AOC U2868PQU review

Most of the UHD monitors now available are still in the premium category, featuring high-quality IPS panels and prices at £500 and above. But if you’re looking to snare an ultra high-resolution display and don’t thin they’re worth that much, there’s now the option for budget construction monitors packing nearly 4 k across. The AOC U2868PQU is just such a unit, sporting 3840 x 2160 pixels and a price closer to £300. So what’s the catch? See also: 9 best monitors 2015 UK: what's the best display?

The U2868PQU makes economies principally through taking a lower-grade twisted-nematic (TN) panel. This typically means more restricted viewing angles, poorer colour accuracy, and lower contrast ratio; however TN can have the advantage of lower power consumption and faster refresh rates. As it turned out, the AOC was to dispel most of these trends in surprising ways.

AOC U2868PQU review: Build and Design

Rather than go for glitz, the U2868PQU is a simply styled monitor, with matt black plastics all around and no visual ornamentations. The display bezel is reasonably narrow at 18 mm on the top and sides, if rather chunky along the bottom at 35mm.

Read: ViewSonic VP2780-4K UHD monitor review.

The monitor includes a height adjustable pillar stand, 60 to 180 mm from desk to screen bottom, with tilt, swivel and 90 degree portrait mode all available. You can also use a VESA 100mm mount.

Connections to a PC are made through down-pointing ports along the back box, and a four-port USB hub sits on its right side. Only two of the latter ports are USB 3.0, a small clue of the cost-cutting specification by sneaking in USB 2.0 here. Video connections include DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI and VGA. While the first two should allow full 60 Hz refresh rate at native resolution, the HDMI is at v1.4 and limited to 30 Hz operation. The DVI input is also listed as DHCP-compliant, meaning its laden with DRM processing technology, so may not be the straight passthrough that gamers seek.

And AOC does bill the display as one for gamers, advertising a grey-to-grey pixel response time of 1 ms. While impressive looking, the company does not comment on the more relevant overall input lag, which is likely to dwarf this 1 ms time by one or nearly two orders of magnitude.

The AOC is also described as a flicker-free design, and in our tests we were not able to discern any sign of high-frequency PWM switching, even at lowest brightness settings.

Overall build quality is perfunctory but acceptable, with a case and stand that feel somewhat budget but up to the job of supporting the panel in front of you.

AOC U2868PQU review: Control

To set up and control the U2868PQU there is a row of four touch-sensitive ‘buttons’ in the right of the chunky lower screen bezel. Like the ViewSonic VP2780-4K, these are tricky to operate and feel cheap in use. Sometimes they work on first press, other times we had to make a concerted effort by gripping the whole bezel between thumb and finger and squeezing. In the case of the AOC we also found it easy to overshoot settings when holding down to change brightness, for example, with numbers zipping up and down after we’d removed our finger.

We found another annoyance where the screen would fail to display any image after plugging into a new source, repeatable with both Windows and Mac test laptops we tried. Only a complete cycle by pulling the power plug and switching it back on again would remedy this fault.

AOC U2868PQU review: Performance

For a TN panel, the AOC had better than expected off-axis viewing. It doesn’t compare to IPS, especially for below-axis image which quickly deteriorated into black fudge just a few degrees below the normal; but you can at least move to 45 degrees left and right and still have a discernible image.

Contrast ratio measurement peaked at 610:1 at full brightness, and at a more usable half-brightness level of 167 cd/m^2 it was still providing 580:1.

Colour gamut was quite extended for the panel type – we measured 97 percent of sRGB and 76 percent Adobe RGB. On paper that’s almost as good as the more expensive IPS types. Colour accuracy is one casualty of the budget technology though, with an average Delta E figure of 4.6 recorded, when better displays only rise to a Delta E of around 1.0.

Out of the box the display quality looked overly bright and very washed out, and this can be tweaked a little with the help of a screen calibrator. We also saw some faint vertical streaking down the panel, just visible with the display set to a grey test. There was however no obvious issue with light bleed from the screen edges.

In fact the screen was quite uniform in brightness, mostly within 10 percent tolerance down to half brightness setting, at which point a peak drift of 17 percent was noted at the bottom centre. But these are small differences which will barely be visible by eye, if at all.

Power consumption was one of the lowest at maximum brightness, drawing 59 W at the peak brightness we could reach of 230 cd/m^2 (some way behind the listed 300 cd/m^2, but still too bright for comfortable use anyway).

But at more realistic brightness settings, for which we standardise our test at 120 cd/m^2, the AOC had one of the worst power consumption figures on test at 46 W. This was only beaten by the 51 W draw of the Philips at the same setting, although this is a huge 40-inch panel using more accurate VA panel technology.

AOC U2868PQU: Specs

  • 28in with matt anti-glare film
  • 3840x2160, 157ppi
  • 8-bit with FRC
  • 610:1 contrast ratio
  • 97% sRGB
  • 76% Adobe RGB
  • DisplayPort 1.2
  • HDMI 1.4
  • DVI
  • VGA D-Sub
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • Stereo speakers with 3W amp
  • 659x396x50mm
  • 28in with matt anti-glare film
  • 3840x2160, 157ppi
  • 8-bit with FRC
  • 610:1 contrast ratio
  • 97% sRGB
  • 76% Adobe RGB
  • DisplayPort 1.2
  • HDMI 1.4
  • DVI
  • VGA D-Sub
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • Stereo speakers with 3W amp
  • 659x396x50mm

OUR VERDICT

The AOC U2868PQU offers a glimpse of UHD possibilities at around half the price of the current IPS and VA technology competition. But it is in some respects only half the monitor. In its favour it has fairly decent colour gamut and contrast ratio, and better than terrible viewing angles. It is more costly to run, has poorer colour accuracy, and judged subjectively we felt even after adjustment that image quality was clearly behind that found on IPS screens, admittedly at nearly half their price. We can’t see any sensible gamers getting excited about this panel though, since it would require dual top-of-the-range graphics cards to drive it to usable framerates. And anyone who can afford those will sorely be looking for a higher quality display than the budget U2968PQU.