A gaming rig is only as powerful as its weakest component. Think about it: Does it really make sense to spend thousands on a cutting-edge graphics card, a CPU powerful enough to not bottleneck it, and some wild amount of storage, like 2TB of SSDs and 128GB of RAM, only to turn around and plug into a 21.5-inch monitor plucked from a Best Buy clearance bin? (And no, it’s not better if you plug it into several clearance-bin monitors.)
There’s probably some sort of middle-ground monitor between “found in the clearance bin” and the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ. But since I just spent two weeks playing video games instead of finishing this review because every time I turned around to test something on the PG27UQ I got sucked into how beautiful everything was…well, why bother with mediocrity when you can get a monitor so pretty it will destroy your productivity?
Possibly because the ROG Swift PG27UQ is more than $1,000 (price ranges from $1,200 to $1,500 online). That’s right: This monitor isn’t just on the pricier side, it might cost more than your entire computer. But god it’s so pretty.
It’s hard to justify a $1,200 price tag, but hear me out. The Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ is a sleek yet sturdy 27-inch gaming monitor with a 4K UHD quantum-dot IPS display with full-array backlighting and a DCI-3P color gamut. It supports Nvidia’s G-Sync HDR technology, and it also has at least three different ways to display the ROG (Republic of Gamers) eye logo in lights. Oh, and the lights are compatible with Asus’ Aura Sync technology, so you can sync up the monitor’s lights with any other ROG peripherals you happen to have lying around.
Here’s the thing, though: This isn’t a new monitor. The PG27UQ came out in June of 2018—that’s right, it’s more than two years old. And while it’s been holding its own against the competition pretty well—it’s a gorgeous monitor even by today’s standards—it is starting to show its age, especially now that the next-gen consoles have dropped. The PG27UQ has two digital display inputs, 1x DisplayPort 1.4 and 1x HDMI 2.0 (it also has 2x downstream USB 3.0, 1x upstream USB 3.0, and 1x 3.5mm audio jack; all ports are hidden under a removable plastic back panel). But both the Microsoft Xbox 5 and the Sony PlayStation 5 have HDMI 2.1 ports.
These days there are generally two types of digital display inputs: DisplayPort and HDMI. Both of these inputs have undergone several revisions since their debut—the current revisions are DisplayPort 2.0 and HDMI 2.1—and each new standard brings increased transmission bandwidth. This is important because in order to take full advantage of the PG27UQ’s 4K UHD resolution at its overclocked 144Hz refresh rate, you need a lot of bandwidth—more bandwidth than an HDMI 2.0 standard gives you. With HDMI 2.0, you can get a max data rate of about 14.4 Gbps, but with HDMI 2.1 you can get a max data rate of about 42.6 Gbps—that’s a pretty big difference. DisplayPort 1.4 gives you a max data rate of about 25.92 Gbps—not quite as much as HDMI 2.1, but still quite a bit more than HDMI 2.0.
If you’re a PC gamer and only a PC gamer, this may not seem like a huge issue. DisplayPort 1.4 shouldn’t present too many problems when you’re trying to push up to that 144Hz refresh rate. If you’re a console gamer, however—specifically a next-gen console gamer—this could be a dealbreaker. You’ll still be able to play your Xbox 5 or PS5 on this monitor, but I’m not sure it makes sense to drop two grand on the monitor to end all monitors if you’re not going to be able to get both ultra high-def picture and super snappy refresh rates when you play the latest console games. This is just something to keep in mind. This monitor was a good buy a couple of years ago, but it has depreciated at least a little since then.
Digital input drama aside, this display is gorgeous. I’m not talking about the physical aesthetics—it’s a sleek-looking monitor, but I’ll come back to that—I’m talking about the picture.
The Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ is a 4K UHD display with an aspect ratio of 16:9 and a 3840 x 2160 resolution. The screen measures 27 inches diagonally, which is a good size for a monitor (more than 27 inches starts to get unwieldy). The Windows 10 interface looks great scaled up to 125%, and if you aren’t as easily distracted as I am by attractive displays, this would make an excellent work monitor.
The PG27UQ has full-array backlighting, which means there are LEDs all over the screen lighting it, as opposed to just at the edges. This means a couple of things. First, the screen can get very bright. The PG27UQ can hit 1000 nits, which is…well, very bright. For reference, the iPhone 12 Pro has a “typical” max brightness level of 800 nits and an HDR max brightness level of 1200 nits. Phones are designed to be used outside, in direct sunlight, while gigantic gaming monitors typically are not, so 1000 nits is very bright.
The second benefit of full-array backlighting is how it affects HDR (high-dynamic range) and contrast. Full-array backlighting allows for more precise control over local dimming, and the PG27UQ has 384 LED zones that can be independently controlled (dimmed or brightened). This means the screen can produce images with excellent contrast ratios—super dark, inky blacks and bright, vibrant colors without compromising image quality. This is great for darker, grungier games with HDR support, such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider. There’s lots of depth and detail, no muddying. It’s also good for brighter, more vibrant games, like No Man’s Sky. Even games without HDR support, like Subnautica, are entrancing on this monitor.
Calibrating the PG27UQ is a snap. On the back of the display, in the lower-right corner, there are four buttons and a mini-joystick for navigating through the monitor’s on-screen menus. The main menu, which you can navigate solely with the joystick, is where you’ll find options like overclocking, blue light filtering, and screen calibration, as well as options for controlling the many lights on the monitor and stand (and Aura Sync).
The PG27UQ actually looks pretty good out of the box. It didn’t need much calibration, but it wasn’t perfect, so it still helped. The monitor also has several visual preset modes—scenery, racing, cinema, RPG, FPS, sRGB—as well as a GamePlus menu, which has some gamer-friendly tools such as timers, an FPS counter, and a tool for aligning multiple screens.
The Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ is built like a tank—a sleek, stylish tank, but a tank nonetheless. It comes in a box larger than my TV (which is admittedly not that big at just 32 inches) and includes several accessories: a stand, input cables (HDMI, DisplayPort, USB), a pack of lenses for the stand’s built-in logo light, and instructions.
I really loved the tripod-style stand. It looks neat, with blade-like legs, a downward-facing light that projects the ROG logo onto your desk, and a backward-facing light that projects the ROG logo onto the wall behind it. But it’s not so obnoxiously over-the-top that it could only be used as a gaming monitor, and you can turn off the ROG projection lights from the on-screen menu. It’s also incredibly sturdy and well-built, both adjustable and ergonomic. It’s easy to adjust the height of the monitor, swivel it from side to side, tilt it, and even pivot it a full 90 degrees for a vertical display.
The stand does take up a little more room than I initially expected it would, but it is a pretty thick monitor. It has its own fan/cooling system packed in, after all. Together, the monitor and stand weigh a little over 20 pounds, which is about twice as much as my other 27-inch monitor (a modest, budget-friendly BenQ I actually did pick up out of a clearance bin at Fry’s a few years ago).
The monitor itself is a nice mix of clean, classic styling from the front and more aggressive gamer-oriented styling on the back. From the front, the display is almost mundane: just a 27-inch screen with an anti-glare coating and a matte black medium-sized bezel. You can tell it’s a premium monitor, but it doesn’t look like some futuristic alien thing (see: Acer Predator x27 and its screen hood), which means it would blend easily into an office, or a home office.
The back of the monitor is where it starts to get more gamer-oriented, though it’s not nearly as aggressively-styled as some ROG products. The back of the monitor features a giant ROG eye logo that lights up and syncs with Asus’ Aura Sync technology. While I don’t necessarily think I’d use the stand’s backward-facing logo light, I do like that this monitor has lights for both the user and the viewer. It is a little disappointing to buy a cool gaming peripheral and then never get to admire the lights yourself.
And this is definitely a monitor for a very specific type of gamer, specifically one with a decently powerful Nvidia graphics card, because you’ll need at least an Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti for the PG27UQ. The monitor supports Nvidia G-Sync HDR but not FreeSync, so if you have an AMD graphics card…move along. You also need to connect via DisplayPort if you want that overclocked refresh rate, because the HDMI tops out at a refresh rate of 60Hz.
The Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ monitor is impressive, even after a couple of years on the market, but all that said: Is it worth $1,200?
Well, if you’re a console-hating Nvidia fan with a maxed-out rig, this is still a great monitor. You can often find it on sale—I’ve seen it dip to nearly 50% off at times—which would make it an even more compelling purchase. It has a gorgeous display, wide color gamut, speedy refresh rate (via DisplayPort), and it’s definitely built to last. It’s just not quite as impressive or as future-proof as it once was, now that the future is actually here.
- Absolutely gorgeous.
- Absolutely expensive.