Asus PA246

At AU$699, the PA246 offers great value. We're concerned, though, by the colour shift in the inversion pixel walk test in some colour presets.


8.0
CNET Rating

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


Update: Asus has informed us that its pixel policy has been updated from needing three bright/dark pixels for a warranty service, to only needing one for a complete swap out. This review has been amended accordingly.

It's always interesting to see something badged as a professional monitor after you've seen HP's DreamColor. Asus' PA246 is exactly that — a 24-inch, IPS-based black, chunky monitor whose design hallmarks you'd usually expect to see on something NEC branded. It even takes a little longer than usual to hit its full brightness after you've switched it on, usually a sign that you're on to something good.

Then there's the six axial control of hue and saturation, and RGB control of gain and offset. This lets us know that firstly, Asus is quite serious, and, secondly, that easy calibration is out the window — it is a manual job for ultimate tweaking.

Dubbed "ProArt", it's a 1920x1200 screen that has measurement markings around the bezel, although these are for look more than anything; the horizontal markings are just over 6mm, the vertical almost 5mm, meaning they're not that useful as points of reference.

What is interesting is a grid mechanism that's part of the on-screen display (OSD) — press the left-most button, and suddenly you have a grid overlaid on the screen in 5mm increments up to 50.5cm horizontally, and 30cm vertically. Press again and you're given inches, again and a nine-segment "alignment grid" appears, and there's also A4 and letter aspect rectangles in landscape and portrait modes, and the same again for 4x6, 3x5, 2x2, 8x10 and 5x7 formats. It's an interesting touch, although one that's replicated wholesale in programs like Photoshop, and so while it's cool, its usefulness is questionable.

Asus PA246 front

Six axial colour calibration? Colour us interested.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Specs at a glance

Size 24 inches
Resolution 1920x1200
Aspect ratio 16:10
Pixel pitch 0.269
Panel technology IPS
Viewing angles
(10:1 contrast)
H: 178°
V: 178°
Response time 6ms G2G
Max vertical refresh 60Hz
Connections VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, USB upstream, 2x USB downstream, SD/MS/MMC/xD card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack (for HDMI/DisplayPort audio out only)
Accessories VGA, DVI, DisplayPort, USB cables

Stand and ergonomics

Asus' stand is what we expect for a monitor of this size and calibre, offering height, tilt, swivel and rotate adjustments. The sliding mechanism takes more force than Dell's UltraSharp range to adjust, making smaller adjustments more difficult.

Asus PA246 stand

Asus packs a decent stand with the PA246.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Connections

Asus PA246 inputs

Power switch, power jack, DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, VGA, 3.5mm jack, USB upstream.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

The only connection here with a difference is the 3.5mm audio jack — if you have an audio stream coming through HDMI or DisplayPort, then you can use this jack to hear it. Otherwise, it's a fairly standard complement of ports.

Asus PA246 inputs

Two USB ports and a card reader. The slow step away of the tech industry from the CF format is prevalent here, too.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Buttons and on-screen display (OSD)

Asus PA246 buttons

The button on the far left switches through all the on-display grids.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Asus' front-mounted buttons are practical and usable. You have the aforementioned grid button here, menu and adjustment buttons, as well as a quick input selector.

Asus PA246 OSD

Asus' OSD gives a huge breadth of options, but is still easy to navigate.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

There are six presets included with the PA246: Standard, sRGB, AdobeRGB, Scenery, Theatre and User. Since the PA246 has a huge range of adjustment, you'll get the most out of the user mode, and bypassing the presets.

On top of brightness and contrast, the user can also set hue, saturation and gamma, six axis hue and saturation, gain and offset. Sharpness can also be adjusted, and scaling is available in full screen, aspect and 1:1 modes, complete with nifty animation switching between them.

Picture in picture is supported, but it seems the HDMI and DVI circuits are shared, as when plugged in over DVI you can only have VGA or DisplayPort as the second image. This image can be toggled between three different sizes, placed in any of the four corners of the screen, and the inputs can be reversed if desired, making the smaller picture larger and vice versa.

Performance

Lagom.nl LCD tests
After calibrating to a target brightness of 140cd/m² with an X-Rite i1Display 2, Eye-One Match 3 and tweaking with HCFR, the PA246 was run through the Lagom.nl LCD tests.

While most tests passed without a problem, the Asus gave us an oddity we haven't seen before: it turned the patterns in the Inversion pixel walk test purple, instead of the monochrome it should be. It seems this is an effect of the User and Scenery modes — although there is still a tinge of colour in the other modes, they are much closer to the expected grey. Needless to say this is an issue, as those who wish to properly calibrate their monitor will be greeted with this oddity.

Image tests
Contrast Sharpness Gamma Black level White saturation Gradient
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass
Inversion pixel walk tests
Test 1 Test 2a Test 2b Test 3 Test 4a Test 4b Test 5 Test 6a Test 6b Test 7a Test 7b
Pass Flicker Pass Turns purple Turns purple, flickers Turns purple, upwards scrolling motion Pass Pass Pass Turns purple Turns purple

Input lag
Measured against a Samsung SyncMaster 975p CRT, and using a Canon 40D set to a shutter speed of 1/320, an average of over 60 photographs was taken using StoppUhr. The PA246 registered 2.71ms of lag over DVI, meaning the input lag should not be perceptible and fine for gaming.

Colour accuracy
ΔE is the measurement of how far a measured colour deviates from its expected value, allowing us to determine the colour accuracy of a monitor. While a ΔE value of one is considered perceivable, as long as it's less than three, the shift shouldn't be too obvious. HCFR was initially used to determine ΔE for the monitor in tandem with an X-Rite i1Display 2 — only to discover that the i1Display had real issues detecting blue shifts in the PA246. Thankfully, if you're one of the first 200 to pick up a PA246, you'll get a Spyder 3 Express, something that Asus included in our review kit — so we used that instead to see how the PA246 went.

Measured levels (Standard mode)
Contrast ratio 722:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.375
White level (cd/m²) 270.749
Gamma 2.11
Greyscale ΔE
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
51.1 21.7 14.2 10.9 12.8 12.6 14.3 12.1 12.5 14.2 12.9
Colour ΔE (compared to sRGB)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
71.8 43.3 2.3 19.6 32.0 47.5

Asus PA246 CIE chart

We really need to fix those greys.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

Not exactly the <5 ΔE that's promised on the box. We spent hours tweaking the colours by hand before we discovered the i1Display's weakness in regards to the PA246's blue gamut, and after realising we would be here for days tweaking to get the perfect profile, we gave in and used the supplied Spyder 3 Express colorimeter and software.

Measured levels (User mode, Spyder 3 calibrated)
Contrast ratio 527:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.506
White level (cd/m²) 226.661
Gamma 2.18
Greyscale ΔE
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
35.8 5.1 4.0 3.7 3.5 2.2 3.6 3.2 2.0 2.0 1.2
Colour ΔE (compared to sRGB)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
76.4 40.3 3.1 15.3 36.7 56.9

Asus PA246 CIE chart

The greys are better after automated software calibration, but not great, and we've sacrificed on the blacks. There's far, far too much green now in the system as well. Manual tweaking would fix this, but expect to spend quite some time fiddling to get things right.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

No doubt with a lot more time and patience, you could get a lot better results — Asus definitely gives you the tools in the OSD to do so. With so many variables, though, we found ourselves wishing for an automated solution, as per NEC's ability to plug a custom i1Display into the monitor directly and adjust that way.

HDMI performance
While a monitor might have an HDMI port, there's no guarantee that it'll display images as expected. We hooked up a PlayStation 3 and checked for 24p capability as well as judder, and ran the HQV Blu-ray test to see how well it coped with an interlaced source and noise.

24p capable Understands YUV Mission Impossible III
Scene 11 judder test
Mission Impossible III
Scene 14 judder test
Yes Yes Slight judder Very slight judder
HQV noise
reduction
score
HQV video
resolution loss
score
HQV jaggies
score
HQV film
resolution loss
score
HQV film
resolution loss — stadium
score
Total score
out of 100
15 20 5 25 0 65

The Asus handles interlaced content reasonably well compared to its competitors, and while judder is present, it's minimal.

Viewing angles
Viewing angles were taken with a Canon 40D in spot-metering mode, with only shutter time adjusted to obtain a good exposure.

Asus PA246 viewing angles

IPS proves that it's the best at viewing angles once more.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Light bleed
Uncommon for an IPS monitor, our Asus review sample actually had a small amount of light bleed coming from the top left. This may just be a defect with our particular sample.

It's important to note that the effects of light bleed will likely change from monitor to monitor, regardless of make.

Power consumption
We measured power consumption using a Jaycar mains digital power meter. It's important to note here that, due to limitations of the meter, measurements are limited to values of 1W and greater, and are reported in 1W increments.

All measurements, screen brightness and contrast were set to 100 per cent, and a test image displayed.

Juice Box
Maximum power draw 83W
Power-saving mode <1W
Off <1W

While it does draw heavily on the juice while on, in power-saving or off modes the PA246 is excellent at saving power.

Warranty

Asus covers the PA246 with a three-year warranty. Asus has updated its pixel policy, and it's quite straightforward: if you have more one or more faulty dots within the warranty period, bright or dark, you can request a complete swap out — an excellent fall back plan.

Conclusion

At AU$699, the PA246 offers great value. We're concerned, though, by the colour shift in the inversion pixel walk test, and we'd like a better pixel policy. We'll be curious to see if Dell outs an updated 24-incher to challenge Asus, but as it stands this is not too bad a monitor at all.

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