Is there a more painful sphere of technology to shop in than computer monitors? It’s an endless checklist of specs and standards that no one product ever seems to meet in full, all for a higher price than you feel like you should be paying. And the situation is even worse with gaming monitors. The focus on cutting-edge performance places their relative deficiencies into even starker relief.
I strongly believe that if you have a high-end PC but don’t have a good gaming monitor, you are wasting your hardware. However, there is one — and only one — gaming monitor that I can wholeheartedly recommend. It’s called the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q, it was launched almost three years ago, and it still costs about $700. It’s my personal choice because it’s the only option I’m aware of that does everything I need it to, most of what I’d like it to, and almost none of what I don’t want it to.
The PG279Q is, to put it briefly, a 16:9 27-inch 1440p 165Hz IPS G-Sync monitor. There are very few monitors with all of these attributes, and Asus’ ROG Swift range has a lot of similar models with near-identical product numbers, like the cheaper TN panel-equipped PG278Q, the MG279Q with FreeSync, and the 4K 60Hz PG27AQ. The best way to explain why the PG279Q is my monitor of choice is to go through exactly why each of its specs is right for me.
First off, why do I want a 16:9 monitor? To be honest, the shape of the thing is the biggest dilemma I have. I’ve owned ultrawide 21:9 monitors in the past, and I do love the experience when everything works perfectly. But incompatibility issues with many games are just infrequent enough for it to not quite be worth the trouble. (For example, Monster Hunter World’s overdue PC version launched yesterday without any ultrawide support.) 16:10 is a more generally useful aspect ratio for non-gaming applications, and the worst you’ll have to deal with in games is slight letterboxing, but no one makes good 16:10 gaming monitors. So, 16:9 it is.
The next question is resolution, and I’m adamant that 1440p is the best choice for most people at this point, and 27 inches is the most appropriate size for scaling and sharpness reasons. An Nvidia GTX 1080 can drive most games on ultra settings and 1440p resolution at sky-high frame rates — still representing a 77 percent resolution boost over 1080p — whereas it’ll struggle to hit 60 fps at 4K. Will the next generation of Nvidia GPUs deliver reliable 4K / 60 fps performance? Probably, but I’d still take the higher refresh rate over the higher resolution, particularly with the awkward state of high-DPI scaling in Windows 10.
That brings me to 165Hz. Technically the PG279Q has a 144Hz panel that is “overclockable” to 165Hz with the cost of a slight increase in image blur. I just leave it set at 144Hz because if you can tell the difference between that and 165Hz, you should either join the OverwatchLeague or donate your eyes to science. Still. it’s nice to know the possibility is there.
Whether you’re playing a game all the way up to 144 fps or struggling to break 90 fps with something more performance-intensive, the PG279Q will keep everything perfectly smooth, thanks to its G-Sync variable refresh rate functionality. What this does is allow you to run games at any frame rate without worrying about tearing, stuttering, or frame-pacing because the monitor will only display a frame as soon as it’s rendered by the Nvidia GPU in full. (AMD GPU owners should go for a FreeSync-compatible model like the MG279Q instead.) Variable refresh rate might not sound like a big deal to anyone who hasn’t seen it work in person, but it’s honestly transformative, and it makes everything feel so much smoother and more natural.
Finally, the PG279Q has an IPS LCD panel that, although it won’t compete with something like an iMac, delivers decent color reproduction, contrast, and viewing angles. A lot of gaming monitors still use TN panels, which can have a slight advantage in response time, but the vastly inferior image quality will be a much bigger problem for almost everyone. Friends don’t let non-e-sports-professional friends buy TN panels.
The PG279Q isn’t the only monitor in the world with the above features on its spec sheet. But it was the first, and as far as I know it remains the only one that doesn’t look obnoxiously gamer-styled, at least from the front. Admittedly, from behind, it looks like it fell off the wing of a TIE fighter. But if you switch the red lighting off, you’ll have a reasonably attractive, slim-bezeled monitor that won’t be out of place on too many desks.
The PG279Q also has most of the more mundane features you’d expect from a good monitor. There’s a relatively simple UI controlled with an easily accessible joystick, which lets you access various color profiles, blue light settings, and so on. There’s both HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity, along with two USB 3.0 ports. The monitor has built-in 2-watt stereo speakers, which sound pretty bad. But when I want things to sound good on my PC, I use headphones. The built-in speakers are useful enough that I don’t need to put dedicated ones on my desk.
What more could you want? Well. The PG279Q is no longer the most advanced gaming monitor around, now that 4K HDR 144Hz G-Sync models like Asus’ own PG27UQ are finally shipping. But as much as I would love to own one, those are bleeding-edge products that would be wildly irresponsible purchases for basically anyone. HDR support on PC is still a mess. Literally no one has a PC that can run modern games in 4K with ultra settings at 144 frames a second, and the bezels are chunky. Oh yeah, and these things cost $2,000.
One day, we will live in a world where everything can easily be run in 4K HDR at frame rates smoother than the eye can perceive. Today, unfortunately, we do not. And until we do, I’m going to be happy with the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q, a groundbreaking monitor that makes absolutely every game look great at an only slightly unreasonable price.
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