Firefox also didn’t scale automatically, but it has a setting to adjust to make it follow the Windows DPI scaling rules. Once set, Firefox looks very nice and crisp. For most people, that setting should already be set to follow DPI scaling.
Finding a chat client that works well is a challenge. Both Pidgin and Trillian don’t do DPI scaling and are fuzzy by default. Another app that had issues is Steam. Right-clicking in the System Tray icon brought up a menu in the middle of the screen, where it would be without DPI scaling. The reality is that some apps are great and support DPI scaling, and some need work, just like when the retina MacBook Pro was released. Evernote looks great, but Acrobat is a fuzzy mess. This is all a bit of growing pains, but I find myself disabling DPI scaling on applications that don’t support it because I prefer tiny and sharp to fuzzy and large.
Because the 2560x1440 resolution is what I’m used to with my usual 27” monitor, I found there to be no real difference in how I used the ASUS monitor. I typically split items to different sides of the screen, with Word on the right and Evernote on the left as I type this. The application that benefitted for me was image editing. Being able to fit more on the screen, or zoom in to higher levels, made working with images on the ASUS better than on a 27” of the same effective resolution. I don’t do that much image editing, but for the work I have done it has been wonderful.
You’ll also quickly find out how much people need to go back and fix up programs or websites to use images and text separately. Text combined in an image scales very poorly, but is often easier than doing proper layout for two separate elements. I feel a bit bad for all the developers that need to go back to fix everything to work with high-DPI screens, but that time has come.
The only way to sum up daily use of the ASUS PQ321Q is “awesome”. It’s not perfect, but much of that is the fault of Windows or other programs and websites. When you have something that can scale and look correct, it is amazing how much the extra pixel density and sharpness helps. Yes, this is the future for displays, and we are entering the transition period to get there.
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Mondozai - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkBUT BUT BUT, we were told everything above 720p was overkill and stupid!
Where are Anandtechs resident armchair experts now?!
Despoiler - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkIt depends on how close you are to the display and the size of the display. 4k will definitely help in a computing environment. It will do no good in common TV viewing scenarios. 4k will however sell TVs because you typically buy TVs at the store where you are up close to it. http://carltonbale.com/does-4k-resolution-matter/
beginner99 - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkExactly. Most people either have a too small tv or sit too far away to even benefit from ful HD or even 720p.
kevith - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkWell, doesn´t that depend on what you mean by "benefit"? (I know the eyes have an upper limit, when it comes to resolution, giving a max distance from your TV/monitor)
I have never experienced a High DPI screen - like a Retina - in real life, but I know a great deal about the difference when it comes to sound.
What is it excactly, that makes a 2000 dollar stereo set better than a 500 dollar one? It´s very hard to put your finger on one parameter and say.: "It´s that!" or "It´s this!" "Better transients" or "better bass" are just subjective expressions.
At the end of the day, it very often comes down to: "It simply sounds "softer" to my ears". Or: "You can turn the volume up way higher, before it starts to sound harsh or rough".
I don´t know, I just presume it´s the same with screens: The higher the res, the "softer" the picture wil feel to your eyes. Even if we actually exceed the resolution capabilities of the eye.
Despoiler - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - linkIt's that your eyes physically cannot resolve the difference in resolution at a certain distance combined with a certain size of screen. ie 720, 1080, or 4k look the same if you are sitting far enough back.
Integr8d - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link720p is rougly the maximum visual acuity for a moving image. For static images, the more resolution the better. For movies or gaming (save for the occasional sniper shot, where most of the screen is still) 720p is most your brain can process.
shaurz - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - linkThat sounds like bollocks to me. I can easily tell the difference between a game running at 720p and 1080p.
doobydoo - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - linkHe said 'if you are sitting far enough back'. Can you tell the difference between a game running at 720p and 1080p from 1 mile away? No.
Ortanon - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link...at a certain viewing angle [distance].
Shadowself - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - linkAbsolutely not. Please read my earlier post.
Additionally, motion actually enhances a lot of the acuity requirements. You can actually see motion (especially if it's repetitive) that is on the order of one arc minute or less.