Asus PA32UCX: First Impressions

Apart from uploading a handful of Sony HLG HDR videos to YouTube last year – mostly out of morbid curiosity – I’d pretty much all but given up on HDR, for the simple reason that there were no remotely affordable monitors. That all changed last month when I learned about the Asus ProArt 32UCX at a Blackmagic event here in Ho Chi Minh City. Five weeks later, the Asus was at my doorstep. I’m going to share my initial impressions and show how to set up the monitor for grading HDR video in Final Cut Pro. But before that, take a moment to feast your eyes on the clean lines, matte finish and absence of unsightly bezels on the Asus. hehe

Size comparison, PA32UCX and 2017 iMac 27″.

It takes only a few minutes to get the monitor up and ready to go. The display can be adjusted vertically or horizontally. Cable management is well thought-out and eliminates clutter. Below, you can see the HDMI cable and power cord.

Cable management, PA32UCX. Cables can also be routed through the hole provided in the stand.

Being able to view a display at extreme angles without changes in hue, saturation, brightness and contrast are important to me for a television set, less so when it comes to editing and grading, since I’m usually sitting directly in front of the display and don’t have clients looking over my shoulder. Nobody in their right mind is going to be grading footage at a viewing angle of 180 degrees! Nevertheless, viewing angle neutrality is quite good. The image is not spoilt by reflections like my glossy iMac. And contrary to what I read at one website, the monitor is whisper quiet. I suppose if you were in HDR mode, had an all white screen and cranked the brightness to max for an hour, you’d hear the fans – otherwise the monitor measures in the neighborhood of 30 dB. Next, let’s glance at a fairly pricey gadget you’ll need if you want to connect an HDR monitor to your Mac!

Blackmagic UltraStudio 4K Mini.

Currently, the least expensive I/O capture device for 4K HDR is the Blackmagic UltraStudio 4K Mini. It runs $999.00 in the States, $1,200.00 in Vietnam. You’ll want to run a Thunderbolt 3 cable from your Mac to the Mini, then connect the Mini to the Asus by HDMI. Download and install Desktop Video on your Mac and set up as follows.

1. Download and install Desktop Video.
2. Set the video output.
3. Set the video output, cont’d. I was working on an HLG project here.
4. Set the video input.

Next, change your settings in Final Cut Pro X as follows.

5. Change library in FCP X to Wide Gamut HDR.
6. Change project setting to Wide Gamut HDR – Rec. 2020 HLG. (or Rec. 2020 PQ).
7. In the Window tab, check A/V Output.
8. Open FCP X Preferences.
9. In Playback, make sure device is recognized. Not sure why Final Cut doesn’t show actual 4K out.
Screen on the UltraStudio 4K Mini.

The PA32UCX will automatically choose the correct settings. At least it did for me!

The PA32UCX automatically recognizes input as HLG HDR.
More detailed information.

The image on the Asus looks sharper than the iMac, though I wish there was a way to reduce sharpening more; its black levels are .0026 nits, compared to the iMac’s somewhat grayish .5 nits; peak brightness on the PA32UCX exceeds 1,400 nits, whereas the iMac is a paltry 500 nits; and the Asus has 1,152 local dimming zones, giving it exceptional contrast. I’ll be replacing the iMac with a 16″ MacBook Pro in the next couple of weeks.

PA32UCX and iMac 27″ side-by-side.

The Apple Pro Display XDR runs $6,500 in the USA when purchased with stand and AppleCare+. Throw in the nano-texture glass option and that figure skyrockets to $7,500.00. In Vietnam, the ProArt 32UCX-K costs half as much ($3,300.00) and comes with stand, non-glare glass, a three-year warranty and an X-Rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter (value $250.00 in USA, $325 in VN).

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