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The PB287Q experience
This monitor's ability to handle 4K resolutions as a single tile at 60Hz (via DisplayPort 1.2 SST) is a Really Big Deal for one simple reason: using 4K with two tiles stinks, for reasons I've explained at length here (under the second subhead.)

Running games at 4K requires tons of GPU horsepower, yet dual-tile displays don't support simple scaling. As a result, you can't drop back to obvious subset resolutions like 2560x1440 or 1920x1080 in order to keep frame rendering times low. For gaming, it's 3840x2160 or bust—and you'll need two of the fastest GPUs with tons of VRAM to keep up in recent games. Even then, it's sometimes a stretch. I once hoped GPU makers would alleviate this problem by supporting GPU-based scaling for dual-tile displays in their drivers, but that's never happened. I now think it's unlikely to ever happen, sadly.

That's just one problem among many. BIOS screens and pre-boot utilities are a problem for dual-tile configs. Some games can't handle them properly, either. Multi-GPU configs often struggle to perform as well when driving two logical displays instead of one. The list goes on.

And single-tile 4K at 30Hz stinks worse, especially for gaming.

The PB287Q solves almost all of those problems. I say "almost" because there are a couple of snags along the way to 4K bliss.

The first one is simple and not really a big deal in the grand scheme. The monitor comes out of the box in DisplayPort 1.1 mode, which limits the refresh rate to 30Hz at full resolution. You'll have to poke through the on-screen menus in order to switch it into DP 1.2 mode. After that, the 60Hz refresh rate becomes available. I think Asus would have preferred to ship this thing with DP 1.2 enabled by default, but at least one GPU maker didn't have proper driver support for single-stream 4K working until just this week.


The other snag we experienced with our review unit has to do with the display resolutions exposed to the host system by the monitor's firmware. As you can see above, some very important options are missing, including lower resolutions with the same aspect ratio, like 2560x1400 and 1920x1080. These modes are absent in the Windows control panel and in a bunch of the games I tried, too. As I said above, you're going to want those lower resolutions sometimes for gaming.

Happily, the PB287Q's built-in scaler chip is quite capable of scaling either mode cleanly up to 3840x2160. I know this because I attached a second monitor with a native resolution of 2560x1440 to my test system, and suddenly, more resolutions became available for the primary display, too. Once it was exposed, I was able to use 2560x1440 and 1920x1080 for the Windows desktop and for gaming, using both display-based resolution scaling and GPU scaling. It looks nice and works well. There are other workarounds possible, like creating a custom resolution in the Nvidia control panel. That works nicely, too.

Such measures shouldn't be necessary, though. Asus tells me it plans to fix this problem with a firmware update for shipping versions of the PB287Q, and we should have an updated monitor to test here in Damage Labs soon. We'll update this article once we've confirmed the fix.

Another improvement I'd like to see in the firmware is the exposure of a higher refresh rate at 2560x1440 for gaming. If the bandwidth is available for 4K at 60Hz, then there should be sufficient bandwidth for 2560x1440 at up to 120Hz—although not every panel may be up to the challenge. Even a 75Hz mode would be welcome. Think about it, Asus. Call me.


More pixels in your fonts, yo

I think it's worth saying that buying the PB287Q means buying into a whole bunch of teething problems with Windows, Windows applications, and high-PPI displays. Microsoft has worked out many of the worst problems in Windows 8.1. 4K monitors usually are set automatically to the 150% scaling mode, which looks just about right on the PB287Q. System fonts and dialogs are generally scaled up to, well, their normal "size," just with more pixels.


Err, what?

Many Windows applications haven't caught up yet, though, so you're bound to encounter some weird-looking stuff. Just look at that Fraps UI screenshot above. Look at it. It's totally hosed. Even when things aren't hosed, in older applications, you'll see a lot of that blurry, soft-edged text, an artifact of scaling up fixed-resolution lettering. Heck, you'll see it in brand-new applications, too.

Web browsers can be a problem. You may want to choose Internet Explorer rather than Chrome, since Microsoft has clearly done more work to support high-PPI configs. However, note that IE ditches the ClearType sub-pixel antialiasing scheme and snap-to-grid GDI font rendering in favor of simple greyscale antialiasing. As a result, the effective text resolution with IE at high PPIs isn't a huge leap from other browsers with ClearType on conventional displays.


Greyscale AA in IE (left) vs. ClearType in Chrome (right)

That's kind of getting into the weeds, though. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter, because this panel's 157-PPI density makes everything better. You will look at it and like it, instantly. Heck, I think Microsoft probably made the right choice in switching to the new font rendering and AA methods.

Bottom line, the hardware is now capable, and with the dual-tile mess sorted, the remaining quirks aren't the hardware's fault. I'm sure the software problems will be sorted out with time. Just be aware that, at present, being an early adopter means feeling some pain now and then.

I have more to say about the experience of using the PB287Q, but before we get into my subjective impressions, let's look at some objective quality measurements.