BenQ EW3280U Review: 4K HDR With Superb Color and USB-C

4K and extended color in a 32-inch IPS screen with Adaptive-Sync.

BenQ EW3280U
(Image: © Shutterstock)

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 As an edge-lit IPS monitor, the EW3280U is limited in its ability to produce a truly wide dynamic range. Though it uses its three HDR modes effectively, it isn’t as dramatic as what you’d see from a FALD display. But in this price range, it acquits itself well.

HDR Brightness and Contrast

All the monitors have a DisplayHDR 400 certification, and the EW3280U exceeds that level comfortably. We used the monitor’s Display HDR mode for this and all our HDR tests as it is the most color-accurate of the three HDR modes offered (the other two use BenQ’s HDRi feature). You can use it for SDR material, but that might result in some detail clipping. Try it on a case-by-case basis to see which you prefer.

With the backlight driven to its maximum, black levels suffered significantly. The EW3280U finished last in the HDR black level test among the comparison group. The VA panels had an advantage, but the IPS-based Razer Raptor did well with an effective dynamic contrast feature that engages in its HDR mode. The resulting contrast for the BenQ is the same in both SDR and HDR modes. Though there is some visual impact when viewing HDR compared to SDR, it isn’t as dramatic as with the other screens in this group. 

Grayscale, EOTF and Color

The EW3280U’s HDR color accuracy is among the best we’ve recorded. The grayscale chart shows no visible errors in Display HDR mode. The two HDRi presets are less accurate.

The luminance curve is close to standard with a respectable transition to tone-mapping at 65% brightness. That means below 65%, luminance is determined by the content and above 65, it’s determined by the monitor. A higher clip point is preferable. Though the EW3280U doesn’t have great contrast, it does a decent job with HDR when compared with other edge-lit HDR IPS displays.

DCI-P3 color in Display HDR mode measured well with only slight oversaturation in some of the blue and red points. Only 80% red is significantly off, coming closer to 90%. This will be visible in specific content dominated by that particular shade. But in general, since the overall coverage is so large, the EW3280U will look vivid and bright with color that simply isn’t possible on an sRGB monitor.

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Christian Eberle
Contributing Editor

Christian Eberle is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He's a veteran reviewer of A/V equipment, specializing in monitors. Christian began his obsession with tech when he built his first PC in 1991, a 286 running DOS 3.0 at a blazing 12MHz. In 2006, he undertook training from the Imaging Science Foundation in video calibration and testing and thus started a passion for precise imaging that persists to this day. He is also a professional musician with a degree from the New England Conservatory as a classical bassoonist which he used to good effect as a performer with the West Point Army Band from 1987 to 2013. He enjoys watching movies and listening to high-end audio in his custom-built home theater and can be seen riding trails near his home on a race-ready ICE VTX recumbent trike. Christian enjoys the endless summer in Florida where he lives with his wife and Chihuahua and plays with orchestras around the state.

  • daglesj
    Be nice to know how well these work with Fire TV and Apple TV boxes plugged into them.
  • Moyersteven
    daglesj said:
    Be nice to know how well these work with Fire TV and Apple TV boxes plugged into them.
    I just got this monitor yesterday and I must say is looks AMAZING! You can plug in your Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku or Chromecast into it and it works. The colors are great and the display is super bright. Just trying to figure out why is keeps dimming and brightening on its own. Otherwise its Awesome!!!
  • Johnny_reader
    I have the BenQ EW3270U, which is the VA version of this monitor. Concerning their eye protection feature:
    The newer IPS EW3280U has both "Reading mode" and "ePaper mode" (see link here).
    The older VA EW3270U only has "Reading mode".I might be wrong but it seems to me that "ePaper mode" is just a grayscale version of "Reading mode". Can EW3270U achieve something similar to "ePaper mode" by using "Reading mode" and making my MacOS grayscale (which is an option in Accessibility settings)?