ASUS's ROG Swift PG258Q Monitor Is Gaming Overkill

Image: Kotaku/Alex Walker

A decade ago, people used to get excited by the prospect of LCD screens that could do just 100Hz. These days you can throw a stick at a LAN and chances are you'll hit a screen with a super high refresh rates.

But there's high, and then there's the ASUS ROG Swift PG258Q monitor. How high, you ask? 240Hz high.

What Is It?

Image: Kotaku/Alex Walker

Billed as a monitor first and foremost for gaming, the ASUS ROG Swift PG258Q is a 24.5" 1080p screen with 1ms gray to gray response time. Equipped with support for NVIDIA's G-SYNC adaptive refresh rate technology, the monitor stands at 56.4cm x 33cm x 7.25cm tall.

Besides the refresh rate, one of the PG258Q's biggest differences is the base. It's a tripod-shaped stand, with two long, thin legs and a shorter third, rather than a traditional flat or square base. The whole monitor can be rotated into portrait mode, and the swivel range is fairly impressive:

You'll want to use DisplayPort if you want to make use of the 240Hz feature, although there's a HDMI port to plug a console in as well. There's a 100mm x 100mm VESA wall mount at the back once the stand is removed, two USB 3.0 ports, a five way OSD controller and an LED-illuminated logo that can be disabled or customised by tweaking a removable insert. There's a 3.5mm audio jack as well, although you'll want to stick to separate speakers or headphones, and a port for the external power brick.

There's a plastic insert on the back of the chassis that covers up all the ports, and the stand itself has a central hole for cable management. The panel itself is a TN model, which is great for low response times but not so good for colour reproduction, viewing angles or good blacks and whites. The in-built OSD also has a five level Blue Light Filter, adaptive contrast controls, and six preset modes for various game genres. There's also extra features like the ability to have a crosshair permanently displayed in the centre of the screen, an FPS counter and a timer.

The price for all this, incidentally: $899 from most major Australian retailers.

What's It Good At?

Image: Kotaku/Alex Walker

While the PG258Q deliberately has a strong gamer aesthetic, with the stylised vents at the bottom of the stand to the etching on the back of the monitor, it's quite muted to sit in front of on a day to day basis. The bezel is relatively small - it's actually thicker at the bottom than the sides or the top, which is a little odd - and being able to disable the red LED in the stand, or customise the insert, is a nice touch.

G-Sync support is great, although if you're buying a 240Hz screen you're not likely to be playing games at a) frame rates low enough where G-Sync is a major factor and b) games at quality levels high enough to make use of 240Hz in the first place. But for titles that do run at 200fps crazytown, the difference - and I'm talking as someone who bought the first commercially available 120Hz monitors, and has only owned high refresh rate monitors ever since - is immediately noticeable.

The difference between 60Hz and 240Hz is easy to spot at a glance, even if you're just moving the mouse around on the desktop. But if you're looking to upgrade from a 120Hz or 144Hz panel, you can still see the improvement when things are moving at high speed. It's best seen when quickly flicking your aim and making rapid movements, although you will need a PC that can pump out 200fps or more.

There's a good range of additional features as well. Things like contrast boosters and blue light metres can't rectify the drop in image quality from an IPS panel to the TN panel inside the PG258Q, but it does help. The PG258Q's brightness is fairly decent too, which helps when adjusting to different lighting conditions.

What's It Not Good At?

Image: Kotaku/Alex Walker

While the OSD has plenty of little features you can use, it's not cleverly laid out. The menu for crosshairs and the FPS counter have to be disabled through a couple of button presses on the back - there's no option within their individual menus to turn them off. It's a design oversight, and something ASUS could easily rectify in future models or hopefully with a patch or firmware update.

It's a bulky monitor too. The three pronged nature means you probably will end up having it a bit further forward on your desk than you'd like, since you have to account for the weird shape of the base.

The PG258Q's biggest problem, and perhaps insurmountable for some, is the panel. Unlike more recent displays, ASUS have gone all-out for the gamer crowd by using a TN panel for the lowest possible response times. That's great for professional Counter-Strike players, but it means dealing with weaker colour reproduction and poor viewing angles. You can calibrate the screen to help things somewhat, but it's not a great screen for Photoshop/Premiere work - which is a problem if you use your gaming machine for productivity as well.

Another odd quirk, and something that will directly affect the Counter-Strike crowd, is the lack of aspect ratio options in the OSD. These are helpful for gamers that don't play at a monitor's native resolution, as many Quake and CS:GO players do. You can fix this by going through the AMD or NVIDIA control panels, but it's a lot faster to do it through the monitor.

Another quality of life issue is the space for cabling. While the hole in the stand is great for cable management, there's not much width between the connectors themselves. The USB ports are just as cramped, and I ended up plugging a four-port HUB into the back instead to make life easier. It almost would have been better if ASUS built the ports into the bottom of the monitor or the stand itself; things are a little too inconvenient, especially if you use the PG258Q as part of a triple or quad-monitor setup.

Image: Kotaku/Alex Walker

The price is obviously an issue as well, not just because it costs nearly $900 but because there are cheaper 240Hz gaming monitors on the market. You're not buying a monitor like this for the resolution, OSD features or the image quality per se, you're buying it for the high refresh rate. And while I'm happier with the crispness and brightness of the PG258Q compared to other 240Hz alternatives I've tried, it's not so good that you can't ignore the other trade-offs.

Should You Buy It?

Image: Kotaku/Alex Walker

Most people won't be able to afford the PG258Q, and most who can won't be able to justify it. It's basically a monitor targeted at professional League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2 and Overwatch players, people who solely play games that medium to high-end machines can run at super-high frame rates.

But modern AAA titles like Ghost Recon: Wildlands or even something well optimised like Battlefield 1 struggle to reach 200fps at 1080p, even when paired with top of the line hardware, like the GTX 1080 Ti or a new Ryzen/Kaby Lake CPU. To reach the frame rates necessary to really unlock the potential of the PG258Q, you'd have to compromise on image quality - which goes against the point.

It's a fantastic monitor for a single purpose - competitive gaming, especially CS:GO - but it's not a wise all-around investment. Most people enjoy a wider range of titles, and they like to use their desktop for applications outside of games. If that sounds like you, a monitor with a better panel and image quality will be much better value for money.

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Comments

    Without starting a flame war, I'd dare say that 100 - 144Hz is already pushing the boundaries of what the human eye can perceive in terms of smooth frames...

    I have a 100Hz monitor and I can tell the difference between 60 and 100Hz from time to time, but anything over that, and I doubt I would notice any difference.

      Yeah I'd see very limited benefit from the slight latency decrease of 240Hz. But personally I'd see a lot more benefit from the PG27UQ - 144Hz, G-Sync, UHD, IPS, great gamut, and real HDR. When are we likely to see that?

      Last edited 20/04/17 2:52 pm

      It's much easier to spot if you know what to look for, and I think you're doing yourself a disservice there. You'd probably see it if two screens were lined up side by side.

        I don't dispute that I would be able to see a difference if I saw two screens side by side, and I knew what to look for.
        However, 95% of the time that I spend in front my my monitor, 100% of my focus is in the game, not how well, bad, smooth, or laggy it runs. Which is sort of the point - I've invested a lot of money in hardware (Asus PG348Q) so that I can stay focused and fully immersed because I simply don't notice any tearing or frame rate drops. My opinion is that having a 240Hz monitor won't provide any noticeable improvement to what already is an excellent PC gaming experience.

          You can have your opinion, but it's not worth much unless you've tried it.

          Last edited 20/04/17 4:49 pm

          Oh no, I agree - outside of a few specific instances, I think most gamers would be in exactly the same boat.

        Hmm, I have my doubts about this too. There have been some pretty good experiments done over the last 20 years that suggest the human ability to perceive image changes starts to crap out above 90Hz. I'm not convinced there would be any perceptible difference above 180Hz that wasn't a placebo or source latency.

        Fun side note, our 'frame rate' for actionable visual information is even lower. A study in 2010 using EEG to measure actual brain responses found that only 13Hz is used for evaluating motion. Higher rates of input are perceptible (ie. we can see the difference between 13Hz and higher) but the remaining input is effectively averaged to a single frame of motion data every thirteenth of a second. It means higher frame rates in games won't generally make you play better/react faster, even though they look a lot nicer.

          I recommend everyone in this thread to go check out this frame rate testing website - https://www.testufo.com/#test=framerates

          If you try to follow the UFO with your eyes you'll probably find that it looks very blurry and jittery, the default speed (960pps) would be smooth for our eyes after 480Hz because that's the number you get when you take into account a 60Hz monitor viewing it moving at 120pps is smooth.

            The jitter in the tests is visible because the frame rates involved are well within the range of human perception. There's still an upper limit to human perception of speed, it's just not a fixed value since with all things biological there's variation between people.

            I'm happy to give you the names of the scientific studies that support the things I said in my post though, if you're interested. Is there a particular claim you dispute?

              Oh I don't disagree with anything you said, you said very valid statements.

              I was simply responding to you because you were the lowest person in the thread.

              But I do believe that while we can only perseve motion at a low "framerate", when you're trying to see motion of objects across the screen like that test, the refresh rate maters for sure.

              I believe a great way to remove motion blur from a moving object on a screen would be to change each pixel individually when required instead of the entire frame at once.

    How visible is the difference when moving the mouse and scrolling on the desktop compared to 144 Hz?

    To be more specific than competitive gaming, this monitor is about flick shots and close-range headshot tracking. I picked this monitor up last week and it is amazing. Before I was feeling the limitations of my equipment. I literally could not get any better due to the ghosting and latency of my old monitor. This thing feels limitless, it clearly shows I am wrong and my aim sucks and that I can continue to improve. Instead of a blur of confusion and then a death notification. My nerd rage levels have gone way down since I've started using it.

    People poke fun at high-end gaming hardware and specs like 240hz, but when when you're gaming competitively everyone has trained their reaction time to near the peak of what is humanly possible, so you run into a lot of players who are evenly matched. The only differentiation is what hardware are you using, and if your reactiontime + input lag is 100ms, and the opponent's reaction time + input lag is 101ms, you win. That 1 millisecond can make a difference again and again in a match.

    The TN panel is great. It makes colors same as any other monitor I've used. I've compared and I can't tell the difference. Unless you like to play with cameras or frequent the gay bar, I'd seriously doubt anyone would have an issue with it.

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