ASUS VG28UQL1A

Author: Adam Simmons
Date published: August 17th 2021

 

Introduction

Both PC and console gamers can enjoy the 3840 x 2160 (‘4K’ UHD) resolution, with increased power and port revisions allowing a high refresh rate at the same time. The resolution is also attractive for other purposes, such as viewing high resolution image and video content or reading text. The ASUS VG28UQL1A of the TUF Gaming offers a high refresh rate UHD experience for both PC and console gamers. With HDMI 2.1, the monitor can deliver a ‘4K’ 120Hz experience for games consoles such as the Xbox Series X and PS5, complete with VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) support. We put this monitor through its paces with our usual range of tests.

Specifications

The monitor adopts a 28” IPS (In-Plane Switching) type panel from Innolux – AAS (Azimuthal Anchoring Switch) as Innolux refers to it. A 144Hz refresh rate is supported alongside 10-bit colour via 8-bit + FRC dithering. A 1ms grey to grey response time is specified, which as usual you shouldn’t put too much weight on. Some of the key ‘talking points’ for this monitor have been highlighted in blue below, for your reading convenience.

Screen size: 28 inches

Panel: Innolux M280DCA-E7B AAS (Azimuthal Anchoring Switch) IPS-type LCD

Native resolution: 3840 x 2160

Typical maximum brightness: 350 cd/m² (450 cd/m² HDR)

Colour support: 1.07 billion (8-bits per subpixel plus dithering)*

Response time (G2G): 1ms

Refresh rate: 144Hz (Adaptive-Sync + HDMI 2.1 VRR)

Weight: 6.89kg

Contrast ratio: 1000:1

Viewing angle: 178º horizontal, 178º vertical

Power consumption: 33W (typical)

Backlight: WLED (White Light Emitting Diode)

Typical price as reviewed: Not available (select retailers only, for UK exclusive to Very.co.uk)


*10-bit can be selected in the graphics driver at any refresh rate, up to the native resolution using DP 1.4 (with DSC) or HDMI 2.1 under SDR or HDR. 12-bit can also be selected when using HDMI 2.1; this includes an additional 2-bit dithering stage applied by the monitor’s scaler. The bit-depths listed here are using a Full Range RGB signal.

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ASUS VG28UQL1A


Features and aesthetics

The monitor has a rugged look as typical for models in the TUF Gaming range, with extensive use of matte black plastic. This includes solid-footing provided by a penguin-foot stand design. The bottom bezel is matte black plastic with a metallic silver-coloured manufacturer logo. This bezel is ~15mm with just a sliver of visible panel border. The side bezels are slimmer with the now usual dual-stage bezel design, including a slim panel border flush with the rest of the screen and a slender hard plastic outer part. Including both components, the bezels are ~7mm (0.28 inches) thick at the top and sides. The screen has a light to very light matte anti-glare finish, as explored shortly.

A rugged look

All lit up

The OSD (On Screen Display) is controlled by a joystick and accompanying buttons at the rear of the monitor, towards the right side as viewed from the front. A small rectangular power LED is located towards the bottom right of the bottom bezel. It hangs beneath the bezel in such a way that it isn’t usually visible from a normal viewing position. It glows white when the monitor is switched on amber when it enters a low power state. The LED can be disabled via the OSD, if preferred. The video below runs through the menu system and OSD controls.



At the side, the monitor is ~21mm (0.63 inches) at thinnest point and extends further back centrally. The stand is fully adjustable; tilt (5° forwards, 20° backwards), swivel (15° left, 15° right), height adjustment (120mm or 4.72 inches) and pivot (90° clockwise or anticlockwise rotation into portrait). Most of these adjustments were fairly smooth, except for the height adjustment which was quite stiff and grabby. Perhaps it would loosen up slightly as the unit ages. At lowest stand height the screen clears the desk by ~42mm (1.65 inches) with the top ~414mm (16.30 inches) above the desk. The total depth of monitor plus stand is ~221mm (8.70 inches) with the screen sitting ~45mm (1.77 inches) from the frontmost point of the stand. So you can place the screen reasonably close to the wall if you wish, certainly more compact in that respect than some gaming monitors.

The side

Portrait viewing

The rear of the monitor continues the generous use of matte black plastic. Some glossy lines interspersed here and there add some visual interest. As does the OSD button arrangement towards the bottom left. The grey ASUS logo towards the top central region and TUF Gaming logo at the top of the stand neck add a little contrast, too. The stand attaches centrally, with removable rubber covers concealing screws in a VESA 100 x 100mm pattern. This allows an alternative VESA 100 solution to be used, if preferred. A K-Slot is located towards the bottom right. The ports face downwards and include; DC power input (external ‘power brick’), 2 USB 3.1 ports (plus upstream), 2 HDMI 2.0 ports, 2 HDMI 2.1 ports, DP 1.4 (with DSC) and a 3.5mm headphone jack. 2 x 2W down-firing speakers are also included. These offer basic and not at all rich or powerful sound output; certainly no substitute for a reasonable pair of external speakers or headphones.

The rear

Ports left of stand neck

Ports right of stand neck

3840 x 2160 @144Hz plus HDR and Adaptive-Sync can be leveraged via DP 1.4 (with DSC) and HDMI 2.1. AMD FreeSync Premium and Nvidia’s ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’ is supported on compatible GPUs and systems via suitable versions of DP and HDMI. HDMI 2.1 includes integrated VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) capability which does not rely on Adaptive-Sync and can be used via ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’. HDMI 2.1 VRR is of particular interest to users of systems which don’t support Adaptive-Sync, such as the Sony PS5. HDMI 2.1 also allows the Xbox Series X and PS5 to run 3840 x 2160 @120Hz. Standard accessories include; a power cable, DP cable, Ultra High Speed HDMI cable and USB cable but may vary regionally.

The images below show the refresh rates supported for the native 3840 x 2160 (‘4K’ UHD) resolution. The first image shows the resolutions categorised in the EDID of the monitor as ‘TV’ resolutions and listed here under ‘Ultra HD, HD, SD’. The second image shows resolutions categorised in the EDID and listed here as ‘PC’ resolutions. This includes 3840 x 2160 @120Hz, which can be used by the Xbox Series X and PS5 via HDMI 2.1. ASUS specifically notes that the monitor supports a Full Range (4:4:4) signal without chroma subsampling for these games consoles, too. Note that both lists are identical via suitable revisions of DP and HDMI, but with HDMI you need to use the ‘Overclocking’ feature in the ‘Gaming’ section of the OSD to unlock 144Hz (and 100Hz).

Refresh rates '4K' UHD 'TV' (DP and HDMI)

Refresh rates '4K' UHD 'PC' (DP and HDMI)

For 2560 x 1440 (WQHD or 1440p) only 100Hz, 120Hz and 144Hz is listed. The images below show the more extensive list of refresh rates supported for 1920 x 1080 (Full HD or 1080p). The first image shows the ‘TV’ resolution list and the second the ‘PC’ list. Note that 120Hz appears in the ‘PC’ resolution list via HDMI 2.1 and 119Hz is not listed. The monitor can run 1080p @120Hz via HDMI 2.0, however, and the refresh rate appears in the ‘TV’ list.

Refresh rates Full HD 'TV' (DP)

Refresh rates Full HD 'PC' (120Hz listed here for HDMI 2.1)

If you’re intending to use the monitor with the PS5 or Xbox Series X/S, be aware that a small settings tweak may be required to ensure 120Hz is selectable for supported resolutions. Details can be found in this article.

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. This model employs a light to very light matte anti-glare screen surface. This offers reasonable glare handling, whilst allowing fairly direct light emission from the screen. This preserves vibrancy and clarity better than stronger matte screen surfaces and prevents a clear layered appearance in front of the image. In some lighting conditions, with light striking the screen directly, it can have something of a ‘glassy’ appearance. The glare handling is superior to even lighter matte screen surfaces and certainly compared to glossy surfaces, however. The screen surface texture gives a slightly grainy appearance to lighter shades, but this is more of a ‘misty’ graininess than a heavily layered graininess. Most users should be just fine with this level of graininess simply not notice it at all.

Subpixel layout

As shown above the standard RGB (Red, Green and Blue) stripe subpixel layout is used. This is the default expected by modern operating systems such as Microsoft Windows. Apple’s MacOS no longer uses subpixel rendering and therefore doesn’t optimise text for one particular subpixel layout to the detriment of another. You needn’t worry about text fringing from non-standard subpixel layouts and won’t need to change the defaults in the ‘ClearType Text Tuner’ as a Windows user. You may still wish to run through the ClearType wizard and adjust according to preferences, however. The subpixels are quite ‘squat’ with relatively large gaps above and below. On some models this contributes to ‘static interlace pattern artifacts’ and can affect text and fine-edge clarity. On this model we observed no such issues, likely as the pixel density is so high that the gaps above and below the subpixels are still tiny. We therefore had no subpixel-related concerns related to sharpness or text clarity on this model.

Testing the presets

The ASUS VG28UQL1A 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, whilst some lock off various settings and may make changes to things such as gamma behaviour and colour balance which can’t be counteracted by manual adjustment in that preset. 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.

Our test system runs Windows 10 with an Nvidia RTX 3090 connected using the included DisplayPort cable and an HDMI cable where noted. We also tested using an AMD Radeon RX 580 and found gamma to be slightly higher, such that the default setting of ‘2.2’ averaged ‘2.2’ and would be the most appropriate setting to use on our unit. No additional monitor drivers or ICC profiles were specifically loaded and the monitor was left to run for over 2 hours before readings were taken or observations made. The monitor was set to 144Hz in Windows, although that didn’t significantly affect the values or observations in this table. 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. Aside from our ‘Test Settings’ where various adjustments are made, assume factory defaults under ‘Racing Mode’ are used.

Straight from the box the monitor provided quite a vibrant image, with a bit of depth lacking in places due to gamma handling via DP. This could be counteracted in the OSD. For our ‘Test Settings’ we used the ‘2.5’ gamma setting, providing the closest tracking of our preferred ‘2.2’ curve on our unit when using DP as we did for most of our testing. The first image below shows the gamma tracking straight from the box using DP (‘2.1’ average), whilst the second image shows the results using HDMI (‘2.2’ average). The third image shows the results under our ‘Test Settings’. The gamma is raised somewhat for medium-dark to dark shades, adding a bit of extra depth there. Gamma tracking elsewhere was close to the desired curve, closer than with the other two curves shown.

Gamma (DP, defaults)

Gamma (DP, defaults)

Gamma (HDMI, defaults)

Gamma (HDMI, defaults)

Gamma 'Test Settings'

Gamma 'Test Settings'

Given inter-unit variation and reasonable adherence to our preferred targets using OSD adjustments alone, we will not be using any ICC profiles in this review or including measurements or graphs using them. We wouldn’t recommend using them unless created for your specific unit using your own calibration device. But we appreciate some users still like to use profiles and some aspects such as gamut mapping for colour-aware applications can be useful. You can download our ICC profile for this model, which was created using our ‘Test Settings’ as a base. You can also download our sRGB profile which was created using and designed for ‘sRGB Mode’ (sRGB emulation setting). Amongst other things, this corrects gamma tracking from ‘2.1’ average with some bowing to closely track the ‘2.2’ curve. Be aware of inter-unit variation and note again that these ICC profiles are not used in the review.

This monitor has a TÜV Rheinland certified ‘Hardware Solution’ for Low Blue Light – an ‘always on’ feature used regardless of the other settings used. This means that the peak of blue light is shifted to less energetic wavelengths, something that has potential viewing comfort benefits. There are many factors to consider when it comes to viewing comfort and everybody’s eyes are different, however. In addition to this, ‘Blue Light Filter’ Low Blue Light (LBL) settings are included which will reduce blue light output of all wavelengths from the monitor. Something that’s particularly important in the hours leading up towards sleep as blue light is stimulating to the body and disrupts sleep hormones. This filter ranges from ‘Level 1’ (weakest effect) to ‘Level 4’ (strongest effect) – plus ‘Level 0’ which disables the setting. The blue colour channel is reduced using this setting which provides a warmer look to the image and minimises blue light output.

The green colour channel remains high, so there’s a definite green tint to the image which your eyes only partially adjust to. This is particularly noticeable for ‘Level 4’. We found the green tint quite unpleasant in this case. After activating ‘Level 4’ we viewed the colour channels and could see they were set to R = 100, G = 100 and B = 68. You could adjust the colour channels to this state yourself without activating ‘Level 4’ and you’d be able to adjust brightness according to taste. We reduced the green channel to ‘68’ to match the blue channel. This resulted in an amber glow without the green tint, which we found much more pleasant. We used this for our own viewing comfort in the evenings and refer to this in the table as ‘Relaxing evening viewing’. The setting was not used during the review unless explicitly mentioned, for example during the contrast measurement for that specific setting. We also carried over the ‘2.5’ gamma setting as used for our ‘Test Settings’. If you want to be able to quickly switch between this sort of customised LBL setting and another set of settings, you can make use of the ‘Customized Setting’ feature in the ‘MyFavorite’ section of the OSD.

Test Settings

For our ‘Test Settings’ we reduced brightness and made a few further adjustments including to ‘Gamma’ and colour channels. We’ve also included our preferred ‘Variable OD’ setting, for reference. Regardless of GPU vendor, the setting controlling Adaptive-Sync on the monitor is referred to as ‘Adaptive-Sync’ and can be set to ‘ON (G-SYNC Compatible)’ if using DP. And ‘Freesync Premium Pro’ if using HDMI. Note that individual units and preferences vary, so these settings are simply a suggestion and won’t be optimal for all users or units. These settings only apply to SDR, HDR has separate settings associated with it (is far more restrictive) and is explored in the relevant section of the review.

Monitor Setup (defaults used for remaining settings)

GameVisual= Racing

Brightness= 40 (according to preferences and lighting)

Gamma= 2.5

Color Temp.= User Mode*

R= 96

G= 92

B= 100

Variable OD= Level 0

Adaptive-Sync= On (G-SYNC Compatible)

Refresh rate (Windows setting)= 144Hz


Contrast and brightness

Contrast ratios

An X-Rite i1Display Pro Plus was used to measure the luminance of white and black using various settings, including those found in the calibration section. From these values, static contrast ratios were calculated. The table below shows these results. Blue highlights indicate the results under our ‘Test Settings’ and with HDR active (‘Dynamic Dimming’ enabled). Black highlights indicate the highest white luminance, lowest black luminance and highest contrast ratio recorded under SDR (‘ELMB/ELMB SYNC’ disabled). Assume any setting not mentioned was left at default, with the exceptions already noted here or in the calibration section.

Measurements using ‘ELMB/ELMB SYNC’ were taken at 144Hz – brightness levels were similar at lower refresh rates, so we didn’t feel it was worthwhile documenting these observations on the table.


*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.

**These readings were taken in the same way as the HDR reading, except the monitor is running in SDR. Brightness was set to ‘100’ and contrast ‘50’– as explored later, we consider this optimal on our unit when using this setting.

The average static contrast with only brightness adjusted was 1079:1, edging just above the specified 1000:1. The maximum contrast recorded under SDR (without ‘Dynamic Dimming) was 1124:1, whilst we recorded 971:1 under our ‘Test Settings’. This is decent given the significant colour channel adjustments we made. A contrast ratio of 983:1 was recorded using ‘sRGB Mode’, again respectable, whilst the ‘Blue Light Filter’ settings and ELMB provided similar contrast to the factory defaults. 671:1 was recorded for our ‘Relaxing evening viewing’ settings, where the green channel was substantially reduced – viewing comfort without a green tint rather than contrast is prioritised. The maximum white luminance recorded under SDR was 337 cd/m², whilst the minimum was 71 cd/m². This gives a brightness adjustment range of 266 cd/m² with a minimum and maximum that will be suitable for most users. Some who are quite sensitive to light may find the minimum luminance higher than ideal, however. With ‘ELMB/SYNC SYNC’ a maximum brightness of 214 cd/m² was recorded and minimum of 92 cd/m², with a few steps between depending on settings used. Again, sufficient for most users but not as flexible as without the setting active.

Using ‘Dynamic Dimming’ under SDR provided an impressive contrast ratio of >16,100:1 and under HDR of >42,200:1 with a peak luminance of 422 cd/m². Sustained luminance levels were similar to this and were not documented. The HDR setting used didn’t affect this. ‘Dynamic Dimming’ enables local dimming on the backlight, with an 8-zone edge-lit arrangement used. It’s highly reactive and is able to keep the zones covering the white square in this test relatively bright (more so under HDR), whilst zones covering the black background dim very effectively. This is quite an artificial scenario though, as in reality dimming zones will rarely be displaying pure black. So the black point will be raised compared to what is recorded here. It still provides a good situational edge in contrast as we explore subjectively later. Under HDR with ‘Dynamic Dimming’ disabled, a similar white luminance was recorded (418 cd/m²), but black point was much higher (0.38), yielding a similar contrast to normal SDR operation.

Under SDR when running certain ‘Game Visual’ modes, a Dynamic Contrast setting called ASCR (ASUS Smart Contrast Ratio) can be enabled. This allows the backlight to dim as a single unit according to overall bright or dark on the screen. It responded rapidly to changes in scene brightness and you can adjust brightness to set a limit to how bright it will go. The backlight responds as a single unit without local dimming. As usual it’s a compromise and we prefer manual brightness control for normal SDR viewing over a Dynamic Contrast setting like this. Locking the setting to certain ‘Game Visual’ modes also limits its appeal even for those who would normally like using such a setting.

PWM (Pulse Width Modulation)

The VG28UQL1A does not use PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) to regulate backlight brightness at any level. Instead, DC (Direct Current) is used to moderate brightness. The backlight is therefore considered ‘flicker-free’, which will come as welcome news to those sensitive to flickering or worried about side-effects from PWM usage. The exception to this is with ‘ELMB/ELMB SYNC’ active, a strobe backlight setting which causes the backlight to flicker in sync with the refresh rate of the display.

Luminance uniformity

Whilst observing a black background in a dark room, using our ‘Test Settings’, we noticed moderate backlight bleed and clouding, particularly towards the top left of the screen. It’s important to remember that individual units vary when it comes to all aspects of uniformity, including backlight bleed and clouding. The following image was taken a few metres back to eliminate ‘IPS glow’. This was observed as a cool green or warmer brownish-grey haze, depending on angle, which emanates from the corners of the screen. This ‘IPS glow’ blooms out more strongly from steeper angles, as demonstrated in the viewing angles video later.

Monitor displaying black in a dark room

The SpyderX Elite was used to assess the uniformity of lighter shades, represented by 9 equally spaced white quadrants running from the top left to bottom right of the screen. The tables below shows the luminance recorded at each quadrant as well as the percentage deviation between each quadrant and the brightest recorded point. The table below shows the luminance recorded at each quadrant as well as the percentage deviation between each quadrant and the brightest recorded point.

Luminance uniformity table

Luminance uniformity table

The luminance uniformity was decent overall. The maximum luminance was recorded at ‘quadrant 5’ in the centre of the screen (155.6 cd/m²). The greatest deviation from this occurred at ‘quadrant 3’ above centre (134.9 cd/m², which is 13% dimmer). The average deviation between each quadrant and the brightest recorded point was 9.75%, which is moderate. Remember that individual units vary when it comes to uniformity and you can expect further deviation beyond the points measured. The contour map below shows these deviations graphically, with darker greys representing lower luminance (greater deviation from brightest point) than lighter greys. The percentage deviation between each quadrant and the brightest point recorded is 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 significant deviation that may be readily noticed by eye.

Colour temperature uniformity map

Colour temperature uniformity map

Results here were reasonable. The point above centre was recorded as the closest to 6500K, with significant (but not extreme) deviation from this recorded to the left of centre (DeltaE 3.1). Note again that individual units vary when it comes to uniformity and that you can expect deviation beyond the measured points.

Contrast in games and movies

On Battlefield V the monitor provided a reasonable contrast performance. At 971:1 under our ‘Test Settings’, the monitor certainly didn’t provide the same kind of atmosphere to dark scenes or depth to darker shades as VA models. Some IPS-type panels offer slightly stronger contrast than this and some are a bit weaker. There was a moderate amount of ‘IPS glow’ as well, quite a typical level in this case. This is most noticeable as a brownish grey haze towards the bottom corners of the screen from a normal viewing position, which eats away at atmosphere and dark detail. With a milder haze emanating from the top corners of the screen – that could intensify if viewing position is lowered. The ‘IPS glow’ is more intense if you sit closer to the screen or are using a higher brightness level. And is brought out more strongly on units with more significant dark uniformity issues, including moderate to strong backlight bleed or clouding. On our unit it was brought out more towards the top left of the screen due to some backlight bleed and clouding in that region. The panel delivered strong gamma consistency, a typical IPS strength. So detail levels were more consistent (‘IPS glow’ aside) compared to VA or TN models which show more pronounced differences between dark detail levels at different points of the screen. The screen surface gave a slightly grainy appearance to lighter shades, but there was no obvious layered appearance due to the screen surface being light to very light matte.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider provided a similar experience. This title has plenty of dark areas such as dimly lit passageways, caves and tombs. This model didn’t deliver strong depth and atmosphere, particularly in a dimly lit room. Some IPS models are even weaker in this respect and some a bit stronger, but it’s never a real strength of this panel type without an intricate local dimming solution being used. ‘IPS glow’ also affected performance here. The strong gamma consistency was again apparent, with dark detail levels better maintained throughout the screen compared to VA and moreover TN models. Due to the gamma tuning of our unit under our ‘Test Settings’, some dark shades were somewhat deeper than they should be which slightly masked detail. This wasn’t extreme by any means and would depend on the calibration or setup of the unit. The screen surface again provided a slight graininess to lighter content, but without a layered or ‘smeary’ appearance.

We also observed the film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. As with Tomb Raider, there are many high contrast scenes here. With bright pulses of energy and suchlike lighting up dim surroundings. The monitor didn’t provide a deep, atmospheric or cinematic look here – especially in dimming lighting conditions. Again, this isn’t the strength of this model or panel type more broadly due to less than stellar static contrast and ‘IPS glow’. This film had black bars at the top and bottom due to its ‘letterboxed’ format which made these weaknesses particularly apparent. Most content on platforms such as Netflix and YouTube provide a 16:9 aspect ratio without these bars, however. The screen surface gave a slightly grainy look to lighter shades, but didn’t provide a ‘smeary’ or the layered appearance that stronger matte surfaces provide.

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 reasonably well overall, with distinct brightness steps in most cases. The darkest blocks were not as distinct from the background as they should be, particularly the blue block.
  • Performance on the black level test was reasonable. The first few blocks were only faintly visible, blending into the background blended quite readily. This is expected for a model tracking the ‘2.2’ gamma curve accurately. The remaining blocks on the first row blended into the background too readily due to the gamma setup of our unit. The remaining blocks showed good visibility against the background and appropriate steps up in brightness, whilst there was no obvious dithering.
  • Performance on the white saturation was good. All patterns were visible against the white background, although the final pattern as it often is was somewhat fainter than ideal. It was also masked slightly by a bit of graininess from the screen surface.
  • The greyscale gradient appeared smooth without obvious banding or dithering.

Dynamic Dimming (SDR)

As noted earlier this model features an edge-lit dimming arrangement of 8 zones. Running as vertical bands from the left to right of the screen. Needless to say this is a very low number of dimming zones and offers very limited precision – there are ~8.3 million pixels on the screen, so over 1 million times as many pixels as dimming zones. In addition to the physical dimming zones, the monitor includes a digital ‘compensation’ algorithm which can create more localised changes in shade brightness. Creating perhaps a few hundred ‘pseudo zones’ on the screen. These ‘pseudo zones’ aren’t physical dimming zones, so they can’t do anything useful at the extreme ends (very light or very dark shades). We believe the purpose is to try to smooth out the constant brightness changes of the 8 dimming zones, making them less eye-catching or somehow appearing more natural. Local dimming is enabled on the monitor under either SDR or HDR via the ‘Dynamic Dimming’ setting, found in the ‘Image’ section of the OSD.

With this setting active on the desktop, where there are plenty of areas of static and uniform content, it’s more of an annoyance than anything. When moving windows around, scrolling through content on websites or even moving the mouse around you become very aware of the dimming zones. And the accompanying brightness changes as the content within that zone changes. The additional digital compensation adds to this and is often quite distracting, including the creation of ‘inverse halos’ around bright objects. It often looks like you’re using a monitor with particularly poor brightness uniformity – because essentially, you are.

When watching video content or playing games things are far more dynamic and these issues don’t tend to present themselves in such an obvious way. You’re still very much aware that you’ve got a limited number of dimming zones – and the setting is very reactive indeed, so the brightness of these zones does regularly change. The setting certainly doesn’t achieve anything revolutionary and can’t properly account for even remotely intricate mixtures of lighter and darker shades. But it does still give you a nice situational edge in contrast that works well for some scenes. Adding depth to predominantly dark areas whilst keeping brighter areas relatively bright. This works particularly well in scenes that are supposed to be atmospheric, with illumination towards the centre but much darker content peripherally.

Many scenes have more intricate mixtures of light and dark shade. For example, you could have a mixture of shaded and non-shaded vegetation or a range of objects towards the bottom of the scene. A complex mixture of shades that’s visually complex, so you may not notice the zonal brightness changes. Higher up, you might have more uniform shade areas such as sky. These areas are affected by the zonal brightness changes as well and the fluctuations there are easier to notice. The very reactive dimming algorithm can impart a sort of flickering at times with constant rapid changes, too. With the ‘inverse halos’ we described on the desktop appearing and then quickly disappearing. This combination of 8 highly reactive dimming zones and additional ‘pseudo zones’ certainly made for a dynamic and ever-changing experience. But we would’ve preferred to have seen gentler adjustments, where the dimming zones could react to more extreme changes in shade level without these constant fluctuations to mid-tones. And with the option of the ‘pseudo-zones’ being less reactive or perhaps even disabled, too. The section of video below shows this local dimming solution in action.

Contrast is set to ‘80’ by default, which is correct and optimal with the setting disabled. On our unit this caused massive crushing together of brighter shades with ‘Dynamic Dimming’ under SDR. Brightness can be adjusted with this setting enabled according to taste, just as it is without the setting enabled. We found setting brightness to ‘100’ and contrast to ’50’ worked best, but this needs to be set according to your own unit and preferences.

Colour reproduction

Colour gamut

The colour gamut of the VG28UQL1A is shown as a red triangle below. It was compared with the sRGB (green triangle) and DCI-P3 (blue triangle) reference colour spaces using our ‘Test Settings’. The gamut offers comprehensive sRGB coverage (99%) with some extension beyond – we recorded 87% DCI-P3 coverage. Coverage of pure reds more closely coincides with DCI-P3 than sRGB and it creeps towards DCI-P3 for some green to blue shades. For the green to red edge sRGB is more closely followed, as it is towards the blue corner. The slight sRGB undercoverage comes from the blue primary being slightly displaced from sRGB. This may be down to the shifted blue peak – we didn’t record this on the XV282K KV based on this same panel, but that may be down to different tuning. It doesn’t have a clear impact on the image, so isn’t something to worry about. Although not shown in the graphic, we recorded 83% Adobe RGB coverage. This DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB coverage isn’t high enough for accurate reproduction within those colour spaces. For standard sRGB content outside a colour-managed environment, the moderate but not extreme extension past sRGB gives things a more vibrant and saturated look. Without the strongly oversaturated appearance associated with an even more generous gamut.

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

The monitor offers an sRGB emulation setting – the ‘Game Visual’ preset called ‘sRGB Mode’ s in the ‘Gaming’ section of the OSD. You can adjust brightness in this setting as well as ‘Gamma’, but some other settings such as the colour channels are locked off. We recorded some under-coverage, at 93% sRGB. This coverage level isn’t ideal, but the under-coverage comes from various regions and is quite spread out. Rather than a big chunk of the gamut being missing in one area. The overall effect (undersaturation) is therefore less dramatic than it could be with this coverage level. To maximise colour accuracy within the sRGB colour space, for colour-managed workflows, full calibration and profiling with a colorimeter or similar device using the full native gamut is recommended. You may try the ICC profile featured in the calibration section which includes gamut mapping for colour-aware applications, but best results are always obtained by calibrating your own unit with your own hardware.

Colour gamut 'sRGB'

Colour gamut 'sRGB'

Instead of using this ‘sRGB’ setting and putting up with the associated restrictions, AMD users can activate a flexible sRGB emulation setting via the graphics driver. This is done by opening ‘AMD Radeon Software’, clicking ‘Settings’ (cog icon towards top right) and clicking on ‘Display’. You should then ensure that the ‘Custom Color’ slider to the right is set to ‘Enabled’ and ‘Color Temperature Control’ set to ‘Disabled’. It may appear to be set this way by default, but the native rather than restricted gamut is likely in play. If that’s the case, simply switch the ‘Color Temperature Control’ slider to ‘Enabled’ then back to ‘Disabled’ to leverage the sRGB emulation behaviour. This setting is shown in the image below.

AMD Color Temperature Control disabled

The gamut below shows results using our ‘Test Settings’ with this driver tweak applied. The colour gamut now covers 99% sRGB. There’s some extension beyond this towards the red corner – significantly less than with the native gamut but more than the sRGB emulation setting of the monitor. This setting offers reasonable tracking of sRGB and helps to cut down on the colour gamut without profiling, including in applications that aren’t colour managed. It offers more complete coverage than the sRGB emulation setting did on our unit, too. And you don’t have to put up with restrictions associated with the monitor’s sRGB emulation setting such as locked colour channels. Remember not to use this tweak under HDR, though, or the image will appear significantly oversaturated.

Colour gamut AMD 'CTC disabled' setting

Colour gamut AMD 'CTC disabled' setting


Colour in games and movies

On Battlefield V the monitor provided quite vibrant colour output. This game, as with most content consumed under SDR, is designed with the sRGB colour space in mind. Viewing this content on a model with wider gamut than this provides extra saturation and ultimately gives a more vibrant look to things. Unlike a digital saturation enhancement, such as using the ‘Saturation’ slider in the OSD, appropriate shade variety was maintained without crushing. These digital saturation enhancements, in contrast, simply pull shades closer to the gamut edge without expanding the gamut itself. Resulting to a loss of shade variety and the most saturated shades remaining the same. With 87% DCI-P3 coverage, the monitor provides extra vibrancy to some shades – particularly in the green to red region. But the extension isn’t extreme, with some green to red shades sticking closer to sRGB. This results in a good variety of natural-looking greens in the environment, including some quite lush-looking deep shades alongside more muted shades. Some wide gamut models provide quite a neon look to some green shades – whilst some are certainly oversaturated on this model, things aren’t really given a distinct neon look. In the red region the extra extension there provides a red push to earthy browns and some skin tones which also gives fires a lively look with some impressively deep oranges. This push was not as extreme as some wide gamut models, though, where these shades can appear quite neon and simply too eye-catching.

Similar observations were made on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The natural environments in this title were given quite a vibrant look due to the colour gamut, without being brought to the extremes of models with an even more generous gamut. Reddish browns had a slight but not extreme red push, as did Lara Croft’s skin tone which appeared a bit more tanned than it should. There was some oversaturation to sky blue shades as well, but this was not extreme. On both test titles the monitor’s strong colour consistency ensured saturation levels were maintained well throughout the screen. Appearing quite vibrant throughout, without the saturation dropping off peripherally as observed on VA models or shifting vertically as observed on TN models. The ‘sRGB Mode’ can be appealing to those preferring a more muted look to things, without oversaturation. But most users are likely to find the wide but not overly generous native colour gamut quite appealing. Injecting a bit of extra vibrancy without going to extremes.

We also made observations on the TV series Futurama. With large areas of individual shade, this is a particularly unforgiving test for colour consistency. The monitor performed well here, without clear saturation shifts. Some IPS models can show slight darkening or fading of some shades peripherally whilst other LCD panel types show some quite pronounced shifts. The red of Dr Zoidberg can highlight this quite readily, but in this case the consistency was strong. This also aided the subtle shade variety, with closely matching shades appearing distinctly different and maintaining an appropriate ‘identity’ at various points of the screen. Some of the pastel shades were presented in a livelier way than intended due to the extension in the colour gamut beyond sRGB. But they always appeared suitably varied and more muted when compared with deeper and more striking neon shades. Shades such as deep red, bright green and cyan appeared quite vibrant. But not as strongly saturated or eye-catching as on models with an even more generous gamut.

Shade representation using SpyderCHECKR 24

The image below shows a printed reference sheet of 24 ‘sRGB’ shades, included as part of the Datacolor SpyderCHECKR 24 package. The screen is displaying reference photographs of this printed sheet, in both the same order as printed (right side) and reverse order (left side). The camera is mounted slightly above centre so that the image is representative of what the eye sees from an ergonomically correct viewing position. This, coupled with the inclusion of a flipped version of the shade sheet, allows both accuracy and colour consistency to be visually assessed. Bracketed numbers in our analysis refer to shades on the printed sheet or right side of the screen if they’re ordered consecutively from top left to bottom right.

Note that there is always some disparity between how emissive objects (monitor) and non-emissive objects (printed sheet) appear. The representation of shades in this image depends on the camera and your own screen, it’s not designed to show exactly how the shades appear in person. It still helps demonstrate some of the relative differences between the original intended sRGB shade and what the monitor outputs, however. Full profiling and appropriate colour management on the application would provide a tighter match, our intention here is to show what can be expected in a non colour-managed environment.

SpyderCHECKR 24 'Test Settings'

The monitor gives shades quite a vibrant look, with some extra saturation in places primarily due to the colour gamut. The extension in the pure red region of the gamut is reflected by oversaturation of certain shades, such as candy apple red (14) that appears a bit neon and tango pink (11) which looks more vivid than it should. Peach pink (20) and light chocolate brown (24) also have a bit of a red push and appear less neutral than they should. This push is less intense than on models with an even more generous gamut. The extension towards the green corner of the gamut is also evident with dark lime green (18) in particular looking quite eye-catching. Many of the remaining shades are shown quite faithfully, with lilac (8) and avocado (12) being particularly well-represented. Colour consistency was strong as well, without the clear saturation shifts observed on VA or TN models depending on the on-screen position of the shade. The image below shows how things with the screen using the ‘sRGB Mode’ sRGB emulation setting. ‘Gamma’ was set to ‘2.5’ in the OSD as this setting was closest to the ‘2.2’ curve on our unit.

SpyderCHECKR 24 'sRGB'

The saturation levels are now significantly lower. The oversaturated elements using the native gamut have been toned down and the red push that affected the neutrality of some shades has been tamed. There’s some undersaturation due in part to some of the sRGB under-coverage in this mode. For example, medium orange (3) is lacking a bit of depth and neighbouring aquamarine (4) verges too much on a more muted aqua shade now. Persian pink (6) appears too pastel. Gamboge (23) verges on more of a mustard shade without the required richness. Many of the remaining shades are produced faithfully and this is certainly an effective way to cut down on the oversaturation of the native gamut for generally more accurate sRGB output. As usual, we’d recommend profiling the monitor with your own calibration device using the native gamut if you require the strongest level of colour accuracy, however.

Viewing angles

Lagom’s 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 pinkish purple throughout, with a slightly stronger pink hue towards the extreme side edges. There were no clear shifts between purer purple and pink at various points of the screen or during head movement, as you’d observe on TN or VA models.
  • The red block appeared a fairly rich red throughout the screen. It was very slightly darker towards the edges. There were no clear saturation shifts as you’d observe on VA or TN models or clearer shifts towards the edges as some weaker IPS performers might show.
  • The green block appeared saturated green chartreuse throughout. It was free from the clear shifts between a more yellowish green and purer green you’d observe on TN and VA models.
  • The blue block appeared royal blue throughout.
  • The Lagom text appeared largely blended grey throughout the screen with dark red striping to the text, more noticeable towards the left side. There were no clear shifts between red, orange and green across the screen or with a bit of head movement. This indicates a low viewing angle dependency to the gamma curve of the monitor, as expected for an IPS-type panel.

Lagom Text Test

The video below shows the Lagom text test, a mixed desktop background, game scene and dark desktop background from various viewing angles. There are relatively minor colour shifts for the mixed desktop background and game scene, with much stronger performance in that respect than VA or TN models. You can observe ‘hazing’ (contrast loss) from sharper angles, but this is at a fairly typical level for an IPS-type model. Some IPS-type panels are slightly stronger in this respect but others slightly weaker. The dark desktop background highlights ‘IPS glow’, which blooms out as viewing angle increases. This appears as a slightly greenish grey or warmer brownish grey shade depending on angle.



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 or 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 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 sensitive camera and a utility called SMTT 2.0 was used alongside a sensitive camera to analyse the latency of the ASUS VG28UQL1A. Over 30 repeat readings were taken to help maximise accuracy. Using this method, we calculated 2.82ms (under ½ a frame at 144Hz) of input lag and recorded similar values at 120Hz. At 60Hz we measured a significantly higher value of 23.46ms. These figures are influenced by both the element of input lag you ‘see’ (pixel responsiveness) and the main element you ‘feel’ (signal delay). They indicate a low signal delay at high refresh rates, which even sensitive users shouldn’t find bothersome. Note that we don’t have the means to accurately measure input lag with VRR technology active in a VRR environment or HDR active in an HDR environment.

Perceived blur (pursuit photography)

Our article on responsiveness explores the factors affecting monitor responsiveness. A key concept explored there is ‘perceived blur’, which is contributed to by both the pixel responses of the monitor and the movement of your eyes as you track motion on the screen. This second factor dominates on modern monitors, but both factors play an important role. A technique called ‘pursuit photography’ is also explored in the article, using a moving rather than stationary camera to capture motion in a way that reflects both aspects of perceived blur. Rather than just reflecting the pixel response element.

The images below are pursuit photographs taken using the UFO Motion Test for ghosting, with the test running at its default speed of 960 pixels per second. This is a good practical speed to take such photographs at and highlights both elements of perceived blur well. The UFOs move across the screen from left to right at a frame rate matching the refresh rate of the display. All three rows of the test are analysed to highlight a range of pixel transitions. The monitor was tested at 60Hz (directly below), 120Hz and 144Hz using various ‘Variable OD’ levels; ‘Level 0’, ‘Level 1’, ‘Level 3’ and ‘Level 5’. ‘Level 2’ and ‘Level 4’ just slot neatly between the tested levels in terms of what they show, so weren’t included in this analysis. The two final columns show reference screens, set to what we consider their optimal response time setting for a given refresh rate. The Acer XV282K KV which uses the same Innolux IPS-type panel as this model. And the ASUS PG27UQ, a tightly-tuned model with G-SYNC module and older AUO AHVA panel. This is natively slower than the Innolux panel but is quite strongly accelerated in the PG27UQ.

Note that wavy patterns surrounding some UFOs in the background are slight image retention. This was only observed during this test and is something we’ve seen on various monitors before. It soon disappeared when using monitor normally.

Perceived blur, 60Hz

At 60Hz, above, the UFO appears soft and unfocused without clear internal detailing. This reflects a moderate amount of perceived blur due to eye movement. No conventional trailing is observed here from slower than optimal pixel response times, even with ‘Variable OD = Level 0’. There’s a moderate amount of overshoot visible in the form of ‘halo’ trailing that’s brighter than the background shade, however. Increasing the ‘Variable OD’ setting simply increases this further, so we consider ‘Level 0’ optimal here. Similar observations were made on the Acer XV282K KV used as a reference here, based on the same panel. In both cases the lowest response time setting still provided quite strong acceleration with a fair bit of overshoot. It was marginally lower on the ASUS, but not massively so. Others have noted this with the Gigabyte M28U, also based on the same panel. This panel may include an integrated OD (overdrive) circuit that can’t be disabled by manufacturers but can only be built upon with extra acceleration. The PG27UQ reference shows a touch of conventional trailing, which we’d classify as ‘light powdery’ trailing, but is essentially free from overshoot. Below you can see how things appear with refresh rate doubled to 120Hz.

Perceived blur, 120Hz

At 120Hz, above, the UFO appears significantly narrower with clearer internal detail. This reflects a significant decrease in perceived blur due to eye movement. There’s no real conventional trailing to speak of, with just the faintest trace of ‘powdery’ trailing for the dark background (top row). The overshoot is reduced significantly compared to at 60Hz – some does still remain, but it’s really rather well-tuned here. Increasing the ‘Variable OD’ level brings no real advantage, it simply strengthens the overshoot. We again consider ‘Level 0’ optimal here, with the XV282K KV performing very similarly. The PG27UQ requires aggressive pixel overdrive to keep conventional trailing in check at 120Hz, with clearer overshoot visible. Plus some conventional trailing creating a fringe behind the yellow UFO cockpit for the dark background. Below you can see things running at a slightly higher 144Hz.

Perceived blur, 144Hz

At 144Hz, above, the UFO appears very slightly narrower with slightly better definition. This reflects a slight reduction in perceived blur to eye movement, but it’s only an extra 24Hz so this difference is slight compared to the initial bump from 60Hz to 120Hz. The trailing is similar to at 144Hz, with the monitor providing a strong performance even with ‘Variable OD = Level 0’. There’s again no real conventional trailing to speak of, just a whiff for the dark background. Increasing the ‘Variable OD’ level really just serves to strengthen the overshoot. The bump up to ‘Level 1’ doesn’t provide extreme overshoot so may appeal to some. But even considering a broader range of transitions than analysed here, we find any decrease in the generally very low level of conventional trailing negligible and the increase in overshoot easier to notice. Beyond that the overshoot becomes particularly strong and eye-catching. We again consider ‘Level 0’ optimal here. Performance is similar to the XV282K KV reference here and again superior to the PG27UQ.

The monitor also includes a setting called ‘ELMB/ELMB SYNC’ (Extreme Low Motion Blur), with the ‘SYNC’ indicating it can be used at the same time as VRR technology. This is a strobe backlight setting which forces the backlight to flicker in sync with the refresh rate of the monitor. 100Hz, 120Hz and 144Hz can be selected as a static refresh rate (ELMB) or as the ceiling of operation (ELMB Sync). The lowest refresh rate the monitor will strobe at for ELMB Sync is 77Hz, below which the technology deactivates. Sensitivity to this flickering of the backlight varies and some will find it bothersome whilst others may notice accelerated eye fatigue, even if the flickering isn’t actively bothersome to them. The pursuit photographs below were taken with the monitor set to 100Hz using ELMB and ELMB Sync, with the highest and lowest ‘Clarity Level’ tested for ELMB. Increasing the ‘Clarity Level’ reduces the pulse width, meaning the backlight spends longer in its ‘off’ phase than for lower clarity levels. This reduces brightness as we explored earlier but also offers a potential boost to clarity. With ELMB Sync this can’t be adjusted and is set to an intermediate level, similar to ‘Level 3’. The reference screens used for comparison are the AOC C24G1 using its ‘MBR’ setting and the Dell S2417DG using its ‘ULMB’ settings. These are both quite useable strobe backlight settings and make appropriate references.

‘Variable OD’ is locked off under ELMB and ELMB Sync. A ‘Clarity Position’ setting is available which adjusts the strobe behaviour to optimise clarity either higher up or lower down the screen. We set this to the top level during this test as it was our preferred setting – we explore this setting in more detail shortly. Note that the UFO segmentation is a bit more distinct to the eye than it appears in the photos as the intensity of red in the images bleaches out the thin black line which divides the segments.

Perceived blur, 100Hz ELMB/ELMB SYNC

With ‘ELMB/ELMB SYNC’ active at 100Hz, above, the main object is significantly narrower with clearer internal detailing compared to with the setting deactivated – even at a higher refresh rate. The white notches on the UFO body show particularly strong clarity using ‘Clarity Level 5’. This shows that the setting is achieving its main purpose of reducing perceived blur due to eye movement. Fairly strong overshoot is visible behind the UFO, stronger than either reference screen when observing the same row of the test used (middle row – medium background). Some trailing is also visible behind and to a greater extent in front of the object, as a distinct repetition of the object due to the strobe nature of the backlight. These repetitions are broadly termed ‘Strobe Crosstalk’ and can be seen quite distinctly on the C24G1 reference as well. The KSF phosphors of the backlight introduce a colourful (magenta to red) fringes to the crosstalk here, due to their relatively slow decay rate. This is not observed on the reference screens as they don’t use KSF phosphors. The images below show the monitor running with ‘ELMB/ELMB SYNC’ set to 144Hz.

Note we didn’t include results for 120Hz as that didn’t show any novel behaviour. It simply appeared some way between what is shown at 100Hz and 144Hz.

Perceived blur, 144Hz ELMB/ELMB SYNC

With ‘ELMB/ELMB SYNC’ active at 144Hz, above, the main object again shows excellent clarity. The segments and white notches were clearer than they appear in the photo, distinct using ‘ELMB Sync’ and very distinct using ELMB with ‘Clarity Level 5’. The trailing behaviour is a bit different now, with overshoot reduced quite a bit and the overshoot or strobe crosstalk fragments more compact due to the increased refresh rate. The overall strobe crosstalk and overshoot levels aren’t extreme here, comparable to the reference screens but showing a bit of both rather than one or the other. The magenta to red fringing is again visible and is the main visual distraction in practice, something not observed on the reference screens. Not all areas of the screen refresh simultaneously, so the strobe crosstalk can be stronger or weaker depending on how far up or down the screen the motion is observed.

The images below show pursuit photos running from the top to bottom of the screen at a refresh rate of 144Hz. A ‘Clarity Level’ of ‘Level 3’ was used for ELMB, although this did not affect strobe crosstalk position. The ‘- Middle -‘ marker denotes the central region of the screen. All available ‘Clarity Position’ settings are shown using both ELMB and ELMB Sync. These photos are only designed to highlight strobe crosstalk behaviour and don’t accurately reflect the clarity of the main object. For example, how defined the segments or notches are which is excellent in all cases unless there’s overlapping strobe crosstalk.

You can see varying levels of strobe crosstalk depending on how far up or down the screen you’re observing. Sometimes it is so strong that it melds into the main object, other times it appears as a fainter repetition of the object in front or behind. The strongest strobe crosstalk is displaced either further up or further down the screen, depending on the setting used. For the best central clarity we’d actually consider ‘Clarity Position = Top’ optimal, especially using ELMB Sync where the ‘Clarity Position = Middle’ setting provides quite a bit of strobe crosstalk centrally. The central bands of the screen are where your eyes are mainly going to be focusing on for the competitive titles this sort of setting is designed for. So optimising performance there is often desirable even if it comes at the expense of other regions. We explore the ELMB and ELMB Sync experience subjectively using in game examples shortly.

Responsiveness in games and movies

On Battlefield V, at a frame rate keeping up with the 144Hz refresh rate, the monitor provided an impressively fluid performance. Compared to a 60Hz monitor or this monitor running at 60Hz (or 60fps), over twice the visual information is outputted every second. This greatly enhances the ‘connected feel’, which describes the precision and fluidity felt when interacting with the game. Low input lag also helps in that respect, which is something this model delivered. The high frame and refresh rate combination also decreases perceived blur due to eye movement, as demonstrated earlier using Test UFO. This gives a nice competitive edge in games like Battlefield, making it easier to track and engage enemies. It also complements the high pixel density nicely, with the monitor preserving some of this detail better during motion compared to the 60Hz experience.

The other aspect of perceived blur is pixel responsiveness, where this monitor again put in a strong 144Hz performance. Much as highlighted earlier using Test UFO, but now considering a broader range of transitions, there were no real complaints when it came to conventional trailing or related weaknesses. Most pixel responses were performed impressively quickly, with just a few small traces of faint ‘powdery’ trailing for some transitions. For example, very bright shades such as white in-game text against somewhat darker backgrounds. Even this weakness was minor and not at all eye-catching in our view or something most would notice at all. There was some overshoot in places, a bit of ‘halo’ trailing that was slightly brighter than the background shade. But this wasn’t particularly strong – sensitivity to overshoot varies, but this is unlikely to bother most users at high refresh rates.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider provided a similarly strong 144Hz performance. Some IPS-type panels will struggle with some of the ‘high contrast’ transitions that are common on this title, with plenty of dark shades involved. And VA models will typically perform poorly here. In this case there was very little to complain about in terms of conventional trailing and just a touch of overshoot in places. Whilst this sort of strong performance isn’t as important from a competitive perspective – as this is a slower paced single player title – it’s still a nice bonus. Sensitivity to refresh rate and response performance varies so not everyone would notice this difference so readily, but for us it certainly enhanced the experience. We also observed video content at a range of refresh rates, including ~24 – 30fps content on platforms such as Netflix and 60fps YouTube content. There were no real weaknesses from the monitor when it came to pixel responses. Small traces of overshoot here and there, but nothing we found eye-catching. For both the ~60fps and ~24 – 30fps content the main barrier to fluidity was really the frame rate of the content itself, not any weakness from the monitor.

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ASUS VG28UQL1A


ELMB (Extreme Low Motion Blur) and ELMB Sync

Earlier in the review ELMB Sync was covered, including its principles of operation and how it performs using specific tests. When using a strobe backlight feature, your frame rate must match the refresh rate precisely. Otherwise you’re left with extremely obvious stuttering or juddering. Standing out in such a clear way due to there being very little perceived blur due to eye movement to mask it. With ELMB Sync the ability to use VRR technology such as Adaptive-Sync or HDMI 2.1 VRR at the same time alleviates this issue. You’re also limited to certain brightness levels as covered earlier and you can’t use the technology under HDR or with ‘Dynamic Dimming’ enabled. We tested ELMB Sync using a range of game titles, but to keep things simple we’ll just use Battlefield V for this section. Using ELMB without the Sync element unlocked the ‘Clarity’ levels option, but this didn’t significantly impact the main observations made here. The brightness level was really the most pronounced change there. There was little clarity benefit to be had beyond ‘Level 3’, which is our preferred level and similar to the level ‘ELMB Sync’ is locked to.

At a solid 144Hz (144fps), the technology did its thing to significantly reduce perceived blur due to eye movement. The clarity of the main objects and textures during motion was excellent, even during rapid turns of the character or when zipping about in a vehicle. This can be beneficial at a competitive level as it makes it easier to track and potentially engage enemies. We observed a moderate amount of strobe crosstalk in some regions of the screen, but with ‘Clarity Position’ set appropriately (centre or top worked well), this wasn’t particularly for central bands of the screen. Where your eyes mainly focus when playing games like this. There were issues we found more noticeable, such as a distinct red or magenta fringe in places due to the KSF backlight phosphors and their slow decay. This was particularly noticeable where brighter shades were involved in the transition. Colourful flashes were also observed when moving our eyes, especially with lighter coloured objects displayed. The flashes were typically green, cyan or magenta but sometimes other colours could be perceived. Some colourful ‘halo’ trailing (overshoot) was also present. And there was of course flickering due to the backlight strobing – sensitivity to this varies and it’s required for this sort of setting to do its thing.

If frame rate reduced at all below this and you’re running ELMB on its own, you’re presented with clear stuttering. There’s very little perceived blur due to eye movement to mask this. If VRR is enabled, it’s instead ELMB Sync you’re using. This provided a similar experience at 144Hz, although as explored earlier we found setting ‘Clarity Position’ to the top worked best to minimise central strobe crosstalk. ELMB Sync also allowed the refresh rate to reduce in accordance with the frame rate. This worked exactly as it should to remove this stuttering (or any tearing, if VSync is disabled) and provided a good boost in clarity compared to non-ELMB operation. As refresh rate reduces the flickering becomes more intense and you lose something in the way of ‘connected feel’ whilst also losing out a bit on clarity. Some inescapable side-effects of the reduction in frame rate. We also observed strobe crosstalk becoming a bit more intense in some cases, particularly for double digit refresh rates. And also observed an increased level of overshoot. Including some quite distinct ‘shadowy’ or ‘dirty’ trailing that was darker than the background colour and stood out for that reason. On top of some rather distinct and bright ‘halo’ trailing.

Below 77Hz (77fps) the ELMB technology deactivated and things reverted to normal VRR operation without the strobe element. By this point the flickering is already quite intense and below this that would simply worsen. The sudden switch between strobing and non-strobing that occurs here is certainly an abrupt change, so if you’re frequently passing this point it would certainly be bothersome. Although we still consider the overall strobe backlight experience to be suboptimal due to various visual disturbances, the ‘Sync’ element did work and was a nice flexibility to have. Some people will certainly see benefit from this technology, including those generally avoiding such technologies due to it being tricky to maintain a suitably high frame rate all the time.

VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) technology

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. 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 VG28UQL1A supports FreeSync via DP and HDMI on compatible GPUs and systems. Note that HDR can be activated at the same time as FreeSync. You need to make sure ‘Adaptive-Sync’ (DP) or ‘Freesync Premium Pro’ (HDMI) is enabled in the ‘Gaming’ section of the OSD. Regardless of how the setting it reported in the OSD, it’s AMD FreeSync Premium that’s supported in both cases. On the GPU driver side recent AMD drivers make activation of the technology very simple. You should ensure the GPU driver is setup correctly to use FreeSync, so open ‘AMD Radeon Software’, click ‘Settings’ (cog icon towards top right) and click on ‘Display’. You should then ensure that the first slider is set to ‘Enabled’ as shown below. The top image shows the monitor connected by DP and the bottom image by HDMI. The setting is referred to as ‘AMD FreeSync Premium’ in both cases, although the exact wording may depend on the driver version you’re using.

Enable FreeSync (DP)

Enable FreeSync (HDMI)

The ASUS supports a variable refresh rate range of 48 – 144Hz. That means that if the game is running between 48fps and 144fps, the monitor will adjust its refresh rate to match. When the frame rate rises above 144fps, the monitor will stay at 144Hz 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 144fps, 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 >144fps). AMD LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) is also supported by this model, which means that the refresh rate will stick to multiples of the frame rate where it falls below the 48Hz (48fps) floor of operation for FreeSync. If a game ran at 36fps, for example, the refresh rate would be 72Hz to help keep tearing and stuttering at bay. LFC sometimes seemed to activate at slightly higher refresh rates, closer to 52Hz (52fps), but this makes little difference in practice. This feature is used regardless of VSync setting, so it’s only above the ceiling of operation where the VSync setting makes a difference.

To configure VSync, open ‘AMD Radeon Software’. Click ‘Settings’ (cog icon towards top right) and click ‘Graphics’. The setting is listed as ‘Wait for Vertical Refresh’. This configures it globally, but if you wish to configure it for individual games click ‘Game Graphics’ towards the top right. 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. Above this dropdown list there’s a toggle for ‘Radeon Enhanced Sync’. 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 rather 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. 141fps) 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 activate the ‘FPS Counter’ feature in the ‘GamePlus’ section of the OSD, the refresh rate will be displayed on the screen. This will reflect the frame rate if it’s within the VRR range and the monitor is running with a VRR technology such as FreeSync. The final point to note is 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 tested a range of game titles using AMD FreeSync and as usual found the experience similar in all cases. Any issues affecting one title points towards a game or GPU driver issue rather than a monitor issue. To keep things simple, we’ll just use Battlefield V as our example in this section. The graphics options offer good flexibility and allow the entire VRR range to be tested with our Radeon RX 580. Some dips below 144fps were very common, even with quite extreme adjustments. Without the technology active you get tearing (VSync off) or stuttering (VSync on) due to frame and refresh rate mismatches, so having those interruptions removed was nice. Particularly welcome if you’re sensitive to tearing and stuttering. Drops in frame rate could still be noticed due to their negative effect on ‘connected feel’ and an increase in perceived blur.

We also observed an increase in overshoot as refresh rate dipped – which follows a reduction in frame rate in a VRR environment. As we explored earlier with static refresh rates, the monitor advertises variable overdrive and even refers to the response time setting as ‘Variable OD’. But for whatever reason it isn’t as well-optimised as it could be, likely as the panel itself has some innate acceleration that can’t be disabled. The overshoot became quite strong to our eyes with frame rates in the double digits in particular, although sensitivity to overshoot varies. We felt the ‘halo’ trailing (brighter than the background) was quite bright and fairly eye-catching, particularly as refresh rate dropped closer to 60Hz than 100Hz. We wouldn’t describe the overshoot as ‘extreme’, but unfortunately the monitor doesn’t provide a means to remove this in a VRR environment. As we made these observations using the lowest level of ‘Variable OD’ (pixel overdrive) on the monitor. For those sensitive to overshoot but not so sensitive to tearing and stuttering, disabling VRR where the refresh rate dips significantly and sticking to a static 144Hz or 120Hz might be the best option.

The technology worked down to the floor of operation of 48Hz (48fps), below which LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) came into play. Keeping the refresh rate at a multiple of the frame rate to keep tearing and stuttering at bay. There was a brief stuttering when passing this boundary in either direction, potentially annoying if you’re frequently doing so but not something you’d generally find bothersome otherwise. This is something we universally observe with LFC and not specific to this model.

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’. The ASUS is amongst models which are specifically validated as G-SYNC compatible, which means it has been tested by Nvidia and passes specific quality checks. With the VG28UQL1A you can connect the monitor up via either DisplayPort 1.4 or HDMI 2.1 to use ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’, with the latter technically making use of HDMI 2.1’s integrated VRR functionality rather than Adaptive-Sync. You need to make sure ‘Adaptive-Sync’ (DP) or ‘FreeSync Premium Pro’ (HDMI) is set to ‘On’ in the ‘Gaming’ 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 and ‘Enable settings for the selected display model’ is checked as shown below and press ‘OK’. If you’ve enabled ‘G-SYNC Compatible’ and it was previously disabled, the monitor should re-establish its connection with the system and the technology should now be active.

G-SYNC Compatible settings

As noted previously and as highlighted in Nvidia Control Panel, this model has been specifically tested and validated as ‘G-SYNC Compatible’ by Nvidia. The experience using ‘G-Sync Compatible Mode’ on our RTX 3090 was very similar to the experience we described earlier using AMD FreeSync on this model. With the technology getting rid of tearing and stuttering from what would otherwise be frame and refresh rate mismatches, within the VRR range of 48 – 144Hz (48 – 144Hz fps). An LFC-like frame to refresh multiplication technology was employed below that to keep tearing and stuttering from frame and refresh rate mismatches at bay. There was again a momentary stuttering as the boundary was crossed, as we observed with our AMD GPU as well. Our suggestions regarding use of VSync also apply, but you’re using Nvidia Control Panel rather than AMD Radeon Software 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

Note again that you can activate the ‘FPS Counter’ feature in the ‘GamePlus’ section of the OSD. This will display the refresh rate of the display and therefore indicates the frame rate if that is within the VRR window (48 – 144Hz). This is a useful indication that the technology is active. And as with AMD FreeSync Premium, HDR can be used at the same time as ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’.

HDMI 2.1 VRR

HDMI 2.1 includes Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) support as part of the specification. This is an integrated technology, which unlike FreeSync does not rely on VESA Adaptive-Sync to function. As such it can potentially be used by devices such as the PS5 that don’t support Adaptive-Sync. It can also be leveraged via ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’ on compatible Nvidia GPUs. Based on our testing of ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’ using HDMI 2.1 VRR, the experience was very similar to the Adaptive-Sync experience under SDR and HDR. ELMB Sync is also available to use with HDMI 2.1 VRR, if you wish.

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

The ideal HDR (High Dynamic Range) monitor can simultaneously display very deep dark shades and very bright light shades, with an excellent range of shades between these extremes. From very muted shades to eye-catching vibrant shades. Per-pixel illumination would ideally be used (backlightless technology such as OLED, for example). Failing that, a backlight solution such as FALD (Full Array Local Dimming) with a great number of dimming zones is desirable. This allows some areas of the screen to display very bright and brilliant lighter shades, whilst others display very deep and dark content. Colour reproduction is also an important part of HDR. The long-term goal is support for a huge colour gamut, Rec. 2020. A more achievable near-term goal is support for at least 90% DCI-P3 (Digital Cinema Initiatives standard colour space) coverage. 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.

The most widely supported HDR standard for games and movies is HDR10, and that’s what’s supported here. For most games and other full screen applications that support HDR, the ASUS automatically switches into its HDR operating mode when an HDR signal is detected. 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 and monitor 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 is really just a digital brightness slider, so you lose contrast by adjusting it. The balance of the image was decent when displaying SDR content with HDR enabled – but you lose adjustment or brightness, colour channels gamma and various other settings in the OSD. 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.

Windows HD Color settings

To keep things simple we’ll just focus on our two main test titles for this section; Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. We’ve tested these titles on a broad range of HDR monitors and know they’re good for highlighting strengths and weaknesses. The experience described here is really limited by the screen itself and its HDR implementation. Our testing is focused on HDR PC gaming using DisplayPort on an Nvidia RTX 3090, but we made similar observations when viewing HDR video content on the Netflix app. There are some additional points to bear in mind if you wish to view such content. We made similar observations using HDMI on our Nvidia GPU as well. With our AMD GPU, the experience was similar on the contrast side – but saturation levels were pushed up. Some elements appeared oversaturated, particularly for red-biased shades and some green shades. The overall colour representation was closer to how it appeared under SDR using the native gamut, without the appropriate muted look and shade variety that’s intended under HDR. This oversaturated representation would also be provided for HDR content on an HDR compatible games console (which uses AMD graphics hardware). It’s a look some will like, but it deviates from how things are supposed to look under HDR.

As usual under HDR, many settings are inaccessible. You can’t change presets or adjust things like brightness, colour channels or gamma. The monitor offers three distinct HDR settings; ‘ASUS Cinema HDR’, ‘ASUS Gaming HDR’ and ‘Console Mode’. Using our Nvidia GPU, these settings did not affect the output – at least on our early sample of the monitor. Usually they’d have an effect on the image, particularly the ‘Cinema HDR’ setting that tends to deepen things up at the expense of subtle detail levels. We usually find ‘Gaming HDR’ is the best balanced and closest to the expected HDR output. The monitor doesn’t apply a sharpness filter under HDR like some models do, with the high native pixel density instead providing a good sharpness level without an artificially oversharpened look. On our AMD GPU (or if you connect run the monitor under HDR on a compatible games console) it locks itself into ‘Console Mode’ with the more strongly saturated appearance we described in the previous paragraph.

The ASUS VG28UQL1A is VESA DisplayHDR 400 certified. This is the lowest level of VESA DisplayHDR certification, so only a basic HDR experience is offered. One area that the VESA DisplayHDR 400 requirement isn’t very strict about is colour gamut, compared to higher tiers which require at least 90% DCI-P3 coverage. For this screen we measured 87% DCI-P3, shown in the gamut representation below. The red triangle shows the monitor’s colour gamut, the blue triangle DCI-P3 and green triangle sRGB. With reasonable DCI-P3 coverage plus strong consistency, the monitor was able to provide decent vibrancy where the developers wanted it to be. Roaring and rich orange and yellow flames and some fairly lush-looking deep forest greens where evident on both titles. And some of Lara Croft’s dresses on Shadow of the Tomb Raider showcased some quite eye-catching green and blue shades, too. Some of these shades were well beyond the sRGB colour space. Even greater DCI-P3 coverage or even some extension beyond, encroaching more on Rec. 2020, would have invited further depth and vibrancy to such elements. As would greater dimming precision for the backlight. More muted shades such as certain skin tones, dusty browns and light green vegetation appeared appropriately muted. We didn’t observe the yellow push for some yellowish greens or reddish push to certain skin tones, woody or earthy browns that we observed under SDR. Things were better balanced and more neutral in that respect, because it’s no longer the smaller sRGB colour space the developers are targeting.

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'


The HDR10 pipeline makes use of 10-bits per colour channel, which this monitor supports via 8-bit + FRC. This enhanced precision not only helps the monitor put its generous gamut to appropriate use, it also aids the nuanced shade variety at the low and high end. At the low end (dark shades) there’s a natural uplift of detail, with a superior variety of closely matching shades. Very different to the ‘flooded’ look you’d get if you were to lift out such detail without this increase in shade variety – such as a low-end gamma enhancement under SDR. At the high end (bright shades) there were smoother progressions of shades, with finer gradients used for smoke and weather effects for example. The image below is taken from one of our favourite scenes to test HDR on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Remember that the photo is purely for illustrative purposes and in no way represents how the monitor appeared running HDR in person.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider HDR

This scene showcased the nuanced shade variety and the advantages well there for darker shades, with a good mixture of shade depths. VESA DisplayHDR 400 doesn’t require local dimming for the backlight. But as explored earlier, the ASUS includes a ‘Dynamic Dimming’ setting which is enabled by default under HDR. This enables 8 edge-lit dimming zones on the backlight. These zones are arranged as vertical bands, from left to right. As with SDR, this didn’t perform miracles with its very limited number of dimming zones. With the setting disabled the backlight stays at close to its maximum level regardless of the content displayed, giving a flooded look to darker shades. With the setting enabled, there was a definite situational boost to contrast, which worked well for some scenes. It certainly provided good depth where a dimming zone was covered by dark to medium content. As with SDR, the dimming zones were very reactive even with modest changes in average shade brightness for content covering that zone. Additional digital compensation was used (‘pseudo zones’) as part of a rather ‘dynamic’ experience – and perhaps to try to smooth out some of the abrupt and frequent zonal brightness changes. But this was certainly no substitute for more physical dimming zones and was at times rather distracting. You were made quite aware of the dimming zones and the fluctuations in brightness in some scenes, particularly less complex scenes with large areas of uniform shade or texture.

The peak luminance we recorded (422 cd/m²) was rather limited by HDR standards, so bright elements such as the light streaming in from above and the glint on the water surface were far from as brilliant or eye-catching as they could be. Superior local dimming precision can also help the array of closely matching bright shades appear more natural and life-like. The 10-bit colour processing aids this to some extent, but matching this with appropriate luminance control is also helpful. And as we noted, we observed some crushing together of shades at the high end. The overall depth of medium to darker shades simply wasn’t as strong as it could be, either. Although it was certainly improved for some scenes by a bit of local dimming. The section of video review below runs through the HDR experience using various scenes in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.



The ‘4K’ UHD experience

Our article on the ‘4K’ UHD resolution explores the experience on the desktop, watching video content and playing games. As with the screen used when the article was written, the VG28UQL1A features a 28” screen with UHD resolution – yielding a pixel density of 157.35 PPI (Pixels Per Inch). This is a high pixel density, so many users will want to use some degree of scaling when they’re on the desktop. We were actually very happy to use the monitor without scaling and enjoyed the experience, from our usual viewing distance of ~70cm. This yielded an excellent amount of ‘desktop real estate’. But text and various other elements were very small indeed, which took some getting used to. We found 125% scaling offered a good balance as well, providing a good level of ‘desktop real estate’ – more than you’d get on a 27” 2560 x 1440 (WQHD or 1440p) model. Everybody will have their own preferences for scaling level, but for elements that scale cleanly (most content now does) applying scaling doesn’t affect the clarity or crispness imparted by the high pixel density. The following images show the screen on the desktop natively (100%, no scaling) and a small amount of scaling applied (125%). The article linked to earlier includes further analysis using a broader range of scaling settings.

Note that these images are just for illustrative purposes and don’t accurately reflect how the monitor appears in person. Banding and patchiness on solid backgrounds are artifacts in the image, not observed in person.

The UHD desktop, 100% scaling

The UHD desktop, 125% scaling

Some multi-tasking, 100% scaling

Some multi-tasking, 125% scaling

This excellent pixel density provides a good detailed and clear appearance to suitably high resolution image content, ‘4K’ UHD video content and games. Even older game titles or with detail levels turned down, you still benefit from a definite clarity and definition to objects and their edges. This is particularly noticeable when they’re viewed in the distance on the game. Having more eye-candy turned on is the icing on the cake, with impressively crisp and detailed-looking lighting and particle effects and high resolution textures benefiting from the high pixel density. The difference between this and a model with significantly lower pixel density, such as 27” WQHD, was very clear to us. The benefits are easier to appreciate in motion due to the high refresh rate (at suitably high frame rates), too. A combination we very much enjoy and found to be a competitive advantage, with enemies appearing more distinct from the background and easier to spot in the distance. The images below show the monitor in action on various game titles. Again, the images are just for illustrative purposes and don’t accurately reflect how the monitor appears first hand.

Battlefield V in UHD

The Outer Worlds in UHD

Shadow of the Tomb Raider in UHD

Interpolation and upscaling

The 3840 x 2160 (‘4K’ UHD) resolution is graphically demanding, so it may be desirable to switch to a lower resolution for some games or graphically intensive work. This may also be necessary due to the system you’re using, such as a games console that may not run at the ‘4K’ UHD resolution. The monitor can use an interpolation (scaling) process to map lower resolutions such as 1920 x 1080 (‘1080p’ Full HD) onto all 3840 x 2160 pixels at refresh rates including 60Hz and 120Hz. For the 2560 x 1440 (WQHD or 1440p) resolution, interpolation is also supported at 144Hz. To ensure the monitor rather than GPU is handling the scaling process, as a PC user, you need to ensure the GPU driver is correctly configured so that the GPU doesn’t take over the scaling process. 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 has an ‘Aspect Control’ setting in the ‘Image’ section of the OSD (explored in this section of the OSD video). This offers a few options but can only be adjusted if VRR is disabled and if the monitor is running at a resolution and refresh rate combination that supports interpolation. The default setting is ‘Full’ which will use an interpolation process to use all pixels on the display, regardless of the source resolution. The monitor uses this ‘Full’ setting if VRR is enabled, even though the control is locked so other options are unavailable. There’s a ‘4:3’ setting which will enforce a 4:3 aspect ratio for supported resolutions and a ‘16:9 (24”W)’ setting which will emulate a 24” 16:9 experience. When running the monitor at either 1920 x 1080 (Full HD or 1080p) or 2560 x 1440 (WQHD or 1440p), the interpolation process provided a moderate but not extreme softening to the image. A lack of sharpness compared to viewing a screen of this size with the same resolution natively, but without the ‘soft focus’ look of some models using interpolation. For the WQHD resolution this softening was somewhat less noticeable than with the Full HD resolution. Depending on preset used, a ‘VividPixel’ option is available which can be increased to add a sharpness filter. We found the look with this set one level up from the default of ‘50’ to ‘60’ provided a somewhat over-sharpened or ‘processed’ look. Some may prefer this look, but this setting isn’t available in the best-balanced ‘Racing Mode’ preset anyway. We would’ve preferred more flexibility in ‘Racing Mode’ and also finer control of sharpness than offered with ‘VividPixel’. But the native interpolation performance was still reasonable, at least.

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 shows the monitor in action. The camera, processing done and your own screen all affect the output – so it doesn’t accurately represent what you’d see when viewing the monitor in person. It still provides useful visual demonstrations and explanations which help reinforce some of the key points raised in the written piece.




Timestamps:
Features & Aesthetics
Contrast
SDR Dynamic Dimming (Desktop)
SDR Dynamic Dimming (In-game)
Colour reproduction
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
Responsiveness (General)
Responsiveness (VRR)

Conclusion

The 3840 x 2160 (‘4K’) UHD resolution and 28” screen size of the ASUS VG28UQL1A provided a very strong pixel density, useful for work and desirable for play. The monitor has a rugged appearance with plenty of robust matte black plastics. This provided quite a solid feel to the overall screen, whilst full ergonomic flexibility was also provided. The OSD was also feature-rich, well laid out and responsive with plenty of gaming-focused additions. Including a very clear refresh rate indicator, a range of crosshairs and a well-implemented ‘Dark Boost’ gamma enhancement feature.

The IPS-type panel delivered strong colour consistency. There was a fair amount of extension beyond the sRGB colour space but nothing extreme. This delivered quite a vibrant look to things without strong oversaturation, whilst an sRGB emulation setting with adjustable brightness provided a toned-down look to things. The contrast was in-line with our expectations for the panel type – static contrast a touch below or above the specified 1000:1 depending on settings used and moderate ‘IPS glow’. A ‘Dynamic Dimming’ feature was included for use in SDR as well as HDR. This provided aggressive brightening and dimming of the 8-zone local dimming solution, with additional ‘pseudo zones’ to try to perhaps try and make the progressions seem gentler. In some scenes this worked well, in others it was quite distracting. Outside of that the luminance was quite limited by HDR standards and colour gamut not terribly generous. But enough to give a different look to things and provide nice variety.

The high refresh rate response performance was impressive, with rapid pixel responses achieved without excessive overshoot. And good low input lag to go with it. Things were less well tuned for lower refresh rates such as 60Hz, though. As despite the inclusion of some degree of variable overdrive, overshoot levels increased to moderately high levels even using the lowest response time setting. This was the case with a static refresh rate or in a VRR environment. The VRR support itself was very flexible, though with FreeSync Premium, ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’ and HDMI 2.1 VRR. The technologies worked as expected without unwanted interruptions such as unexpected stuttering, tearing or flickering. ELMB Sync also allowed this VRR experience to be carried over into a strobe backlight setting – not a perfectly implemented one, but still a combination some will enjoy. Overall, we felt this monitor offered a strong performance and a good feature set. Much like the Acer XV282K KV and others sharing the panel like the Gigabyte M28U, our main criticism is the inability to provide low-overshoot output at reduced refresh rates. There are a few relative strengths and weaknesses of the Acer and ASUS as covered in this thread on our forum, but the overarching experience is the same and one some users will very much enjoy.

Positives Negatives
Strong colour consistency, fairly vibrant output due to gamut and an sRGB emulation mode with adjustable brightness
DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB coverage insufficient for work within those colour spaces, some gamma kinks on our unit and lower than ideal sRGB coverage with emulation mode
Fairly direct light emission with little layering from screen surface and reactive local dimming providing a good situational boost to contrast Moderate ‘IPS glow’. Aggressive 8-zone local dimming potentially annoying. Peak luminance and gamut quite limited for HDR, with different output different for AMD vs. Nvidia
Impressively fluid 144Hz (and 120Hz) experience, low input lag and flexible VRR support without unexpected issues Overshoot becomes noticeably stronger at reduced refresh rates, higher 60Hz input lag
Tight pixel density can deliver excellent detail, clarity and ‘on-screen real estate’. Good ergonomic flexibility with a fairly robust feel Chunky plastics won’t be to everyone’s taste, availability very limited at time of review
The bottom line; a responsive and feature-rich ‘4K’ model with consistent and fairly vibrant colour output – performance at lower refresh rates affected by increased overshoot.PC Monitors

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ASUS VG28UQL1A

 
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