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TR's August 2014 peripheral staff picks

Monitors, monitors, monitors!

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Welcome to the second edition of our peripheral staff picks.

This is still a new concept for us. We premiered it in April as a companion to our revised System Guide format, which dropped peripherals and mobile gear to focus chiefly on PC components. Past System Guides attempted to juggle all of those things in a single article, which meant we couldn't always do each section justice. The new format (and its companion spin-offs) aims to rectify that.

Today, we're bringing you a new, hopefully even better edition of the staff picks. We've focused most of our efforts this time on improving the display section, which we've reworked with the latest 4K and G-Sync monitors in mind. You won't see every price point covered, but you will get stronger recommendations for displays we've tested and would be comfortable using ourselves. That's what this guide is all about.

We've also updated the other sections to account for price fluctuations, changes in product availability, and findings from our latest round of reviews. The result should be, we hope, a more informative and up-to-date resource for your back-to-school shopping needs.

If you like this article, don't miss the rest of our guide series: our main System Guide, in which we recommend internal components and custom PC builds; our how-to-build-a-PC guide, where we walk readers (and viewers) through the PC assembly process; and our mobile staff picks, where we talk about our favorite notebooks and tablets.


Product Type Price
Achieva QH2700-IPSMS 27" 2560x1440 IPS $389.95
Asus PB287Q 28" 3840x2160 TN $649.99
Asus ROG Swift PG278Q 27" 2560x1440 TN w/ G-Sync $799.99
Dell UltraSharp UP2414Q 24" 3840x2160 IPS $799.99
Dell UltraSharp U3014 30" 2560x1600 IPS $1,099.99
Asus PQ321Q 31" 3840x2160 IGZO $2,230.99

Looking for a bargain? Then it doesn't get much better than Korean monitors like Achieva's QH2700-IPSMS, which serve up 27" of 8-bit IPS goodness for much less than full-featured offerings from the Dell, HP, and the like. Scott reviewed a similar model a while back, and what he said then still holds true now: despite the odd quirks and the minimalistic (or absent) OSD, this is a heck of a deal.

Almost as enticing is Asus' new PB287Q, which delivers a 4K resolution across a 28" panel for only $650. Yes, it's got a TN panel rather than an IPS one, but this monitor can natively display 8 bits of color depth per channel (or 10 bits per channel with frame-rate control), and its overall image quality and viewing angles are pretty terrific. We've got the charts, graphs, and photos to prove it. This is a single-tile solution, too, which means unlike early 4K offerings, it doesn't present itself to the host system as a dual-display setup. I can hardly think of a better entry into the 4K realm.

That said, driving games at 4K resolutions requires pretty powerful hardware. For a pure gaming monitor, we'd lean more toward Asus' ROG Swift PG278Q, which is one of the first displays to implement Nvidia's G-Sync technology (or will be, when it hits stores this week). You can read our review to learn the specifics, but in a nutshell, G-Sync means silky smooth, tear-free animation without vsync and its associated performance penalty. It's hard to convey the effect to someone who hasn't seen it in person, but trust us. G-Sync on a 144Hz panel makes for a pretty dramatic leap in visual smoothness. The only real downside is that G-Sync requires an Nvidia graphics card to work. AMD fans will have to wait for FreeSync monitors, which aren't due until next year.

Those are our three favorite monitors right now. If you're not seeing what you like, we do have a few additional suggestions.

Dell's UltraSharp UP2414Q crams a 4K resolution into a 24" IPS panel, yielding an unusually high pixel density at an unusually attractive price. We can't vouch for this monitor ourselves, but user reviews of it are fairly encouraging. Just keep in mind that this is a dual-tile model, which has its downsides, and that many Windows apps still don't play well with high-PPI screens.

Also worth considering is the UltraSharp U3014, the latest revision of Dell's classic 30" monitor. The U3014 features a humongous panel with a 2560x1600 resolution (and thus a taller, 16:10 aspect ratio than typical 27" screens), and it has a plethora of inputs. Dell even built a card reader in this thing. Neither 4K nor G-Sync are part of the program here, but you can look forward to stellar image quality without PPI scaling issues to spoil the fun.

Finally, there's the Asus PQ321Q, a 31.5" specimen with an IGZO panel. This was one of the first 4K panels to hit the market last year, and it wasn't without rough edges—but it has field-upgradable firmware (via a hidden USB port), which has allowed Asus to roll out bug fixes that users can apply themselves. That perk is one of the reasons this monitor has such good user reviews. We've used the PQ321Q in our own 4K testing, and aside from the fact that it's a dual-tile solution, we've been impressed with it. Single-tile IGZO solutions will likely make it obsolete in the near future, but they haven't turned up yet.

Before we move on, we should bring up the latest version of Oculus VR's development kit, which is available for pre-order for $350. If you like to live on the bleeding edge, it doesn't get much bloodier than this: state-of-the-art stereoscopic VR goggles that track both orientation and position, so one can look around a 3D scene as if one were standing inside it. Oculus VR has been acquired by Facebook, so I expect we'll see more affordable goggles from the company eventually. In the nearer term, though, the development kit is the only way to play the growing list of games that support (or will soon support) Oculus' VR technology.