Asus ProArt PA328Q review
Since Asus’ £3,000 PQ321QE monitor first terrified our credit cards back in 2013, 4K displays have come tumbling down in price. What we haven’t seen so far, though, is any 4K display that’s worthy of professional use – until, that is, the Asus PA328Q arrived on the scene. This 32in 4K display promises many of the features you’d expect from a high-end display: an IPS panel, factory-calibrated sRGB mode and a wealth of inputs and adjustments, yet it costs a reasonable £1,099 inc VAT.
Asus ProArt PA328Q: features
The star of this particular show is the 32in 10-bit IPS panel. Asus claims it covers 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, a feat that gets the PA328Q off to a good start, while the combination of a factory-calibrated sRGB mode and a 12-bit lookup table suggest it should be able to serve up colour-accurate images.
It’s fair to say that the PA328Q looks the business, too. The Asus’ panel stretches almost to the edges of the chassis, and the semi-gloss finish keeps reflections at bay. Around the rear, the adjustable stand provides 130mm of height adjustment, and allows the screen to spin around smoothly into portrait mode. And this stand feels super-sturdy, holding the display firmly in place without any flop or wobble.
The monitor has mini-DisplayPort, DisplayPort and HDMI 2 inputs, all three of which are capable of accepting a full 3,840 x 2,160 4K signal at 60Hz. There are also a further two HDMI 1.4 ports, both of which can accept a 30Hz signal. Handily enough, the HDMI 2 port also doubles as an MHL 3 input, which allows a 30Hz 4K signal from a compatible tablet or smartphone. To top it all off, you get a four-port USB 3 hub thrown in.
And there’s an impressive array of options of offer in the onscreen menu, with everything from picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture options, to six-axis hue and saturation settings for fine adjustments to the panel’s colour response. Navigating the menu is a touch fiddly, though, with the buttons and four-way mini-joystick unhelpfully mounted on the rear of the display.
Asus ProArt PA328Q: image quality
Power up the PA328Q, and first impressions aren’t hugely favourable. Both text and photos are inexplicably plastered with an ugly, over-sharpened look. Thankfully, turning off Asus’ VividPixel feature swiftly removes the over-processed effect.
That done, the PA328Q serves up some truly gorgeous images. The sheer number of pixels makes for incredible clarity, and the IPS panel makes the most of every last one by serving up bold, natural-looking colours and wonderfully wide viewing angles. With a maximum brightness of 360cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 882:1, the Asus delivers an eye-popping experience, whether you’re watching a movie, playing games or editing photographs, and there are no obvious visual anomalies such as smearing or ghosting to spoil the show.
Put to a more stringent test, the Asus’ factory-calibrated sRGB mode racks up some solid numbers. We measured the panel as covering 99.9% of the sRGB colour gamut, and the average and maximum Delta E figures of 1.23 and 4.34 prove that colour accuracy is very good, if not exemplary. Colour temperature was right on target, with the Asus’ 6,447K result a whisker away from a perfect 6,500K.
Sadly, though, there are weaknesses, first among which is the Asus’ tendency to smudge the darkest greys into black. Backlighting isn’t particularly even, either, and as the Uniformity Compensation feature and brightness controls are disabled in sRGB mode, there’s little recourse to improve the PA328Q’s performance. As a result, a clean white screen looks noticeably dim and dirty around the edges, with the brightness dropping by around 17% across the right hand edge and as much as 21% along the left of the panel.
Switching to the Asus’ Standard mode and engaging Uniformity Compensation improves the situtation dramatically – and, happily, without impacting severely upon the colour accuracy or gamut. However, while this reduces the deviation to little more than 4% across most of the screen, it creates a noticeable bright spot in the bottom right of the panel, where brightness measured between 10% and 12% higher than at the centre.
Asus ProArt PA328Q: verdict
The Asus PA328Q is a very good monitor, but it isn’t quite the affordable 4k professional panel we were hoping for. There’s no facility for hardware calibration, for instance, an omission that means the factory-calibrated sRGB mode will become less and less accurate as the LCD panel ages. You can software-calibrate the monitor via a third-party colorimeter, but that isn’t ideal for proper professional use, and even if that route does appeal, you’ll need to find an extra £160 in your budget.
Those looking for a 4K monitor that’s a cut above the cheaper TN models, such as Asus’ own £450 PB287Q, will find the PA328Q still ticks a lot of the right boxes. It makes a great monitor for colour-accurate dabbling in Photoshop, watching movies and playing games with a suitably super-charged graphics card. But, at this price, we’d suggest anyone looking for a true professional display invest a bit more and buy a £1,400 Eizo ColorEdge CG277 instead. If your work demands only the finest colour accuracy, day in day out, it’s well worth the premium.