ASUS ROG SWIFT PG278Q G-SYNC Monitor Review

ccokeman - 2014-08-03 14:02:47 in Monitors
Category: Monitors
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: August 11, 2014
Price: $700

ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q Introduction:

Today I will be looking at the latest monitor from ASUS, which is targeted squarely at the gaming segment with a refresh rate of up to 144Hz, 1ms (GTG) response times, and a wealth of other features, such as a resolution of up to 2560x1440, an anti-glare screen, ROG-inspired looks, USB 3.0 ports, a thin 6mm bezel, Turbo Key, and last but not least, NVIDIA's G-Sync technology. G-Sync is not an entirely new technology, but ASUS is the first to put it into a 27-inch 2560 x 1440 capable monitor.

Traditionally, gamers have used one of two methods in games. One method is to reduce input lag by disabling v-sync, only to run up against screen tearing when the rate at which the rendered frames spew out of the video card occur much faster than the 60 Hz refresh cycle of a typical LCD Monitor. 120Hz monitors help somewhat, but you still run up against screen tearing in fast-paced action. Enabling v-sync induces input lag when a fixed refresh cycle is forced on, as frames are sent to the monitor, but must wait for that next scan or refresh. Both are less than ideal, and you play a game of trade-offs, as the end user strives to get the best compromised gaming experience.

ASUS has built the ROG PG279Q as a high resolution gaming monitor that incorporates G-Sync, or GPU-Sync, technology to eliminate both problems by having the GPU manage the refresh cycle of the monitor, essentially giving the user a variable refresh rate that eliminates both the inpput lag as well as the screen tearing so common in games right now when running with a slower fixed refresh rate. Let's go ahead and get into the nuts and bolts and find out what kind of gaming experience we get while using this beautiful looking monitor equipped with what promises to be game-changing technology.

ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q Closer Look:

The ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q not only arrived in the original packaging, but also in a fairly over-sized box around that, ensuring safe shipment. The illustrations on the outside of original box show renderings of the display and a listing of the supported technologies, including: 144Hz refresh rate; 1ms GTG response; Game Plus technology; refresh rate overclocking; tilt, swivel, and pivot adjustments; G-Sync ready; and support for NVIDIA's 3D Vision 2 systems. Inside, the contents are packed tightly in a solid foam to prevent damage in transit. After pulling the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q out of the box, it was refreshing to see that it comes to the end user fully assembled and ready to rock and roll. Accessories include the power brick, DisplayPort 1.2 cable, USB 3.0 cable, power cable, manual, and driver disk.

 

 

This 2560x1440 resolution monitor offers up to 77% more working space than a comparable 27-inch 1920x1080 monitor thanks to its 109 pixels per inch TN panel. Measuring 619.7x362.96x65.98mm, the PG278Q is relativly normal in size for a 27-inch 16:9 display. However, the bezel size is a much appreciated 6mm wide all the way around, giving the illusion of much more space being available. The display features a 100x100mm VESA compatible mount and +20°~-5° tilt, swivel, pivot, and height adjustability built in to ensure you can get the right viewing angle. Maximum side angle viewing is listed at 170°, although it's rare you will get that far out while gaming. The back side of the display has that ROG-inspired look, and features strategically placed vents as part of ASUS' Smart Air Vent Design system to manage the thermal load from the monitor with both intake and exhaust openings.

 

 

The tall center post is used to support the PG278Q display and features a very robust mechanism to manage positioning of the display on the tilt and angle axis. The center post has an opening that allows the DisplayPort, USB 3.0, and power cables to be run up from the rear and into the display for a cleaner look. The center post is mounted into a well built base that allows the display to swivel around with just enough weighting to keep the user engaged during the movement. Around the bottom of the center post is a red ring that lights up a brilliant red as part of the Light In Motion effect on the monitor.

 

 

At the bottom, right hand side of the display are the control buttons, including the power button, 5-way OSD Navigation Joystick, Exit Key, Game Plus Key, and Turbo key. These allow the user to do some of the obvious standard functions you'd expect from any monitor, but really allow further functionality as well. The 5-way toggle functions along both up/down and left/right axis, with the 5th function being the pressing of the button itself, used as the selection button. The Turbo Key allows the user to toggle between 60Hz, 120Hz, and 144Hz refresh modes without hitting the display control panel. The Game Plus Key allows the user to select from one of four on-display crosshairs and a spawn timer. Pretty cool stuff for the gamer.

 

 

Connectivity options on the ROG Swift PG278Q are limited by design to a full-size DisplayPort 1.2 port, power connection, and USB 3.0 in and outbound, in case connecting fewer cables to the PC is an attractive feature. The cable mounting point is placed in this position to take advantage of the cable management design of the center support post, eliminating as much cable clutter as possible. Both a DisplayPort 1.2 and USB 3.0 inbound cable are provided so you do not incur additional costs when you purchase a display of this caliber.

 

The OSD, or On Screen Display, is easy to navigate with the 5-way toggle button. The entry screen gives you three options to choose from with added sub menus to manage other settings, including the enabling and disabling the Light in Motion effects, as well as NVIDIA's Ultra Low Motion Blur technology. The Game Plus OSD allows the end user to choose between the multi-colored crosshairs or spawn timer in this menu.

 

 

 

Visually, the monitor looks great and comes packed with some serious features; G-Sync being the principal feature outside the ASUS-specific features that on their own are interesting to say the least. Let's take a look at some info on G-Sync and try and explain how this technology makes for a much improved gaming experience.

ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q Closer Look:

The 2560x1440 resolution, ASUS-specific functionality, and 144Hz refresh cycle all make this a really nice looking and functional gaming monitor on paper, but ASUS took it a step further by incorporating NVIDIA's G-Sync technology to the mix, providing the ultimate gaming experience. G-Sync, in layman's terms, is a technology whereby the NVIDIA GPU is used to not only render and output the finished frames to the display, but to manage the refresh cycle of the display to coincide with the delivery of the finished frames to the display. As such, you never run into a situation where you have over- or under-delivered frames that result in screen tearing with v-sync disabled or enabled. When v-sync is enabled, you end up with stuttering and input lag thanks to the over-delivered frames not matching the scan sequence of the monitor. G-Sync is enabled on monitors by the inclusion of a G-Sync module to allow the magic to happen.

 

To take a further dive into the technology, I'll let NVIDIA handle the description: "In the following chart we show the way frames are delivered to the monitor from the GPU in a traditional monitor with V-Sync Off. A frame is delivered to the monitor as soon as it is done rendering on the GPU. The next frame is then presented to the display, even if the display of the prior frame is not yet done. This process continues, with tearing appearing where every new frame begins. We see that 'Frame 1' is being rendered faster than the length of one display scan period (16ms), which means that 'Frame 2' will interrupt the display of 'Frame 1.' This results in a tear – the simultaneous display of more than one partial frame at a time. This process constantly repeats as the frames will never line up with the refresh rate of the monitor without synchronization."

 

With v-sync on, we run into other issues: "Frame rates are rarely ever fixed at a consistent cadence. When playing a game in a given system, frame rates actually constantly vary due to the changing complexity of each scene, and also by the graphical settings selected by the user. When using V-Sync, the frames being produced by the GPU typically arrive either earlier or later than the V-Sync pulse, and are rarely if ever perfectly aligned, which causes stutter and/or input delay. This is shown by the chart below. In the chart below, we show how frames are delivered to the monitor with V-Sync enabled. As opposed to V-Sync Off, we can see that 'Frame 1' is rendered faster than 16ms, and instead of immediately displaying 'Frame 2', V-Sync makes the GPU wait to send 'Frame 2' until the vertical blanking period of the monitor occurs, and the prior frame is completely displayed. When 'Frame 2' takes longer than 16ms to render, 'Frame 1' is presented again (repeated) and 'Frame 2' is not displayed until the next vertical blanking period. This long period of displaying the same frame twice causes a delay that is displayed as an animation stutter. This also produces input lag because any new input data from the gamer that was meant for the previous frame is now also delayed. The gamer continues to see the input data from 'Frame 1,' and they won’t see the result of new input data until 'Frame 3.' For frames that cannot be rendered at a 60 FPS or higher rate (frame times greater than 16.7ms) and with V-Sync On, the GPU will need to wait at least until the next monitor refresh cycle to update the screen, sometimes even longer. The result is that the same frame is displayed multiple times for each refresh cycle. This not only affects the animation of the screen and producing stutter, it also increases the input latency because any new data from the gamer’s input takes longer and longer to reach the display."

 

Now with NVIDIA G-Sync enabled: "The GeForce GPU sends a signal to the G-SYNC controller built into the monitor and tells the monitor when to update the display. This allows the GPU to render the frame at whatever speed it requires, because the monitor will wait until the full frame is delivered. This guarantees no tearing. With G-Sync, the refresh rate of the monitor is determined by the frame delivery from the GPU. The G-SYNC monitor is capable of a variable, rather than fixed refresh rate. In the chart below, the GPU renders the first frame, and then sends it to the display, at which point the monitor delivers the frame to the screen. Instead of waiting on the vertical blanking period of the monitor, the GPU is free to send the next frame as soon as it’s available. This is because the monitor is always in direct communication with the GPU via the DisplayPort connector. This allows for an amazingly smooth and responsive experience that is truly the way that games are meant to be played."

 

Another function that comes along for the ride with G-Sync technology is ULMB or Ultra Low Motion Blur. This technology works to decrease motion blur and the ghosting commonly seen with quick moving objects on screen. ULMB does not work at the same time as G-Sync, but does offer improvements in fluidity even when running refresh rates as high as 120Hz. Once again I'll let NVIDIA get you the nuts and bolts: "To understand how ULMB works, we must first understand what causes motion blur on LCD monitors. Slow pixel-to-pixel response times—the time it takes for a pixel to change values—is one factor in blurring. However, as monitors have increased response time speeds over the last few years, this is less of a factor. These days, most blurring comes from the 'hold' nature of LCD displays. As pixels are refreshed, the cell keeps emitting the same light value for the entire refresh rate, until it is addressed again. This persistent lit state causes our brains to perceive the pixel transition as blur. ULMB mode achieves its sharper image by forcing the backlight of the G-SYNC monitor to strobe in synchronized time with the monitor’s refresh rate. The backlight is flashed when new pixels are drawn. After this strobe, the backlight is then darkened so that pixels no longer hold, similar to the 'pulse' behavior in CRT monitors. By clearly delineating pixel transitions using the backlight strobe, ULMB creates distinct and sharp moving images. However, one drawback to darkening the backlight in between strobes is that overall monitor brightness is reduced. To compensate for this, ULMB mode automatically maximizes the monitor brightness level. Users may want to further modify their monitor options, such as gamma and color, to tweak the image quality to their liking."

 

Setting up and using G-Sync is as simple as opening up the control panel and enabling the feature under the display settings. Once enabled, there is one more step: open the Global game settings and under V-Sync, choose the option for G-Sync, and you will be well on your way to enjoying your games in a whole new light.

 

 

All this sounds good on paper, but the key here is, does the technology really work as advertised? Having heard a lot of positive buzz on G-Sync, I am curious as to how it will really work and if there is any performance hit from the tech. If that turns out to be minimal at best, then G-Sync should be impressive to say the least on ASUS' new ROG Swift PG278Q 2560x1440 beauty.

ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q Specifications:

Panel Size (diagonal)
27" (68.5 cm) Wide Screen (16:9)
Display Viewing Area
(HxV) 596.74 x 335.66mm
Panel Backlight
Type WLED/ TN
Display Surface
non-glare Color
Saturation
72% NTSC
True Resolution
2D mode : 2560 x 1440 (up to 144Hz)
 3D mode : 2560 x 1440 (120Hz or 100Hz)
2D/3D Surround : 7680 x 1440
Pixel Pitch
0.233 mm (109ppi)
Brightness
350 cd/m² (max.) 300 cd/m² (typical)
Contrast Ratio (Max.)
1000:1
Viewing Angle
(CR?10) 170°(H) /160°(V)
Display Colors
16.7M  8Bit
Response Time
1ms (Gray to Gray)
NVIDIA G-SYNC Technology
Yes
Trace Free Technology
Yes
Color Temperature Selection
4 modes
HDCP
Yes
3D Technology
NVIDIA 3D Vision 2
GamePlus
Yes ( Crosshair / Timer)
Ultra Low Motion Blur (ULMB)
Yes
Connectors
DisplayPort 1.2, USB3.0 ports (Upstream x 1, Downstream x 2) Signa
Digital Signal Frequency
89~222KHz(H) / 50~144Hz(V)
Power Consumption
<90W (E.S 6.0) / <0.5W (Power Saving / Off)
Voltage
100–240V, 50 / 60 Hz
Chassis Colors
Matt black
Tilt (angle)
+20° ~ -5°
Swivel (angle)
+60° ~ -60°
Pivot (angle/direction)
90°(clockwise)
Height Adjustment (mm)
0~120 mm
VESA Wall Mounting (mm)
100 x 100 mm Dimension
Phys. Dimension (WxHxD)
619.7 x 362.96 x 65.98 mm
Weight
7.0Kg(Net), 10.5Kg (Gross)

 

ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q Features:

 

 

All information courtesy of ASUS @ http://www.asus.com/Monitors/ROG_SWIFT_PG278Q/overview/

ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q Testing:

Testing this monitor and how well it works with NVIDIA's G-Sync Technology will encompass using my standard video card review test bed and playing through several games to find out just what kind of impact I can see. Having played through the selection of games in the past, it should prove interesting to see if the screen tearing I normally see is evident. This testing will be more of a subjective look at how well G-Sync works when paired with a GTX 780 Ti. There should be no performance impact when using the technology with ASUS' latest 2560x1440 ROG Swift PG278Q G-Sync enabled gaming monitor.

Testing Setup:

 

Games Tested:

 

Playing through each of the games brought to light the kind of smoothness that only comes with this technology. It does not get rid of the game glitches that are part and parcel to the game in question, but does indeed offer improved visuals. You get the best of both worlds: no input lag and no screen tearing that you see when the frame rates outstrip the standard 60 and even 120Hz refresh rates of current monitor technology. As far as any performance hit, there really is no performance hit to speak of when enabling G-Sync technology.

By spending several hours in front of the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q, what I did discover was that I found myself playing through the games much longer than I had before just because of how smooth the gameplay was. In addition, I found that, while playable with v-sync off, G-Sync fixed the screen tearing and lag issues you get when v-sync is enabled. After moving back to my standard gear, which is a 30-inch 60Hz IPS monitor, I was instantly yearning to go back to the G-Sync enabled ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q. The difference is truly mind bending and made the gaming experience all that more enjoyable.

ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q Conclusion:

When you get down to it, the facts are that even with a TN panel being used for the high refresh rate, the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q G-Sync monitor delivers great picture quality and truly impressive gaming. I could go on all day long about how smooth each of the games played while testing this monitor, but ultimately not be able to show you without having you sit at the desk with me. No stuttering, no tearing, no lag; it's like getting that new car and having all the sales hype end up being right on the money. When I flip back and forth between my 60Hz monitor and the PC278Q, its like a night and day experience.

The resolution was perfectly suited for this panel and did not create situations where the menus or text were too small to read with my admittedly older eyes. The viewing angle of 170 degrees allowed for a good bit of head movement during games without losing clarity or even color as you get too far from the side or over/under the screen. This monitor has plenty of adjustability to get the screen just where you need it during gameplay. Visually, the monitor looks the part of a gaming centric setup thanks to the ROG styling. The slim bezels make for less distraction while gaming for me and will prove out their worth when running up to three of these in a Surround configuration.

Packing in all kinds of technology usually means that something got left out, but so far through my testing of the features, you get what is advertised. ASUS has the specs down and delivered a really nice addition to its ROG product line-up, and only enhanced the experience by bringing G-Sync along for the ride. But G-Sync is only one of the supported technologies; you also get 3D Vision 2 support and Ultra Low Motion Blur (to clean up the ghosting seen in traditional panels). Pricing, as expected, looks to be steep for a non-4K monitor, but the gaming experience alone sells this monitor. There are those who will not like the fact that this is an NVIDIA-specific product for use with cards from the GTX 650 on up, but everyone has preferences and if one does better than the other, so be it. At this point, I can't say anything other than I think I just found the newest addition to my gaming gear.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: