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Results: Brightness And Contrast

NEC PA272W 27-Inch Monitor Review: Accuracy And Flexibility
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Uncalibrated

Before calibrating any panel, we measure zero and 100-percent signals at both ends of the brightness control range. This shows us how contrast is affected at the extremes of a monitor's luminance capability. We do not increase the contrast control past the clipping point. While doing this would increase a monitor’s light output, the brightest signal levels would not be visible, resulting in crushed highlight detail. Our numbers show the maximum light level possible with no clipping of the signal.

We always take our initial luminance measurements in the display’s stock configuration. For the PA272W, that means uniformity compensation is turned on. You’ll see later on how this affects the black level more than the white.

NEC specifies the PA272W at 340 cd/m2 maximum, and we beat that number by using the High Bright mode, a preset that is fully adjustable. Maxing the backlight in Adobe RGB or sRGB modes yields a peak brightness reading of around 300 cd/m2. You wouldn’t need that much output unless you used the monitor outdoors, on-location at a photo shoot, for example.

A measurement of .3388 cd/m2 is very respectable. It can be improved upon slightly by reducing or turning off the uniformity compensation.

The PA272W beats all other recent review subjects for max contrast. We still look to TN screens for the highest possible ratio, but IPS monitors at all price points are catching up, as these results show.

We believe 50 cd/m2 is a practical minimum standard for screen brightness. Any lower and you risk eyestrain and fatigue. The PA272W bottoms out at an extremely dim 19.8644 cd/m2. You’d have a hard time using any display at such a low light level, even in a completely dark room.

Since the brightness slider is ticked in cd/m2 values (which, by our measurements, proved to be pretty accurate), if you want 50 cd/m2, set brightness to that number and you’ll be within one or two candelas.

The NEC finishes second here, and sixth out of all of the monitors in our database. Our reading is quite low, and it only rises a tiny bit if you set the brightness to 50 cd/m2. The PA272W’s black levels are excellent, and even better when you turn the uniformity compensation off.

The minimum contrast value is pulled down by a low max white result. When used at more realistic light levels, the PA272W consistently delivers contrast closer to 1000 to 1.

After Calibration

Since we consider 200 cd/m2 to be an ideal point for peak output, we calibrate all of our test monitors to that value. In a room with some ambient light (like an office), this brightness level provides a sharp, punchy image with maximum detail and minimum eye fatigue. On many monitors it’s also the sweet spot for gamma and grayscale tracking, which we'll look at on the next page. In a darkened room, some professionals prefer a 120 cd/m2 calibration. We find it makes little to no difference on the calibrated black level and contrast measurements.

Right away you can see how the uniformity compensation feature affects black levels and overall contrast. It does make a measureable difference in screen uniformity, but ultimately you’ll have to decide which metric is of greater importance.

Personally, I prefer using the PA272W without uniformity compensation. Our measurements demonstrate excellent uniformity in the monitor’s native state, so I didn't feel it was necessary. Other users may disagree. Either way, black levels are very good.

Remember that there are five levels of uniformity compensation, so you can tweak around to find a happy medium between contrast and screen uniformity. We’re perfectly content to leave it off and enjoy above-average contrast performance.

ANSI Contrast Ratio

Another important measure of contrast is ANSI. To perform this test, a checkerboard pattern of sixteen zero and 100-percent squares is measured. The test is somewhat more real-world than on/off measurements because it gauges a display’s ability to simultaneously maintain both low black and full white levels, and factors in screen uniformity. The average of the eight full-white measurements is divided by the average of the eight full-black measurements to arrive at the ANSI result.

Both outcomes are among the best ANSI measurements we’ve recorded. The difference between uniformity compensation settings is only about 14 percent. The PA272W is an extremely well-engineered monitor built to a high quality-control standard. While its price tag may be high, you won’t find this level of precision in a less expensive display.

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