The Asus PA248Q doesn't quite match last year's PA246Q in performance, but that's to be expected. The PA246Q sported a more expensive panel capable of displaying more colors.
The trade-off? The PA248Q is much less expensive (at least $170 less) and, thanks to its more eco-friendly LED backlight, uses less power. Also, unless you're a graphics professional, you likely won't notice the PA248Q's color deficiency. The PA248Q has the same great connections and ergonomic features as its predecessor and even manages to fit in an unprecedented level of USB 3.0 support.
Design and features Editor's note:The PA248Q is so close in design to the PA246Q that much of the design and features section of that review is used here.
In the top-left corner of the 24-inch Asus PA248Q's chassis, written in white text, is the word "ProArt." If there was any ambiguity about the type of user Asus is targeting with this monitor, this small design touch should abolish it. However, while most "Pro" monitors, like 2011's PA246Q, house an aptly named Professional In-Plane Switching (P-IPS) panel, the PA248Q uses an Enhanced IPS (E-IPS) panel. In my experience, E-IPS panels typically perform worse than their P-IPS brethren in color reproduction, but we'll get to that later. The PA248Q houses an LED backlight as opposed to the PA246Q's Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp (CCFL) backlight. The result is a body that is considerably thinner than the PA246Q's, measuring a full 2.4 inches deep, compared with the older monitor's girthy 3.2 inches. Also, at 14 pounds, the PA248Q is 3 pounds lighter than the older model.
The bezel measures 0.75 inch on the left and right sides with the full width of the panel checking in at just under 22 inches. Aligned along the bezel are the rulerlike measurement notches last seen on the PA246Q. This precision motif continues at both the base and top of the display's neck, where two circular dials reside with measuring notches arranged along their perimeters. The dials act as measurement guides and make precise swiveling and pivoting of the panel possible.
These measurement notches will come in handy for some users and go totally unnoticed by others. It will depend on your needs.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
Speaking of which, the monitor can swivel 60 degrees left and right, tilt back 20 degrees, and pivot 90 degrees, and its screen height can be adjusted by about 4 inches. The foot stand is fairly flat, and squarish in shape, measuring 11 inches wide by 9.25 inches deep. When knocked from the sides, the display wobbles a lot when at its full height, but hardly at all when adjusted to its lowest.
Along the monitor's left edge, aligned vertically, are four USB 3.0 downstream ports; the multimedia card reader from the PA246Q has been removed. Back connections include DVI, DisplayPort, VGA, HDMI, USB 3.0 upstream, and a headphone jack. There's also a power switch, tucked away on the right side. The connections face downward and would be difficult to access save for the always-useful pivot feature.
Four USB 3.0 ports should meet pretty much all your USB 3.0 needs.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
The onscreen display (OSD) array consists of six buttons: a small "joystick" nub, two function shortcuts, a preset shortcut, a Menu button, and a Source button. The buttons are separated from each other by a button's length of space and emit a satisfying snap when pressed.
You can navigate the OSD with the joystick, but its usefulness is limited. The stick can be used to scroll up and down menus, but you must use the menu button to back out of menus, which feels counterintuitive. Here's hoping Asus will add more functionality to the joystick in the monitor's next iteration. The OSD features Standard, sRGB, Scenery Mode, and Theater Mode presets, plus two additional customizable User Modes. Also included are brightness, contrast, saturation, hue, gamma, and advanced color settings including six-color hue and saturation adjustment controls and direct RGB color control using gain and offset. Rounding out the more useful options are sharpness, aspect ratio control, picture-in-picture (PIP) settings, and system setup options such as OSD window placement and duration onscreen.
Asus' OSD customization runs deep.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
By far the most unusual feature in the PA248Q's already considerable assembly of OSD options is QuickFit. Pressing in the joystick nub places an overlay on the screen of your choice of either grid patterns (of various units of measure) or paper and photo sizes. With the grid patterns you can more precisely and consistently organize content on a page when, say, designing graphics for the Web.
The paper and photo sizes would show exactly what papers and photos will look like once printed. This one seems less useful, as any self-respecting graphic artist would probably already be using Photoshop or some other program to do this. Still, it's a unique option that some will get more use out of than others.
The monitor's QuickFit feature can help you determine the correct size for your printouts before you print them.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
Design and feature highlights
DVI, VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort
20-degree back tilt, 5-degree front tilt, 60-degree swivel, 90-degree pivot
VESA wall-mount support
Included video cables
Matte w/AG coating
Number of presets
Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Hue, Sharpness
RGBCMY; 5000k, 5500K, 6500K, 9300K
Grid overlay, photo-and paper-size overlays, USB 3.0x5
Performance We tested the Asus PA248Q through its DVI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using the included DVI cable. The display posted a composite score of 92 in CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.
DisplayMate: The Asus PA248Q displayed light gray up to level 253 (pure white is 255), but level 254 was indistinguishable from white. At the lower end of the grayscale, the monitor succeeded in showing dark gray down to a level of only 4 (black is 0); lower than the PA246Q, which only got as low as 6. This indicates that although very light gray could elude the PA248Q in movies and games, it's still capable of retaining some dark detail.
In Color Tracking I noticed a slight red hue in the grayscale when using the Standard preset. Switching to User Mode 1 allows you to adjust the red downward, however.
When viewing DisplayMate's Dark Screen test, which consists of a plain black screen, I saw fairly obvious backlight bleedthrough along the left edge and in the top left and right corners.
Movies: I tested the Asus PA248Q using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." Unfortunately, the Theater preset displayed the movie with an oppressively dominant blue hue and crushed dark grays, making some detail difficult to see. Sure, movies look more cinematic under this setting, but it's not worth the loss of detail.
For a more balanced image where dark gray doesn't live under the despotic heel of blue oppression, I preferred using the Standard preset with gamma set to 1.8. This combination yielded a much more tolerable color and contrast balance that doesn't marginalize dark detail.
Games: Personally, I prefer monitors that display games with vibrant color and highly contrasting blacks and whites. When colors also pop with fullness and depth, games will usually look great. Dragon Age II is a game that can look pretty drab at times, but definitely benefits from rich, bright, but still accurate colors. I looked at the game on the PA248Q in the Standard preset with the contrast set to 80 and the gamma at 1.8. At these settings the monitor delivered colorful, vibrant graphics while retaining a low black level. It didn't have a color palette as impressive as the HP DreamColor LP2480zx's, but few monitors do. Still, the PA248Q delivered enough in vibrancy and contrast to leave me impressed by the game's graphics.
To test refresh rate, I used DisplayMate's motion graphics test, which moves a box of colored blocks around at various user-controlled speeds. Each block leaves an impression of itself behind as it flies across the screen. The longer the streak left by the blocks, the more image blurring you'll likely see when the monitor shows quick movements, as when playing a first-person shooter. The effect can be subtle, but noticeable to those really looking for it.
Also, IPS monitors typically display more streaking than TN displays, so it's not surprising that the blocks in this test left fairly long streaks behind them. Not the worst I've seen, but significant nonetheless. As I said, however, the difference between a monitor with a fast refresh rate and a slow one is really subtle and most people would not notice it.
Photos: Faces in photos looked healthy and showed no signs of that annoying sickly green hue that plagues many monitors. Clothing and other objects looked natural with accurate color, but maybe not quite as full and accurate as we've seen on really impressive monitors like the HP LP2480zx. That's not too surprising given the incredible difference in price.
Viewing angle: The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a third of the screen's distance down from the top. At this angle, you're viewing colors as the manufacturer intended. Most monitors aren't designed to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on a monitor's panel type, picture quality at any other angle suffers. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when not viewed from optimal angles.
The Asus PA248Q uses an E-IPS panel, so it can be viewed from many different directions while retaining its color quality, sharpness, and correct gamma value. The antiglare coating succeeds at blocking out most reflections and, unlike with glossier screens, direct sunlight only has a minimal detrimental effect on picture quality.
Power consumption: The Asus PA248Q's power consumption earned a rating of Fair, with a Default/On power draw of 31.3 watts; the Asus PA246Q drew 71.6 watts in the same test.
In our Sleep/Standby test, the PA248Q drew 0.74 watt and the PA246Q pulled a higher 1.04 watts. Based on our formula, the PA248Q would cost $9.85 per year, whereas the PA246Q would cost $22.08 per year.
Service and support Asus backs the PA248Q with a three-year casing-and-panel warranty that covers the backlight. This includes its Zero Bright Dot guarantee, which promises a full monitor replacement if any stuck pixels are found. The company also offers support through a 24-7 toll-free number, e-mail, and Web chat.
Conclusions The Asus PA248Q doesn't hit a grand slam in performance, but instead, kind of triples with men on second and third. Awkward baseball analogies aside, while I wasn't overly impressed with the PA248Q's performance, there were no egregious performance offenses either.
Sure, there's some clouding and there's evidence of a shallow color palette compared with more expensive monitors; however, its viewing angles are wide and both movies and games looked great. If you're a serious professional artist, you'll want to stick with a P-IPS-based display like the Asus PA246Q or even the HP DreamColor LP2480zx (if you have the funds). However, if you're simply looking for a monitor that offers tons of features at a reasonable price, then look no further.