Review: BenQ SW271 Photographer Monitor (27 inch 4K Adobe RGB)

Big thanks to BenQ for sponsoring this review. This is not a paid review but I do get to keep the monitor.

BenQ contacted recently and asked if I was interested to review the BenQ SW271 monitor and of course I'm interested. I've been using a BenQ SW2700PT, bought with my own money, for the last two years and has been very satisfied. You can check out my detailed review for that.

My review is from perspective of a visual content creator, someone who does graphic design and edits photos and videos daily. I work for print and web.

The SW271 is sort of the upgraded version of the SW2700PT. Both are Adobe RGB screens but SW271 supports 4K while the SW2700PT supports 2560 x 1440 resolution. I'll put out a more detailed comparison for these two monitors in a separate review.


The BenQ SW271 is a 27-inch true 10-bit IPS panel that supports 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution. Here's the list of specifications:

  • Screen size: 27 inches, anti-glare
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160, 16 by 9 aspect ratio
  • Backlight: LED
  • Brightness: 350 nits
  • Contrast: 1000:1
  • Viewing angle: 178 degree
  • Response time: 5ms (GtG)
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Display colours: 1.07 billion
  • Colour gamut: 99% AdobeRGB, 100% sRGB
  • Pixel Pitch (mm): 0.1554
  • PPI: 163
  • Dynamic contrast ratio: 20M:1
  • Colour bit: 10 bit
  • 3D-LUT: 14bits
  • VESA wall mount: 10 x 10cm
  • HDR: HDR10
  • Colour temperature: 5000°K / 6500°K/ 9300°K / User Mode
  • Gamma: 1.6 to 2.6
  • HDCP: 2.2
  • Ports: 2x HDMI v2, 1x DisplayPort v1.4, 2x USB downstream, 1x USB upstream, 1x USB C (PD10W, DP Alt mode, Data), SD card reader
  • Cables included: USB type-C cable(1m), mDP to DP cable (1.8m), HDMI 2.0 cable (1.8m), USB 3.1 cable (Gen 1)(1.8m)
  • Typical power usage; 44W

NOTE: While most graphic cards nowadays can support 4K, how smooth the performance/animation will be will depend on how good your graphics card is. In my case, I'm using a Mac Pro (2013) with FirePro D300 and while it can support 4K, the animation, eg, when minimising windows, scrubbing timeline in Final Cut Pro, is not as smooth compared the running a 2560 x 1440 monitor.

This monitor is targeted at photographers and designers who values colour accuracy. As such, this monitor has many features relating to colour accuracy. This is a true 10-bit IPS panel, not the 8-bit with FRC to approximate extra colours. It supports a 14-bit 3D LUT (Look Up Table). Read this if you don't know what's the fuss on LUTs. You can choose between different colours spaces to work with, eg. Adobe RGB/ sRGB / Rec 709/ DCI-P3 / B&W / HDR. You can manually adjust the brightness, contrast, colour temperature, gamma and there's hardware calibration.

This monitor is factory calibrated and so colours look great out of the box. I did however also calibrated my monitor to ensure that I see consistent colours across all my monitors. I need the colours from my home monitor should look exactly the same as my office monitor.

BenQ SW271 also supports BenQ AQCOLOR technology and has Technicolor Color certification. That basically refers to the stringent requirements needed for a monitor to be so called colour accurate for professional use.

But those are just specifications. Is it really that good in real life?

Design


One thing I really like about the BenQ SW271 is a shading hood is included. I've been using a shading hood with my SW2700PT for two years and I would say that it's essential, especially if you work in an environment where you can't control your lighting, e.g. big office with other workers or at home where you're beside a window with ever changing sunlight.

The left photo above was taken with curtains blocking the sunlight coming in from the side. The right photo was taken with the sunlight streaming in.


With unwanted light on the screen, the anti-glare matte screen would diffuse the light and create a white haze (sunlight) or reflect some colour from your clothes. Sunlight can be blocked by the shading hood but reflection from your clothes depends on the brightness of the ambient lighting. These are the conditions I have to work with. And I'm glad to say the shading hood and anti-glare does a good job at minimising unwanted glare and colour reflection. I don't think I can ever go back to using a monitor without a shading hood.


The shading hood comes in several pieces that you have to assemble yourself. It's a straightforward assembly as each part has a label tell you what part there is. You can create a shading hood for horizontal or vertical display format. Those extra pieces are for the vertical display format. There are little "hooks" on the shading hood for sliding onto the monitor.


A 27-inch monitor is a comfortable size to work with. It's neither too big or small. I've used a 32-inch 4K monitor too and it was nice but I found that sometimes I have to actually turn my head to see the sides. With a 32-inch monitor, you would have to place the monitor further back on the table to have a more manageable screen size.


The VESA mount behind the monitor is 10 x 10cm.


These are the ports behind, from left to right, a microUSB, 2x HDMI v2, DisplayPort v1.4, USB C, upstream USB and 3.5mm audio jack. The SD card reader and 2x USB 3 type A ports are on the left side. Unfortunately because the SD card reader is actually on the back of the monitor rather than on the side, it's actually not that convenient to reach those ports. As such, I actually use an external SD card reader connected to my computer.


The bezels are thin on the top and side, thicker at the bottom. The thinner bezels helps the monitor look smaller from the front.


The monitor is thick. Not like very thick but just thick. The carrying handle is very useful.


I actually run my cables through the carrying handle at the top so that I don't see cables coming from the bottom of the monitor. The alternative is to run the cables through that hole in the stand.


The stand is huge. So huge that I can put my Bluetooth speak on the front and mouse on the side.


The monitor can tilt, swivel and rotate. You can turn it 90 degrees if you need to work on tall pages or vertical portraits. The monitor can go quite high too. High enough for me to have my head underneath to look at the ports when I'm connecting a cable.


A wired remote is included and can used to switch between colour spaces quickly, e.g. sRGB, Adobe RGB, BW, Rec 709, DCI P3. I've had that remote on my SW2700PT too and I've never used it once. It's there if you need it but if not you can just throw it in your drawer.

Display menu controls


The menu control buttons are on the front at the bottom right. I would have preferred it at the bottom so that the light from the power button isn't that obvious.

You can change many of the colour parameters here. e.g. brightness, contrast, sharpness, gamma, colour temperature, colour gamut. There's also Picture in Picture so that you can show two screens on the same monitor.

Colour accuracy and resolution


These are the colour readings recorded using a Spyder5Pro colour calibrator. Before you calibrate, you will have to adjust the brightness, contrast, gamma (2.2) and colour temperature (6500K) to the appropriate levels. The BenQ SW271 managed to achieve 99% sRGB, 95% Adobe RGB and 90% NTSC.

So the Adobe RGB wasn't 99% as advertised but 95% still good enough for me. The actual colour measurement is affected by the brightness and contrast of the screen when measuring.


Here's a comparison of a scan vs the source. My scanner has problem with scanning bright reds and it shows up here. This is a colour accurate monitor. If you have any device in your workflow that is not capable of capturing accurate colour, or if you have gotten your colour settings wrong, you will see it on this screen.

So for the scan above, I won't use it for print. I would need to find some way to capture the reds, eg. probably with a camera rather than a scanner in this case.


This monitor supports 4K so it's capable of showing off a lot of details. It can playback 4K videos at native resolution, so you can see your 4K videos at 100% zoom. When editing photos, you can also see a lot of details because there are now a lot more pixels squeezed into the screen. 4K has 8.29 million pixels vs 3.686 million pixels of a 2560x1440 monitor. That's almost twice the resolution. The PPI is 163. It's almost impossible to see individual pixels when working at one arm's length away, or when you look really close.

In the photo above is a video of a close up on my watercolour art. I was able to see details of the watercolour pigment and paper fiber that my eyes would have difficultly to spot in real life.


There's one issue when running at 4K resolution. The user interface may be too small, especially on a 27-inch screen. The photos above are from Mac

In the left photo above, that's 4K resolution without scaling. The user interface, eg. menus and buttons, are quite small. On MacOS, I have to scale the user interface elements so that they are bigger as shown on the right photo. The graphic file, in this case a scan of my watercolour chart, however is not scaled (note the same size of the grid) and remains at 4K resolution, which means it's still incredibly detailed and sharp.

If you want to run the user interface elements at 4K, it's best to get a 32-inch 4K monitor instead, e.g. BenQ SW320.

The left photo above shows the user interface elements as if on a 3008 x 1692 screen. The right photo is the native 4K resolution. The PPI for a 27-inch 4K screen is 163, and on a 1440P screen is 108. When the PPI is too high, the user interface elements will be come too small at native resolution. This means text can be too small to read comfortable, icons too small to see and quickly reach and click.


Left photo shows my current workspace with scaling applied to the user interface elements. This affects webpages as well and makes text larger for reading. Right photo shows the native 4K resolution with no scaling for user interface element. Menus are very small, and even the list of files in the Finder windows can be difficult to read.

With 4K, you can see more details, content, desktop, but everything will appear smaller if you don't use scaling.


My overall experience with this monitor is positive and I'm very satisfied with the performance. I've been using this monitor intensively for two weeks to edit the photos I use on my blog and also edit the 4K videos for my Youtube channel. It looks and feels exactly the same as working with my 2560x1440 BenQ SW2700PT but with 4K I get to see more details, and with more pixels, increased sharpness.

The 27-inch screen size is comfortable to work with. If you're laying out A3 size pages, books or magazines, you will be able to see your pages are 100% without scaling and you can see exactly how big your text will be.

When editing photos or videos, you will see the actual colours as captured by your camera. if anything looks off, you will be able to spot it instantly. The Adobe RGB colour gamut coverage ensures the colours you see on screen will be the same as on print. This is a huge deal for people who print. For people who work with broadcast, film and video production, there's the option to show Rec 709 and DCI-P3 colour space. This is a versatile monitor.


Backlight bleeding is well controlled. I don't see any noticeable wavy light pattern that usually appears at the edge of the screen. The photo above has been adjusted to increase contrast. Backlight is also quite even.

This is an IPS panel so it will have IPS glow but that's only noticeable when you're viewing at the panel from an angle.

Conclusion

This is a premium high quality monitor for those who demand colour accuracy and accurate reproduction for print, online and video.

The selling point here is the Adobe RGB support and 4K resolution. The local official retail price here in Singapore is around S$1499 to $1699, or US $1099 on Amazon USA. It is pricy but you get what you pay for. If you have a lower budget, you can go for the 1440P BenQ SW2700PT which is also an excellent monitor at almost 40% cheaper than the BenQ SW271. The question you have to ask yourself is, do you need 4K?

The only downside to this monitor is the placement of the SD card reader and USB ports on the back of the monitor which makes them inconvenient to access.

Below are some links for you to find more information on the BenQ SW271 monitor.

SW271 Product/Specifications page:
http://bit.ly/2HfvVZ1

Price on Lazada Singapore:
http://bit.ly/30cNFNt

BenQ SW series monitors on Lazada Singapore
http://bit.ly/2WzWQFa

And here are direct links to more reviews on Amazon:
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es | Amazon.co.jp

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