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HP Z27x Dreamcolor Professional Display Review

HP's new Z27x DreamColor supports all the important color gamuts and carries some distinctly unique features. This screen simply blows us away.

Packaging, Physical Layout And Accessories

The Z27x comes packed sturdily in a large double-corrugate carton. It’s so deep you might think two monitors are inside. The bundle covers every possible connection option. In addition to HDMI, there are two DisplayPort cables (one has a mini-plug) and USB 3.0 Standard A-to-B. An IEC power cord feeds current to the internal power supply. You also get a complete inspection report that covers dead pixels, screen uniformity, and several other quality control parameters. It’s a professional product for sure, and HP checks each one carefully before it goes out the door.

The base and upright are already assembled, so all you have to do is snap it onto the back of the panel.

Product 360

From the front, the Z27x is all business. Its anti-glare layer is of light density, so users in brightly-lit workspaces may want to consider purchasing the optional hood for critical work. Image clarity is among the best we’ve seen. Bezel buttons are located in the lower-right, and are mechanical rather than touch-sensitive. They can be lit either white or red, and feel high-end in operation. By default, they fade to black after the OSD leaves the screen.

The Z27x can be positioned easily with a full set of ergonomic adjustments. The height range is 4.75 inches and you can tilt the panel -5 to 20 degrees. Swivel covers 45 degrees in either direction and there is a portrait mode that automatically rotates the image.

The monitor isn’t terribly slim, but that’s to ensure proper ventilation of the internals (which are substantial). The USB ports are version 3.0-compliant, and there are two more on the input panel. Just behind the ports is a little pull-out card that shows the serial number and other pertinent information, saving you from look behind the panel when calling tech support.

To use the 100 mm VESA mount, simply unsnap the upright. HP includes an adapter plate that allows tool-free installation to a variety of arms and brackets. The four holes next to the upright span 40 mm and facilitate attachment of additional accessories.

The input panel is all-digital, save the analog audio output that can drive either speakers or headphones. You’ll also notice the S/PDIF digital audio output, which is something we haven’t seen outside of an HDTV. Again, video inputs include one HDMI and two DisplayPort 1.2. There's a USB 3.0 upstream port and two downstream connections as well. The USB 2.0 ports are intended for a calibration instrument. When a supported one is detected, the internal calibration routine opens automatically. Finally, you get an Ethernet jack for control and administration purposes. It works both ways, allowing you to poll the Z27x for information like screen hours or calibration status. Settings and firmware updates can be sent to connected displays as well.

Signal Handling

The Z27x has some unique capabilities when it comes to signal handling. Since it is primarily designed as a mastering monitor for broadcast content, it accepts all resolutions currently in use by the film and television industry. This includes resolutions larger than its native 2560x1440.

Most Hollywood movies are mastered first in the Digital Cinema Initiative realm, meaning a resolution of at least 2048x1080 spanning as high as 4096x2160. The Z27x can accept both of these and everything in between. And it can crop the screen to 1.85:1, 1.89:1, and 2.39:1 aspect ratios. As if that weren’t enough, it can handle 24p, 48p, and 60p frame rates (though at 4096x2160, it’s limited to 24p). And all of this can be done over HDMI if your graphics card is compatible.

The way it handles 4K resolutions is intuitive. You can choose to scale the image so all of it fits on the screen. Or, you can show a specific quadrant of the image (or its center zone). Finally, you can scroll around the image using on-screen navigation arrows. In this mode, it’s mapped pixel-for-pixel, so you’re seeing the content with no scaling or processing.

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