HP Z27x Dreamcolor Professional Display Review

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HP Z27x DreamColor Display, Accuracy And Flexibility

If you’ve made it this far, you can see that the Z27x is no ordinary computer monitor. In fact, it’s so much more that it may have just defined its own category. Before now, filmmakers either had to adapt to an inexpensive wide-gamut display or pony up five figures for a mastering monitor from Sony, Panasonic, or JVC. HP makes it much easier for VFX and post-production facilities to equip their artists with an accurate display capable of handling whatever content they need to work on.

In the world of broadcast and film production, there are many displays in use that you’d never find sold alongside monitors or HDTVs. I’m talking about mastering displays that can easily top $20,000 for a 24-inch FHD screen. CGI and post-production artists require absolute color accuracy, easy and quick calibration, and the ability to work in a variety of signal formats and aspect ratios.

Many professional-level monitors can do some of these things. But ultimately, products like ViewSonic's VP2772 or Asus' PA279Q leave out critical capabilities like DCI color support or an internal calibration engine. HP really bridges the gap by creating a monitor that has the functions and quality of a $20,000+ mastering display for only $1500.

This is the first product we’ve tested that even attempts to support the Rec.2020 color gamut, and only the second that covers DCI. Those gamuts are a must if you're going to properly color-correct a Hollywood feature film. There are plenty of screens to choose from if all you need is Adobe RGB. That’s more in the realm of photography and you don’t have to spend $1500 to get there.

The Z27x is also unique in its resolution support. It’s the first display we’ve seen that can accept a resolution greater than its native pixel count. With more and more content moving to 4K, studios need displays that can show them exactly what they’ve filmed and what the viewer will ultimately see. There are pro-level 4K displays available, but even something like Dell's UP3214Q will set you back $2500. And it won’t do everything this HP can do.

Of particular interest to us is the internal calibration engine. The ability to simply plug in a meter, answer a few questions on-screen, and walk away while the monitor calibrates itself is huge. Users working in color-critical environments can’t afford even the slightest mistake, which means re-calibration is a regular part of the workflow. Tweaking the OSD while working in an app like CalMAN achieves the result but can take a lot of time. Now you can walk away while the monitor does its thing.

At the beginning we told you that HP created the Z27x in response to requests from users at some of the top VFX houses. If you put this display on your desk, there's a good chance you'll be looking at the same monitor used by the talented artists at DreamWorks and Pixar. Color accuracy and easy calibration are very valuable features, whether you’re working on the latest Michael Bay feature or simply color-correcting product photos for a website.

The Z27x combines tremendous accuracy with a large and unique feature set that caters to professionals in all areas of computer-generated imagery. That it can achieve this for $1500 puts it in a class by itself. For that reason, we’re giving it the Tom’s Hardware Elite award.

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.

  • DoDidDont
    I have 3x Z24x, very impressed with them so far for compositing and 3d work. Would have gone with 3x Z27x but simply don’t have the desk space or room for a bigger desk. My only worry is if they have the same problem as the older ZR24w’s they replaced, in that the whites go yellowish and make greys have a tint of brown after only one or two years of use. Always had a dark grey desktop, and in 3ds max everything is set to Dark GUI, and always been careful not to leave monitors on for long periods with the same image so no idea why the older ZR24w’s go yellowish after a while. Hopefully this problem has been fixed in the new line-up. But at the Mo, highly recommend these monitors, amazing quality for the price if you are into DCC.
  • laststop311
    .29 is not a good black level really. Hopefully oleds will displace the need for these monitors soon, only a matter of time
  • somebodyspecial
    hopefully 1600p will displace 1440p soon ;) I'm tired of scrolling up/down so much on web pages. Gaming doesn't get any better wide either, and if I want that I'll use more than one monitor to get the best of both worlds (taller for the web, and wider for games if desired).
  • laststop311
    14215918 said:
    hopefully 1600p will displace 1440p soon ;) I'm tired of scrolling up/down so much on web pages. Gaming doesn't get any better wide either, and if I want that I'll use more than one monitor to get the best of both worlds (taller for the web, and wider for games if desired).

    Agree 100% I had a 24" 1920x1080 Cheapo TN monitor and then I found a Dell u3014 on craigslist and jewed the guy down to 575 for it. The bezel was a little scuffed up but the screen was flawless was a hell of a deal and man once you are used to 16:10 you cant go back to 16:9 it feels claustrophobic.

    I am not a graphics professional though. But I fear since 16:10 is more a professional monitor we will never see a gaming monitor with 120hz and g sync in 16:10. I just can't bring myself to downgrade to a 27" asus rog swift even tho i really could use the gaming features. I'm probably just going to hold onto this dell until 120hz 3840x2160 rog swift type monitor is released at 30-34 inches. I don't think there is much hope in 16:10 4k monitors, never seen one yet 3840 x 2400 i believe.
  • Draven35
    When I was at HP in Fort Collins for the new Z Workstation launch, I had an opportunity (several opportunities, really) to chat with Greg Staten, the HP DreamColor Solution Architect. He's really enthusiastic about his work and was really excited that this review was coming!
  • rajubaju
    Complaints about lack of CMS in OSD... I couldn't agree with them more. Totally unacceptable... Especially when you know; z24x provides that possibility (like every other, wide gamut, monitor on the market; nec pa272w, dell u2713h, asus pa279q, vp2772, lg 27ea83-D etc.) In the z24x manual, we can read: "the User (User Preset) adjustable color settings for customers who do not have calibration equipment". What is the difference? with z27x - price i guess - you pay more, you get less! ;) I understand that now, when I buy z27x, I must buy a colorimeter (HP ofc)... even if I do not need ideal color accuracy... and i only want adjust monitor (RGB primaries) for my preferences. Not a chance! I hope that Greg Staten read this and add User preset, like in z24x, to Z27x... About saturation, 6 color adjustment, etc. I don't even dream; It would be a miracle! ;)