Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ
TECHNICALLY, IT’S THE BEST MONITOR EVER MADE. IN REALITY IT’S AN EXPENSIVE LUXURY
Sometimes being a tech reviewer is an enviable position while on other occasions we’re taking it on the chin for our readers. Having put Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ through its paces, I’m still not sure which end of the spectrum this experience resides. The monitor is undeniably brilliant. But making it work is an exercise akin to breaking in a wild Mustang, negotiating with Rain Man and starting up a race car.
Nonetheless, once we’d made the calculations for hyperspace, checked that its Flux Capacitor was fluxing and set turbines to speed, an ethereal glow came down from the heavens and told us all was well. That’s actually literally what happened: the first thing we saw was a Far Cry 5 loading screen with sunlight streaming into a forest glade. It wasn’t just impressive graphics anymore, there was actual light shining into the image. We instantly knew that this was something special.
The PG27UQ represents the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year journey by Nvidia to produce the best 4K HDR gaming monitor on the market. While many gaming monitors excel in some areas, it’s often at the expense of others. The PG27UQ aims to excel at everything and Nvidia certifies it for doing so. That certification process starts at the beginning of the panel’s manufacturing process and stretches all the way through it. It’s also why this monitor costs a whopping $3,899. But the result is G-Sync HDR... In this manifestation, a 27-inch IPS panel offers HDR10 colour depth (with one billion colours), High Dynamic Range, 1,000-nit brightness, 144Hz dynamic refresh rate, dynamic pixel response time overdrive, 4K resolution, 178o viewing angles and low input lag. All at once. It covers 99 per cent of RGB colour space and an impressive 97 per cent of the film-industryderived DCI-P3. The key hardware revolves around a 120Hz IPS panel (overclockable to 144Hz) which is illuminated by 384 zones of locallydimmed backlighting. The result is one of the widest colour gamuts on the market, HDR contrast and some of the smoothest, clearest motion available on a monitor.
We won’t dwell on all the science, but in the past some of these technologies have been incompatible: IPS and fast pixel response times for example. Nvidia’s complicated “variable overdrive” technology addresses this but doing so with dynamic refresh rates makes the process dramatically harder.
Dynamic refresh rates mean that the screen can scan and match the framerates produced by the GPU on the fly. It’s particularly beneficial on a 4K display because it’s hard for even the beefiest computers to maintain constant high framerates at UHD resolutions. When those framerates fluctuate you get image tearing and stutter. Fixing this by activating VSync is unreliable and can produce stuttering images and input latency. Addressing all this on a regular HD monitor with standard
“Addressing all this at 4K while supporting HDR10 is extraordinary”
Ergonomic and versatile design with height adjustment of 0-120mm, pivot 0º-90º (clockwise), swivel +35º - -35º and tilt of +20º - -5º
dynamic range colours is hard enough, but to do so at 4K while supporting HDR10 is extraordinary.
IN THE REAL WORLD
There are currently over 30 major titles optimised for HDR. We focused on Far Cry 5, Final Fantasy 15 and Call of Duty WWII. Far Cry 5 looks amazing even on a bad day, what with its ‘Wilds of Montana’ setting, bright skies, lush greenery and waterways. With HDR, the light illumination is noticeably dialled up a notch. The light is that bit brighter and yet more detail can be seen within it. Where it really comes to life is in night scenes when street lamps in the distance illuminate objects; it’s like there’s a light-source actually illuminating them – not just clever lighting algorithms. Generally, the whole game gained an extra level of vibrancy.
But there’s more to it than that. At 4K, our beefy Nvidia GTX 1080-based test rig still saw framerates fluctuate between 30 and 60fps. The monitor’s on-screen readout (plus FRAPS’ framerate numbers) showed us that the refresh rate and frame rate were indeed synchronised. Smoothness was very good and tearing was completely absent, even with rapid fluctuations of 100Hz/FPS. Nonetheless, rapid movements still could leave a mess of motion when the moving the mouse around rapidly.
Final Fantasy XV saw major benefits of the dynamic framerates provided by G-Sync. This game frequently fell under 30fps when at 4K but, despite some stuttering from the GPU rendering, tearing and related image aberrations were absent. Nonetheless, we ended up dropping the resolution to 1080p (which pushed Hz/FPS up to an average of 60fps) and everything ran silky smooth. But it’s the lighting effects in the dark that really jumped out: bright areas glowing, while retaining detail, are enough to make you want the monitor for this game alone.
These games underlined the importance of having an extremely powerful PC. Nvidia recommended we test with a 1080 Ti(!) graphics card and, frankly, you’ll likely need more than that to get the best out of this monitor.
We used Call of Duty (plus SDR games like Rainbow 6 Seige and Fortnight) to test how the screen held up in fast-and-frantic shooters and were impressed. The smoothness increase was noticeable and (in CoD) flame-effects were certainly enhanced. Most importantly, accuracy and twitchlike aiming was as fast and accurate as competitive gamers require.
But CoD also gave us pause. The PG27UQ is all about being the ultimate competitive gaming monitor. However, other gaming monitors use large screens, low resolutions and contrast settings which purposely wreck and image in order to, for instance, expose people hiding in shadows by removing all dark areas. By enhancing the contrast to more realistic levels, suddenly flares become more-realistically blinding and shadows become more-realistically dark. That’s a performance hit that you don’t really want in competitive gaming – it’s a bit like putting comfy leather seats and into a race car.
The zoned backlighting provides a massive 50,000:1 contrast ratio and means black areas stay black most of the time. There were some halo effects evident (light leakage surrounding bright objects on dark backgrounds) but we found it wasn’t distracting, even in space scenes. If you live in space games, it may be more problematic.
As stated up front, getting everything working properly can be a hassle: sometimes the monitor’s settings conflict with Windows’ HDR settings and these can interfere with a game’s own HDR settings. Sometimes, changing settings on the fly, gave us a black screen which was fixed by a reboot. It’s early days for this technology and automation takes a back seat to the manual tweaking of settings. It can be frustrating.
Other features include onscreen crosshairs plus the usual colour/ brightness tweaks plus connectivity options. The screen itself is rather boxy-looking by ROG standards but it’s appearance is somewhat rescued by the usual, solid, flamboyant ROG stand.
For the same price you can buy a massive LG OLED TV with even better contrast and colours which, unlike the PG27UQ supports HDR on Netflix. However, that doesn’t offer such smooth (and importantly, responsive) gaming performance. Also, note that Acer’s forthcoming Predator X27 has the same panel and certification.
If money is no object, then you will love this screen. But you may just tear some of your hair out while using it. Ultimately, it’s an unaffordable triumph of engineering that will drive the monitor industry forwards through its very existence. As such it gets top marks from us, but – at least at this launch price -- it’s not for everyone.
27-inch diagonal • 16:9 aspect ratio • 144Hz refresh rate • IPS panel type • 1,000 nit brightness • 4ms (dynamic overdrive) response time • 3,840 x 2,160 resolution • G-Sync HDR • HDMI 2.0 • DP 1.4 • headphone out • 2x USB 3.0 Type-A
$3,899 • www.asus.com/au