Sharp PN-K321 32-Inch Ultra HD Monitor Review: More 4K!

Just over a year ago, the first Ultra HD desktop monitors appeared on the market. First Sharp, then Asus and Dell shipped models based on 32-inch IGZO panels. Like any bleeding-edge tech, prices were astronomical at around $3500. We reviewed the Asus and Dell versions last fall and, after a long wait, we finally got a Sharp PN-K321 in the lab.

We've already published several reviews and articles on the subject of 4K monitors both for gaming and productivity. It’s well-known that you need some serious 3D horsepower in your PC to drive an eight-megapixel display in any sort of first-person game. That topic was discussed in-depth in Gaming At 3840x2160: Is Your PC Ready For A 4K Display?

Now that the necessary graphics hardware costs a little less, 4K gaming is a bit more feasible. But the prices of Ultra HD monitors have not come down significantly, at least in the 32-inch size. We’re hoping this changes as more of the new 28-inch TN-based screens infiltrate the market. They’re selling for around $500 and make a compelling option for users seeking the highest possible pixel density.

Brand & Model
Sharp PN-K321
Street Price
$3100
Panel Type & Backlight
IGZO / W-LED, edge array
Screen Size & Aspect Ratio
31.5-in / 16:9
Max Resolution & Refresh
3840x2160 @ 60Hz
Native Color Depth & Gamut
10-bit / sRGB
Response Time (GTG)
8ms
Brightness
350cd/m2
Speakers
2 x 2W
Video Inputs
1 x DisplayPort, 2 x HDMI
Audio
1 x 3.5mm in, 1 x headphone
Control
1 x RS-232
USB
none
Media Card Reader
none
Panel Dimensions
WxHxD w/base
29.5 x 19.5-25 x 10.1in
743 x 491-630 x 255mm
Panel Thickness
1.2in / 31mm
Bezel Width
1in / 25mm
Weight
28.7lbs / 13kg
Warranty
Three years

Sharp currently lists six IGZO panels in its parts catalog. All have a 31.5-inch viewable area with brightness ratings from 350 to 800cd/m2. They are native 10-bit panels capable of receiving and processing a 10-bit signal from an appropriate graphics board. Five of the six, like this one, have a native sRGB color gamut. The sixth, found in Dell’s UP3214Q, covers the wider Adobe RGB gamut.

Dell and Asus have cut their 32-inch UHD panel prices to around $2300, but Sharp still asks over $3000 for the PN-K321. Like its two high-end competitors, the signal handling is somewhat unique. In order to achieve a 60Hz refresh rate at 3840x2160, two scalers are used. They are linked by either DisplayPort 1.2 MST or dual HDMI connections.

The best solution is to use a DisplayPort 1.2 interface. Then you only need to enable MST support in the monitor’s menu, and you can utilize the 60Hz refresh rate at full native resolution. You can also achieve the same thing by using a video card with two HDMI outputs and enabling the HDMI Dual feature.

With a fairly new GeForce GTX 780 from EVGA, the DisplayPort MST input worked without issue on the first try. If you’re OK with 30Hz, you can use HDMI or DisplayPort for that configuration. If you do a lot of video editing, the PN-K321 will also accept a 24p signal, which is very handy for working with film content. If your requirements extend to the full DCI spec of 4096x2160, that's compatible. The monitor either scales the image or simply cuts off the extra width in its Dot-by-Dot mode.

Since Sharp actually makes the panel upon which the PN-K321 is based, we’re anxious to see if it outperforms the competition in our tests. Let’s take a look.

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23 comments
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  • cknobman
    Over $3000

    NEXT

    Get this BS under $1000 or dont even release it.
  • Kridian
    Yep, they're out of their GD minds!
  • 10tacle
    I'd start *thinking* about buying one of these at a $1500 price point, get more serious at a $1200 price point, and pull the trigger at a $1000 price point...AND when it's a 120Hz panel.
  • InvalidError
    59464 said:
    Over $3000 NEXT Get this BS under $1000 or dont even release it.

    Give it some time. Display manufacturers like gouging fat wallets while they can to recover some of their R&D costs while production volumes are still low and their products are still different enough to justify higher margins over models aiming for the bargain basement.
  • loki1944
    Maybe by the time single GPUs can run games at 60fps on 4K prices will be reasonable, because right now holy cow. Sticking with my 1080p and 1440p monitors for now.
  • NightshadeRC
    I got 2 of the Samsung 4k 60hz monitors about 3 months ago and they were only $349 each. Much better than the 1080p for $150-$200 and 1440p was another couple of hundred more (in Australia, tech tends to cost a bit more).
    It's won't be long before 4k TN gets more popular
  • jfkeenan
    Cost is one thing, but why aren't they using HDMI 2.0? My GTX 980 is begging for a 4K 60hz monitor.
  • rantoc
    Got an Dell 3214 and the "split screen" (many don't know this fact about the current 4k 1.2 DP driven displays running at 60hz but in order for DP1.2 to show 4k @ 60 hz the screen is virtually split into two screens over the interface and then combined) issue, many have all kind problems with this including only picture on one screen, different resolutions on one half or all kind of wake from sleep issues.

    My advice - Wait for DP1.3 that can handle 4k@60hz properly before considering an 4k screen and that is a shame - the resolution and picture clarity on the Dell UP3214Q is an enormous breakthrough - The issues however are so severe i'm not even using it! So much for a 2000$ monitor =/
  • beetlejuicegr
    I want a 24inch 4k display at 300$. Till then not buying! ^^
  • cypeq
    That's TV not monitor my TV is this big.
  • mesab66
    Definitely very keen on this becoming the norm...and developers fully supporting it for the PC (i.e. e.g. not being 30fps frame-locked because of consoles).

    But, for gamers, we're still a long way off before 4k becomes mainstream. Put simply, to get acceptable frame rates for latest AAA games needs 2 way and above using latest cards with enough VRAM...that's a s#%tload of GPU investment (assuming there are no system bottlenecks).
    60Hz and above? with enough GPU fps to justify any higher refresh rate? $$$
  • InvalidError
    272277 said:
    But, for gamers, we're still a long way off before 4k becomes mainstream. Put simply, to get acceptable frame rates for latest AAA games needs 2 way and above using latest cards with enough VRAM...

    That is only if you want to play with Ultra settings. Once you start dropping costly features like FSAA and shadows, the GPU requirements drop considerably.

    I'm still using a HD5770 to play games at 1200p and that's good enough for me. Yes, I do have to drop a few of the fancier graphics effects but in many cases, those features do not look right (at least to me) and annoy the heck out of me (like noisy/jittery/blocky or otherwise unnatural shadows and hair animation) so I would disable them even if I had infinite GPU power anyway just to cut down on unnecessary distractions.
  • mesab66
    Agreed, fair point, though even simply pushing 4 x 1080p pixels for gaming is something few of us can currently do - try using your 5770 here. Some eye candy can be reduced though for the current investment that might be hard to swallow for many. NVIDIA's DSR looks like heading in the right direction.
  • Evolution2001
    It seems that many of you aren't thinking outside the box of your home or small business. Just because Tom's reviews something doesn't mean that its intended audience is you, the home gamer / DIY'er. These are Professional / Workstation class displays. They aren't developed nor marketed with the gamer or the casual home user as the target. They are meant for professional graphic people with workstations and workstation budgets.
    Most of us here wouldn't buy a $14K Avid or Autodesk workstation "that can't even manage 30fps in Crysis 3 with Ultra settings". However, the professional market has no problem paying that for a workstation and they'll have no problems paying that for a top-of-line monitor that suits their needs.

    Upper-end gamers are lucky that their market segment drives a lot of PC innovation such as in GPUs, and to a lesser extent CPU and storage devices.
    However, the other cool stuff like larger high-density monitors starts at the top of the food chain and y'all just need to remain patient while the technology and prices work their way down to your level.

    There's a reason you're satisfied driving your Hyundai while drooling over the Ferrari.
  • samlebon23
    The price is very Sharp.
  • mczak1
    317373 said:
    Got an Dell 3214 and the "split screen" (many don't know this fact about the current 4k 1.2 DP driven displays running at 60hz but in order for DP1.2 to show 4k @ 60 hz the screen is virtually split into two screens over the interface and then combined) issue, many have all kind problems with this including only picture on one screen, different resolutions on one half or all kind of wake from sleep issues.

    While I'd agree it's best to avoid the hassle, this has _nothing_ to do with DP 1.2. DP 1.2 can handle 4k@60Hz just fine as a single tile, the problem is the monitor scalers which couldn't handle it. There's a couple single-tile DP 1.2 monitors out now where this works just fine (even with older graphic cards, if they could handle 4k@60HZ as DP 1.2 MST they can handle it as DP 1.2 SST just fine).
    5k though is another matter and indeed requires DP 1.3 for 60Hz single tile.
  • Raheel Hasan
    think about it if it is around $500
  • soldier45
    Phillips is coming out with a 40" 4K monitor with display port supports 60hz for around $800.

    http://4k.com/news/philips-releases-new-40-inch-4k-monitor-4040/
  • paesan
    You can get a 4k tv for that price.
  • d_kuhn
    So this monitor looks to me like it's EXACTLY like my Asus PQ321 (as in the exact same monitor but for $1000 more)... all the buttons and connector locations are identical, the decals are identical, the plastic parts are identical... the support stand is identical... how it mounts to the panel looks identical, and the on screen display looks to be nearly identical. In fact the only thing that looks different is that mine says ASUS on the front. I paid over $3k for the ASUS but that was almost a year ago.. now they're under $2k.

    After looking at the test results... this monitor looks like maybe it's made on the same line as the ASUS and someone slaps a different budge on it before it goes in the box... the only thing that looks significantly different was brightness... maybe a brighter backlight? That's not necessarily a bad thing... I really like the PQ321 (not a gaming monitor but it's a fantastic on a 4k editing system), but I'm not sure where the $1k premium is coming from (maybe the OP who's seen both can comment?).
  • jazzy663
    Mmmm... sorry, no. The hardware for 4k stuff is less expensive than it was, but it's still pretty expensive. I just can't see the merit in shoveling out the extra cash just for a higher resolution. I think 1080p will be the standard for years to come.
  • Ninjawithagun
    $3000 O.O Uh, no! As soon as Samsung gets off the crack pipe and back into the real world and prices this product back to the reality zone, give me a call.
  • teodoreh
    if a 5" sub-140€ cellphone can have full HD resolution, then where is the problem having a 32" monitor with 4K? Since there are so many cheap Korean panels nowadays, I just believe that those people want to steal customers before reaching reasonable prices for all...