Review: Is BenQ's impressive new 27-inch monitor better than Apple's Studio Display?
I’ve tested a few BenQ monitors over the years, but while they are often pitched at image makers, they don’t always match the performance we expect from a professional monitor. But that could be about to change. BenQ recently released the PhotoVue SW272U, a 27-inch 4K monitor designed specifically for professional photographers and you can tell it’s different – even before you turn it on.
At an RRP of $2499, this monitor is a far more 'photographer specific' product than the similarly priced Apple Studio Display.
Like all monitors in BenQ’s SW range, the PhotoVue SW272U features a Calman verified and Pantone validated screen that supports a broad range of colour gamuts including 99% of Adobe RGB, 99% of DCI-P3 and 100% of sRGB. The 3840 x 2160 resolution IPS panel also has a contrast range of 1000:1, a maximum brightness of 400 cd/m2 and is factory calibrated to provide overall uniformity to an average of deltaE <=1.5. The specs already tell you this monitor has good colour.
Where you immediately notice a difference though, is in the screen coating. The PhotoVue SW272U has a new TUV Rheinland certified anti-reflection coating that does a remarkable job of eliminating reflections and glare from the screen. This might sound like a minor detail, but if too much ambient light is reflected from the screen it not only interferes with our perception of a displayed image (the light being emitted from the screen), but it can also contribute to screen fatigue. The new coating on the SW272U subdues almost all light from behind the user to a dull, imperceptible glow, and while it is always preferable to moderate the light in your post-production workspace, this monitor will probably be more forgiving to those users who don’t have the luxury of a dedicated work room.
The other thing you notice about this monitor before you even turn it on, is the improved styling. The base now features a leather like finish that is ideal for putting hardware and external drives on while you download content, and the column now offers more height than earlier models. The column also has a built-in handgrip and a new fixed lug at the base to keep cables hidden to the rear of the monitor. Aside from the power cord, inputs into the monitor include two HDMI V2.0 inputs, one DisplayPort input, and a USB-C single cable hookup that not only supplies video and data to the ports, but it can also deliver 90-watts of charging power back to a connected laptop.
One the bottom left edge of the monitor is an SD card slot, two USB-A slots and a 3.5mm headphone jack (although this monitor does not have built in speakers). On the bottom right is a power button (that is discreetly illuminated when the display is on) and four menu keys. The menu buttons on monitor seem redundant though, when you begin using the new Hotkey Puck G3 (included with this monitor).
Like the previous G2 model, the Hotkey Puck G3 lets you quickly change between colour modes at the push of a button, but rather than being tethered to the monitor, the G3 uses an infrared link to wirelessly control the monitor. Not only does this make for one less cable on your desktop, but if you have more than one compatible BenQ monitor on your desk, you can adjust the monitors either simultaneously or individually using just the one Hotkey Puck G3.
Aside from the three colour mode buttons (which I preset for photo-editing, writing and movie modes), plus a “loop” key, an exit key and the main dial key, the Hotkey Puck G3 also has an information button at the front (useful for checking which mode you’re in), and a channel selector switch that lets you assign the Puck G3 to one of three different IR channels.
Once turned on, the Photovue SW272U delivers brilliant colour and excellent uniformity across the entire screen, thanks in part to decent factory calibration and a 16-bit 3D lookup table (LUT) that ensures improved colour blending. Aside from offering the full gamut of sRGB colours and 99% of AdobeRGB, the SW272U can also deliver great video performance, including variable frame rates (up to 60hz) and 4:4:4, 4:2:2, and 4:2:0 support.
Regardless of how good any monitor is straight out of the box though, you should always calibrate the monitor to suit your workspace and output requirements.
As part of the release of the SW272U, BenQ have created new calibration software called Palette Master Ultimate; it is BenQ’s first attempt at developing its calibration software in-house, and it is significantly easier to use than their previous (outsourced) software, and faster, thanks to an updated USB interface within the monitor. Palette Master Ultimate works with most current calibration tools on the market, including the Calibrite, X-Rite i1 and Datacolor devices, and so finding (or borrowing) an affordable device to calibrate your monitor should not be a problem.
While there are a range of standard colour presets within the program that you can use, Palette Master Ultimate lets you create “targets” to define the a range of parameters within the calibration, including luminance (the overall screen brightness measured in cd/m2), the white point (the daylight temperature measured in Kelvin), the colour gamut, screen Gamma and the Black Point (useful for matching screen contrast to print contrast). Once you have created your target, the actual calibration takes just 5 minutes, which is a lot faster than some other calibration processes. (For those who are unsure of how to calibrate a monitor, Melbourne based company Image Science have an excellent online guide to calibrating BenQ’s latest monitors using Palette Master Ultimate).
The kit includes a hood that you have to construct. Not everyone needs or likes to use a hood, but they are handy if your monitor setup is in a room that doesn’t have ideal lighting (Don't forget to set up the monitor either facing away from the window with no lamps or strong lights being reflected behind you). If I could change anything on this monitor, I’d prefer that the hood 'roof' didn’t have joins and was one solid piece. But this may be designed this way to be able to link two 4K monitors together (see picture below)
So in summary, PhotoVue SW272U is without much doubt the best monitors that BenQ have created for photographers so far, and the colour, uniformity and image quality is as good as many more expensive monitors on the market. The new anti-reflection also makes the SW272U one of the most comfortable and relaxing monitors to use, and this should be a big selling point for anyone who spends the better part of their days editing images.
The BenQ PhotoVue SW272U 27” 4K has a retail price of $2499 (including gst), which is actually very good value for a monitor with this level of performance. For professional photographers looking for their next professional display, the PhotoVue SW272U is definitely worth considering, and I would also be recommending this display to any keen amateurs. If $2499 is a little outside of your budget though, BenQ also have a 2.5K (2560 x 1440) version of this monitor called the PhotoVue SW272Q that retails for just $1299, and it has all the best features of the PhotoVue SW272U, including the anti-glare coating, the new calibration system and the Hotkey Puck G3.
To find out more, visit the BenQ website.
SET UP AND HANDLING ★ ★ ★ ★
Setting up the base and column is easy, as is connecting the monitor, but the hood is a little more fiddly and could do with a redesign. Cable management is good, helped in part by the new wireless HotKey Puck G3. The leatherette finish on the base also adds to the stand’s usability.
FEATURES ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The anti-glare coating on this screen is the standout feature of the BenQ PhotoVue SW272U, as is the improved BenQ’s new Palette Master Ultimate software that should make calibrating this new monitor relatively easy for anyone. The wireless HotKey Puck G3 is also a delight to use.
IMAGE QUALITY ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The colour accuracy and overall uniformity of the PhotoVue SW272U is excellent and on par with the best brands on the market. Being able to fine tune the display using calibration targets also lets you fine tune the display to suit your workflow.
VALUE FOR MONEY ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
At $2499 retail, the BenQ SW272U is reasonably priced by comparison to its competitors and given how good the anti-glare performance is on this monitor, I would suggest it should be a first consideration for those photographers who work in variable light environments.
The PhotoVue SW272U is without doubt one of the best monitors that BenQ have produced for photographers to date, and while I would not describe it as perfect, it is also one of the best monitors we have tested in a while. The anti-glare coating on the screen is exceptional and on its own it makes your work experience on this screen less stressful. You will not be disappointed if you invest in this display.
Panel Size / Ratio - 27” / 16:9
Panel Technology - IPS / LED Backlight
Native Resolution - 3840 x 2160 (UHD 4K)
Contrast - 1000:1
Brightness 400 Nits
Response time - 5 ms
Refresh Rate - 60hz
Gamut - Wide - 100% sRGB, 99% P3, 99% AdobeRGB
Display Colours - 1.07 billion colours
HDR - Yes, HDR10 and HLG
10-Bit Input Support - Yes
Inputs - 2x HDMI V2.0, 1x DisplayPort, 1x USB Type B and a USB-C w 90-W output
Other Connections - One SD port, two USB-A connections and a 3.5mm audio jack.
Built in Speakers - No
Accessories - Hotkey Puck G3, Shading Hood (for landscape and portrait).
Power Use - Normal - 34 W / Maximum On - 200W / Standby - 0.5W
Movement - Tilt -5º + 20º / Swivel left 30º - right 30º / Pivot 90º
Height Adjustment - 140mm
Net Weight - 9.7kg (monitor with base and shading hood).