Asus ROG Swift PG32UQ 32″ Monitor Evaluation

Earlier this year, we tested the Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX, a $ 3,000 monitor with 32-inch 4K specs at 144 Hz and full HDR functionality. It's one of the best HDR gaming monitors you can buy today, but it still felt compromised in other ways, especially for a product that costs a few thousand dollars. But for those who don't want to spend the price of two LG OLED TVs on a single gaming monitor, Asus has an alternative monitor that we're looking at today.

The ROG PG32UQ – basically the non-X variant – is the same monitor type with 32 inch 4K 144Hz IPS, which is intended for high-end gaming with features like adaptive synchronization and variable overdrive. Instead of providing Full HDR via a 1152-zone mini LED backlight, Asus opted for a more cost-effective Edge Light HDR setup that gives us DisplayHDR 600 instead of 1400.

This, along with the removal of the G-Sync module in favor of a regular display scaler, has cut the price by a whopping $ 2,000.

The PG32UQ remains a high-end gaming monitor that will gross you $ 1,000. But this isn't an outrageous price when compared to other similar displays on the market and will certainly be more enticing to everyone but high rollers than the $ 3,000 PG32UQX.

But it's not just the price that potentially makes the PG32UQ a more attractive purchase. This display features HDMI 2.1 so you can connect it to both PCs and the latest game consoles and get a full 120Hz or 144Hz experience with no bandwidth restrictions.

This is an important feature of a modern 4K high refresh monitor, and annoyingly, the more expensive PG32UQX doesn't include HDMI 2.1, which limits its usability with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. No such problems with the cheaper PG32UQ, which is kind of a curiosity in Asus' Line up. You get two HDMI 2.1 ports and a DisplayPort 1.4 with DSC.

Design and form factor

The overall design is … well … we've seen this before. If you've seen any other current Asus ROG monitor, you'll know what to expect here. Trident, metal stand legs that look nice and feel good quality, the rest of the monitor is basically made of standard plastic in the usual ROG gamer style. Large RGB LED logo on the back.

I've already said that I'm not a huge fan of Asus designs and would personally prefer a cleaner aesthetic on the back, but from the front – the side that most people will actually see – it looks good.

If anything, this is a small improvement over previous monitors as Asus replaced the copper highlights on the stand with black, creating a more neutral color palette that works better with more setups. It's still a gamer-style monitor and it's clearly liked by many as Asus sells a ton of monitors.

The stand is adjustable in height, tilt and swivel, but it lacks swivel support so you cannot use it in portrait orientation. You need a VESA mount for this. The height adjustability is fine, could probably use a little more height, but at least there is some adjustability there. There is no doubt that the monitor is well made and the stand is stable.

The OSD can be controlled using the usual direction switch. The menu system is easy to navigate and Asus has a lot of features here, from color controls to toys like crosshair, timer, sniper mode and so on. Asus is one of the more feature-packed brands for gaming monitor functionality and the PG32UQ is no exception.

Display performance

Although Asus lists this monitor with a refresh rate of 144 Hz, the PG32UQ is actually a 155 Hz display thanks to an "overclocking function" included in the OSD. We suspect that Asus is segmenting the 155 Hz functionality into an OC mode, as not every display can do this in a stable manner and some setups and cables also struggle with the slightly higher bandwidth requirements of this refresh rate at 4K. Our test unit appeared to work fine at 155 Hz and we usually haven't had any issues with OC functions in the past, but just an indication that it may not work properly with all models.

With that in mind, let's test response time performance at 155Hz in all of the Asus that have six overdrive modes listed as variable overdrive. Level 0 is effectively disabled, and both Level 1 and Level 2 are pretty similar in that response times are slower than 10ms on average, but produce virtually no overshoot. You probably won't want to use any of these three modes for gaming.

Level 3 is one of two "most useful" modes in my opinion. Here we have an average response time of 10.3ms which isn't great and results in a low refresh rate, but there is basically no overshoot here so it might be worth using. And despite the somewhat slow response times, the cumulative deviation from an average of 659 is actually not that bad.

Then we get Level 4 overdrive, which improves performance to an average response time of 8.88 ms, and that comes at the expense of a slight increase in overshoot. With the cumulative deviation now dropping to 624, this is the best overdrive mode we've tested so far and the ideal mode for gaming at 155 Hz. Unfortunately, however, this mode is still not as fast and an update compliance is below 50% disappointing, suggesting the panel may not be fast enough for gaming at this refresh rate.

Then we come to Level 5 Overdrive, which is basically the mode Asus has for promoting quick response times. Yes, the average response improves to 4.48 ms, but the amount of overshoot and inverse ghosting is significant and very evident when gaming, which makes the mode unusable.

Given these results, I think Asus should probably have put in a mode between Level 4 and Level 5, as we're going straight from a slightly slow mode with no overshoot to a much faster mode with tons of overshoot. Something between these modes would have made for better balance and could have been optimal – maybe this display should have had a fully tunable overdrive slider?

For games across the update range, for example using the adaptive variable update rate sync feature listed as FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync compatible, all of the modes I tested included some form of variable overdrive. For example, if you use level 4, the response time when switching from 144 Hz to 120 Hz increases noticeably. We are now sitting with an average response of 6.84 ms and that is only possible at the expense of a certain overdrive. However, some of these slow fall times have yet to be resolved.

Then, if we move further down the refresh rate scale, we get pretty similar results until we hit 60 Hz, where level 4 mode gets much worse, which is kind of disappointing. It seems like the variable overdrive tuning is a bit overdone here at 60Hz and causes quite a bit of overshoot.

The other alternative option is to use level 3 overdrive. This mode is a bit slower on the high end but has less overshoot across the board and actually has the lowest cumulative deviation value at 100Hz and below, suggesting that it produces slightly better graphs. There's still a drop in performance at 60Hz, but this time it's much better to handle with less overshoot, so this is definitely the more optimal mode for 60Hz.

The obvious question here is whether the PG32UQ has a single overdrive mode, and to be honest, I'm on the fence here. The level 4 mode is slightly better at higher frame rates, but not massively better and ultimately still not as fast, but has problems at 60Hz. Meanwhile, level 3 mode is pretty constant, a little slower than level 4, but holds up well at lower frame rates. I would probably go for level 3 for adaptive sync gaming and it has some sort of single overdrive mode experience but not a great single overdrive mode experience … it's complicated. At least I think this display could be more tuned.

Compared to other displays, the Asus PG32UQ delivers disappointing responsiveness at its maximum refresh rate, I dare to say poor performance. It's no better than the PG32UQX, which I criticized in its review for being slow and with outdated IPS technology. The PG32UQ is simply unable to match the performance of today's best 4K displays, including the LG 27GN950 and Gigabyte M28U in the 27-inch class or the Gigabyte FI32U, which is a direct competitor of the PG32UQ in 32-inch is. The FI32U delivers more overshoot at the highest refresh rate, but it is significantly faster and better tuned than the PG32UQ.

The PG32UQ is also unimpressive on average over the update range, despite using variable overdrive. The amount of overshoot is small, which is good to see, but it's still easily beaten by products like the 27GN950 and FI32U, although the FI32U lacks a single overdrive mode and there is a high level of inverse ghosting at some refresh rates . Neither the FI32U nor the PG32UQ really delivers ideal response performance, which is frustrating as the experience with smaller 4K high-refresh panels is a noticeable step better.

There is some positive news in the cumulative variance as we can better see the balance between response times and overshoot – and the PG32UQ is more towards the slow response, no overshoot, at the end of the spectrum. What's good to see is that the PG32UQ is significantly better than the slow PG32UQX on this metric, in fact it's 19% better which is significant. The non-X model is just a bit faster to complete most of the transition, and with less overshoot, so it benefits from the cumulative deviation.

On the whole, however, the PG32UQ is still not that amazing, falling behind IPS panels that seem to use newer, faster technologies. Again, the 27GN950, VG28UQL1A, and M28U are examples of this on a 27-inch, so for some reason I've still seen this performance on a larger 32-inch size. The closest equivalent to the PG32UQ is the Gigabyte FI32U and here the FI32U is slightly better – on average 12% better – but here, too, none of these displays are quite on the level that I would like from a modern high-end IPS monitor.

The fastest speeds you'll see from the PG32UQ are around 120Hz, but it's still not overly competitive with other 4K displays, despite outperforming the PG32UQX. At 60Hz, it outperforms the PG32UQX by more, and even beats the FI32U, which suffers from a lack of variable overdrive but still doesn't impress when compared to other 4K 144Hz monitors I've tested.

The input latency is low, with a processing delay of less than 1 ms, which suggests that most of the delays stem from the moderate refresh rate and slower response times. The FI32U is a step further up here, then you are of course better off for the best input lag with a 1440p 240Hz monitor in this price range.

The power consumption is as expected. This display is 13% more efficient than the Gigabyte FI32U and a whopping 35% more efficient than the PG32UQX, suggesting that omitting the mini LED backlight and G-Sync module actually saves a bit of power and heat dissipation.

The PG32UQ supports backlight strobing through ELMB-Sync, which means that it can be used with or without activated adaptive synchronization. When used with adaptive sync this is one of the better implementations I've seen from Asus. The PG32UQ still has some strobe crosstalk as the panel itself is not fast enough to keep up with the strobe and you cannot adjust the strobe length or brightness in this mode, but you can adjust the clarity position. This is handy as there is a limited area in which you can get the best clarity. In the standard center position, there is much more crosstalk in the top and bottom of the monitor.

It's also good to see that the ELMB sync mode works well at a range of frame rates without really making a difference in clarity, if anything there is a little less crosstalk on lower updates. The supported range here is 85 to 155 Hz, which is quite reasonable, although it lacks 60 Hz.

You can also use ELMB without adaptive synchronization, the only difference being that the “Clarity Level” function is activated, which controls the strobe length (and thus also the brightness). Level 5 mode is the clearest with the least blurring and crosstalk, but also the darkest. There is no difference in clarity between ELMB and ELMB-Sync, with ELMB at level 5 giving essentially the same results as ELMB-Sync, which is easy to see.

The backlight strobing improvements made here compared to other Asus monitors mean that I would recommend buyers to at least experiment with this feature as it can reduce motion blur in some situations and overall I would rate it as average to good. It's not a feature I'd recommend to anyone else, but it's not bad on the PG32UQ and helps make up for some of the slower response times we just talked about.

Color performance

Color space: Asus PG32UQ – D65-P3

Next we have the color performance. The PG32UQ is a monitor with an exceptionally wide color space. Not only do we get 95% DCI-P3 coverage, but we also get 100% Adobe RGB color space coverage, making this 4K display an extremely versatile 4K display for content creators. The advantage here is that you can work on your pictures or videos with a large color gamut, log out of work later and enjoy games at 4K 144 Hz. That's the beauty of these types of panels, which in this case offer a whopping 84% coverage of the Rec 2020 color space, more than most other panels on the market and well above the Gigabyte FI32U.

Standard color performance

When a panel has such a large color gamut, it creates color performance challenges. The ready-to-use color calibration for grayscale is strong, with practically no hue of the white point and reasonably good, but not perfect, compliance with the sRGB gamma curve. By default, however, for normal sRGB or Rec. 709 content – most content today, including most YouTube videos – the PG32UQ is heavily oversaturated. This is immediately noticeable when using the display and causes the "sunburn" effect on skin tones where colors that should be pink to brown are all shifted into the red area.

You can see this game in calibration comparisons. The grayscale results are pretty good in the upper part of the graph, but the ColorChecker results are completely inaccurate because the wide color space is not clamped by default.

Fortunately for buyers, the PG32UQ has a functional sRGB mode which I would recommend for using this display outside of HDR content. It has some limitations, including white point control locked, but grayscale performance is fine and the gamut clamp is effective with a saturation DeltaE ITP average of 3.25 and a ColorChecker average of 3.58. It's not entirely accurate, but generally very good and far better than standard mode.

Calibrated color performance

From here we can perform a calibration using Portrait Display's Calman software and the end results are excellent in most color spaces. With full coverage of sRGB and Adobe RGB, there are few problems with these color gamuts, while P3 misses the top end of the color range so it's not perfect, but still very good. This is one of those displays that works exceptionally well with calibration and could be used for productivity.

No issues with display brightness as the PG32UQ reaches 440 nits, more than most monitors and sufficient for all types of indoor applications. The minimum brightness isn't great though, reaching at 82 nits, so it's not the best display for use in the dark.

I recorded quite a decent contrast ratio for an IPS panel with the PG32UQ, and this is without local dimming activated, which is the standard configuration. At 1067: 1, this monitor is at the upper end for IPS panels, similar to most modern AU Optronics models and better than the Gigabyte FI32U. However, the contrast is generally still poor, since IPS panels are absolutely destroyed in the black level by VA panels and OLEDs.

Viewing angles aren't an issue with this display as it uses high-end IPS technology, although my device suffered from moderately low IPS glow. The consistency was fine, could be better but not the worst result I've seen and most of the panel looks reasonable in this area.

HDR performance

To conclude the tests, we have the HDR performance. The PG32UQ is a semi-HDR panel because it meets two of the three main criteria for HDR and has limited local dimming functionality. The brightness exceeds 600 nits of what we want to see and the panel is able to achieve a very wide color gamut. The key area for HDR, however, is contrast, and 16 edge-lit dimming zones are not enough for true HDR, although under ideal conditions it will have some advantages over SDR.

The sustained brightness is solid at a touch of over 650 nits, which is in the mid-range for an HDR panel and is obviously about half that of the PG32UQX. Similar brightness with a window of 10%, so that the PG32UQ seems to cap at this brightness level. In fact, I did not notice any difference when measuring peak and continuous brightness, so that the PG32UQ cannot increase the brightness even for short flashes.

The contrast between two images is perfect so I will not show these results as the PG32UQ can completely turn off the backlight when a black frame is displayed. However, if anything can be seen on the screen at all, the backlighting is activated and ideally this limits the contrast ratio quite a bit. Instead of completely switching off the backlighting for areas that should be black by local dimming, the backlighting is only dimmed to the lowest "on" value, which means that the black values ​​are limited and the individual image contrast in the best case to 16,000: 1 is reduced which is well below the ideal minimum target for HDR content.

For the worst-case HDR contrast in the checkerboard test, you then get a native panel performance, since the edge-lit dimming cannot dim small areas and therefore only activates the background lighting at any time. This performance is clearly not suitable for HDR and about a quarter of what you get from the PG32UQX. This means that in a large chunk of HDR content with complex areas that need to be dimmed or brightened, the PG32UQ is nowhere near delivering an HDR experience

For HDR accuracy, grayscale tracking is mediocre at lower luminance levels: anything below 30 nits is too bright when displayed on the PG32UQ, and black levels (below 2 nits) are also raised, which seems to be an effect on it that the backlight is not able to dim enough. In principle, the lower 5% of the HDR tone curve cannot be displayed on the PG32UQ at all in most situations, since the minimum brightness of the background lighting is too high, which leads to these increased black tones. However, above 30 nits, the luminance tracking is good and the roll-off around 650 nits is very good.

The saturation accuracy for BT.2020 is not great, although much of that color space is covered. P3 and Rec. 709 Inside HDR are also a bit oversaturated, especially for greens, but not horrendous. I would have liked a little better accuracy here as it cannot be calibrated, but given the rest of the HDR performance of the panel, this is fine.

What we learned

The Asus ROG Swift PG32UQ is the third 32-inch 4K high-refresh gaming monitor we tested and the second to hit the $ 1,000 price tag after the Gigabyte Aorus FI32U. We found the Gigabyte a bit disappointing for the price, it didn't quite have the range of functions that we expect in this price range, and we are similar with the PG32UQ.

In many ways, the Asus delivers and is a good gaming monitor, but in terms of the high-end experience we want, it's not quite there.

With the ROG Swift PG32UQ, response time is what counts. For a monitor released in 2021, the PG32UQ has previous generation IPS response times, nowhere near the best offering of this type of panel today. This causes a bit of ghosting, and while it has variable overdrive – an annoying omission on the Gigabyte FI32U – it just isn't that fast.

From our tests, we can see that the best 27-inch 4K panels have better motion performance than any 32-inch variant released so far. Our hope was that the PG32UQ would address this and give us top of the line IPS speed at this size, but that's not the case. And while it's not a super blurry display or anything like that, there are enough differences to say it is noticeably slower than the FI32U it competes with.

And that's a shame because in most other areas the performance is strong. This is a very large color gamut panel that offers great versatility for both gaming and content creation, especially handy at 4K and this size, but still has a decent sRGB mode for everyday use.

The contrast is pretty good for an IPS panel, as is the brightness, and the backlight strobing mode through ELMB-Sync is improved on what Asus has offered in the past and will be useful for some buyers. It also features HDMI 2.1, an embarrassing omission on the more expensive flagship ROG PG32UQX.

Would we recommend the PG32UQ? In all fairness, it doesn't have all of the feature set we'd want in a high-end $ 1,000 gaming monitor, but we also haven't tested monitors with these specs, which are significantly better. Maybe one exists, but from the ones we tested we would actually say that the PG32UQ sits in number 1.

Yes, it's slower than the Gigabyte FI32U, but it's better for most other things. It has much better color space coverage, which makes it much better suited for content creation, it has better semi-HDR functionality, better native contrast, and superior backlight strobing. It also comes closer to a single overdrive mode experience, though it falls short in response times in general. Of the two, we'd choose the PG32UQ, but only at a discount, and hopefully with more testing and newer versions, we'll find a 32-inch 4K monitor that's better.

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