ASUS’s 360Hz Monitor Totally Isn’t For Everyone, But I Still Love It

ASUS’s 360Hz Monitor Totally Isn’t For Everyone, But I Still Love It
Image: Kotaku Australia

Look, I’m not saying people should buy a 360Hz monitor. And I’m not saying ASUS’s 360Hz screen is worth the price in Australia, where it’ll cost you $1299 for a 1080p screen. But for a certain type gamer — those who only play a select few games that run at super high frame rates, or those who play competitively in leagues where official competitions only ever run on 24.5-inch or smaller screens — ASUS’s ROG Swift PG259QNR is a great bit of tech.

The ASUS PG259QNR is basically the same as the PG259QN, but with Nvidia’s in-built Reflex monitoring technology. Unlike the Nvidia Reflex feature which is a part of games like Call of Duty: Warzone and Valorant, this is a special piece of hardware within the monitor itself. It’s basically real-time analytics for end-to-end system latency, so if you think your mouse has been lagging … well, Nvidia Reflex might be able to actually prove it.

But with ASUS’s flashy 360Hz screen, there’s a couple of things to get out of the way. Let’s knock the Nvidia Reflex stuff on the head first, because it’s the most limited in scope for not just most people, but also most of the PG259QNR’s target market.

Nvidia Reflex works when you connect one of several supported mice directly to the specified USB port (it’s coloured red) in the back of the ASUS PG259QNR. It’s not a big list, which is a real drawback. Secondly, most of the mice on that list aren’t the types of products bought by communities who play games that run at 360 FPS. And to make matters worse, the mice that are popular among twitch shooters of this ilk — they’re not supported in wireless mode:

Image: Nvidia

The Deathadder V2 Pro and Logitech G Pro X Superlight — they’re wireless mice! Sure you could test them connected to the USB port, but that wouldn’t confirm what the real latency was when they’re wireless, which is the whole point of buying those mice in the first place. There’s also the bigger problem in that there’s not a whole lot you can do with the mouse latency data that’s provided. Unlike the overall system latency or latency from your GPU or CPU — which is affected by different game settings that apply different amounts of load to your PC — mouse latency is just an unfortunate byproduct of the mouse you have. Don’t like it? Then you’ll have to buy another one. That’s just how it is.

You can still get some useful data out of Nvidia Reflex about system latency, which is handy particularly for games that don’t break out things like render times and CPU/GPU latency individually. And the technology is still relatively new; Nvidia Reflex as a whole is less than a year old, and it needs time for wider adoption.

Let’s address the other elephant in the room, too. Even though the great GPU shortage is carrying on for the rest of 2020, with all of its products that can happily leave 1080p in the dust, a lot of people would still prefer to play at 1440p or higher. That’s especially true for anyone who wants to pair their gaming monitor with a PC and the next-gen consoles. The PG259QNR doesn’t have HDMI 2.1 support, and while that wouldn’t be a big deal anyway because it’s a 1080p monitor, it’s hardly the best pick even for the most diehard Call of Duty: Warzone console players.

Also, and until the HDR 600 / 1000 or better monitors start landing, the PG259QNR’s HDR support isn’t worth it. Any display that can barely do over 400 nits of brightness is generally going to give you a better looking SDR image more often than it will HDR. Even HDR 600 monitors aren’t going to be able to compete with, say, the luminance and contrast performance of the HDR gaming experience (PC or console) on a Samsung QLED, LG OLED, Sony’s new OLEDs … you get the picture.

Besides, if you’re buying a monitor like this, the games you’d be playing — Counter-Strike, Valorant, Rainbow Six: Siege — generally don’t support HDR. Call of Duty and Warzone is an exception, mind you.

So with all of those caveats out of the way, let’s touch on who the PG259QNR is actually for.

The monitor comes with its own clamp in the box, in case you didn’t want to use the stand. It’s pretty damn sturdy, but not as flexible as what a regular monitor arm would be. Still, it’s a nice touch.

When I reviewed one BenQ’s champion of esports monitors, I made the point that while BenQ’s technology was incredibly good, it was only a matter of time before better looking screens with improved colour accuracy, response times, better brightness and contrast and equal to, if not better, response times were coming. The BenQ XL2746S has been a favourite monitor among Counter-Strike players for years because of its fast response times and performance in twitch shooters, but in just about every other facet, its age was definitely showing.

The ASUS 360Hz PG259QNR is basically the new wave of monitors that should effectively kill the XL2746S, and monitors of its ilk, stone dead.

For one, nobody’s bothering with ancient TN panels for high-end gaming anymore. ASUS is using the latest iteration of a Fast IPS panel, with solid colour accuracy — if you’re just working with sRGB, that is — and a really great chassis design. The flared base is pretty minimal if you’re using it, or completely non-existent. If I had this monitor as a permanent addition to my desk, I’d use the supplied clamp. It’s great that ASUS has thrown it in the box, and I wish more high-end monitors followed suit.

The whole PG259QNR happily rotates, and accessing all the ports at the back is nice and easy. There’s a huge gap in the middle of the stand for routing cables, and there’s a 120mm range to move the monitor up and down.

The PG259QNR also has an added bonus in the form of ultra low motion blur (ULMB), a setting available in the monitor settings that’s only accessible at 144Hz and 240Hz. It basically adds backlight strobing, which means you can get an exceptionally crisp image at 240Hz.

Small downside: you can’t use G-Sync if ULMB is enabled. And given the PG259QNR supports proper G-Sync, as opposed to G-Sync compatibility that a lot of monitors are advertising, you’re probably going to prefer the 360Hz mode. Enabling ULMB tanks the screen’s brightness significantly enough that some people will probably trade a microcosm of clarity for a brighter image.

After all, having that extra 120Hz does theoretically make a difference. It’s not as significant by any stretch as the jump from, say, 60Hz to 144Hz. Or 144Hz to 240Hz. But you also have to consider the end-to-end result. A screen like this doesn’t just benefit gaming from the difference in, say, running at 360Hz over 144Hz and running games like CS:GO that can play at such high frame rates.

It’s also beneficial because the improved clarity means the player effectively has more opportunities to spot, and react, to things as they happen. That can be super crucial in games like Apex Legends and Fortnite, where you’ll regularly be flicking left, right, up and down to constantly scan the environment. Small objects in the distance frequently become a complete blur, or barely visible at all in motion because slower monitors aren’t able to draw a crisp enough image at speed. The faster you move in general, the harder it is to see.

Of course, as this neat bit of sponsored content from Linus Tech Tips and Nvidia showed a couple of years ago, you can also got a fair chunk of latency reduction from a better PC — even if you don’t have a gaming monitor with a super high refresh rate display. Of course, there’s no point pairing something like an RTX 3070 (or, say, a RTX 2080) with a 60Hz screen. But if you’re looking at system upgrades, that is something to consider.

The kind of gamer who would be thinking about the PG259QNR is going to be those budding amateur esports players, younger gamers who exclusively focus on Apex LegendsCounter-StrikeRainbow Six: Siege, the kinds of games that can run at these types of frame rates. I wouldn’t lump something like Dota 2 or League of Legends in here, since they don’t tend to hit the same FPS highs, and a 1440p/240Hz monitor, or just a bigger monitor in general, might be a better solution.

The competitive element can’t be ignored either. Professional competitions, even in games like Overwatch or PUBG, exclusively use 24 or 24.5-inch monitors for their tournaments. So for people who are grinding it out night after night, there’s little point picking a bigger screen for home that’s going to disadvantage you in competition.

There’s an added benefit in the screen being able to rotate: it makes writing into a CMS (or any other kind of vertical pipeline, like programming), a lot easier to work with. Here’s me writing this story, for instance.

Another bonus that I didn’t mention is that the inbuilt Nvidia Reflex analyser has some potential if you’re into content creation. While the mouse element isn’t well supported enough to really do anything with, users would be able to change individual settings in a game and get an overlay on screen that could report their impact on end-to-end latency. You’d want to be pretty thorough in running extra tests to validate it, like extra benchmarking with OCAT or something like that. But for YouTube channels or tech-heavy writers and streamers interested in the deep dives of how things like ambient occlusion might affect FPS, or what the most optimised settings are for games, the Nvidia Reflex Analyser could definitely come in handy.

So all in all, is the PG259QNR the monitor for you? It depends on how much you enjoy competitive shooters, and how much you like doing other things and other games outside of that. ASUS hasn’t built the PG259QNR to be an all-purpose screen. It’s designed at a specific price point for a specific audience that loves playing games with guns that go brrr. And as someone who used to do that a lot, the PG259QNR is hard not to appreciate. It’s also just a well designed unit: easy to install, great chassis design, the IPS panel is so fast that nobody should ever consider a TN monitor again unless budgets are seriously tight. And jumping up to 360Hz from 165Hz absolutely makes a difference when you’re trying to quickly AWP someone on Dust 2 through the double doors.

For most people, 1440p/240Hz screens, or the upcoming line of 4K/144-165Hz screens with HDMI 2.1 support will be a better pick. I’m hearing that a lot of those are finally going to be available in Australia from next month onwards, including some surprise competitors from brands you might not have heard of. But as far as esports pros and anyone who’s still playing Quake, Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six, Battlefield and Call of Duty exclusively, ASUS’s screen is a great bit of tech.

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