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NEC PA272W 27-Inch Monitor Review: Accuracy And Flexibility

OSD Setup And Calibration Of The NEC PA272W

There are two distinct menu systems on the PA272W. The main one is similar to what we’ve seen on other NEC monitors, but it looks a little more modern. It accesses most functions and is arranged like most OSDs with multiple submenus for image controls, PIP, and ergonomic functions.

The real fun begins in the Advanced menu, which is accessed from the third submenu denoted by a little “RGB” icon. We’re going to focus on that because it has all the same tools from the main OSD plus quite a few more.

OSD Tour

Press Menu on the bezel to bring up the OSD. Click Right twice and Up once, then Select to enter the Advanced menu.

It looks a lot like a service menu to us. But with simple and logical labels, it’s just as easy to use as a graphical OSD. The picture modes number five: Adobe RGB, sRGB, DCI, High Bright, and Full. They are all fully adjustable; no parameters are locked out in any mode. The second field shows the preset’s name and a little edit icon pops up when you make changes. Clicking the up/down rocker switch changes fields and left/right adjusts the value.

Brightness is set by 1 cd/m2 increments, and the stepping proved accurate in our testing. If you set the display to 200 cd/m2, it comes within about two cd/m2 of that.

The White field is another way to adjust color temp, though it’s easier to use the RGB sliders in the main menu.

Gamma presets are extensive. In addition to the indicated sRGB, there is L Star, DICOM, Programmable, and Custom. When you choose Custom, the value can be from .5 to 4.0 in .1 steps.

Black refers to black level and the PA272 is one of the rare few computer monitors that lets you change it. Minimum works fine for PC-format signals, but if you hook up a video source component like a Blu-ray player, you may need to adjust the black threshold.

The Red, Green, and Blue fields are the color management system (CMS). You can alter the primaries using x and y values rather than the traditional hue, saturation, and luminance controls. This works very well, allowing us to achieve superb color accuracy in our tests.

Color Vision EMU is a fascinating feature. The PA272W can actually simulate the images seen by users with specific types of color blindness. The options are Protanopia, Deutanopia, Tritanopia, and Grayscale. You’d be hard pressed to find that anywhere else!

Screen 2 has the remainder of the image controls. Sharpness is best left at zero to avoid edge enhancement.

Response Improve can reduce the ghosting sometimes seen behind moving objects on the screen. It can also create a slight color fringing artifact in vertically-scrolling text.

Eco Mode caps backlight intensity. Mode 1 limits you to 200 cd/m2 and Mode 2 has a 100 cd/m2 peak.

Metamerism is something we had to look up. It refers to the difference in the perception of white by measuring instruments versus the human eye. It’s meant to correct discrepancies between the PA272W and standard (sRGB) gamut monitors when they’re used side by side. In practice, calibrating all of your screens to D65 achieves the same result with greater precision.

Ambient Light Comp will change the backlight level depending on the light in your room using the sensor on the bezel.

The CMS fields that come next repeat the functions of the main OSD. They are best left alone in favor of the x and y coordinate system on the previous menu screen.

If you choose an aspect ratio other than full-screen 16:9, this menu can position and size the image to your liking. You can also change the brightness level of the side borders.

The PA272W has two upstream USB ports that can be assigned to their own video inputs in this menu.

Video Detect changes the order in which inputs are polled when searching for an active source.

Off Timer shuts down the monitor, regardless of signal status, after a user-specified time. Power Save Timer powers off after a two-hour no-signal condition. If you want finer control of this parameter, Off Mode and Off Mode Setting give you a few more options, including dimming of the image rather than a complete power down.

The last two fields control the bezel’s power LED. I’m personally not a fan of the bright blue LEDs that come on most electronics today. Green is much easier on the eyes, and this monitor lets me reduce the intensity too.

These are fairly standard OSD controls. We moved it down to the lower-right corner to make way for our test patterns. You can view the menus in one of nine languages. The Lock Out function is pretty cool; it lets you specify which controls are blanked so users can still change things like brightness or picture mode. Or you can eliminate the OSD entirely.

The final field, Factory Preset, returns all OSD settings to their factory defaults.

The PA272W can display images from two inputs simultaneously using either picture-in-picture or picture-by-picture. This menu allows full control over each window's size and placement. You can even use the feature in portrait mode, which is something we haven’t seen before.

We saw a menu like this on NEC's V801 presentation monitor. It allows the PA272W to be part of a video wall of up to 25 screens. You’ll need to use a distribution amplifier, and only a single image can be displayed.

The PA272W wouldn’t be an NEC monitor without the company's famous carbon footprint menu, which allows you to track energy use. While individual users may see this as a novelty, large enterprises can undoubtedly benefit from that data.

The last option, Self Color Correction is designed to compensate for the “natural color shift that occurs with age.” That’s a quote from the user manual. We believe it’s better to leave such adjustment to the user and a proper set of calibration instruments.

The last screen contains the signal information and tells you which USB input is currently active. Even though firmware updates on monitors are not common, it would be nice if the version information were shown here.

NEC PA272W Calibration

The PA272W is extraordinarily easy to calibrate because every picture mode is fully adjustable. No parameters are locked out even in the High Bright or Full presets. We set up the Adobe RGB, sRGB, and DCI modes for our tests.

Out of the box, grayscale and gamma are pretty much spot-on in all three modes. But the color gamut required adjustment for blue and magenta. There are effectively two color management systems here. One is the traditional hue, saturation, and lightness (NEC calls it offset) setup, and the other lets you dial in the primaries via x and y coordinates. The HSL controls don’t work properly, mainly because saturation starts at the bottom of its range. Using the x and y options, however, rewarded us with just about perfect color. To tweak the grayscale, we used the RGB sliders in the main OSD.

Finally, there is no contrast control, which we didn’t miss at all. We never had a problem with white clipping or accuracy at the highest output levels. Brightness controls the backlight as you’d expect. There is an additional black level control, though. Leave it set to minimum for PC signals.

NEC PA272W Calibration Settings: Adobe RGB
RGBRed 122, Green 118, Blue 119
xy CoordinatesRed .642 .335, Green .187 .732, Blue .152 .030
NEC PA272W Calibration Settings: sRGB
RGBRed 121, Green 119, Blue 120
xy CoordinatesRed .639 .336, Green .292 .610, Blue .145 .027
NEC PA272W Calibration Settings: DCI
RGBRed 113, Green 127, Blue 102
xy CoordinatesRed .685 .325, Green .265 .690, Blue .152 .032
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.