ProsGaming performance far beyond any 60Hz monitor; fully-adjustable stand; LightBoost and 3D-capable
ConsSignificant contrast and color issues; noticeable color shifting in off-angle viewing; glossy frame subject to scratching
Monitors often don't get much attention from users, despite the fact that they are the component of a PC that we literally must look at all the time. In part, that's probably because monitor technology doesn't change all that much. Once everyone had moved from an old-fashioned tube display to a flat panel, what was there left to do? Well, there's actually a surprising amount going on behind the scenes (or behind the screens, in this case!). And one of the major developments is monitors with faster refresh rates.
Enter the Asus VG248QE, one of a new breed of ultra-fast monitors. The original crop of high-speed monitors hit 120Hz, or double the 60Hz that most monitors operate at. The VG248QE clocks in at 144Hz. Why was 144Hz the next progression of fast-refresh monitors? We don't know - but at least it's an even 2.4x faster than 60Hz, which is even better than 2x faster!
Right off the bat, let's get one very important issue out of the way: this monitor uses a TN panel. In fact, every monitor on the market over 75Hz, as of this writing, is a TN panel. Why? Because higher-quality IPS panels simply cannot reliably operate at higher refresh rates currently. There are some "overclockable" monitors, but if you want 120Hz or higher out of the box, it's going to be TN. We'll say a bit more about the drawbacks of TN below.
Description and Features
The VG248QE is a 24"-diagonal monitor (hence the "24" in the name), using the aforementioned TN panel and an LED backlight. It includes a sturdy stand that provides full height, tilt, and swivel adjustment. It also includes dual 2W speakers built into the bottom of the frame, but does not include a USB hub, which is often included in this price range. The monitor is clad in a glossy plastic, perhaps to give it the "gamer" vibe. It would look slightly out of place in an office environment due to the shiny material used, and furthermore, we found that it scratches very easily, even simply rubbing a finger against it to get smudges out left permanent marks. We suggest using a soft cloth to clean the frame, similar to what you'd use to clean the screen itself.
The monitor accepts DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort connections - we used the included dual-link DVI cable to connect it, as the HDMI cables we had on hand are not capable of passing 144Hz signals. While we briefly tested the built-in speakers using the speaker cable included in the box, we certainly wouldn't call the audio a selling point of this monitor - if you're into high-resolution video, you probably like great audio too, so you'll want better audio than what this monitor can deliver.
It's pretty difficult to demonstrate to readers using a 60Hz screen exactly what they'd see with a high-refresh rate monitor. In other words, "you don't know what you're missing." We held off for a long time, given the bad reputation that TN-based panels have. But if you're using a TN panel for professional or even office work, you're doing it wrong. This is a specialized monitor, and for most people who just have one desktop PC and want one monitor connected to it, we'd actually stick with a high-quality IPS panel for the same price as the VG248QE. Doing work on the VG248QE just isn't that pleasant if you've seen a good IPS monitor. On the other hand, if you're using a low-resolution TN 60Hz monitor, you have nowhere to go but up!
If we were to sum up the effect of running at 144Hz, it would be that it makes games amazingly smooth. You move the mouse, the image on screen moves fluidly, without jumps or hesitations. It's a big difference. The monitor is also capable of displaying 3D images using the Nvidia Vision 2 kit, but we don't have the kit on hand, and as far as we can tell, it's essentially been discontinued, along with most 3D game development.
Crafty enthusiasts have since taken advantage of the strobing effect built into the VG248QE for 3D purposes in order to improve 2D images. We'd call it a "hack," because you need to use a third-party application that tricks the monitor into thinking it's running in 3D. More information about it is available here. We've used the app, and in demo material available here, the difference is incredibly obvious. If you open this up on a typical 60Hz monitor, the motion is painfully blurry. Set at 120Hz with LightBoost activated (the only Hz setting at which it works), the image is crystal clear, as if it were moving in front of you in real life. We particularly liked this demo image, which makes the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz/LightBoost look even more stark, given that this is an actual photograph that simulates movement of an image on a screen. When in the midst of a game, however, we'd say the difference between having LightBoost on and off is less significant, but still a nice feature.
In the end, there's no doubt that a 144Hz monitor can pay huge dividends for gaming. We have two main gaming setups, one with a 1440p IPS-based screen running at 60Hz, and one with the VG248QE. In competitive multi-player, playing on the VG248QE is an unfair advantage - our scores are just that much higher!
We also do work on both monitors, and unfortunately, this is where the VG248QE loses some of its shine. It's simply not as comfortable to read text off of, due to the way TN technology displays colors and light. No amount of tinkering can change this inherent flaw. Of course, a 1440p IPS costs far more than the VG248QE - to even the fight, we'd have to compare the VG248QE to a 1080p IPS monitor. And in fact, we have - we use just such a monitor in our test lab as well. The 1080p IPS monitor, which we'll be reviewing soon, costs just a bit less than the VG248QE, and for work, it is much more comfortable to use. But it has all the same failings as any IPS monitor when it comes to gaming, and because it's the same resolution, it doesn't even have that going for it. If you're buying a monitor primarily for gaming, there's just no question - go for the VG248QE over a similarly-priced 24" IPS monitor. The advantages in gaming are not in the least bit subtle - they're huge!
The Asus VG248QE is available for $265 shipped from Amazon, as of our publication date.