Review: BenQ PD3220U DesignVue Monitor (4K HDR IPS)

This monitor was provided by BenQ for this review.

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 BenQ PD3200U 4K IPS monitor is the update to the PD3200U 4K monitor that was released a few years ago. The new monitor has added HDR10 and Thunderbolt 3 to what was already a pretty well spec monitor back then.

Here's the list of full specifications:

  • Screen size: 31.5 inches, anti-glare
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160, 16 by 9 aspect ratio
  • Backlight: LED
  • Brightness: 300 nits
  • Contrast: 1000:1
  • Viewing angle: 178 degree
  • Response time: 5ms (GtG)
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Display colours: 1.07 billion
  • Colour gamut: 95% DCI-P3, 100% sRGB
  • Pixel Pitch (mm): 0.18159
  • PPI: 140
  • Dynamic contrast ratio: 20M:1
  • Colours: 10 bit
  • 3D-LUT: 14bits
  • VESA wall mount: 10 x 10cm
  • HDR: HDR10
  • Gamma: 1.6 to 2.6
  • HDCP: 2.2
  • Ports: 2x HDMI v2, 1x DisplayPort v1.4, 3x USB 3.1 downstream, 1x USB 3.1 upstream, 1x USB C, 1x Thunderbolt 3 (85W), 1x Thunderbolt 3 (15W)
  • Cables included: Thunderbolt 3, mDP to DP cable, HDMI 2.0 cable, USB 3.1 cable
  • Typical power usage; 37W

Source: BenQ

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.

The BenQ PD3220U is part of the DesignVue series of monitors that are targeted at designers. More specifically, because this is a 100% sRGB monitor, it's really targeted at creatives who output their work online.


This is a beautiful monitor with thin bezels. It's kinda thick, just like most IPS monitors, but it can be pushed to be quite close to the wall.


The cylindrical stand looks nice, has solid build quality, and comes with a hook for cable management.


The VESA mount dimensions are 10 x 10cm. There's a snap-on flap included to cover the back to hide the cables. I prefer leaving the back open to have easy access to all the ports. The snap-on flap can be difficult to detach once it's snapped into place.


These are the ports available at the bottom. There's the usual USB 3.1, full-size HDMI and DisplayPort ports, and also Thunderbolt 3.

Having Thunderbolt 3 has several advantages. If you're using a Macbook or laptop with Thunderbolt 3, once connected, you can output visual signal to the monitor, and even use it as a Thunderbolt 3 hub. There's 85W power delivery for one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports so you can charge your devices real quick. If you connect a tablet or phone, it may even show the fast charge icon. You can also use Thunderbolt 3 to daisy chain another monitor.


On the right side of the monitor are two USB 3.1 ports and a 3.5mm audio jack. The USB type C port is just normal USB 3.1 which means it cannot receive visual signal. That's just for data transfer.

Note the anti-glare on the screen which can appear reflective from certain angles.


The base is massive and I like it that way because I can put a lot of stuff on it. The base is rounded off at the corners and has a nice textured matte surface.

The hotkey puck is a wired remote for quick access to certain display functionality. The buttons can be customised to functionality you use often. I've configured mine to have each button switch to a different input source. For example, I can press a button to get video signal from Thunderbolt 3, another button for DisplayPort, another for HDMI. It's very convenient. The rotating dial is also customisable and I've set it to adjust volume.

This monitor actually has built-in speakers but the audio quality is lousy, like walkie talkie standard. You can however connect your earphones to the 3.5mm audio jack, and use the rotating dial to control the volume.


Just behind the bottom right of the monitor are the power and OSD buttons. The toggle stick makes it really easy to navigate the menu.

This monitor has a lot of features hidden in the OSD menu. There's PiP, PbP and you can even connect up to four video input source show them all at the same time.

For some reason, the only display attribute you can change is the brightness. Contrast, gamma and colour temperature can't be adjusted. The options are not even there.

Colours of this monitor look good out of the box look good as the monitor has already been colour calibrated at the factory with a calibration report included.

The BenQ PD3220U uses an IPS panel that can display 10-bit colours. There are several colour profiles you can choose. I use AdobeRGB and I've done my own calibration with a Spyder5Pro and got a readout of 94% sRGB, 78% Adobe RGB, 74% NTSC. While it's not 99% sRGB, 94% is still quite respectable.

Those who use Macbooks may be interested in the M-book colour profile that has been designed/programmed to match the colours of this monitor to your Macbook's display.


The display is matte and there's anti-glare. Depending on where your light source is, and how strong is your light source, you may see the light diffuse on screen and form a diffused white haze effect. I've the monitor beside my window with the sun outside so the anti-glare effect is quite obvious. I definitely miss the shading hood but this monitor does not have shading hood mount.

Design and editing workflow

Having 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) has several advantages.


Having such high resolution allows you to fit more content onto the page. You can display multiple webpages, windows, on the desktop and there will still be space left. This allows you to see a lot more of your work, tools and you don't have to scroll or zoom as often. In short, having 4K on such a massive 31.5-inch screen improves productivity.

4K on a 27-inch screen may have higher pixel density but 4K on a 31.5-inch screen still looks great. I sit one arms length away from the display and everything looks sharp and I can barely see the individual pixels. This is a beautiful display to look at, and to work with.


When doing graphic design, you can have many tool palettes open and still view your work big. The physical width of the monitor is 70cm. So if you're working on any (print) design that's less than 70cm, it means you can view your work at 100% zoom and actually see your work at actual size. For page designers, you will be able to look at your fonts at actual size and check for legibility.

If you work with vertical pages, print or webpages, or photos (eg portraits) often, you can have the monitor rotate 90 degrees. However because the monitor is so massive, you actually have to tilt your head up and down often just to see the top and bottom. The thing is, because this monitor is so big, you don't actually need to rotate it 90 degrees to view vertical content. Even with the monitor horizontal, you can still view a lot of your vertical file.


I work a lot on scans of my watercolour. Prior to using 4K resolution, I would scan my art at 300DPI. With 4K, scanning at 300DPI is no longer sufficient. Scanning an A5 page at 300DPI won't even fill 4K. An A5 300DPI (2480 x 1748) only has 4.3 million pixels. 4K has 8.29 million pixels. So when I look at all my old scans, they now look low res on this high res display.

I enjoy working with such high resolution now because I can see more details, details that my eyes may even find difficult to spot when looking at my art in real life. And because this monitor is so big, you're looking at details big which makes it very easy to see things that are out of place or require editing/fixing.


Editing photos on a 4K screen is very satisfying. 4K allows you to see more of your photos with better detail because of the high pixel density.


Same applies with video editing. Bbecause there's so much screen real estate, you can have many panels open at the same time. I can show lots of thumbnail clips, stack multiple layers of timeline, open the effects and attribute panels, and still have the video preview huge! The need to scroll is minimised so you can spend less time scrolling and more time working. It actually does improve productivity.

If you work with 4K videos, you can view your videos in actual 4K. Oh, and you can watch 4K movies in actual 4K too.

If you're moving up from a lower resolution to 4K, note that your file sizes will increase. Graphic files will be larger now because you have to work with higher resolution (eg you scan them with higher DPI), and 4K video source files are huge!

HDR10


The monitor brightness is only rated at 300 nits, and it's suppose to support HDR. In a sense, yes, I was able to spot some HDR effects. In the movie still above, I was able to see highlights and details in the shadow area of the hair. With non-HDR monitors, the shadow area of the hair will just be one big black patch where details are difficult to discern. I've used really good HDR monitors before and those can show even more details in shadows and highlights. The HDR10 here is acceptable and good enough for HDR editing. Unless you compare this monitor with a non-HDR monitor side by side, it may actually be difficult to spot the HDR difference.

Backlight


This is an IPS panel so it's not surprising to expect and see IPS glow. It's quite well controlled here.

As for backlight, this particular monitor that I have does have some backlight bleeding. I see three small areas of backlight bleed at the lower left, and larger areas on the top left, top right and bottom right. The backlight bleed is also noticeable when I was playing movies. It's noticeable when the screen is black or when watching movies that have black bars top and bottom. While working, I don't notice the backlight bleed of course.

By comparison, the SW2700PT that I'm using has absolutely no backlight bleed.

Video review

This video review covers everything in the text review.

Conclusion

I've actually had the PD3200U on my shipping list for the longest time but didn't actually buy it because it was still quite expensive at the time, and I was using the excellent BenQ SW2700PT. The PD3220U is also quite expensive so I'm really fortunate to be able to test and use this monitor.

Ultimately, because this is a sRGB monitor, I would recommend this to creatives who output work online. If you need AdobeRGB, go for the SW series but those monitors are significantly more expensive at the same display size and resolution.

One of the main highlight of this monitor is the inclusion of Thunderbolt 3 support. This makes this monitor a fantastic choice for those who use Macbooks. Currently, there aren't many good 4K or 5K monitors out there for Mac users. I've reviewed the BenQ SW271 4K monitor before and that's also a 4K screen but that's also 27-inches and doesn't work well with MacOS which has limited scaling options in its System Preferences. So 4K on a 31.5 inch screen is the sweet spot for MacOS users. That's the reason why I'm still using my SW2700PT (2560 x 1440 resolution) instead of the SW271.

So is it worth the money? You decide.

I really wish this monitor had a shading hood.

Here's the list of pros and cons for the monitor:
+ Looks good
+ Thin bezels
+ Solid build quality
+ 4K
+ Huge screen
+ 94% sRGB measured
+ Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 type C
+ Multiple colour modes, M-Book mode for Mac users
+ HDR10
+ Hotkey puck quite useful as you can customise the buttons
+ KVM switch functionality
- No shading hood included
- Backlight issues
- No SD card reader
- Lousy (unnecessary) built-in speakers
- Anti-glare can be a bit aggressive

Where to buy

You can find the full specifications for BenQ PD3220U at http://bit.ly/2JrcDSl

Check out more reviews on Amazon via these direct affiliate links:
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es | Amazon.com.au

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11 Comments

Thanks for the informative

Thanks for the informative review! I'm currently deciding between the earlier version (PD3200U) and the SW2700PT. I'd be using it for photo editing in the sRGB color space. They are similarly priced - which would you pick? I was leaning toward the 32" 4k PD3200U, but I can hardly find a bad review of the SW2700PT.

Hi Teoh, thanks for the

Hi Teoh, thanks for the review, highly appreciate it!

The only thing, which keeps me away from 4k monitors and macOS is the scaling issues.
Taking the BenQ as an example, the native resolution is too high, all UI elements are extremely tiny, impossible to work with, at least for me.
When we use system scaling options (to make the UI bigger), the text becomes slightly blurry and this is not acceptable.
I don't believe no-one pointing this fact out (maybe this is only my issue/fetish/craziness) ;)

I really considering the new Pro Display XDR only because it runs on 6k and the UI sizes look right (just like on 5k iMac), of course, this will be overkill in terms of price, but I don't see any good alternatives out there :( at least for macOS and my perspective.

XOXO :)

Hi, thanks for the great

Hi, thanks for the great review.

I have a Mac Pro (mid 2013) with a FirePro D500. In you review you mentioned that the FirePro D300 might not be up to par to drive the PD3220u. I do have the slightly better graphics card. But still, would you advise against buying this monitor with the Mac Pro 2013?

Right now I have the old Apple Thunderbold Display. Its age shows a little bit, but everything still runs very smoothly.

Hey Teoh, thank you for the

Hey Teoh, thank you for the review! I can’t decide between the PD3220U and the PD3200U. I am a professional photographer and looking for a decent external monitor to go with my mbp16”, it’s almost twice the price and is it worth it. Are there any other monitors dedicated to macOS worth considering in this price range. Thank you for your time, Nick

hi,

hi,

Im looking for a good solid monitor with good color accuracy and good AdobeRGB coverage, main goal is to see on the display as close as possible the real printed result, but on an optimum budget. And Im not a PRO DTP specialist and Monitor expert.

Workflow: photograpy editing, publishing for print, Capture 1 Pro, Photoshop, inDesign, but also some AutoCAD work, 3D rendering for stills. But no film/video editing atm.
Source: Macbook Pro 16"

Im tossing between these options:
- ASUS ProArt PA329C (on paper it has very good AdobeRGB coverage, but I dont saw so much reviews, 1-2 youtube reviews, and some buyers review from amazon), but it has no Thunderbolt 3/daisy, only USB-C, and only 60W for charge the macbook. I think its mostly not enought for 96W MBP. But maybe I can solve it with a HUB, 5 Years warranty in my country
- maaybe ASUS ProArt PA32UC-K but its out of the budget, maybe-maybe if its much better than the others, but I dont think so for the needed workflow.
- Benq PD3220U it looks like a solid monitor, but no hardver calibration, and it has less AdobeRGB coverage, a littlebit less brightness than the PA329C.
- Dell U3219Q and maybe LG 32UL950-W - but I know these are more similar to the Benq, maybe a bit below it.

Actually: I had a Dell U3011 on the last 12 Years, so Im sure both will be a big step up. But these Dell had some problems with the calibration, it was nearly impossible to see identical image as on the Macbook.
- Thunderbolt 3 vs USB-C is a big difference regarding, image quality, compatibility with a macbook and or, maybe sometimes with an Ipad Pro? At charging none of the types will cover the ideal 96W capacity, so the charging will be probabply solved by the gen apple charger.
- Is it a really big deal that the Asus has the hardver calibration option? Especially if I will attach only the same computer? Or it makes more accurate calibration as well?
- Unfortunatelly I never saw 100% AdobeRGB and 80% AdobeRGB side by side, (actually I think I never saw 100% adobeRGB with my eyes :D). I think it will not possible to check these beasts side-by-side in my little country... Is it really noticeable for example the difference between a Proart display vs a Benq PD3220U or a Dell or LG one which I mentioned?

What is your opinion about these monitors? Which do you prefer for my?

Thank you for your kind help.

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