Asus have gone all out with the CG32U; a monitor that’s aimed squarely at the gaming console market, though there’s more than enough here to satisfy the most ardent of PC gamers as well. Offering 4K resolution, HDR10, Freesync, harman/kardon audio and Halo Sync ambient lighting, this is one monitor that sounds unbelievably good on paper. In the flesh? It’s even better.
Asus aren’t exactly known for shy and retiring design decisions, but the CG32U straddles the line between futuristic gamer cred and overwrought futurism. As I pulled it out of the expansive polystyrene protecting it in the box, my first impression was that it was the kind of thing I’d expect to see in Minority Report. Personally, that’s no bad thing.
The CG32U is chunky as far as modern monitors and TVs go, but with that gives the impression that it’s been built to last. The hefty base features rubberised pads on either side for two controllers on, each side boasting a USB 3.0 socket for charging, the screen itself is surrounded by a noticeable black bezel with cut off corners, while the back of the unit boasts a smart hexagonal connection to the mount edged in blue.
While you’re back there you’ll notice the 66 Halo Sync LEDs ringing the outside back edge of the screen. Like Philips Ambilight, these LEDs change colour depending on the content on screen, and are designed to expand the image and the atmosphere beyond the confines of the screen. It’s definitely an interesting idea, and when you’re playing something epic, like God of War or Monster Hunter World, it works remarkably well. I learned to really appreciate it after having been pretty unconvinced at the start.
The downside to this fancy tech is when you’re jumping in and out of menus or playing something that doesn’t have a consistent setting, it can feel a bit hyperactive. Playing an arena brawler like the recent My Hero Academia 2, where rounds only last a few minutes, meant that I caught the Halo Sync jumping around as I scrolled through the menus. How much you’ll get out of it likely depends on the type of content you enjoy, but for single-player adventures and movie watching it’s excellent.
As the name suggests, the CG32U is a 32″ screen supporting resolutions up to 3840×2160. Given that you’re looking at 4K resolution, Asus are clearly aiming for the current top-tier and future next-gen console owners. With three HDMI 2.0 plugs and a single DisplayPort, it can sit at the centre of your gaming set-up and connect to every current console and a PC without breaking a sweat.
In action, the VA panel puts out a remarkably clear and vibrant picture. Using the Xbox One’s handy calibration tool I had it set up in just a few minutes, and was immediately impressed by the screen’s clarity. Moving over to PC, we used the Datacolor SpyderX’s screen calibration tool to check out the CG32U’s claimed ability to achieve 95% of the cinema-grade DCI-P3 colour gamut, and found that it in our testing it actually achieved slightly higher than that with a reading of 97%, while nailing 100% of sRGB. This is one beautiful, colourful screen.
The HDR implementation – so often a sticking point with gaming monitors – is thankfully very well done, and despite only having a max brightness of 600nits, it does a good job of amplifying the brighter elements of the screen. Thanks to the zone dimming, it was rare to see any unwanted light bloom around lighter elements on a black background, which is something we’ve become used to on monitors with edge lighting. All in all, it’s a resounding success.
The VA panel also means it offers relatively good viewing angles, though there’s a noticeable increase in light bloom when looking from the side. While VA panels don’t traditionally hold up that well in terms of latency, the CG32U boasts an impressively low 13m/s, which is right up there with the absolute best modern TV gaming modes.
That’s admittedly not low enough latency for many competitive PC gamers, and tied with a narrow 40-60Hz range for its variable refresh rates, this isn’t really going to be the top pick for desktop twitch-shooters. To get higher refresh rates, you’d likely have to sacrifice on the quality of the panel or other features, so you’ll know whether the CG32U is going to fit the bill for you. Personally, as a catch-all gaming room or smaller living room solution, there are few that are going to match it.
Certainly the two 12W in-built speakers put it more in line with a TV-style offering. Tuned by harman/kardon, there’s not only plenty of depth and bass to them, but there’s also four different audio profiles – movie, racing, combat and FPS – to help emphasise the more important elements of each content. In practice they’re much more powerful and effective than an average 32-inch TV, and the sound profiles are a great addition if you’re not into wearing a headset.
The point where the CG32U doesn’t quite match up with the rest of its premium design is in its control. There is a diminutive remote, which is handy if you’re sat on a sofa, but the response time when turning the screen on or changing HDMI inputs is noticeably sluggish. The rest of the controls are knowingly gamified, with on-screen popups that match the futuristic internal design, but they’re smart and snappy once you get used to them. It’s a real shame that there will be moments where you’ll wonder if you’ve actually changed inputs though.
It’s at this stage that price comes into view, and the ASUS CG32U is going to have you delving right into the bottom of your pockets with an eye-watering RRP of £799.99. It’s a fantastic-looking, premium monitor, and for a very specific user it’s going to be a brilliant centrepiece to your console gaming setup, but you’re paying the top end for the privilege. Those after a decent gaming TV will balk at the expense for something this size, while dedicated PC monitors at this price point offer way more in terms of refresh rates and response times. The answer feels as though it’s ASUS’ mantra; if you want the best console gaming experience, you’re going to have to pay for it.