Review: ASUS ProArt PA32UCG display (4K HDR Mini LED at 120Hz)

A big thanks to Asus Singapore for providing the loan unit for this review.

ASUS PA32UCG-K is a 32-inch UHD 10-bit IPS display with Mini LED backlight and support for 1,600 nits HDR. This is an upgrade from the previous model ASUS PA32UCX. By the way, much text and some photos in this review are from my review fo the previous model.

This new model has HDR brightness increased from 1,200 to 1,600 nits, and it has variable refresh rate from 48-120Hz and FreeSync Premium Pro.

This monitor is designed for professional game developers and video editors. It's really targeted at game developers because if you don't need the 120Hz, you can get other colour accurate monitors at lower prices.

If you're a graphic designer or digital artist working for print or web, this monitor is not for you unless you're thinking about 120Hz PC gaming in HDR and have the huge budget for it. And you'll need a capable desktop with good graphics card to drive 4K at 120Hz.

Unfortunately for me, I won't be able to review the gaming aspect of this monitor because my computer isn't that powerful. So my review is from the perspective of a graphic designer, digital artist, photo and video editor.

The official retail price for this monitor SGD $5,399 (~US$4,000). Here in Singapore, this monitor is not sold off the shelf and you have to order it through ASUS distributor is Avertek Enterprises Pte Ltd (Tel: (65) 6341 7839). You can email Avertek or ASUS. There will be a waiting time.

This monitor can be purchased alone or as a bundle. The monitor alone goes by model number PA32UCG. The bundle PA32UCG-K comes with the X-Rite i1 Display Pro (US$259). At the time of this review, there's no 27-inch version of this monitor.

You can see the full list of features, specifications of this monitor at
https://www.asus.com/Displays-Desktops/Monitors/ProArt/ProArt-Display-PA...

Things included


These are the things included:

  • Thunderboltâ„¢ 3 Cable
  • Power cord
  • DisplayPort cable (2m)
  • HDMI cable (2m)
  • Thunderbolt 3 cable (1.5m)
  • USB-C to A cable (1m)
  • Quick start guide
  • Warranty Card
  • Color pre-calibration report
  • Monitor hood

All the cables are sufficiently long which is great.

Build quality and design


This is a huge 32-inch display that supports 3840 x 2160 resolution. The display alone weighs 9.7kg and with the stand it's a total of 14.64kg. It's a very heavy display. And it's a massive monitor so make sure you have the table space.

The design looks simple, functional. Bezels are thin and uniform on the top and sides, but there's a thicker chin at the bottom. The pixels look like they are directly on the display's surface which is nice.

4K UHD resolution on a 32-inch monitor makes everything look sharp. There's plenty of desktop space or resolution to work with.

If the UI elements are too small at 100% scaling, you can scale the UI from your OS settings.


3840 x 2160 file at 100% zoom in Photoshop

The combination of 4K resolution and 32-inch is not good for MacOS because when you scale the UI, certain graphic design apps will not be able to show your true 4K resolution in actual 4K. E.g. With a 4K file opened in Photoshop at 100% zoom, that file will not fill the whole display. This applies to Affinity Photo as well.

There are no UI scaling issues with Windows.


The display has a matte surface with some anti-glare feature. When reflecting a strong light source, the lights will diffuse into a white haze. If you're looking at the display from the front, it looks fine unless you have light source behind you. The shading hood will minimise light from the top and sides.


It's 6cm thick on the side which is way thicker than other monitors. That's probably because of the fans that are built into the display. The fans may turn depending on how hot the display is. Fan noise is inaudible.


The huge stand has a hole for cable management.


There's adjustability for height, tilt and swivel. Monitor can also be used in portrait mode.


The base is even bigger compared to my wireless keyboard without the numpad.


Design of the back is clean and simple. There's horizontal brushed texture across the whole back.

Photo shown above is actually the previous model PA32UCX with the gold logo. Logo on the new model is black.


The ports included are

  • 2x Thunderbolt 3 USB-C x2 (IN & OUT, 60W power delivery)
  • 2x HDMI 2.0
  • 1x HDMI 2.1
  • 1x DisplayPort 1.4 DSC
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • 3x USB 3.1 Type-A

There's also a power switch just above the 3.5mm audio jack on the left.

To get 120Hz, you'll need to use either HDMI 2.1, DisplayPort or Thunderbolt 3 ports.

AMD FreeSync Premium Pro can only be activated within 48Hz ~ 120Hz or 48Hz ~ 144Hz when Render Mode is on.

One of the TB3 ports has 60W power delivery which may not be enough to charge certain laptops that require more power. All other USB ports on this monitor provide 15W.


The VESA mount dimensions is 10 by 10cm.


These are the OSD buttons.


It's quite easy to navigate the OSD menus with the four-way directional toggle.


A shading hood is provided but unfortunately the quality is not befitting of a monitor at this price range. The shading hood is not solid and feels flimsy.


Interior of the shading hood is dark gray rather than black. The material is also not the type that absorbs light. I mean it doesn't reflect light but it doesn't absorb it either compared to the BenQ shading hood that uses black velvet on the insides. In the photo above, you can see my mousepad is even darker compared to the shading hood.


These are the pins included to attach the shading hood to the monitor.


You're supposed to have the shading hood go between the pins


Then push the pins into those small holes on the sides of the monitor.

Unfortunately, the pins don't really attach the shading hood tightly to the sides. The pins can hold the shading hood in place, but if you hit the shading hood, it will move, and if you hit it hard enough accidentally, the pin may come out with part of the shading hood.


Before shading hood is installed.


After shading hood is installed.

Colour calibration


An X-Rite i1 Display Pro colour calibrator is included with my review unit. If you already have a colour calibration, then get the monitor alone. Personally I prefer to use my Spyder5Pro.

Both the i1 Display Pro and Spyder5Pro colour calibrators are supported by the ASUS Colour Calibration software that you can download online.


You can choose the brightness, gamma, colour temperature, black levels and colour space before you calibrate.


There's also a 3x3 or 5x5 grid calibration to get uniform brightness.


With the Spyder5Pro, I measured colour support for 100% AdobeRGB, 100% sRGB, 92% NTSC, 95% P3 and a maximum brightness 1,495 nits. Impressive.

Colour accuracy is excellent.

This monitor is designed for use with P3 since it's for game developers and video editors. ASUS claims the display can reach 98% DCI-P3. It's possible but you'll have to spend the time to calibrate the display properly. 95% P3 is pretty good.

OSD menus


These are the different colour spaces to work with.


These are the different HDR colour spaces available:

  • HDR_PQ DCI: Presents ST2084 with DCI-P3 color gamut and D65 white point
  • HDR_PQ Rec2020: Presents ST2084 with Rec.2020 color gamut and D65 white point
  • HDR_HLG BT2100: Compliant with BT2100 (not shown on OSD menu)
  • HDR_HLG DCI: Compliant with DCI-P3
  • HDR_DolbyVision: Compliant with DolbyVision Bright & Dark mode settings

The screenshot above was from the PA32UCX. The new addition to the OSD menu on the PA32UCG is HDR_HLG DCI.

You can read more about all these colour spaces from the PA32UCG PDF manual.

There's one OSD button dedicated to choosing the HDR colour spaces. It's convenient. But to revert to original colour space, you have to go back to the main menu which involves more button presses.


Certain settings will be locked in the specific colour spaces.


Blue light filter.


Various colour attributes.


Sharpness


The built-in speakers sound alright, but you're better off using the 3.5mm port for your own speakers.


Picture in Picture and multi-source video input are only available when there are more video sources detected.


Input sources

Workflow


This monitor is a serious overkill for editing photos and videos. A 120Hz display is not necessary to edit photos and videos.

I use Final Cut Pro for video editing. With Final Cut Pro, you'll need to create a library and set it to Wide Gamut HDR. The display will show SDR throughout the process, e.g. the viewer to convert the HDR clips to SDR. It's only at the export can you choose to export the video in HDR. And to view the HDR videos, you'll have to switch to the HDR colour spaces.


Editing any visual content on this display is a treat. The colour accuracy, brightness, sharpness and contrast are so good.

Backlight bleed


With dynamic dimming, the display is mostly black except for the cursor and its glow caused by the dimming zones.


Without dynamic dimming, there's noticeable IPS glow. There some backlight wave pattern at the edges but those are only noticeable when I viewed the photos. I could spot the backlight bleed with my eyes.

1,152 dimming zones


The dimming zones will cause some glow around high contrast areas, especially with lit pixels beside large areas of black. E.g. if Photoshop background is set to black.

The glow is noticeable even during daytime but it's minimal. The glow is easier to see at night.


This is a long exposure photo to show the glow.


The glow due to the dimming zones have improved a lot compared to the previous model PA32UCX (above) which I was really bothered with.


Here's another situation where you can see the dimming zones and their behaviour. The white spot on the right is small and the dimming zones there are not on, hence the white is off white with a slight grey. The huge patch of white on the left has lit the dimming zones beneath so that patch looks more white compared to the small white dot beside.


Movie watching experience is excellent during daytime and at night. With dynamic dimming, the black bars have some glow but the blacks will still look black since our brains will tune out that slight glow automatically. If you have dynamic dimming turned off, then the black bar will have glow, but again it's something easy to get used to, I mean people have been watching movies on non-Mini LED non-dimming monitors for years.

Issues


This review unit has a dark patch at the top left corner. You can click for a larger view. It's certainly not nice to have such issues on such an expensive monitor.

Another thing I noticed when there was flickering at an area when I had the monitor in HDR mode for a few minutes. I wasn't able to reproduce the problem though. Hopefully, it's not a problem that will come back in the future.

One last thing. Upon first boot up, the monitor takes a long time before it recognises the video input source. With my other monitors, upon booting, the OS logo will show promptly.

Conclusion

ASUS PA32UCG has excellent colour accuracy and good support for various HDR standards. The image quality you can get from this display is outstanding. The display can be exceedingly bright if you need that level of brightness. I measured 1,497 nits brightness and that's really impressive.

This is a rather niche product designed for professional game developers who need high frame rates and HDR, or for video editors who need HDR who do the occasional gaming.

The selection of ports is good but there's certainly room for improvement. It may be good to have an extra Thunderbolt 3 port, or have 90W power delivery on one of the TB3 ports.

There are some downsides.

First, the dimming zones affect image quality. Compared to the PA32UCX, blooming is better controlled and not as obvious. However for areas with huge difference of brightness, contrast can be affected. Thankfully, dimming zones can be turned off.

Second downside is the viewing angles. IPS panels typically have good viewing angles, but because this monitor is so large, if you're seat close and look to the side, there is noticeable colour shift because you're looking at extreme angles. Workaround is to sit further away so that you're looking at the display flat on.

Third downside is the quality of the shading hoods could be better.

None of the downsides are deal breakers though.

To conclude, this is monitor that performs for designers or creators who need 4K HDR at 120Hz.

Pros and cons at a glance
+ Excellent build quality
+ 1,000 nits typical brightness
+ Measured 1,497 nits max brightness
+ Measured 100% sRGB, 100% AdobeRGB, 98% NTSC & 95% P3 colour supported
+ True 10-bit
+ 1,152 zones local dimming
+ No backlight bleed
+ Variable refresh rate from 48 to 120Hz
+ Lots of display controls via OSD
+ HDMI 2.1 available
+ 3x USB 3.1 Type A
+ 2x Thunderbolt 3, cable included, 60W, daisy chain
+ Calibration software included supports various calibrators
+ Full physical adjustability
+ Effective matte anti-glare
+ Good size and resolution
+ Fans included. Silent with normal use
+ 3 years warranty
+ Dimming zone blooming much better controlled than previous model
+ Shading hood included
- Dimming zone blooming noticeable at areas with huge difference in brightness
- Flimsy shading hood
- Easy to press the wrong button when reaching for the power button
- Viewing angles affected when seated too close
- Slow to identify video input source from computer's first boot up

Where to buy

If you're in Singapore, you can order the display from
Avertek Enterprises Pte Ltd
25 Kallang Avenue #03-03
Singapore 339416
Tel: (65) 6341 7839
Fax: (65) 63417739

You can also email Avertek or ASUS Singapore

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