There are many components within a system setup that are mandatory for the system to be usable or even perform for that matter,and these days there is so much focus from vendors to consumers alike about getting the best for the money and at the same time to avoid compromising on performance or quality. Take power supplies, they are a prime example of the obsession of most users and rightly so – I would not dream of putting a power supply in to a system where I thought the quality was not up to standard. After all, if that fails, then it can be ‘bye bye’ to your system and an expensive repair bill.
What does the quality of a power supply have to do with a monitor I hear you ask? Well it is a notable fact that for a large percentage of users, so much focus is put in to the system and the graphics output, a consequent side step is made around deciding what screen is going to be used to display the graphics. Take a moment to think about it, you’ve spend the best part of £1500-2000 on your top end system, but then skimp out on a £100-150 panel, because it ‘does the job’ of displaying your top end system’s output. Doesn’t make a lot of sense really – does it?
Since LCDs have been around, the introduction of LED backlit panels vastly improved the quality of the image that we saw on the screen with better depth of colour and brightness to go with it. More recently, the IPS (In-plane Switching) panel has made the LCD screen even more clear and crisp with superior colour output as well as wider viewing angles and more importantly for gamers, a faster response time.
With nearly all users these days using LCD screens, getting the true colours out of the panel is nigh on impossible and whilst there are expensive calibration kits available that will assist in doing so, for a large number of the panels on the market, this is going to be a battle against the odds to get things just how they should be. But why should we be looking for perfection? If you’re a graphic designer or someone who does a lot of photo or video editing, the answer is a no-brainer really, it makes a hell of a difference when getting the work right – first time.
Bringing that bag of challenges to the design table, the R&D team at Asus have been busy working away to get a panel to market that will tick all the boxes for graphics designers and gamers alike with a pre-calibrated panel that will give near perfect colour outputs whilst offering up a 1920×1200 resolution that will give some extra pixel real-estate to play around with over a 1080p panel. Bring forward the PA249Q a 24″ IPS panel that offers all this plus more, but the real question is, is Asus’ pre-calibration really that noticeable to the eye?
The PA249Q comes in a relatively colourful box, showing off the screen in both its portrait and landscape orientations. On the lower half of the box there are a number of logos, some which have a significant feature within this panel such as the Adobe RGB colour profiling, a supreme level of colour accuracy and a factory colour calibration.
Before we move on to the panel itself, there are a number of accessories to sort through, including VGA, DVI and DisplayPort cables, a USB3.0 lead, an EU power cable (although regional SKUs will have the required cables included), quick installation guide, Asus VIP notice and a CD with the manual on. Additional to these, there is a pack with Velcro cable ties in which is a welcome addition to keeping everything tidy behind the scenes and most importantly a dedicated report for the calibration of this particular panel.
Accessories all set aside and lifting the panel out of the box, stage one setup is as simple as rotating the screen through 90 degrees from portrait to landscape orientation and that’s it – no stands to fit or bases to screw on – the panel is already fully built. Monitors in general are not something that we generally need to marvel for their own aesthetic designs as after all the focus is on what it displays, but with professional users in mind, the ProArt screen has something about it that speaks high quality.
Turning the screen around to have a look at the back, there is plenty of ventilation around the top and sides of the screen to keep the panel cool.
Moving around to the connectivity options, the first point of call is power. Through the built in PSU, the PAQ249Q has a typical power consumption of around 72W during use, and under 1W at idle, naturally the switch next to the power jack reduces consumption to 0W when completely turned off.
On the other side of the panel is a wide array of display inputs, from the left, the PA249Q is host to a DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI and VGA. Next to these is also an analogue audio input and USB3.0.
Moving back around to the front of the panel, there are a few little highlights such as the ProArt branding to the top left that set this screen apart. This marking is also a good reminder that the IPS panel offers an increased resolution from 1920×1080 to 1920 x1200. Those extra 120px in height when using the likes of Photoshop will make a whole lot of difference for power users.
One of the most pleasing design features that the PA249Q offers is a printed ruler along the bottom edge of the bezel that surrounds the IPS panel. Along with the on screen grid that can be displayed, this is ideal for Photoshop and CAD users alike. Below the Asus branding is also a red pinstripe that again gives a certain edge to the thought in the design of the screen.
Towards to the bottom on the right hand edge of the screen is a number of buttons, working up from the bottom we find a power button with a status LED below, source input, Splendid preset, two short cut buttons that can be configured using the OSD, menu and a five way jog dial for navigating through the OSD and also for changing the QuickGrid display.
Many screens offer up USB ports, typically with a pair of USB2.0 on the back or on the side, but the PA249Q has a lot more to give with no less than four SuperSpeed USB3.0 ports on the left hand edge of the screen for easy access and fast data transfers.
As mentioned before, the base of the monitor comes fixed to the stand allowing users to get up and running quickly with less hassle.
As found on other areas of the monitor, there is also similar guidelines found around the base of the stand for precise rotation of the screen.
On the right hand edge of the upright support, Asus have printed all the height and rotational boundaries that the screen can be moved around in. This is just one of the many designer based features that has been put into the screen.
The OSD and menus that the PA249Q uses, are similar to that of other Asus screens that I’ve seen before, with various sub-menus for more specific settings for the IPS panel.
Asus have a way of setting their products apart from the competition and the QuickFit display is no exception. Using the jog dial button on the side of the screen, various overlays can be displayed on top of the image displayed from a connected source. On each overlay, the reference text disappears after a couple of seconds, leaving the white grid or outline displayed until turned off.
When it comes to testing a screen, there are a number of individual factors that every person looks for, I personally look for a crisp bright image, with a real depth of colour (in other words, vibrant reds greens & blues and deep blacks) that doesn’t look washed out when used in a bright environment. At the same time I look for a screen that works not only in a working environment (the environment that my screens spend most of their time) but also for watching movies and gaming.
The first thing that will become apparent, especially when looking at this panel alongside another LCD is the pure quality of the IPS screen in relation to a standard LED backlit LCD. The colour reproduction especially is significantly better and it easily puts other panels to shame. By watching through Toy Story 3 – a film that I have found is great for testing colour processing, the amount of detail that the PA249Q is able to give is noting less than outstanding.
When it comes to using the screen in an environment more close to its design purpose, in this case Photoshop, I was a little sceptical that the extra 120px in height was going to make that much of a difference, but yet again it showed its worth. When working with full HD images, the extra height allows for menus to still be displayed whilst not interfering on the work space. Whilst working within Photoshop, the QuickGrid display overlay in addition to the Adobe RGB Splendid colour preset helped when editing photos for printing, getting them to the exact size needed without any need for the image to be made to fit the print size.
When it came round to gaming, we all know that the bigger resolutions allow for more to be displayed (obviously) and the extra 120px in height again gave just that little bit more, especially when playing FPS games where you have to look up and down more to see what’s around you. I also noted that the pre-calibrated IPS panel gave a feel of so much more depth to the image with sharper colours and more definition to the scenery, even when playing ‘darker’ games such as Metro 2033.
There are a number of monitors out there on the market that have made me think, “wow that looks amazing”, but now that I’ve seen the supreme quality that the PA249Q from Asus can give, I am left standing beside myself in amazement. The major thing that stands out about this screen is not just the level of design thought that has been put in to it, but more the quality that it gives. I was a little weary that I was not going to see much of a difference in colour quality between this panel and the 24″ VS247 panels that I use on my desktop.
It has to be said though that there is a clear difference to be seen and like all things with monitors, this is not something that I would have been able to capture in a photo as it would never appear to look as good as it does – take the OSD images that I took with our SLR, on screen they are pin sharp with a good level of clarity, yet in a picture they don’t do the screen any justice.
Professional quality screens as we have seen through this review are built based on a differing set of criteria to say a pure gaming panel with colour and accuracy at a much higher premium here for those who are in that field of work. For professional photographers who want to get the best out of their images in post processing, or video editors who want to get the best colour and detail again that they can, having a panel that is pre-calibrated from the factory saves a lot and time and money as opposed to attempting to calibrate a panel that may in some case not deliver what they need.
There are a number of little features within the ProArt range that for me sets them miles ahead of the competition, DisplayPort compatibility is a big one as there are still a large number of displays that don’t support this interface, the QuickGrid display is another feature that works to assist the professional user and then most importantly the tight tolerances in colour variance that Asus manage via the calibration process and the Adobe RGB compatibility – ideal for Photoshop, Lightroom and After Effects users.
For gamers a panel like this is not going to be exactly what they need, but again the colour and clarity that, to be honest, has to be seen in the flesh to be believed is amazing and it really will make purchasing a top end graphics card even more worth it with the high level of detail that they can output.
Other things to consider with this panel are its other physical features such as the pre-constructed stand, creating a no-hassle setup, a wide range of display inputs, four USB3.0 ports on the side, a smooth rotation and tilt as well as a firm yet easy to adjust height. Everything about this monitor has been thought through so well that I think its going to be quite a while before I find something that in my eyes gives it a run for its money and considering I’m in the running for a new monitor for my home setup, Asus may have made my search quick and to the point as nothing I have seen to date can step in front of the PA249Q in the 24″ size range, short of stepping up to 27″ and a 2560 resolution. Should Asus create a 2560×1600 version of this monitor then with out a doubt I would have one (or two) but at this moment in time, for around £450, I know its a bit more to pay for a screen, but believe me, it is worth every single penny.
Sadly we don’t do a product of the year award, but if we did it would get it hands down, in the meantime though I’ll happily give this our Editor’s Choice award – its a panel that gives colour and detail so immense that you truly have to see to believe.