The Asus TUF Gaming VG27AQ is currently a hot product and we believe this is due to a combination of factors. It is a 27-inch IPS display with 1440p and 165 Hz. This is the sweet spot for resolution, refresh rate and panel technology for games. It is one of those things that meet many criteria. The next factor is that it includes a feature called ELMB-Sync that allows you to simultaneously use adaptive sync update rates and blur-reducing strobe backlighting for the first time.
The third reason, and this is critical to the big picture … its price tag. For $ 430, this is a very competitive offer in today's market, especially for the 165 Hz refresh rate and feature set.
It is about $ 70 below one of the monitors selected by our editors, the LG 27GL850, and costs about $ 80 more than the budget-oriented ViewSonic VX2758-2KP-MHD.
We think it's good that Asus takes a more aggressive stance on value with these TUF gaming products. Some of their high-end ROG products appear to be a bit overpriced given the stiff competition. But if you offer these specs for under $ 500, it seems like anyone who wants to buy a monitor will take notice of it.
This is also one of the few monitor designs from Asus that I really like in recent years. It's a lot more subtle than their crazy ROG designs with RGB lighting and strange patterns, but it's definitely a player-oriented aesthetic with red highlights and hard angles. Almost all exposed surfaces are made of plastic, no metal stands or the like, and much of it is just your normal black basic plastic. But it works and the build quality is pretty good overall.
The design includes a highly adjustable stand. We get the work with height, tilt, swivel and swivel support. The range of height adjustment is above average and it is great to get enough pan support to use the monitor in portrait mode. There is also a VESA mount if you need it. Despite all the adjustments, the stand is robust and doesn't wobble much.
Ports are standard. Two HDMI 2.0 and one DisplayPort, whereby the HDMI connections are limited to 144 Hz. If you want to access 165 Hz, you need DisplayPort. And yes, that's a 165 Hz monitor. Some websites still list this as a 155 Hz display, but that was the originally announced specification. The final model reaches up to 165 Hz if you enable overclocking in the OSD of the display.
Speaking of OSD: It can be controlled via a direction switch. As with other Asus monitors, there are numerous functions here. Crosshairs, timers, FPS counters, shadow enhancement and blue light filters are some of the most important inclusions and of course ELMB-Sync for stroboscopic backlighting. More mid-range and budget options often don't bother with decent features, but Asus holds the VG27AQ strong in that regard.
We'll start our tests with response times and later move on to analyzing the backlight strobing mode in ELMB-Sync. We usually skip stroboscopic backlighting briefly, but it's a central function of this monitor.
Response times / overdrive modes
In typical Asus fashion, there are six overdrive modes available under the "Trace Free" setting, which, to be honest, have no good name and are hidden on the second page of one of the monitor's setting fields. If you weren't sure that this was overdrive mode, you're not sure how obvious this would be for ordinary users.
However, six modes from 0 to 100 in increments of 20 with a default setting of 60. When the monitor is kept at its maximum refresh rate of 165 Hz, modes 0 to 40 are fairly slow and don't have much overshoot. It gets interesting with the top three modes.
The standard 60 mode is decent, but not fantastic, with an average gray-gray response of 6.82 ms and unusual for an IPS panel, a hint of dark smear. Not as bad as a VA panel, but an average of 10 ms dark is mediocre for this technology. And since only 60% of the transitions fall close to the update window, there is some smearing when using the overdrive range set to 60, although overshoot is managed well.
When you climb to 80, the 165 Hz power comes into its own. A gray-gray average of 5.35 ms is good for IPS, dark level performance is improved, and refresh rate compliance is up to 77%, so ghosting and smearing are less common. However, this is at the expense of error rates, which are not terrible but also not surprising. Most problems occur in a small group of rise times when you switch to almost white. However, there are not many problems outside this zone: 87% of the transitions had a manageable overshoot.
With an overdrive level of 100, things get out of control. Yes, we achieve a gray to gray average of 3.44 ms, but a high level of overshoot affects performance. Therefore we would not recommend this mode.
However, the response time performance is somewhat more complicated because the overshoot and the speed of the transitions are strongly influenced by the refresh rate. Take, for example, 165 Hz with an overdrive level of 80. This is our recommended mode with maximum update. If you switch down to 144 Hz, we see an increase in overshoot and a slight increase in transition times. At 120 Hz this is no longer manageable and an overdrive level of 80 is no longer suitable.
At 120 Hz, an overdrive setting of 60 gives better performance, the overshoot is still a bit high, but with a gray-gray average of 6 ms it's not bad.
However, it gets worse because at 60 Hz, for example if you are playing in a graphically intense game with settings of the highest quality or if you have connected the monitor to a console, overshoot is important for most overdrive settings. With only a setting of 40, 41% of the transitions have a significant overshoot, which drops to 32% with Overdrive 20 and is then resolved with Overdrive 0. The problem then becomes reaction times that increase to a slow 11.17 ms.
Without comparing this performance with other monitors, we already have a mixed bag. If the refresh rate is set to 165 Hz or between 144 and 165 Hz, the monitor with overdrive level 80 works quite well. However, if adaptive synchronization is enabled and the frame rate of a game may fluctuate or you play differently. Games with different power levels may experience overshoot artifacts if you set and forget an overdrive mode.
For example, if you're playing Fortnite at 160 Hz, Overdrive 80 is the way to go. However, if you switch to Metro Exodus and the power fluctuates between 120 and 100 Hz, Overdrive 80 will deliver inverse ghosting at this refresh rate. Switching overdrive mode to 60 or even 40 makes more sense for this game, but this is an annoying manual setting. And if your frame rate jumps more, it can happen that no overdrive mode offers an optimal experience.
If you only play at 60 Hz, there is no overdrive mode that can be used. This is not a monitor suitable for 60 Hz gaming. The response times are slow when overdrive is deactivated. If you've set the monitor to Overdrive 80, which is optimal for 165 Hz, start playing at 60 Hz. Inverse ghosting is very obvious.
The best adaptive synchronization monitors have a single response time mode that is suitable or usable for all frame rates. You set the optimal mode, forget it and enjoy a good experience regardless of the in-game performance you get. At least there may be two suitable modes, one for high refresh and one for 60 Hz gaming, which you can choose depending on whether you are using the monitor with a high or low refresh input. However, the VG27AQ has three or four optimal modes across the update range, which is annoying and unfortunate for adaptive sync gamers. This is fine for a fixed update like 165 Hz, but not ideal if you are using a variable update.
Now let’s look at some comparisons. At the maximum refresh rate with the best overdrive mode, the VG27AQ is quite competitive. It's not as fast as the 27GL850 or the VX2758-2KP-MHD, but around this 5 ms mark it's good and offers better performance than VAs and some other IPS options like the Pixio PX7 Prime. And darkness performance is good, as you would hope when buying an IPS.
Compliance with the response time is also acceptable at this level of performance. A mid-table result is clearly not as strong as the excellent LG 27GL850, and part of it is due to a 165 Hz update above 144 Hz, but still not bad.
The following tables show where the VG27AQ drops. Error rates are high, and this is the same problem that the VX2758-2KP-MHD is facing: To achieve these response times of 4 to 5 ms, overshoot becomes a problem. With the VG27AQ, the average error rates are twice as high as with the 27GL850. The extent of the inverse ghosting is much higher because we are on the edge of what this panel can achieve. The VX2758-2KP-MHD is even more current to achieve a faster response time.
As already mentioned, the VG27AQ cannot maintain the same performance level at 60 Hz as at 165 Hz and falls far behind the 27GL850 in the charts. The lack of a decent overdrive in this mode makes it unsuitable for use at 60 Hz, especially against most rivals that are decent at this refresh rate.
The VG27AQ offers excellent input delay numbers with a processing delay of less than 0.5 ms and a total delay from input to the finished transition of less than 10 ms, which is an elite. The best gaming monitors hit these types of numbers, so this is in good company.
The response time performance is mixed and decent at high fixed update rates. However, to get a good experience with variable update, this is a bit cumbersome.
What is ELMB sync?
The brand new feature from Asus promises games with low motion blur, even if adaptive synchronization is activated. But what is this function actually?
For some time, Asus has had a function in its monitors that is referred to as ELMB or Extreme Low Motion Blur. It's their version of Nvidia's ULMB, LightBoost or backlight or whatever you want to call it. Basically, the backlight of the display should be flashed synchronously with the refresh rate (or switched on and off very quickly).
There are a number of reasons why and how this is beneficial. For a very detailed explanation, we refer you to great articles that explain how Blur Busters and TFT Central work.
The bottom line, however, is that by viewing the image and quickly switching to black, you get better motion clarity, more like what we got from CRTs in the glory days. The picture looks clearer, the transition time of the LCD disappears when the backlight is off, and you don't get as much blurring or ghosting. That is the theory anyway.
If it works, it works very well to improve game clarity. But there are many disadvantages. If the timing is not correct, stroboscoping the backlight leads to artifacts. In addition, the brightness of the panel tends to decrease. The flickering can be annoying for some sensitive users and generally does not work with adaptive synchronization. So far, this has been possible with the ELMB sync function from Asus, with which you can use adaptive synchronization and backlighting at the same time. This is because the rate at which the backlight is stroked can now be synchronized with the different refresh rate of the monitor. This is the biggest breakthrough that Asus has achieved. With ELMB-Sync, we don't have to throw away a smooth variable update experience when we activate the blur-reducing ELMB mode.
ELMB-Sync works as announced. You can enjoy variable refresh gaming with backlighting. The strobe length is varied according to the refresh rate. The problem with implementing the VG27AQ, however, is that its tuning is not absolutely perfect, so we get some stroboscopic artifacts with backlighting.
This is a chase camera photo of the VG27AQ's ELMB sync in action that simulates how the human eye would see the movement on this display, and you can see the effects of lightning crosstalk here with multiple images showing the moving UFO in the UFO – Follow Blur Busters test. This is a moderate level of strobe crosstalk that can be felt in games depending on what you're playing. It's not terrible, but it's not perfect, and what you see here is representative of what you get at most refresh rates. These photos are taken at 165 Hz.
We will also show what the monitor looks like at 165 Hz with overdrive level 80 without the ELMB activated. So these are basically your choices, between the standard blur you get on an IPS LCD with response times of around 5 to 7 ms, or artifacts with backlighting.
The ready-to-use calibration is average for the TUF Gaming VG27AQ, which is not unusual for a gaming monitor. Our test unit was tinted green and above all the gamma was about 2.4 too high, in contrast to the ideal of ~ 2.2 that you should have for the sRGB content (see yellow line). These two problems together result in a high DeltaE average of 4.88
Standard color performance
The saturation DeltaE power averages 3.62. We don't get oversaturation here, as this is just an sRGB panel with no large color gamut. With this green hue, however, the performance is not perfect. ColorChecker doesn't change much in history, where we have an average of 3.85 DeltaE. If you're looking at other gaming monitors, this type of standard color performance is pretty standard, although ideally we'd like to use these DeltaEs below 2.0 right away.
A few changes to the screen settings can improve performance and correct the green of my device. However, there is no gamma control, so unfortunately this problem cannot be fixed, which means that our OSD-optimized performance cannot be completely accurate. We improve performance a bit with these optimizations, but the DeltaE averages stay between 2 and 3, not quite what we're looking for.
Calibrated color performance
If you subject this beast to a round of DisplayCal calibrations, we are expected to perform very well with essentially 100% sRGB coverage. No far-reaching features can disappoint people who want P3 coverage, but it's still fine for non-HDR games.
The VG27AQ actually supports HDR10 inputs for some reason, not that the experience is good as it doesn't support important functions of HDR.
The brightness is around 350 nits in the middle, which is fine for most users and is similar to other common IPS options. At around 1200: 1, the contrast is slightly better than I expected, very good from an IPS monitor with decent black levels. We noticed a little IPS glow with our device, but nothing too strong and similar to most of the other IPS displays we've seen. Contrast and black levels aren't as good as VA alternatives, although the viewing angles are better: they're pretty good.
The uniformity is another area in which the VG27AQ is outstanding. No cloudiness or inconsistency, this is a very consistent display that is as good as the best IPS monitors we've tested.
The big question for the TUF Gaming VG27AQ is how well it is positioned among the 1440p IPS displays with high refresh rates. It's not the cheapest at $ 430, though that's still a pretty good deal considering that there are still plenty of options over $ 500 on the market.
The response time is good, but there are some problems. If you want to use this at 165 Hz without variable update, the panel can achieve fast response times that are very good in the range of 5 ms from an IPS. With adaptive synchronization, however, the optimal overdrive mode is not clear, as not a single option offers good performance across the entire update range. So if you choose a balanced mid-level overdrive option to avoid as much overshoot as possible, the performance doesn't differ much from other monitors like the ViewSonic VX2758 and the Pixio PX7 Prime. If we had to generalize, the performance among these three monitors would be very similar.
One area where the VG27AQ suffers is 60 Hz, where it is nowhere near as good as the two monitors just mentioned. For some reason, Asus couldn't optimize the 60 Hz experience nearly as well as ViewSonic, to name just one example.
Although this summary does not sound very promising, it has an ace up its sleeve in ELMB-Sync. This is a great new technology that, in my eyes, actually makes stroboscopic backlighting worthwhile because you can use it alongside adaptive syncing. The performance of this mode is only acceptable when the flash is crosstalked moderately, but you will not get this function with any other monitor.
The remaining functions and performance of this monitor are average to good. We like the design and high adjustability of the stand, the OSD is strong, the brightness is decent, the contrast is decent even for an IPS and the uniformity is excellent. The input delay is also fantastic, while the factory color performance requires calibration work to pin it down.
Would we recommend that you buy this monitor? It depends on.
If you want a high-updating, low-budget 1440p IPS gaming monitor – and it seems that a lot of people are doing this – a lot of people are better off with the ViewSonic VX2758-2KP-MHD. Performance is similar to the VG27AQ, but offers the benefit of a better 60 Hz experience and better factory calibration for around $ 80 less. It is also a wide range. The disadvantage of the ViewSonic monitor is its inferior design and no height adjustability.
If you want to use the backlight strobe to increase motion clarity. The VX2758-2KP-MHD also has this function, but cannot be used simultaneously with adaptive synchronization. The VG27AQ can. Outside of the backlight strobing modes, none of these monitors is as good as the LG 27GL850.
When asked whether to get the LG 27GL850 (read the review) or the Asus VG27AQ, the 27GL850 is generally a good deal better and offers much faster and more consistent performance across the entire update range. But it's a little more expensive at $ 500.
The Asus TUF Gaming VG27AQ is a good monitor with some really great features and some other mediocre things. We're excited to see where ELMB sync will go from here with future Asus monitors, especially high-end options if they can impact overall performance.