AOC’s lat­est pre­mium panel comes at a price


WE LIVE IN AN AGE when tablet com­put­ers with high-DPI IPS screens are handed out in boxes of Corn Flakes (other corn­based ce­re­als are avail­able). Well, al­most. Sim­i­larly, you’re no­body in the smart­phone game with­out a de­cent high-DPI IPS panel at the very least. To be re­ally com­pet­i­tive, you’re talk­ing OLED tech­nol­ogy.

Yet the one de­vice that could both most ben­e­fit from and make the best use of such dis­plays lags miles off the pace, wheez­ing along as other de­vices dip over the hori­zon. Yes, we speak of the PC. That’s not to say the PC mon­i­tor mar­ket has been stag­nant. Far from it, what with the ar­rival of adap­tive sync, HDR, and su­per-wide as­pect ra­tios. Res­o­lu­tions and panel sizes are up, too.

But true high-DPI? Not so much. At least, not at a price most of us can af­ford. So, it’s hardly sur­pris­ing to find that AOC’s lat­est pre­mium panel, the AGON AG271UG, clocks in at $799. It’s a 27-inch model, with IPS tech, and a healthy 4K pixel grid. That makes for a rel­a­tively high 168 pix­els per inch for a PC mon­i­tor. By the stan­dards of phones and tablets, which gen­er­ally don’t get out of bed for less than 250 ppi, it’s still piti­ful. Like­wise, it’s hard to un­der­stand why this panel costs more than twice the price of a TN 4K mon­i­tor of the same size.

Re­mem­ber also that AOC trades on value. A sim­i­lar mon­i­tor from Asus or Acer would be even more ex­pen­sive. If it sounds like we’re harsh­ing on AOC, far from it. As this type of panel goes, the AG271UG has a lot go­ing for it. It sports lovely, vi­bran­tyet-nat­u­ral col­ors. It de­liv­ers well in our test im­ages, too, ren­der­ing white and black scales with lit­tle vis­i­ble com­pres­sion. Su­per-smooth gra­di­ent ren­der­ing is on the menu, too. Pixel re­sponse is sub­jec­tively nice and zippy, to boot, es­pe­cially for an IPS panel. Even bet­ter, all this is achieved with none of that nasty in­verse ghost­ing stuff that’s a con­se­quence of ag­gres­sive pixel over­drive set­tings.

Black lev­els and con­trast are good, though not quite a match for the best VA pan­els. There’s lit­tle ev­i­dence of IPS glow, ei­ther, which is wel­come. It must also be said that by the stan­dards of PC mon­i­tors, the 3840x2160 pixel res­o­lu­tion makes for very sharp im­age qual­ity and nice font ren­der­ing. What you don’t get is that su­per­smooth­ness that comes with a DPI so high that in­di­vid­ual pix­els vir­tu­ally dis­ap­pear.

You also don’t get a truly high-qual­ity stand and en­clo­sure. Su­per­fi­cially, it checks all the right boxes: There’s full ad­justa­bil­ity, in­clud­ing height, swivel, ro­tate, and tilt, the bezel is thin, and the stand is made of metal. But the de­sign is dated, and the whole en­sem­ble is awk­ward to as­sem­ble. At this rel­a­tively high price, you’d ex­pect a slick clip-in ar­range­ment for at­tach­ing the stand to the chas­sis, not a quar­tet of cheapo screws. The ex­ter­nal, rather than in­te­grated, power sup­ply is worth a de­merit or two, as well.

Of course, high-DPI tech­nol­ogy im­ple­mented on the PC re­mains a mixed bag, due to the way both Win­dows and the web han­dles it. Driv­ing re­ally high res­o­lu­tions in games is prob­lem­atic, as well. Like­wise, the 4K res­o­lu­tion more or less dic­tates the AG271UG’s 60Hz re­fresh. 4K 120Hz pan­els are com­ing, but they will be even more ex­pen­sive. So, sim­ply throw­ing more pix­els at a screen like this isn’t a cure-all.

But when you can buy a 40-inch 4K TV, ca­pa­ble of 60Hz re­fresh, for half the price of this, never mind all those high-DPI por­ta­ble de­vices for pen­nies, the value propo­si­tion seems mar­ginal. It’s a nice screen, this AOC, but like pretty much all of its di­rect com­pe­ti­tion, it feels over­priced for what you’re get­ting.

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