There are very few monitor companies here that sell panels that go beyond full HD resolution. Considering we are already starting to see 4K monitors abroad, it is high time the 2560×1440 pixel resolution started getting more love in this part of the world. For the PC gamer, full HD resolution is a given, but high end cards from the current and previous generation are capable of doing well beyond the full HD resolution as can be seen from our graphics cards reviews. So it is not a stretch to imagine 2560×1440 resolution becoming mainstream, at least with the 27-inch and over screen sizes. Currently, we can count the number of 2560×1440 monitors selling in Indian markets on our hands. So it is always good news when we see more players come out with these high resolution monitors. The latest 2560×1440 pixel or 2K QHD monitor we got our hands on is the ASUS PB278Q. While it was launched abroad quite a while back, it has only made it to India couple of months back.
Build and Design
On first glance, the build of the ASUS PB278Q monitor reminds one of its ProArt series of professional monitors, but the PB278Q does not belong to that series. It has a solid square shaped base which has a circular element attached beneath it to allow the whole monitor body to swivel instead of the just the stem swiveling, which is generally seen. The monitor is covered in a matte-black finish and the glossy bits are only seen on the ASUS branding on the rear side of the PB278Q and on the stem.
You can adjust the height of the PB278Q and also use it in the portrait mode. It can tilt and swivel as well. The bezels on the sides are thinner than the ones on the top and bottom and thanks to the LED backlight, the monitor is comparatively slimmer when viewed from the side profile.
The display ports are found recessed on the rear side. You have the DisplayPort, D-Sub, DVI and HDMI port along with the audio and microphone jacks. For attaching a display cable you will most likely have to rotate the screen in the portrait orientation as otherwise it is an arduous task. The power port is present on the right hand side. It does not have a USB hub which is a strange omission. The OSD buttons are located on the bottom right hand corner on the underside. Getting used to the buttons will take some time as there are seven buttons including the power button. In order to go back and forth on the OSD menu, you need to use buttons which are not exactly placed next to each other which would have been logical. Blind operation of the OSD with the buttons, will definitely take some getting used to. Also we would have much rather preferred the OSD buttons on the vertical edge rather than on the underside of the horizontal bezel. But they have a good feedback mechanism
The ASUS PB278Q is a 27-inch display having a Plane to Line Switching panel (PLS) with an LED-backlit LCD. The PLS panel has been developed by Samsung and it promises to offer similar viewing angles to IPS panels and maintain high brightness levels while keeping the power consumption lower. We shall find out if these claims indeed hold water in our performance tests. But the immediate advantage of PLS panels over IPS panels is that they are around 15 percent cheaper to manufacture than the IPS panels. That will ultimately lead to lower price points as compared to similarl- spec’d IPS monitors.
The PB278Q has a native resolution of 2560×1440 pixel with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The HDMI 1.4, DVI and DisplayPort can support this resolution whereas the D-Sub port will support up to 1920×1080 only. The heartening thing about the bundled accessories is that ASUS bundles all the display related cables incluing HDMI and DisplayPort, when most monitor makers just bundle in the DVI and D-Sub cables. This saves you a good amount of money.
The on-screen display (OSD) is quite detailed with dedicated hot-keys for brightness adjustment, quick fit, Splendid Video preset selection and so on. The Splendid Video mode has presets such as sRGB, Theatre, Scenery, Standard and a User mode. The Quick Fit mode brings up overlays in various dimensions such as A4, 4×6 and so on which may seem pointless for someone using tools such as Adobe Photoshop, but good for those who just want to quickly check sizes.
In terms of movements, the ASUS PB278Q is capable of height, tilt, swivel and pivot adjustments. You also get a small rectangular add-on behind the monitor’s stem to help channel the cables for optimum cable management around the monitor.
Processor: AMD E350 @1.6GHz
Motherboard: MSI E350IA E45
RAM: 8GB DDR3
HDD: Western Digital WD2500JS
Blu-ray Drive: Hitachi BH30N
Graphics card: HIS 7750 H775FT1G
PSU: ASUS Atlas A45GA 450W
Cabinet: Cooler Master Elite 120M
OS: Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate
We tested the system using a Spyder3Elite colorimeter which is a useful tool for calibrating displays. At 50 per cent brightness and 75 percent contrast, we got a contrast ratio of 456:1 with a black level of 0.35 – which is not really the greatest. This was evident with the backlight bleeding we noticed in extremely dark scenes. For a brightness level of 100, we got a contrast ratio of 492:1 with a black level of 0.54. You can calibrate using your own settings with the RGB sliders available for use only in the User preset mode.
Lagom.nl is an online testing tool which gives you a battery of tests such as contrast test, sharpness, black level, white saturation and so on. In the contrast test which comprises all the 7 colours neatly separated and each colour further graduating from darkest to brightest, we noticed that each division of the colour was neatly demarcated. Generally, monitors tend to merge the reds and pinks at the brightest ends, but they appeared distinct on the PB278Q. In the Black level test, where a monitor goes from darkest dark to brightest bright, we could notice most of the black boxes distinctly. In the first row though the blacks didn’t stand out as distinctly. There was a slightly greenish tinge with the gray boxes. White saturation test was excellent and we could notice each white box distinctly. Banding test, which shows a transition from black to white, was smooth with a greenish tinge appearing on the darker side of the band.
While watching movies, the video quality was good and there wasn’t any ghosting in fast action scenes. The black levels of the monitor aren’t that great and this is evident when you have dark scenes, where you can notice backlight bleeding on the top edge. The monitor comes with a lot of preset modes such as Scenery, Standard, Theatre and so on. We found the the default Theatre preset to be too cool for our liking. It felt as if you are looking at the screen through a blue filter. The scenery preset tends to keep things on the warmer side and is great if you are watching movies such as Avatar and Lord of the Rings which are set outdoors. One does notice miniscule banding in solid scenes every once in a while, but it is momentary and does not affect the movie viewing experience as such.
We did not notice any lag while gaming on the monitor. Apart from the calibrated user mode, we found the scenery mode to be ideal for gaming. Viewing angles are not an issue at all, as most of the time you will be looking at this monitor straight on. But even at extreme angles there is no colour shift. At the most you will see a shift in contrast.
Verdict and Price in India
The ASUS PB278Q performed well in most of our tests and apart from minor backlight bleeding we did not really find any shortcomings with the monitor as such. Sure, it could have done with a better implemented OSD, but it is only a matter of time getting used to it. The ergonomics and build quality are top notch. It comes at a hefty price tag of Rs 44,250. Agreed that the 2560×1440 pixel monitors come at a premium, but you have a Viewsonic VP2770 which is a 27-inch 2560×1440 monitor with an IPS panel and LED backlit LCD for around Rs 37,000. Another option is the Dell UltraSharp U2713 monitor, but there wasn’t a listing on the Dell India website about the same. We would ideally like to see the PB278Q priced closer to the VP 2770 as it has most other departments taken care of. In conclusion, it is great for professionals on a budget, who are looking for more screen real estate, and gamers alike.