HDMI 2.1 made waves as the must-have accompaniment to the PS5 and Xbox Series X, but until now the new display standard has mostly only been found on top-end gaming TVs. The tech has finally made its way to gaming monitors, here as the Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ, a flagship in this new fleet of console-focused 4K, 120hz gaming displays.
There is a big caveat, however. This is a 43-inch monitor, which means it’s more likely to replace your television than anything on your desk. It’s pricey, as well, with an MSRP of $1,299. That’s OLED TV territory. Can this Asus possibly compete?
Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ
Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ – Design
The Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ looks like what it is: a big monitor. Its bezels aren’t large, but unlike most televisions, they come forward beyond the front of the display, which is coated in a matte rather than glossy finish.
These traits will make the XG43UQ stick out to home theater enthusiasts, and they won’t look great to everyone else. You can spend hundreds less on a 43-inch TV like the Sony X85J and end up with a display that feels more luxurious.
It’s not better when the monitor is turned around. The rear panel’s busy design is not unattractive but seems out of place in a monitor meant to compete with TVs. You’ll rarely see it, though, so it’s not a problem.
A tripod stand keeps the monitor planted on a desk or media cabinet. It’s large in both width and depth, but this isn’t unusual for monitors and televisions of this size. The stand feels extraordinarily sturdy and provides protection against overly curious pets.
The stand only adjusts for tilt, however. This is a departure from smaller monitors but not unusual for a display of this size. You can attach the display to a VESA compatible TV stand or mount if you need more range of motion.
Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ – Features
You’ll find the Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ’s most important feature around back: a pair of HDMI 2.1 ports. The monitor also supports variable refresh rates via AMD FreeSync Premium Pro.
Connectivity doesn’t stop there, either. The monitor also has two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4, two USB 3.0 ports, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
HDMI 2.1 is important because it can handle 4K resolution at 120Hz (the XG43UQ can overclock up to 144Hz, though this is only useful when connected to a PC). This makes it ideal for pairing with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, which can deliver 4K resolution at 120Hz. The Xbox Series X can also deliver 4K/120Hz over HDMI 2.0 using a chroma subsampling mode, as noted in my review of the Asus ROG Strix PG32UQX review, but the PlayStation 5 can only deliver 4K/120Hz over HDMI 2.1.
Even putting HDMI 2.1 aside, this is an excellent selection of connectivity for any monitor and better than most small televisions. The inclusion of DisplayPort 1.4 is key, since it also supports 4K at high refresh rates when connected to a PC. That means you could connect a high-end PC, Xbox Series X, and PlayStation 5 all at once at full 4K/120Hz (or 144Hz for the PC). And you’d still have two HDMI ports left over for a Nintendo Switch and a streaming box.
The XG43UQ ships with a remote control that you can use to switch between connections, control volume, or access the on-screen menu for more options. It’s an essential feature given you’ll (hopefully) not be using this monitor while within arm’s reach. It’s not a great remote, however. The on-screen menu is set up for use with physical buttons present on the display, so it’s not always clear what the remote buttons will activate.
A fair degree of user control is available in the on-screen menu. The monitor includes several gamma and color temperature options and some user control over details like color saturation. Gamers comparing this monitor with a TV, however, will find the degree of control limited. The monitor also includes gaming-specific features like a built-in crosshair and a shadow booster, but most aren’t compatible with HDR.
A pair of 10-watt stereo speakers are located along the monitor’s rear. They’re loud, reasonably clear, and produce enough bass to deliver a nudge, if not a punch. These speakers can’t compete with a $200 soundbar with a subwoofer, but they’ll satisfy gamers who often use a headset and just want decent speakers as a backup.
Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ – Streaming and day-to-day performance
Though obviously designed for gaming, I suspect most gamers pondering the Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ will be comparing it to small televisions. A 43-inch monitor can easily replace a television in smaller apartments or homes.
The XG43UQ’s streaming performance is mixed. The 43-inch, 4K panel looks extremely sharp from any viewing distance. A high-quality stream or 4K Blu-Ray will highlight this with incredible detail in costumes and faces. This is a display that, at times, will let you appreciate the reflection in an actor’s eyes.
This display is VESA DisplayHDR certified to reach a maximum peak brightness of over 1000 nits. My measurements showed a sustained brightness of 866 nits, which is excellent. This monitor is brighter than many HDR televisions. That’s useful in HDR content and also makes the XG43UQ an excellent display for bright rooms.
The XG43UQ has a VA panel with an edge-lit backlight that offers just a handful of local dimming zones. A VA panel can manage a solid contrast ratio, and the XG43UQ does well here with a measured ratio of 3960:1. However, the simple backlight means the monitor can’t become brighter without also brightening darker portions of the image.
I found this most noticeable in Netflix with local dimming turned on. The XG43UQ’s bad local dimming highlighted obvious compression artifacts in shadows and dimly lit areas. This was obvious when watching Shadow and Bone, a show that, as the name implies, is packed with dim, shadowy scenes. To be clear, this is an issue with streaming only. These artifacts won’t appear in games and other content played locally.
This might seem awful and, in the worst situations, it can be. However, it’s partially excused by the display’s size. Other 43-inch televisions and monitors share these issues. LG is seemingly working on a 42-inch OLED TV due sometime in 2022, but that’s far from confirmed. For now, going small inevitably forces a compromise in contrast and dark scene performance.
On a positive note, the XG43UQ handled HDR switching fairly well. The monitor detected an HDR signal when present and transitioned to HDR with only a moment of flicker when transitioning directly out of HDR content into SDR content.
The XG43UQ also works well in typical day-to-day PC use. I focused more on console gaming than PC gaming for this review, as that’s the real target for this monitor, but I also used it with my PC. You’ll have no problems browsing the web, watching YouTube, or editing documents – so long as you can mount the monitor at a reasonable distance.
Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ – Gaming performance
The Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ’s 43-inch, 4K screen looks razor sharp in modern console games designed for high-resolution displays. Yakuza: Like a Dragon was the standout in my time with the monitor. The game’s highly detailed character models were fantastic. I noticed loads of detail in each character’s hair and clothing, yet shimmering, aliased edges were kept to a minimum.
Modern games gain the most from the XG43UQ’s presentation, but older titles also benefit. Halo: Reach in Master Chief Collection is burdened with old-school textures, but character models and higher resolution art, like Halo’s iconic skyboxes, look great. I also enjoyed Final Fantasy XIV, another game with lackluster textures but solid character models and art packed with fine detail.
HDR performance was less impressive, which I blame on the edge-lit backlight. The lack of detailed backlight control means ramping up the luminance washes out detail in shadows. No Man’s Sky looked punchy on bright planets but could also appear flat and dull, especially when navigating space.
Though it generally looks excellent in games, the XG43UQ suffers a problem that will disappoint some: the dreaded “smear.” This is a problem common to VA panels that causes dark areas of the screen to become ill-defined and “smear” in motion. It’s most noticeable when panning the camera in a first-person or third-person game.
The XG43UQ is afflicted with this issue. Less discerning gamers may not notice or care, but those craving clarity will be disappointed. It’s manageable in games that support 120Hz but a lot more distracting in games that can only hit 60Hz (or lower). I don’t consider myself picky about motion clarity, but I immediately noticed black smear when panning the camera in Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Halo: Reach.
This is a problem for the XG43UQ. Motion clarity is a key selling point. This monitor has HDMI 2.1 and adaptive sync support, so it’s theoretically perfect for high-refresh gaming on modern consoles. Smearing undercuts this advantage by reducing motion clarity in some situations.
Asus’ ELMB, the company’s black frame insertion feature, is available. This tricks your eye into perceiving less motion blur by inserting black frames between every other frame. ELMB is arguably the best black frame insertion implementation among monitors right now, but here’s the rub. It’s not available in HDR mode.
But again, it’s worth remembering this is a 43-inch monitor. Motion clarity is not as good as I’d hope from a display that can reach up to 144Hz, but overall motion performance is better than most 43-inch competitors. Asus could improve motion clarity with an IPS panel, but that would ruin the display’s contrast ratio. Gamers looking at a display of this size will have to make a compromise somewhere.