Luckily for PC enthusiasts, a lot of display tech has trickled down to PC monitors over the years, and combined with innovation in video game rendering, the PC market now makes for some of the best demo material found anywhere. We're talking high resolution, high dynamic range color, and high refresh rate. It's amazing to think that just a few years ago, a 24" 1080p/144Hz monitor was considered high tech. We've well beyond that now, thank goodness, and LG, a newcomer to the monitor market, is making waves with its cutting-edge, competitively-priced displays. While there was no shortage of 4K monitors on offer at the LG booth, it was the massive 38UC99 that will likely make the most waves. This amazing monitor boasts a resolution of 3840 x 1600 spread across its curved 37.5" IPS panel, along with 99% sRGB color reproduction. It's far more useful for most productivity tasks than the typical 4K monitor, which requires significant upscaling to make test readable.
The 38UC99 also offers AMD's Freesync technology, which costs nothing to implement and allows game engines to match frame output to framerates within a specific range. LG didn't provide details, but we'd be surprised if the 38UC99's range was wider than 40Hz-60Hz. We realize LG is likely trying to tap into the booming PC gaming market, but this display probably isn't quite the right model for most gamers. LG tried to suggest otherwise by demoing a flight simulator on a triple-display setup (with a massive resolution of 11,520 x 1600), as shown below. While it certainly caught the eyes of onlookers, anyone who actually stopped to consider how these monitors would be set up in a real-world environment would quickly realize that they're totally unusable in this arrangement. To actually see the side displays, you'd have to be so far away from the center display that you couldn't possibly read text on it, and furthermore they'd require a workspace that was 8-feet wide. Simply put, an ultra-wide triple-display setup is too wide when using 38"-class monitors.
Fellow Korean giant Samsung isn't willing to let LG edge onto its turf without a fight, and therefore announced its first forays into the gaming market. Among the many monitors on display, we were most impressed with the CF791, shown below, a 34" monitor with a 3440 x 1440 resolution. Leveraging Samsung's Quantum Dot technology, it offers an extraordinary 125% sRGB color reproduction level, and it's also the very first Freesync monitor on the market to offer an ultra-wide resolution at 100Hz (the previous top contender was Acer's XR341, which could only hit 75Hz).
From our point of view, it's a shame that LG and Samsung aren't willing to play ball with Nvidia, purveyor of the fastest video cards in the world. Nvidia would likely be eager to license its pricey G-Sync technology for use in these awesome displays, but LG and Samsung are in the business of selling licenses, not buying them, so don't expect to see an Nvidia badge on their monitors any time soon. Sadly, the AMD Radeon video cards that can tap into the Freesync feature of LG's and Samsung's gaming monitors aren't nearly powerful enough to actually drive a resolution of 3440 x 1440, let alone a 3860 x 1600 resolution.
Luckily, companies that have their roots in the PC industry know better than to ignore Nvidia, and Asus is among the biggest. While it didn't have an official booth at CES (it instead chose to set up a press room at the Trump International Hotel a few blocks away), Nvidia wasn't afraid to show off the fruits of the Asus/Nvidia partnership. Tucked away in the corner of Nvidia's massive showcase, which was primarily devoted to autonomous vehicle tech, was a boxy-looking monitor with a few hidden talents. PC gamers, meet holy grail: the new Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ! We're talking HDR, we're talking 27" 4K, and we're talking 144Hz G-Sync. Oh, yeah. That's some serious PC tech.
Poor LG was selected as the punching bag here (perhaps out of spite?), with its last-gen 4K monitor used to demonstrate the pitfalls of a 4K monitor without HDR capabilities. The colors and lighting on the HDR demo content (using the Unreal 4 engine) were nothing short of spectacular. As Nvidia announced at CES, the first commercial game encoded with HDR content will be Mass Effect: Andromeda, launching on... wait for it.... 3-2-1 (March 21st!). Given that HDR requires that games be developed specifically for it (and therefore for this particular monitor as of this writing), we're a bit surprised Nvidia didn't do more to highlight the enhanced smoothness provided by the amazing 144Hz refresh rate and G-Sync frame matching technology. Apparently, however, the proprietary G-Sync module inside the PG27UQ is being leveraged to provide HDR processing in order to eliminate lag, which would otherwise be an issue when displaying HDR content in games, so Nvidia probably felt that bragging about G-Sync's newest benefit was sufficient.
Now, there was one question on the minds of many technically-inclined enthusiasts when news broke of the PG27UQ, namely how it could achieve a 144Hz refresh rate given that no current cable technology supports 144Hz at 4K. The answer shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to followers of Nvidia's monitor tech over the years: a little bit of magic. Indeed, when pressed, Nvidia's spokeperson admitted that DisplayPort, even in its most recent 1.4 revision, can only run 4K resolutions at 120Hz. We responded that this sounded fairly similar to the situation Nvidia found itself in when it first achieved 4K/60Hz output on its 700-series of video cards, before the introduction of HDMI 2.0.
You see, the previous HDMI 1.4 standard only supported 4K at 30Hz, but Nvidia got around that through drivers, reducing the color space from 4:4:4 to 4:2:0 in order to punch through the limits of HDMI at the time. As Nvidia's engineer explained, achieving 144Hz at 4K over DisplayPort 1.4 requires a 10% reduction of the color space. Expect to hear more regarding how this is achieved once the PG27UQ launches. No matter what, we expect this is going to be the gaming monitor everyone is scrambling to buy when it arrives later this year, despite a retail price that will likely exceed $1,200.
As always, we'll be updating our Monitor Buyer's Guide with the latest and greatest from CES as soon as these monitors become available!