It’s a fact that if one buys a computer monitor today, it will almost surely come in a 16:9 aspect ratio. But one doesn’t have to set their time machine too far in the past to find an era when this wasn’t the case. Like televisions of yore, desktop displays also conformed to a 4:3 ratio. This was ideal for just about any computing task and even today would work well for web browsing, document creation or even gaming.
As consumer TVs started adopting the 16:9 format, monitor manufacturers offered the 16:10 ratio. This also presented an ideal use of desktop real estate both physical and virtual. One could get a good amount of screen area in a package that wasn’t super wide. And it lends itself well to applications that favor either vertical or horizontal space.
Now that flat panels are more a commodity, and the lines between televisions and computer monitors have been blurred, it seems that 16:9 is the only choice currently available. But there have been a few holdouts. We’ve seen from reader comments that there is a desire for such screens and many users hold onto their old 16:10 displays until the bitter end rather than giving up that extra height.
In our monitor database, we’ve only been able to secure a tiny handful of 16:10 screens for review and they are all in the 30-inch jumbo size. Back in 2013 we evaluated the DoubleSight DS-309W and it’s still available for sale today. More recently we checked out Monoprice’s 30-inch IPS panel. Today we’re testing a brand-new display from NEC – the EA305WMi.
In a teleconference with NEC reps I asked what the reasoning behind this product was. After all, it’s in such an extreme minority that its introduction came as a surprise. The answer was simply “consumer demand.” Obviously the folks at NEC have been reading the comments on Tom’s monitor reviews because plenty of you have lamented the lack of choices in this aspect ratio.
The panel part is supplied by LG and uses all-modern components. Where the DoubleSight has an old-school CCFL backlight, the EA305WMi employs a high-end GB-r-LED. That enables a wide color gamut and in this monitor’s case, one that slightly exceeds Adobe RGB. To say this panel displays vivid color is almost an understatement. Reds are especially vibrant.
Color depth is a native 10-bits achieved without the use of FRC or dithering. There is no OSD option for the smaller sRGB gamut. Even though the monitor can be calibrated with NEC’s SpectraView software, you can’t change the color points there either. If that is a requirement for you, choose the PA302W from the professional line. That display has everything you need for color-critical applications albeit at a higher price.
NEC has always impressed us with its thoughtful design, engineering and unmatched build quality. Does the EA305WMi fill a market niche while still maintaining that reputation? Let’s take a look.