ASUS CG32UQ

Author: Adam Simmons
Date published: November 29th 2019

 

Introduction

In terms of capability and feature-set, the lines have become increasingly blurred between for console gaming and PC gaming monitors. Modern games consoles and modern gaming PCs both support high resolutions and HDR (High Dynamic Range), so having a monitor that properly supports this can be very attractive. The ASUS CG32UQ is marketed primarily towards console gamers (no prizes for guessing what ‘CG’ stands for) but shares that feature-set that will appeal to many PC users as well. We put this monitor through its paces in our usual suite of tests, which includes desktop usage, movies and PC gaming. Both under SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) and HDR. As we’re reviewing a monitor here and there’s so much crossover in terms of system capability, this will give you an excellent idea of what to expect when gaming on a modern games console with the monitor as well.

Specifications

This monitor employs a 60Hz VA (Vertical Alignment) panel with 3840 x 2140 (‘4K’ UHD) resolution and support for 10-bit colour. More specifically, an Innolux AAS (Azimuthal Anchoring Switch) VA-type panel is used. A 5ms grey to grey response time is specified, but as usual approach this figure with caution. Some of the key ‘talking points’ of the specification have been highlighted in blue below, for your reading convenience.

Screen size: 31.5 inches

Panel type: Innolux M315DJJ-K31 variant VA (Vertical Alignment) type LCD

Native resolution: 3840 x 2160

Typical maximum brightness: 400 cd/m² (600 cd/m² HDR)

Colour support: 1.07 billion (10-bits per subpixel)*

Response time (G2G): 5ms

Refresh rate: 60Hz (variable, with Adaptive-Sync)

Weight: 9.1kg

Contrast ratio: 3,000:1 (SDR)

Viewing angle: 178º horizontal, 178º vertical

Power consumption: <50W typical

Backlight: WLED (White Light Emitting Diode)

Typical price as reviewed: $800 USD


*HDMI is limited to true 8-bit on the monitor. Given that it’s marketed as a console gaming monitor this is officially specified without mention of ’10-bit’. 10-bit processing is still used for HDR, but a dithering stage is offloaded to the GPU (or system) – as we explore, the end result is very similar. For the purposes of our testing, the applications we use are limited to 8-bit under SDR anyway. You need a very specific software workflow to leverage 10-bit capability – if you wish to do so, you need to use DisplayPort on this model.

Features and aesthetics

The monitor does away with bright colours or other ‘gamery’ additions on the screen itself. A single-stage matte black bezel surrounds the entire screen, covering the panel border effectively. These are a moderate width at the top and sides, at ~15mm (0.59 inches). The bottom bezel is somewhat thicker, ~20mm (0.79 inches) with a central shiny silver-coloured ASUS logo and an infrared sensor (for the included remote) towards the right side. The stand base is undoubtedly the most ‘gamery’ feature from the front, aesthetically. But this has a functional reason. Either end of the stand includes a grippy rubber pad where you can rest game controllers and plug them in to charge at the front of the stand base. Two power-only (no data) USB 3.0 ports are found here – they can be used for charging other things, such as smartphones, instead. The dominant feature from the front is the large screen, which has a medium (‘relatively light’) matte anti-glare finish. This is explored deeper into the review.

A rugged matte look

The beast comes to life

The OSD (On Screen Display) is controlled by pressable buttons and a ‘Navi Key’ joystick, running vertically down the monitor. Towards the right side, as viewed from in front. Alternatively, you can use the included TV-style infrared remote control. This is a slim and light remote, powered by 2 x CR2032 coin cell batteries – it will also work with a single battery, if you’re running short. Although we didn’t test the range of the remote scientifically, it worked from ~10m away from the monitor. There is a small power LED toward the bottom right of the monitor which glows white when the monitor is switched on or amber when it enters a low power state (signal to the system is lost). This LED can be disabled in the OSD, if preferred. The menu system and RGB LED lighting feature is explored in the video below.


IR OSD remote

From the side the monitor is ~30mm (1.18 inches), lumping out centrally where the stand attaches. The included stand offers tilt (5° forwards, 20° backwards) and height adjustment (100mm or 3.94 inches). At lowest height the bottom of the screen clears the desk by ~80mm (3.15 inches) with the top of the screen ~510mm (20.08 inches) above the desk. The total depth of the monitor including stand is ~260mm (10.24 inches) with the screen sitting ~60mm (2.36 inches) back from the front edge of the stand base.

A side view

The rear of the monitor is mainly matte black plastic, with a central stand attachment point. The included stand can be easily removed using a quick-release mechanism, a downwards-facing button found in the port area. It can then be replaced with an alternative 100 x 100mm VESA compatible solution if preferred, using the included VESA mount kit. The stand can then be used as a standalone USB charging hub, with a convenient place to hang headphones at the top. Another key feature from the rear are the 66 LEDs which form a perimeter around the rear. These can be set to mimic shades contained on the screen (‘Halo Sync’), set to various set colours and flashing patterns (‘Aura RGB’) or controlled via USB using software (‘Aura Sync’). This feature is shown in the OSD video (timestamp). The ports of the monitor face downwards and include; DC power input (external ‘power brick’), 3 HDMI 2.0 ports, DP 1.2a+ (HDR feature set via DP 1.4 on GPU), 3.5mm headphone jack, USB power port (to feed 2 USB power-delivery ports on base if used as headphone stand) and, USB 3.0 upstream and 2 USB 3.0 port. The monitor includes 2 x 12W Harman Kardon speakers, which as far as integrated monitor speakers goes are exceptional. There are various ‘AudioWizard’ equalizer modes in the ‘Sound’ section of the OSD; ‘Racing’, ‘Combat’, ‘FPS’ and ‘Movie’. We found them to be very well-balanced using the default settings, (‘Movie’) whether watching movies, listening to music or playing games. They provided a bass-rich, full and clean sound with very good and highly adjustable volume. They provided the most enjoyable audio experience we’ve come across on a monitor.

The rear view

Headphone stand configuration

Ports to the left

Ports to the right

The full resolution, HDR capability and Adaptive-Sync is supported via HDMI 2.0 and DP 1.2a+ on compatible systems. Nvidia’s ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’ is available via DisplayPort on compatible systems. A 24Hz operating mode is included via HDMI. A power adaptor and USB cable are included as standard, with a DP cable and HDMI cable included in some regions and by some retailers.

Calibration

Subpixel layout and screen surface

The image below is a macro photograph taken on Notepad with ClearType disabled. The letters ‘PCM’ are typed out to help highlight any potential text rendering issues related to unusual subpixel structure, whilst the white space more clearly shows the actual subpixel layout alongside a rough indication of screen surface. A medium (or ‘relatively light’, depending on how you classify it) screen surface is used. This screen surface offers good glare handling and provides less diffusion of light emitted from the monitor than ‘stronger’ matte screen surfaces. It diffuses light emitted more strongly than lighter matte or glossy screen surfaces, however. The screen surface texture isn’t particularly smooth, giving a somewhat grainy appearance to lighter shades such as white. This wasn’t the sort of ‘heavy’ or ‘smeary’ graininess imparted by some matte screen surfaces, however. It’s something we’re quite sensitive to and not everyone would find it bothersome or necessarily noticeable.

Subpixel layout

As shown above, the monitor uses the standard RGB (Red, Green and Blue) stripe subpixel layout. This is the default expected by modern operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Apple’s MacOS. Mac users needn’t worry about text fringing from less usual subpixel layouts, whilst Windows users don’t necessarily need to run through the ClearType wizard. They may still wish to run through the ClearType wizard and adjust according to preferences, however. The subpixel layout and arrangement is normal and we had no subpixel-related concerns related to sharpness or text clarity on this model.

Testing the presets

The ASUS CG32UQ features various ‘GameVisual’ modes; ‘Scenery’, ‘Racing’, ‘Cinema’,’ ‘RTS/RPG’, ‘FPS’, ‘sRGB’, ‘MOBA’ and ‘User’. These presets alter the default values for various settings in the OSD, some of them lock off various settings and some make additional changes (to saturation or colour output) which can’t be counteracted by manually adjusting things. We run through these in the OSD video, but will instead focus on manual adjustment of various other settings for this section. The table below provides key readings (gamma and white point) taken using a DataColor SpyderX Elite alongside general observations. The monitor was left in its ‘Plug and Play’ state without additional drivers or ICC profiles specifically loaded. It was connected to a Windows 10 PC using Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti, using the supplied DisplayPort cable. Additional testing was performed on an AMD Radeon RX 580. We made similar observations with the monitor connected using HDMI. The screen was left running for over 2 hours before readings were taken or observations made. Unless stated otherwise, assume default settings were used. When viewing the figures in this table, note that for most PC users ‘6500K’ for white point and ‘2.2’ for gamma are good targets to aim for. Individual targets depend on individual uses, tastes and the lighting environment, however.

Monitor SettingsGamma (central average)White point (kelvins)Notes
Racing Mode (Factory defaults) 2.2 6944K Bright and slightly cool-tinted, otherwise well-balanced. Image appears quite vibrant overall, some moderate depth and saturation losses were observed peripherally from a viewing distance of ~70-80cm. These are related to some perceived gamma shifts, due to viewing angle related weaknesses (typical to varying extents on VA panels).
Gamma = 1.8 1.8 6896K As above but gamma significantly reduced, giving a fairly lacklustre appearance to the image and an obvious lack of depth.
Gamma = 2.5 2.6 6888K As above with significantly higher gamma, boosting overall depth and saturation and giving quite a striking look. Measured gamma was a touch higher than the setting label (‘2.6’ vs. ‘2.5’).
Blue Light Filter = Level 1 2.2 5926K A mild Low Blue Light (LBL) setting. The blue channel is weakened slightly, reducing blue light output somewhat and giving a warmer look to the image. The green channel remains relatively strong, so a slight green tint is introduced. This wasn’t an extreme green tint, our eyes adjusted to it over time.
Blue Light Filter = Level 2 2.2 5738K As above, slightly more effective.
Blue Light Filter = Level 3 2.2 5537K As above but more effective still.
Blue Light Filter = Level 4 2.2 4625K The most effective LBL setting on the monitor. The image appears significantly warmer than factory defaults, again with a green tint that we found our eyes getting used to given time. Blue channel and blue light output significantly weakened. The default brightness is significantly reduced with this setting and the brightness setting is locked.
Color Temp. = Warm 2.2 6033K A mild LBL setting, reducing colour temperature slightly.
Test Settings (see below) 2.2 6562K As factory defaults with brightness set to appropriate levels and a colour temperature corrected so it’s closer to our desired target. Quite vibrant and well-balanced overall.

Out of the box the monitor provided a bright image with a slight cool tint, but one that was otherwise well-balanced. With a fairly vibrant look overall. Gamma tracking was excellent using the factory default settings. Following the adjustments made to our ‘Test Settings’, gamma tracking remained close to the desired ‘2.2’ curve as shown below. Given the pleasing performance with OSD adjustment alone, inter-unit variation and the intended uses of the monitor (including console gaming), we won’t be providing any ICC profiles for this model or using them in the review.

Gamma 'Test Settings'

Gamma 'Test Settings'

The monitor includes a range of ‘Blue Light Filter’ Low Blue Light (LBL) settings. These range from ‘Level 1’ (weakest effect) to ‘Level 4’ (strongest effect) – plus ‘Level 0’, which disables the filter. These settings significantly reduce the blue colour channel and hence significantly reduce blue light output from the monitor. This is particularly important before bed, as blue light is stimulating and known to disrupt sleep hormones. The green colour channel remains fairly strong. The resulting image is warm with a bit of a green tint, although our eyes adjusted to this given a bit of time. Maintaining a relatively strong green channel may be less than ideal for overall colour balance, but it helps preserve contrast. The ‘Level 4’ setting significantly reduces brightness, but locks off the brightness control. We found the ‘Level 4’ setting worked nicely and suited our brightness and blue light preferences for our own viewing comfort in the evening. The setting was not used for any specific setting beyond that specifically cantered around the setting itself.

Test Settings

Our ‘Test Settings’ involved a significant brightness reduction and a very minor colour channel correction. Note that individual preferences and units of the same model vary, so these settings aren’t going to be optimal in all cases and are just a suggestion. It’s also worth noting that the colour channel adjustments aren’t very precise – the difference between ‘99’ and ‘98’ for the blue channel on our unit was ~170K. Not really an issue in general use, but it can make it difficult to achieve a particular colour temperature (such as 6500K) precisely. Calibration with a colorimeter or similar device will help tune this further, if necessary for colour-critical work on the PC.

We used the default ‘Racing Mode’ as a base for calibration. The ‘User Mode’ setting unlocks all settings in the OSD, including ‘Sharpness’, but can be calibrated in the same way. The ‘Sharpness’ is set to ‘50’ by default in ‘User Mode’ which noticeably oversharpens the image in a rather artificial and ugly way. You should reduce the setting to ‘0’ for a good neutral sharpness that’s equivalent to the default ‘Racing Mode’ preset value. But you can adjust according to preferences. Assume that any setting not mentioned here was left at default in the OSD, including ‘Contrast’. We’ve also included our preferred ‘OD’ setting, just for reference.

Note that these settings only apply to SDR testing, which is the bulk of our review. HDR has separate settings associated with it. Under HDR you can’t adjust brightness levels or colour channels manually, nor can you select a ‘GameVisual’ preset. You choose between ‘ASUS Cinema HDR’ and ‘ASUS Gaming HDR’, explored in the HDR section of the review. This may just have been a bug with our early sample of the monitor, but we also noticed that the monitor reverted to the default ‘Racing Mode’ at ‘90’ brightness when HDR deactivated and you returned to SDR viewing. At least it’s easy to revert to other settings using favourites or shortcut keys on this monitor.


GameVisual= Racing Mode

Brightness= 15 (according to preferences and lighting)

Color Temp. = User Mode

R= 100

G= 100

B= 99

Color Temp. = User Mode

OD = Level 2


Contrast and brightness

Contrast ratios

We used an X-Rite i1Display Pro to measure white and black luminance levels, from which static contrast ratios were calculated. The table below shows this data with various settings including those covered in the calibration section considered. Black highlights indicate the highest white luminance, lowest black luminance and maximum contrast ratio recorded. Blue highlights show the results with HDR active and the results using our ‘Test Settings’. Assume any setting not mentioned was left at default, except for the changes already mentioned in the calibration section.


*HDR measurements were made using this YouTube HDR brightness test video, running full screen at ‘2160p 4K HDR’ on Google Chrome. The maximum reading from the smallest patch size (measurement area) that comfortably covered the entire sensor area and colorimeter housing was used for the white luminance measurement, which was ‘4% of all pixels’ in this case. The black luminance was taken at the same point of the video with the colorimeter offset to the side of the white test patch, equidistant between the test patch and edge of the monitor bezel.

The average contrast ratio with only brightness adjusted was 3561:1, a good strong reading that’s a bit beyond the specified 3000:1. The strong static contrast was evident when observing darker shades such as black text, with superior depth compared to non-VA LCDs and some VA models with weaker contrast. The maximum contrast recorded on the table was 3840:1, perhaps helped a bit by some favourable rounding of the black luminance. Contrast remained above 3200:1 under all settings tested, including the strongest ‘Blue Light Filter’ setting. Under our ‘Test Settings’, which only involved very minor colour channel adjustment, contrast remained strong at 3440:1. The highest white luminance recorded under SDR was 479 cd/m², whilst the minimum white luminance recorded was 111 cd/m². This gave a fairly good luminance adjustment range of 368 cd/m², although the minimum without loss of contrast is rather high, which could be problematic for sensitive users. The monitor also includes a Dynamic Contrast setting called ‘ASCR’ (ASUS Smart Contrast Ratio) which can be activated in certain ‘GameVisual’ modes; ‘Scenery’, ‘Cinema’, ‘RTS/RPG’, ‘FPS’ and ‘User’. This allows the backlight brightness to adjust (as a single unit – no local dimming) according to the levels of light and dark on the screen. We didn’t find this setting overly dynamic. The brightness setting biased things towards a brighter or dimmer level, although the dimming from that level was quite restricted particularly at a low brightness setting. At higher brightness settings things tended to be uncomfortably bright. Regardless of how well this was or wasn’t implemented, we prefer manual control of monitor brightness in the absence of any local dimming element.

The monitor supports local dimming under HDR, with 16 separately controlled zones. An edge-lit array is used with 8 LED clusters on the left and 8 LED clusters on the right side of the screen. Two HDR settings are offered; ‘ASUS Cinema HDR’ and ‘ASUS Gaming HDR’. Both of these settings offered a slight but not dramatic boost in contrast (4047:1 and 4094:1, respectively). The ‘ASUS Gaming HDR’ setting offered marginally higher brightness (696 cd/m² vs. 688 cd/m²). Both luminance levels exceed the peak luminance requirements of the VESA DisplayHDR 600 standard which this model is certified for. It’s worth remembering that this measurement methodology, as typical for contrast measurement, involves measuring white and black at various points of the screen. In reality, scenes are far more complex and you wouldn’t just have a pure white square surrounded by total darkness. So the edge in contrast and advantage of local dimming can be more pronounced in some scenarios and less so in others compared to what these contrast measurements might suggest. We explore this experience later on in the review.


PWM (Pulse Width Modulation)

The CG32UQ does not use PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) to regulate backlight brightness and instead uses DC (Direct Current) at all brightness levels. The backlight of the monitor is therefore considered ‘flicker-free’, which will come as welcome news to those sensitive to flickering or worried about side-effects from PWM usage.

Luminance uniformity

Whilst observing a black screen in a dark room, using our ‘Test Settings’, we observed a small amount of backlight bleed and a little clouding towards the bottom left of the screen. And some slight traces elsewhere., particularly towards the corners of the screen. Note that individual units vary when it comes to all aspects of uniformity, including backlight bleed and clouding. The below image was taken a few metres back to eliminate so-called ‘VA glow’. This is a silverish purple glow which, from a normal viewing position at a desk, appears towards the edges of the screen and particularly the bottom corners. It blooms out in a more noticeable way from sharper angles as demonstrated in the viewing angles deeper into the review. As explored in the review, it’s only minor on this model and is less obtrusive than on some VA models we’ve used.

Monitor displaying black in a dark room

The SpyderX Elite was used to assess the uniformity of lighter shades, represented by 9 equidistant white quadrants. The luminance of each quadrant was measured and compared to the brightest measured quadrant. The table below shows these values, alongside the percentage deviation between each quadrant and the brightest point measured.

Luminance uniformity table

Luminance uniformity table

The luminance uniformity was variable. The brightest point recorded was ‘quadrant 5’ in the centre of the screen (165.9 cd/m²). The maximum deviation from this occurred at ‘quadrant 7’, towards the bottom left (137.4 cd/m², which is 17% dimmer). The average uniformity deviation between each quadrant and the brightest point was 10.75%, which is moderate. It’s important to note that uniformity varies between individual units and you can also expect variation beyond the points measured. The contour maps below show these deviations graphically, with darker greys representing lower luminance and hence greater deviation from the brightest recorded point than lighter greys. Percentage deviations between each quadrant and the brightest point are also given.

Luminance uniformity map

Luminance uniformity map

The SpyderX Elite was also used to analyse variation in the colour temperature (white point) for the same 9 quadrants. The deviation between each quadrant and the quadrant closest to the 6500K (D65) daylight white point target was analysed and a DeltaE value assigned. Darker shades are also used on this map to represent greater deviation from 6500K. A DeltaE <3 represents non-significant deviation that most users shouldn’t readily notice by eye.

Colour temperature uniformity map 'Test Settings'

Colour temperature uniformity map 'Test Settings'

Results here were pleasing, with no significant deviations recorded. The maximum deviation recorded was DeltaE 1.4 to the left of centre, which is a small deviation. It’s again important to remember that individual units vary when it comes to uniformity and that deviation beyond measured points can be expected. Also note that there are some perceived deviations in both brightness and colour temperature that are typical on VA panels and aren’t reflected by these readings.

In addition to the quantitative testing above, we performed a subjective assessment of the uniformity of a variety of ‘medium’ shades, including 50% grey. Some monitors exhibit uniformity issues such as splotches or striations when viewing screen fills of such shades, giving an inconsistent appearance that some users refer to as ‘DSE’ (‘Dirty Screen Effect’). VA models are particularly prone to this and we observed it to an extent on our PG32UQ sample. We didn’t observe any extreme issues such as strong striations or an obvious blotchy appearance, but there was certainly a bit of patchiness and slight striations when observing some shades. The photo below gives an example of this, although it’s very difficult to accurately represent. The image shows a medium grey screen fill taken from a central position, a sufficient distance back to eliminate viewing angle influences. As above, note that uniformity varies between individual units.

Monitor displaying medium grey shade

Contrast in games and movies

The monitor provided a pleasing contrast experience overall on Battlefield V. The strong static contrast delivered a good depth and atmosphere to darker areas, such as dim building interiors. A look which is quite different to non-VA models and better than some VA models provide. There was only a touch of ‘VA glow’ towards the bottom of the screen, lightening things up just a little. There were some inconsistencies when it came to perceived gamma, though, which affected the image. There was a moderate amount of ‘black crush’, whereby the region of the screen in line with your eyes (e.g. centre) appears with much higher perceived gamma than surrounding regions. Dark shades (excluding black) appear deeper than intended and therefore blend together quite readily, masking some detail in dark areas. Towards the side edges of the screen (and bottom), from a normal seated position at a desk, the perceived gamma was somewhat lower than intended. It revealed some extra unintended detail, giving a slight ‘blocky’ appearance in places. This was much less pronounced than the perceived gamma shifts you’d observe vertically on a TN model, but was stronger than on some VA models of this size (such as the Philips 328E1CA). As with ‘VA glow’, it’s something that’s more noticeable if you sit closer to the screen – we made these observations from ~70 – 80cm. The screen surface imparted a somewhat grainy look to lighter shades, although this won’t bother everyone and wasn’t as extreme as on some models.

The contrast performance on Shadow of the Tomb Raider was similar. With plenty of dark passageways (tombs, caves and suchlike) this is a title which really craves a deep and atmospheric look. This is something this model delivered a lot better than most, with strong static contrast and a relatively small amount of ‘VA glow’. Darker shades had good depth to them overall and brighter shades stood out very nicely against darker surroundings. The perceived gamma shifts again applied, with ‘black crush’ towards the central region of the screen and some excessive detail further out. But still a nice atmosphere in this game, in our view. The screen surface gave brighter shades such as daylight sky a somewhat grainy appearance, but not everyone would find this annoying and it’s just something we’re quite particular about.

We also made some observations on the film Star Wars: The Last Jedi. With plenty of high-contrast scenes (battles in space, light sabers lighting up dark interior locations etc.) this title looks its cinematic best on models with a strong contrast performance. The monitor delivered this, with brighter elements standing out very nicely against darker surroundings and a pretty cinematic look to darker scenes. Certainly to a greater extent than models with weaker static contrast would provide. The weaknesses observed in our game testing applied, such as a little ‘VA glow’, gamma inconsistencies and some graininess to lighter shades. But we still felt the overall look here was good. We had similar thoughts when viewing other video content on this screen, such as YouTube videos and Netflix movies and shows. Speaking of streamed content, that’s heavily compressed and naturally contains ‘compression artifacts’. Due to perceived gamma shifts from a normal seated position, these artifacts are less blended than they should be towards the sides and bottom of the screen. It gave a somewhat blocky appearance there, although we didn’t find this overly distracting nor as obvious as what you’d see towards the bottom of a TN model.

Lagom contrast tests


The Lagom tests for contrast allow specific weaknesses in contrast performance to be identified. The following observations were made.


  • The contrast gradients were displayed quite well overall. Some of the darkest bands, particularly blue and to a lesser extent red and magenta blended in a bit too readily. Other other bands appeared with distinct brightness steps and distinct from the background.
  • Performance on the black level test was reasonable. The first row in particular was affected by a moderate level of ‘black crush’, as described in the subjective testing earlier. They appeared a deeper shade and therefore blended into the background too readily. On a monitor tracking the ‘2.2’ gamma curve the first few should be indistinct from the background anyway, but the remaining blocks on this row should be more distinct. If you moved your head the brightness and tone of the blocks shifted readily, a sort of ‘oil slick effect’. We did not observe any obvious dithering.
  • Performance in the white saturation test was good overall. The final checkerboard pattern was a bit less visible than it should be and was masked by a bit of graininess from the screen surface. The second last pattern was slightly less visible than it should be, although only slightly. The remaining checkerboard patterns were appropriately distinct from one another and the background.
  • The greyscale gradient appeared smooth without obvious banding or dithering.

Colour reproduction

Colour gamut

The ASUS CG32UQ’s colour gamut (red triangle) was compared with the sRGB (green triangle) and DCI-P3 (blue triangle) reference spaces, as shown below. The colour gamut fully covers the sRGB colour space (100%) with a fair amount of extension beyond. We measured 96% DCI-P3 coverage, just slightly exceeding the manufacturer-specified 95% DCI-P3. Although now shown for comparison on this graphic, the monitor also covered 87% of the Adobe RGB colour space. The generous colour gamut is appropriate for HDR content, where DCI-P3 is the target gamut. It also gives the monitor to output all shades within the sRGB colour space (targeted for SDR), with a fair bit of extra saturation and vibrancy. To maximise colour accuracy within the sRGB colour space, for colour-managed workflows, full calibration and profiling with a colorimeter or similar device is advised. There is no sRGB emulation mode on this model, so that’s especially important in this case.

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'


Although the monitor itself lacks an sRGB emulation setting, users of AMD GPUs have a graphics driver setting they can activate which has a similar effect. You simply need to open ‘Radeon Settings’, navigate to ‘Display’ – ‘Color’ (little icon towards the top right) and press the ‘Color Temperature’ toggle so it reads ‘Automatic’ instead of ‘6500K’. The gamut below was taken under our ‘Test Settings’ with this driver tweak. The monitor now offers 97% sRGB coverage, so slight under-coverage (green to blue region of diagram) but close tracking overall. If you’re profiling the monitor it would be best to use the native gamut of the monitor instead for 100% sRGB coverage or good DCI-P3 coverage if that’s your target. But this setting will be useful for users who have AMD GPUs and prefer a less saturated look outside of a colour-managed workflow.

Colour gamut 'AMD Automatic'

Colour gamut 'AMD Automatic'


Colour in games and movies

The monitor provided quite a vibrant and varied look to Battlefield V. The generous colour gamut (96% DCI-P3) extends far beyond the sRGB standard, which games under SDR are created for. This provides extra saturation and a more vibrant appearance to things. This gives a very different look to a digital saturation boost, such as increasing the ‘Saturation’ slider in the OSD or upping ‘Nvidia Digital Vibrance’. That simply pulls things closer to the edge of the gamut without expanding the gamut itself, crushing shade variety without expanding the upper end of saturation. The in-game environments included some lush deep greens alongside a good palette of more muted shades. Fires stood out nicely with a nice mixture of eye-catching yellows, oranges and reds. Some greens appeared with too strong of a yellow hue and some reddish hues from wooden textures were brought out a bit strongly due to the generous gamut. Shadow of the Tomb Raider provided a similar experience. A vibrant and varied look overall, with a rich appearance to the environment and some good stand-out vibrant shades. Bright purple and yellow flowers, golden artifacts and some or Lara Croft’s stunningly colourful attire. Skin tones, including that of Lara, showed some extra saturation in places due to the colour gamut.

Both of these titles highlighted some gamma inconsistencies, which translated to a loss of saturation towards the edges of the screen and bottom from a normal seated viewing position. Coming back to our earlier point about skin tones looking a bit more saturated than intended in places due to the colour gamut, this was effectively counteracted towards the edges of the screen. The saturation levels there were truer to the sRGB intentions of the developer – if anything, a bit undersaturated. Some of the lush greens appeared a bit more lacklustre in these regions, too. This effect is exaggerated if you’re sitting closer to the screen, it wasn’t extreme from our preferred viewing position (~70cm) although more noticeable than on some VA models such as the curved Philips 328E1CA. It’s exactly the same as you’d observe on the flat 31.5” ‘4K’ VA models from various manufacturers using a similar Innolux panel, including the Philips 326M6VJRMB and BenQ EW3270U. If you’re sitting far enough back from the screen, keeping yourself fairly central if a bit above or below (for example, relaxing on a couch) these shifts are largely eliminated. Sitting some distance back and too far to the side will greatly decrease perceived gamma, though, giving a flooded look to the image.

We also observed various episodes of the animated TV series Futurama. With large areas of individual shade, this is a particularly unforgiving test for colour consistency. One which highlights weaknesses in a very clear way. The monitor outputted some good vibrant-looking shades, such as bright pinks and neon greens. These were particularly eye-catching when set against a much darker background, such as deep space or a dark sky. Pastel shades appeared much more muted in comparison, although somewhat more saturated than intended. The perceived gamma shifts and loss of saturation towards the sides and bottom of the screen was readily apparent on this title. It affected some shades more than others, with skin tones and the lobster red of one of the main characters (Dr Zoidberg) significantly more saturated centrally vs. peripherally. The shifts were not as pronounced as the vertical shifts on TN models, however.

Viewing angles

Lagom’s tests for viewing angle tests help explore the idea of colour consistency and viewing angle performance. The following observations were made from a normal viewing position, eyes ~70cm from the screen.

  • The purple block appeared a bluish purple centrally, transitioning to pink towards the side and bottom. The side edges in particular had a strong pink hue, with the pink hue shifting alongside head movement.
  • The red block appeared a rich red for most of the screen, with a more muted and somewhat pink appearance towards the bottom and side edges. A shift between saturated red and the more muted shade could be readily observed during head movement.
  • The green block appeared saturated green chartreuse throughout, with less of a yellow tint than would be observed on models with a significantly narrower colour gamut. The shade appeared more yellow and less saturated near the side edges and bottom of the screen.
  • The blue block appeared solid blue throughout.
  • The Lagom text appeared blended grey with a green tone to some of the striping in a large central cone in the centre of the screen and towards the top. This striping tint transitioned to orange and then red further out, strongest towards the bottom corners of the screen. The central cone of more blended striping moved readily alongside head movement. There were no obvious flashes between strongly saturated red or green or the degree of shifting you’d observe on a TN panel. This indicates a moderate viewing angle dependency to the monitor’s gamma curve, indicative of a VA panel. The photo below gives a rough idea of how the Lagom text test appeared.
Lagom Text Test

The following video shows the Lagom text test, a mixed desktop background and dark desktop background from various viewing angles. For the mixed image you can see some shifts in colour and contrast, more pronounced at steeper angles. And in particular horizontally. There is no ‘colour inversion’ as you’d observe on a TN model vertically and the shifts are not as extreme. The final third of the video shows a dark desktop background and highlights ‘VA glow’ which blooms out from more extreme angles. As noted earlier, the ‘VA glow’ is fairly minor on this model and only really ‘blooms out’ from relatively steep viewing angles.



Interlace pattern artifacts

On some monitors, particularly but not exclusively those with high refresh rates, interlace patterns can be seen during certain transitions. We refer to these as ‘interlace pattern artifacts’ but some users refer to them as ‘inversion artifacts’ and others as ‘scan lines’. They may appear as an interference pattern, mesh or interlaced lines which break up a given shade into a darker and lighter version of what is intended. They often catch the eye due to their dynamic nature, on models where they manifest themselves in this way. Alternatively, static interlace patterns may be seen with some shades appearing as faint horizontal or vertical bands of a slightly lighter and slightly darker version of the intended shade. We did not observe either artifact type on this monitor.

Responsiveness

Input lag

A small utility called SMTT 2.0 was used alongside a sensitive camera compare the latency of the CG32UQ with a screen of known latency. To help maximise accuracy, over 30 repeat readings were taken. Using this method, we calculated 8.71ms (a bit over 1/2 a frame at 60Hz) of input lag. Adaptive-Sync being active or not made no measurable difference – we also tested briefly using HDMI and observed similar results. Note that we do not have a way to accurately measure input lag with FreeSync active in a variable refresh rate environment nor with HDR active in an HDR environment. This input lag value reflects both the element of input lag you ‘feel’ (signal delay) and that which you see (pixel responsiveness). It indicates a reasonably low signal delay, significantly below that of many TVs, which most users should be fine with.

Perceived blur (pursuit photography)

In our article on responsiveness, we explore key concepts surrounding monitor responsiveness. A particularly important content is explored in this article; ‘perceived blur’. This is contributed to by both eye movement as you track motion on the screen and by pixel responsiveness. On modern monitors eye movement is the dominant cause of perceived blur, although pixel responsiveness also plays an important role. A photography method called ‘pursuit photography’ is also explored, using a moving rather than stationary camera to capture motion on a monitor in a way that reflects both key elements of perceived blur. This contrasts with static photography or videos, which only reflect pixel responsiveness.

The images below are pursuit photographs taken using the UFO Motion Test for ghosting, with the test running at 960 pixels per second. This is a good practical speed for capturing such photographs and highlights both elements of perceived blur nicely. The UFOs move across the screen from left to right at a frame rate matching the refresh rate of the display. All background shade levels (dark, medium and light) were used with the monitor set to all 6 of its ‘OD’ settings. The final two columns are references. The first shows the similar Philips 326M6VJRMB, set to its optimal response time setting. The second shows the ViewSonic XG240R, a fast TN model set to its optimal response time setting. This monitor shows how things look where pixel responsiveness isn’t really a limiting factor, particularly for the dark background (top row).

Perceived blur with various settings

The UFO appears soft without clear internal detailing, reflecting a moderate amount of perceived blur due to eye (camera) movement. Varying levels of trailing can be seen behind the object. This includes some ‘heavy powdery’ trailing, most noticeable on the dark background. And some instances of ‘light powdery trailing’. This ‘powdery’ trailing is reduced by increasing the ‘OD’ (overdrive) setting, although it is replaced with overshoot (inverse ghosting). Looking at this testing but also more broadly, we settled on ‘OD’ at ‘Level 2’. This sped up the pixel responses compared to slower settings, reducing the trailing without introducing too much overshoot. There was still a fair amount of ‘powdery’ trailing for the dark background and to some extent the medium background (middle row) with this setting. But ‘Level 3’ provided some unsightly overshoot in practice without massively cutting down on this ‘powdery’ trailing. In this test you can see a dark ‘shadowy’ overshoot trail behind the UFO for the medium background using ‘Level 3’ and an increase in the bright ‘halo trail’ behind the UFO for the light background (bottom row). This halo trail is quite faint in this example – but considering a broader range of transitions there were some more obvious examples of this. ‘Level 4’ increased the overshoot, particularly strengthening the ‘dirty trailing’. ‘Level 5’ introduced extremely obvious and colourful overshoot trailing, with eye-catching inky blue and bright cyan components behind the UFO. At ‘Level 2’, which we consider optimal, things are quite close to on the Philips reference screen if a little more responsive in the transitions shown here.

Note that we will not be including a section on overclocking, as the monitor refused to run above 60Hz at its native resolution or indeed lower resolutions such as Full HD.

Responsiveness in games and movies

On Battlefield V (BFV) the monitor provided a moderate level of perceived blur. This was mainly tied to eye movement and as expected within the constraints of the 60Hz refresh rate. There were some weaknesses beyond this related to pixel responsiveness, though. Most transitions were performed fast enough for a good 60Hz performance, without significant trailing. For most transitions, involving medium and lighter shades, there was either no noticeable trailing or just a little faint ‘powdery’ trailing in places. There were more pronounced weaknesses where darker shades were involved, however. There were examples of ‘heavy powdery trailing’ which sometimes took on a ‘smeary’ appearance. For example observing a dark tree trunk with a moonlit sky in the background. Or heavily saturated shades with a lighter background, such as a vibrant orange paint against a much lighter wooden background. There was a little ‘break-up’ trailing in places as well, where some hues from the very dark shade (or the lighter background) appeared to separate out during motion. A bit like wetting a page with water soluble ink on it. This was quite constrained on this model, less widespread and noticeable than on some VA models.

If you compare to some of the weaker ~60Hz VA performers (such as the Philips BDM4037UW and AOC Q3279VWF), the weaknesses were much less dramatic. Slightly weaker pixel response performance overall than on the Philips 328E1CA, although not massively so. And comparable to the Philips 326M6VJRMB using optimal settings if not a little stronger. The video review section below runs through some of the strengths and weaknesses of the monitor’s response performance, using BFV as an example.

On Shadow of the Tomb Raider we made similar observations. Darker shades are common on this title as there are plenty of dimly lit and shaded areas. This brought out some of the more distinct weaknesses, such as the ‘smeary’ appearance to some of the trailing. This was not as extended (‘smoke-like’) or widespread as on some VA models, though, and we didn’t really find it detracted from the gameplay on this title. It is, as with many things when it comes to monitors, very subjective. Transitions involving brighter and medium shades were handled rapidly. On this title and indeed BFV we noticed a little overshoot in places, such as some ‘halo’ trailing that is slightly brighter than the object or background shades. And some ‘dirty trailing’ that was slightly darker. But this was not eye-catching using our preferred ‘OD’ setting at 60Hz. It’s worth noting, too, that weaknesses in pixel responsiveness don’t always exhibit themselves as a distinct trailing on VA models such as this. Where there is a fine mixture of dark and medium shades, such as thatched rooftops or certain areas of vegetation, there are perceived brightness changes during motion that can appear as a flickering during gradual movement of the character. This won’t bother everyone, but it worth noting – it’s more eye-catching during HDR due to the higher luminance levels.

We also observed a range of video content, including ~24-30fps content (Netflix etc.) and 60fps content (YouTube). The higher refresh rate content showcased similar weaknesses to our in-game testing, whereas for the lower frame rate content the pixel responses were fast enough to avoid any noteworthy issues. We didn’t really feel the weaknesses detracted from our enjoyment of watching said video content on this model, the strong static contrast and vibrant colour output will be more noticeable to most users. This will apply to the gaming experience for many users, too.

FreeSync – the technology and activating it

AMD FreeSync is a variable refresh rate technology, an AMD-specific alternative to Nvidia G-SYNC. Where possible, the monitor dynamically adjusts its refresh rate so that it matches the frame rate being outputted by the GPU. Both our responsiveness article and the G-SYNC article linked to explore the importance of these two elements being synchronised. At a basic level, a mismatch between the frame rate and refresh rate can cause stuttering (VSync on) or tearing and juddering (VSync off). FreeSync also boasts reduced latency compared to running with VSync enabled, in the variable frame rate environment in which it operates.

FreeSync requires a compatible AMD GPU such as the Radeon RX 580 used in our test system. There is a list of GPUs which support the technology here, with the expectation that future AMD GPUs will support the feature too. The monitor itself must support ‘VESA Adaptive-Sync’ for at least one of its display connectors, as this is the protocol that FreeSync uses. The CG32UQ supports FreeSync via DP and HDMI on compatible GPUs and systems. Note that HDR can be activated (at the same time as FreeSync) on GPUs and systems with DP 1.4 or HDMI 2.0. If fully installed, AMD drivers feature Radeon Settings, which makes activation of the technology very simple and something that usually occurs automatically. First make sure that you have ‘FreeSync’ set to ‘ON’ in the ’Gaming section of the OSD. You should then make sure the GPU driver is setup correctly to use FreeSync, so open ‘AMD Radeon Settings’ and click on ‘Display’. You should then ensure that the first slider, ‘AMD FreeSync’, is set to ‘On’. If you hover over this, it will also report the variable refresh rate display supported by the display.

Enable FreeSync

The ASUS supports a variable refresh rate range of 40 – 60Hz. That means that if the game is running between 40fps and 60fps, the monitor will adjust its refresh rate to match. When the frame rate rises above 60fps, the monitor will stay at 60Hz and the GPU will respect your selection of ‘VSync on’ or ‘VSync off’ in the graphics driver. With ‘VSync on’ the frame rate will not be allowed to rise above 60fps, at which point VSync activates and imposes the usual associated latency penalty. With ‘VSync off’ the frame rate is free to climb as high as the GPU will output (potentially >60fps). LFC (Low Frame Rate Compensation) is not supported by this monitor, as that requires the upper limit (ceiling) to be at least 2x the lower limit (floor) of FreeSync operation. FreeSync is therefore deactivated if the frame rate falls below 40fps, with the monitor then respecting your choice of VSync and presenting you with either stuttering (VSync on) or juddering and tearing (VSync off).

VSync is configured in the ‘Gaming’ section of ‘Radeon Settings’, where it is referred to as ‘Wait for Vertical Refresh’. You can either configure this globally under ‘Global Settings’ or for each game individually. The default is ‘Off, unless application specifies’ which means that VSync will only be active if you enable it within the game itself, if there is such an option. Such an option does usually exist – it may be called ‘sync every frame’ or something along those lines rather than simply ‘VSync’. Most users will probably wish to enable VSync when using FreeSync to ensure that they don’t get any tearing. You’d therefore select either the third or fourth option in the list, shown in the image below. The final option, ‘Enhanced Sync’, is a relatively new addition to the driver. This is an alternative to VSync which allows the frame rate to rise above the refresh rate (no VSync latency penalty) whilst potentially keeping the experience free from tearing or juddering. This requires that the frame rate comfortably exceeds the refresh rate, not just peaks slightly above it. We won’t be going into this in detail as it’s a GPU feature than a monitor feature.

VSync options

Some users prefer to leave VSync enabled but use a frame rate limiter set a few frames below the maximum supported (e.g. 57fps) instead, avoiding any VSync latency penalty at frame rates near the ceiling of operation or tearing from frame rates rising above the refresh rate. If you go to ‘System Setup’ – ‘GamePlus’ – ‘FPS Counter’ in the OSD, you can activate the ‘Refresh Rate’ or ‘Frame Counter’ feature. Both of these display the refresh rate of the monitor, which changes in real time alongside the frame rate of the content if Adaptive-Sync is being used. Provided, that is, the frame rate is within the variable refresh rate range of the display. Finally, it’s worth noting that FreeSync only removes stuttering or juddering related to mismatches between frame rate and refresh rate. It can’t compensate for other interruptions to smooth game play, for example network latency or insufficient system memory. Some game engines will also show stuttering (or ‘hitching’) for various other reasons which won’t be eliminated by the technology.

FreeSync – the experience

We used FreeSync with a range of game titles on the monitor and found the technology worked in much the same way on all of them. Any issues identified on one title but not another would suggest an issue with the game or GPU driver rather than the monitor, too. We’ll therefore simply focus on a single title for this section; Battlefield V. This offers a good range of flexibility with its graphics options, allowing the full variable refresh rate monitor of the monitor to be tested. The Radeon RX 580 used in our test system to test the feature isn’t particularly powerful, so it’s difficult to maintain a solid 60fps. Even with fairly low graphics settings, some dips below this were common on this title. Even if the dips were only of a couple of FPS, having the technology disabled produced obvious tearing (VSync off) or stuttering (VSync enabled). Obvious to us, at least, although sensitivity to tearing and stuttering varies. Enabling FreeSync cleared these issues away, so we appreciated having it enabled.

With further drops in frame rate, either due to graphics settings being increased or action intensifying, the technology again did its thing to remove bothersome tearing or stuttering from frame and refresh rate mismatches. We observed a drop in ‘connected feel’ and increase in perceived blur as frame rate dropped – something that occurs regardless of FreeSync and purely tied to a reduction in frame rate. Unlike on monitors with a G-SYNC module, monitors supporting Adaptive-Sync don’t use variable overdrive. They’re generally tuned to work best at their native refresh rate (60Hz in this case). As the refresh rate drops, due to frame rate dipping and Adaptive-Sync being active, the slight overshoot at 60Hz becomes more pronounced. There was a bit of bright ‘halo trailing’ and some darker ‘dirty trailing’ (overshoot forms) that was very subtle at 60Hz but more noticeable as frame rate dropped. Particularly as it approached 40fps. This was not what we’d consider extreme overshoot using our preferred ‘OD’ setting, however. And we wouldn’t advise most users drop this further due to the increase in perceived blur and slower pixel responses you’ll introduce.

We observed some flickering with Adaptive-Sync active as the frame rate approached or crossed the boundary of operation (<44fps or so). This was rather subtle in our view, except if HDR was active which gave a more pronounced effect. With HDR active we observed intense flickering if the frame rate dropped below the floor of operation for Adaptive-Sync, too. This didn't seem to occur all the time when the frame rate fell this low, so perhaps it's also triggered by certain shades being displayed. It's related to voltage control sensitivities and is something we've observed on the similar Philips models we've tested as well.

Nvidia Adaptive-Sync (‘G-SYNC Compatible’)

As noted earlier, AMD FreeSync makes use of Adaptive-Sync technology on a compatible monitor. As of driver version 417.71, users with Nvidia GPUs (GTX 10 series and newer) and Windows 10 can also make use of this Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) technology. When a monitor is used in this way, it is something which Nvidia refers to as ‘G-SYNC Compatible’. Some models are specifically validated as G-SYNC compatible, which means they have been specifically tested by Nvidia and pass specific quality checks such as the inclusion of effective variable overdrive. With the CG32UQ, you need to connect the monitor up via DisplayPort and enable ‘FreeSync’ in the ‘Image’ section of the OSD. When you open up Nvidia Control Panel, you should then see ‘Set up G-SYNC’ listed in the ‘Display’ section. Ensure the ‘Enable G-SYNC, G-SYNC Compatible’ checkbox as well as ‘Enable settings for the selected display model’ is enabled as shown below. Press OK – the monitor should briefly flick off then on again and the technology should be active.

G-SYNC Compatible settings

You will also see in the image above that it states: “Selected Display in not validated as G-SYNC Compatible.” This means Nvidia hasn’t specifically tested and validated the display, not that it doesn’t work. The technology did work, delivering a very similar experience to FreeSync. Not only in terms of removing tearing and stuttering as the frame rate fluctuated between 40fps and 60fps, but also granting use of HDR at the same time. The flickering we observed using FreeSync towards the floor of operation (<44fps or so) and when crossing the activation boundary (40fps) was also observed on our Nvidia GPU whilst using Adaptive-Sync. If anything it seemed more widespread or common on our Nvidia GPU. We didn't find this overly bothersome (unless HDR was active), but then again when were usually well above this problematic frame rate zone during gameplay. Either way, it was different to the experience on the Philips alternative we tested which gave obvious flickering even slightly below 60Hz with Adaptive-Sync and HDR active at the same time on an Nvidia GPU.

Note again that if you go to ‘System Setup’ – ‘GamePlus’ – ‘FPS Counter’ in the OSD, you can activate the ‘Refresh Rate’ or ‘Frame Counter’ feature. With Adaptive-Sync active you will see the refresh rate listed there change in real time alongside the frame rate of the content, if it’s within the variable refresh rate range of the display. Our suggestions regarding use of VSync also apply, but obviously you’re using Nvidia Control Panel rather than Radeon Settings to control this. The setting is found in ‘Manage 3D settings’ under ‘Vertical sync’, where the final option (‘Fast’) is equivalent to AMD’s ‘Enhanced Sync’ setting. You’ll also notice ‘G-SYNC Compatible’ listed under ‘Monitor Technology’ in this section, as shown below. Make sure this is selected (it should be if you’ve set everything up correctly in ‘Set up G-SYNC’).

G-SYNC Compatible settings

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

On an ideal monitor, HDR (High Dynamic Range) encompasses the simultaneous display of very bright light shades and very deep dark shades. Plus the ability to display an excellent range of shades between these extremes, including a range of muted shades and highly vivid saturated shades. Ideally the monitor would allow per-pixel illumination (OLED etc.), or failing that offer many dimming zones controlled with excellent precision. An FALD (Full Array Local Dimming) solution, in other words. This allows some areas of the image to remain very dim whilst others are very bright. Colour reproduction is also an important aspect of the HDR experience. The ultimate goal is support for a massive colour gamut, Rec. 2020, whilst a more achievable near-term goal is for a monitor to offer coverage of at least 90% DCI-P3 (Digital Cinema Initiatives standard colour space). Finally, HDR makes use of at least 10-bit precision per colour channel, so its desirable that the monitor supports at least 10-bits per subpixel.

Monitors most commonly support the HDR10 pipeline, the most ubiquitous HDR standard used in HDR games and movies. For most games and other full screen applications that support HDR, the ASUS CG32UQ automatically switches into its HDR operating mode. As of the latest Windows 10 update, relevant HDR settings in Windows are found in ‘Windows HD Color settings’ which can be accessed via ‘Display settings’ (right click the desktop). Most game titles will activate HDR correctly when the appropriate in-game setting is selected. A minority of game titles that support HDR will only run in HDR if the setting is active in Windows as well. Specifically, the toggle which says ‘Play HDR games and apps’. If you want to view HDR movies on a compatible web browser, for example, you’d also need to activate the ‘Stream HDR Video’ setting. These settings are shown below. Also note that there’s a slider that allows you to adjust the overall balance of SDR content if HDR is active in Windows. This simply acts as a digital brightness slider, so you lose but never gain contrast by adjusting it. Most users will find the image too bright for normal viewing when leaving this at the neutral position (‘50’), which also offers optimal contrast. Whilst the colours and overall image looked better than on some models when activating HDR and viewing SDR content, it still looked bleached in places and overly sharp. Coupled with the brightness restrictions and inability to adjust that without loss of contrast, this isn’t a setting that you’ll want to routinely use when viewing SDR content. We’d recommend only activating HDR in Windows if you’re about to specifically use an HDR application that requires it, and have it deactivated when viewing normal SDR content on the monitor.

HDR and WCG settings

The ASUS CG32UQ is VESA DisplayHDR 600 certified. This level of certification is something of a ‘mid-range’ HDR solution, offering some significant improvement over the more basic DisplayHDR 400 certification standard. A particularly important aspect of the VESA DisplayHDR 600 certification that’s lacking with DisplayHDR 400 is that it necessitates local dimming on the backlight. We explore this and other attractive features for this level of HDR support shortly. For this section we’ll be focusing on observations using two titles; Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. We’ve tested these and similar titles on a wide range of monitors under HDR and know they offer a solid HDR experience if the monitor itself also does. Although our testing is focused on HDR PC gaming using these titles, the observations apply more broadly to other HDR10 content including HDR movies and running HDR on compatible games consoles. The experience is largely limited by the capability of the screen itself. The screen offers two separate HDR modes, found under ‘HDR’ in the ‘Image’ section of the OSD with HDR active; ‘ASUS Cinema HDR’ and ‘ASUS Gaming HDR’. The ‘Cinema’ setting modifies the gamma curve, bringing out some extra detail and accentuating the greater nuanced variety of dark shades we discuss in this section. In our view it takes things a bit far and gives unnatural visibility in dark areas, so we prefer the default ‘Gaming’ setting and will be using that for our testing. Both settings apply a slight sharpness filter which can’t be adjusted or disabled. It’s not extreme and is commonly seen under HDR, helping to slightly accentuate the improved contrast and bit depth.

We recorded 96% DCI-P3 coverage on this monitor, exceeding the requirements for VESA DisplayHDR 600 (90%). Under SDR we observed some notable examples of shades which appeared more saturated than intended by the developers. Some wooden and earthy brown tones had a red hue which was a bit too strong in places, whilst some vibrant green shades of certain vegetation had yellow hues coming across too strongly. Under HDR10, the target gamut is DCI-P3 rather than the far more restrictive sRGB colour gamut. With the colour space of this model coinciding closely to this more generous gamut, shades were outputted in a more appropriate way. Whilst the saturation was toned down in places, ASUS tuned things under HDR so a bit of extra saturation was still maintained. The extra ‘unintended’ saturation was still reduced a fair bit compared to under SDR, giving a more natural appearance to environments. It’s also an appropriately handled saturation boost, maintaining good spacing on the gamut rather than destroying shade variety like a digital saturation enhancement. This slight saturation boost actually worked nicely to counteract some of the weakening saturation near the sides and bottom of the screen, as observed from a normal seated viewing position. The Philips 326M6VJRMB adhered more strictly to preferred developer saturation levels centrally, but those same shades appear more muted than intended peripherally due to the perceived saturation losses.

Plenty of extra vibrancy was injected where it made sense, or where the developers intended it to appear. On both titles, roaring fires showcased an excellent range of vibrant yellow, orange and red shades – some of which are far beyond the confines of the sRGB gamut. Brightly painted artifacts on Tomb Raider and deep red flowers on BFV were some additional examples of stand-out shades with a rather vibrant look. There were some good lush green shades as well, particularly when observed centrally (keeping in mind the saturation losses peripherally, as explored earlier). As a reminder, the colour gamut of the monitor (red triangle) offers good extension beyond sRGB (green triangle) and offers good DCI-P3 colour space coverage (blue triangle), as required for HDR content such as this.

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'


The monitor natively supports 10-bit colour reproduction via DP. Via HDMI, it doesn’t natively support 10-bit colour reproduction even though the HDR10 pipeline makes use of 10-bits per channel colour output. The monitor supports an 8-bit signal over HDMI, with an additional 2-bit dithering stage is offloaded to the GPU under HDR. This is common practice for HDR monitors which don’t support 10-bit colour, either at all (via HDMI, in this case) or when running at certain resolutions or refresh rates. We’ve carefully observed a broad range of content on a range of monitors, including fine gradients, where the 10-bit signal is supported by the monitor itself or where the monitor is 8-bit and the GPU applies dithering. The end result is essentially very similar, even when observing subtle shade variations and fine gradients. A side by side comparison of certain content may potentially reveal slight differences, but we stress the slight – it isn’t something users should worry about. However it’s achieved, the precision under HDR enhances the nuanced variety of dark shades that are displayed. This gives shaded regions a more believable look, lifting out subtle details. This is done in a very natural-looking way rather than the image simply appearing ‘flooded’ due to gamma enhancement. It also made the ‘black crush’ less noticeable, due to some shades being lifted up in a natural way. Brighter shades share this more nuanced variety, too, with weather effects, smoke and suchlike appearing exceptionally smooth. The fine gradients there are free from the sort of abrupt transitions or relative lack of subtle shade variety observed on screens under SDR. The image below shows a typical HDR scenes in Battlefield V. It’s purely to set the scene and help illustrate certain points, in no way does it reflect what the monitor looks like first-hand.

Battlefield V HDR

In the scene above, it wasn’t just the enhanced precision and generous colour gamut that was put to good use under HDR. This certainly helped give a nuanced variety of bright shades (in the sky, for example) plus a pleasing array of and dimmer shades (vehicle undercarriages, shaded areas of forest etc.) But also key to the experience is that the CG32UQ supports local dimming, using an edge-lit arrangement with 8 LED clusters running down both side edges of the screen. This is combined with light guides to split the screen into 16 separate zones, with independent luminance control. The monitor doesn’t offer any local dimming support under SDR, however. As explored in the contrast section earlier in the review, the local dimming capability allowed for slightly increased contrast. As noted there, the boost would be more noticeable in some scenarios as well, depending on the content being displayed and its relative position on the screen. The monitor was also able to a peak luminance of 696 cd/m², exceeding the VESA DisplayHDR 600 specifications. The bright daylight sky had a very natural quality and ‘glow’ to it, a brightness beyond what you’d observed under SDR. Whilst the glint of this sunlight on the puddle made use of strong localised luminance as well. Meanwhile, dimming zones covering the darker content were able to dim to much lower luminance levels to keep this looking in-place as well. This sort of pleasing ‘bright scene’ HDR performance was also reflected in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The scene below is one of our favourites for showcasing HDR performance and really works well on monitors with decent HDR performance.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

The shaded areas of vegetation again remained fairly dimly lit, whilst the bright light streaming in from above was very bright. There was a nuanced variety of bright shades visible here as well, rather than just the big ball of light you can see in the image. Again, a nod to the excellent shade precision. Glints of light on the surface of the water and waxy leaves were also quite impressive, certainly much more eye-catching than under SDR. Although somewhat less impressive than on models with even higher peak luminance (VESA DisplayHDR 1000 level and above). Naturally, though, 16 dimming zones with an edge-lit arrangement spread across a 31.5” screen doesn’t give you great precision with the illumination. Intricate mixtures of light and dark cause some of the darker areas of the screen to become brighter than ideal, due to dimming zones needing to ramp up their luminance for the brighter content. In daylight scenes this isn’t such an issue, but for scenes that are meant to be deep and atmospheric it can certainly detract from the intended appearance. You can sometimes see a spotlighting effect from some of the LED clusters, particularly towards the bottom of the screen. This is most noticeable in dimmer lighting conditions but can be observed to an extent in moderately well-lit rooms as well. Even with this, we enjoyed using HDR on this monitor and it’s certainly one of the more impressive HDR performers we’ve seen. Giving a much more dynamic experience than models without local dimming, delivering good standout bright elements and a more believable and natural look to bright daylight scenes. We enjoyed using the technology where possible, not just on games but also when viewing Netflix content that supported it. The section of the video review below focuses on HDR and runs through some more examples showcasing its strengths and weaknesses.


The ‘4K’ UHD experience

We’ve got an article looking at the 3840 x 2160 ‘4K’ UHD resolution and the experience it delivers on the desktop, in games and movies. This article is written from the perspective of a ~28” screen. With its 31.5” screen, the ASUS delivers a pixel density to ~139.87 PPI (Pixels Per Inch). Not quite as high as a 27-28” ‘4K’ screen, but still very high and sufficient to give a distinctly ‘UHD’ appearance to suitable high-resolution content. Compared to smaller UHD screens, the 31.5” size is one that more users will find practical without relying on high levels of scaling or application-specific zoom – or in fact any at all. We found the screen very usable, with readable text and UI elements, from our preferred distance of 70 – 80cm without any scaling. Some users may prefer a bit of scaling or will want to use application-specific zoom. Used in this way, the monitor provides an excellent level of ‘desktop real-estate’ – lots of useful space for work purposes and multi-tasking, with strong text clarity. The images below give an idea of the sort of work space you’ve got at your disposal, but are purely for illustrative purposes and do not reflect how the monitor appears in person.

The UHD desktop

Some multi-tasking

The high pixel density and 31.5” screen work nicely for gaming, which is really a key focus of this model. Screen size preferences are a very individual thing. But we quickly adapted to the screen size and found it delivered a good level of immersion without feeling overwhelming, even sitting at the desk using the monitor from ~70cm. The large screen size also lends itself well to sitting a bit further back, if that’s what you want to do. Appropriate for console gaming from a more relaxed posture, for example. The pixel density also delivered a crisp and well-defined look that’s simply lacking at lower resolutions, when gaming at the native resolution of the display. This is noticeable even with graphics settings set to low levels. Naturally, things look very inviting indeed with extra eye candy turned up. The lighting effects, particle effects and shadow detailing is all enhanced by the high pixel density. Having the content spread out across a large screen area made it easy to appreciate some of the finer details that were brought out by the high pixel density. Particularly suitably high-resolution textures which were given a detailed and realistic look that’s simply lacking at lower pixel densities. The overall detailed and clear appearance was similar to what we explored in our article, but having the content spread out across a larger screen area was a nice addition. The images below show the monitor running various PC game titles. They’re purely for illustrative purposes and in no way indicate how the monitor appears in person. Allow them to fire up your imagination, though, and keep in mind what was said above – which applies to ‘4K’ UHD game content on both the PC and games consoles.

Battlefield V in UHD

Fallout 76 in UHD

Shadow of the Tomb Raider in UHD

Interpolation and upscaling

The 3840 x 2160 (‘4K’ UHD) resolution is graphically demanding, and not all systems (e.g. some game consoles) actually support it. Because of this, it may be desirable or necessary to run the monitor at a lower resolution. The monitor offers an interpolation (scaling) process to map lower resolutions such as 1920 x 1080 (‘1080p’ or Full HD) onto all 3840 x 2160 pixels of the display. You need to ensure, as a PC user, that the GPU isn’t trying to take over scaling duties. For AMD GPU users the monitor will handle the scaling by default, when gaming at non-native resolutions. Nvidia users should open the Nvidia Control Panel and navigate to ‘Display – Adjust desktop size and position’. They should ensure that ‘No Scaling’ is selected and ‘Perform scaling on:’ is set to ‘Display’ as shown below.

Nvidia scaling options

The monitor includes three scaling modes in the OSD (‘Image’ – ‘Aspect Control’) – ‘Full’, ‘4:3’ and ‘1:1’. The monitor must be running at a non-native resolution with FreeSync disabled in the OSD, otherwise these settings are greyed out. Otherwise the ‘Full’ setting will automatically be used, which is the only scaling method supported with Adaptive-Sync – that isn’t just a limitation with this model. With the ‘Full’ setting the monitor uses an interpolation process to spread the image across all its pixels. ‘4:3’ will keep to the 4:3 aspect ratio (only available as an option for relevant resolutions). Finally, 1:1 is a pixel mapping feature which will only use the pixels called for in the source resolution, showing an non-interpolated image in the centre of the screen with a black border around for the remaining unused pixels. Observing the Full HD (1920 x 1080) and WQHD (2560 x 1440) resolutions on this monitor, using the ‘Full’ setting, we observed moderate softening compared to the same resolutions running natively on a screen of this size. This was improved by setting ‘VividPixel’ to ‘25, The image looks fairly natural with decent but not completely overblown sharpness. Provided you’re sitting a reasonable distance away (70cm+ should be fine for most users), the oversharpened look you might see when close to the screen isn’t too obvious and things look quite good. The result is one of the better and more usable interpolation processes we’ve seen.

As usual, if you’re running the monitor at 3840 x 2160 and viewing 1920 x 1080 content (for example a video over the internet or a Blu-ray, using movie software) then it is the GPU and software that handles the upscaling. That’s got nothing to do with the monitor itself – there is a very small amount of softening to the image compared to viewing such content on a native Full HD monitor, but it’s slight and shouldn’t bother most users.

Video review

The video below summarises some of the key points raised in this written review and shows the monitor in action. The video review is designed to complement the written piece and is not nearly as comprehensive.




Timestamps:
Features & Aesthetics
Contrast
Colour reproduction
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
Responsiveness

Conclusion

Having used a wide range of screen sizes and resolutions, we find the combination of ‘4K’ UHD resolution and 32” screen size particularly appealing. The CG32UQ delivers this combination, providing an excellent pixel density that brings appropriate detail and clarity to suitably high-resolution content. The desktop remains nice and readable without the high level of scaling (if any at all) or application-specific zoom demanded by smaller UHD screens. The screen size provides a nice level of immersion when sitting at a desk, too. And makes it quite practical to use from a little distance back for console gaming – something this model is specifically marketed for. The overall design is quite ‘unfussy’, with matte black plastic used extensively. The stand base’s integrated USB charging functionality and grippy mats can be useful as well, for charging controllers and suchlike. It isn’t a function we had any use for, although the pads acted as a convenient place to rest the included OSD remote. This is an important practicality if you’re sitting a little way away from the monitor and want to adjust the volume and suchlike in the OSD. The menu system is also designed to be very clear from a distance. For PC usage the remote proved a useful way to navigate through the OSD, even more so than the included ‘Navi Key’ joystick.

And we need to mention a few other features we were fond of. The integrated speakers offered the best sound output we’ve heard from a monitor, whilst the ambient lighting feature proved useful. We found the ‘Halo Sync’ mode quite gimmicky, were unable to use ‘Aura Sync’ due to a software issue on our system and didn’t care for some of the flashing patterns of the OSD-controlled ‘Aura RGB’. Using the lighting system with static colours such as red and cyan, though, was very useful. Helping enhance perceived contrast in dimmer lighting conditions, with a field of light behind the monitor that’s significantly stronger than most RGB lighting features provide. Speaking of contrast, this was really a key strength of the monitor. The main aspect was a good strong static contrast exceeding the panel specifications, even after our ‘Test Settings’ were applied. There was only a small amount of ‘VA glow’, so the atmosphere for dark scenes was good. We weren’t too enamoured with the somewhat grainy screen surface, although that’s something we’re quite sensitive to. And the panel exhibited a moderate amount of gamma shift and ‘black crush’, more so than some curved VA alternatives we’ve used but characteristic of the VA panel used.

The monitor was setup quite nicely out of the box, with a reduction in brightness being the most useful alternation. Shades were outputted in a fairly vibrant and varied way. Some saturation was lost towards the bottom and edges of the screen, due to the perceived gamma shifts of the panel. The colour gamut was generous and extended well beyond sRGB, covering 96% of the DCI-P3 colour space. This injected an extra dose of vibrancy and saturation into regular sRGB content. there was no sRGB emulation mode included on the monitor for those who prefer a more natural and accurate representation of sRGB content. The generous gamut was appropriate for HDR usage, toning down some of the oversaturation. ASUS implemented HDR in a way that adds a little bit of extra vibrancy, beyond the developers intentions – but much less than under sRGB. Elements that were supposed to look relatively muted still did, certainly compared to under SDR, whilst elements intended to look vibrant showed strong saturation overall. The VESA DisplayHDR 600 certified monitor outputted strong luminance and provided local dimming for HDR content, too. This worked very nicely for brighter scenes, delivering a natural look to daylight and helping very bright elements stand out well. The enhanced precision under HDR was also evident, enhancing nuanced shade variety at the high and low end. The relatively low number of dimming zones for such a large screen didn’t afford the sort of precision needed to keep dark shade suitably deep. This affected the atmosphere for darker scenes under HDR. It could be alleviated somewhat by appropriate lighting in the room or using the RGB lighting as a bias light, but extra depth would still have been welcome here.

The monitor provided a reasonable response performance. Input lag was reasonably low – a bit higher than some models, but lower than most TVs and at a level which most users will be perfectly content with. The pixel responsiveness was something of a mixed bag, as expected for the panel type. There were some weaknesses where darker shades were involved in the transitions, but lighter to medium shades were handled better. Many users would be comfortable with the level of pixel responsiveness offered and will also appreciate the flexible ‘OD’ settings (6 levels). Adaptive-Sync worked well to get rid of tearing and stuttering from frame rate and refresh rate mismatches. This included both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia’s ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’. The technology could be used alongside HDR, too. On our Nvidia GPU we observed some flickering at the low end of the variable refresh rate range, only bothersome with HDR active. Fortunately, we were able to keep things above 45fps with our GTX 1080 Ti quite easily, avoiding this issue. And it was an improvement over what we observed on the Philips 326M6VJRMB we tested, with obnoxious flickering at all below 60Hz with HDR and Adaptive-Sync both active.

Speaking of the Philips, it’s appropriate to compare the two given many obvious similarities. The Philips comes in at a lower price. It offers a lower (but still relatively high) minimum white luminance and somewhat lower input lag. Although most users wouldn’t see/feel a difference between the two in terms of latency. The Philips also offers an sRGB emulation mode. Plus an HDR mode that may appeal to those who just wish to have the colour gamut and 10-bit colour processing capabilities put to use, without elevated luminance levels. On the flip side, the ASUS offers slightly more vibrant HDR output due to how ASUS has tuned things. It also supports ‘Nvidia G-SYNC Compatible Mode’ at the same time as HDR – provided your frame rate doesn’t dip too low. The OSD remote, integrated USB charging solution and superior and in our view surprisingly useful RGB LED ambient lighting feature may sway some users as well. As might the height-adjustable stand. As usual it was a tale of two halves with this monitor, but it will deliver the sort of SDR and HDR experience that some users are after. And for both console gaming and PC usage, it provides an attractive feature-set that’s well-implemented overall.

The bottom line; fairly vibrant and varied colour reproduction and very competent bright-scene HDR performance – but a greater number of dimming zones to enhance dark scene HDR performance would’ve been nice.

PositivesNegatives
Quite vibrant and varied colour output and excellent DCI-P3 coverage which is appropriate for HDR usage
Moderate gamma and saturation shifts and no sRGB emulation mode
Strong static contrast and relatively low ‘VA glow’. Good luminance and effective local dimming provided a pleasing look to bright elements under HDRSomewhat grainy screen surface, high minimum white luminance and moderate ‘black crush’. Dark scene HDR performance hampered by relatively few dimming zones
Decent 60Hz VA pixel responsiveness overall, reasonably low input lag and Adaptive-Sync working well to get rid of frame and refresh rate mismatches
Some weaknesses in pixel responsiveness and a limited refresh rate which won’t appeal to everyone
A good screen size for an immersive and pixel-rich ‘4K’ experience, effective RGB LED lighting, excellent speakers and a useful OSD remoteNo SDR local dimming, fairly expensive and stand not fully adjustable (it does offer tilt and height adjustment)


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ASUS CG32UQ

 
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