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

NEC EA294WMi 29" Monitor Review: 21:9 At Twice The Price
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Last month, we reviewed AOC’s Q2963PM ultra-wide monitor at 2560x1080. Based on the same LG panel, NEC brings us its EA294WMi. Selling for almost twice as much, does this screen offer two times the performance and features? Our tests give you the answer.

With the 2012 introduction of LG’s 29EA93-P, desktop users were introduced to a new aspect ratio option: 21:9, or in cinematic terms, 2.39:1. This year, other manufacturers are following suit with their own versions of LG’s panel, which, to refresh your memory, employs AH-IPS technology. A couple of months ago, we published AOC Q2963PM Monitor Review: 2560x1080 Is A New Way To Play, and found the AOC to be a great performer. Its utility is situational. In some tasks, the display configuration comes in very useful. In others, it gets a little awkward.

Dell, Asus, and NEC now have their own 21:9 offerings; NEC's EA294WMi is the subject of today's evaluation.

The company considers its EA294WMi a high-end offering and prices the display at almost $750. The next most-expensive model is none other than LG’s 29EB93-P at $629. While it is based on the same panel, the similarities end there. NEC not only offers excellent build quality, but also a host of features not found in most screens. For the IT professional, there are tools to manage all of the monitors on a network (not just this one, but anything made by NEC). ControlSync makes it possible to connect up to six EA3- and 4-series screens so they can share settings automatically. And if you're really concerned about power consumption, every energy-related setting on the EA294WMi quantifies your savings. The OSD can even translate that information into currency and carbon footprint data.

Aside from its obvious utility in entertainment applications, we remain curious about this aspect ratio's most viable use cases. To that end, we spoke to Art Marshall of NEC Display about the company's goals for the EA294WMi, and learned that many financial workstations consist of two 19-inch screens set up to display news and stock info. With the extra desktop real estate from a 21:9 display, it's possible to replicate that view with just one panel. There are similar applications in the science and medical fields, where systems might need to display content from multiple sources (like a PC and a scanning machine, for example). By enabling the picture-by-picture capability, you can connect two inputs for bezel-free viewing of both.

In looking over the EA294WMi's specs, maximum flexibility comes to mind. After all, the monitor boasts six video inputs plus audio, headphone output, and four USB ports. It’s hard to contrive a configuration that couldn't be handled. Unlike AOC's version, this panel includes a portrait mode. Though it's an expensive idea, the idea of having three or four of these side by side in portrait mode is undeniably cool. Also, browsing through the OSD, we can’t help but notice things like the four user-configurable color temp memories, and the DICOM Simulation mode that mimics the color and gamma settings of medical imaging equipment. There is no question that this is professional-grade gear. While enthusiasts are well-served by this display, there are many other applications that benefit, too.

Brand
NEC
Model
EA294WMi
MSRP
$750
Panel Type
AH-IPS
Backlight
W-LED
Screen Size
29"
Max Resolution
2560x1080
Max Refresh Rate
60 Hz
Aspect Ratio
21:9
Response Time (GTG)
6 ms
Brightness (cd/m2)
300
Speakers
2 x 1 W
VGA
2
DVI
2
DisplayPort
1
HDMI
1
Headphone
1
USB
v2.0, 1 up, 4 down
Dimensions w/base
WxHxD
27.8 x 16.2-21.3 x 9.1 in
706 x 410-540 x 230 mm
Panel Thickness
2.7 in, 69 mm
Warranty
Three years

We realize that most people will choose this monitor for its aspect ratio, and not necessarily its video performance. We still hold it to the same standards as other displays, though. Given the excellent performance we saw from AOC's Q2963PM, there is no reason to expect anything less from NEC's EA294WMi.

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  • 8 Hide
    runswindows95 , October 29, 2013 10:45 PM
    Considering this screen is $805 for this monitor on Newegg, I rather get a nice 2560X1440, like the Dell U2713, for the money, or dual 1920X1200 screens. 2560X1080 really isn't an ideal resolution for any practical application.
  • 3 Hide
    TBC1 , October 29, 2013 10:49 PM
    $750 for this! bahh!
  • 2 Hide
    patrick47018 , October 29, 2013 11:09 PM
    Triple Post! Triple Post! Triple Post! But yeah too much money
  • 1 Hide
    TBC1 , October 29, 2013 11:20 PM
    Quote:
    Triple Post! Triple Post! Triple Post! But yeah too much money


    Darn thing lagged on me!

  • 0 Hide
    Vorador2 , October 30, 2013 1:42 AM
    Well this is a professional monitor so the high price is not that surprising. Still if i were on the hunt for a monitor this wouldn't be my choice.
  • 2 Hide
    wikiwikiwhat , October 30, 2013 1:51 AM
    No and screw LG and others that model them.
  • 2 Hide
    burkhartmj , October 30, 2013 6:11 AM
    You could get 2 Dell Ultrasharp U2412M's plus a dual monitor mount for the price of this, it just doesn't make sense at this price point.

    There's also the issue of ultra wide screen. This seems to have a niche market that doesn't exist, a professional grade monitor that's only particularly good at watching movies. People who just watch TV and movies all day aren't going to be willing to spend more than 250 on a monitor [and even this is probably outside what most people would spend], and those who want/need professional features will want as much screen real estate as possible, opting for large 16:9 or 16:10 monitors.

    This is exacerbated by the fact that this aspect ratio is literally ONLY helpful for movies, not even TV. having big black bars on each side during a TV show or older movie that doesn't have the cinematic aspect ratio is way more distracting than the thin bars at the top and bottom created by cinematic movies on normal 16:9/10 monitors.
  • 5 Hide
    jasonpwns , October 30, 2013 6:19 AM
    I dislike this new trend. I'd rather have a 27 inch with 2560x1440. Why are we constantly trying to lower our screen resolutions. This 1080p trend needs to stop.
  • 0 Hide
    InvalidError , October 30, 2013 8:04 AM
    Quote:
    This 1080p trend needs to stop.

    I would prefer 2560x1600 on a 24" screen myself.

    The problem is the bulk of offer and demand gravitates around 1920x1080 since that is what most common forms of entertainment are optimized for. With 1080p screens starting as low as $90, anything higher than that for 3-5X the price becomes a tough sale so these higher-resolution monitors get pitched and priced as "professional" displays instead of trying to compete for people's desktops.

    I paid $270 for my 24" 1200p display four years ago. Equivalent models today are usually listed around $400. To me, this seems to indicate that mainstream interest in higher resolution desktop displays has regressed, hence the switch to pitching those nearly exclusively at professionals and enthusiasts.
  • 0 Hide
    mortsmi7 , October 30, 2013 10:13 AM
    Seems to me that if your a fan of the 4:3 ratio, and want a seamless dual monitor experience, this might be the way to go. For once, a person might have reasonable room to put two windows side by side. And it sure as hell takes up less desk space than two separate monitors.
  • 0 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , October 30, 2013 12:17 PM
    Other than possibly using this with an emulator as a DS XXXL, I'm not sure what advantage this has over a 2560x1440 panel and just setting a 2560x1080 custom resolution...

    The only issue I can see would be black bars, but in my experience with a Trinitron CRT if the black bars are actually black and not grey then their presence isn't a problem at all. So being annoyed with "black" (grey) bars usually means you're actually annoyed with your display's poor black level.
  • 0 Hide
    bochica , October 30, 2013 12:46 PM
    Like a few others, I'd rather have a 27" with the same resolution (already have an ASUS IPS). Now that G-sync is starting to come out, I'd like to see IPS (or other panels better than TN) come out with G-sync.
  • 3 Hide
    lancero , October 30, 2013 12:48 PM
    Some say ultra-wide...I say ultra-SHORT.
  • 2 Hide
    blueangel , October 30, 2013 2:09 PM
    Why are we calling this 21:9 monitor... I thought the idea was to use the more reduced fraction... Can't we say 7:3 and not insult everyone's intelligence.
  • 0 Hide
    hucklongfin , October 30, 2013 3:03 PM
    I have twin 19" 1280x1024 monitors here on my desk and would much prefer one 27" 2560x1440 over my current setup or a 2560x1080. I like more vertical screen real estate.
  • 0 Hide
    burkhartmj , October 30, 2013 3:26 PM
    Oh the days when 16:10 was the high end standard. Does no one here remember the glorious days of 2560x1600?

    And BlueAngel, 21:9 is to signify a relationship with 16:9 since everyone knows that. Kind of how 16:10 should be 8:5 but no one says that because 16:10 can be more easily related to 16:9.
  • 0 Hide
    Tanquen , October 30, 2013 7:25 PM
    The Dell 3014 with 2560x1600 LED back light was on sale for like $900 just the other day.
  • 0 Hide
    ubercake , October 31, 2013 6:10 AM
    If they made a TN version panel with little input lag at this resolution and higher than 60Hz refresh with good contrast, it would be cheaper and sell like hotcakes to gamers. It would also sell to non-gamers because the price would be lower for twice the screen real estate. Most people have little need for precise color accuracy since most aren't photographers or videographers. Most people don't need extreme viewing angles on a computer monitor since they sit right in front of the thing (actually need only around 90 degrees of viewing angle or less if your head is only 12" away from a 29" screen and even less further away). Why haven't they manufactured TN panels in a greater variation of higher resolutions since 1080p and 1920x1200 hit the market, I do not know?

    We've been through days of 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1080, 1366x768, 1600x1900, 1650x1080, 1920x1080, 1920x1200 - I'm sure I probably left a few out - and then it stops and you have to get an IPS if you want more pixels. Does anyone know the business and why they won't give us more pixels on a TN monitor?

    I keep hoping the next review will show us an IPS monitor that will be the one that convinces me to get a higher res screen, but even the OC'd IPS monitors still have the inherent input lag.
  • 0 Hide
    burkhartmj , October 31, 2013 6:47 AM
    Quote:
    If they made a TN version panel with little input lag at this resolution and higher than 60Hz refresh with good contrast, it would be cheaper and sell like hotcakes to gamers. It would also sell to non-gamers because the price would be lower for twice the screen real estate. Most people have little need for precise color accuracy since most aren't photographers or videographers. Most people don't need extreme viewing angles on a computer monitor since they sit right in front of the thing (actually need only around 90 degrees of viewing angle or less if your head is only 12" away from a 29" screen and even less further away). Why haven't they manufactured TN panels in a greater variation of higher resolutions since 1080p and 1920x1200 hit the market, I do not know?

    We've been through days of 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1080, 1366x768, 1600x1900, 1650x1080, 1920x1080, 1920x1200 - I'm sure I probably left a few out - and then it stops and you have to get an IPS if you want more pixels. Does anyone know the business and why they won't give us more pixels on a TN monitor?

    I keep hoping the next review will show us an IPS monitor that will be the one that convinces me to get a higher res screen, but even the OC'd IPS monitors still have the inherent input lag.


    I have only limited knowledge of this, but firstly, TN is a known 'bad' technology. Even if people don't know how or why it's bad, a lot still have heard it is. Not that I necessarily agree, but I also own 2 Dell Ultrasharp monitors because I care for myself. Secondly, I would imagine with most smartphones using IPS that there is an economies of scale in manufacturing that makes TN less cost effective. Don't that for certain, but it wouldn't surprise me.

    I'd say another major reason that pixel increase only goes past 1200p in IPS forms is because people who wouldn't notice the difference between TN and IPS would GENERALLY not notice the difference between a 24-27 inch monitor being 1080p or 1440p, because they mostly watch content that maxes at 1080p and aren't as concerned with insane detail in games. There are always exceptions to this [as you very well might be], but it wouldn't be a large market.
  • 0 Hide
    ubercake , October 31, 2013 9:13 AM
    Quote:


    ...

    I have only limited knowledge of this, but firstly, TN is a known 'bad' technology. Even if people don't know how or why it's bad, a lot still have heard it is. Not that I necessarily agree, but I also own 2 Dell Ultrasharp monitors because I care for myself. Secondly, I would imagine with most smartphones using IPS that there is an economies of scale in manufacturing that makes TN less cost effective. Don't that for certain, but it wouldn't surprise me.

    I'd say another major reason that pixel increase only goes past 1200p in IPS forms is because people who wouldn't notice the difference between TN and IPS would GENERALLY not notice the difference between a 24-27 inch monitor being 1080p or 1440p, because they mostly watch content that maxes at 1080p and aren't as concerned with insane detail in games. There are always exceptions to this [as you very well might be], but it wouldn't be a large market.


    I think most people can tell the difference between an IPS and TN monitor, but since responsiveness (through reduced input lag and reduced response times and increased refresh rates) hasn't historically been an aim of IPS monitor manufacturers, to me, TN monitors and IPS monitors are clearly built for different purposes.

    Also, for me, it's not about insane detail but rather the ability to see more of what's going on on a single panel when it comes to gaming. As a matter of fact, I'd like the same level of detail, but the ability to see more on a single panel.

    Another question I've often pondered is I know most people's HDTVs (whether LCD, LED, or LCD/LED) don't use IPS technology, so why can I view them from just about any angle without much color or image distortion at all, but go at a PC from an angle and the TN monitor lets you know?
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