Physical Design, OSD, Overdrive Capability
Honestly, not much has changed in the design of the ASUS MG278Q from the MG279Q, ASUS' first FreeSync monitor we reviewed back in June. It shares of a lot design cues with the ROG Swift series of G-Sync displays though with enough coloration and detail differences to make them discernable.
Looking at the monitor as a whole, the 27-in form factor with the matte finish (and matte bezel) means that you won't have much in the way of glare or reflections while gaming or running productivity applications. The stand allows for tilt, swivel, pivot and height adjustments, though the rotation of the base occurs not at the bottom of the pillar but at the center of the base. It's hard to explain why that just feels off, but it does. Overall, the build quality of the MG278Q is top notch in the gaming market field, bested only by ASUS' own ROG Swift line.
All of the controls for the OSD are on the lower right hand side of the display, button located on the back side of the bezel. Many monitors eschew labels for these buttons out a sense of design style, but for me, having the labels is well worth the ink on the screen print.
The buttons themselves are easy to navigate and the now semi-standard joystick on ASUS displays for navigation is a great thought that really makes the process of moving around an OSD bearable.
The base of the MG278Q shares the same matte grey coloring and finish as the pillar and bezel, but adds in a discrete red ring circling the center post. This ring doesn't light up as it does on the ROG Swift, but it doesn't include hash marks to help you center up your monitor.
On the backside the design is ho-hum, but who cares? You don't see the back of your display very often anyway. The monitor has a VESA mount if you choose to replace the included stand for some reason and a cable management housing on the back of the pillar.
One of the primary advantages of FreeSync panels over G-Sync monitors is that you have access to more inputs, though only DisplayPort is supported for variable refresh rates. Here you can see the MG278Q has a dual-link DVI port, two HDMI connections and, of course, DisplayPort. ASUS has also included a two-port USB 3.0 hub and audio connection pass through for users that want to take advantage of the convenience features.
On-Screen Display Settings
ASUS has improved and iterated upon the on-screen display implementation for its monitors tremendously over the last several years, making strides that no other company has really duplicated yet. It's great to see companies taking care of aspects like this that are often overlooked as trivial.
The ASUS MG278Q offers quite a few out of box options for color and brightness based on standard usage scenarios. In general, I tend to start at the sRGB mode option if you don't have a calibration device as it will get you "pretty" close to a calibrated experience.
The blue light filter option does exactly as you think it would – removes some blue tint from the color on the screen helping to avoid eye fatigue over time. As you would expect as well, this means the screen takes on a dramatically different color temperature that is not entirely accurate.
Adjusting the color temperature manually is found under the User Mode option.
Trace Free is the ASUS version of variable overdrive technology, and just as we have seen on previous FreeSync monitors from ASUS, it has been improved greatly in comparison to what G-Sync is capable of. In our testing, a setting of 60 was the best balance of overdrive and inverted color from too much overdrive.
Finally, the My Favorites section allows you to set specific settings to button on the side of the screen for easy access without having to navigate through the entire menu system. A handy feature if you plan on switching between color profiles or overdrive settings often.
Testing overdrive on FreeSync and G-Sync monitors is some of the most important work we do as it was the one of the key differences between the technologies early on in their lives. AMD has worked with the monitor vendors to implement an overdrive algorithm that works with variable refresh rates, even if it isn't completely variable in its own functionality.
You can see the MG278Q here at three of the five available overdrive settings: 0, 60 and 100. At 0 you see that overdrive is essentially turned off and we witness quite a bit of ghosting following the rotating windmill blade of our demo. At 100 we have a lot of negative ghosting – the dark portions following the white areas of the fan blade. But at a setting of 60 we see a pretty good balance of both. It's not perfect but we are definitely a dramatic step ahead of the earliest FreeSync display implementations.
Overdrive sub-pixel dot inversion banding
A quick note worth mentioning is that the MG278Q exhibts the 'rainbow' effect in freshly drawn overdriven images. This is visible in the above screen shots and is common among current generation TN panels. This particular artifact is related to the TN panel technology specifically, and is also present in TN equipped G-Sync panels. Allyn first detailed this effect in his review of the Acer XB270HU, which uses a very similar TN panel.