BenQ PhotoVue SW271: Practically Pixel Perfect

 

The BenQ PhotoVue SW271 is easily among the very finest 27-inch AdobeRGB monitor for discerning photographers in India, for many reasons, discovers K Madhavan Pillai.

Rarely have I begun a review with the verdict, but then, in the past few years, rarely have I come across a monitor that offers a combination of accuracy, overall design functionality, and the level of quick-to-access, well-thought out flexibility, while working, as the BenQ SW271. This is a factory-calibrated (CalMAN and Pantone validated, each monitor comes with its own factory calibration report) 4K UHD monitor, with native 10-bit colour depth, reproducing 99% of the AdobeRGB gamut.

Features
The monitor includes fixed modes for AdobeRGB, sRGB, Rec.709, DCI-P3, and accepts HDR10, supports any color temp. you wish to set, and has gamma presets from 1.6-2.6 in 0.2 increments. Options like PIP/ PBP show different input sources, which, quite uniquely, can also be independently set for gamut, white point, gamma and brightness. The on-screen menu is logically organised and fully detailed, allowing you to input adjustments for all of these parameters, including adjustments to hue and saturation values for each gamut. The SW271 is extremely customisable (quite unlike other pro monitors). Smartly implemented memory positions allow you to save individual adjustments, or reset to factory settings. It holds hardware level calibration that makes adjustments directly to the image processing engine in the monitor, without changing the graphics card output from your workstation, thus letting you keep colours (and the images you work on and view using the monitor) consistent, without your images being affected by settings on the graphics card.

The ‘Hotkey Puck’ is an extremely useful tool, and fits into the base of the stand. Three of the buttons are customisable to your preferences, directly from the on-screen menu.

The back of the monitor comes with an array of input ports, with a variety of cables (HDMI 2.0, Mini DP to DP, USB 3.0, USB type-C cable). Usefully, the side of the monitor also features a USB 3.0 upstream, two USB 3.0 downstream, a USB Type-C, and an SD card slot.

Handling
The SW271 is built quite solidly, weighing a hefty 10.5kgs, and seems quite capable of years of rigorous daily use. Despite its weight (mounting it on the stand, though simple, is best a two person operation), the stand allows it to be adjusted by height, tilt, swivel or screen orientation, quickly and easily.

The SW271 comes out of the box in its Adobe RGB mode, and generally, colours and targets are almost near perfect, with very minor tweaks needed. Two individual custom calibrations can be created and saved separately. The ‘Hotkey Puck’ that comes bundled, brilliantly adds a whole new level of functional operability, with customisable buttons and shortcuts in-built—for instance, quickly shuffling between gamuts (a very useful feature to check for loss in outputs), or enabling the HDR or B&W modes.

I enjoyed editing images on the SW271’s native ppi of 163, which offered gratifyingly sharp pixel level of detail. Any denser, and I would have to move in much closer to the monitor than I would have liked. I also particularly appreciated the well-made shading hood for the monitor, to prevent reflected light from interfering with screen colours. It is of rigid plastic, with light-absorbing material on the inside. It snaps onto notches on the panel, in both landscape and portrait panel orientations.

Performance
On the whole, both brightness and contrast levels are quite ideal, and can be nicely adjusted for a monitor being operated, within a moderately lit to darkened environment. The elaborate menu system of the monitor is sufficient to achieve precise results from factory settings, in a matter of a few minutes. However, for those who prefer letting numbers do the talking, the bundled Pallette Master Elements lets you add a third custom mode, and along with an external display calibration device, extreme precision is possible. Color is generally exemplary, regardless of mode, and can be fractionally tweaked. Luminance, too, was very neutral, with colors displayed true to tone.

Especially with larger monitors, light falloff becomes quite critical, and I am happy to say that it is minimal with the SW271. There is no loss of detail in the darker steps of test charts, and colour uniformity is maintained at normal viewing angles and distances, with no issues like bleeding, glow, dead or hot pixels.

Conclusion
Monitors of this nature necessitate a certain ecosystem for them to provide their best benefits. This given, for photographers working with multiple gamuts, or video editors working with DCI or sRGB, the SW271 offers excellent dynamic range, detail and perfect, true-to-output colour accuracy. This may be said of other pro monitors, but the combination of precision with functionality and flexibility offered by the BenQ SW271, though a bit expensive at Rs.99,000, is very well worth it.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
27-inch, 4K, 99% AdobeRGB, 10-bit with 14-bit LUT, factory set, hardware-based calibration
 19/20
Performance
Very precise colours, contrast and luminance
33/35
Build Quality
10.5kgs, solidly built to last, excellent stand
23/25
Ergonomics
Hotkey puck, quick switching between gamuts or modes, well made shading hood
 14/15
Warranty & Support
Three year onsite warranty
 4/5
MRP Rs. 99,000
OVERALL 93%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5
Who should buy it? Technical photographers, pre-press, post process, and printing professionals.
Why? Extremely precise colours, hardware level calibration, ergonomically designed & highly functional.
Tags: BenQ, July 2019, K Madhavan Pillai, Monitor review, Photovue SW271