For the last few weeks, I’ve been using a 4K monitor. For most people, there’s absolutely no reason right now to want to run anything at that resolution. Beyond the fact that 4K screens are ludicrously expensive, there’s a dearth of genuinely worthwhile 4K content. Yes, you could play games at that resolution, but there’s no single remotely affordable GPU to make 4K gaming a reality. In short, I don’t quite see the point in having a 4K display beyond design work. And yet, when Asus inevitably comes to cart away the PB287Q monitor atop my desk right now, I will shed quite a number of tears.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the monitor aesthetically. It’s pretty minimalist stuff, with a standard almost industrial black bezel. It comes with one of the most functional monitor stands on this planet, allowing you to tilt and swivel and adjust the height of the thing to your heart’s content. Along the bottom there are the two HDMI ports, both of which are MHL-compatible (which means you can plug your phone in there and view its contents in full screen or windowed in a picture-in-picture screen), the DisplayPort and 3.5mm audio in and out. 6 rear-facing buttons join the power one to allow for control of the on-screen display for tweaking the monitors myriad menus. I personally found the menus fiddly: with 6 uniform dots representing each button’s functionality it made hitting the right one as you fiddle with the back of the monitor a frustrating task – a little like a teenager trying to unclasp a bra with one hand.
The PB287Q is being hailed as a budget 4K monitor, if there was ever such a thing. Where 4K monitors can easily cost upwards of $2500, or a billion or so South African Rands, Asus’ PB287Q comes in at just $650. Locally – because we’re situated at the tip of Africa – the price is nearly double that, with the screen retailing at closer to R12 000. That somewhat mitigates its general appeal. It’s cheaper than most other ultra HD displays – but it’s not lacking in features. It’s got that sweet 3840 by 2160 pixel resolution, LED backlighting, two HDMI 1.4 ports, a single DisplayPort 1.2, a bright 330 cd/m2 luminance rating, and 1 millisecond gray-to-gray response time. It’ll do picture-in-picture as well as picture-by-picture support, has one of the most incredibly flexible stands – with height adjustment, pivot, swivel, and tilt capabilities – has MHL support and even includes little top-firing 2W speakers that I couldn’t get working because I am an idiot. How did Asus make such a cost effective 4K monitor – especially one boasting such an impressive list of features?
Critically, the panel is one of the dreaded TN – or twisted nematic – panels. Historically, they’ve been a little underwhelming when it comes to 4K displays. While they typically have a lightning fast response time, they’re unable to produce the full colour spectrum, sticking to an 8-bit colour depth. This one is a little different, achieving 10-bit colour by using 8-bits with Frame Rate Control for better colour quality. With a pixel density of 157ppi, it is sufficiently sharp. While that’s all technical mumbo jumbo, what it means is that the colour reproduction here isn’t up to par with more premium – and significantly more expensive – IPS screens. It’s not a monitor I’d recommend for work where colour reproduction is key. No, with its faster TN panel it’s definitely more suited to gamers. Importantly, unlike many early 4K TN screens, it’s capable of running at a resolution of 3840 x 2160 at a full 60hz. To do that, you will need to have a GPU with a DisplayPort output, and enable DisplayPort 1.2 on the monitor itself. Out of the box, the thing – for whatever reason – is set to DisplayPort 1.1 by default.
TN Panels, unlike their IPS counterparts, don’t have the best viewing angles. This one’s not too bad at all; horizontal viewing angles are decent and you’ll be able to see most of the screen when looking at it from the side. Vertical viewing angles aren’t nearly as good – so it’s possibly worth avoiding if you plan to look up, or down at the screen. Thankfully, the height-adjustable stand mostly mitigates its viewing angle issues.
I seem to have nothing but technical complaints, but the monitor does exactly what it says it does on the box. It’s a relatively cheap 4K monitor that’s better suited to gaming than design work. And because you can swivel the thing in to portrait mode at will, I’ve been using it to play all of those emulated vertically scrolling shoot’em ups like Raiden that I loved in the arcades as a kid. Yes, with their terrible resolutions it almost seems like a waste of the monitor, but I really don’t care – I get to play Raiden and 1942 the way they should be. Of course, the 4K stuff is what really matters, and if you’re looking for a decent screen to couple with your brand new Geforce GTX 980 without breaking the bank again this is perfect for the job. Importantly, content upscaled from 1080p doesn’t look at all awful – in fact, I’ve been using it with the PlayStation 4 and beyond the slightly washed-out colours, everything is crisp and clear.
Last Updated: December 11, 2014