Delayed past its original late 2017 timeframe, let alone the April and May estimates, NVIDIA’s G-Sync HDR technology finally arrived over the last couple months courtesy of Asus’ ROG Swift PG27UQ and Acer’s Predator X27. First shown at Computex 2017 as prototypes, the 27-inch displays bring what are arguably the most desired and visible aspects of modern gaming monitors: ultra high resolution (4K), high refresh rates (144Hz), and variable refresh rate technology (G-Sync), all in a reasonably-sized quality panel (27-inch IPS-type). In addition to that, of course, are the various HDR-related capabilities with brightness and color gamut.

Individually, these features are just some of the many modern display technologies, but where resolution and refresh rate (and also input latency) are core to PC gaming, those elements typically work as tradeoffs, with 1440p/144Hz being a notable middle ground. So by the basic 4K/144Hz standard, we have not yet had a true ultra-premium gaming monitor. But today, we look at one such beast with the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ.

ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ G-SYNC HDR Monitor Specifications
  ROG Swift PG27UQ
Panel 27" IPS (AHVA)
Resolution 3840 × 2160
Refresh Rate OC Mode 144Hz (HDR, 4:2:2) 144Hz (SDR, 4:2:2)
Standard 120Hz (HDR, 4:2:2)
98Hz (HDR, 4:4:4)
120Hz (SDR, 4:4:4)
Over HDMI 60Hz
Variable Refresh Rate NVIDIA G-Sync HDR module
(actively cooled)
Response Time 4 ms (GTG)
Brightness Typical 300 - 600 cd/m²
Peak 1000 cd/m² (HDR)
Contrast Typical 1000:1
Peak 50000:1 (HDR)
Backlighting FALD, 384 zones
Quantum Dot Yes
HDR Standard HDR10 Support
Viewing Angles 178°/178° horizontal/vertical
Pixel Density 163 pixels per inch
0.155mm pixel pitch
Color Depth 1.07 billion
(8-bit with FRC)
Color Gamut sRGB: 100%
Adobe RGB: 99%
 DCI-P3: 97%
Inputs 1 × DisplayPort 1.4
1 × HDMI 2.0
Audio 3.5-mm audio jack
USB Hub 2-port USB 3.0
Stand Adjustments Tilt: +20°~-5°
Swivel: +160°~+160°
Pivot: +90°~-90°
Height Adjustment: 0~120 mm
Dimensions (with stand) 634 x 437-557 x 268 mm
VESA Mount 100 × 100
Power Consumption Idle: 0.5 W
Peak: 180 W (HDR)
Price $1999

As an ultra-premium gaming monitor of that caliber, the PG27UQ also has an ultra-premium price of $1999. For reasons we’ll soon discuss, the pricing very much represents the panel’s HDR backlighting unit, quantum dot film, and G-Sync HDR module. The full-array local dimming (FALD) backlighting system delivers the brightness and contrast needed for HDR, while the quantum dot film enhances the representable colors to a wider gamut, another HDR element. The new generation G-Sync HDR module deals with the variable refresh implementation, but with HDR, high refresh rate, and high resolution combined, bandwidth constraints require chroma subsampling beyond 98Hz.

In terms of base specifications, the PG27UQ is identical to Acer’s Predator X27 as it uses the same AU Optronics panel, and both monitors are essentially flagships for the G-Sync HDR platform, which includes the curved ultrawide 35-inch models and 4K 65-inch Big Format Gaming Displays (BFGD). Otherwise, there isn’t anything new here that we haven’t already known about in the long run-up.

NVIDIA G-SYNC HDR Monitor Lineup
  Acer
Predator X27
ASUS
ROG Swift PG27UQ
Acer
Predator X35
ASUS
ROG Swift PG35VQ
Acer
Predator BFGD
ASUS
ROG Swift PG65
HP
OMEN X 65 BFGD
Panel 27" IPS-type (AHVA) 35" VA
1800R curve
65" VA?
Resolution 3840 × 2160 3440 × 1440 (21:9) 3840 × 2160
Pixel Density 163 PPI 103 PPI 68 PPI
Max Refresh Rates 144Hz
60Hz (HDMI)
200Hz
60Hz (HDMI)
120Hz
60Hz (HDMI)
Backlighting FALD (384 zones) FALD (512 zones) FALD
Quantum Dot Yes
HDR Standard HDR10 Support
Color Gamut sRGB
DCI-P3
Inputs 2 × DisplayPort 1.4
1 × HDMI 2.0
DisplayPort 1.4
HDMI 2.0
DisplayPort 1.4
HDMI 2.0
Ethernet
Price $1999 TBA TBA
Availability Present 2H 2018?

Furthermore, Asus’ ROG Swift PG27UQ also had a rather insightful channel for updates on their ROG forums, so there's some insight into the panel-related firmware troubles they've been having.

How We Got Here: Modern Gaming Monitors and G-Sync HDR

One of the more interesting aspects about the PG27UQ is about its headlining features. The 3840 x 2160 ‘4K’ resolution and 144Hz refresh rate are very much in the mix, and so is the monitor being not just G-Sync but G-Sync HDR. Then there is the HDR aspect, with the IPS-type panel that has localized backlighting and a quantum dot film. G-Sync HDR means both a premium tier of HDR monitor, as well as the new generation of G-Sync that works with high dynamic range gaming.

Altogether, the explanation isn’t very succinct for gamers, especially compared to a non-HDR gaming monitor, and it has all to do with the vast amount of moving parts involved in consumer monitor features, something more thoroughly covered by Brett. For some context, recent display trends include

  • Higher resolutions (e.g. 1440p, 4K, 8K)
  • Higher refresh rates (e.g. 120Hz, 165Hz, 240Hz)
  • Variable refresh rate (VRR) (e.g. G-Sync, FreeSync)
  • Panel size, pixel density, curved and/or ultrawide formats
  • Better panel technology (e.g. VA, IPS-type, OLED)
  • Color bit depth
  • Color compression (e.g. chroma subsampling)
  • Other high dynamic range (HDR) relevant functions for better brightness/contrast ratios and color space coverage, such as local dimming/backlighting and quantum dot films

These features obviously overlap, and much of their recent developments are not so much ‘new’ as they are now ‘reasonably affordable’ to the broader public. For a professional class price, monitors for professional visualization have offered many of the same specifications. And most elements are ultimately limited by PC game support, even uncapped refresh rates and 4K+ resolutions. This is, of course, not including connection standards, design (i.e. bezels and thinness), or gaming monitor features (e.g. ULMB). All these bits, and more, are served up to consumers in a bevy of numbers and brands.

Why does all of this matter? All of these points are points of discussion with the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ, and especially to G-Sync HDR at the heart of this display. Gaming monitors are moving beyond resolution and refresh rate in their feature sets, especially as games start to support HDR technologies (i.e. HDR10, Dolby Vision, FreeSync 2 tone-mapping). To implement those overlapping features, much more has to do with the panel rather than the VRR hardware/specification, which has become the de facto identifier of a modern gaming monitor. The goal is no longer summarized by ‘faster frames filled with more pixels’ and becomes more difficult to communicate, let alone market, to consumers. And this has much to do with where G-Sync (and VRR) started and what it is now aspiring to be.

From G-Sync Variable Refresh To G-Sync HDR Gaming Experience
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  • Flunk - Tuesday, October 02, 2018 - link

    I'd really like one of these, but I can't really justify $2000 because I know that in 6-months to a year competition will arrive that severely undercuts this price. Reply
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, October 02, 2018 - link

    That's just technology in general. But keep a eye out, around that time this monitor is coming out with a revision that will remove the "gaming" features" but still maintain refresh rate and size. Reply
  • edzieba - Tuesday, October 02, 2018 - link

    The big omission to watch out for is the FALD backlight. Without that, HDR cannot be achieved outside of an OLED panel (and even then OLED cannot yet meet the peak luminance levels). You;re going to see a lot of monitors that are effectively SDR panels with the brightness turned up, and sold as 'HDR'. If you're old enough to remember when HDTV was rolling uout, remember the wave of budget 'HD' TVs that used SD panels but accepted and downsampled HD inputs? Same situation here. Reply
  • Hixbot - Tuesday, October 02, 2018 - link

    Pretty sure edgelit displays can hit the higher gamut by using a quantom dot filter. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 02, 2018 - link

    quantum dots increase the color gamut, HDR is about increasing the luminescence range on screen at any time. Edge lit displays only have a handful of dimming zones at most (no way to get more when your control consists of only 1 configurable value per row/column). You need back lighting where each small chunk of the screen can be controlled independently to get anything approaching a decent result. Per pixel is best, but only doable with OLED or jumbotron size displays. (MicroLED - we can barely make normal LEDs small enough for this scale.) OTOH if costs can be brought down microLED does have the potential to power a FALD backlight with an order of magnitude or more more dimming zones than current models LCD can do; enough to largely make halo effects around bright objects a negligible issue. Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, October 02, 2018 - link

    There is also miniled that will replace regular led for the backlight.

    Microled = OLED competition
    Miniled up to 50,000zones (cheap "premium phones" will come with 48zones).
    Reply
  • crimsonson - Tuesday, October 02, 2018 - link

    I think you are exaggerating a bit. HDR is just a transform function. There are several standards that say what the peak luminance should be to considered HDR10 or Dolby Vision etc. But that itself is misleading.

    Define " (and even then OLED cannot yet meet the peak luminance levels)"
    Because OLED can def reach 600+ nits, which is one of the standards for HDR being proposed.
    Reply
  • edzieba - Tuesday, October 02, 2018 - link

    "HDR is just a transform function"

    Just A transform function? [Laughs in Hybrid Log Gamma],

    Joking aside, HDR is also a set of minimum requirements. Claiming panels that do not even come close to meeting those requirements are also HDR is akin to claiming that 720x468 is HD, because "it's just a resolution". The requirements range far beyond just peak luminance levels, which is why merely slapping a big-ass backlight to a panel and claiming it is 'HDR' is nonsense.
    Reply
  • crimsonson - Wednesday, October 03, 2018 - link

    "
    Just A transform function? [Laughs in Hybrid Log Gamma],"

    And HLG is again just a standard of how to handle HDR and SDR. It is not required or needed to display HDR images.

    "HDR is also a set of minimum requirements"

    No, there are STANDARDS that attempts to address HDR features across products and in video production. But in itself does not mean violating those standards equate to a non-HDR image. Dolby Vision, for example, supports dynamic metadata. HDR10 does not. Does that make HDR10 NOT HDR?
    Eventually, the market and the industry to congregate behind 1 or 2 SET of standards (since it is not only about 1 number or feature). But we are not there yet. Far from it.

    Since you like referencing these standards, you do know that Vesa has HDR standards as low as 400 and 600 nits right?

    And I think you are conflating wide gamut vs Dynamic Range. FALD is not needed to achieve wide gamut.

    And using HD to illustrate your points exemplifies you don't understand how standards work in broadcast and manufacturing.
    Reply
  • edzieba - Thursday, October 04, 2018 - link

    "And HLG is again just a standard of how to handle HDR and SDR. It is not required or needed to display HDR images."

    The joke was that there are already at least 3 standards of HDR transfer functions, and some (e.g. Dolby Vision) allow for on the fly modification of the transfer function.

    "And I think you are conflating wide gamut vs Dynamic Range. FALD is not needed to achieve wide gamut."

    Nobody mentioned gamut. High Dynamic Range requires, as the name implies, a high dynamic range. LCD panels cannot achieve that high dynamic range on their own, they need a segmented backlight modulator to do so.
    As much as marketers would want you to believe otherwise, a straight LCD panel with an edge-lit backlight is not going to provide HDR.

    "And using HD to illustrate your points exemplifies you don't understand how standards work in broadcast and manufacturing."

    Remember how "HD ready" was brought in to address exactly the same problem of devices marketing capabilities they did not have? And how it brought complaints about allowing 720p devices to also advertise themselves as "HD Ready"? Is this not analogous to the current situation where HDR is being erroneously applied to panels that cannot achieve it, and how VESA's DisplayHDR has complaints that anything below Display HDR1000 is basically worthless?
    Reply

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