While shopping for my new VMWare whitebox, I was bemoaning the fact that 1920×1080 monitors were the only size available for under $300. To my surprise, I found the ASUS’ ProArt PA248Q monitors for less than $300. Was it worth the purchase price, or are they just cheap monitors?
When buying a monitor, my personal criteria in order of importance are:
High resolution on two monitors using the DVI and VGA inputs provides the desktop space I need to work on tutorials for InetDaemon.Com. Its common for me to have multiple windows open: Dreamweaver, the SnippingTool, Textpad, GIMP, MS-Visio, PowerPoint, Inkscape, IE, Mozilla, Firefox, MySQL Admin, Filezilla, Windows Media Player, one or more Windows Control Panels and even an SSH or DOS window or two open, all at the same time. I need lots of desktop space so I can view everything and move back and forth freely without having to Alt-Tab or move windows around. Vertical resolution becomes important when working on web pages and documents, or when you have multiple SSH windows stacked. The extra 120 pixels in the vertical dimension gets you an entire extra paragraph of text. I’ve also wished I could work in portrait mode when developing web content.
I’m an amateur photographer with less than perfect vision, which means I make a lot of mistakes and often don’t realize it till I get back. GIMP allows me to rescue at least some of my images, but it means hours in front of the computer. Large resolution size and good color reproduction allow me to see the defects in my images so I don’t select a losing photo for competition by mistake. I don’t watch a lot of video on my computers. I don’t waste my time on TV since “reality TV” came into vogue and “dark and twisted” became the new jump-the-shark for every TV plotline.
Refresh rates that prevent flicker are important. I don’t want to get a headache while working on my computer for long hours, flicker tends to do that. Since I rarely game, refresh rates aren’t quite so important and a 9ms refresh is more than fast enough for my needs.
So how did the ASUS PA248Q stack up against my needs?
Here’s the list of features ASUS managed to fit into the PA248Q 1920×1200 IPS Display:
I picked up two (2) of the ASUS PA248Q monitors for $314 each, retail price with tax, with a $20 rebate each for a total of $40 back after purchase. That makes my net-cost out-of-pocket just under $300 per monitor, but if you shop hard, you probably can find it a few bucks cheaper.
The monitor is shipped in portrait orientation and tips up rather well out of the foam, but the box had to be opened on both sides to get at the full set of cables and power cords provided for each of the HDMI, Display Port, DVI, and VGA ports, and the USB 3.0 hub uplink. The HDMI doesn’t come with the separate audio patch cord, and there is an audio in jack. I haven’t tested whether the HDMI supports sound.
The monitor is a solid build. All the seams are tight, no gaps, nothing rattles or flexes. The display is quite bright even without the dynamic contrast. The mount on the stand is firm and tight. There is more than enough resistance so that you don’t have to hold the monitor when pushing the display control buttons. Everything has a solid tight feel, and the monitor swivels, turns and rotates smoothly. The monitor itself is large, so at full height, it won’t rotate directly in position, but if you tip the top back, lift the stand to full height, it rotates freely without contacting the base, and stays in place at any angle you choose. Currently, the ‘left’ monitor is in portrait mode, angled back about 15 degrees at the top and it is very comfortable to work with.
Until now, I’ve never been able to rotate both monitors into the portrait position for working on long tutorials or vertical images. These monitors now allow me to do that side-by-side in matching resolution, a capability I’ve long wanted.
Zero dead pixels on either monitor, so I don’t have to live with missing pixels. No scratches out of the box either. The screen has a matte finish, so no reflections and no distortion you’d normally see in high-gloss monitors. I absolutely despise glossy display surfaces. Dot pitch is .27, which means it is sharp enough for my needs. A physically larger display area would be blurry at this resolution.
Colors are accurate and true. It was a relief not to have to pull out my DataColor Spyder to recalibrate. The monitor supports 12 bits per pixel color depth. Not every graphics application can support the extra color depth and I haven’t got the pocketbook to spend another $1800 on Adobe’s CS software, so I have no idea how well it works. Asus claims 98% coverage of Adobe’s RGB color gamut, about 1.07 billion colors compared with the 16 million in most LCD monitors. I have multiple sunset photos I use as wallpaper that have always had rings and were never truly smooth gradients. On these monitors, the sunsets show as true gradients to the naked eye. The display quality is so good, that I can now see jpg artifacts in the high-resolution images I use for desktop wallpaper. I’ll probably have to go back to the CR2 images and re-export them to a lossless format.
There is a hint of flicker in the monitors at the factory-default brightness setting which gets slightly worse as you turn the brightness down. Turn the brightness up just a bit (from 50 to 55) and the flicker vanishes completely. It actually looks better at the higher brightness anyway, so I don’t see this as a drawback on one of the least expensive 1920×1200 IPS monitors on the market.
On-Screen Display Controls
The OSD control buttons are flush with the bezel and run up the right hand side of the monitor, with a small, barely noticeable joystick-like 5-way control at the top. This 5-way control is used for navigating the on-screen display menus. The on-screen display is clear and obvious and easyto navigate with the 5-way controller, but dropping back out of menu options requires hitting the menu button. Fairly standard, but feels counter intuitive, when pushing the joystick left would have accomplished the same thing without shifting your hand to a different button.
A dedicated button is set aside for switching between the monitor’s four video inputs, analog VGA, DVI, HDMI and Display Port. You can use all four inputs and switch between them. This potentially reduces the need for additional KVM’s.
The OSD controls also come with two buttons (labled “1” and “2”) that can be reprogrammed to jump directly to specific OSD settings. The monitor will also display the outlines of various sizes of paper and photos, or mark off the screen into inches or centimeters, or display an alignment grid for help in working in Photoshop
I’ve tried out Diablo III on this monitor, not much of a test compared to some games, but the PA248Q had no problems with blurring or color shift during the game, and even when I maximized all the graphics settings, it had no problems keeping up.
Solid build and construction, fairly clear and easy to use controls, great color, resolution and size, no dead pixels and has worked great for a month now, and at a very acceptable price of just under $300 per monitor. Probably one of my better computer purchases. If you can afford to drop $600 on a pair of great monitors that will handle anything most users can throw at them, this is the monitor to get.