Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

The technical data speak for itself. Taiwan’s electronics expert engineers were able to draw on unlimited resources when it comes to product design. The large 32-inch IPS panel is home to 3840 x 2160 pixels and runs a pleasant fine (at around 140 PPI). A programmable 3D LUT can be customized not only by the supplied ProArt calibration software but also by solutions for Portrait Display and Light Illusion. The first sign towards the intended target group, which includes users specifically in the area of ​​HDR video processing. After a long wait, the new flagship model of the ProArt product line has finally hit the market. Was it worth the wait? Let’s know in this Asus PA32UCG review below.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

The key feature of the Asus ProArt PA32UCG is its bright LED backlight. The mini-LEDs were located behind the flat panels and allowed over 1152 local dimming zones. It promises high contrast ranges with less tendency towards artifacts. With a maximum brightness of 1600 cd/m² and an increased color gamut due to the implementation of Quantum Dot technology – Asus promises almost complete coverage of Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 RGB – the new top model is recommended for HDR workflows. The DisplayHDR-1400 certification underscores this claim, which is further bolstered by special HDR image modes and support for HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision.

The list of interesting features is by no means adequately processed. The PA32UCG supports playback in full resolution via HDMI 2.1 with 10 bits per color channel and a 120 Hz refresh rate. With a limit of 8 bits per color channel, 144 Hz are also possible via DisplayPort and Thunderbolt – or you can use variable synchronization of 48–120 Hz. Because of the pricing, however, it should potentially target game developers and not gamers themselves.

A compensation function to improve surface uniformity, which can then be measured again using the already mentioned software, then becomes almost a trivial matter. The Asus Pro Art PA32UCG is also aimed at the classic group of users of the latest graphic monitors.

Design

The Asus PA32UCG is pleased with its high-quality plastic housing. A silver decorative stripe sets the accent on the front, otherwise, the design is very pure and virtually frameless when turned off. However, that shouldn’t hide the fact that it’s a huge, very deep monitor. The solid housing rear has a brushed aluminum look. The only downer: The Asus logo and parts of the stand have a high-gloss finish.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

The width of the frame (switched on) is about 9mm. The silver bar in the lower area is about 18 mm high. The Asus PA32UCG takes about 24cm on the desk. Without a stand, there is still about 9cm. It is an impressive device of around 15 kg (with a stand). Therefore installation and transportation are sometimes cumbersome. A small diet would be appropriate for the next product maintenance.

Build quality is good. Even if we look closely, we can’t spot any unsightly gaps. The overall impression is slightly affected by expectations that result from the plastic case’s imitation of metal.

The height adjustment range is 13 cm. At the lowest setting, the distance from the bottom edge of the frame to the table surface is 4 cm. In the highest position, we set 18 cm. The maximum backward inclination is reached at 23 degrees. Slope in the opposite direction is possible up to about 5 degrees. Optional fastening systems are attached to the Asus 4K monitor using a VESA 100 mounting.

The stand allows it to rotate 60 degrees in both directions. The Asus PA32UCG can also be operated in portrait orientation via a swivel joint.

The light safety monitor hood isn’t reassuring. They can still be connected using pins, although they can be taken apart by mistake. However, the more problem is that the cover is not with black velvet. It can hardly fulfill its function and is reproached for a design gimmick.

Power consumption

With a brightness of 140 cd/m², we set an efficiency of about 0.9 cd/W. It’s a good value if you take into account the wide color range of the panel-backlight combination and fine pixel matrix. A maximum value of about 175 watts was set with deactivated local dimming and a luminance of a good 1700 cd/m². The need for active cooling is once again effectively emphasized.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

The power consumption drops sufficiently in energy-saving mode. Thanks to an actual power switch, the power requirement can eventually be reduced to zero.

Connectivity

The Asus PA32UCG 4K HDR Monitor accepts video signals through five connections. The user has one DisplayPort version 1.4, one HDMI input version 2.1, two HDMI inputs version 2.0, and one Thunderbolt input (version 3 with a USB-C socket). Thunderbolt port can be used to establish a daisy chain to operate multiple monitors via video output.

The Asus PA32UCG can be operated in full resolution including RGB with 10 bits per color channel and 120 Hz via HDMI input version 2.1. It is currently supported only by the Radeon RX 6000 and GeForce 30 series graphics cards. Color subsampling (YCbCr 4: 2: 2) or “Display Stream Compression” (DSC) must be used via DisplayPort and Thunderbolt.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

Integrated USB Hub 3.1 provides three downstream connections. All interfaces find their place on the rear connection. Audio signals are output through the integrated loudspeaker, but can also be picked up through the headphone connection.

Operation and OSD

Seven control elements were inscribed on the back. Contrary to the trend, they are the real key. Because of their position, the operation is not ideal regardless of occupancy performance. However, other than the on/off button, ultimately the mini joystick is needed. It lets the user navigate through the OSD.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

The OSD is divided into eight main menu items. The range of settings varies greatly with the picture mode selected. The intensity of the background lighting is changed through the brightness regulator. The desired white point can be changed using the presets in Kelvin or by using the three RGB gain controls. The latter remain in their original state regardless of the selected color temperature. An explicit user mode that allows settings based on the native panel white point would be preferable at this point. Gamma control affects the tone curve (five settings from 1.8 to 2.6).

Four scaling settings allow the full and unscaled display of incoming signals. Depending on the resolution, the 4:3 setting may still be selected, but this does not always work reliably. In addition, the display can be customized to personal preferences using a multi-level sharpness filter. The configuration for the picture-in-picture or split-screen display is also quite extensive.

The color space emulation includes various goals, including sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3 RGB, and Rec. 2020. The Standard mode makes the native color range usable. It is particularly important in connection with use in a color management-enabled environment.

HDR image modes, which are also accessible via OSD, are an important feature. Here an output tailored to HDR10 and HLG can be forced, regardless of the feed. For HDR10-based sources, three options control the gradation characteristics and two options that take the color gamut of the source into account. The Asus PA32UCG also supports Dolby Vision.

The local dimming is controlled via a three-stage option (“Dynamic Dimming”). A special black level control influences the strength of the intervention. Of course, ASUS has also linked Adaptive-Sync and the compensation function to the OSD to improve surface homogeneity.

Display

Asus steps up the scale for the PA32UCG with a 32-inch large IPS backlight mini LED panel. Their emission spectrum is converted or filtered into the desired narrowband range by so-called quantum dots (we do not have any details on the specific implementation). The color gamut increases accordingly.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor
Spectral radiation distribution white (chromaticity point ~ D65) after color filters (i1Pro 2; optical bandpass: 10 nm)

A programmable 3D LUT is part of the signal processing in the scaler. It meets an important condition for accurate and lossless color reproduction. It is also very important concerning hardware calibration via (unfortunately limited) ProArt calibration software. The same applies to the interface of Portrait Display and Light Illusion solutions. The intended target group will primarily select it to optimize reproduction. During our Asus PA32UCG review, there was always no color break, the representation being visually and metrologically neutral.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor
Test image to check gray gradients

Subjective image quality will satisfy even the most demanding user. The Asus PA32UCG impresses with its neutral and homogeneous performance, as well as its high viewing angle stability. In addition, a loss of contrast that is otherwise common for IPS technology, which can lead to annoying brightening even when viewed from the front, has been greatly reduced.

The surface coating of the panel has a major impact on the visual assessment of image sharpness, contrast, and sensitivity to external light. We examine the coating with a microscope and show the panel surface (the most important film) in extreme magnification.

A microscopic view of sub-pixels, with a focus on the screen’s surface: The Asus PA32UCG has a subtly dull matte surface with light, with finely visible depressions for diffusion. The visual effects reveal a glossy effect, which – admittedly a bit soft – is reminiscent of earlier IPS implementations and can be a bit annoying.

Our test signals are well processed. Scaling up by the graphics card does not improve the display performance. As is usually the case, the focus control should be used with care. Values ​​above the neutral position (0) lead to unsightly double contours. We recommend setting values ​​up to 20.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

Content with a square pixel aspect ratio is displayed correctly if it has an aspect ratio of 16:9 (setting “Full”) or 4: 3 (setting 4: 3). However, the corresponding setting was only available in a resolution of 1024 x 768 during our Asus PA32UCG review.

The lighting of our Asus PA32UCG review unit is good. Minimal irregularities can be seen towards the edges – but only when the background light is high and in low light environments.

The measurements are carried out after calibration to D65 as the white point. If possible, all dynamic controls (including local dimming) are deactivated. Due to the necessary adjustments, the results are lower than when the test series was carried out with the native white point.

The measurement window is not surrounded by a black border. The values ​​can therefore be compared with the ANSI contrast and reflect real-world situations much better than measurements of flat white and black images.

With a nearly native white point, we get a maximum brightness of about 460 cd/m², which exceeds 1700 cd/m² in HDR mode. Asus leaves potential untapped here. ISO 3664 defines illumination of 2000 lux for the significant P1 color pattern. Monitors used in this environment (eg for proof simulation in the press room) should ideally have around 640 cd/m². A value that the PA32UCG can achieve even in continuous operation without local dimming – without being damaged.

A contrast ratio of around 1200:1 is maintained across the full range of brightness settings. With an active function to improve the surface homogeneity, the white level drops due to the necessary (and in this case de facto worsening) adjustments. The remaining contrast range of around 1000:1 is still a pretty good result.

Factory specification for maximum viewing angle is 178 degrees horizontally and vertically. The information is based on a residual contrast of 10:1. These are typical values for modern IPS and VA panels. However, further colorimetric changes are not included in the information or are only insufficiently included.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

The IPS panel of the Asus PA32UCG 4K computer monitor impresses with its high viewing angle stability. Changes in color and gradation are significantly reduced compared to screens with VA panels. These properties allow color-critical content to be displayed over a large area.

The following representation is based on the colorimetric data after calibration to D65 as the white point. The reference white for processing in CIELAB is D50 (adapted with Bradford).

  • White volume: Screen color space
  • Black volume: Reference color space
  • Colorful volume: Intersection
  • Comparison targets: sRGB, Adobe RGB, ECI-RGB v2, ISO Coated v2 (ECI), DCI-P3 RGB
Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

sRGB and Adobe RGB are fully covered. The offset printing position described by the FOGRA39 characterization data can also be accurately reproduced. Thus meaningful proof simulations are possible. The high coverage of ECI-RGB v2, which can be used well in media-neutral workflows, is also pleasing.

The coverage of DCI-P3 RGB plays a major role for use in HDR video workflows. The Asus PA32UCG also assures here. The difference in manufacturer information (98%) is partly due to the basis of comparison (CIELAB versus color table) and the preparation of the data.

The factory setting of the Asus PA32UCG is convincing. All of the parameters we recorded correlate well with the respective settings in the OSD. The gray balance is excellent.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

ProArt calibration software

The ASUS PA32UCG can be calibrated using the supplied ProArt calibration software. Since the scaler or its LUTs are accessed directly, it is a so-called hardware calibration. The measuring devices used can be i1Display Pro and i1Display Pro Plus from X-Rite, Spyder 5 and SpyderX from Datacolor, and the K10-A from Klein Instruments. Unfortunately, the implementation is spartan as usual.

The biggest drawback is the lack of final characterization of the monitor, which will be saved as an ICC profile. Based on this, color management-enabled applications can make the appropriate changes.

In preset mode, only the existing color modes are recalibrated. Two user-defined modes, on the other hand, can be customized. Various gamut options and tone value curves (sRGB, DICOM, and gamma gradations) are available for SDR. The desired brightness can be defined as well as the white point – the latter, however, only through the correlated color temperature. Calibration with the native color gamut is not possible. With other software (such as Argyll) the latter characterization does not make sense. Rather, an RGB working color space profile correlating to the settings would have to be stored at the operating system level.

The function to improve surface homogeneity is deactivated by default. If you want to activate it, a lengthy measurement is mandatory.

ITU-R BT stands for HDR workflows. 2020 and DCI-P3 RGB are available as simulation color spaces. The tone value curve follows the PQ transfer function (per SMPTE ST 2084) or HLG (“Hybrid Log-Gamma”), while the maximum luminance can be increased in steps from 300 to the maximum (corresponding to a good 1700 cd/m²).

Good: ASUS has stored its spectral characterization data for the X-Rite i1Display Pro and i1Display Pro Plus. It does not increase the precision significantly but shows the high demands on your product. Unfortunately, the software in the current version (2.2.0) lags far behind that. Apart from the restrictions already mentioned, there were repeated crashes. Ultimately, we were only able to successfully perform an sRGB preset calibration. In all other scenarios, the connection to the probe was lost during calibration. It is not necessarily the case with every hardware and software combination. However, the surface also looks as if it had been knitted with a hot needle: inconsistent states caused by selecting and resetting various options were not uncommon.

Asus urgently needs to have a hand here and ideally make the software suitable for workflows in the graphics industry (based on ICC profiles). At the moment, we can only recommend software calibration with third-party software. Professional users in the video sector are also more likely to fall back on CalMAN from portrait displays or ColourSpace from Light Illusion. A corresponding scaler interface is available.

The ProArt calibration software in detail:

Responsiveness

We tested the ASUS PA32UCG at its native resolution at 60Hz over a DisplayPort connection. The monitor was reset to factory settings for measurement.

Response times, we set for black-white change and best gray-to-gray change. In addition, we give the average value of our 15 measuring points.

In the datasheet, the response time is given as 5 ms (GTG). The ASUS PA32UCG implements a six-level overdrive function called “Trace Free” (0, 20, 40, 60, 80, 100). A (very high) default setting of 60 is selected at the factory setting.

The measured value Color to Color (CtC) goes beyond the conventional measurements of single-color jumps in brightness, after all, you usually see a colored image on the screen. Therefore, this measurement measures the longest time that the monitor needs to switch from one mixed color to another and stabilizes its brightness.

The mixed colors cyan, magenta, and yellow are used – each with 50% signal brightness. With the CtC color change, all three subpixels of a pixel do not switch equally, but different rise and decay times are combined.

Latency

Latency or signal delay time is an important value for gamers as lower values guarantee a direct response. The latency is moderate at 19.2 ms at 60 Hz but drops to 3.2 ms when the frame rate is 120 Hz (the lowest measured value from multiple attempts).

Backlight

The backlighting of the ASUS PA32UCG is controlled by pulse width modulation (PWM). Due to the very high PWM frequency, which is in the high kHz range, there is no visible interruption to the luminous flux (flicker). Thus, the monitor is suitable for fatigue-free work even with low brightness.

Asus PA32UCG Review: Professional 4K HDR Monitor

Final line

The ASUS PA32UCG is a monitor with light and shadow, so the light prevails: with a measured brightness of over 1700 cd/m² held steady for long periods, the DisplayHDR-1400 certification is evident at this point. A good basis for appealing services in the field of HDR reproduction.

The high-resolution, stable viewing angles, and comparatively high-contrast IPS panel is controlled by powerful electronics. The loss of contrast due to the viewing angle has also been minimized as much as possible. Interfaces to CalMAN (portrait displays) and ColourSpace (light illusion) open up wide fields of application for the PA32UCG in the (semi-) professional video sector. On the other hand, the included software lags far behind – and not just because of the lack of support for ICC profile-based workflows. Users from the graphics industry will hardly appreciate this, as they would have to do with software calibration. There is at least one suitable picture mode available for this. On the other hand, extremely high color gamuts can be unreservedly evaluated as positive.

Local dimming controls a mini-LED backlight divided into 1152 zones. Despite good implementation, inherent weaknesses remain. Application scenarios that require activation (HDR reproduction) exclude color-critical work. The P32UCG is used here primarily for matching color-corrected data elsewhere. In addition, distinctive artifacts are visible but do not necessarily interfere with pure playback. That includes HDR games.

Good: The Asus PA32UCG supports HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision. Reproduction for HLG and especially HDR10 can be adjusted via OSD. The readings are decent. Not so great, but unavoidable: The integrated fan reaches annoying levels of noise at high luminance levels. In return, the plus points for its attractive design and good response times.

Direct competing models are the Dell UltraSharp UP3221Q and Apple Pro Display XDR – each with very different strengths and weaknesses. The Asus ProArt PA32UCG is currently the most expensive 4K HDR monitor of this segment with a price tag of $4,999 on Bhphotovideo.com and Amazon.com or £4,567.19 on Amazon.co.uk websites. Since we’ve only tested Asus monitors, we can’t assess the quality difference between these three models.

Asus is promoting the PA32UCG to filmmakers, among others. The overall rating is good, taking into account the reference model and the advertised objective, even if the individual results obtained in the evaluation table give a slightly different impression.

About Ankeet Solanki

He started this blog as a hobby to show his affection for gadgets, but over the time this hobby became professional. And now he is working as a full-time blogger, but in free time he loves watching movies and games. PayPal donation for TechToyReviews will be appreciated.

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