Many consider me to be a 4K hater. The past few trade shows I’ve attended have been pushing it on consumers to replace their TVs, but I see less value in it. When it comes to a computer display, it is a different game. Unlike a 50” TV, we sit close to our monitors, even if they are 30” in size. We also have no worries about a lack of native content, since everything is rendered on the fly and native. There are no issues with the lack of HDMI 2.0, as DisplayPort 1.2 can drive a 3840x2160 screen at 60 Hz.

When it comes to 4K on the desktop, my main question is: how much difference will I see? ASUS is one of the first with a HiDPI display in the PQ321Q. While not truly 4K, it is a 3840x2160 LCD display that can accept an Ultra High Definition (UHD) signal over HDMI and DisplayPort. It also clocks in at a wallet-stretching $3,500 right now. The question is, are we seeing the future with displays here, or are we seeing a niche product?

What does 4K/UHD/HiDPI bring to the desktop? We’ve seen it for a few years now in smartphones and tablets, making their smaller screens more usable for reading and general work. My initial thought is more desktop space, as that is what it has meant before. With a 32” monitor and a pixel density this high, running it without any DPI scaling leads to a desktop where reading text is a huge pain. Instead I believe most users will opt for DPI scaling so elements are larger and easier to read. Now you have something similar to the Retina screen on the iPhone: No more desktop space compared to a 2560x1440 monitor, but one that is razor sharp and easier to look at.

To get to this pixel density, ASUS has relied upon a panel from Sharp that uses IGZO technology. IGZO (Indium gallium zinc oxide) is a material that replaces amorphous silicon for the active layer of an LCD screen. The main benefit is higher electron mobility that allows for faster reacting, smaller pixels. We have seen non-IGZO panels in smartphones with higher pixel densities, but we don’t have any other current desktop LCDs that offer a higher pixel density than this ASUS display. IGZO also allows for a wide viewing angle.

ASUS has packed this LCD into an LED edge-lit display that only extends to 35mm thick at the maximum. Getting to that thinness requires a power brick instead of an internal power supply, which is a trade-off I’d rather not see. The 35mm depth is very nice, but unlike a TV most people don’t mount a desktop LCD to the wall so I’d take the bulk to avoid the heavy power brick. It does lead to a cooler display, as even after being on for two consecutive days the PQ321Q remains relatively cool to the touch. The power brick itself is quite warm after that period.

Unlike most ASUS displays that click into their stand, the PQ321Q is screwed in with four small screws. This seems to be another attempt to cut down on the thickness of the display, as that mounting mechanism takes up space, but I like the quick release that it offers. Inputs are provided by a single DisplayPort and a pair of HDMI 1.4a inputs. In a nice touch these inputs are side mounted, instead of bottom mounted, making It easy to access them.

Be aware that HDMI 1.4a is really not designed around UHD/4K resolutions, and so your maximum frame rate is only 30p. If you’re watching a 24p film it won’t matter, but there is no real source for those right now anyway. HDMI 2.0 is supposed to resolve this issue, but that was promised at CES this year, and I think we’ll be lucky to see it at CEDIA in September.

One area that the ASUS falls a bit short in is the On Screen Display (OSD). While clear and fairly easy to work in, it takes up most of the screen and you can’t resize it or reposition it. Moving to 4K might have required a new OSD to be developed and it just isn’t totally refined yet, but it needs some work. It isn’t awful as it’s easy to work in, and offers a user mode with a two-point white balance, but it isn’t at the top of the game.

The full specs for the ASUS are listed below. Once this beast is unboxed, lets set it up.

Video Inputs 2xHDMI 1.4a, 1xDisplayPort 1.2 with MST
Panel Type IGZO LCD
Pixel Pitch 0.182mm
Colors 1.07 Billion
Brightness 350 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio 800:01
Response Time 8ms GTG
Viewable Size 31.5"
Resolution 3840x2160
Viewing Angle (H/V) 176/176
Backlight LED
Power Consumption (operation) 93W
Power Consumption (standby) <1W
Screen Treatment non-glare
Height-Adjustable Yes, 150mm
Tilt Yes, -25 to 5 degrees
Pivot No
Swivel Yes, -45 to 45 degrees
VESA Wall Mounting Yes, 200mm
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 29.5" x 19.3" x 10.1"
Weight 28.7 lbs.
Additional Features 3.5mm Input and Output, 2Wx2 speakers
Limited Warranty 3 Years
Accessories DisplayPort cable, USB to RS232 adapter cable
Price $3,499


Setup and Daily Use
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  • Mondozai - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    BUT BUT BUT, we were told everything above 720p was overkill and stupid!

    Where are Anandtechs resident armchair experts now?!
  • Despoiler - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    It 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.
  • beginner99 - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    Exactly. 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 - link

    Well, 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 - link

    It'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 - link

    720p 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 - link

    That sounds like bollocks to me. I can easily tell the difference between a game running at 720p and 1080p.
  • doobydoo - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - link

    He 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 a certain viewing angle [distance].
  • Shadowself - Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - link

    Absolutely 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.

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