Photographer’s review of the ASUS PA27UCX-K HDR monitor

HDR displays are already the norm for TVs, smart phones, and Apple computers. However, options are more limited for external computer monitors. I have several options and general buying advice on my recommended HDR monitors page. ASUS has caught my attention with a large number of great HDR options in their ProArt line, so I recently acquired three of them to test and see how they compare to my Pro Display XDR and MacBook Pro’s XDR display, both of which are outstanding mini-LED displays.

This review is focused on the ASUS PA27UCX-K, which caught my attention for several reasons:

  • Great HDR support:
    • 1000 nits peak brightness for great highlights
    • 576 local dimming zones to ensure good blacks
    • wide gamut (99.5% Adobe RGB, 98% DCI-P3)
    • 4k resolution in a 27 display
    • A film designed to offer improved halo performance over older models
  • Great accuracy:
    • deltaE <1%
    • Support for calibration in the monitor hardware itself. This is ideal for HDR because there is no standard for the typical ICC-based calibration at this time.
    • A colorimeter is included with the monitor (at least in North America).
  • Great value: monitor, colorimeter, and a very nice stand for only $1499.

This monitor is well supported on both MacOS and Windows.

 

Image quality:

I tested three different ASUS monitors and they have consistently under-promised and over-delivered on brightness. I actually get over 1,500 nits brightness with this display. This translates to a potential 4+ stops of HDR headroom (depending on SDR brightness), which is excellent. Sustained brightness is 1000 nits, which in practice means you’ll almost never have brightness the limitations which are more likely to impact your experience with an OLED display. This monitor offers outstanding HDR capability.

Just as important as that HDR capacity is its accuracy, and this monitor delivers. Unlike most monitors, the ASUS ProArt displays support full calibration for SDR and HDR in the hardware. That is a huge benefit, as there is no standard yet for the sort of ICC profiles we typically create for SDR displays. This particular model also includes a slick built-in colorimeter. It’s motorized and will automatically pop out when needed and hide the colorimeter when not in use. This display shows great color accuracy after calibration in the custom User Modes. I have some questions on the results in the default system modes which may need a firmware update (I have sent details to ASUS). That isn’t much of a concern as the User Modes work great.

It supports a wide range of capability and control for calibration. You can target all common gamuts (with covering including 100% sRGB, 99% Adobe RGB, 97% DCI-P3, and the option to target Rec. 2020). You can target various EOTFs (sRGB, gamma, PQ, HLG, etc). And can set a target white luminance in SDR modes, which is very handy to have as a consistent reference for evaluating images to be printed.

A common question with any mini-LED display is blooming / haloing, which may occur in dark pixels near very bright areas of the image. This display offers minimal haloing. It does not exhibit the dark halos seen on the lower cost PA32UCXR, though it does have some minor bright halos. They are trivial, but the flagship PA32UCXR offers clear improvements for the most demanding photographers (it even outperforms the Pro Display XDR in deep shadow detail with its 4x greater local dimming zones).

Overall, this is a great monitor for both serious SDR and HDR photography.

 

Other aspects of the monitor:

The monitor comes with a very nice stand. It is easy to setup – you just snap the display right onto it and it secures itself nicely. It looks beautiful and offers simple adjustment. You can easily adjust height, tilt, and swivel. You can even rotate the display between landscape and portrait orientation, though you will need to momentarily tilt the display somewhat to clear the base while rotating it.

It includes a wide range of inputs: USB-C, Display Port or HDMI. The Thunderbolt is the ideal option as it can supply 90W to charge your laptop and enables pass-through connections to downstream devices. Its downstream ports include 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A connections so that you can easily dock a laptop with a single cable.

The on screen display menus offer typical controls and is fairly easy to use, but like most monitors may be a little daunting to users who aren’t experience with customizing their display. Thankfully, there is little that needs to be done.

It includes a speaker, but like most monitors is nothing special. Expect to use your laptop or other external speakers if you want great sound.

 

How does this compare to other ASUS monitors?

The ASUS PA27UCX-K sits in a funny middle ground between the entry level mini-LED (PA32UCR-K) and the flagship (PA32UCXR). It has a smaller 27″ screen at a higher price point ($1500 vs $1200) than the entry-level 32″ model, but justifies it with display technology that avoids the dark halos of its lower cost sibling. The haloing on that other 32″ model won’t be a concern for many users (once setup properly as noted in my review), but the extra cost of the 27″ model will be justified for those who want higher display uniformity.

There is less of a comparison to the flagship (PA32UCXR). That is a newer model with higher image quality and simpler calibration (the colorimeter is built into the monitor), but double the price. It’s in a different class, and well worth the upgrade if your budget will accommodate it.

 

Conclusions: Who should buy this monitor and what are good alternatives?

The ASUS ASUS PA27UCX-K offers an great HDR experience with ~1600 nits, high color accuracy with integrated colorimeter, and very good image quality in a 27″ display, and support for both Mac and PC. It is a great option for those who are looking for high HDR image quality at a budget price and who do not wish to consider an OLED TV. It’s also a great option for those who prefer a smaller 27″ display, as most alternative HDR options are 32″ monitors or much larger TVs.

If you are primarily focused on low cost, the PA32UCR-K will get you a larger display (and still support calibration) and an OLED TV will offer you even larger size options at even lower price points.

If you are primarily focused on image quality, the PA32UCXR is an ideal choice for both MacOS and Windows.

Be sure to see my recommended HDR monitors page for details on how to evaluate HDR displays and even more options to consider.

Greg Benz Photography