Reviews

Asus ROG Swift PG42UQ OLED

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Originally published 23 Aug 2022, last updated 31 Aug 2022 (new firmware)

Introduction

It is starting to feel like OLED technology is finally making an impact on the monitor market and that’s exciting news. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen people venture in to the TV space in order to find some kind of display that is suitable for desktop use that is based on this technology – keen to take advantage of the near instant response times, the per pixel dimming, true blacks and basically infinite contrast ratio. This approach gathered pace mainly around 2020 with LG’s CX TV range introducing a 48″ OLED screen size that was just about usable for some people as a desktop display. In 2021 LG updated this 48″ model with their C1 range and the popularity of these OLED screens grew. Other manufacturers released equivalent 48″ models and you will find plenty of these available nowadays. Still, the main issue for most people was the screen size, and in our opinion as well, this was just too large to use as a desktop monitor.

This year we’ve seen the first wave of what we’d call “mainstream” OLED monitors announced or released thanks to the development of Samsung’s rival QD-OLED (Quantum Dot OLED) technology. Dell were first with their Alienware AW3423DW monitor which is a 34″ ultrawide and certainly more like a traditional monitor than the 48″+ OLED TV options used up until that point from ranges like LG’s CX and C1 collection. There’s been other 34″ ultrawide monitor models using QD-OLED announced but not yet released as well from Samsung themselves (G8QNB) and MSI (MEG 342C) so far.

Also in 2022 LG extended their popular OLED TV range and introduced a 42″ sized model (accurately 41.5″) within their C2 line-up which further bridges the TV to monitor size gap and offers a more practical (but still very large) screen size to consider. We reviewed the LG 42C2 in detail and have continued to use it over the last few months for various things and have found the 42″ size far more practical and comfortable for desktop use than older 48″+ models. It’s still large, don’t get me wrong, but it’s better.

One thing that doesn’t suit everyone though with these TV options is that they lack most monitor features and that can be annoying, or sometimes make it hard to use. Asus are now offering an interesting new option – they’ve taken the same 42″ OLED panel but put it inside a screen that is specifically aimed at desktop monitor use with their new ROG Swift PG42UQ display. They’ve added familiar monitor features like DisplayPort connectivity, an overclocking feature, a tilt stand adjustment, PC standby mode, and yes (controversially to some people it seems) a matte anti-glare coating. The ROG Swift PG42UQ is part of their popular gaming line-up and brings you the panel capabilities of OLED inside a screen that is specifically designed to be a monitor, not a TV. We will talk about all the things that have been added, as well as all the things that have been removed relative to models like the LG C2 in this review, so let’s see how it performs!

If you’ve not seen it yet, you can also check out our hands on impressions and reader Q&A from the Asus Apex launch event here on our YouTube channel.

Where to Buy
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Key Specs and Features

  • 42″ OLED panel (accurately 41.5″ but known commonly as 42″)
  • 3840 x 2160 UltraHD “4K” resolution
  • 120Hz native refresh rate with 138Hz overclock
  • 0.1ms G2G response time
  • Adaptive sync VRR – including NVIDIA ‘G-sync Compatible’ certification
  • 1x DisplayPort 1.4 with DSC
  • 2x HDMI 2.1 connections with full 48Gbps bandwidth, 4K 120Hz for consoles, HDMI-VRR and ALLM
  • Pixel level dimming for exceptional HDR performance
  • True blacks and basically infinite contrast ratio
  • 900 nits peak brightness
  • Micro-texture anti-glare screen coating
  • 2x 10W Harmon Kardon speakers with 15W sub-woofer (plus SPDIF and headphone connections)
  • Limited stand but with tilt adjustment offered

Other specs and details can be found on the Asus product page

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Design and Ergonomics

The PG42UQ is obviously a very large screen, far bigger than the majority of desktop monitors at 42″. This is probably going to be your first consideration when looking at this screen – have you got the space for it on your desk and is it too big for your common uses? We will talk about the size and its pros and cons throughout the different sections of this review. I’ve gotten used to a screen this size in the last few months while using the LG C2 and find it ok for my setup and viewing position (about 60cm distance) personally.

The display has a very thin edges around all sides, with a black border measuring ~6mm along the sides and top, and ~11mm along the bottom. There is a protruding section or “chin” along the bottom edge housing the sensor for the remote and the joystick control for the OSD menu. This also has a ROG logo on it which can also be disabled via the OSD menu if you want or glows red during operation, and amber in standby. Next to the joystick are two physical buttons, one for input switching between all the video connections, and the other to power the screen on and off. One small thing we did like was that if you press the power button it confirms if you want to turn the screen off, which is handy as that can help avoid unwanted switch offs with it being tucked underneath the screen next to the control joystick. You can’t see them from a normal viewing position but the front-firing speakers also protrude from the bottom edge of the screen as shown in the images above.

The OSD control joystick is one area that offers a lot more control than you’d find on TV’s, which are really designed to be operated by the provided remote control only, apart from perhaps a few simple settings. Here on the PG42UQ there is quick and intuitive access around the familiar ROG Swift OSD menu, with a lot of typical ROG monitor settings available. Navigation is quick and snappy.

You can customise quick launch access to loads of the settings as well within the OSD so that when you press right, or up on the joystick for instance it quickly goes to a desired setting. One other thing we liked and felt was well thought out is that when you open the OSD it also shows you a couple of icons at the bottom of screen showing you where the USB port and headphone jack are located on the bottom edge of the screen, making them easy to find. A nice touch!

The back of the screen is encased in a matte black plastic with some ROG logos and etching patterns in places. The connections are hidden behind the panel on the left hand side which helps keep the cables hidden, but can be easily removed.

Asus do also provide a small and simple remote in the box allowing you to do simple things like change input, volume etc if you are sat further away from the screen for gaming, movies or consoles. It’s not nearly as functional or advanced as something like the LG C2 remote, but then it doesn’t really need to be as this isn’t a smart TV but you can change all the OSD settings using this quite nicely and quickly instead of needing to use the joystick on the bottom of the screen. You can navigate quickly around the main OSD as well as customise 2 individual shortcut buttons. The directional wheel can also give you quick access to the settings you’ve defined in the OSD and operate the same as the joystick on the bottom of the screen. There’s also an input selection button at the top right. It was a useful and easy to use controller actually and having had longer to play around with it since the launch event, we thought it did a nice job. Particularly useful of course if you’re using the screen for gaming or multimedia from a further viewing position. Nice to see this included as opposed to just opting for the control on the screen itself.

Unlike the LG C2 which we found very restrictive in this area, the PG42UQ includes a basic tilt adjustment from the stand. This is designed to give you a bit of flexibility and in theory avoids you having a screen that is perfectly vertical, which always feels a bit strange. However, we found that actually the tilt adjustment on the PG42UQ was still very limited. It allows you to tilt the screen towards you a bit (from the top) which is probably a bit pointless, but it can’t be tilted backwards very much at all. It goes ever so slightly beyond vertical, but not by much. This is presumably because of the size and weight of the screen and the way the stand connects to the screen at the bottom, but we would have hoped for a little bit more of a backwards adjustment range really. You do have the option to remove the stand and VESA 300 x 300mm mount the screen instead if you’d rather.

There’s no height, swivel or rotate adjustments though as the screen is very large and it needs to remain stable, but at least tilt gives it something more than just boring, simple feet like you’d find on the LG C2, even if the range is still limited. The stand is also more monitor-like in appearance compared to the TV-like stand of the LG C2.

One thing we found annoying when we tested the LG C2 TV was that if you put your PC to sleep, you also need to manually turn the TV off via the remote. Thankfully the PG42UQ behaves a lot more like a monitor and includes PC standby mode, putting the display to sleep when your PC goes to sleep. We were pleased to see this included. Because there’s no smart TV features, you also don’t need to worry about the annoying on-screen options like those presented on the LG when you power it on. It just behaves like a monitor here. The screen takes ~3.5 seconds to wake up from sleep (or indeed power off).

The screen includes some pretty decent speakers like you’d find on a TV. There are 2x 10W Harmon Kardon front-firing stereo speakers as well as an integrated 15W sub-woofer. These can handle some good sound output and make the screen also well suited to external devices, games consoles etc. Overall for desktop monitor use the sound system and speakers are far more capable here than you would get from a typical smaller desktop monitor.

DisplayPort, HDMI 2.1 and Connectivity options

One of the key things that Asus have added to the PG42UQ relative to competing TV’s is a DisplayPort video connection. This is DP 1.4 and features DSC (Display Stream Compression) allowing support for the full 4K @138Hz and 10-bit colour depth without the need for any colour sacrifice or chroma drop. Having DP is extremely useful as it makes the screen far more accessible to the desktop monitor market, as you no longer need to have the latest generation of HDMI 2.1-capable graphics card to use the screen to its full potential. DisplayPort 1.4 has been around for a lot longer, and is far more widespread for graphics cards and while you will need a powerful system and for your card to also support DSC to push the screen to its limits, you can at least more easily take advantage of it via DisplayPort.

There are also 2x HDMI 2.1 ports provided which support a 4K resolution, 120Hz and 10-bit colour depth from a PC or supporting games console. The 2x HDMI 2.1 ports on this screen offer the full 48Gpbs bandwidth, and unlike many screens marketed with HDMI 2.1 they also support HDMI-VRR and ALLM which make the screen well suited to the latest games consoles. More on those later. There are also 2x HDMI 2.0 ports available, so having 4 total ports gives you plenty of options for connecting your PC, consoles and other devices. The only thing missing compared with other modern monitors is a USB type-C connection which is something some people may have wanted to see, although to be honest it’s more aimed at PC’s than laptops and so DP is likely to be sufficient.

Asus have provided a DisplayPort and an Ultra High Speed (HDMI 2.1) cable in the box which is good to see, as these are rarely provided in the TV space which adds to your expense.

Also found on the screen are 4x USB 3.2 data ports, including one on the top of the screen next to a tripod camera mount which can be useful if you have a webcam connected, and one on the bottom edge (along with a headphone jack) for easy access. Remember that unlike on a TV these USB ports act like ports on your PC so you can plug in peripherals, USB sticks and other devices and use them as a USB hub. On a TV they don’t offer this functionality, instead being used to stream content like photos or videos off a USB stick to the screen.

OLED Protection Features

We will not go too much in to potential concerns around lifespan of the OLED panel, colour shift, dark spots or image retention/burn-in here. You can read our OLED Displays and the Monitor Market article for more information about those potential issues. As a desktop monitor if you are going to use the screen for many hours per day, some of these things might become an issue in time. In our fairly short period of time testing and using the screen we noticed no issues in any of these areas. If you are using the screen a lot as a desktop monitor and working with a lot of static content you will probably want to consider things like auto-hiding your taskbar, setting a screensaver to run etc. If you’re working with a lot of stationary windows for office work, internet browsing, photos etc then the risk of burn-in increases and to be honest that’s a bit of an annoyance with an OLED screen like this. These are things you don’t need to worry about with an LCD desktop monitor but it’s always in the back of your mind when using an OLED screen. You can leave the built-in prevention measures turned on to help, but you might want to read our article linked above to learn more about these risks and concerns.

In terms of image retention mitigation, Asus promote the fact that they’ve added a custom heatsink to the screen to help dissipate heat, which they claim can help “prevent burn-in” (this should probably read “reduce the risk of burn-in”). This also means that there is no need for any active cooling (i.e. a fan) in this monitor, so it remains silent. As well as heat management, Asus have provided a few screen protection features, including options for each in the OSD menu:

  1. Screen saver – this is the Automatic Static Brightness Limiter (ASBL) function which would dim the monitor brightness when it detects static images on the screen. This is enabled all the time on the LG C2 (called “TPC” on their screens) unless you venture in to the service menu to turn it off which requires a special remote and access code. It’s great to see this available as an option for the user on the PG42UQ so you can turn it off if you find it problematic or annoying. Personally I find this kind of thing annoying so would disable it.
  2. Pixel Cleaning – this function will cycle the screen through a refresh program to help “clean” the pixels from time to time. This can be run manually via the menu, and the screen will also periodically remind you to run a cycle after extended periods of use. Asus tell us that the Pixel Cleaning message is displayed for 15 seconds after the display has been on for 8 hours. Subsequently, the message will appear for 15 seconds every four hours, until Pixel Cleaning has been completed. If the user switches the monitor off, Pixel Cleaning will commence automatically and takes around 6 minutes to complete. If the monitor is switched on again before the Pixel Cleaning cycle is complete, it will take a few seconds longer than usual to power up. The Pixel Cleaning message will be then be displayed for 15 seconds every 4 hours. The message timer will not be reset unless a full 6-minute cleaning cycle has been completed.
  3. Screen move – this shifts the image a few pixels from time to time. Personally I find this annoying for desktop general office use, but it’s not noticeable for multimedia or during gaming. You can turn it off if it bothers you.
  4. Adjust logo brightness – this will auto detect logos and other static parts of the image including things like head up displays in gaming, and dim those sections a little to help reduce the risk of burn in.

Useful reading – OLED Dimming Confusion – APL, ABL, ASBL, TPC and GSR Explained

Warranty period and image retention cover

We are waiting on further clarification from Asus on the warranty of these new OLED screens, particularly whether things like image retention are covered. We will update this section accordingly once we have further information. At the moment if you look at the warranty section on Asus UK website it talks about LCD monitors which of course this is not, but perhaps could fall in to the same warranty cover anyway. There is a 3 year casing and 3 year panel warranty. The warranty page currently says that “Damage resulting from long-term static images displayed (also referred as “Image Sticking”) or improper use” is excluded from the warranty, although it is not clear yet whether there will be a different warranty for OLED screens.

The word we have from Asus so far is that OLED warranty is expected to include burn-in, but we will report back when we have something official or it appears on their website. Of course the guidance from Asus would be to leave the image protection features enabled, and carry out pixel cleaning cycles when directed, as well as being careful with screen savers, monitor power off etc.

Brightness and Contrast

This section tests the full range of luminance (the brightness of the screen) possible, while changing the monitor’s brightness setting in the OSD menu. This allows us to measure the maximum and minimum adjustment ranges, as well as identify the recommended setting to reach a target of 120 cd/m2 for comfortable day to day use in normal lighting conditions as a PC monitor. Some users have specific requirements for a very bright display, while others like a much darker display for night time viewing or in low ambient light conditions. At each brightness level we also measure the contrast ratio produced by the screen when comparing a small white sample vs. a black sample (not unrealistic full screen white vs. full screen black tests). The contrast ratio should remain stable across the adjustment range so we also check that.

Graphics card settings were left at default with no ICC profile or calibration active. Tests were made using an X-rite i1 Display Pro Plus colorimeter paired with the Calman Ultimate software for very high levels of accuracy. For these tests we switched to the ‘Expert bright’ preset mode as well, for reasons that will become clear in the following sections.

We disabled the OLED screen protection features for these measurements to avoid randomly screen dimming of any sort and ensured a consistent APL (Average Picture Level) of a 10% window.

Updated 31 Aug 2022 with new V031 Firmware Results

In SDR mode the luminance range of the screen is very good, although it won’t get as high as some desktop monitors (commonly 450 – 500 cd/m2 nowadays) if that is a particular requirement you have. There should be a decent enough range here though for most users. At the top end the screen reached ~366 nits, which was actually quite a lot higher than what can be achieved in SDR mode on the LG C2 (262 nits max). The PG42UQ can also reach as low as ~17 nits at the minimum adjustment which is excellent. The OSD menu brightness setting controls a linear relationship in terms of actual luminance output. We have provided a few recommended settings to achieve common 200, 150 and 120 nit brightness levels in the table as well.

Obviously one of the key benefits of this OLED panel is the fact it can generate true blacks. Each pixel can be fully turned off individually, resulting in basically an infinite contrast ratio. Asus advertise 1.5 million:1 but that’s basically the same in this context. There’s no need for backlight local dimming here like there is on LCD’s and the black depth and contrast ratio surpass all LCD panel technologies including VA panels by a long way.

Low amplitude oscillation in sync with the refresh rate as with all OLED panels, but does not result in any visible flicker

Like most OLED screens there is a minor fluctuation of the backlight as shown above. At 60Hz and 120Hz refresh rates this operates every 8.33ms, and at 138Hz refresh rate it operates every 7.25ms in sync with the overclocked refresh. You can see on the graph above that the 0V would be an “off” state, so the amplitude of this fluctuation is minor, and does not produce any visible flickering or anything like that in practice. It’s not the same as PWM on an LCD monitor where the backlight is rapidly switched fully off and on when trying to dim the brightness level. Obviously being an OLED panel there is no backlight here anyway, and this minor fluctuation didn’t cause us any problems in real use and would be considered flicker free.

‘Auto Brightness Limiter’ (ABL)

This term has become a little mixed up in the OLED market and sometimes associated with two different things. The correct usage for this term is related to how OLED panels operate from a technical and physics point of view, the other incorrect usage is where it has become associated with the ASBL / TPC image protection feature common on OLED screens. We’ve talked about the “screen saver” function on this display above which dims the brightness of the screen when it detects static images. This is often what people think ABL means, but it’s not.

OLED panels all have an inherent limitation with the panel itself. The power consumption of these panels is highly dependent upon the content displayed. With a pure white image, every pixel must be lit, while with a pure black image every pixel is off. As the display has a maximum power usage, this opens up the capability for OLED displays to allocate more power per pixel to create a higher maximum luminance when not displaying a full-white image. This is different to LCD panels where a separate backlight unit sits behind the panel and can produce the same max luminance level regardless of the screen content, and how much of it is white in this example. On the OLED screen the percentage of the display that is lit up compared with a full white display is known as the Average Picture level (APL). You will see then on OLED panels that with a low APL (like a small 1% window size of white) the maximum peak brightness is achievable. This peak brightness reduces normally as the window size increases, as this is where the Auto Brightness Limiter (ABL) feature comes in. This ABL dims the screen if the APL is too high and the brightness level can no longer be sustained. If you try and display a bright area over a certain window size you will find that the screen is dimmer than if that window size was smaller.

The point at which this ABL feature kicks in based on the size of the APL will vary on different OLED panels. We will measure that later on in the HDR section for the absolute max peak brightness levels, but it’s also important to understand if this will have an impact during normal desktop SDR usage as well even when you’re not pushing the highest brightness levels. What you’re really looking for here is the screen to be able to sustain your SDR brightness level at all APL, so that when you’re using the screen for SDR content, including desktop use, it never needs to dim because of the ABL. For SDR and desktop use this should be at least 120 nits (a common and comfortable desktop brightness level), but you may want it to be higher if you like to run at 150 nits or 200 nits perhaps.


We calibrated the screen to different common brightness levels of 120, 150 and 200 nits (with a 10% APL) and then measured how bright the screen was as the APL changes. This will show at what point the ABL kicks in and whether it’s a problem during SDR and desktop usage.

ABL with originally tested firmware (V028)

We should note here that we were given the initial production firmware (V028) to test with, which was newer than the firmware from the August UK launch even incidentally. We found the ABL to be particularly aggressive however. Even a typical and fairly modest 120 nits desktop brightness couldn’t be sustained for a full white screen, and the ABL kicked in quickly and obviously for anything above 25% ABL, even reaching as low as 36 nits for 100% APL. We spotted this straight away in normal use with noticeable changes to the screen brightness as you opened multiple windows side by side or resized office documents or webpages. We re-tested a range of different brightness levels and the ABL was active in the same way when calibrated to 150 nits or 200 nits as you can see from the graph above. In each case at 100% APL the brightness was very low, far lower than it really needed to be. We would consider the ABL behaviour to be a problem on this original firmware, being far too aggressive and making it very noticeable in desktop use which is definitely a concern.

We fed this back to Asus along with some suggestions on how this should be behaving and credit to their product development team, they have made some positive adjustments to the firmware and sent us a new version (V031) on 31 August 2022 to test. The results from the newer firmware are shown below.

Firmware is going to be user updatable via an easy programme and file from their website, so you don’t need to worry about production samples, you’d be able to update your screen if you buy it via their website support pages easily. Great news that Asus listened to our feedback and testing and addressed it very quickly, and this is also before any retail stock ships to end users.

ABL with updated firmware (V031)Updated 31 Aug 2022

With the new firmware installed (V031) we saw a much better behaviour of the ABL for normal desktop and SDR use. At a calibrated 120 nits, there is very little change in the luminance at different APL, only dropping ever so slightly to 114 nits by the time you reach 100% APL. This seems to be the maximum 100% APL in this mode. If you calibrate the screen to a brighter 150 or 200 nits level the ABL will kick in more noticeably and dim the screen a bit. It is far less aggressive than it was on the original V028 firmware though with much less noticeable changes to brightness as you move and re-size windows. It also avoids the screen going really dark like it was on the original firmware. We can actually get an even better performance though using the uniform brightness mode which we will cover now.

‘Uniform Brightness’ mode

Asus provide an additional feature in the OSD menu called “uniform brightness” which we believed from the marketing material on their website would cap the maximum brightness to a level that the screen knows can be achieved even at 100% white APL. This would then mean that no matter the content on the screen, or the APL, you would never see the ABL feature kick in.

The Asus website says: “The ROG-exclusive uniform brightness function setting within the OSD menu can be enabled to keep brightness levels consistent for better viewing, even when changing the size of bright white windows. It also makes marathon gaming sessions much more comfortable on the eyes.” Additionally the user manual states: “With the feature enabled, the system will not adjust the maximum brightness of the screen when the screen is displayed in a different screen size.

The above is from the Asus website promoting this feature.

‘UB’ with originally tested firmware (V028)

Using the original V028 firmware we actually we found this Uniform Brightness (“UB”) mode behaved differently to expectations and really the screen showed the same ABL behaviour as when this was turned off, except the ABL was generally a bit less drastic as the upper limit of the brightness was reduced. The UB mode just caps the max brightness somewhat from the 356 nits we’d measured before to 190 nits even at a 100% brightness setting. You can see the brightness achieved when setting the screen to 50% brightness (105 nits) and 20% brightness (53 nits). As with the normal mode, the ABL should not need to be kicking in for the lower brightness levels at all, and it still did it here on the original firmware. After our feedback Asus made some corrections to this with the new V031 firmware.

‘UB’ with updated firmware (V031) – updated 31 August 2022

This mode now worked much better, and as we’d expected from the original marketing. The maximum screen brightness is capped now to ~195 nits, but with UB enabled the ABL is never used. At all APL the same 195 nits is achieved. We also measured the luminance with the brightness setting at 50% and 20% levels which produced 105 and 53 nits respectively as it had on the old firmware, but this time without ABL being needed at all. This was great news as you can enable this option in the OSD and set the screen brightness to a suitable level, safe in the knowledge that ABL will never be needed. A setting of 55% would return you ~120 nits and a setting of 73% around ~150 nits by the way.

Only if you specifically wanted a higher or lower brightness level adjustment would you need to turn off UB mode, and we think for desktop and SDR use it is likely most people will want to leave this turned on. You can achieve 120, 150 and ~200 nits easily without ABL being used at all which is great news. Well done Asus on fixing this properly! Note that this doesn’t impact HDR mode at all, as UB gets disabled when HDR is active.

Useful reading – OLED Dimming Confusion – APL, ABL, ASBL, TPC and GSR Explained

Anti-glare screen coating and it’s impact on contrast

We will discuss this further in the relevant sections when we consider office use, gaming, HDR and movies but we will touch on this topic here as well. The PG42UQ features a more traditional monitor-like matte anti-glare coating, as opposed to a glossy panel coating like you’d find on TV’s including the LG C2. This does a very good job of reducing reflections and handling external light sources like windows and lamps and we noticed much better reflection handling (no surprise) than the LG C2. However this does mean that in some conditions the blacks do not look as deep or inky visually to the user. With this being an OLED panel, famous for its true blacks and amazing contrast ratio this could be considered a problem – are you “wasting” that by having an AG coating that reduces your perceived contrast?

In certain conditions blacks look a little more dark grey as the anti-reflective coating reflects some of the surrounding light back at you and it “dulls” the contrast a bit. The anti-glare coating means the image is not as clear and clean as a fully glossy coating. You don’t get this same effect if the coating is fully glossy as there’s no AG layer, but what you do get instead is more reflections. Don’t forget this same thing applies to all AG coated desktop monitors, you have the same impact on perceived black depth and contrast on IPS, TN Film and VA panels depending on your lighting conditions if there’s an AG coating used. You’d still get better relative blacks and contrast on the OLED (not to mention other benefits) compared with LCD technologies. They are all impacted in the same way by their coatings.

This impact to the black depth and contrast really varies though depending on your ambient lighting. If you were using the screen in a darker room and were careful about the positioning of your light sources, then blacks look very good and as you would hope for from an OLED screen. Just because it’s got an AG coating doesn’t mean it can’t still offer those benefits, it certainly can. In a dark room blacks and contrast look excellent. In daytime viewing or with light sources in certain places though the blacks do get impacted a bit and you lose some of that perceived contrast. Some people might assume that the screen is flawed or that this ruins the experience. But as we also said when discussing the Dell Alienware AW3423DW (with what we’d call a semi glossy AR hybrid coating) think about the full context here and the alternative for a moment…

OLED screens have never been ideal for brighter room conditions anyway, they excel in darker rooms and at night especially for HDR content. The alternative to using this AG coating featured on the PG42UQ would be to use a fully glossy coating like OLED TV’s such as the LG C2. In theory this would help retain that true black appearance and avoid the dulling of the contrast caused by the AG element, but if we consider that this only really impacts the PG42UQ in lighter room conditions that means that had it been fully glossy, we would have instead had to contend with far more reflections. Reflections can equally impact black depth, something you will notice if you’ve ever tried to watch an OLED in a bright room or on a particularly sunny day.

We’d argue that reflections are likely to be far more problematic to most people than a small impact to the contrast ratio from an AG coating for what is at the end of the day specifically designed to be a desktop monitor. Remember, this isn’t designed to be a TV, it’s not designed to be used in a dark lounge necessarily with carefully controlled lighting for relaxing night time viewing. It’s designed to be used as your desktop monitor, throughout the day, in a normal lighting setup where you have windows, overhead lighting and lamps around.

There are bound to be some users who still prefer a glossy panel all the time, and perhaps you can control your lighting environment in other ways to reduce the impact and annoyance of reflections on a glossy screen. But we think for the majority of people who are looking for a desktop monitor, they will gain more from the screen having an AG coating than they would lose. You’re still getting better black and contrast performance than LCD panel technologies, and if you are really wanting to maximise the appearance of those you can always play games or watch movies in a darker room which then improves the contrast ratio again, and generally makes OLED better anyway. If you think about typical desktop monitor usage, office work and SDR content you’re not really going to notice any problems with the black depth or contrast ratio in daytime usage anyway.

We didn’t feel this was a major issue to be honest when you consider likely usage scenarios and what the alternative would have been. I know some people will feel differently, and everyone has their preferences and taste, but having used both the PG42UQ (matte) and the LG C2 (glossy), on balance for a desktop monitor we prefer the AG coating and we think this was the appropriate choice for the majority of users. Most importantly we think this helps drastically reduce reflections that would be problematic to many people on a screen designed for desktop usage. If you want to make the most of HDR content, viewing in a darker room is advised and preferable, but that’s the same for any OLED really. If you hate matte coating, you have other choices available in the TV market as well.

We plan to do some further side by side testing and comparisons of the PG42UQ next to the C2 so we will report back on any other comments we have or meaningful comparison data.

Testing Methodology Explained (SDR)

Performance is measured and evaluated with a high degree of accuracy using a range of testing devices and software. The results are carefully selected to provide the most useful and relevant information that can help evaluate the display while filtering out the wide range of information and figures that will be unnecessary. For measurement, we use a UPRtek MK550T spectroradiometer which is particularly accurate for colour gamut and colour spectrum measurements. We also use an X-rite i1 Pro 2 Spectrophotometer and a X-rite i1 Display Pro Plus colorimeter for various measurements. Several other software packages are incorporated including Portrait Displays’ Calman color calibration software – available from Portrait.com.

We measure the screen at default settings (with all ICC profiles deactivated and factory settings used), and any other modes that are of interest such as sRGB emulation presets. We then calibrate and profile the screen before re-measuring the calibrated state.

The results presented can be interpreted as follows:

  • Gamma – we aim for 2.2 gamma which is the default for computer monitors in SDR mode. Testing of some modes might be based on a different gamma but we will state that in the commentary if applicable. A graph is provided tracking the 2.2 gamma across different grey shades and ideally the grey line representing the monitor measurements should be horizontal and flat at the 2.2 level, marked by the yellow line. Depending on where the gamma is too low or too high, it can have an impact on the image in certain ways. You can see our gamma explanation graph to help understand that more. Beneath the gamma graph we include the average overall gamma achieved along with the average for dark shades (0 black to 50 grey) and for lighter shades (50 grey to 100 white).

  • RGB Balance and colour temperature – the RGB balance graph shows the relative balance between red, green and blue primaries at each grey shade, from 0 (black) to 100 (white). Ideally all 3 lines should be flat at the 100% level which would represent a balanced 6500K average colour temperature for all grey shades. This is the target colour temperature for desktop monitors, popular colour spaces like sRGB and ‘Display DCI-P3’ and is also the temperature of daylight. It is the most common colour temperature for displays, also sometimes referred to as D65. Where the RGB lines deviate from this 100% flat level the image may become too warm or cool, or show a tint towards a certain colour visually. Beneath this RGB balance graph we provide the average correlated colour temperature for all grey shades measured, along with its percentage deviance from the 6500K target. We also provide the white point colour temperature and its deviance from 6500K, as this is particularly important when viewing lots of white background and office content.

  • Greyscale dE – this graph tracks the accuracy of each greyscale shade measured from 0 (black) to 100 (white). The accuracy of each grey shade will be impacted by the colour temperature and gamma of the display. The lower the dE the better, with differences of <1 being imperceptible (marked by the green line on the graph), and differences between 1 and 3 being small (below the yellow line). Anything over dE 3 needs correcting and causes more obvious differences in appearance relative to what should be shown. In the table beneath the graph we provide the average dE across all grey shades, as well as the white point dE (important when considering using the screen for lots of white background and office content), and the max greyscale dE as well.

  • Luminance, black depth and contrast ratio (static) – measuring the brightness, black depth and resulting contrast ratio of the mode being tested, whether that is at default settings or later after calibration and profiling. We aim for 120 cd/m2 luminance which is the recommended luminance for LCD/OLED desktop monitors in normal lighting conditions. Black depth should be as low as possible, and contrast ratio should be as high as possible.

  • Gamut coverage – we provide measurements of the screens colour gamut relative to various reference spaces including sRGB, DCI-P3, Adobe RGB and Rec.2020. Coverage is shown in absolute numbers as well as relative, which helps identify where the coverage extends beyond a given reference space. A CIE-1976 chromaticity diagram (which provides improved accuracy compared with older CIE-1931 methods) is included which provides a visual representation of the monitors colour gamut coverage triangle as compared with sRGB, and if appropriate also relative to a wide gamut reference space such as DCI-P3. The reference triangle will be marked on the CIE diagram as well.

  • dE colour accuracy – a wide range of colours are tested and the colour accuracy dE measured. We compare these produced colours to the sRGB reference space, and if applicable when measuring a wide gamut screen we also provide the accuracy relative to a specific wide gamut reference such as DCI-P3. An average dE and maximum dE is provided along with an overall screen rating. The lower the dE the better, with differences of <1 being imperceptible (marked by the green area on the graph), and differences between 1 and 3 being small (yellow areas). Anything over dE 3 needs correcting and causes more obvious differences in appearance relative to what should be shown. dE 2000 is used for improved accuracy and providing a better representation of what you would see as a user, compared with older dE methods like dE 1994, as it takes into account the human eye’s perceptual sensitivity to different colours. 

Default Setup

The screen comes out of the box in the ‘Racing’ preset mode and you will notice straight away the wide colour gamut and the saturated and colourful image this produces. The screen is also bright out of the box at its 90% default setting. We disabled the OLED screen protection features for these measurements to avoid random screen dimming of any sort and ensured a consistent APL (Average Picture Level) of a 10% window.

The default setup showed a decent overall performance for gamma, greyscale and colour temperature. The gamma curve was a bit too high in darker shades, and a bit too low in the lighter shades, struggling a bit near black and near white. This leads to a little loss in detail in those shades. The average overall was 2.24 though which was good. The middle section shows the colour temperature with a decent temperature and RGB balance across the greyscale range and a small 2% deviance from our 6500K target. By the way, there are a range of colour temp modes in the menu to choose from, with the default being 6500K. White point was nice and accurate at 6415k being only 1% too warm and offering a good result. The greyscale accuracy was good overall with dE 2.3 average. We had a high brightness as well with the 90% setting in the OSD menu producing a 321 nits luminance. Thanks to the OLED panel the blacks were 0 nits producing a basically infinite contrast ratio.

We first measured at the top above the colour performance of the screen compared with the sRGB colour space which is common for many uses including SDR content. You can see the colour gamut of the screen extends a reasonable way beyond the sRGB space and gives us a 126.9% relative coverage, but this wasn’t as wide as some modern Quantum Dot and super-wide gamut displays you can find. The accuracy of sRGB colours was only moderate with a dE 3.1 because of that active wide gamut colour space, and that’s normal for any wide gamut screen without profiling or calibration.

In the bottom section we also measured the screen relative to the DCI-P3 colour space. That is the reference space that is closest to the actual gamut of the display, with 98.4% absolute coverage, and only 101.2% relative coverage (so only a small over-extension). You can see the triangles on the CIE diagram in the bottom left very closely match there. Measuring the accuracy of DCI-P3 colours showed much better accuracy with a dE average of only 1.2 now which was very good. If you wanted to work in this colour space for any reason then the screen handles it very well and offers good DCI-P3 gamut coverage and very good colour accuracy.

One additional consideration is how the screen handles Adobe RGB content, a colour space often used in the professional and photography market. Unfortunately here the gamut of the screen can only cover 93.7% of the Adobe RGB reference, falling a bit short in green shades but not by a massive amount. It does however then show a fairly large over-coverage in red shades, leading to a 108.8% relative coverage measurement. If you did want to work in this space, you’d have to live with that small under-coverage of greens, but then also be able to profile and calibrate the screen back to Adobe RGB to limit the red space. It’s not particularly well suited to work in Adobe RGB as a result.

sRGB Emulation Mode

The screen comes factory calibrated in the sRGB mode and a report is provided in the box as shown above, confirming the screen should be calibrated to a 2.22 gamma, with a 100% sRGB gamut coverage, a 6500K white point and a dE of 1.29 (for our sample).

There are actually two ways to enable a clamping of the monitors colour space back to sRGB. You can enable this in any of the preset modes using the “colour space” setting, where you can switch between DCI-P3 (native mode basically) and sRGB (emulated mode). There is also a specific preset mode for sRGB in the GameVisual menu which is what we tested here, and which according to the provided report in the box, should carry the factory calibration.

In this mode we measured a 2.22 average gamma which was spot on to the factory calibration report (2.22) although did show some deviation across the greyscale, being too high in dark shades, and too low in light shades. This leads to a bit of crushing of shadow detail near black, and the same for light greys near white. The colour temp average across the greyscale was good at 6391K, being only 2% out from our target. White point was slightly too warm at 6216K, with a 4% deviance from our 6500K target. It still looked very close to the naked eye though.

In this sRGB preset mode the brightness is dropped to 60 in the OSD which resulted in a decent luminance of 123 nits. This was with the updated V031 firmware by the way, with the previous version we’d testing being oddly a lot lower than expected at only 82 nits despite the brightness setting being at 73. This is because Asus have tweaked the brightness levels in order to fix early issues with the ABL as we discussed earlier. You can thankfully still change the brightness setting in this mode if you want which is great news, although if you find it doesn’t offer enough flexibility you may be better using one of the other GameVisual preset modes and just switching to sRGB colour space instead. That gives you the same sRGB emulation, but with more flexibility for all the other settings. In the sRGB preset mode you also lose access to controls for colour temp and RGB channels, although you can change the gamma mode if you want. Again if you just enabled sRGB mode from one of the other presets you could control the other settings as well, so that feels like a better option.

You can see on the left that the sRGB mode does reduce the colour space nicely and we had a 103.4% relative coverage, with only minor over-coverage in places. This was actually improved with the V031 firmware, as we’d previously criticised the weaker clamping of this colour space on the old firmware which had only reduced the gamut to ~110% sRGB. It’s better now and what we would consider close enough to sRGB. This coverage was the same whether you use the sRGB preset mode specifically, or just enable the sRGB colour space option in one of the other preset modes.

Thankfully the accuracy of sRGB colours is improved quite nicely in this mode, with a dE of 1.9 average now measured and living up to the factory calibration spec (dE 1.9). This is still a usable mode if you want to work in the smaller sRGB colour space and for more accurate SDR content, and worked nicely.

Calibration

You can check our out guide for the best settings for the PG42UQ for desktop, gaming and HDR usage here:

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Before we get in to the normal calibration and profiling of the screen we should point out that the PG42UQ does not feature support for hardware calibration, which is something available on the LG C2 via their LG AutoCal process, supported by software packages like Portrait Displays Calman for instance. It’s a shame that’s not available here.

Calibration and profiling proved problematic for some reason in colour rendering. We followed our normal process and this can produce very good results if you have a suitable calibration device and software for gamma, greyscale and colour temp. This was profiled to 2.2 gamma and 6500K white point and the results in the top section were excellent. Note that the brightness listed above (24) was from the old V028 firmware, and that with the newer V031 firmware you will want to set this around 42% for 120 nits, or at around 59% if you have Uniform Brightness enabled, which we would recommend for normal desktop use for sure.

The problem came when trying to profile either the DCI-P3 native gamut mode or the sRGB emulation mode back to the sRGB colour space. Despite many attempts in different preset modes, different colour temp modes and with different settings and even different calibration devices, we could not seem to get a perfect colour accuracy. We reached 1.7 dE average but some colours still showed some high errors for some reason and we couldn’t seem to correct this. No real changes or improvements in this area with the new V031 firmware. f you want you can still try our calibrated ICC profile out.

Panel Uniformity

We wanted to test here how uniform the brightness and colour temp were across the screen especially as some users have reported issues with coloured tints on their screens, most commonly a bluish tint towards the edges. Measurements were taken at 36 points across the panel on a pure white background. The measurements were taken using an X-rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter with a central point on the screen calibrated to 120 cd/m2. The below uniformity diagram shows the difference, as a percentage, between the measurement recorded at each point on the screen, as compared with the central reference point.

It is worth noting that panel uniformity can vary from one screen to another, and can depend on manufacturing lines, screen transport and other local factors. This is only a guide of the uniformity of the sample screen we have for review.

Luminance uniformity of the screen was excellent on our sample, with 100% of the screen within a 10% deviance of the centrally calibrated area. The upper half of the screen was slightly brighter than the lower right hand area but not by anything significant or noticeable. Excellent performance here.

We found the right and left hand edges of the screen to look a little cooler than the central area, although the transition was gradual and it was quite hard to see with the naked eye unless you were specifically looking for it with solid white or grey backgrounds. In normal usage and certainly in dynamic content you couldn’t spot any real difference. We measured the colour temp across the screen which showed that this right and left hand edges were around 600k cooler (~7100k white point) than the central area of the screen.

It should be noted that if you display a full black image to test for backlight bleed there is none – as there is no backlight on this screen and each pixel is individually lit. Showing an all-black screen causes all pixels to turn off, and the screen shows true black as result, and looks like it’s just turned off.

General and Office

Size and resolution

Even after several months using the 42″ LG C2 OLED screen on my desk, I would say I am not fully decided as to whether this is too big for a desktop monitor or not. In my opinion, the older popular OLED TV models including at the time the smallest 48″ options like the CX and C1 range were just too big for the vast majority of people and we found them impractical for this kind of usage. A 42″ model (well, accurately 41.5″) is definitely better, but it’s still a beast of a screen on your desk. You will definitely need to consider 1) the desk space you have, 2) how deep the desk is and how far away you can sit from the screen and 3) whether the massive size is really practical for your common use types.

We will talk about gaming and multimedia later, but for office work it’s usable, but probably still too big for most people in our opinion. Like I said, I’m borderline personally, having been using it for a fair few months. On the plus side, the 3840 x 2160 resolution is very usable at this size without needing any OS scaling (leave Windows at 100% scaling). That means you get a large desktop area to work with, and the text is of a sensible and comfortable size. You don’t have to worry about whether your application will handle the OS scaling properly, everything can be run at normal 100%. This means you get proper use of the full 4K desktop space, unlike most 4K monitors where you have to use scaling to make text readable and sensible, but in doing so cut down on that desktop real-estate. 40 – 42″ is about right to properly use 4K resolution comfortably we think. We really like that desktop real estate and the comfortable font size. One minor annoyance and a possible EDID configuration bug was that when we first connected the screen to either DP or HDMI, we found Windows wanted to default to 300% scaling, but thankfully that’s easy to change back to 100%.

The pixel pitch is 0.2421 mm here, so the text is the same equivalent size as a 21″ 1080p monitor (so smaller and denser text than common 23 – 24″ 1080p models which is nice), and also the same as a hypothetical 28″ 1440p model (so slightly larger text than a common 27″ 1440p screen). So it’s a comfortable and decent text size, and a good sized screen for 4K resolution without scaling for desktop use. On the other hand, the sheer size of the screen means you will be having to move your neck quite a lot to look around the screen and it’s not as comfortable as a normal desktop monitor size. It’s a good resolution and desktop space for split screen working and multi-tasking though. You will need to be able to position it a sensible distance away from your sitting position, probably a fair bit deeper than you might be used to having your monitor at. This makes it a bit more comfortable. Thankfully Asus have included a simple tilt adjustment from the stand so you can get a more comfortable, and less vertical, viewing angle than the LG C2 but it’s not particularly flexible and left us wanting more.

Text clarity and pixel structure

Marketing image from Asus’ website to promote the supposed better text rendering but it’s still an RGBW OLED panel

Asus make an interesting claim on their website. They say “ROG Swift OLED gaming monitors feature the latest generation OLED panels designed for greater efficiency and brightness. The sub-pixel layout provides extremely detailed visuals and clearly-defined text to upgrade the viewing experience.” – this is an odd thing to promote as ultimately the screen is still based on an RGBW OLED (RGB + white sub-pixels) panel from LG.Display like other OLED TV’s and so this can lead to some small text clarity problems compared with normal RGB sub-pixel layouts. We believe this is intended to be a subtle dig at the odd triangular shaped RGB layout of Samsung’s QD-OLED panels which are sometimes criticised for their text rendering including on models like the Dell Alienware AW3423DW, although we found it to not be a huge problem to be honest in our usage and testing. The way this is positioned on the Asus website does indirectly imply that there is somehow a better, newer OLED panel than competing 42″ OLED TV’s which isn’t true. It’s the same panel found in the LG 42C2 with the same pixel structure. We’d like a bit more clarity (no pun intended) from Asus in this area with their marketing.

Photo capturing text clarity at a range of font sizes. Click for larger version

We confirmed that the panel is definitely RGBW in sub-pixel layout and it looks basically the same as the LG 42C2 as a result. You get a bit of text fringing in certain situations because of this, but nothing too severe. It doesn’t improve on the LG C2 though with the only difference being that the anti-glare coating adds a small bit of fuzziness if you are up very close compared with a fully glossy panel, but text rendering is generally pretty decent on these OLED screens.

Limited ergonomics still

The lack of any significant ergonomic adjustments from the stand are also a problem, and the screen feels still very vertical and unusual without a more adjustable tilt range. It was slightly better than the LG C2 which has no ergonomics at all, but with a limited backwards tilt available it was still restrictive. You may be better trying to wall mount it at a slightly higher position to reduce some of that problem but with the screen being so big, positioning is a challenge.

Anti-glare coating for office use

The “micro texture” anti-glare coating that Asus have opted for is going to be controversial for sure, and whether or not it’s a good thing might also depend on your uses somewhat. For this ‘office and general use’ section of the review I preferred this AG coating. It does a really good job of avoiding reflections that you’d get from glossy coatings (like on the LG C2) and diffuses light sources nicely. It looks and feels a lot more like a normal desktop monitor to use, and I think this is a good thing for the majority of people for office and general uses. These kind of environments are unlikely to be light controlled and you wouldn’t want to be working in a dark room for office work. You’ll have various lights and windows to worry about and we felt that the AG coating was a good thing for these uses. We will discuss the coating more later when considering gaming and multimedia uses too.

OLED protection features

We were really pleased to see that you have a choice to disable the “screen saver” (ASBL) function from within the OSD menu, as that can be annoying during normal office type content where you have a fairly small change to the APL and what the screen would consider static content. It was also good to be able to disable the screen shifter which can become noticeable in static/general office type uses.

It was nice by the way to not need any kind of fan in this model, unlike the Dell Alienware AW3423DW QD-OLED desktop monitor, with cooling also aided by the large custom heatsink Asus have added.

Mode selection, brightness and low blue light

Updated 31 Aug 2022 with new V031 Firmware Results

There is a decent enough brightness adjustment range when using the PC input mode and working with SDR/normal content. A setting around 41 (on new V031 firmware) should return you a luminance close to 120 nits and will be more comfortable than the default 90% setting. Thankfully Asus listened to our feedback and released a new firmware which has nicely addressed the behaviour of the ABL which was previously a big problem for office work, with obvious and noticeable changes in screen brightness as you move and resize windows, especially when using white word documents, spreadsheets and web pages. The screen couldn’t even sustain a modest 120 nits at all APL, dropping significantly for larger areas of bright content before this new FW. With the new FW the ABL is far less noticeable in normal desktop use, and for a calibrated 120 nits it’s barely needed at all. Actually you can also enable the now fixed ‘Uniform Brightness’ mode and calibrate the screen to 120, 150 or ~200 nits and never need ABL to be used. So it works far better now Asus have fixed that.

Spectral distribution at 6500K calibrated white point with blue peak at 456 nm wavelength

The screen has a blue peak at 456 nm, and although it is not part of the Eyesafe certified range of products, it does have a blue peak that is just beyond the supposed harmful range according to Eyesafe between 415 – 455nm, which is good news. You can see here by the way from the spectral distribution where the green and red peaks are merged that our sample is one of the so-called WBC panels which we were somewhat surprised about as LG have now switched to the WBE panels for their C2 screens. Before you get too concerned about all this, it shouldn’t actually matter much at all as the panels are very similar in performance. While this remains to be tested and substantiated, in theory the newer WBE “Evo” panels could have better mitigation against burn-in, but given Asus have also added a large custom heatsink, even using the WBC panel should be fine here.

There is a low blue light filter setting in the OSD menu as well which you can turn to 4 different settings. This makes the image progressively more yellow in appearance, but lowers the blue light peak as designed. The white point gets warmer with each step and we measured this at 5344K (level 1), 5183K (2), 5057K (3) and 4724K (4 – which looks horribly yellow!). We noticed a bug as well in that when you turn blue light filter back off, the screen defaults to the ‘user mode’ colour temp instead of whatever you had it set at (e.g. 6500K) and also defaults your RGB channels to 100/100/100 which gives you a very cool setup of around 11,000K. This happens even if you’d manually changed those RGB channels in user mode. It’s a bug we expect Asus will fix with a firmware update, but for now it’s probably best not to mess around using the blue light filter modes.

Connections and PiP/PbP

The PG42UQ has 4 USB data ports located in a range of positions. These will act like normal PC data ports unlike those found on the LG C2 (which lacks the upstream connection to turn its ports in to a PC USB hub). That means you can connect peripherals, cameras, phones, USB memory sticks etc as normal. There’s one on the bottom edge of the screen for quick access along with a headphone jack for audio which is useful. Two more tucked in with the video connections and a bit tricky to get to regularly, and one more on the top edge of the screen along with a tripod mount connection for a webcam etc (shown below).

There are unfortunately no other extras like, USB type-C connections, KVM switches, motion sensors or card readers on this screen which are sometimes useful for office-type uses and that you will find on other modern monitor. There is support for Picture in Picture (PiP) and Picture by Picture (PbP) though which might be useful to some, but these are only available if you first disable variable refresh rates from the OSD menu which is a bit annoying.

Gaming

The screen uses an OLED panel which is well-known for its near-instant response times. As a result it does not need to use overdrive technology in the same way as a desktop LCD panel would, and so there aren’t any controls for the response time or overdrive in the OSD menu here. Asus quote a 0.1ms G2G response time which should be pretty realistic given the panel technology.

(at native resolution)Refresh Rate
Maximum Refresh Rate DisplayPort138Hz via overclock
Maximum Refresh Rate HDMI 2.1138Hz via overclock
VRR range48 – 120/138Hz

The screen has a native 120Hz refresh rate which makes it far more suited to gaming than any 60Hz OLED TV’s. A small overclock to 138Hz is available which gives you a small additional 18Hz boost in frame rate and motion clarity. This is however still a fair bit slower than most gaming monitors nowadays which can often do 165, 200, 240 or even 360Hz. From the product marketing and launch event we believed this overclock to only be available over DisplayPort, but it is actually also available over HDMI 2.1 if you’re using that from your graphics card.

DisplayPort will handle 4K at 138Hz and 10-bit colour depth thanks to Display Stream Compression (DSC) as long as your graphics card supports it.

If you have an HDMI 2.1 equipped graphics card you can run at 4K 138Hz and with 12-bit colour depth processing thanks to the high 48Gbps bandwidth. The overclock to 138Hz is supported over HDMI 2.1 too from PC’s.

Even with the small overclock you will not be able to push the same frame rates as a high end gaming monitor here, although the combination of near-instant response times and up to 138Hz on the PG42UQ should produce excellent motion clarity. Plus if you’re going to be running at 4K then getting much above 138Hz would be a challenge. The 4K resolution provides a sharp image and is suitable for a screen this large, particularly up close for PC gaming. The large screen size is great for gaming immersion and provides a large field of view, and the ability to use 4K resolution without scaling which is great.

VRR capabilities and Certification
AMD FreeSync Premium certification
(but likely coming soon for FreeSync Premium)
Native NVIDIA G-sync module
NVIDIA ‘G-sync Compatible’ certified
HDMI-VRR (consoles via HDMI 2.1)

To help support the 4K @ 138Hz the screen features adaptive-sync, giving Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) support for both NVIDIA and AMD systems which is great news. The screen has also been certified under the NVIDIA ‘G-sync Compatible’ scheme so far and while not currently listed, we would expect certification under the AMD ‘FreeSync Premium’ scheme to be close behind (the larger 48″ PG48UQ already has this). The certifications will give added reassurance around VRR performance. There is also support for HDMI-VRR via HDMI 2.1 which is useful for the latest PS5 and Xbox Series X games consoles. We will look at console gaming more later.

OLED panel benefits for gaming and additional features

The OLED panel provides super-deep blacks and basically infinite contrast ratio which is of course excellent for gaming too. This helps ensure great shadow detail and true blacks. You may find optimal appearance in a darkened room though as with other OLED panels. The anti-glare coating does a good job of avoiding unwanted reflections for desktop monitor use but can dull the contrast somewhat as light is dispersed across the panel. This will vary depending on your room conditions and ambient lighting but be careful if you have windows or lights in front of the screen if you want to maximise the OLED black depth and contrast which you probably would want to, especially for HDR gaming. The wide viewing angles of this technology are excellent and make the screen suitable for viewing from many different positions if you need. These wide viewing angles importantly include the freedom from things like the pale/white “IPS glow” that you get on darker content on that common LCD technology. There’s none of that here on the OLED panel.

Within the OSD menu are a familiar set of ROG Swift monitor settings including a good range of preset mode genres; then overlays like a stopwatch, crosshair, timer, FPS counter and sniper mode. There’s also a shadow detail control.

Graphics card considerations

One thing to consider when buying a screen like this is whether your graphics card can power the screen at 4K and up to 138Hz refresh rate. That’s a huge drain on system resources and so you are going to need a powerful graphics card to run it , and achieve decent frame rates and settings for games. Keep in mind you’re likely going to need to invest at the same time in a top-end card like the new NVIDIA RTX 3000 series for instance which is what we have hooked up here for our testing. The screen can thankfully support variable refresh rates (VRR) from both NVIDIA and AMD cards, giving you future flexibility with graphics card vendor, and helping to eliminate tearing and provide a smooth gaming experience when your frame rates do fluctuate. You also don’t necessarily need a modern card with HDMI 2.1 output like you would if using OLED TV’s like the LG C2, as the screen includes a DisplayPort 1.4 connection. This makes it a lot more accessible for PC gaming, just make sure your card can also support DSC over DP if you want to reach the max settings.

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One other option open to users, especially for gaming, would be to lower the resolution and push higher refresh rates and frame rates that way. It will make it easier on your system. Scaling of 1080p and 1440p sources was reasonable, but you will of course lose a lot of the detail and sharpness that 4K provides.

Aspect ratio controls

One other mode within the OSD menu allows you to set a custom screen size and aspect ratio of 24″, 27″ or 34″ ultrawide and have black borders around the rest of the image. This might be useful to some people especially if you are playing competitive games up close and want a smaller monitor experience for that. 24″ is still common in this space for example.

We tested this and found that the 24″ and 27″ screen sizes were simulated nicely. You are still left at a default 4K resolution in Windows which is too large so you would also have to manually change your resolution in game, or in Windows to something suitable. 1080p for instance is likely to be preferable. The 34″ ultrawide (21:9) aspect ratio mode seemed a bit buggy in our testing, and we’ve reported this to Asus and expect it to be adjusted for a future firmware. When you enable this aspect ratio in the menu you do indeed get a 34″ ultrawide screen size in a 21:9 aspect ratio. However, Windows defaults to a 3840 x 1600 resolution which isn’t 21:9, it’s 24:10 and is commonly used on 37.5″ sized screens. Text is not as sharp and the image is a little squashed. If you then change Windows to the correct 3440 x 1440 resolution for 34″, 21:9 aspect ratio ultrawide screens, the viewable area gets squashed vertically and you end up with an image that is 31 inches wide, and 10 inches high (31:10 aspect ratio!) We assume this to be a bug and something easy for Asus to update via a firmware change.

Black Frame Insertion (BFI) is missing (and missed)

We should note here that unfortunately there is no Black Frame Insertion (BFI) mode available on this screen which we were disappointed about. That’s the equivalent of a strobing blur reduction backlight on an LCD monitor, but thanks to the super-low response times on OLED this feature can work really well at reducing motion blur. It was available on the older CX and C1 LG TV’s at both 60Hz and 120Hz, and we were really impressed by the motion clarity improvements it brought at 120Hz when we tested the LG CX.

On the more recent 2022 LG 42C2 model it was only available at 60Hz, and unfortunately Asus have left it off altogether here on the PG42UQ. After conversations with Vincent at HDTVtest, he confirmed LG.Display (the panel manufacturer) have basically stopped inclusion of this which is a shame. If you really want BFI on an OLED for whatever reason, you might need to look at some of the older OLED TV’s in the larger sizes.

Response Times

Important note: Before we get in to the measurements we wanted to highlight that we are in the process of switching all our response time measurements in these sections over to an improved ‘gamma corrected’ method. You may want to read through our article from Feb 2021 about Response Time Testing – Pitfalls, Improvements and Updating Our Methodology which talks about this a lot more. Basically this is an improved method for capturing G2G response times and overshoot, providing figures in these tables that are more reflective of real-world visual results. The measurements take in to account actual RGB changes and are closer to what you would see visually helping to analyse the visual performance more closely. The overshoot measurements are also improved dramatically, again to be more reflective to what you see visually. Our article linked above talks through why this is better and how we arrived at this improved method in much more detail.

We have been using this method for the last year but only really for our main measurement section (optimal refresh rate and overdrive mode) in the gaming part of our reviews, as taking the measurements was extremely time consuming and complicated. The other measurements in these sections where we examine the different overdrive modes and the different refresh rates were instead based on the “traditional response time” method, which is quicker and easier for us to capture considering there are loads of modes to measure. This is fine for quick comparisons and evaluation, and something that had been used for many years in the market, but not as “corrected” as the updated method.

We are in the process of switching over to using a new measurement device and software which helps massively to automate these measurements and calculations for us and makes it possible to now use this improved gamma corrected method for all the measurements. We will write a separate article about the new device and software in the future, but we have been testing and validating it against our existing equipment for the last 6 months and are happy with the accuracy and results it is producing. We will of course continue to provide pursuit camera photos which will help give you a view of real-world perceived motion clarity, to be compared alongside the device measurements.

Anyway, on to the measurements…

Above are the response times at refresh rates of 138Hz, 120Hz and 60Hz. Thanks to the OLED panel the response times are super-fast, with an average of only 0.49ms G2G measured! The best case was an incredibly impressive 0.35ms as well. All transitions can keep up easily with the frame rate demands of 138Hz, and in fact this screen could comfortably keep up with 1000Hz if the panel could support it! Let’s hope OLED refresh rates are driven much higher in the coming years, as it’s a really well suited technology for that. There is some very minor overshoot in a few transitions but nothing that creates any visible artefacts or halos in real use. The performance remained basically the same across all refresh rates which means you get those same excellent response times during VRR situations and for 60Hz input devices.

A more detailed report at 138Hz is shown above. Remember these same response times apply for other refresh rates too.

Motion Clarity – Pursuit Camera Photos

We captured some pursuit camera photos of the screen at both 60Hz and 138Hz, designed to capture real-world perceived motion clarity. Despite the amazing pixel response times you still get large amount of blur at 60Hz due to the sample-and-hold nature of the OLED screen, don’t expect miracles just because it’s got fast response times. There are major and obvious benefits in motion clarity as you increase to 138Hz high refresh rate mode though and this is strongly encouraged for gaming wherever possible. There are no visible overshoot artefacts, halos or trails here at all. There are minor improvements in motion clarity going from 120Hz to 138Hz, but along with the higher frame rate support, every little helps.

Lag

Read our detailed article about input lag and the various measurement techniques which are used to evaluate this aspect of a display. The screens tested are split into two measurements which are based on our overall display lag tests and half the average G2G response time, as measured by our oscilloscope. The response time element, part of the lag you can see, is split from the overall display lag and shown on the graph as the green bar. From there, the signal processing (red bar) can be provided as a good estimation of the lag you would feel from the display. We also classify each display as follows:

Lag Classification

  • Class 1) Less than 8.33ms – the equivalent to 1 frame lag of a display at 120Hz refresh rate – should be fine for gamers, even at high levels
  • Class 2) A lag of 8.33 – 16.66ms – the equivalent of one to two frames at a 120Hz refresh rate – moderate lag but should be fine for many gamers. Caution advised for serious gaming
  • Class 3) A lag of more than 16.66ms – the equivalent of more than 2 frames at a refresh rate of 120Hz – Some noticeable lag in daily usage, not suitable for high end gaming

There is a super-low lag on the PG42UQ measured at 1ms total display lag, and leaving us with ~0.88ms estimated signal processing lag only at 120Hz. This is fine for competitive gaming and is an excellent result. This is a lot lower than most TV’s since there is no added image processing or advanced scalers like there would be on TV’s, with the screen designed to be like a normal desktop monitor. We measured the screen also at 60Hz (native 4K) and found a total lag of ~15.2ms, so wherever possible we would recommend running the screen at 120Hz of course – even if your frame rate is lower during VRR situations.

For those interested, the forced aspect ratio modes like 24″ and 27″ seemed to show a lag of around 9 – 10ms total as well (120Hz). It’s time consuming to test loads of different connotations, so you may find better results letting the graphics card handle the scaling instead of via the monitor if you did want to game in a smaller window size.

Console Gaming

The PG42UQ is very well positioned to handle the latest games consoles which is great news, and certainly a target market for larger screen sizes like this. The screen features a native 3840 x 2160 “4K” resolution and support for a 120Hz refresh rate, and has 2x HDMI 2.1 ports with proper HDMI 2.1 capabilities (unlike many HDMI 2.1 advertised screens). These ports are the full 48Gbps capacity links, allowing for 4K 120Hz 4:4:4 chroma where supported by the console and content. This is available from the Xbox Series X, but the PS5 is limited to 4:2:2 chroma anyway due to the console itself.

Confirmation of 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 bandwidth on the PG42UQ
Console Gaming
Native panel resolution“4K” 3840 x 2160
Maximum resolution and refresh rate supported4K @ 120Hz
PlayStation 5 support4K @ 120Hz, 4:2:2 chroma (console limit)
Xbox Series X support4K @ 120Hz, 4:4:4 chroma
Virtual 4K supportNot needed
4K at 24Hz support
4K at 50Hz support
HDMI connection versionv2.1 (2 ports)
HDMI connection bandwidth48 Gbps
HDMI-VRR (over HDMI 2.1)
Adaptive-sync (FreeSync) over HDMI
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)
Display aspect ratio controlsFull, Equivalent, 1:1 modes
16:9 (24″ and 27″) 21:9 (34″ UW)
HDR 10 support
Dolby Vision gaming support
Ultra high speed HDMI 2.1 cable provided

At the launch event we confirmed with the Asus product manager that the screen also importantly supports HDMI-VRR which means you can use VRR from both the Xbox Series X and the PS5 nowadays. We did find in our testing with an Xbox Series X that it was only possible to select VRR on the console when the ‘Variable Refresh Rate’ setting in the OSD menu was enabled, but as far as we know this is enabling HDMI-VRR as well as normal adaptive-sync (when using a PC). We unfortunately do not have a PS5 to double check that VRR works as expected on that console.

Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) is also available although unlike on a TV this doesn’t need to switch you to any particular game optimizer mode to reduce lag, as all the modes operate the same since this is a monitor. When you power up an external device like a console over HDMI, the screen will auto-switch to that input for you though which is handy. We also confirmed 24Hz and 50Hz support, along with HDR 10 support. There is no compatibility with Dolby Vision gaming however which is a shame, and something that competing OLED TV’s can offer.

The large screen size makes it well suited to a typical console viewing position, and as we talked about earlier the OLED panel brings obvious benefits in response times, black depth, contrast and HDR performance. The inclusion of decent integrated speakers and a small remote control also make console gaming enjoyable and accessible.

If you want to learn more about how to select a monitor for games consoles, check our our details article here.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

HDR Technical Capabilities
Multiple HDR formats supportedHDR 10 only
Local dimmingYes, pixel level OLED
High number of local dimming zonesPixel level, 8.29 million
Increased peak brightness793 nits (6500K mode)
968 nits (10,000K mode)
Increased dynamic range (contrast) max~Infinite (1.5M:1 advertised)
Increased “local” HDR contrast ratio max~Infinite (1.5M:1 advertised)
Wide colour gamut >90% DCI-P398.4% absolute
101.2% relative
10-bit colour depth supportSupported
12-bit processing over HDMI 2.1

The screen is well positioned to handle HDR content and surpasses everything available currently in the LCD technology desktop monitor space. OLED technology has long been regarded as the best technology for HDR thanks to its pixel-level dimming capability. This allows each pixel to be individually lit, meaning you don’t need backlight local dimming zones or need to worry about issues like blooming or halos like you get on other technologies. Technically the contrast ratio you get for normal SDR content is near infinite:1 as well (for maximum “dynamic range”), but in HDR mode these OLED screens are capable of offering increased peak brightness as well. Let’s compare it to the desktop monitor market though first.

Most desktop monitors, even those advertised with the very lapse and pointless VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification lack any form of local dimming for HDR. So by their nature cannot actually improve the dynamic range of the display! Sure, they can accept an HDR input source (usually just HDR10) and some may offer slightly brighter screens, maybe 10-bit colour depth, maybe a wider colour gamut but they don’t always and the HDR 400 spec doesn’t require any of that either! But without local dimming there’s no improvement to the dynamic range at all and you are basically limited by the LCD panel’s native contrast ratio. For a TN Film or IPS panel this would max out at around 800 – 1200:1 and for a VA panel maybe around 3000 – 5000:1. Local dimming is a vital component of HDR.

Some screens might carry the higher HDR 500 or HDR 600 certifications though which do at least require some form of local dimming to be used, making it at least viable for the dynamic range to be improved. Those specs also require a higher peak brightness of 500 or 600 cd/m2, 10-bit colour depth and wide DCI-P3 gamut so you can at least expect a better HDR potential from HDR 500/600 screens. However, all of these screens feature only fairly simple edge-lit local dimming of the backlight in a very limited number of zones. This is normally something like 8 zones, maybe 16 or 32 if you’re lucky. In theory this can allow for improved dynamic range across the screen as a whole, with the backlight being capable of dimming darker areas while brightening others. In practice you don’t get much of an improvement in “local HDR contrast” between adjacent areas of light and dark, and it’s not capable of picking out smaller highlights or sample areas very well.

For the top-end HDR experience in the LCD monitor market today you’d be looking currently at some of the niche and very expensive top-end models with a Full array Local Dimming (FALD) or Mini LED backlights. We’ve reviewed models like the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ and PG35VQ in the past with 384-zone and 512-zone local dimming backlights for instance. These meet the upper tier HDR 1000 standard so can reach even higher peak brightness of 1000 cd/m2, along with wide gamut colour space and 10-bit colour depth. These FALD options, and some newer “Mini LED” options like the Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX we’ve also reviewed for instance (HDR 1400 with 1152 zones) have even more (and smaller) dimming zones and represent the best available HDR options on desktop LCD monitors today. The problem is these models are very expensive and top-end, and even with many hundred zones, it can still leave you with some issues for HDR content. Blooming and halos are still a problem when smaller highlights are needing to be brightened, and while the more zones the better, it will never be as optimal as per-pixel dimming like on OLED.

So the dimming capabilities of the OLED panel here easily surpass all desktop monitors when it comes to HDR, and the true black and infinite contrast make it ideal for improving the dynamic range. This particular Asus ROG Swift PG42UQ display also has the necessary wide gamut and 10-bit colour depth support so it offers the boosted colours and appearance associated with HDR content too.

The only real limitation here is that unlike competing TV’s, the PG42UQ does not unfortunately support different HDR standards, only supporting HDR 10 and not Dolby Vision or HLG standards. That’s a bit of a shame, and one thing missing from the PG42UQ we would have liked to have seen included that you can find on competing OLED TV’s. Asus tell us that they deliberately left this off as Dolby Vision costs additional money, and they didn’t want to force this on buyers and increase the price of the product when HDR10 support should be sufficient.


Testing HDR mode and the available settings

Updated 31 Aug 2022 with new V031 Firmware Results

When you enable an HDR input then the screen takes a fair time to switch in to HDR mode, about 7 – 8 seconds which is a little annoying. Once you do there are a lot of settings in the OSD menu that are now unavailable. There are 3 HDR modes to choose from which are HDR Gaming, HDR Cinema and HDR Console, in theory allowing you to tweak a few things and switch between them if you want for different uses. You lose access to settings like shadow control, brightness, contrast, blue light filters, gamma and most of the colour controls although quite oddly you have access to switch between only two colour temp modes – the default 6500K or 10,000K. We will talk about that more in a moment.

There is also an additional setting called ‘Brightness Adjustable’ which when enabled allows you to change the brightness control again in the OSD, in case you wanted to reduce the overall brightness of the image (including the peak brightness). This might be handy if you’re playing HDR games up close and find the brightness a bit over-powering. A nice additional control.

We measured the default setup of each HDR mode and you can switch between them using the tabs below:

Results from original V028 firmware

Here are the results from the original testing and the old firmware. Click through each tab for the other modes:

<strong>HDR Gaming</strong>

HDR Gaming is the default mode and on the original V028 firmware in our original testing was pretty nicely setup overall. The PQ curve on the right hand side above shows that the luminance is a bit high for mid grey shades compared with what it should be, leading to a little bit of lost detail in those areas. However, the colour temp is very good at 6519K average across the greyscale, and a very good balance of the RGB channels. The default colour temp settings in the OSD was 6500K by the way. There was also a nice and accurate 6460K white point. This resulted in decent greyscale accuracy with a 1.6 dE average.

Peak brightness in this mode was good for an OLED panel, reaching 816 nits and sustaining that for window sizes from 1 – 10% pretty much. This didn’t quite live up to the expectations of the Asus spec of 900 nits though, something Asus have addressed with the new V031 firmware but at the cost of other areas – see the separate tab for results on that. On the old firmware it was about 100 nits higher than was possible on the LG C2 though, so there is a bit of a better peak brightness here on the PG42UQ and presumably Asus have been able to push this a bit harder since they’ve added the custom large heatsink.

Colour accuracy was considered relative to the large Rec.2020 colour space used for HDR content creation. The panel offers a reasonable coverage of this at 73.6% but falls short (as do all monitors) in green and red shades. The accuracy of colours in this mode on the old V028 firmware was very good overall with only the 100% red, green and cyan shades causing a problem since the gamut is not large enough to reach those shades. If we ignored those then the dE is excellent at 1.0 average.

<strong>HDR Cinema</strong>

HDR Cinema looks visually pretty close to the HDR Gaming mode. Like in the HDR Gaming mode the PQ curve on the right hand side above shows that the luminance is a bit high for mid grey shades compared with what it should be, leading to a little bit of lost detail in those areas. However, the colour temp is very good at 6539K average across the greyscale, and a pretty good balance of the RGB channels, more so in darker grey shades. There was also a nice and accurate 6451K white point. Mid grey shades weren’t quite as accurate as the HDR Gaming mode and we had a 2.7 dE greyscale overall.

Peak brightness was the same as the HDR Gaming mode and again was good for an OLED panel, reaching 812 nits and sustaining that for window sizes from 1 – 10% pretty much. As in HDR Gaming mode this didn’t quite live up to the expectations of the Asus spec of 900 nits though but is about 100 nits higher than was possible on the LG C2 .

Colour accuracy was considered relative to the large Rec.2020 colour space used for HDR content creation. The panel offers a reasonable coverage of this at 73.6% but falls short (as do all monitors) in green and red shades. The accuracy of colours in this mode was very good overall with only the 100% red, green and cyan shades causing a problem since the gamut is not large enough to reach those shades. If we ignored those then the dE is excellent at 1.5 average and was very similar to the performance of the HDR Gaming mode, only slightly less accurate.

<strong>HDR Console</strong>

HDR Console mode looks quite different to the HDR Gaming and HDR Cinema modes, with the most noticeable change being that it is quite a lot darker for some reason. The PQ curve tracking was now more accurate as shown on the right hand side, but there were some issues in other areas. While the white point remained pretty close to our target, being only 3% too warm at 6311K, the greyscale colour temp was quite a lot cooler in middle grey shades, resulting in an average 7141K colour temp. Greyscale accuracy was also poor here with 4.9 dE average.

The most noticeable change was to the brightness of the screen, and peak brightness was now a lot lower than the other modes at 542 nits. We don’t really know why it’s reduced in this mode, or for what purpose but it means this mode isn’t really particularly useful.

Colour accuracy was also not very good in this mode with a dE 3.7 average now if we ignore the 100% primary red, green and cyan colours again. It’s not as accurately set up as the other two HDR modes and we would therefore recommend sticking with HDR Gaming or HDR Cinema for any HDR content.

Where’s the 900 nits peak brightness? (original V028 firmware)

So what happened to the advertised 900 nits peak brightness? It seems the screen can reach around 816 nits maximum in the above testing which is still impressive for an OLED screen, but not delivering what is advertised or expected. We wouldn’t normally cover this kind of setting, but we noticed that one of the few settings available in HDR mode from the menu is the colour temp control, but it only allows you to switch between 6500K (the default) and 10,000K for some reason.

When you do switch between these colour temp modes, it’s not like in SDR mode where the change is instant and the colours just go cooler or warmer, the screen actually goes to black and takes around 12 – 13 seconds to come back up. It’s almost as if it’s changing in to some other mode, and this takes longer in fact than when you first switch from SDR to HDR mode.

We measured the performance in the 10,000K colour temp setting while using the HDR Gaming mode and the results are as follows:

Unsurprisingly the image is a lot cooler in this mode, we’ve still left the measurements relative to a 6500K target in the tables which obviously is no longer the real target of the setting, but it’s still useful to compare with what you’d consider a normal D65 target colour temp. The PQ tracking is good on the right, and the white point is “achieved” at 10,158K. This of course leads to a much more blue and cool looking image in practice than you’d normally want.

This is the area of most interest, as the peak brightness is increased significantly in 10,000K mode and now reaches 943 nits. This actually surpasses the Asus spec of 900 nits, but it’s in a pretty specific and likely undesirable user mode. We expect this mode to be far too cool for most people and so even though you can drive peak brightness higher, it’s at the cost of an overly cool image. In our opinion it makes it largely pointless. We should not forget that 816 nits achieved in the normal 6500K mode is still very good for an OLED panel, and surpasses models like the LG 42C2, but it’s not living up to its 900 nits spec unfortunately in that mode.

Colour accuracy in this mode (relative to a D65 target colour temp again) is not as good, with an average 4.1 dE. This isn’t surprising now the colours are all much cooler and bluer. Again although you can get a higher peak brightness in 10,000K mode, the other areas are significantly impacted.

Results from new V031 firmware – updated 31 Aug 2022

We also re-measured the HDR performance after the new firmware update, and a few things have changed. Again click through the tabs for each mode:

<strong>HDR Gaming</strong>

The main change in the HDR Gaming mode is that it has now been made a fair bit cooler than it was before. We measured a 7932K white point which was 22% out from our target, and cooler than we had on the old firmware at 6460K. It looks like Asus have opted to make the image a bit cooler in order to push the peak brightness higher now in this mode, and we measured 887 nits instead of the 816 nits we’d had before. Colour accuracy took a small hit as well. Personally I preferred the old FW setup with 6500K white point and a slightly lower peak brightness.

<strong>HDR Cinema</strong>

Thankfully although Asus have made the HDR Gaming mode cooler in order to deliver a higher peak brightness closer to 900 nits, the HDR Cinema mode remains more accurate for colour temperature and white point. We had some small improvements in this area actually with the new FW, and a ~6500K white point which was great. The peak brightness is a bit more limited in this mode, reaching 793 nits instead of the 887 nits you can get to in HDR Gaming mode, but this is still a very good result for an OLED screen. Colour accuracy had also been improved slightly to dE 1.0 average, compared with 1.5 dE we’d had before which was of course still very good. We expect this mode will be preferable for most content to get that better colour temp, even if the peak brightness is a bit lower than the HDR Gaming mode.

<strong>HDR Console</strong>

There were only minor changes in the HDR Console mode with the new FW, and the image remained dark with a lower peak brightness as it had before on the old FW. The PQ tracking was now a bit further off the target, with darker mid to bright grey shades than were intended leading to an overall darker image. The peak brightness was the same as it was before on the old FW, for some reason limited to around 544 nits. Colour accuracy had been improved a little though, down from 3.7 dE (ignoring 100% primary colours) to 2.0 dE here which was good news.

Results from new V031 firmware in 10,000K mode – updated 31 Aug 2022

For completeness we re-measured the max peak brightness in the cool 10,000K mode again on the new firmware. White point remained very cool at 10,206K, but peak brightness actually increased slightly from the old firmware, from 943 to 968 nits max now. This mode is still unlikely to be usable for most people as it is overly cool and bluish in appearance.

Peak brightness comparison and discussion – updated 31 Aug 2022

We’ve shown above that the HDR Cinema mode is quite nicely set up and accurate which is great news. HDR Gaming has been changed to be a bit cooler than the old firmware, in order to deliver a peak brightness closer to the 900 nits advertised. We’d suggest avoiding the darker HDR Console mode, and if you did want a darker screen for closer up viewing in any situation you can enable the handy ‘Brightness Adjustable’ setting in the OSD and just lower brightness accordingly to something comfortable. Everyone will hopefully understand the major benefits that OLED can bring for HDR content as well, with very deep blacks, excellent contrast ratio and per pixel dimming for the avoidance of blooming and halos. It’s an excellent panel technology for HDR content.

The main topics of conversation with the PG42UQ and HDR will undoubtedly be the peak brightness and the screen’s anti-glare coating. Let’s talk about peak brightness first of all.

Peak brightness in what we would consider a normal, sensible setup (i.e. ~6500K in the HDR Cinema mode) was impressive for an OLED screen at 793 nits, and surpasses what we’d seen from the LG 42C2 (at 717 nits peak). So we should first of all be pleased by this higher brightness for HDR content from what is the same underlying panel. While the screen can reach higher at 887 nits in HDR Gaming mode (cooler white point at 7932K) and also all the way up to 968 nits in the 10,000K colour temp mode, we don’t expect many people would want to do that, certainly not for the 10,000K mode. Perhaps the newly adjusted HDR Gaming mode gives you a middle ground being a bit cooler, but not aggressively so which may be useful to some people.

The Dell Alienware AW3423DW is another high refresh rate OLED monitor we’ve tested (175Hz max) and this can achieve a higher peak brightness of 1013 nits on its QD-OLED panel, but only for the smallest sample sizes. The peak brightness actually tails off sooner than the PG42UQ as soon as window sizes start to get up to around 3% APL, so the PG42UQ is capable of producing bright highlights for larger APL than the Dell which is good news.

One other note about the peak brightness of the PG42UQ is that the Asus product manager explained at the launch event in August 2022 that the peak brightness may be capped if the screen got too warm, above around 50°C. He explained that because of the large custom heatsink, the screen should handle extended HDR and gaming sessions very well, but if the screen does get too warm, it will cap the brightness a bit lower (to what level is hard to measure) to help reduce any burn-in risks. We didn’t experience this in our testing, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Screen coating for HDR discussion

This is bound to be the most controversial and debated part of the PG42UQ – it’s micro-texture anti-glare coating. It’s value or it’s pitfalls really depend on your use case I think. Since we are considering HDR in this section we should consider the fact that HDR content is really designed to be viewed in a darkened room, with very low external lighting at most. In fact OLED panels generally are best in this kind of environment too. So what impact if any does the screen coating have on the viewing experience?

Some people may be concerned that it causes a drop in perceived black depth and contrast and this is true to a small extent when you compare it to a glossy coated panel under the same conditions. You don’t get quite the same “pop” of the blacks like you do on a glossy panel, but in a darkened room for HDR viewing, the blacks and contrast still look excellent on the PG42UQ we felt and shouldn’t be a big concern to most users.

We talked about this topic more in the earlier ‘Brightness and Contrast’ section of the review, and we plan to do some further side by side testing and comparisons of the PG42UQ next to the C2 so we will report back on any other comments we have or meaningful comparison data.

Movies and Video

The following summarises the screens performance for videos and movie viewing:

CategoryDisplay Specs / MeasurementsComments
Size42″Very large for a desktop monitor even with this latest smaller sized OLED option. Good for movie and video viewing though
Aspect Ratio16:9Well suited to most common 16:9 aspect content and input devices
Resolution3840 x 2160 “4K”Can support Ultra HD “4K” and 1080p content natively
HDCPYes v2.2Suitable for encrypted content including the latest v2.2
Connectivity2x HDMI 2.1
2x HDMI 2.0
Good range of HDMI connectivity for consoles, Blu-ray players etc.
CablesUltra High Speed HDMI
DisplayPort
Unlike most TV’s Asus have provided an Ultra High Speed HDMI 2.1 compatible cable in the box which is nice to see (DisplayPort cable also included).
ErgonomicsLimited tiltLimited tilt adjustment but other than that it can’t be moved at all. Wall mounting is an option popular with many owners of this sized screen.
CoatingAnti-glare (matte)This will depend on your lighting conditions and is discussed a lot more detail throughout the review
Brightness range 38 – 356 cd/m2 (SDR)
~793 cd/m2 (peak HDR)
When in HDR mode the peak brightness is very good for an OLED, more on that in the HDR section above.
ContrastBasically infiniteAmazing contrast thanks to the self-emitting OLED panel where pixels are turned fully off for full black. Produces incredible contrast ratio and shadow detail. Optimal viewing in a darkened room and light controlled environment, both because it’s OLED in general, and to avoid contrast dulling from the AG panel coating.
Preset modesCinema (SDR)
HDR Cinema
There is a cinema mode available which has a cooler setup than our calibrated mode, being set to 9300K colour temp in the menu. You can of course change this, along with things light brightness so it’s useful to have a mode you can set up for movies and something separate to your desktop usage. The HDR Cinema mode is nicely set up and likely to be optimal for HDR movies and video content.
Response times0.49ms G2G at all refresh rates with very low overshootResponse times are excellent and near-instantaneous thanks to the OLED panel. Don’t expect wonders for motion clarity at 60Hz though still. Refresh rate plays an important role here. You do get some additional judder on 24p content for panning shots in movies as a result of the response times being so fast.
Viewing anglesExcellentSuper-wide viewing angles thanks to the OLED panel and no glow like you would get on an IPS panel on dark content
Backlight bleedNoneNo bleed as when an all black image is shown, the pixels are turned off thanks to the OLED panel
AudioHeadphone output and very good Harmon Kardon speakersVery good integrated speakers well beyond anything you’d get from a normal desktop monitor. No support for Dolby Atmos though or things like that which you might find on a TV.
Aspect Ratio ControlsFull, 1:1 mode and various 16:9 aspect ratio sizesGood options to account for non-16:9 format inputs via the “1:1” mode if needed. Many inputs will be the native 16:9 though
PiP / PbPBoth supportedA range of options available here but you do have to disable VRR first to use them which is annoying
Additional featuresRemote controlUnlike competing TV’s there are no Smart TV apps or streaming services, it’s a lot more like a normal monitor. A small but versatile and handy remote is included though
HDR supportSee earlier sectionsee earlier section for detailed analysis

Conclusion

The PG42UQ provides another very viable OLED option for desktop monitor use, and we were pleased to see a screen specifically designed for this use case as opposed to being aimed at the TV market primarily. Probably unsurprisingly by now the OLED panel provides some excellent performance when it comes to response times for gaming, black depth, contrast ratio and for HDR content. There’s no doubt this technology can surpass LCD panel technologies and provide a significant improvement in these areas.

The 42″ screen size is still very large for a desktop monitor so won’t be viable for everyone, but it does provide an interesting option if you’re looking for a large format display for gaming, multimedia and consoles, while still being usable on your desk for normal general office uses. Being designed as a desktop monitor brings some benefits in certain areas. While we were a bit disappointed in the flexibility and range of the adjustment, the small tilt adjustment from the stand is better than nothing. The AG coating will no doubt be controversial, but overall we felt this was the right choice for a desktop monitor and did a very good job of handling reflections and glare. Removing all the image processing and Smart TV functions from competing OLED TV’s helped reduce the input lag to super low levels which was great news. Finally, the addition of a DisplayPort connection was a significant benefit, making the screen far more practical and accessible as a desktop monitor.

On the flip side, being a desktop monitor means you lose some features that competing 42″ OLED TV’s would offer, including the Smart TV apps, tuners and some image processing capabilities, as well as a more advanced remote and yes, the glossy coating if that’s your preference. Probably the main things we missed though relative to models like the LG C2 were support for Dolby Vision and HLG HDR content, and the BFI mode – although this was limited to 60Hz only on the C2 anyway. We were pleased to see that Asus had not cut out other TV-like elements, keeping some decent and capable speakers and a small but handy remote control. There are also 2x full capability HDMI 2.1 ports which make the screen great for console gaming too and Asus even kindly provided a cable in the box for you. The addition of a range of PC USB ports, a tripod mount and headphone jack were useful, and the only things missing relative to a lot of modern monitors would be USB type-C and perhaps a KVM function.

Performance-wise the default setup was good overall and the sRGB emulation mode is decent. The SDR brightness range was very good and thankfully Asus have now addressed our original concerns with the ABL. The screen is very usable now at a range of sensible SDR/desktop brightness levels without ABL even being used at all via the Uniform Brightness setting. There’s been some significant improvements in these areas since our original testing thanks to that new firmware. If you are an owner of this screen you can find our guide to the best PG42UQ settings here as well.

Using the screen for desktop office use was very viable at this size, allowing you to take full advantage of the 4K resolution without needing to scale the image. The text sharpness was the same as competing 42″ OLED TV’s really, despite the somewhat misleading advertising but looked very good in most situations with a bit of minor fringing on text in some situations. We were pleased that Asus provided the option to turn off potentially troublesome OLED protection features like ASBL for these kind of uses to avoid distracting screen dimming (beyond the ABL which you can’t turn off). This does increase the image retention risk of course so you’d need to be careful on your usage given it’s an OLED screen, although we are waiting on full details from Asus on warranty cover and exclusions.

Response times were super-fast as you’d hope for from an OLED panel, and the input lag was really low. Great to see adaptive-sync supported and the small overclock to 138Hz worked over DisplayPort and HDMI 2.1 from a PC. While it’s not a massive difference to 120Hz, every little helps and it offered minor improvements in motion clarity and frame rate support still. HDR performance was generally very good and thanks to the OLED panel the blacks looked deep, and you avoided all issues with halos and blooming that you’d from even the best Mini LED backlit LCD panels thanks to the per-pixel dimming. The HDR preset modes for Gaming and Cinema were nicely set up overall, and the peak brightness of ~816 nits was good for OLED and an improvement over competing TV’s of this size. The push to 900+ nits was a bit of a gimmick, only being possible in a very cool 10,000K mode which was a shame, but 816 nits is still decent. For HDR movies and gaming as we said before, the loss of Dolby Vision and also HLG format support was a shame.

Where to Buy

One final consideration here of course will be the price, with the screen available to pre-order at the time of writing from both Amazon and Overclockers in the UK at a ~£1400 GBP price point (affiliate links). Check the links above for availability in your region and latest pricing. This means though that it is considerably more expensive than the LG 42C2 which retailed for the same price at launch, but is now available at ~£950 (e.g. from Amazon in the UK). This is the issue with the PG42UQ arriving a lot later than the LG, and it means it’s now considerably more expensive than LG’s model. Maybe the price will come down in time after launch, but for a lot of people it might be hard to justify that additional money to be honest at current pricing. The PG42UQ is a more capable and appropriate display for desktop monitor use, but you’ll have to decide if you are willing to pay the additional premium for screen.

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If you’re still unclear if the PG42UQ is right for you, or you should look at something else like the LG 42C2, check out our video comparing the screens above

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ProsCons
OLED panel offering excellent black depth, contrast and pixel response timesLack of support for Dolby Vision and HLG HDR formats as well as missing BFI function
Improved peak brightness for HDR relative to competing 42″ OLED TV’s, although not as high as the spec (in 6500K mode)Stand is still very limited in adjustment range
Super low input lag thanks to monitor- focused design and featuresHDR peak brightness spec not realised unless colour temp is cooler than target


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