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BenQ SW271 27-Inch Monitor Review: Nearly Perfect

Editor's Choice

Brightness & Contrast

To read about our monitor tests in-depth, please check out Display Testing Explained: How We Test Monitors and TVs. We cover brightness and contrast testingis on page two. 

Uncalibrated – Maximum Backlight Level

We haven’t reviewed many professional screens that include both HDR and DCI-P3 color, so our comparison group has a few general use products. The pro category includes Dell’s UP2718Q and NEC’s PA243W. The enthusiast genre brings us BenQ’s EW3270U, Acer’s PE320QK and LG’s 27UK850.

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The SW271 meets its claimed output level with a score of 347 nits in SDR mode. Coupled with a middling black level of .3268, that gives it just over 1000:1 contrast. That is typical performance for a good IPS panel and only a VA (vertical alignment) screen will deliver more dynamic range. With increasingly more material being mastered in HDR, VA is clearly the future of the professional category.

Uncalibrated – Minimum Backlight Level

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The SW271’s backlight drops to 33 nits at its minimum setting. Even with the light hood in place and the room completely dark, that’s not bright enough for us. To get it to a more usable 50 nits, we raised the brightness slider to 7. Black levels stayed in the middle of the pack, making for a consistent 1,057.5:1 contrast ratio. Regardless of the output setting, this monitor delivered the same image depth and color saturation. Precise control made it easy to achieve an exact white level.

After Calibration to 200 nits

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Calibrating to 200 nits brightness took away a bit of contrast, thanks to RGB sliders that start at their maximums. Since we can only lower the setting, the value dropped by eight percent. This isn’t ideal, but it was typical among our comparison group, barring the Acer monitor, which gained a little more contrast than before.

HDR Brightness & Contrast

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We got a tiny bit more output with an HDR10 signal, but the difference is negligible. This test highlights the differing approaches monitor vendors take when it comes to HDR brightness. Some, like Dell and LG, overdrive their backlights and use a dynamic contrast algorithm to increase HDR contrast.

Dell’s UP2718Q is still the king here with its 384-zone full-array backlight. That allows it to hit the magic 1,000-nit level in a smaller portion of the screen by simply allocating extra voltage to specific LEDs. The rest of the comparison group uses edge lighting, which only offers minimal gains in HDR mode. The SW271 makes no attempt at dynamic contrast, so its numbers here are the same as those recorded in SDR mode. Ultimately, HDR images looked a little better than their SDR counterparts, but that’s more due to accurate color and tone mapping than native contrast.

ANSI Contrast Ratio

Though intra-image contrast isn’t significantly lower, the SW271’s ANSI result is a bit disappointing. While its contrast is typical for an IPS display, the monitor still can’t compete with VA monitors here. We imagine video production systems will primarily use the SW271 for color-grading, with HDR editing falling to a full-array backlit panel, like the UP2718Q or an OLED reference monitor.

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Christian Eberle
Christian Eberle is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He's a veteran reviewer of A/V equipment, specializing in monitors.