BenQ EW3270U 32" Ultra HD Monitor Review: HDR For The Enthusiast

HDR support is well-established in the television market, but computer monitors have taken longer to adopt the standard. We suspect one of the reasons is cost. It’s easy enough to add the appropriate silicon and software to existing panel designs, but the reality is that edge-lit LCDs that dominate the desktop just don’t have sufficient native contrast to make HDR work. The best performance we’ve seen from a VA-type panel is 5000:1 static, with perhaps 6000:1 from a properly-implemented dynamic contrast feature. That pales in comparison to what OLEDs can accomplish with their nearly-infinite dynamic range. The only LCDs that can truly do HDR justice are the full-array backlight models, and that’s where the price goes up significantly.

Dell’s UP2718Q remains our gold standard for HDR with its 384-zone backlight and over 17,000:1 contrast in HDR mode. But it costs around $1400 at this writing, significantly more than other 27” Ultra HD monitors. For the rest of us, VA panels with edge-array backlights will have to suffice for now. And we’re happy to say some progress has been made there. Today, we’re looking at BenQ’s latest EW-series screen, the EW3270U. With 3840x2160 pixels in a 31.5” viewable area, it boasts good pixel density, a DCI-P3 gamut, 10-bit color, and AMD's variable-refresh FreeSync tech up to 60Hz. It also boosts contrast above its IPS-based competition, thanks to its VA panel.

If you’re a gamer considering the move to Ultra HD, the BenQ EW3260U has decent specs. Its refresh rate tops out at 60Hz, but that’s no different than any other UHD screen currently available. It does include DisplayPort 1.4 support for higher bandwidth however so, we’re sad to see that the frame rate capabilities aren’t higher. It seems there are other hardware considerations for faster speeds besides the connection interface. You do get FreeSync support though, over an impressive 24-60Hz range. That enables low-frequency compensation (LFC), so you’ll never see a tear, even your framerates dip into very low territory.

Color support is exemplary, with a claimed 95% coverage of DCI-P3. And the monitor includes an sRGB mode so you won’t have to use a single gamut for all content. Color depth is a full 10-bits native, so any banding you see will be in the content, not caused by the monitor. The EW3270U also has full support for HDR10, as used in both gaming and video material. With two HDMI 2.0 inputs, DisplayPort, and USB-C, you can hook up any manner of sources and enjoy the latest content. And if you’d like to make older games and movies look more vibrant, an HDR-emulation mode can be engaged via a special button on the front. Overall, the BenQ EW3270U looks like a nice package, and it offers decent value too, selling for just over $700 at this writing.

Packaging, Physical Layout & Accessories

The BenQ EW3270U's stand is small but solid, and ships in two pieces. One attachment is made with a captive bolt, but a screwdriver is necessary to connect the panel. This is accomplished with two spring-loaded screws that are already in place. 100mm VESA mount lugs are on the back, but you’ll have to supply your own hardware to use them.

The in-box cable bundle includes HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C, plus a standard IEC cord for the internal power supply. You also get a printed quick start guide and a manual on CD. The EW3270U is backed by a three-year warranty.

Product 360

BenQ has trimmed a few things to keep the EW3270U’s price down. The panel, while well-constructed, feels light compared to some of its more-expensive stablemates. The stand is simple and offers only tilt adjustment, 15° back and 5° forward. There is no swivel or height adjustment, or a portrait mode. That said, movements are firm and the base is quite solid, finished nicely in piano black and dark gray matte.

The front anti-glare layer is appropriate for a high-res monitor, and rejects light well without causing any image artifacts. We saw no grain or other anomalies.

Controls are on the bottom-right edge, and consists of five keys, plus a large LED-lit power button that glows green when the screen is turned on. Prominently displayed here is an HDR key that toggles HDR-emulation, and a feature called Brightness Intelligence+. When engaged, the latter uses a sensor on the front bezel to alter color temperature based on the brightness and color of your room’s lighting. This creates an interesting effect that some users will like, but as it changes settings based on light, we left it off for all our testing. HDR-emulation can help some images look better, but of course true HDR content will look the best.

The monitor's side profile is fairly slim, with a smooth taper across the back, uninterrupted by grille work. Ventilation comes from two large downward-facing ports on the bottom and a barely-visible strip up top to exhaust heat. The two speakers fire down at the desktop and deliver reasonable volume in the high frequencies. But with little bass, they can sound harsh if you turn them up too high.

The input panel faces down and is packed with two HDMI 2.0 ports (with HDCP 2.2 for protected 4K content), a single DisplayPort 1.4, and USB-C. The latter only serves as a video input; there are no downstream ports to create a USB hub here. Rounding out the connections is a 3.5mm headphone jack that can also be used with powered speakers.

Specifications

Panel Type & BacklightVA / W-LED, edge array
Screen Size & Aspect Ratio35" / 21:9
Max Resolution & Refresh3840x2160 @ 60Hz (Density: 140ppi)
FreeSync Range24-60Hz
Native Color Depth & Gamut10-bit / DCI-P3
Response Time (GTG)4ms
Brightness300 nits
Contrast3000:1
Speakers2 x 2w
Video Inputs(1) DisplayPort v1.4, (2) HDMI v2.0, (1) USB-C
Audio(1) 3.5mm headphone out
USB
Power Consumption37.1w, brightness @ 200 nits
Panel Dimensions WxHxD w/base28.6 x 20.5 x 8.5" (726 x 522 x 215mm)
Panel Thickness2.6" (65mm)
Bezel WidthTop/Sides: 0.5" (12mm), Bottom: 0.9" (22mm)
Weight16.5 lbs (7.5 kg)
WarrantyThree years

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