WHILE BENQ’s latest SW271C hybrid monitor might be carrying a somewhat hefty £1,299 price tag, in its defence it’s making a ton of promises that can perhaps go some way towards justifying the required investment. These include near-perfect colour accuracy, AdobeRGB gamut ability, hardware calibration and plenty of professional certification.
And there’s no denying that the SW271C does indeed come with a superb specification. The 27in IPS display has a 4K resolution that delivers a crisp 163ppi density level, so photographs and apps are guaranteed to be pin-sharp. Meanwhile, the underlying panel serves up a 16-bit 3D LUT that’s marginally better than the 14-bit table used in the BenQ SW271.
BenQ’s display also delivers the goods in benchmark tests. Tests carried out revealed that the BenQ displayed 100% of the sRGB and 98.7% of the Adobe RGB gamut, alongside a 92% coverage level in the DCI-P3 space. That’s high enough to enable colour-sensitive workloads in all of those areas. The maximum Delta E of 1.34 is fantastic and ensures that colours are consistently accurate, and the colour temperature and Gamma levels of 6,540K and 2.19 are virtually perfect.
The panel’s backlight strength only deviated by a maximum of 7%, so this panel has superb uniformity alongside no backlight bleed. Its default brightness level of 190cd/m2 is fine for everyday office use, while the backlight level of 0.2cd/m2 results in a contrast measurement of 950:1. That’s not overwhelming perhaps, but it’s ideal for delivering realistic tones that don’t become oversaturated.
This is, in short, a very good display. It’s got the colour accuracy, contrast and gamut ability to handle colour-sensitive tasks in those key colour spaces. For mainstream photography and video workloads it’s great, and you’ll only get more accuracy and colour ability if you spend loads of extra cash. This impressive colour accuracy is bolstered further still by Pantone and CalMan certification, and BenQ’s AQColor technology is designed to ensure accuracy and standardisation with ICO and ICC standards.
While this specification should be good enough to sate the expectations of the majority of photographers and videographers, and the increasing numbers of hybrid operators who have a foot in both camps, the SW271C isn’t infallible, and the praise does arrive with a couple of caveats. Take its colour reproduction, for example: while this display does have 10-bit colour, it’s delivered by an 8-bit system with Frame Rate Control, or FRC.
That’s not a BenQ issue: it’s common on all displays at this price point, and you’ll have to spend far more to get a true 10-bit panel with the rest of these features. Also bear in mind that an 8-bit FRC display will still serve up the 1.07 billion colours required for 10-bit work, so you won’t notice the difference in daily use.
Also bear in mind that this panel has a peak brightness of 300cd/m2, which is fine for SDR use but not good enough for proper HDR tasks – and the edge-lit backlight isn’t good enough to deliver the nuance required by HDR content, either. The BenQ’s gamut ability means that you can open, check and preview HDR content, and this display does support HDR10 and HLG, but it’s not good enough to render it with the kind of extra punch and vibrancy it’s supposed to deliver. This is another area where you’ll have to invest more if you want a real punch from your HDR workloads.
BenQ’s display pairs its excellent performance with plenty of practical features. It has hardware calibration, for example, so you can use devices from companies such as Calibrite and Datacolor to perfect the panel’s output. These are popular companies with creatives, so this is a welcome feature. Bear in mind, however, that these more affordable devices must still use BenQ’s Palette Master Element software to handle the calibration, rather than the apps provided by the companies themselves. You can only use third-party calibration software from companies like CalMan, and that software is often far more expensive and favoured by video professionals rather than photographers. That’s a minor niggle, though, especially when you can still use BenQ’s app to calibrate this display to your own needs.
The practicality continues throughout. The BenQ’s on-screen menu is fast and sensibly organised, and it’s managed using a row of solid and satisfying buttons on the front of the display. That’s not the only navigation option either: BenQ includes an updated version of its Hotkey Puck controller, which has three customisable buttons and a neat dial. It can switch between colour spaces and adjust the brightness, contrast and volume of your system, and it slots into a neat cavity on the stand.
Handily, the BenQ’s extensive picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture options support different colour spaces, so you can have one portion of the display
using SRGB and another using Adobe RGB – potentially very useful for more complex tasks.
There are some good physical features, too. The BenQ has a generous 150mm of height adjustment alongside tilt, swivel and pivot movement, so it’s feasible to work in portrait mode. It’s also compatible with 100mm VESA mounting. Build quality is impressive, with robust material used throughout. The display also has a carry handle and a cable-routing cavity.
Around the rear you’ll find two HDMI ports, a DisplayPort connection and a USB-C port that handles data transfer, DisplayPort imagery and 60W of power delivery. A more generous power level would have been better for running a wider range of laptops, but that’s still enough juice to run this display from plenty of portables via a single cable. On the side, there are also two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports and an SDXC card reader, which is useful for image work. BenQ rounds out the physical features with a shading hood, which is useful and very easy to fit.
Physically, however, it’s not all good news. The BenQ is not an attractive display: it has huge, ugly bezels, an unnecessarily big base and no ornamentation. Its 12kg weight is also on the hefty side for a 27in display, if you’re being picky.
THE BENQ PHOTOVUE SW271C replaces the SW271, and the newer display makes some notable improvements: its image quality is marginally better, and it also has more USB power delivery and wider DCI-P3 gamut coverage. It comes with great sRGB and Adobe RGB image quality, and this excellent core performance is bolstered by loads of adjustment options, some neat practical features, and some welcome pro-level additions. Underneath it all, you get a crisp 4K IPS display and plenty of professional certification. Conversely, though, the BenQ doesn’t have true 10-bit colour, it’s not bright enough to properly handle HDR workloads and it’s big, somewhat bulky and not especially good-looking.
Of course, plenty of people won’t be bothered at all by those issues, and you’re only going to solve those problems by spending loads more cash on a true high-end, pro-level screen. The SW271C is more of a mainstream pro display, and it’s easily got the quality and accuracy to tackle demanding photography and video tasks in the sRGB and Adobe RGB colour spaces. If you’re a photo or video professional who needs high quality without the top-level pricing, then there’s no doubt that the BenQ is more than capable of delivering.
More information: benq.eu
Check out the review of the Benq SW271C in use by Ross Grieve here.
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