Buying a screen for your gaming PC is not as clear-cut a choice as it was a few years ago.
The options ahead of you are mind-boggling. Do you opt for three 1080p screens for that surround-vision gaming experience or a single 21:9 ultra widescreen monitor that gives you more screen real estate than a regular 16:9 one does? How about a 16:9 1080p screen, or a 16:10 2560 x 1440 screen or a 16:9 4K screen that runs at a resolution of 3840 x 2160?
And that’s before you start considering screens that run at 3440 x 1440 and use the 2.39:1 aspect ratio of movies – you know, the visible bits between the two black bars that appear on Blu-rays.
If you read all of that and already have a headache and now really really don’t know where to start, you’re not alone – there’s a lot of choice out there. Picking out the monitor that’s best for you requires some research on your part, and then a decision on how you’d like to enjoy your games.
Personally speaking, the struggle goes even further, because for the price of one of those fancy-schmancy 4K screens, I can literally go out and buy a 65-inch 4K TV (even here in South Africa), something that offers me the resolution I want at the kind of size that my inner geek has always salivated over. I
’m not even locked to “just” 30 frames per second with one of those, either, as the HDMI 2.0 standard that the latest 4K/UHD TVs use supports 4K at 60fps.
So when I received a monitor like this from ASUS in search of a review, all of these concerns are swirled in my mind. Fortunately, I can happily say that spending some time using it as my gaming monitor answered pretty much all of them.
Here’s a quick rundown of what the Republic of Gamers SWIFT PG27AQ has to offer: it’s a 27-inch IPS LCD panel with excellent viewing angles (178°/178°), a native resolution of 3840 x 2160, its clever hinge lets you tilt the screen into various configurations (including portrait), it supports NVIDIA’s awesome G-Sync anti-tearing technology and you can plug things into it with HDMI and DisplayPort cables. There are even tiny 2W speakers built in, in case you don’t have any.
The presence of a G-Sync chip here is probably what will sell this monitor more than any other single feature. For those of you not in the know, G-Sync is graphics card maker NVIDIA’s proprietary tech that addresses the issue of screen tearing, which is fast-moving graphics not syncing up and the screen appearing to tear as the player moves their mouse/controller. Of course, you’ll need an NVIDIA graphics card to take advantage of it.
In my time with the screen, G-Sync proved its value a hundred times over: it kept my game visuals synchronised with my graphics card’s output both with and without VSYNC enabled, and its absence in my usual screen – a 40-inch 1080p TV – was very noticeable. I might have cried a bit when I gave the PG27AQ back to ASUS.
G-Sync came in most handy gaming at 4K, as sadly my poor little GTX970 couldn’t maintain 60+ frames per second in games like Dying Light and Dead Island’s Definitive Edition at that resolution; that meant frame rate fluctuations between 40-odd fps and the high fifties depending on the scene, and while I felt the slowdown, I did not notice any screen tearing. Go, G-Sync!
My 4K Theory
I used my time with the screen to test a theory of mine about 4K gaming: I’ve long thought that it could be a good compromise to set my games to 1080p while using a 4K screen, and allowing NVIDIA’s excellent anti-aliasing tech and the screen’s innate upscaling abilities to get the sharpness benefit of all of those extra pixels while still maintaining the high frame rates of 1080p.
I am pleased to say my idea has merit: the compromise is a good one. Sure, not playing at exactly 4K means edges are more noticeable (if you really stare), but the improved frame rate is well worth the “sacrifice”. I say “sacrifice” because honestly it’s not a big one – graphics still look sharper this way than they do on a native 1080p panel. Thus, getting a 4K screen now while you save for that dual-1080 setup you’re likely dreaming of (as I am) is still a good plan.
There are only two major issues with this screen from a technical standpoint, really – it supports a maximum refresh rate of just 60Hz, and getting that requires a DisplayPort connection as its HDMI port is not 2.0-compliant since this isn’t ASUS’s most recent monitor.
Fortunately, this falls into the category of “first world problems”, as it won’t affect a lot of gamers – it’s only if you absolutely must play at frame rates above 60fps for the extra buttery smoothness that provides that you’ll even care.
Having said that, gaming at frame rates well above the 60fps mark is certainly a thing of beauty, and if you’re going to be spending this sort of cash on a gaming screen it’s the kind of feature you’d expect to have. Thus, its absence is a bit disappointing.
Since this is a gaming monitor, ASUS packed it with some gaming-specific features that they’re (presumably) hoping people will find useful. The first is “GameVisual Modes”, a set of pre-configured brightness, contrast and colour settings intended for use with various game genres. I didn’t find them to be as applicable to their specified genres as ASUS likely hoped, though, and tended to stick with the “Shooter” preset regardless of what I was playing. The second is GamePlus, a mode that offers gaming-related enhancements like an on-screen FPS counter and a virtual crosshair that actually came in handy.
So while these features aren’t exactly earth-shattering, I got the sense ASUS is at least trying, and that’s a good thing.
The screen’s controls, meanwhile, impressed the hell out of me. I had to fiddle with them to get the various modes set up, and I must say, they are superb – the solid-feeling buttons and the little joystick nubbin on the back of the screen made getting around the OSD menu simple, unlike other monitors who hide their functions with annoying menu designs compounded by idiotic touch-sensitive buttons. Good job on these, ASUS.
As for the monitor’s body, build quality is brilliant: not only is the plastic used quite sturdy, but the stand is rock-solid to boot. But my favourite part of the whole design is the tiny bezel that surrounds the actual panel on three sides (all but the bottom bezel which is slightly thicker); I just love how slender bezels make any screen look. With its sub-10mm bezel on 3 out of its 4 sides, the PG27AQ is a pretty good option for anyone looking to run three screens side by side as the bezels won’t get in the way at all.
The stand has likewise received attention from someone with a particularly high set of standards. Not only is it sturdy but it allows for height and tilt adjustment and even tilts 90 degrees to go from landscape to portrait mode. Basically, if you can’t get this screen into a position that works best for how you like to game, you are probably an alien with more vertebrae/arms/heads than the average human.
Thanks to the very pleasing attention to detail that clearly went into this monitor, the end result is a slick screen that’ll be at home on just about any gamer’s desk.
The elephant in the room: Cost
And now we come to the worst part of any review of awesome hardware in South Africa: price. At just over nineteen grand, the PG27AQ is very expensive.
Worse, there are better screens with higher refresh rates available for less: ASUS’ own PG278Q is a 2560 x 1440 screen with a 144Hz refresh rate, and it costs on average two grand less than the PG27AQ. Sure, it’s not 4K, but that res is pretty sharp and its 144Hz refresh rate is more important to some gamers.
In the battle of buttery smoothness versus super sharpness, smoothness wins as it’s more beneficial to actual gameplay; thus, the cheaper PG278Q is a better option. Especially so when cost, image quality and overall performance are considered together.
But as a screen evaluated on its technical merits alone, the ASUS ROG PG27AQ is superb. I just can’t in good conscience recommend it over something cheaper. If you have the cash, though, it will serve you incredibly well.
[su_box title=”Specs As Reviewed” box_color=”#f37021″]
- Price: R19 239
- Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (UHD), 163ppi pixel density
- Panel: IPS LCD, 178°/178° viewing angles, 100% sRGB, 10-bit colour, 1.07 billion distinct hues
- Brightness: 300cd/m2
- Refresh Rate: 60Hz @ 4K via DisplayPort/HDMI 2.0
- Response time: 4ms @ 60Hz
- Inputs: HDMI, DisplayPort, 2 x USB 3.0
- Sync Tech: NVIDIA G-Sync
- Speakers: 2 x 2W
- Stand adjustability: Height, tilt, swivel, pivot
- Gaming Features: GamePlus, GameVisual
- Get it from: Rebeltech