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NEC EA294WMi 29" Monitor Review: 21:9 At Twice The Price

OSD Setup And Calibrating NEC's EA294WMi

This monitor has one of the most extensive menu systems we’ve ever seen. There are many unique and interesting options. In addition to the usual suspects, there are quite a few ways to manage energy usage. And there’s even a meter to tell you how you’re doing. So, let’s start at the top.

Touching the menu control brings up the first screen. Brightness and Contrast work as expected, but you need to pay attention to the Eco Mode control. Setting one of its two options means limiting the monitor’s light output. The first dials brightness back to 60 percent, and the second to 30 percent. The energy savings is displayed under the brightness slider. Auto Brightness uses the front-mounted sensors to adjust light output based on measured ambient room lighting, and it’s fairly aggressive. In our testing, this option dropped the brightness from 200 to 51 cd/m2 when we turned off an overhead 65 W light. Make sure you disable Auto Brightness and Eco Mode before calibrating.

Black Level does exactly what it says: changes the black level. The Brightness control actually modulates the backlight. The default setting is 50 and we recommend leaving it alone. Moving it more than two clicks lower crushes detail, while raising it turns black into grays. The Off Mode and Human Sensing options are unique, from what I've seen. Using those settings, you can tell the EA294WMi to dim itself when you are no longer sitting in front of it, or when you turn off the room lights. There are options for timing and sensitivity, so you can tailor this function to your preferences.

DV (Dynamic Visual) Mode refers to the six picture modes.

Standard is the default; it unlocks all of the other menu controls, and it's what we used for our testing. If you don’t plan to calibrate, this is the most accurate mode in the monitor’s stock configuration.

This is the Screen menu.

There are several scaling and positioning options. In most situations, you don't need to adjust anything. The Video Level control sets the level range at either Normal or Expand for video. Since a computer outputs the full signal range, you should leave this Normal. If you hook up a Blu-ray player, you might want to set it to Expand. Or, it might be easier to set your player to output PC levels. The important thing is to set this option to match your source device.

Overscan increases image size proportionally by removing either 5 or 25 percent of the picture’s edge. Expansion is an aspect control. By default, the monitor stretches a 1920-pixel image to fit its 2560-pixel native resolution. Changing the option to Aspect or Off eliminates that stretch. You’ll want to use this when you hook up a Blu-ray player or other video source. If you want to tweak the image size, use the H and V Resolution sliders. These also come into play when you use the picture-by-picture mode. Then you can size each portion of the screen independently.

There’s a lot more to the NEC’s color temp menu than we’ve seen on most screens.

The EA294WMi provides eight memories, four of which can be adjusted with the front-panel controls, one that requires the NaviSet desktop software, and three preset modes. Slots 1, 2, 3, and 5 are adjustable and start at different color temp points. Number two is the closest to D65. sRGB is fixed and measures a little warm in our testing. N (Native) is too green for us to recommend. P (Programmable) is the one to choose for use with NaviSet, and D stands for DICOM Simulation, which is used in medical applications.

Next up are some of the EA294WMi's ergonomic features.

Volume controls both the speakers and the headphone output. Touching the PBP/Reset key on the front panel mutes the audio. Sound Input can split the signals from two sources so the left speaker plays the audio from the left screen image and the right speaker plays the right screen image. This would definitely benefit gamers using a split-screen function to play head-to-head.

Speaking of PBP Mode, there are some cool options available. Once you enable it, you can adjust each side of the screen independently. This way, if your two sources output different resolutions, you can size the two images to fill their halves of the screen. Response Improve reduces motion blur and should always be turned on. Off Timer powers down the monitor after a preset interval. LED Brightness controls the front panel power indicator. DDC/CI should be left on to allow your computer to control the EA294WMi, and USB Power lets you leave the ports active, even when the monitor is in power saver mode. Factory Preset returns all settings to their defaults.

This is the Menu Tools screen. Besides the nine available languages, you can lock out the OSD to prevent adjustment. To re-enable it, press Select and Left simultaneously. Hot Key turns on PBP, Brightness, and Volume hot keys on the front panel, saving you a trip into the OSD. Signal Information, Sensor Information, and Key Guide toggle various info pop-ups. Data Copy copies settings to other monitors connected via the ControlSync feature. And Customize Settings stores your user-configured settings so you can restore them after an accidental reset.

The penultimate menu is something we’ve never seen before: an energy cost calculator.

After entering in your cost per kilowatt-hour and the corresponding carbon usage, the EA294WMi will calculate your savings in real time. What truly green computer user could do without this?

And finally, we have a signal info window.

The only item missing is a firmware version.

To calibrate the EA294WMi, we recommend the Standard mode and color temp memory position two as the best starting point. If you don’t calibrate, this is the most accurate configuration. Turn off Eco mode if you want to use the Brightness control's full range. Also, make sure to turn off the ambient light sensor with the Auto Brightness option. Considering the vast size of the OSD, we are surprised that there's no gamma control. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem. You'll see what I mean on page six.

One note on the Contrast control: we usually set this as high as we can without clipping detail. On this NEC monitor, that means a maximum of 52. However, this negatively impacts grayscale performance by making 100-percent white too blue, while the 0-90 percent levels are correct. The fix is to lower the setting to 45, which reduces the error substantially. To compensate for the light loss, turn Brightness up to 77.

NEC EA294WMi Calibration Settings
DV ModeStandard
Color Temp2
RGBRed 88 / Green 86.5 / Blue 97.4