Until a few years ago it was really impossible to find photographic monitors of excellent quality at affordable prices, but it is now a fact that technological progress has allowed anyone interested in having a faithful reproduction of their images on the screen to find a suitable solution.
Of all the brands, I think it is clear that BenQ has constant attention to us photographers, constantly developing new monitors with the best technologies available on the market and with different peculiarities between them so that each user can choose the one that best suits their needs.
Today we are here to analyze the newcomer in the family of monitors for photographers BenQ: we are talking about the brand new BenQ SW271C.
What to look for in a photographic monitor
A usual, once again before we get into the details of what the new BenQ SW271C monitor offers, let’s do a quick review of what are those features of a monitor that are essential for us photographers and why a generic monitor is not adequate for achieving professional results.
Personally, I think the features we really need to keep an eye on are at least 5.
- Technology: for the editing purposes we have, it’s important to have an IPS monitor. IPS means “In Plane Switching” and in other words it means that the saturation and contrast do not vary with the angle at which I look at the screen. With any non-IPS monitor, any correction we make to our image will be constrained by the exact position from which we are looking at the screen.
- Gamut. Our monitor must be able to reproduce as many colors as possible. This capacity is defined by the so-called Gamut (actually we should also consider the Gamma but it does not contribute to the choice of a monitor if we are not talking about vintage products). In photography it is not only essential that the monitor covers 100% of the sRGB color space (essential for our online publications), but it must be able to cover as much as possible the Adobe RGB color space to allow us to better manage the printing process, whether we love home printing or we rely on external laboratories.
- Uniformity. Once we have defined how many colors can be reproduced by our monitor it is necessary that they are reproduced (correctly and) uniformly over the entire panel and without variations in brightness and chromaticity in the different areas that make it up.
- Contrast. Often overlooked, it is an essential parameter for the perfect reproduction of our image. In an IPS monitor it should be around 1000:1.
- Calibration: it must be possible to perform a hardware calibration through LUT to obtain DeltaE values lower than 2 and absolute fidelity in color reproduction.
Then there are features that are really subjective, such as panel size and resolution. In this review we’re going to talk about the BenQ SW271C and therefore these two parameters are fixed together with others..let’s see them together in the next paragraph.
Key Features of BenQ SW271C Photographic Monitor
The BenQ SW271C monitor (as its predecessor SW271 already reviewed in this blog) centers in full what I consider the basic requirements for a good photographic monitor.
We are faced with an IPS monitor with LED backlighting and a very high gamut: we have a coverage of 100% sRGB space and 99% of AdobeRGB space. The monitor comes with an individual calibration certificate that shows the uniformity map and a DeltaE less than 2: in my opinion, this is not to use the monitor just out of the box (remember that calibrating and profiling the monitor is simply essential and indispensable to get the most out of it) but to verify the quality of the panel, in terms of uniformity and color fidelity achievable. The contrast is 1000:1.
It is clear that the peculiarities of the BenQ SW271C do not stop here and this monitor offers much more.
As we said, first of all, this is a 27″ 4K panel, with a maximum resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. This brings the density up to 163PPI versus the 140PPI of its SW321C sibling. I, unfortunately, constantly read articles with concerns for monitors with high densities, claiming that a density too high “won’t allow you to post-produce/print the image properly”. I think this is absolute misinformation, and the empirical proof is the fact that if you are perhaps currently post-producing your images on the classic 15″ screen of a MacBook Pro, its density is 220PPI.
Like all SW series monitors, the BenQ SW271C allows for Hardware Calibration. If you need a little refresher on the subject, remember that when you go to calibrate a generic monitor, the correction curves generated by the probe/software system act on your computer’s video card. One of the main limitations of this method is that the calibration curves managed by the video card allow acting only on 256 levels per color (8 bits), so just enough for the correct reproduction of a photographic image. The hardware calibration instead provides that the correction curves are applied to the LUT (Look Up Table) inside the monitor itself, allowing not only a greater consistency over time of the calibration performed, but not to have in fact limitations in the color rendering of the shades thanks to the higher number of levels per color available. The BenQ SW271C has a 16-bit 3D LUT that can handle 65,536 levels per color (instead of 256)!
To perform the hardware calibration you need to use a calibration probe (like THIS one) with BenQ’s Palette Master Element (PME) software. It’s in my opinion the best calibration solution, first because it’s free, and then because you can rely on my guide HERE to perfectly calibrate and profile the screen. I don’t recommend using the native probe software or open source solutions like DisplayCAL because they don’t allow you to perform the hardware calibration and therefore you won’t get the most out of your monitor. If you want to try something different, the BenQ SW271C supports Calman and LightSpace calibration solutions!
As always BenQ believes that color accuracy is a priority and also in this monitor implements the now-famous AQCOLOR technology that allows us to achieve incredible color fidelity, natural color transitions, and smooth gradations.
We said that the uniformity of the panel is an indispensable feature, and that’s why BenQ has introduced in the BenQ SW271C the third generation of Uniformity Technology, which is a technology that allows us to achieve an accurate reproduction of our images across the monitor from corner to corner. This is achieved by adjusting hundreds of sub-areas of the screen to achieve balanced brightness and absolute accuracy. I remind you that the previous BenQ SW271 implements the first generation of this technology that already allowed us to achieve truly incredible results. The generational leap will certainly help to have an even higher accuracy!
Let’s check now the rich equipment included with the BenQ SW271C.
Unboxing and hands-on with the new BenQ SW271C
As always, BenQ does not skimp on packaging: the BenQ SW271C also comes with a courier-proof box that allows you to protect the precious contents even from the most extreme jolts. (this means you can order it from their webshop without worries)
On the equipment, by now BenQ has spoiled us and this monitor is no exception: the BenQ SW271C is provided with tons of accessories that with other brands we are forced to buy separately. In fact, in addition to the monitor and the structure necessary to keep it in position, we find:
- Instruction manual
- Power cable
- Complete set of cables
- Hotkey Puck G2
- Protective lens hood
Setup is, as always, simple and straightforward, and thanks to the connectivity through USB-C, my BenQ SW271C is connected to my laptop in no time.
The BenQSW271C also allows connection through DisplayPort and HDMI in case you don’t have a USB-C port available. If you only have these two I recommend using the DisplayPort, but if you have a USB-C do not hesitate: remember that thanks to the new 60W USB-C connectivity, the monitor also charges our laptop. In this way, we’ll have just one cable to manage everything: power, video signal, calibration. Goodbye messy desks with a thousand cables!
GamutDuo and Hotkey Pucks G2
Among my favorite accessories for the BenQ SW271C we have the Hotkey Puck G2, a small external control device that allows for quick adjustments and access to the OSD menu. This accessory is particularly useful because it allows you to recall up to three stored calibrations. This means that I can store, for example, one calibration for post-production and one for printing and then switch from one to the other with a single click!
I believe it’s for optimizing the workflow of any photographer. For example, when I start working on my images, with one click on the Hotkey Puck G2 I can be in AdobeRGB and here I can really exploit the full potential of the gamut offered by the monitor. Another click and I can be in sRGB to quickly simulate how my image will appear once published online. (I remember as always that for a truly accurate result is important to make a profilation for the desired color mode to be associated with the relevant key on the Hotkey Puck G2 and not use the profiles preloaded in the monitor)
The icing on the cake is represented by the now unmissable GamutDuo function: connecting the BenQ SW271C to our computer simultaneously through two cables (eg DisplayPort and HDMI) we can display the image with two different color spaces at the same time! For example, we can display on the screen simultaneously the image in sRGB and Adobe RGB to further optimize our post-production workflow. I find it infinitely useful for the proofing phase of each of my photographic prints.
Paper Color Sync Technology
The BenQ SW271C implements a feature already seen and literally loved in its big brother BenQ SW321C: we’re talking about BenQ’s new exclusive technology called Paper Color Sync Technology.
As we know the BenQ SW series monitors were developed not only for those who love to post-produce and display their images correctly on the screen but also (and especially) for those who want to print them. As we have already seen, the coverage of the gamut in AdobeRGB allows us to take full advantage of our printer, and now thanks to Paper Color Sync technology we can prepare images for printing in an even simpler and more intuitive way.
Paper Color Sync technology allows you to display your image by minimizing the difference in color and contrast between the monitor and the print. Once the simulation of the print result is displayed on the screen (taking into account the precise combination of printer and paper) you can adjust the post-production to obtain a congruent print match. In short, it’s a far more accurate and immediate soft proof than what I hope you do in Photoshop or Lightroom.
To take advantage of this technology, you simply need to download and install the free BenQ Paper Color Sync software on your computer and select your printer and the paper you want to use from the drop-down menus.
At the moment Paper Color Sync works with a limited number of printers and papers because it uses profiles made by BenQ that take into account paper, printer and monitor range. These profiles are released periodically so if you don’t find your favorite printer and paper yet, you will indeed find it soon!
Differences between BenQ SW271C and BenQ SW271
As we said before, the BenQ SW271C hits the market alongside the BenQ SW271 released not long before. A mistake? Certainly not.
This choice of BenQ was probably dictated by the desire to bring on the BenQ SW271C model the technological improvements that were introduced in the BenQ SW321C, released between them.
I think it is a reasonable choice because the BenQ SW321C represents in my opinion absolute excellence in the size 32 “4K, and then I find it more than justified to have a model with equal characteristics in the very popular size 27” and 4k resolution.
If we want to list in detail the improvements introduced in the BenQ SW271C compared to the BenQ SW271 we have:
- Anti-glare and matte panel surface
- Paper Color Sync Technology
- Third Generation of Uniformity Technology
- 3D LUT increased from 14 bit to 16 bit
- New version of Hotkey Puck (G2)
- USB 3.1 Connectivity
- USB-C connectivity with 60W power supply
In short, it’s like having the BenQ Sw321C but with a 27″ panel as many had requested!
User experience and conclusions
The new BenQ SW271C is the natural complement to BenQ’s top-of-the-line photographers’ monitors, bringing to the 27″ size what is already available in the 32″ size.
A clean and modern design makes it perfect for any desk, and thanks to the new technologies implemented, spending many hours working in front of the monitor is not at all tiring for the eyes.
The third generation of Uniformity Technology implemented makes every job precise and some of the youthful problems of this type of panels are undoubtedly left in the past.
The possibility to perform hardware calibration and the availability of PME software for free allows us to always have a monitor perfectly profiled and calibrated to achieve a unique accuracy in our work.
BenQ Paper Color Sync then confirms the winning innovation branded BenQ: the level of accuracy now achieved is really impressive and the match between the displayed image and the printed one is just incredible, and this allows us to save time and money.
If you’re looking for a 27″ size and 4k resolution monitor that has no compromises while maintaining a reasonable price, the BenQ SW271C is definitely the product for you, and I’m sure that after trying it you’ll really struggle to break away from it.
As a reminder, participants in my classes, whether online or in the field, can take advantage of favorable terms when purchasing BenQ monitors. For more information, please contact me.