Asus has announced that its 31.5-inch PQ321 monitor, which appears to be the first consumer-oriented 4K desktop monitor, will go on sale in the US in June. There is no official word on pricing, but our guess is that it should be around $5,000 — definitely high-end for the consumer market, but a lot cheaper than the five-figure 4K displays currently on the market. This monitor is also notable because it’s one of the first displays on the market to use IGZO technology, rather than silicon-based LCD or OLED
Asus’s PQ321 is 31.5-inch 16:9 IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) monitor with a resolution of 3840×2160 (4K or UHD). which equates to 140 pixels per inch (surpassing Retina quality, if you’re sitting more than a couple of feet away). The monitor has 8ms gray-to-gray response time (mediocre; comparable to IPS), and support for 10-bit color (impressive). Rounding out the specs, there’s 176-degree viewing angles, 350cd/m2 brightness, one DisplayPort, two HDMI sockets, built-in 2W speakers, and the whole unit is just 35mm (1.37in) at its thickest point.
If these specs sound like a high-end IPS monitor, that’s probably because it is. Rather than describing a type of TFT LCD, such as IPS, TN, or MVA, IGZO is merely the transistor technology. In every LCD monitor, each pixel is controlled by a transistor. Traditionally, these transistors have been made of silicon. IGZO, on the other hand, has 40 times the electron mobility of silicon, and thus can be used to make transistors that are much smaller — thus allowing for denser pixels and higher resolutions. In short, you can use IGZO technology to make a high-res TN or IPS display. (Read more about IGZO technology.)
In this case, it seems that Asus has opted for an IPS panel — probably a 31.5-inch panel made by Sharp (IGZO was developed by Sharp, and so far it seems like it’s an exclusive technology). As far as we can tell, the Asus PQ321 is exactly the same as Sharp’s own 31.5-inch monitor that it showed off at CES 2013. At the time, Sharp said its monitor would go on sale for around $6,000, but so far it doesn’t seem to have been released.
At 31.5 inches, the Asus PQ321 can only just be considered a desktop monitor. For most users, 31.5 inches is simply too big — but then again, with a price tag around $5,000, this monitor won’t be for most users. Realistically, the PQ321 is aimed at professional creatives (but even then, unless Asus surprises us with a sub-$2,000 price tag, I suspect most artists will instead opt for a 10-bit IPS panel). If you’re looking for a high-resolution 22- or 24-inch model, the news isn’t good: there’s no indication from Asus or Sharp, or indeed any monitor maker, that high-resolution, truly-desktop-sized monitors are on the horizon.
As for why there are no high-resolution desktop displays, I point you towards our very aptly named story: Where are all the high-resolution desktop displays?