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Packaging, Physical Layout, And Accessories

NEC EA294WMi 29" Monitor Review: 21:9 At Twice The Price

The EA294WMi comes in a very stout suitcase-style box made from double-corrugated cardboard. Mail-order buyers have little to worry about as far as shipping damage is concerned. The panel and upright are already assembled, so all you have to do is attach the base using a captive wingnut.

NEC bundles VGA, dual-link DVI, USB, ControlSync (more on that below), and 3.5 mm stereo audio cables. An IEC power cord handles the internal power supply's current. There is no CD or printed manual, but you do get a quick-start guide. Drivers and other support software can be downloaded from NEC’s website.

Product 360

It's obvious that this is a solidly-built product as soon as you unpack it. The monitor is quite heavy. Stylistically, it takes on an almost monolithic appearance. The bezel is a narrow 14 mm all around. Front-panel controls are touch-sensitive, and populate the lower-right quadrant of the panel. In fact, there are so many that they actually wrap around the corner. Each one is labeled, but if you have trouble reading the tiny text (as we did), their functions appear on-screen when you touch any control. Starting from the left is the Power toggle, followed by Input/Select, Menu/Exit, and the Left and Right navigational keys. Moving to the vertical portion, we have Up, Down, and PBP (picture-by-picture)/Reset. The touchpads have just the right feel; they're neither too sensitive nor too difficult to activate.

The entire bezel and chassis is made from very thick plastic that has a matte finish. The screen is also fitted with an aggressive anti-glare layer. While there is no evidence of sparkling or other artifacts caused by this, image clarity falls a little short of razor-sharp. There is always a trade-off between glare rejection and sharpness; you can’t really have both in abundance. NEC biases in favor of the former, but only makes a modest sacrifice in the latter.

The EA294WMi has a full set of ergonomic adjustments, including five inches of height, generous tilt, and almost 360 degrees of swivel. Plus, again, you can rotate the panel to portrait mode. If you want to use your own bracket, there are two 100 mm VESA mounts around back, one low and one high.

There are applications that benefit from a screen this tall and narrow, but everyday computing tasks and games are not among them. Moreover, Web browsing doesn’t work that well because most sites are formatted to 1200 pixels, and all currently available 21:9 monitors are limited to 1080. It’s not that pixel density is low; 97 ppi is quite good, actually. You just don't get enough vertical resolution to make this portrait mode terribly useful.

The extra VESA mount holes are located just above the NEC logo. And the two rectangles on either side are handles that make the panel very easy to pick up. The vertical slit on the upright accommodates a very thick cable bundle, which is handy considering the large number of inputs.

Starting from the left, we have DisplayPort and HDMI/MHL (one each) inputs, VGA and DVI (two each), ControlSync, audio input, USB upstream, and two USB downstream ports. ControlSync is a slick feature that lets you connect up to six EA294WMi monitors and have them share settings via the Data Copy command in the OSD. While this could save a lot of time, our preference is to calibrate and set up each screen individually, with its own settings, to ensure the closest match for light levels and white point.

NEC makes no attempt to pass the EA294WMi off as a thin panel. In fact, it embraces the bulge on the back by providing lots of ventilation and a nice view of the heavily shielded components inside. On the bottom-left are two more USB ports and a headphone jack. We applaud this placement, since most manufacturers put those connectors on the input panel, where they're much more difficult to reach. The monitor's speakers also utilize those nice, open vents. At 1 W, they won’t exactly rock your world, but they're fine for Windows notifications and other noises you might want to hear. For gaming and entertainment, we recommend headphones or an external audio system.

Like the AOC Q2963PM, this NEC display offers a picture-by-picture mode. You can control the resolutions individually to account for different sources, which is what you see in the image above. Any MHL-compatible device can be connected through the HDMI port, and its content displayed on the left or right portion of the screen. From there, image size is easy to tweak using the OSD.

While the EA294WMi doesn’t ship with any software, there is a utility available on NEC’s website called NaviSet Administrator that could be useful to IT departments procuring this or any other NEC product. With it, all of the NEC monitors on a network can be controlled, even configured, from a central location. The software cannot do anything beyond what you find in the screen's OSD, but for someone managing a large network, it can automate many tasks. NEC just updated this utility to version 2.0, and it's available free of charge.

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