AMD & NVIDIA 4K Gaming with the ASUS PQ321Q Reviewccokeman - September 24, 2013
Category: Video Cards
Price: $3500 + Video cards
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AMD & NVIDIA 4K Gaming with the ASUS PQ321Q Introduction:
The thought of running the latest games using a resolution of 2560 x 1600 or, more commonly now, 2560 x 1440 has traditionally been rarified air due to the cost of the displays and eventually the graphics card(s) needed to run the resolutions. I can't lie when I say that playing the latest games with the visual quality turned up at 2560 x 1600 looks absolutely great. Even though the majority of gamers are playing at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 or lower, there is still that group on the bleeding edge of excess (insanity) that builds systems using only the highest end components to get the absolute highest end gaming solution. When you push three, 30-inch monitors in a 7680 x 1600 or 4800 x 2560 resolution in a Surround or Eyefinity panel, you know you are on the edge and will need the best hardware to cope with the amount of pixels being pushed. At least if you want to enjoy playable frame rates.
At this point 27-inch monitors with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 are becoming more attractively priced, at prices as low as $300 for some of the Korean-built IPS panels. These panels are definitely a hit due to the high resolution and modest price points they offer when compared to 30-inch panels that can set you back over $1000, so you can see just why they are attractive.
With that being said, 4K televisions and monitors are making a push for mainstream. Earlier this year we saw some debuts at CES that provided jaw dropping visual clarity when coupled with Ultra HD content. The problem with gaming with one of these televisions or large panels was that we were locked into a 30Hz refresh rate on the panel that resulted in tearing and a less than satisfying gaming experience. Part of this comes from the nature of the beast that uses a tiled configuration to make up the overall resolution of the monitor. The rest comes from the lower refresh rate. But there is a solution with ASUS' new PQ321Q 31.5-inch 3840 x 2160 panel that runs with a 60Hz refresh rate and is designed not only for the discerning professional but also the upper end gamer that is willing to shell out the coin needed to get the latest high end gaming experiences.
Currently priced at the high end of the spectrum at $3500, this 4K panel from ASUS is not for the user with a budget build in mind. That being said the premise of this article is to see how well upper end cards from NVIDIA and AMD perform when gaming using a 4K resolution in both a single and dual card configuration. For AMD we will use our XFX HD 7970 Black Edition cards and the NVIDIA camp will be represented by the GTX 770.
AMD & NVIDIA 4K Gaming with the ASUS PQ321Q Closer Look:
The first piece of the 4K puzzle you need is a display that natively runs a 4K resolution. For this task we have ASUS' PQ321Q UHD 3840 x 2160 capable display. A diagonal measurement of 31.5 inches with a 16:9 aspect ratio makes this a large display any way you look at it. The anti-glare LED back lit Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide (IGZO) panel supports the use of smaller transistors than what you see in use with amorphous silicon. Using smaller transistors leads to smaller pixels, which in turn leads to greater image quality due to the greater pixel density. Showing 140 pixels per inch, you effectively get four times the pixel density than a 1920 x 1080 display or eight million plus pixels on the screen. By using this type of panel you get an increased viewing angle of 176 degrees, support for 10-bit RGB color, and reduced power consumption of 93 watts with an ultra low power state that uses just one watt when in standby mode.
Like I said, this is a large monitor that measures 29.5 x 19.25 x 10.07 inches, so you will need some desktop real estate to place it. The panel itself is only 1.25 inches deep so the balance of the depth is taken up with the mounting stand. The stand allows the monitor to move up and down as well as tilt +25 to -5 degrees. The panel does support the use of a VESA 200mm x 200mm wall mounting option as well, if the stand does not meet your needs. Connectivity options include a pair of HDMI 1.4 ports, a single DisplayPort 1.2 port with a built in MST hub to supply both scalers with an image. A USB port is also included to allow for firmware updates. Under the USB port are an audio input port and headphone port, both of which use a 3.5mm mini jack. A power brick is used to supply the current needs of the PQ321Q and plugs in under the right side of the panel opposite the display inputs. The buttons used to power on the PQ321Q and navigate through the OSD are on the upper right side of the panel.
While I could go full bore on the video cards, I chose to go not so high on the NVIDIA side with a pair of GTX 770s and a pair of well used XFX HD 7970 Black Edition cards to use in my performance comparisons. The HD 7970 is at the top of AMD's current product stack while the GTX 770 sits below the GTX Titan and GTX 780. Each of these cards will deliver playable frame rates at 2560 x 1600, so it's only natural to see how they compare at 3840 x 2160.
Since this monitor is newer tech, let's see what it takes to get it up and running.