Thursday, December 15, 2011

ASUS PA245Q Review

I'm travel to Taiwan enough to buy a secondary display for permanent use when I'm here. But a couple weeks out of the year does not warrant the purchase of an Eizo CG243W which is what I use in LA.

In haste, I did a quick search and saw good feedback on the ASUS PA245Q ProArt 24.1 and requested its purchase for my arrival and use when I landed in Taipei at the equivalent of USD$575.

The following review is specific to photography-retouching and is very much a comparison with higher-end monitors such as the Eizo CG243W that I use regularly. I have also in the past used a Dell 2405FPW (PVA) and an Eizo S2402W (TN) for the same purposes.

My initial reaction was that the ASUS PA245Q was that I was looking at an extraordinary display. That's typically what happens when you look at an IPS display straight out-of-the-box. The colors are vivid, the contrast is strong, and the viewing angles are superb. Of course vivid colors and strong contrast are not requirements for color-accurate work but more for gaming and media/entertainment. Our work only requires that the display be color-accurate and consistent over time. Regardless my initial impression of the display was that it might just be as good as my Eizo CG243W.

I calibrated the display immediately with the ColorMunki and brought it immediately inline with the colors of my Eizo CG243W. I calibrated very well. The colors balanced closely compared to my display in Los Angeles.

But there's a difference in calibrating these two displays. Actually this difference exists for all comparisons to the Eizo CG243W because the CG243W utilizes hardware calibration versus software calibration. The Eizo CG-series utilizes a USB connection between the display and the computer specifically for the purpose of communicating color needs to the physical display. When you calibrate the display, you are not calibrating the software on the computer but instead you're calibrating the hardware on the display. This is supposed to generate better results though I can not verify this.

What I can tell you is that when you calibrate the CG243W, you should use ColorNavigator which is part of the proprietary Eizo calibration software since this allows the computer to calibrate the Eizo hardware via the USB uplink. In contrast, the ASUS PA245Q and all other non-hardware-calibrated displays simply use software such as the ColorMunki software that is provided in the purchase of the ColorMunki. The ColorMunki software is robust enough to calibrate for specific color-temperature such as D65 and specific luminance such as 120 cd/m2 (or in my case sometime 100-110 cd/m2).

Upon calibrating the PA245Q I felt strongly that the display was comparable in color accuracy to the CG243W. Its many settings allowed me to calibrate the User setting which is now my current default for photography-retouching work.

So why would you ever buy a CG243W when you could presumably get a similar display at nearly a quarter of the price?

I have a single stuck pixel (or dust on the panel). This is a little more than a slight annoyance since I constantly feel like I need to healing brush/clone stamp that spot on all my images. I may very well attempt to exchange this display based upon that sole fact.

Secondly the color consistency across the panel is not as good as the Eizo. There seems to be a reddish tint as you move from left to right and certainly more towards the bottom of the panel. I heard this issue also existed for many of the HP LP2475w panels. And honestly I suspect that this issue exists for many of the panels in this price range either due to quality assurance or simply due to the quality of the panels that they use. While I can not tell you the exact difference, I believe the components that exist within the Eizo CG-series are simply better since they are simply more reliable and don't suffer the same issues with cheaper panels.

That being said, if you search my blog deep enough you'll find that I was quite displeased with the evenness in panel luminance in both of the CG241W displays that I tested... which is how I came to acquire a CG243W. Fortunately the PA245Q does not exhibit this problem.

And honestly between color accuracy across the panel and backlight evenness across the panel, I would much rather have a small issue with color accuracy across the panel than uneven brightness. Uneven brightness is a much more in-your-face much like a stuck pixel. Any time you look at solid colors such as greys, blacks, and whites (as we often do in retouching) that uneven backlight will be glaring at you dead in the face. It's enough to make an photo editor go mad.

That being said, I discovered the tint shift across the panel when I was retouching multiple images of the same (photoshoot) set. These images were all converted to B&W so there should have been no color-tint issues in these images. And for some odd reason I detected slight hues of pink/red in some of these images. To test the backlight, I swapped the relative position of these images on the display (right-to-left and left-to-right). The images then revealed the opposite color tint in their new position on the display.

Other than the above issues, the PA245Q is a strong contender and a solid performer. I haven't even used the other features such as the 7-in-1 card reader. Vertical orientation for reading. And more.

In conclusion, you're spending a quarter of the price for a very comparable display. Hopefully you get one that is more consistent than mine in color-shifts across the panel.

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