Review: ASUS PA32UCX-K – True Colors Brought to Life
Many newbies in the creative world think that “color accurate monitors” are for videophile snobs. What’s the big deal if colors are just a little off? It doesn’t really matter, does it? People can’t really tell the difference enough… right?
Wrong. So very wrong.
Why Color Accuracy Matters
Whether you are a designer who works in Photoshop day in and day out or a visual effects artist who creates otherworldly scenes for sci-fi movies, true professional artisans understand the value of accurate color. Imagine if Van Gogh’s The Starry Night was displayed behind a slightly dull red-tinted glass cover. If Van Gogh saw his work displayed with his carefully selected colors sacrilegiously altered, it’d drive him mad enough to cut off his other ear.
All you pros can relate. Many of you may know this scenario well: You feverishly work on a project – a logo, a commercial, a scene in a movie, or even your next viral YouTube video. It looks PERFECT on your monitor. The colors pop out in full glory. You’re convinced it’s another job well done and something to add to your portfolio. Without hesitation, you send it out for review or publication.
If Van Gogh saw his work displayed with his carefully selected colors sacrilegiously altered, it’d drive him mad enough to cut off his other ear.
Unfortunately, this is where the ah-ha moment is for many a pro. When seen in its final (and often public) form, you’re mortified and think, “Wait. This looks nothing like what I created! My colors were perfect! This looks terrible!”
Thus, the importance of a color-accurate monitor. Your work needs to look good on all sorts of displays – cell phones, TVs, monitors, tablets, etc. If you’re using a monitor that is not spot on with the colors, you’re likely to discover this the hard way.
Introducing the ASUS ProArt PA32UCX-K
You’re going to absolutely love the ASUS PA32UCX-K. ASUS had discerning content creators (videographers, cinematographers, colorists, game developers, and more) in mind when they designed this to be the finest display for their workflow.
It is the world’s first 32-inch 4K HDR monitor with a peak brightness of 1,200 nits and mini-LED backlighting. What this means is that the LEDs used for this display are much smaller than the current conventional ones. The result is a more densely packed set of tiny LEDs that result in very granular brightness control. In fact, it offers individual backlight control of a whopping 1,152 zones (in a 48×24 grid) with higher luminance and deeper darkness to deliver the best contrast and accurate reproduction of HDR contents. The whites are brighter, the blacks are deeper, blooming is mitigated, and the details are sharper than ever. If you take your work seriously, this display is right up your alley.
Let’s look first at the aesthetics and ergonomics of this display and then we’ll get to the technical stuff.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you unbox the ASUS ProArt monitor is that it comes with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro, an external probe for color calibration, along with a calibration certificate (that’s right – these come factory pre-calibrated).
Also boxed with the monitor is a rubber monitor hood. While the hood does the job, it’s a little cumbersome to attach to the monitor and it doesn’t have a cut-out for the calibration probe, which means the hood has to be removed first in order to attach the probe. It’s a minor issue for an otherwise brilliant piece of equipment.
The 32” monitor itself has a sleek premium look with its black, brushed metal finish with gold touches. It’s mostly bezel-less, giving it a classy frameless appearance. The chassis itself is rather thick in order to provide adequate cooling for the over 720,000 mini-LEDs. (Upon playing HDR for an extended amount of time, there is an internal fan that will kick in, generating some noise.)
The OSD (On-Screen Display) controls are on the backside of the monitor and consist of seven buttons: Menu (5-way), Close, Input Select, QuickFit, Custom Shortcut 1, Custom Shortcut 2, Power. There is also a slight bulge that serves as a joystick, just in case you don’t like using the buttons. At the bottom, behind a cover, you’ll find an earphone jack and all the I/O ports, including three HDMI 2.0, one DisplayPort 1.2, two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, and three powered USB 3.0. This monitor makes connecting to just about any modern device a cinch. The display also sports a pair of 3W speakers.
The metal stand has a nice elegant look to it with a wide sturdy base and has some nice ergonomic features, allowing you to adjust the monitor’s height (0~120 mm), tilt (-5°~+23°), pivot (-90°~+90°) – enabling you to view in portrait mode, and swivel (-60°~+60°). It also has a slot through which you can route some of your cables for a cleaner appearance.
Overall, first impression is, well, impressive. It looks great and has some nice configurability to it for long nights of work.
Let’s Dive a Little Deeper Now
This monitor is the world’s first 32-inch 4K HDR monitor and conforms to VESA’s DisplayHDR 1000 certification. It has the previously mentioned peak brightness of 1,200 nits, true 10-bit color, Quantum Dot technology, three different HDR modes (Dolby Vision, HDR-10, and HLG) and multiple PQ curves (including PQ Hard Clip, PQ Optimized, and PQ Basic), support for DCI-P3 (99%), Rec. 2020, and Adobe RGB color spaces, a 1,000,000:1 native contrast ratio, and industry-leading color fidelity (Delta E < 1). No matter how picky you are, your eyes are not going to be able to notice these slightest color variations.
As mentioned above, this display has a true 10-bit panel, capable of up to 1.07 billion colors – 64 times more than an 8-bit panel (16.7 million colors). This is far superior to other displays that claim a 10-bit panel but are actually an 8-bit panel using FRC (Frame Rate Control). Dithering to simulate 10-bit colors is, in other words, faking it. If you’re still reading this review, you’re likely a professional in the industry and agree… you want true 10-bit.
The monitor allows you to store your calibration settings for use on other devices. ASUS also gives you both PiP (Picture-in-Picture) and PbP (Picture-by-Picture) functionalities, allowing you to view (and hear) content from multiple sources simultaneously.
Another nice feature is HDR Preview mode. This isn’t just some kind of weird SDR-to-HDR conversion. This mode is designed for situations such as when your HDR content is not transmitting the metadata from the source. It actually simulates the handshake you need in order to display this content in the same HDR settings as the source.
This monitor has an absolutely amazing picture. The colors are brilliant and, more importantly, accurate. Create with confidence, knowing that this valuable tool will keep your work in check. You’ll find the Picture-by-Picture functionality especially useful as well as the fact that you can save all your calibration settings for switching between devices.
As for gamers and regular consumers, this display will knock your socks off, though to be honest, it’s a little overkill (but great if you can afford it!). Even a non-videophile will have to appreciate the lighting, the contrast, and the incredible color range this can display.
At a retail price of around $4,000, it’s not a minor purchase. (Still, it’s significantly more affordable than Apple’s comparable Pro Display XDR.) However, for the video professional, it is a must-have.
You can purchase this monitor on Amazon… but move quickly; this monitor seems to sell out as soon as it hits the shelves… and for good reason.