AMD & NVIDIA 4K Gaming with the ASUS PQ321Q Reviewccokeman -
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AMD & NVIDIA 4K Gaming with the ASUS PQ321Q Conclusion:
Besides the immense size of the PQ321Q, the most startling aspect of the monitor is the visual clarity you get at 3840 x 2160. Having used a 2560 x 1600 resolution on my daily driver for several years now, I may have been a little spoiled when it comes to running with a high resolution day in and day out. Nothing, however, prepares you for the move from 2560 x 1600 to 3840 x 2160. It does not seem like that much of a stretch but it is. Especially when you consider that moving from 1920 x 1080 to 3840 x 2160 is a 4x increase in the amount of pixels you are pushing with the video card. That being said, you do need some graphics firepower to deliver decent FPS numbers, as I found out during the course of this review. With the current generation, a dual GPU or better solution is going to give you the best mix of visual quality and FPS.
When it comes to setting up the ASUS PQ321Q for gaming, there are some specifics to follow to get everything setup and running. The easiest solution is to use the DisplayPort connection and enable MST (Multi Stream Transport) mode. Then once into the OS, enable a 60Hz refresh rate. The dual HDMI option is going to need an active adapter or card with a pair of HDMI ports. I found a standard adapter just would not work for me. ASUS as well as other manufacturers of UHD panels use a tiled configuration that requires the driver package to setup and enable a single large surface display using Eyefinity with AMD cards and Surround when using an NVIDIA solution.
As far as setup with an AMD solution, you have to go through the setup process in the Catalyst Control Center to identify and enable an Eyefinity 2x1 panel. For NVIDIA solutions this was easier as the driver package recognized the tiled monitor configuration and setup the surround panel after a reboot. Overall a more seamless setup.
One of the challenges that presents itself is how to eliminate vertical and horizontal tearing in game. AMD is currently working on something, but still has a way to go as you will see a vertical line in fast paced games as you move left to right. Additionally I saw instances of horizontal tearing in specific games. Hopefully this gets addressed soon with a driver release that supports higher resolutions. Where the deficits are obvious with AMD, NVIDIA has stepped up and delivered two technologies that seem to eliminate these issues with its GPUs in Fliplock that "forces each GPU to flip frame buffers in sync and Scanlock that forces each GPU and each head to display scanlines in sync". Adjusting the refresh rate to 60Hz does help AMD some in this respect but does not fully eliminate the split in the panels. Again something that hopefully gets fixed sooner than later, and who knows, it might be introduced with AMD's next-gen cards.
As far as gaming performance and usability, AMD still has concerns at resolutions greater than 2560 x 1600 as seen in the FCAT results. CrossfireX solutions are jittery and less than satisfying during game play, most likely leading to a more pronounced break at the edge of the panels witnessed in game. When you look at the FCAT results for the NVIDIA SLI solution, the frame times are infinitely smoother across the games tested, with the exception being Splinter Cell Blacklist. When running through a slow paced section of a game both cards look phenomenal. The closest affirmation of how stunning the visuals are was when my wife came up behind me while I was playing Metro Last Light and all I heard was a slow "daaaaaaaaamn that looks good." Of course followed up with the question of when does she get one.
In the end it looks as though NVIDIA continues to do its homework to provide gamers with the best possible solution as far as usability is concerned. Single card solutions are going to limit the FPS potential on a 4K panel until the next-gen cards start arriving. In that time we may see a move away from tiled monitors, reducing the need for Eyefinity and Surround configurations as the technology and hardware matures. Next up we get games with UHD texture packs to fully realize the potential and truly drive the visual experience to new levels for a truly inspiring gaming experience.
Currently this solution is going to be enjoyed by those with deep pockets, but as time goes by the adoption rate should increase as prices drop. Sooner rather than later hopefully.