Brightness and contrast
I said earlier that I think those 27" IPS panels, like the ones in the bargain-priced Korean jobs, are the perfect foil for the PB287Q. That's why I've tested the PB287Q against its IPS-based sibling, the Asus PB278. The PB278 will currently set you back $466 at Amazon, so it's a cheaper, lower-res option based on in-plane switching technology. The PB287Q will have to acquit itself well in order to justify its higher price.
The PB287Q's illumination is provided by a WLED backlight, and it uses DC-based dimming to avoid flicker. Asus rates the monitor's peak brightness at 300 candelas per square millimeter, which is roughly the same as the surface of the sun. Seriously, for indoor use, desktop monitors have gotten to the point where brightness is in ample supply. Although the PB287Q doesn't emit quite as much light at peak as the PB278, it's plenty bright. It even exceeds its own spec for light output slightly. (Both of these monitors have matte coatings on them, by the way, so they shouldn't have to work too hard to overcome reflections.)
Our "typical" readings were taken with both monitors normalized to 200 cd/m² at the center of the screen. Oddly enough, both of them slightly surpassed that value during this test.
The IPS-based PB278 produces slightly brighter whites and darker blacks, so it has a higher overall contrast ratio than the PB287Q. So, yes, the TN panel doesn't achieve quite the same contrast levels. (And it really does come down to the panel. Remarkable how little changes from the lowest to highest backlight brightness levels.) Still, the PB287Q's roughly 635:1 net contrast ratio is pretty decent.
Click through the buttons below to see the color gamuts for these two displays, both before and after calibration. Color gamut has to do with the range of colors the display can produce. These things tend to vary pretty widely from one monitor to the next. The gray triangle on each diagram above represents the standard sRGB color space.
For a TN panel, the PB287Q performs scandalously well in this test. Yes, the IPS-based PB278 offers a slightly wider color range, but the PB287Q very nearly encompasses the entire sRGB color gamut, only missing out on some of the reds and deepest blues. To give you some idea of how well the PB287Q performs, you can click over to our review of the T100 convertible and see the results there. (Note that Geoff used the smaller NTSC gamut as a reference in his plots.) After calibration, the PB287Q's color gamut almost exactly matches that of the widely lauded IPS panel in the iPad 3. This thing is no joke.
The spec sheet for the PB287Q says it's capable of displaying 1.073 billion colors, which is the equivalent of 10 bits of info per color channel. That's a lot more than the standard 16.7 million colors possible with eight bits per channel, and it's well above the limits of the usual TN panel. Asus tells me the panel itself is eight-bit capable, and the additional intermediate colors are achieved via FRC, or frame-rate control, a form of temporal dithering.
I only discovered this 10-bit color capability late in the game, when collecting the specs in the final stages of putting this review together. None of the Windows or graphics driver control panels exposes 10-bit color as an option with this display connected, and I haven't had time to futz around with the registry settings that might enable it. As a result, all of our tests were conducted at eight bits per channel, which is surely how this monitor will be most commonly used.
Our copy of the PB287Q came out of the box a little out of whack, as the ~7000K color temperature we measured indicates. That's a little cool. Reds looked too orange, and yellows contained too much green. The PB278 is much better behaved at its default settings.
After calibration, the PB287Q became more consistent across a range of gray levels, nearer to our 6500K target. The calibrated settings easily look better to my eye. I strongly recommend buying or borrowing a colorimeter for use with all of your monitors. You'll be surprised how much it helps—and if our review unit is any indicator, that's particularly true for the PB287Q.
Delta-E is a measure of color difference—or error—compared to a reference. Smaller delta-E values generally mean more accurate colors. In this case, we measured delta-E in the sRGB color space with a D65 white point, both before and after calibration.
We can go into more detail and see what the sources of error were for each display. Our gamut measurements have already revealed that the PB287Q can't quite produce all of the reds in the sRGB color space, and reds are unsurprisingly one of its key weaknesses here. Calibration helps some on that front. After calibration, the PB287Q represents colors slightly more accurately overall than the IPS-based PB278.
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