ASUS PB278Q 27-inch WQHD PLS LED Monitor Review

ASUS-PB278Q WQHD LED PLS 27-inch 2560x1440 Monitor Review - Intro Iso View

IPS displays have been around for quite some time now, and have long been the standard in color accuracy and overall vibrance.  However, they suffer from poor input lag and response time performance, and those who watch movies or play games on IPS displays often complain of ghosting.  PLS display technology promises color accuracy and contrast ratios which will rival IPS while reducing input lag, ghosting, and power consumption, making it a jack-of-all-trades display.  This is our first PLS panel we've gotten our hands on, so let's dive right in.

ASUS PB278Q Overview

Envision bigger with 2560 x 1440 WQHD, packing four times the pixel density of 720p! New premium 16:9 wide-format PB278Q LED displays with PLS panel afford 178° wide viewing angles for better productivity, opening extra multitasking space to fit more windows and projects on-screen. ASUS exclusive Splendid Video Intelligence Technology, QuickFit Virtual Scale, and 100% sRGB fidelity ensure reality-defining color and image accuracy, giving you true “what you imagine is what you create” power. HDMI, DisplayPort, and dual-link DVI support WQHD natively, accentuated by room-dominating audio via twin 3W speakers. To help you stay naturally focused, ergonomic design includes tilt, swivel, pivot, and height adjustment, plus streamlined cabling that keeps clutter off your desktop.


  • Impeccable lifelike visuals with 27” 16:9 2560 x 1440 with 100% sRGB
    178° wide-viewing angle
  • Extensive connectivity with native WQHD content support with HDMI,
    DisplayPort, and Dual-link DVI
  • ASUS-exclusive QuickFit Virtual Scale and Splendid Video Intelligence Technology for true ‘what you see is what you get’
  • Ergonomic tilt, swivel, pivot, and height adjustment plus smart cable management




Panel Size: Wide Screen 27.0"(68.47cm) 16:9
Color Saturation : 100%(sRGB)
Panel Type : PLS Panel
True Resolution : 2560x1440 (HDMI/DisplayPort/Dual-link DVI)  /  1920x1080 (D-sub)
Pixel Pitch : 0.233mm
Brightness(Max) : 300 cd/㎡
ASUS Smart Contrast Ratio (ASCR) : 80000000:1
Viewing Angle (CR≧10) : 178°(H)/178°(V)
Response Time : 5ms (Gray to Gray)
LCD ZBD Warranty : Yes

Video Features

Trace Free Technology
SPLENDID Video Intelligence Technology
SPLENDID Video Preset Modes : 5 Modes
Color Temperature Selection : 4 Modes
Gamma adjustment : Yes (Support Gamma 2.2/1.8 )
QuickFit (modes) : Yes (Letter/A4/Alignment Grid/Photo Modes)
HDCP support

Audio Features

Stereo Speakers : 3W x 2 Stereo RMS


SPLENDID Video Preset Mode Selection
Auto. Adjustment
Brightness Adjustment
Volume Adjustment
Input Selection

I/O Ports

Signal Input : HDMI 1.4, D-Sub, DisplayPort 1.2, Dual-link DVI-D
PC Audio Input : 3.5mm Mini-Jack
AV Audio Input : HDMI 1.4
Earphone jack : 3.5mm Mini-Jack

Signal Frequency

Analog Signal Frequency : 24~89 KHz(H)/ 50~75 Hz(V)
Digital Signal Frequency : 24~89 KHz(H)/ 50~75 Hz(V)

Power Consumption

Power Consumption(Typical):<60W
Power Saving Mode:<0.5W
Power Off Mode:<0.5W
Voltage: 100-240V, 50/60Hz

Mechanical Design

Chassis Colors : Black
Tilt : +20°~-5°
Swivel : Yes
Pivot : Yes
Height Adjustment : Yes
VESA Wall Mounting : 100x100mm


Kensington lock

Dimensions (WxHxD)

With Stand:  643x552.3x218 mm
Without Stand:  643x386.2x69.6mm  (For VESA Wall Mount)
Box:  755x470x224 mm


Net Weight (Esti.):8.8kg
Gross Weight (Esti.):12.0kg


Dual-link DVI cable
VGA cable
Audio cable
Power cord
DisplayPort cable
Quick start guide
HDMI cable
Warranty Card


Energy Star®, BSMI, CB, CCC, CE, C-Tick, FCC, Gost-R, ISO-9241-307, J-MOSS, PSE, RoHS, TCO5.2, UL/cUL, VCCI, WHQL (Windows 7)


Included Accessories

Being a higher-end monitor, we'd expect some good breadth of accessories included in the box.  ASUS doesn't disappoint by providing a cable for each of the inputs, so it's ready to get hooked up to whatever you will have available, be it VGA, DVI, HDMI, and/or DisplayPort.  An included audio cable will allow you to use the speakers (rather unlikely) with DVI and VGA connections.  Other than that, since there are no drivers necessary, the only other inclusions are the power cord and warranty card.

ASUS PB278Q - Design


ASUS PB278Q LED PLS WQHD Review - Front-PanelASUS PB278Q LED PLS WQHD Review - Back-Panel

ASUS doesn't try to break down any barriers with the aesthetic design of the PB278Q, and we have no issues with that.  It's a no-frills design with a clean, square, and relatively-thin bezel for a screen this size.  Even though this is an LED display, it wasn't built to be super light or super thin, it was designed to have great color reproduction.  ASUS has kept the lines of the PB278Q inflated to give plenty of backlight volume so that the backlighting will be as uniform as possible.  The only real aesthetic "touch" is the piano black gloss stripe running upwards on the base.  We are glad that it's a matte finish so we don't have to worry about dusting and wiping fingerprints off every few minutes.


ASUS PB278Q LED PLS WQHD Review - Swivel-Mechanism-MountingASUS-PB278Q-Portrait-Side

The PB278Q is also a bit of a gymnast, and it will contort in a number of ways.  Being primarily a productive/collaborate display, it will tilt downward 5 degrees and 20 degrees upward, swivel 60 degrees to either side (to quickly turn your display to show your desk/tablemate something), and rotate a full 90 degrees for a portrait layout. The hinge is smooth and rock solid and also slides effortlessly up or down to meet your needs.


ASUS PB278Q LED PLS WQHD Review -Height-AdjustmentASUS PB278Q LED PLS WQHD Review -Portrait

ASUS PB278Q LED PLS WQHD Review - Maximum-Downward-TiltASUS PB278Q LED PLS WQHD Review - Maximum-Upward-Tilt

The square base has an ample footprint to give the display a rock-steady feel in any of the monitor's contorted positions.


ASUS PB278Q LED PLS WQHD Review - Control-ButtonsASUS-PB278Q-Input-Ports

The OSD buttons are situated far enough back that they are barely noticeable at eye-level at the bottom of the display.  I like this for two reasons: they are for all intensive purposes "invisible" buttons, while avoiding the clunky-recessed or touch-based style of button.  Recessed buttons can be tricky to properly "feel" and most touch-based buttons require needless prodding and are often poorly-executed.  They stick out plenty far where they are easy to use, which is a big plus.  The power button is diffused and sticks out a bit farther so you can see its on, off, or sleep statuses.  The input ports are neatly placed along the back and includes, from left to right, a DisplayPort, VGA, DVI, HDMI, and audio inputs.  Everything you should want or need.


ASUS PB278Q LED PLS WQHD Review - Swivel-BaseASUS PB278Q LED PLS WQHD Review - Kensington-Lock

The stand is rather hefty (thankfully) and provides a sturdy base that is also capable of swivelling.  The rubber feet are still flush with the bottom of the swivel pad, so they grip the surface to keep the display from freely rotating and also keeps it firmly planted on the surface of your desk.  This is better than if the swivel pad stood alone on the table freely rotating and being more prone to sliding.  Assembling the base is a one-step process, as the screw with a built-in turning handle is all that's needed.  The base rocks into place over two sturdy metal tabs, and the screw holds everything in place.  The left side (when facing the back) has the Kensington lock to keep your valuable display a bit safer from theft (or a coworker/roommate trying to "borrow" it).

ASUS PB278Q - On Screen Controls

bwd  Set 1/3  fwd

The on screen display is laid out very traditionally, and I found it a bit tricky to use at first.  Mostly because I wish the up/down arrows were right next to each other, but after a bit of practice navigation is fine.  There are 5 preset modes: Standard, sRGB, Scenery, Theater, and User.  User allows manual RGB color adjustment and dual white point settings.  The sRGB was by far the most accurate out of the box, but I tended to like "Standard" or "Scenery" modes for games and movies because they deliver a more intense white and vibrance that I tended to like for those applications.  Other "standard" adjustments can be made to the brightness, contrast, color temp, Gamma, and in user mode hue and saturation.  The "Trace Free" can be used as preemptive ghosting prevention, and the 20/40 setting did a good job at evening out ghosting we saw in PixPerAn (discussed later) while anything higher caused some over-correction.


Viewing Angles

The viewing angles are very good, and rival what you may expect from IPS displays.  The screen still looks very bright even at extreme angles.  Obviously once you get more to the side you start getting reflections and other interference that will naturally begin to reduce its clarity.  Overall though the viewing angles don't disappoint.

ASUS PB278Q - Color Quality / Accuracy

Since the sRGB setting was by far the most accurate out-of-the-box, we used that as our "stock" calibration setting.  We used an X-rite i1Display Pro and its accompanying software to measure and calibrate the display at the center of the panel.

ΔE Avg
sRGB  2.14  1.48  2.07  2.03 2.16  1.44 2.09  1.49  2.15  9.29  1.97  1.84  1.38
Calibrated  1.15  0.13  1.56  0.34  0.55  1.29  0.42  0.73  1.99  8.41  0.76  0.89  0.39


ΔE Avg
sRGB  2.14  2.53  1.62  1.76 1.89 1.84 2.29 2.31 2.45 1.82 1.54 1.56  0.49
Calibrated  1.15  1.32  1.99  1.68  0.55  0.55  0.34  0.65  1.51  0.70  0.59  0.52  0.62


Our of the box we got a very respectable average Delta E value with the sRGB setting of 2.14.  ASUS doesn't make any guarantees about the out-of-the-box color accuracy, but being that it's marketed as a "professional" monitor we'd expect it to be lower than 4.  Pleasantly surprised by its accurate sRGB preset performance, we then used X-rite's software bundled with the i1Display Pro to calibrate the display and re-measure.  The results were very good here as well, halving the average Delta E value to 1.15, which is itself very good.


Gamut Quality

ASUS PB278Q Gamutvision

A white backlight will limit the overall Adobe RGB gamut that is available to be produced by the screen.  Using Gamutvision we see that we have 81.1% of the Adobe RGB Gamut available, which is pretty good for the $700 price point the PB278Q sits in.


Color Uniformity

Just as important is the color uniformity of the display.  If you're working on large-format graphics, and you only have the accuracy you're looking at on select areas of the screen, it may be of diminishing value to you.  The color swatches below are the ones used to measure and calibrate the display. 

ASUS PB278Q Review - Average Color Uniformity

Click a swatch and it will open the uniformity measurements for that color.  The color uniformity testing was conducted at 9 spots on the display, centered on the boxes created by dividing the display evenly into thirds, so we did not test the extreme edges for this.  However, we'll be doing so on the next page for brightness and contrast uniformity to test for backlight bleeding.


ASUS-PB278Q-Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q-Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q-Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review-Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality Swatch

ASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality Swatch

ASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality Swatch

ASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality SwatchASUS-PB278Q Review -Color Quality Swatch

The individual results are consistent with the overall average, with a few colors having slightly different uniformity qualities.  Most, however, have the best accuracy at the center of the panel and the bottom-middle and the accuracy is worst on the left and right edges in the center.  The middle-left side consistently was the least accurate.

ASUS PB278Q - Brightness

ASUS advertises a relatively high 300 nits (note Nit = cd/m²) maximum brightness level.  Since PLS has an advantage that each of the cells allow more of the backlight to pass through, it becomes easier for manufactures to deliver brighter displays without boosting the power consumption.  Our measurements showed that the PB278Q could deliver 301.38 nits of brightness at the center of the display, so its specification is hit right on the head.  Also important is how dim it can go.  For those who might plan on using the monitor in a dim/dark office, you may require very low brightness to prevent unwanted eye strain.  The PB278Q, on the other end of the spectrum, was able to get as low as 58 nits, so everyone should be pretty well-covered for your brightness preferences.

Maximum Brightness:  301.4 Nits

Minimum Brightness:  58 Nits



Contrast Ratio

The contract ratio at the center of the screen was very strong.  With the black level at maximum brighness at 0.32 Nits, the true Contrast Ratio is an impressive 930:1.  At half brightness (calibrated to 150 Nits), the black level sinks to 0.15 Nits with a White Level of 144.34 Nits, which gives a true contrast ratio of 974:1.  Again, we're happy with the results here.


Backlight Uniformity

To measure the backlight uniformity, we took black and white levels at 5 locations vertically and horizontally (25 total positions).  The edges and corners were measured as close as we could get our X-rite i1Display Pro, which is within about a quarter inch.  We took uniformity measurements at full brightness (~300 nits) and at roughly half brightness for a typical dimmer usage, calibrated to 150 nits brightness.


150 Nits (Half Brightness)

300 Nits (Full Brightness)

Black Level (Nits)
ASUS PB278Q Review - Half Brightness Black Level Uniformity ASUS PB278Q Review - Full Brightness Black Level Uniformity
(Click to see full size version)
White Level
ASUS PB278Q Review - Half Brightness White Level Uniformity ASUS PB278Q Review - Full Brightness White Level Uniformity
(Click to see full size version)
Contrast Ratio
 ASUS PB278Q Review - Half Brightness Contrast Ratio  ASUS PB278Q Review - Full Brightness Contrast Ratio
(Click to see full size version)


Similarly (and also related) to the color results, we see the corners and the sides having the greatest deviation from the center.  The center down to the middle-bottom tends to be very uniform, but the corners are bright while the left side is a bit dim.  While our sensitive i1Display Pro can detect these "bright" corners and their effects on the Delta E color measurements, with an all-black screen the backlight bleeding isn't detectable by my eyes.  I tried using my DSLR with varying exposures to see if I could get a good visual of any backlight bleeding, but even my DSLR couldn't detect anything definitive.  Overall, the backlight uniformity is pretty good, but the left edge definitely deviates more abruptly from the rest of the panel.  The contrast ratios actually end up being very uniform across the screen, with, again, the largest deviations seen in the corners.


Backlight PWM

As you may or may not know, display brightness is often controlled by PWM (pulse-width modulation) which basically modifies the "on-off" waveform.  The more "on" time and less "off" time of the wave, the brighter it will be.  Most PWMs use a similar frequency, and once the off time becomes long enough, a flicker is produced.  Flicker is more pronounced in LEDs because there is very little illumination "bleeding."  LEDs switch off-and-on very quickly, where you may notice CCFL (Cold Cathode Flourescent Light) bulbs in your house "glow" when turned off.  A very good informational article on monitor PWM can be found at TFTCentral.




The image above is the PWM frequency of a 1/25" exposure time while slowly panning.  We can count 9 lines over 1/25 of a second.  Crunching a few numbers, (9 lines / (1/25 seconds) = 225 Hz PWM frequency.  225 Hz is a fairly high PWM frequency, and even at the lowest brightness levels we still fail to notice flicker.  Flicker can cause significant eye strain, especially over the course of a day, so this can really be a deal-breaker for those who plan to use it for work.  Fortunately, you shouldn't have any issues, even if you plan to use it at low luminance levels in a dim environment.

ASUS PB278Q - Ghosting

Using PixPerAn to observe ghosting, the PB278Q did quite well.  The built-in "Trace Free" feature which is used to prevent ghosting produced the best result for us at the "20" setting.  Anything higher than that began to produce a bit of overshooting compensation and the ghosting effect was minimized noticeably, if not almost eliminated altogether.  Ghosting in other applications, like movies and gaming, will be discussed in a bit more detail in the next couple paragraphs.




 (Click image for full 2560x1440 resolution)


Gaming on the PB278Q is, quite simply, an absolute pleasure.  And while I don't have pro-level standards for my monitors (requiring 2ms response times and 120Hz refresh rates, I found absolutely nothing that kept me from thoroughly enjoying using ASUS' PB278Q for fast-paced FPS gaming.  The response times felt very good, there was no noticeable ghosting, the colors and vibrance lent to an immersive experience, and the 2560x1440 resolution gave the games a whole new level of pretty (and gave our 7970 DirectCU II a run for its money).  The extra real estate allowed me to boost up the field of view without it looking through a fish-eye lens which lent to a slight advantage, especially since we had plenty of pixels so we weren't sacrificing any detail. 


The gaming performance really lends to the PB278Q being a "quiver killer," as it can be used for professional-level graphics work and then be used for games and be just as well-suited.  You know what they say about work and play, ASUS must have listened when putting together the PB278Q.



 (Click image for full 2560x1440 resolution)


Movies and other multimedia also looks great.  Blu Ray movies still look fantastic stretched across the 2560x1400 resolution, and the relatively quick response times keep your movies from ghosting.  The fast-paced action scenes of HBO's "The Pacific" looked uterly fantastic, especially when supplimented by the "scenery" mode.  In fact, the "scenery" mode has been an outright boon to my multimedia collection.

ASUS PB278Q - Final Thoughts

Overall, ASUS' PB278Q comes in a simple package that allows alot of collaborative and productive flexibility with 60 degree side-to-side swivel, 90 degree rotation, +5/-20 degree tilt, and height adjustments.  The viewing angles, vibrant (and quite accurate) colors, and great contrast ratio seems to make a pretty strong case for the first PLS panel we here at Tech Kings have gotten our hands on.  We didn't feel like the day-to-day usage was noticeably better or worse than an IPS display, that is, until we got into literally playing with the PB278Q.  Gaming is a pleasure, and the low response times mean gaming is possible without the frustration-inducing input lag or ghosting.  Movies are great, and its 27-inch size lends very well to watching movies and other multimedia.


The default sRGB color accuracy was quite good with an average Delta E value of 2.14, and after calibration we were able to achieve an average Delta E of 1.15, measured with an X-rite i1Display Pro at the center of the panel.  The brightness range of the backlight went from a low of about 60 Nits to a high of the rated 300 Nits maximum brightness, which should meet the brightness needs of almost any environment.  The PWM used to control the backlight brightness runs at 225 Hz, so we didn't notice any flicker, even at low brightnesses. 




The overall uniformity was pretty good, but the corners had a bit of light bleed and the left edge suffered a bit more than the rest of the panel.  Any bleeding that our i1Display Pro was able to measure, however, waasn't noticeable with the naked eye or in our attempts to capture the "bright spots" with a DSLR at various exposure settings at full aperture.  The color uniformity was consistent and affected by the brighter corners and left edge, and they followed a similar pattern.  Contrast ratios and color accuracy were best in the center and middle-bottom of the panel, with both become slightly worse as you went towards the top and right edge.  The left edge was distinctly worse than the right, but the overall difference wasn't enough for us to be too concerned with.


The Samsung S27A850D is a very similarly-spec'd PLS monitor which lacks any height adjustment and doesn't have anything to claim over the PB278Q in aesthetics, and it's $100 more than ASUS' offering.  The closest IPS monitor with a nearly identical feature set and, only recently, at the same price is the Dell UltraSharp U2713HM.  So if you're sold on IPS over PLS, or vice versa, those are the two that will probably stand together at the $700 price point.  Relatively-speaking, the $700 mark is a bit of a sweet spot, about $100 below most other comparable IPS and PLS displays while offering a very solid overall package. 


I've really enjoyed our first exposure to PLS displays, not so much because the panel itself is remarkably better than IPS, it's really difficult if not impossible to tell them apart when you're looking at them side-by-side, but rather its versatility advantage.  I love that a monitor I can use for graphics and video editing can just a few minutes later be used to play Battlefield 3 or watch a  movie with car chases and explosions without feeling like your being lagged or ghosted into frustration.  Games take on a much more immersive feel with the depth of colors and the large 27-inch size, and it's really a case of it being difficult to go back to much else when you know what you are missing.


The Good


The Bad

  • Flexible orientation (tilt, swivel, height, and rotation)
  • Admirable color accuracy and quality
  • Overall uniformity is pretty good
  • No noticeable flicker
  • Very little ghosting
  • Good viewing angles
  • Color accuracy falls off on the edges
  • Slight backlight bleeding in the corners
  • No USB Hub

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# tuta 2013-02-18 19:07
$649?? humm, I prefer 29" 21:9...