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ASUS PA246Q ProArt 24” IPS Monitor Review

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AkG

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When it comes to modern day PC monitors, there are basically four broad categories most monitors can fall into. The first is the hybrid unit which combines the features of a monitor and HDTV into one unit, the second is the ubiquitous “gaming monitor” and the third are the TN based entry level monitors. The final segment belongs to the professional-grade products that don’t cut any corners but carry a hefty price premium as well. This last category is where the Asus ProArt PA246Q falls into this category (hence the “Pro” in its name) but it comes with a bit of a twist: a price that doesn’t even come close to breaking the bank.

The ASUS PA246Q ProArt boasts stats that will have people drooling: a 24” 10 bit P-IPS panel with 98% coverage of the Adobe colour space (100% sRGB coverage and 102% NTSC coverage), SIX way colour adjustment (R,G,B and C,M,Y), 1920x1200 16:10 resolution, an adjustable stand, a great selection of input options, a USB hub and a 7 in 1 card reader. If that isn’t enough for you, it also comes with a mammoth 12-bit internal Look up Table and a price of about $500. In an age of inexpensive, low quality TN panels $500 may sound like a hefty amount but when you consider the features which the ProArt brings to the table, this is a veritable steal.

To us since this ASUS monitor is firmly marketed towards the professional the price is actually a secondary consideration. A professional relying on his monitor may love to have one that costs significantly less than others, but these consumers are only willing to do so if the monitor can back it up with phenomenal picture quality. After all, if your livelihood depends on colour accuracy, a price premium of a few hundred dollars won’t be considered wasted money.

Something else we should mention is that much of the enthusiast community seems fed up of the low quality of most TN-based 16:9 monitors. There has been a gradual shift of people looking for higher quality 16:10 panels so the ProArt may appeal to them as well; especially when you consider gamers want as much real estate as possible which is something a 1920 x 1080 monitor can’t achieve. So in essence, this monitor could have uses which are far removed from the “professional” side of things as well.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/PA246/Asus_PA246Q_mfg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications



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AkG

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A Closer Look at the ASUS PA246Q

A Closer Look at the ASUS PA246Q


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In a marketplace filled with an almost irrational obsession with thinness the PA246Q may come as a shock to some. This model is thick, robust and built from a quality standpoint first and foremost. This is not to say the Asus PA246Q is ugly as it is far from it, but its form flows directly from its function.

As the name suggests the ProArt line of monitors is designed with professionals in mind and as such Asus engineers have designed it to stay passively cooled even during extended periods of use. This coupled with its In Plane Switching (IPS) panel and higher end electronics require a monitor shell which is more than an inch thick. The same goes for the thick bezel which will equally be jarring if you are used to ultra thin bezel monitors.

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Further reinforcing the idea that this is a serious panel meant for serious business was the inclusion of honest to goodness input buttons instead of the capacitive yet highly frustrating “buttons” some monitors use. This feature alone endears the ProArt PA246Q to our hearts.

We are not fond lovers of button-less and “hidden” buttons as they are usually a total pain to work with and have no business being on a professional monitor. In grand total there are 7 perfectly positioned buttons which make the Asus PA246Q highly customizable. These buttons have a great tactile feel and are spaced far enough apart to make accidentally pressing the adjacent buttons extremely unlikely. The only issue one may have with them is the fact they are on the smaller end of the spectrum.

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With all that being said, Asus has tried to give the ProArt 246Q a touch of whimsy. There is a red pin-stripe running the along the bezel’s outer edge which harkens back to ASUS’ RoG series of products but its inclusion on a professional grade monitor is a bit odd. Nonetheless, we’re sure this won’t be too much of an issue for most consumers.

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The included I/O options are complete to say the least. In terms of display connectors, they include a single HDMI 1.3 along with DVI, DisplayPort and VGA inputs. There is also a dual port USB 2.0 hub, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and even a 7 in 1 card reader. Sadly, while it does read 7 different types of cards, the most useful format - from a professional photographer’s point of view – Compact Flash is not included. This is a major oversight as no real professional relies on SD, MS, MS Pro, MS Duo, xD, MMC,SM cards. We use Compact Flash. It is also a bit disappointing to see there is a USB 2.0 compliant hub rather than once with USB 3.0 compliance.

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On the positive side, while there is only one connector port per type the fact that all four major types re included along with analog will make any professional happy. Unlike some companies which go to extreme lengths – which do not always work – to hide said connections behind flimsy covers, Asus has taken the tried and true approach of simply running them along the inner side of the monitor.

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The last - and by no means the least – feature Asus has included in this amazing monitor is the stand. As noted it is height (100mm of range) and tilt (-5° to +20°) adjustable while allowing for 90° of rotation from landscape to portrait mode.

This latter feature is a must have feature in a professional monitor and the inclusion of it was duly noted. Also duly noted was the fact that you can swivel the monitor from left to right 60°, giving the Asus PA246Q a truly broad range of movement.

When it comes to the actual design of the stand we also were impressed. The big, black and downright boxy looking stand may not be as fancy as some chromed models we have looked at in the past, but it provides a completely stable base.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations


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Much as the large dimensions of the Asus PA246Q will take some people by surprise, so too will the OSD and its menu layout. To be blunt, this is On Screen Display is as close to perfect as it comes. It is laid out in a logical and downright intuitive manner and navigating through the menus with the use of the two dedicated up and down buttons is fast and easy. Within moments you will be able to chose from the six included modes, and be up and running.

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When it comes to fine grain control and the use of the much hyped 6 axis colour correction things are not quite as rosy. In User mode the level of fine grain control you are given access to is impressive, with everything from colour temp to 6 colour correction but in other modes this level of control is completely lose. Take for instance the two Adobe modes. Both Adobe RGB and Adobe sRGB only allow for control brightness of and nothing else. There is absolutely zero control over contrast, colour temp, gamma, saturation, hue or even colour correction.

While losing advanced 6 axis colour correction is bad enough, not even being able to offset the Red Green or Blue of the panel makes these modes all but useless. We are sure the colours should be fairly correct “out of the box” as a monitor’s panel ages the colours do sometimes drift so corrections may become necessary.

User Mode does for the most part make up for this oversight. Unfortunately, even here the almost limitless options do come with a major caveat: lack of colour temperature settings.

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Luckily, Asus has foreseen this issue since the out of box settings were extremely impressive and for the most part negated the need for any of these advanced calibration settings let alone a color calibrator. The colors were really that good.

The ProArt leaves the factory pre-calibrated and Asus includes a calibration certificate with each Asus PA246Q. This is still no excuse for not giving the professional user complete control over their panel, but it does help alleviate it. With the money saved on the Asus PA246Q you can easily justify the expense of a decent calibrator and still walk away with money in your pocket when compared to most other new and used professional competitors.

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There is one feature we feel needs to be pointed out and that is the onscreen “Quick Fit” grids. With a simple push of the left hand button the PA246Q can instantly display a .25” X .25” grid, a 1cm X 1cm grid, 9 section alignment grid, A4 (portrait and landscape) layout, Letter (portrait and landscape) layout, 4”x6” / 3”x5” / 2” x 2” photo or a 8” x 10” / 5” x 7” photo layout overlaid on to the screen. For the most part this will vary from a novelty to a great time saver depending on what you plan on using the Asus PA246Q for. In either case, the quick and easy nature of these built in “quick fit” layouts is a very notable feature; one that we wish more monitors came with.
 
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AkG

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Image Quality (Uniformity / Gamma)

Image Quality (Uniformity / Gamma)


As befitting an IPS panel, the overall picture quality of the Asus PA246Q is simply superb. With a maximum output of 378 cd/m2, this monitor is very bright but was easily adjustable down to a more precise 120 nits; however it is a lot less than the 400 cd/m2 which it is rated for. To be honest, this small wrinkle isn’t all that important as anything over 120 – 140 is wasted on most computer monitors and this goes double for professional panels where the 120 “gold standard” is all that will likely be used.

Note: for all testing, the panel’s brightness was adjusted to 120 cd/m2. In addition, all of these tests were done with the panel in its default, out of the box configuration.


Panel Uniformity


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Sadly there is one main area where the Asus PA246Qv does suffer a bit and that is panel uniformity. As you can see, when the center of the panel was set to 120 nits, the variance was a good 20% (from 6% above to 14% below). This is not a good thing on paper but it really wasn’t noticeable to the naked eye. If you are doing extremely precise work this may be an issue to you but for most people – even professionals- the IPS panel with its colour precision makes up for this.


Gamma Performance


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Since in some of the various modes gamma setting is not adjustable it came as quite some relief that the out of the box setting was precisely 2.2. If you need 1.8 instead of 2.2 Standard, User and Scenery modes offer this ability. When set to 1.8 the gamma was indeed 1.8 which bodes well for this panel’s response to user input.
 
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SKYMTL

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Image Quality (Colour Saturation / RGB)

Colour Saturation Levels


CIE_correct.jpg

With the Asus PA246Q reset to factory defaults, the panel exhibits an amazingly accurate colour profile, one that really does encompass – and then some - the full "normal" colour spectrum; albeit with a slight green shift. It truly is a “wide gamut” display.


Default RGB Levels


RGB.jpg


Measuring the R/G/B levels using our SpyderPro and HC-FR program, we found the colours to be extremely close to perfect. In a perfect world all three of the RGB values would have a 100/100/100 rating and they were very close with the PA246Q. The Red and Blue were both 101 and the green was 99. This is extremely good and requires only a minor amount of tweaking to be perfect. In fact, it is so close that unless you job depends on complete colour accuracy they are more than good enough to not require a colour calibration device.
 
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AkG

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Gaming / Movie Performance

Gaming Performance


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Unlike most monitors where we would show the pre and post calibration shots, with the Asus PA246Q there really is no need so we have included only the uncalibrated versions. Colours are simply accurate, as they should be on any professional class monitor.

While this panel may be “slow” by most modern standards with a 6ms Gray to Gray response time, this is more than adequate for most gaming scenarios. There wasn’t any lag noticed and the images were completely fluid. To be honest, it is highly unlikely most people will notice any difference between a 2ms and a 6ms panel as both are extremely fast. The days of ghosting on LCD monitors are pretty much behind us unless you go for a truly bargain basement product.

With that being said, if a ghosting and lag free gaming experience is absolutely needed then a 120Hz TN panel may be a better choice. While we did not notice any negative effects with this panel, gaming is not what it was meant for regardless of how well it performed here. This is a professional grade panel which puts a higher priority on colour accuracy rather than super fast response rates.


Movie Performance


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When it came to movies there is no ifs ands or buts: this monitor is near perfect. With its abilities to provide a very consistent colour pallet coupled to a panel with insanely wide viewing angles the end result was a highly enjoyable experience. The blacks were deep and rich and while the whites were indeed white they were not overly saturated either. This of course was after we lowered the Lumen output to a more moderate 140, but other than this minor tweak, the ProArt is basically a plug and play monitor which needs very little to no adjustment in order to display a near perfect picture

The only other caveat worth pointing out is that the movie itself has to have been shot with a neutral colour pallet in order for the colours to look neutral. In other words, this monitor is so good it will play up any issues with the filming process in certain titles.

If you are more inclined to like a cool blue colour shift, then the included Theatre mode will be great as it provides a true 9300K colour temperature. However, we did prefer User Mode the most as it allowed nearly complete control over all the settings. This allowed for a movie, game and user experience that was nearly perfect at all three tasks with only minor changes. Be aware however, that since this is a 16:10 screen any 16:9 movies will either be slightly stretched or have black borders on the top and bottom. In a darkened room the latter is acceptable and on a panel of this size, the former can also be acceptable. Honestly though, we will take either option if it means we get a superior movie experience and this truly is what the PA246Q delivers.
 
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SKYMTL

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Viewing Angles / Power Consumption

Viewing Angles


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While the brightness and gamma output was very impressive, what truly impressed us was the viewing angles. With TN based panel the more extreme the angle the more extreme the variance from left to right the picture brightness and viewability is. This is not the case with an IPS panel and the Asus PA246Q’s S-IPS is no exception.

Unless you have used a IPS panel in the past, it is simply impossible to describe exactly how wide a useable viewing angle this monitor features. Luckily the above picture really is worth a thousand words, though to us it is best summed up by: “wow”. Asus claims a 178° viewing angle for this monitor and in our opinion, this is absolutely spot on.


Power Consumption


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With a measured maximum power draw of 90 watts, there is no getting around the fact that the Asus PA246Q also uses more power than your average TN based panel. In order to get great colour, rich blacks and a truly wide screen viewing abilities additional power is needed. When compared against other professional level monitors such as our NEC, things are much more positive for the Asus PA246Q and no equivocation is needed. To be candid, while the max power consumption is high the 120nits calibrated level is very, very decent at 42 watts. If you are looking for a “green” monitor this won't be acceptable, but for everyone else 42 watts is actually pretty decent.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


In a sea of mediocrity - and low quality 16:9 panels - the ASUS PA246Q truly is an island of excellence. While not absolutely perfect “out of the box” it requires only a few minor tweaks to rival the performance of some of the best monitors on the market.

Asus seems to be one of the few companies that understand not everyone wants a 16:9 panel which sacrifices vertical space to achieve a lower price. An aspect ratio of 16:9 may be good enough for many people, but truly discerning consumers have held on to their previous generation 16:10 units with a discernable passion. We are not just talking about professional photographers either, as a 16:10 panel just gives that “extra” bit of screen space which comes in handy for everything from excel spreadsheets to word processing to gaming and even browsing websites.

While 24” 16:10 panels are getting harder to find in general, it is getting almost impossible to find reasonably priced 24” panels which are not TN based. The PA246Q on the other hand may be priced too high for anyone looking at a $200 or even $300 widescreen 24” monitor but the image quality it brings to the table is nearly unheard of at its $499 price point.

TN based panels may be fine for recreational use, but even a properly adjusted TN panel is no match for a calibrated IPS-based product, and the ProArt possesses what can only be called a very, very good IPS panel. While it may be geared towards the professional end of the spectrum, the PA246Q is perfectly geared towards gaming and movie watching scenarios as well so this is far from a one trick pony. It is actually one of the most adaptable monitors we have come across in a long time.

The ASUS ProArt monitor is a rare gem in a market cluttered with products which are either high quality and ridiculously expensive or much lower quality and dirt cheap. In our view, it achieves a perfect equilibrium of extremely high picture quality and a very reasonable price point which makes it a great bridge product between two opposing ends of the 24” panel market. There are some minor bumps along the road but gamers, professional users and everyone in between should give the PA246Q a serious look if they are in the market for a new monitor.


Pros:

- High quality IPS panel
- Incorporates the much sought-after 16:10 aspect ratio
- Factory Colour Calibrated for accurate "out of the box" colours
- 6 way colour correction (R,G,B and C, M, Y)
- Great price
- Pre-assembled, simply remove from the box plug it in and use it
- Great selection of ports
- Comes with USB, VGA, DVI and DisplayPort cables


Cons:

- 6 axis colour correction only available in user mode
- Brightness uniformity could be better
- Red pin striping is a little out of place on a Professional monitor
- Less that optimal OSD adjustment settings for all modes
- 7 in 1 card reader does not included Compact Flash card abilities


 
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