Wasabi Mango UHD420 42-in 4K - FreeSync and HDMI 2.0 for $800
A few years ago, we took our first look at the inexpensive 27" 1440p monitors which were starting to flood the market via eBay sellers located in Korea. These monitors proved to be immensely popular and largely credited for moving a large number of gamers past 1080p.
However, in the past few months we have seen a new trend from some of these same Korean monitor manufacturers. Just like the Seiki Pro SM40UNP 40" 4K display that we took a look at a few weeks ago, the new trend is large 4K monitors.
Built around a 42-in LG AH-IPS panel, the Wasabi Mango UHD420 is an impressive display. Inclusion of HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2 allow you to achieve 4K at a full 60Hz and 4:4:4 color gamut. At a cost of just under $800 on Amazon, this is an incredibly appealing value.
Whether or not the UHD420 is a TV or a monitor is actually quite the tossup. The lack of a tuner
might initially lead you to believe it's not a TV. Inclusion of a DisplayPort connector, and USB 3.0 hub might make you believe it's a monitor, but it's bundled with a remote control (entirely in Korean). In reality, this display could really be used for either use case (unless you use OTA tuning), and really starts to blur the lines between a "dumb" TV and a monitor. You'll also find VESA 400x400mm mounting holes on this display for easy wall mounting.
One of the most interesting things about the UHD420 came in July in the form of a firmware update enabling AMD's FreeSync technology. While the only mention of this update was posted to the support page on the Wasabi Mango support site (entirely in Korean), we decided to order one of these monitors and give it a shot.
First we gave the HDMI 2.0 functionality a shot while hooked up to a GTX 980Ti. Right out of the box we saw a full 60Hz implementation with 4:4:4 chroma subsampling. Proper HDMI 2.0 support means this could be a great display to use with a HTPC or something like the NVIDIA SHIELD.
Upgrading the firmware was surprisingly easy for this display. After opening the zip file downloaded from the support site, you are presented with a .bin file. Transferring this .bin file to an empty, FAT32 formatted flash drive allows you to update the monitor.
With the monitor off, plug in the thumb drive to the "Service USB" port, which is specifically labeled on the back of the display. After turning the display back on, the power LED indicator on the button of the display will begin to blink between green and red. Once the light remains solid green, it's time to remove the thumb drive.
You'll need to hard power reset the display by unplugging it and plugging it back in, but once you do, you'll find the firmware upgraded and a new option for FreeSync in the OSD.
After enabling the FreeSync option in the OSD, the Catalyst Control Center should prompt you that a FreeSync display has been connected, and allow you to enable the feature.
We managed to do all of this successfully, and started to investigate how well this implementation of FreeSync worked with our AMD R9 Fury X. From our testing, we can say that the UHD420 has an variable refresh range of 42-60Hz.
While this may not seem like a lot, it has some utility with a 4K display. By having an extra "cushion" of 18Hz, you can still try to tune game settings to achieve 60Hz for most gameplay, but if the frame rate drops a bit due to a lot of action on the screen, you'll still maintain a smooth experience. However, if you drop below 42 FPS, whatever VSync settings you have set will kick in.
Editor's Note: I wanted to drop in here real fast and talk about my gaming experiences on this monitor. The truth is that gaming on a 4K monitor, regardless of physical size, requires a LOT of GPU horsepower, and this works in favor of the limited variable refresh window implemented on the UHD420. The 60 Hz limit is common to basically all 4K displays on the market today and a VRR / FreeSync range of only 18 Hz would initially seem useless. But with modern GPU hardware capabilities to render at 4K being limited, even in multi-GPU configurations, this slight advantage of tear-free and stutter-free gaming can impact the overall experience a lot. I would hope that gamers would set in-game quality settings in an attempt to hit near 60 FPS all the time, and then allow the 18 Hz VRR window below 60 FPS to act as the buffer or "safety zone." Gamers using 4K monitors will very likely see spikes down in frame rate so this advantage is noteworthy.
In our time messing around with the Wasabi Mango UHD420 this FreeSync window was definitely taken advantage of. When I did come across a scenario where we dropped below 42 FPS, the experience was poor, to say the least. I still don't like the transition between FreeSync VRR and standard V-Sync modes and prefer what G-Sync does (enabling variable refresh with no bottom limit). The UHD420 isn't a perfect monitor, but it's unique combination of resolution, variable refresh and pure pixel count is unique in the market.
End Editor's Note
After doing a bit of digging, we also found that the Wasabi Mango claims compatibility with this same firmware for the UHD550 55-in display. Crossover, another Korean monitor manufacturer, also has released a firmware for the 494K 49-in display, and promises it will come to the 434K 43-in model.
As a word of caution, if you pick up one of these displays make sure it's labeled as the HDMI 2.0 version. Earlier versions of this monitor are not compatible with the FreeSync upgrade.
So this leaves us asking why these particular, generic monitors upgradeable to FreeSync? I have a feeling this has a lot to do with the fact that these Korean companies are doing no customization to the OSD/scaler as a cost-saving measure. Even the popup warnings of things like a device not being connected feature the MStar branding, which is a leading scaler manufacturer. Because they are doing little to no customization, as MStar developed a firmware for the existing silicon, Wasabi Mango and Crossover were able to push them out quickly to consumers.
Even though it doesn't have a very large FreeSync range, it's still extremely cool to see an already existing display be updated with this technology. If you are interested in a large 4K display and have a AMD GPU that supports FreeSync, these monitors are pretty unbeatable for the price.