NEC PA272W 27-Inch Monitor Review: Accuracy And Flexibility

We’ve reviewed a lot of professional-class monitors, NEC's PA272W may be the most accurate and capable one ever to hit the Tom's Hardware lab. At almost $1300, it’s expensive for a 27-inch QHD screen. But there are features here you won’t find elsewhere.

Regardless of what your computer is used for, it's hard to imagine a monitor with too much resolution. Sure, you might discover that your graphics card isn't fast enough to drive a 4K screen at its native 3840x2160 in your favorite shooter. But once you step up from FHD (1920x1080) to QHD (2560x1440) and then to UHD, it's really, really hard to go back.

We looked at a lot of QHD monitors over the past 12 months, each step of the way lamenting that prices simply refuse to budge. Full HD screens are a dime a dozen. Quad HD will still cost you $600 or more (potentially a lot more), though. For that reason, most vendors are reserving the high-res stuff for their professional monitor families.

Of course, Tom's Hardware readers know that it takes more than just high pixel density for a display to be a true professional-grade tool. Accurate color, and a high degree of flexibility and adjustability are important too. I believe that a wide-gamut option is mandatory, and many screens do indeed have this feature. Only a tiny few, however, include the ability to select multiple color gamuts, white points, and gamma curves (and then fully adjust them).

Today we're reviewing NEC's PA272W 27-inch QHD monitor. It's part of the company's Color Accurate line, aimed squarely at users needing reference-level accuracy and the functionality to work with multiple imaging standards.

Brand
NEC
Model
PA272W
MSRP
$1299
Panel Type
AH-IPS
Backlight
GB-r LED, edge array
Screen Size
27-inch
Max Resolution
2560x1440
Max Refresh Rate
60 Hz
Aspect Ratio
16:9
Native Color Depth
10-bit (8-bit w/FRC)
14-bit internal LUT
Native Gamut
Adobe RGB
Response Time (GTG)
6 ms
Brightness
340 cd/m2
Speakers
-
VGA
-
DVI
1
DisplayPort v1.2
1 mini, 1 standard
HDMI 1.4
1
Audio In
-
Headphone
-
USB
v2.0 - 2 up, 3 down
Media Card Reader
-
Panel Dimensions
W x H x D
25.2 x 15.6-21.5 x 9.3 in
640 x 396-546 x 236 mm
Panel Thickness
3.3 in / 85 mm
Bezel Width
.8 in / 20 mm
Weight
28.4 lbs / 12.9 kg
Warranty
Four years

The latest wide-gamut monitors all pretty much use a GB-r-LED backlight, rather than the more common white LED. Its spectral properties make it ideal for this application because red, green, and blue wavelengths are produced with equal intensity. Consequently, far less internal processing is required to produce a large and accurate color gamut on-screen.

Of course, when a monitor has a native Adobe RGB gamut, it should be able to produce any gamut that falls within those parameters. To that end, NEC includes a Digital Cinema preset, which is something we haven’t seen or talked about before now. The Digital Cinema Initiative is a set of parameters that specify not only color, but also resolution, light intensity, audio, and a whole host of other guidelines for digital movie presentation in commercial theaters. For our purposes, we’ll just talk about the color gamut, grayscale, and gamma specs.

The DCI color gamut lies between Rec.709/sRGB and Adobe RGB. Theoretically, a wide-gamut display should have no trouble rendering it, and the PA272W can. The color temperature spec is decidedly green in hue and intended to compensate for the spectral properties of the high-powered Xenon lamps used in commercial projectors. Finally, the gamma value is a good deal higher (2.6 instead of 2.2).

After a little research, I discovered that the only other desktop display capable of meeting DCI specs is Dolby’s PRM-4220. It’s a 42-inch reference monitor with FHD resolution and a very exotic full-array RGB-LED backlight incorporating 1500 diodes. It sells for an astounding $40,000. You might see a few of them in Hollywood post-production facilities. But most of us need something a little more down-to-earth.

Photographers looking for a color-critical display will certainly be attracted to this panel’s 10-bit native color and 14-bit internal LUT. You need a 10-bit signal path to take full advantage, but the bandwidth is there for those who need it.

Other features we’ll look at closely are the PA272W’s factory calibration, comprehensive OSD, and SpectraView software, which gives the user full control over all image parameters and interfaces with popular meters from Datacolor and X-Rite.

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  • SuckRaven
    Every time Tom's Hardware reviews monitors, I keep posting in the comments that they should review NEC and EIZO for accuracy in comparison to the usual suspects. Finally my prayers have been answered. (Not that there are not other places that have not already done a good job of including reviews of high-end monitors with color accuracy, and uniformity as the main focus), but Tom's has always been a preferred resource. Anyways, you guys should do a shootout with the top flagships from HP, Dell, NEC and and EIZO, perhaps the CG277). Nice review.
    4
  • Pikker
    I've recently purchased this monitor with calibration tools and hood for a discounted price, needless to say it looks incredible, putting to shame an older 27" IPS display that I had.
    Regarding the NEC 272 vs. Eizo 277, I think they are more same than different... the Eizo has an integrated calibrator, 16-bit LUT, bigger color space, and a bunch of other tweaks that should objectively make it a better display, but not ~$1000 better IMO. If you have that kinda money to burn, get two PA272W's instead.
    1
  • ubercake
    Good review.

    I think everyone should notice the low-cost IPS monitors offer sub-par contrast. Who cares about color accuracy if you can't see the in-betweens? Aren't the shades/hues just as important? This is something people don't realize when they pick up that $400 IPS display. Heck, contrast is better on the BenQ TN display than on the less expensive IPS displays in the review. Color without good contrast is a waste. Contrast is what you compromise at the lower end of the IPS monitor scale.

    You have to spend money to get a quality IPS monitor. It's good to see that you can get this kind of performance at a lower price point now.

    This NEC monitor is definitely impressive. It has great color accuracy AND contrast. Great for photography and graphic arts/design applications. This is a pro monitor and why you spend money on an IPS monitor.
    0
  • RedJaron
    I have a dream that one day I will own such a display.
    0
  • ceberle
    Anonymous said:
    Every time Tom's Hardware reviews monitors, I keep posting in the comments that they should review NEC and EIZO for accuracy in comparison to the usual suspects. Finally my prayers have been answered. (Not that there are not other places that have not already done a good job of including reviews of high-end monitors with color accuracy, and uniformity as the main focus), but Tom's has always been a preferred resource. Anyways, you guys should do a shootout with the top flagships from HP, Dell, NEC and and EIZO, perhaps the CG277). Nice review.


    Look for a review of the HP Z27x in a few weeks. It's in our lab now.

    -Christian-
    0
  • PapaCrazy
    Bought one of these and ended up with a display that had several dead pixels and a couple hot pixels. Exchanged it, got a display with even more deal pixels, I stopped counting in the teens. For $1400, seems offensive. Dell was offering a zero dead pixel guarantee for half the price with the u2711. Calibrated, it seems to do quite well in color accuracy, I never get complaints after file deliveries, but the Dell is made like a piece of shit. Has a major heating problem which effects the top (where the heat collects) of the display's color output after intensive usage. I'm sick of this over-inflated display market. They are either under-engineered or overpriced.
    0
  • Pikker
    Quote:
    Bought one of these and ended up with a display that had several dead pixels and a couple hot pixels. Exchanged it, got a display with even more deal pixels, I stopped counting in the teens. For $1400, seems offensive.


    That's some bad luck... I got mine from B&H and the display was perfect out of the box. Otherwise, the thing is built like a tank with an all-metal frame under the plastic outer shell, and it doesn't flex no matter what, if anything, I'd say it's over-engineered.
    0
  • PapaCrazy
    Anonymous said:
    Quote:
    Bought one of these and ended up with a display that had several dead pixels and a couple hot pixels. Exchanged it, got a display with even more deal pixels, I stopped counting in the teens. For $1400, seems offensive.


    That's some bad luck... I got mine from B&H and the display was perfect out of the box. Otherwise, the thing is built like a tank with an all-metal frame under the plastic outer shell, and it doesn't flex no matter what, if anything, I'd say it's over-engineered.


    Got mine from B&H too. NEC released an upgraded model w/ improved colorimeter shortly after my purchase. It could very well have been an accumulation of old stock, the backwash of sorts, that I drank from. When studying up, I found the only way to get a guarantee of zero dead pixels on NEC displays, you need to pony up for the ultra-expensive medical grade displays. It is well made though, I thought the portrait mode was a great feature and the stand was far more solid than the Dell's. Ran cooler as well. (thermally I mean)
    0