The ASUS PB278Q is a 27-inch computer monitor with a high-end panel and few unnecessary frills. It’s targeted at professionals — who want its factory-preset colour accuracy and wide-gamut PLS panel — and gamers — who want its low latency and super-detailed 2560x1440 pixel resolution.
- Excellent picture quality pre- and post-calibration
- Excellent adjustability
- Integrated speaker
- Dynamic contrast isn’t useful
- Menu controls aren’t great
- Occasional backlight flicker
ASUS’ PDB278Q monitor is a great choice for gamers, business users, or anyone who wants the best possible image quality from a reasonably-priced monitor. It has a few good preset modes, is well built, and has useful features. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good value PLS panel.
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ASUS PB278Q: Design, setup, and features
The ASUS PB278Q is designed around the same plane-line switching (PLS) panel and screen technology as the Samsung SyncMaster S27A850T. It uses the same edge LED backlighting system, and has the same tilt-swivel-rotate features on its height-adjustable stand.
The PB278Q looks utilitarian. Designed more for the professional graphic designer or video editor than the flashy-light, modified-PC crowd, the PB278Q has a 21mm thick bezel on its top and sides, while the lower bezel is slightly thicker at 26mm. The ASUS logo is finished in shiny chrome, and seven buttons for power and menu control are labeled on the lower bezel’s edge.
The stand of the PB278Q is excellent. Connecting to the back of the monitor with four screws in the standard VESA 100 layout, it can tilt forward and backward over a wide range, swivel left to right, and rotate from landscape to portrait. Its ranges of motion are more than enough for any reasonable user’s requirements, and the height adjustment of around 120mm means it’ll suit low or high desks. The stem of the stand starts from the absolute back of the base, which means it’s possible to use the base to store a wireless keyboard or mouse. It also means that the monitor sits as far back as possible on the stand, so it’ll nestle close to the wall when pushed to the back of a desk.
Connectors on the monitor’s lower back are restricted to audio- and video-only — there’s no USB hub here like on the Samsung. DisplayPort, dual-link DVI, and HDMI are your choices for digital video, while VGA is a backup if needed. The monitor has an analog 3.5mm line input and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The PB278Q has an integrated 2x3W stereo speaker that works when either HDMI, the line-in, or DisplayPort is used. The volume can be easily controlled using a direct-access button on the monitor’s lower bezel, although we found it easier to leave it at full power and adjust volume within Windows.
Setting up the PB278Q is simple. Screw the base of the stand into the stem with a single thumbscrew, rotate the entire stand from portrait to landscape, plug in the power and display cables, and you’re ready to go. We chose DisplayPort for the simple, small cable and integrated speaker connection.
We did take slight issue with the control layout of the PB278Q. Having each button next to each other, but separating the select/back from up/down controls, means that navigating in and out of each menu — generally necessary during the initial setup, but less so in normal use — is more painful than it needs to be. Rearranging the buttons to bring the select/back and up/down next to each other would have been a smarter choice.
ASUS PB278Q: Picture quality and performance
We ran the PB278Q at its native 2560x1440 pixel, 60Hz, 16:9 ratio resolution from a variety of sources. We noticed absolutely no difference between DVI and DisplayPort (as should be the case), although it is important to note that HDMI will not support the screen’s native resolution at its native refresh rate. The best you can hope for is 1920x1080 pixels at 60Hz, although we have read of setups running 2560x1440 over HDMI at a useable, but definitely not ideal, 44Hz.
Of the PB278Q’s four presets and one custom mode, we definitely preferred the sRGB preset straight out of the box. It takes a sensible approach to colour temperature, screen brightness and overall colour accuracy. Beyond that, the Standard preset is similarly acceptable, while the Theater and Scenery modes are far from ideal.
ASUS has included a dynamic contrast mode in the PB278Q, although it’s only usable in the Theater and Scenery presets. We thought its inclusion was entirely unnecessary, as all it does is boost the monitor’s contrast to blow out white area detail while further deepening black areas. The monitor is more than capable enough without this software trickery, so we left it disabled for the most part.
In the User custom mode, you’re able to adjust almost every setting (apart from enabling the aforementioned superfluous dynamic contrast). There are independent sliders for red, green and blue gain and offset, as well as 1.8- and 2.2-switchable gamma, four-mode colour temperature, and unified hue and saturation settings as well as the standard brightness and contrast.
This is a screen calibrator’s paradise, and after a few minutes with our X-Rite i1Display Pro we were able to achieve a nearly perfect brightness and colour accuracy reading. If you’re working with colour-accurate material, or want the best possible viewing environment for everything from games to photos, the PB278Q is a solid choice — if you can spare some time to calibrate it.
The Trace Free overdrive setting is adjustable in steps of 10 from 0-100, and aims to reduce any incidence of ghosting on fast-moving objects on-screen. We found that a setting of 40 was by far the best in our testing, bringing the screen’s clarity to near-perfect levels with fast-moving scrolling text or high-contrast on-screen objects.
We did notice a small amount of backlight flicker when changing the PB278Q’s backlight from its maximum to its minimum in quarter increments. The PB278Q uses the industry-standard PWM method for adjusting its backlight, and it’s really a guessing game as to which monitors flicker and which don’t. We only noticed the PB278Q flickering at 25% backlight brightness, and even then it wasn’t intrusive. It’s a very minor problem that will likely be invisible, and can be alleviated by choosing a different brightness level.
The speaker built into the body of the PB278Q is acceptably clear and detailed, with a maximum volume that’s high enough for day-to-day use — we watched a few videos and listened to some music and found the speaker surprisingly useful for an integrated one.
The anti-glare coating on the PB278Q is every bit as good as the one on the Samsung S27A850T. There’s no speckling or sparkling, and even viewed up close every pixel is consistently visible. This is despite the coating’s ability to reject or conceal all but the brightest direct light sources — we pointed a bright LED flashlight right at the screen’s centre from a distance of a metre, and beyond a three-inch halo of brightness on the screen, we couldn’t see any undue reflections. Just like the S27A850T, the ASUS PB278Q is one of the absolute best screens for viewing in difficult or bright lighting conditions.
ASUS PB278Q: Conclusion
The ASUS PB278Q is a high-end monitor in terms of its colour accuracy, design, and integrated features. We really like the stand and the potential of the Samsung-supplied PLS panel. It’s a little more expensive than the Samsung if you look at street prices, but this value comes with the integrated speaker, more calibrator-friendly display, and better stand.