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Planar 27" QHD Monitor Review: Clarity Like We've Never Seen

Planar 27" QHD Monitor Review: Clarity Like We've Never Seen
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Planar sent over its newest QHD screen, the 27" PXL2790MW. This is the sharpest display we’ve ever seen, and one of the most accurate. With high-end styling and a 2560x1440 native resolution, it introduces a sense of luxury to the business class.

When we review business-class monitors at Tom’s Hardware, it's understood that they're probably not an enthusiast's first choice for a high-performance rig. But the reality is that monitors branded as gaming products aren't much different than less heavily marketed models. In fact, we really only see high refresh rates as the differentiator creating a specific enthusiast focus. All other performance factors start on the same plane, regardless of whether a monitor is aimed at business users or entertainment seekers.

To that end, we always try to look for aspects of performance that appeal to our audience of enthusiasts. And the tests we perform are all centered on one thing: image quality. We’ve established that the best-looking displays will have a wide dynamic range, accurate color, correct grayscale, and a flat-tracking gamma of 2.2. We also look at response time and input lag, as well as screen uniformity and viewing angles. But there’s one component we haven’t addressed before now, and that's clarity. The main reason, of course, is that we didn't have a scientific and repeatable way to measure it. Clarity is largely a matter of opinion, and that is something we try to avoid when we make our recommendations.

That changed when we received Planar’s PXL2790MW. Often times, we run our benchmark suite before viewing actual content. The test patterns we use lack too much detail to adequately differentiate the clarity of various displays. When we received this display, however, we were so taken by its styling that we put it on a desktop right away and were immediately struck by its razor-sharp image.

You've seen Tom's Hardware review a good number of QHD screens this year, and you already know that it's our new standard for desktop displays. The extra screen real estate afforded by a pixel density of nearly 109 ppi makes most tasks much easier. But we've also noted that most monitors need some form of scaling to make text easier to read. Windows 7 does a very poor job of this. Even though fonts are enlarged, character edges get so distorted that the experience is akin to looking through smudged spectacles. Finally, we resorted to using the scaling built into most applications, which almost always offers better performance. With the new PXL2790MW, we quickly discovered there was no need for scaling in any program. The image is so clear that even the smallest text is fully legible.

We had an educational conversation with one of Planar’s product managers about the PXL2790MW. He spoke to us about the company's research, which of course indicated that most computer users want a high level of luxury and quality in a display. Once someone works with a large, high-pixel density monitor, they don’t want to go back to a lower-res 21-inch screen. We've been saying that for years!

While QHD screens are becoming more common, their prices still tend to hover above $600, with gray-market Korean monitors being the exception. We tested Auria's EQ276W and found it to be a decent-performing display. But if you want high-end build quality and reliable factory support, you have to look at more mainstream brands.

Brand
Planar
Model
PXL2790MW
MSRP
$700
Panel Type
AH-IPS
Backlight
W-LED
Screen Size
27"
Max Resolution
2560x1440
Max Refresh Rate
60 Hz
Aspect Ratio
16:9
Response Time (GTG)
6.5 ms
Brightness
440 cd/m2
Speakers
2 x 2 W
VGA
1
DVI
1
DisplayPort
1
HDMI
1
Headphone
1
USB
-
Dimensions w/base
W x H x D
25.6 x 18.7 x 7.9 in
650 x 475 x 201 mm
Panel Thickness
1.7 in / 45 mm
Warranty
Three years

Planar’s New Technology

How does Planar achieve such a sharp image? There’s nothing in the company's specs able to answer this, except maybe the high brightness. But that’s not it. The company did something unique with this new screen called layer-bonding; and it’s something we’ve never seen before.

Although Planar is using an LG AH-IPS panel in the PXL2790MW, the way it’s integrated with the front protective layer is unique. In most displays, there is a small air gap between this layer and the LCD panel. Planar is bonding them together, eliminating the gap. The result is significantly greater clarity. And this isn't a gimmick; we noticed it as soon as we turned the monitor on. Not only is it exceptionally bright, but the sharpness of even the tiniest text is greater than displays with a typical anti-glare screen coating.

Display 33 Comments.
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  • 6 Hide
    Llorelie , November 25, 2013 9:31 PM
    no award?
  • -1 Hide
    stoogie , November 25, 2013 10:07 PM
    16.2ms SMTT reviewed catleap or crossovers from greensum/korea LG S-IPS have been out for well over 2 years now at a $300 or less starting price. Get with the times toms.
  • -2 Hide
    Bondfc11 , November 25, 2013 11:25 PM
    I agree with stoogie - also Toms needs to get an Overlord tempest and take a look at a real gaming 1440 panel that can do up to 120hz refresh rates. This screen isn't that special and the housing has been around in other variants for a year now as well.
  • 2 Hide
    tpi2007 , November 25, 2013 11:27 PM
    445 cd/m2 of luminance as maximum and 174.7655 cd/m2 as minimum ? Why do monitor manufacturers insist on delivering brighter and brighter monitors ? People don't use them like they are on display in a very well lit showroom, if you want to use one of these at home with just an indirect light source on the wall for some gaming at night, you're out of luck, this doesn't even reach the industry standard of 120 cd/m2 as adequate regular brightness, let alone the 50 cd/m2 that Tom's and many others consider an acceptable minimum to have in a darker room.

  • 5 Hide
    s3anister , November 26, 2013 12:08 AM
    Quote:
    no award?


    What do you seriously think that another 27" 2560x1440 60Hz monitor that is already in class with a dozen other models identical to it, deserves an award?
  • 1 Hide
    vaughn2k , November 26, 2013 12:42 AM
    How about a "First in Class" Award? There should be something... ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    DarkSable , November 26, 2013 12:56 AM
    Looks exactly like the "new" QHD Iiyama. Doesn't perform well. Costs a lot. What's the advantage, again?

    As for those overlord monitors, I wasn't impressed by them, mostly because I had it sitting next to a lightboost 2 120hz TN panel. Yes, the overclocked IPS panel has better colour (though that's largely negated by using it on minimal brightness in a dark room, like we've already been talking about), and it's certainly pretty and gives a lot of screen real estate... but it can't compare to a real 120Hz monitor, especially not one with a strobing backlight.
  • 1 Hide
    WyomingKnott , November 26, 2013 6:11 AM
    "With the new PXL2790MW, we quickly discovered there was no need for scaling in any program. The image is so clear that even the smallest text is fully legible." Technically admirable, but not enough for people like me with middle-aged eyes. The more pixels per inch, the happier my eyes are, but they still want decent-sized fonts.

    Now this sort of monitor clarity plus an OS that supports decent enlarged fonts would be really nice. Apps that scale well over a range of sizes would be even nicer. A 1000 pixel wide frame may be good for some people no matter how small it is; others of us would like at least a certain number of inches. Support all of us.

    (Yes, I know that this isn't the monitor's fault. It's a poor convention in many parts of the software industry.)
  • -1 Hide
    warezme , November 26, 2013 6:23 AM
    I have never had a major problem with text clarity with pretty much any LCD since the first thing I make sure to do is set the panel or monitor to native resolution hardware scaling and turn off all windows text or font smoothing and windows set to the same monitor native resolution. I haven't seen one of these 2560 screens in person but I have experienced the default font issue that happens when you try and let windows smooth or scale. I don't like monitors with radiused corners because that makes the bezels even thicker then they need to be. I also don't like the way most monitor manufacturer try to hide the input plugs by making them inset and pointing down. It is a pain to try to plug or unplug anything when you can't see the plug without laying the monitor on its side. Also it makes no use to label the inputs if they are inset dark on dark. Make the text white.
  • -2 Hide
    Yuka , November 26, 2013 8:32 AM
    This deserves a "meh" award at most.

    QHD is not ready for gaming prime time yet, sorry folks.

    Cheers!
  • 0 Hide
    Bondfc11 , November 26, 2013 9:47 AM
    Quote:
    Looks exactly like the "new" QHD Iiyama. Doesn't perform well. Costs a lot. What's the advantage, again?

    As for those overlord monitors, I wasn't impressed by them, mostly because I had it sitting next to a lightboost 2 120hz TN panel. Yes, the overclocked IPS panel has better colour (though that's largely negated by using it on minimal brightness in a dark room, like we've already been talking about), and it's certainly pretty and gives a lot of screen real estate... but it can't compare to a real 120Hz monitor, especially not one with a strobing backlight.


    When you say a real 120Hz - I don't get that. I have both 248s and Tempests and I prefer the Tempest all day every day. Monitors are clearly very subjective. Some people complain about strobing, PWm, etc. but it doesn't affect me at all. I prefer an IPS panel over a TN panel. The Tempest is a real 120hz monitor once OC'd so your comment makes little sense to me. Gaming on an IPS 1440 is much preferred and the added Hz makes the overlord the best gaming display for me.
  • 0 Hide
    toddybody , November 26, 2013 10:09 AM
    How is this different from how Apple is affixing the glass and LCD of their new iMac Panels?
  • 0 Hide
    kiniku , November 26, 2013 11:20 AM
    Got my new LG 27EA83R-D colorprime factory calibrated QHD, for $550.00. Gaming, surfing, really everything at QHD is amazing and if you sit in front of your monitor like I do you won't go back to 1080P at 27". It's a pixelated joke.
  • 3 Hide
    kiniku , November 26, 2013 11:25 AM
    And this notion that 120hz is some profound requirement and experience for gaming is a joke. Just like the hype you get from Best Buy, there is no predominant, visible difference between 60 and 120Hz that you don't have to work hard to notice any difference. I bought and sold a state of the art Asus 120Hz TN 27" "gaming" panel. Don;t buy into the 120Hz hype. It's way overrated hyperbole. You will notice a profound difference with a 60Hz QHD screen with EVERYTHING you do with it. You'll love it every single day!
  • -1 Hide
    toddybody , November 26, 2013 12:08 PM
    Quote:
    This deserves a "meh" award at most.

    QHD is not ready for gaming prime time yet, sorry folks.

    Cheers!


    Herpa Durp? QHD has been ready for "gaming prime time" for years now. Fortunately, panels are coming down in price and adoption is increasing as a result.

    Your argument would be totally valid for 4K displays right now...excessively expensive, complicated input requirements, killer HW requirements. Very much a niche market.

    1440p is **like** totally the new 1080p. Psshhya
  • 0 Hide
    DarkSable , November 26, 2013 12:32 PM
    Quote:
    When you say a real 120Hz - I don't get that. I have both 248s and Tempests and I prefer the Tempest all day every day. Monitors are clearly very subjective. Some people complain about strobing, PWm, etc. but it doesn't affect me at all. I prefer an IPS panel over a TN panel. The Tempest is a real 120hz monitor once OC'd so your comment makes little sense to me. Gaming on an IPS 1440 is much preferred and the added Hz makes the overlord the best gaming display for me.


    It's not a real 120hz display i.e. designed for it. It has significantly more latency, and serious issues with motion blur... where a monitor designed for high refresh rates has virtually no input lag, and (if using lightboost technology set up to strobe), zero motion blur. An overclocked ips panel is still better than a non-overclocked ips panel, but I'll take a TN panel any day. The very high end TN panels look nearly as good as lower-end IPS panels, yet perform way better... and IPS panels don't handle being set to low brightness very well. I agree that IPS is superior for certain things; most notably tasks that require color accuracy. But for a gaming setup, I disagree. (Though a 1440p monitor, you're right, is a wonderful thing.)

    Quote:
    And this notion that 120hz is some profound requirement and experience for gaming is a joke. Just like the hype you get from Best Buy, there is no predominant, visible difference between 60 and 120Hz that you don't have to work hard to notice any difference. I bought and sold a state of the art Asus 120Hz TN 27" "gaming" panel. Don;t buy into the 120Hz hype. It's way overrated hyperbole. You will notice a profound difference with a 60Hz QHD screen with EVERYTHING you do with it. You'll love it every single day!

    That... is absolutely not true. Have you set your monitor up with lightboost, if you aren't using it? Have you gone into windows and your video drivers and told them to run the monitor at 120hz? Most of the time, when people say they can't see the difference between 120hz and 60hz, it's because they didn't set it up and never actually saw 120hz.

    If you have it set up right, there is a VERY noticeable difference between 120hz and 60hz. Yes, 1440p is nice too, but you can't just say that one is worthless and the other isn't; I personally bought and returned a VERY nice iiyama recently, because even though it was basically the best on the market, there were notable issues with it while gaming - if there were a 1440p TN panel that didn't have all the issues that IPS panels have (yes, I know TN panels have issues of their own, but those are unimportant for gaming), then I would buy it on day one, and use it for MMOs and, say, racing games, for which a 120Hz monitor isn't as helpful, but which you still want a decent response and minimal ghosting.
  • 0 Hide
    chumly , November 26, 2013 2:17 PM
    I would recommend for gamers to ignore this monitor and to buy a monitor with no on screen display and direct link DVI. This will get rid of all your latency woes for playing first person shooters. Not to mention these other monitors are available for a fraction of the price (screw aesthetics, I want performance). Clarity is a subjective issue, like they stated. I've NEVER had problems with small text on Windows 7 @ 1440p and I'm using a $200 Korean IPS panel (which you can order ones similar on newegg for $300 now)

    For me, this is just another overpriced piece of equipment. Next.
  • 0 Hide
    Yuka , November 26, 2013 3:34 PM
    Quote:
    Herpa Durp? QHD has been ready for "gaming prime time" for years now. Fortunately, panels are coming down in price and adoption is increasing as a result.

    Your argument would be totally valid for 4K displays right now...excessively expensive, complicated input requirements, killer HW requirements. Very much a niche market.

    1440p is **like** totally the new 1080p. Psshhya


    Well, I know there have been QHD monitors for quite some time, but they're still expensive as hell and don't offer a better "gaming experience" IMO to justify them over FHD@120/144Hz. Until QHD comes in 120/144 Hz, they won't be on my "must have" list at all. Specially with the crappy as hell colors.

    Cheers!
  • 1 Hide
    f-14 , November 26, 2013 5:21 PM
    60hz refresh rate with 6.5ms response, i'll pass
  • 0 Hide
    SirTrollsALot , November 26, 2013 6:41 PM
    I got 15 minutes before work is over and I got nothing better to do but comment on something so boring that I forgot what I was going to say. So...

    Happy Thanks Giving!
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