BenQ EW3270U 4K HDR monitor review

The BenQ EW3270U monitor has a huge 32″ wide gamut, 4K screen.

It has HDR support for gamingand streaming with High Dynamic Range, and has some interesting features for reducingeye strain.

It’s not cheap at around £450 or $600, but if you want all these headlinefeatures, it’s currently one of the least expensive options.

But is it any good? Why 4K?4K or Ultra HD monitors to be more precise, have a resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels.

That’s the equivalent of two side by side full HD monitors stacked on top of anothertwo full HD monitors.

There are a few reasons you might want to consider a 4K monitor.

For productivity tasks, it provides a huge amount of screen real estate.

Just using Windowsbuilt-in snapping features lets you easily arrange up to 4 windows.

The size of the screenis then the limiting factor on how useful this is.

The 32″ screen I’m looking at todayis physically big enough that even 4 windows become manageable.

If your computer and broadband connection is up to it, you can stream 4K films and TVshows via services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube and it looks impressive.

You canalso hook up a set-top box or a gaming console and use it like a TV.

Finally, playing games at 4K is the holy grail of gaming, but you’ll need a very powerfulcomputer, especially if you want to play at the game’s maximum graphical settings.

There are users who will prefer an ultra-wide monitor with a 21:9 aspect ratio.

Take a lookat my recent review of the LG 29WK600 for some further discussion.

Getting started Once you clear enough space, it’s straightforwardto attach the stand to the monitor.

Attach the base to the stand, and tighten the thumbscrew.

The complete stand then slides into the back of the monitor, and is secured by tighteningthe two sprung screws.

There’s a good choice or inputs with 2 HDMI2.0 ports, a DisplayPort 1.4 and a USB Type-C port.

All three cable types are also includedwhich is a nice touch.

Unfortunately the ports face downwards and are very awkward to reach.

I’m connecting via the included HDMI cable to an Nvidia GTX 970 graphics card.

If you’reconnecting to an older desktop computer, with only legacy display outputs, you’ll have tofactor in adding a cheap graphics card to allow output to this monitor.

The weighty stand is a simple design comprised mostly of plastic.

It has no height adjustment,and a minimal tilt adjustment of 5 degrees forward and 15 degrees back.

There is alsono cable management.

But it supports the large display adequately.

If you need more adjustment, the monitor has standard 100mm by 100mm VESA mounting holesfor any display mount of your choosing.

The monitor has an internal power supply,so there is no external AC adaptor.

Connection is via the ubiquitous mains kettle lead.

First impressions The monitor has a rather boxy, business likeappearance.

The grey plastic bezel stands around 4mm proud of the screen and has a chamferinto the panel which I didn’t find particularly attractive but you get used to it, especiallyonce you switch the monitor on.

This is a large monitor, with a 14 mm bezelaround the sides and top and a 21 mm bezel at the bottom.

The actual diagonal viewingsize is 800 mm or 31.5 inches, with the overall dimensions of the monitor 725 mm by 428 mmand the overall height including the stand 521 mm.

The power button glows green with the monitor switched on and there is a dedicated buttonjust above it for turning the emulated HDR mode and Brightness Intelligence modes onand off, which by default are both off.

I’ll come back to this shortly.

Windows 10 will prompt you to adjust the scaling of text to 150%, which you’ll generally wantto accept, unless you want the system text to be tiny.

Most applications work fine withthe system scaling, but not all, and I did encounter a few issues.

For example the Origingame launcher wouldn’t load without overriding High DPI settings in compatibility mode.

There are 11 pictures modes in Standard Dynamic Range or SDR mode, with the default Standardmode defaulting to maximum brightness, which is way too bright for most situations.

Youcan lower the brightness via the OSD, or On Screen Display controls, beside the powerbutton.

There’s no user friendly joystick here, you’ll have to navigate around usingthe five buttons.

By default, just to get to the brightness setting requires five buttonpresses.

But you can customise the buttons if you’re going to be changing this settingfrequently.

Or turn on the automatic brightness controls, which I’ll cover shortly.

The monitor has built in audio via 2 x 2W integrated speakers.

The default volume levelis low – you’ll need to return to the OSD to bump it up.

The audio quality is not badbut just lacks any bass.

So it’s acceptable for spoken audio, but not much else.

Fortunatelythere’s a headphone port for much improved sound.

Picture quality and colour accuracy The 16:9 aspect ratio; 3840 by 2160 resolution,even with the large size of this monitor, delivers sharp results with a pixel densityof 140 pixels per inch (PPI).

By Apple’s reckoning that makes the display “Retina” at a viewingdistance of over 64 cm or 25 inches, and you really wouldn’t have this monitor any closer.

Which basically means text looks very crisp, and you’ll certainly notice switching backto any lesser display.

The anti-glare coating does a good job of limiting any glare comingin from a large window to my side, and a bright light bulb above.

The monitor uses a VA panel, which doesn’t provide quite as good viewing angles as anequivalent IPS panel, but still offers excellent colour reproduction, and superb contrast ratioswith deep, rich blacks.

The monitor is marketed as a TV substitute for watching streamed 4Kcontent or connecting to a console.

The rich blacks are very desirable in these circumstancesand would explain the choice of panel.

It also brings the price of the display down.

I still found the claimed 178 degree viewing angles good.

The contrast ratio of the monitor is quoted as 3000:1, although you’ll need to ensureyour graphics card is configured correctly if you’re connecting over HDMI.

By defaultmy Nvidia card recognised the monitor as a TV and limited the dynamic range of its output,resulting in washed out blacks and a measured contrast ratio an order of magnitude lessthan the spec.

Within the Nvidia control panel, check under Display resolution | Output dynamicrange and change Limited to Full.

If you can’t access this setting for any reason, you canalso use the OSD to change the HDMI RGB PC Range from Auto Detect to RGB(16~235) to matchthe graphics card output, which although not ideal, will still vastly improve the contrast.

It’s worth noting that connecting via an AMD RX 470 over HDMI worked perfectly with noconfiguration required.

The monitor is claimed to have 95% coverageof the DCI-P3 colour space popular with Apple displays, which has a 25% wider gamut of colourscompared to the more common sRGB.

What this basically means is it can display a more accuraterepresentation of colour.

If you’re doing any colour critical work, this can be a realboon.

I measured the colour accuracy or Delta E(ΔE) of the monitor as it comes, using the default standard picture mode and the defaultmaximum brightness.

Delta E is a metric for understanding how the human eye perceivescolour difference with a value of less than 1 being not perceptible to the human eye.

And a value between 1 and 2 being barely perceptible.

I got an average Delta E of 1.5 which is quiteacceptable.

Using an X-Rite i1Display Pro, I calibratedthe monitor, reducing the default maximum brightness I measured at 290 cd/m², to amore comfortable 150 cd/m².

You’ll need to choose the User picture mode for calibration,since it’s the only mode that allows you to adjust the colour temperature.

I achieved excellent results from the calibration, bringing the average Delta E down to below0.5 with a maximum of 1.89.

I was also able to confirm the claimed 95% coverage of theDCI P3 standard with a measured value of 94.5% which is close enough, and an impressive 99.8%coverage of the sRGB colour space.

I couldn’t get the claimed 3000:1 contrast ratio but2800:1 is still pretty good.

There is some variation in brightness acrossthe screen, only really detectable if you’re looking for it.

But the monitor passed a basicuniformity test, checking variation in brightness and more importantly tint across the monitor,by dividing the screen into a 5 by 5 grid.

Additional featuresThe BenQ EQ3270U has a few interesting features, the most notable being the built in ambientlight sensor just below the BenQ logo.

BenQ call this Brightness Intelligence Plus(B.I.+) Technology and dedicates a separate button to it that also toggles emulated HDRmode.

When turned on, the sensor automatically monitorsthe light levels and colour temperature of its surroundings and adjusts the brightnessand colour of the screen accordingly, in an attempt to reduce eye strain.

As an addedbonus, it also saves power.

You can turn on the Light Meter display which shows you graphicallywhen a change of lighting is detected.

There’s also a Sensor Sensitivity toggle, but I didn’tfind this made much difference so would recommend leaving at the default 50%.

The B.I.+ technology works well, and unless you’re using a colour calibrated work flowit makes sense to turn it on.

I measured a few typical values starting from the defaulteye-searing brightness of around 290 cd/m² which used 45W.

Just turning the feature onwith only natural light from a cloudy day coming in through the windows, the brightnessdropped to around 160 cd/m² and used 30W.

In a completely dark room the brightness droppedto 100 cd/m², consuming only 25W.

I still found the brightness a little highfor my tastes, and unfortunately you can’t adjust the brightness manually with the B.I.+mode enabled.

It would be nice to be able to set an upper limit.

It’s also not possible to use the ambient light sensor in sRGB, Rec 709, Eco and Userpicture modes.

I was able to measure the colour temperatureof the screen changing as the colour temperature of environment changed, but it’s a very smoothtransition and hardly detectable to the naked eye, just as it should be.

It’s subtle butit does make the colours of the display appear more natural.

There’s a also a dedicated OSD button to choose from one of four Low Blue Light modes, whichfilter blue light which is meant to reduce eye fatigue and is also recommended closeto bed time to aid sleep.

Phones and tablets often have this feature.

Apple calls it NightShift and Samsung calls it the Blue Light Filter.

There’s also BenQ’s Flicker-Free technology that doesn’t use the common Pulse Width Modulation(PWM) to reduce the brightness of the screen.

PWM effectively reduces the brightness butturning the backlight on and off very quickly.

BenQ’s Direct Current (DC) backlight systemis meant to eliminate flicker but I can’t say I’ve ever noticed flicker on any modernmonitor.

Still it’s meant to reduce eye strain and fatigue and is all part of BenQ’s Eye-caresystem.

The USB Type-C input lets you connect to acompatible laptop such as any of the latest Macbooks.

There’s even a dedicated M-bookPicture Mode, that will match the colours between your display and the Macbook.

One of the benefits of the USB Type-C connection is that it also supports power delivery, soyou should be able to also charge your laptop.

Unfortunately this port doesn’t support thisfeature, so you’ll still need a separate AC adaptor for your laptop.

There are also noUSB ports on the back of the monitor, so you can’t use it as a USB hub.

You can still connectan older Macbook or any laptop with a mini-DisplayPort to the DisplayPort input, using the suppliedcable.

Unfortunately there’s no screen windowingsoftware which means you’re limited to using the built in Windows snapping, or paid softwarelike Display Fusion for finer control.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)High Dynamic Range or HDR is a #,feature that expands the contrast and coloursof the image, with the intention of providing more realism.

There are various HDR standardsincluding HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG and like the LG 29WK600 ultrawide monitor I recentlyreviewed, this monitor also supports the most popular HDR10 standard.

However it also isnot compliant with even the minimum VESA Display HDR 400 standard which specifies a luminanceof over 320 cd/m².

I’m not sure this is an issue to most users, but it’s worth mentioning.

The display does support 10 bit colour depth for even finer tonal details, although Windowsonly detected a 10 bit display when connected via an AMD RX 470, not my Nvidia GTX 970.

There’s not a huge amount of HDR content but I played Battlefield 1 that supports HDR10.

The monitor automatically switches to HDR mode, confirmed by an OSD message.

You havea choice of two picture modes: the default and a Cinema HDR mode intended for watchingfilms.

The game does look impressive, with deeper blacks and more vibrant colours.

Windows 10 support for HDR is continuously improving, and I found the monitor quite usablein HDR mode, which you enable from Settings | System | Display.

Again the monitor willautomatically switch to HDR mode.

There’s no way to adjust brightness manually in HDRmode, but you can turn on B.I.+ for automatic control.

I played some HDR content from the YouTube HDR Channel and it looked incredibly vibrantand immersive.

But you’ll need a very fast internet connection to stream 4K HDR content- my 40Mbps connection could barely keep up.

Unfortunately my system doesn’t support playingHDR content from Netflix or Amazon Video, which both require quite stringent hardwarerequirements.

I did find text doesn’t look as crisp in HDRmode, so I wouldn’t want to leave this mode on generally.

The prominent HDR button that also controls the B.I.+ mode, only switches to an emulatedHDR mode when using the monitor in Standard Dynamic Range (SDR).

Although it is highlightedwhen you are in true HDR mode which is a little confusing.

I didn’t find emulated HDR modeimproved any content I tried playing.

Gaming and FreesyncIf you have a powerful enough graphics card, gaming at 4K is amazing.

But it can’t be overstatedjust how powerful a machine you need, especially if you want to enjoy all settings maxed out.

Ideally one of Nvidia or AMD’s very latest high end graphics cards.

My ageing NvidiaGTX 970 with an Intel i7 processor, could just about maintain usable frame rates ofover 30 FPS playing Battlefield 1, letting the game configure optimal settings.

Of courseyou can always lower the resolution of the game for better gameplay, but it won’t lookanywhere near as sharp.

The maximum refresh rate of the monitor is60Hz, which compared to some gaming monitors that go up to 144Hz seems low.

But playingthe latest games, at 4K at refresh rates exceeding 60Hz is asking quite a lot of even the mostexpensive graphics cards.

The 4ms Grey to Grey (GTG) response time ofthe monitor is more than adequate for low latency gaming, and BenQ’s AMA setting allowsyou to adjust this further.

I found the default High setting worked best for me.

If connected to an AMD graphics card, the monitor supports Freesync that synchronisesthe achieved frame rate of the game to the monitor.

This reduces any screen tearing andstuttering in game, where the graphics card can’t keep up with the refresh rate of themonitor.

It’s only supported between 40Hz and 60Hz, but considering the intense graphiccard demands of 4K gaming, it’s still nice to have.

It can’t be turned on or off on themonitor itself, you’ll need to use the AMD graphics driver.

Of course you could also connect a gaming console with 4K HDR output like an Xbox OneX or a Playstation 4 Pro.

ConclusionsThe BenQ EW3270U has good colour accuracy and comprehensive connectivity options andthe ambient light sensor is genuinely useful for a connect and forget experience.

I’m surethe price of 32″ 4K HDR monitors will come down, but you’ll have to pay significantlymore than this display to get those headline features currently.

The big question is whether you really need HDR, particularly in its current form, orwhether a smaller 28″ display like the the BenQ EW3270U’s little brother, the EL2870U,would suffice.

Some may actually find the 32″ screen size unwieldy.

But the HDR support isn’t adding that much to the cost and does future proof the monitorsomewhat.

If you’re after a 32″ 4K monitor, the EW3270Ushould definitely be on your shortlist.

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