Asus PB287Q review
Asus was among the first manufacturers to jump on the 4K monitor bandwagon, and back in October 2013 it led the charge with the wallet-crushing £3,000 Asus PQ321QE (web ID: 384841). At that price, needless to say we weren’t entirely convinced, but the encounter did leave us hankering for an affordable version, and that’s exactly what Asus has delivered with the PB287Q – a 28in 4K monitor for only £600. Could our Ultra HD dreams have come true? See also: The 9 best monitors from £200 to £2,000
Asus PB287Q review: first impressions
It’s fair to say we weren’t expecting much from this “budget” 4K monitor, but we found it hard not to be impressed. The combination of a 28in panel and 3,840 x 2,160 resolution means it’s immediately necessary to crank up Windows 8.1’s scaling settings to keep text and icons at a usable size, but the flipside is that the PB287Q serves up unearthly levels of sharpness.
Viewed alongside a 27in, 2,560 x 1,440 (WQHD) monitor, the increase in clarity is dramatic. Where the individual pixels on the WQHD panel become visible at around 8in, you have to almost press your nose to the PB287Q’s semi-gloss panel to see them. In practice, and from normal viewing distances, the PB287Q’s 157ppi pixel density and rich, saturated colour reproduction are enough to make images and photographs look almost as solid and pin-sharp as fine-quality print.
Such a high pixel density isn’t entirely impractical in everyday use, either. As the 4K resolution makes it possible to view an 8-megapixel photo in its entirety, you can simply lean closer to the screen to view fine detail, much as you’d pore over a physical print or photograph. And while a lack of vertical screen space is an issue on many 16:9 monitors, that’s simply not the case here.
The massive resolution delivers an embarrassment of screen real estate, making it possible to scatter several applications across the screen without the desktop becoming overly cluttered.
Asus PB287Q review: specifications and technical performance
Surprisingly, though, the Asus PB287Q works its magic with a mere TN panel. This panel technology has traditionally been the reserve of budget monitors and cheap laptops, and its telltale traits –mediocre colour fidelity and poor viewing angles – are usually easy to spot.
However, as Asus has employed a 10-bit TN panel, the PB287Q is capable of reproducing far more delicate transitions between colours than its budget namesakes. As a result, several members of the PC Pro team mistook the PB287Q for an IPS monitor. The sheer vibrancy of the onscreen images and the decent viewing angles were enough to trick some pretty experienced eyes.
X-Rite’s i1Display Pro colorimeter isn’t so easily fooled, but the Asus PB287Q still turned in a good all-round performance in our barrage of screen tests. The panel covers 90.3% of the sRGB colour gamut; the white LED backlighting serves up more than enough brightness for any office or domestic conditions, peaking at 288cd/m[sup]2[/sup]; and a contrast ratio of 855:1 is respectable by any standards. Only the colour temperature is significantly off-beam, with the PB287Q’s 6,982K result well wide of the 6,500K ideal.
Colour fidelity isn’t the match of the best monitors we’ve reviewed, but isn’t unusably bad, and we suspect many people will struggle to pinpoint the panel’s weak spots. We measured an average Delta E deviation of 2.89, and that figure is principally due to a peak Delta E spike of 7.89 in the darker blue hues. According to our tests, the PB287Q is fairly accurate across the rest of the colour spectrum.
Indeed, by far the most obvious deficiency is the panel’s reproduction of darker tones, which results in a loss of detail in darker photographs or movie scenes. If colour accuracy is crucial to you, there are two choices: spend more on a professional monitor, or shell out on a colorimeter such as the X-Rite i1Display Pro and calibrate the display properly.
While viewing angles are better than any TN panel we’ve tested before, the PB287Q still isn’t up to IPS standards. Colours darken and shift in tone only slightly when viewed from the sides, but vertical viewing angles remain limited. Tilt the screen back and onscreen images swiftly darken; tilt it too far forward, and the reverse happens, images lightening and highlights becoming blown out.
Backlighting is another area where weaknesses lie. We measured the panel’s brightness across 15 points on the screen, and noticed a maximum variation of 22% across the whole panel, with a noticeable dark spot on the middle and upper-left portions. This is markedly inferior to professional-class monitors, which routinely deviate by less than 10% across the whole panel.
One area where the Asus comprehensively bests the IPS opposition is in response time. This has long been a strength of TN panels – one of the reasons for the technology’s enduring popularity with gamers – and the PB287Q is no exception to that rule. In our pixel-response tests, the Asus handled fast-moving onscreen items without excessive smearing, even at its default settings.
Asus’ Trace Free feature makes it possible to dial in more overdrive (essentially overclocking the individual pixels by increasing the voltage supplied), thus improving the clarity of moving items. This works well up to 60% of the maximum setting, at which point the side effects of the overdrive function – of which a visible halo around the edge of moving items is the most noticeable – begin to become distractingly visible.
Asus PB287Q review: features and design
The Asus PB287Q is a great performer, but it’s also highly practical. The monitor is perched atop a large square base and adjustable stand, both of which are well designed. The stand rises up and down by 150mm, tilts back and forth and pirouettes into portrait mode, and the large square base does a good job of keeping the monitor from wobbling around on the desk.
|Resolution||3840 x 2160|
|Pixel response time||2ms|
|Speaker power ouput||2W|
|3.5mm audio input jacks||1|
|Other cables supplied||DisplayPort, HDMI, Power|
|Internal power supply||yes|
|Pivot (portrait) mode?||yes|
|Dimensions||660 x 220 x 414mm (WDH)|