ASUS PQ321Q UltraHD Monitor Review: Living with a 31.5-inch 4K Desktop Display

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 3840×2160 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 3840×2160 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 2560×1440 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.

HP Intros New Entry-Level Workstation, Pro Monitors

HP today released an update to its entry-level workstations along with a slew of new IPS Gen 2 professional grade displays.

The new HP Z230 Workstation, unveiled at the Siggraph show in Aneheim, Calif., brings professional quad-core workstations to the $999 price point. The new Z22i, Z23i, and Z24i IPS displays, meanwhile, bring wider viewing angles and power savings to the professional graphics, architecture, and engineering user.

The Z22i, Z23i, and Z24i IPS Gen 2 displays are professional grade, offering 95 to 99 percent coverage of the sRGB color space and increased color accuracy compared to previous LCD TN panels. IPS Gen 2 also offers wider viewing angles, both horizontally and vertically.

Sized at 21.5 inches (Z22i) and 23 inches (Z23i), the two smaller monitors feature a 1,920-by-1,080 (1080p) full HD 16:9 resolution. Both feature a wide range of brightness adjustments, DisplayPort, DVI, and VGA inputs, 4-way pivot/tilt, and a built-in USB 2.0 hub for your keyboard and tablet digitizer.

The 24-inch Z24i adds a 1,920-by-1,200 (16:10) resolution for workers who need more desktop real estate for toolbars and the like. The Z24i also has wide brightness adjustment, and extra niceties like a carry handle and cable management.

All these displays are Energy Star and EPEAT Gold compliant. They are available today for $239 (Z22i), $259 (Z23i), and $399 (Z24i)

The entry-level HP Z230 workstation comes in small and compact tower form factors, depending on how much expansion your professional users need. The Z230 is built around the latest Intel Xeon E3 v3 and 4th-generation Intel Core processors. The Xeon-powered models feature integrated Intel HD Graphics P4600 for professional applications, as well as options for 2D multi-display graphics cards from Nvidia and entry to high-end 3D graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia.

Systems with discrete graphics cards will be able to support up to six simultaneous displays. Multiple Hard drive and SSD options can give users speed, capacity, or both. Depending on configuration, Z230 workstations can fulfill various ISV certification needs, including high-end 3D professional graphics, ECC or non-ECC memory, and professional grade CPU requirements. HP has promised a two-year (2013-2015) platform life cycle, so you can be assured of buying new pre-qualified systems for the next two years.

The HP Z230 workstation starts at $999 for a quad core powered system, and will be available worldwide this August.

Pre-Order Asus 31.5″ 4K IGZO Monitor for $3500

Asus is reportedly now taking pre-orders for its 31.5 inch monitor (PQ321Q) featuring Sharp’s anti-glare LED-backlit IGZO technology. It sports a screen resolution of 3840 x 2160, 140 pixels per inch, and not only cuts down on energy consumption but features an extremely long durability given that Sharp’s tech doesn’t constantly refresh the images. It’s all static until something moves on-screen.

The company introduced the new monitor last month, reporting that Sharp’s IGZO tech supports smaller transistors than amorphous silicon thanks to significantly higher electron mobility. It also not only reduces energy consumption, but reduces the monitor’s overall bulk as well: at 35 mm at its thickest point, the PQ321 is the thinnest 4K UHD monitor available today, the company said.

A Sharp rep said during CES 2013 in January that the 31.5 inch panel will be marketed to professionals first given the end-price. The prototype also had ten-point touch input which apparently didn’t make it into the company’s own PN-K321 31.5 inch IGZO monitor selling for $5,000 USD. The Asus model also doesn’t support touch.

The upcoming PQ321Q supports wide 176° horizontal and vertical viewing angles, 10 bit RGB “deep” color, and an 8 millisecond gray-to-gray response time. Other features include a 0.182 mm pixel pitch, a max brightness of 350 cd/m2, a max contrast ratio of 800:1, picture-by-picture support and HDCP support. The monitor’s typical power consumption is 93 watts.

On the connectivity front, the I/O panel has two HDMI ports, a DisplayPort, and an RS-232C port for old-school VGA connections. There’s also a 3.5 mm mini-jack for PC audio input, a 3.5 mm mini-jack for AV audio input, and a 3.5 mm mini-jack for earphones (for HDMI and DisplayPort).

Last month the company said that the new display is the “equivalent to four Full HD displays stacked side-by-side.” It can now be pre-ordered on Amazon here, and on Newegg here, both requesting $3,499.99 USD. The monitor is slated to arrive on July 16, 2013.