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December 2014
Issue: December 1, 2010

Review: NEC's MultiSync PA271W

By: Dariush Derakhshani

PRODUCT: NEC 27-inch PA271W

WEBSITE: www.necdisplay.com/products 

PRICE: $1,399, and ships with a four-year parts and labor warranty, including the backlight.

- 27-inch, 2560x1440 display

- customizable color profiles

- evenly-lit screen

Second only to staring at the walls in my office, I stare at a screen all day, every day. Having been able to review monitors and graphics systems for quite a few years now, I’ve grown accustomed to some pretty nice hardware. In this competitive field of displays, I look for the special features that distinguishes one screen from another. 

Just over three years ago I reviewed an NEC panel, the 2470, a higher-end consumer model that competed directly with Apple’s 24-inch cinema display and Dell’s line of 24-inch screens. To this day I recall how vivid and rich the colors looked on that screen in comparison, coming in line with the color on the pristine Apple display, despite its appreciably lower cost. What I found while reviewing the new NEC PA271W was pleasantly surprising: just about everything on this professional display screen made me happy.

THE DETAILS

On paper, the 27-inch 2560x1440 display rivals the screen space of 30-inch panels. However, the PA271W sports 30-bits of color, a.k.a. 10-bits per color and one of the most evenly lit screens I’ve had the chance to work on. It’s the other stuff on the inside of the monitor that sets it apart even further from the competition. This display is attuned to color and nothing but color. With built-in internal color profiles from the typical sRGB to AdobeRGB and HD REC709, you have a lot of display options to suit the task at hand. You can customize your own color profile and save it to the screen’s internal memory. Switching between profiles took less than two seconds using NEC’s MultiProfiler application that lets you edit a variety of settings for the screen. What’s more — and this is great — you can output the color settings for use on another NEC PA271W screen in a completely different location. Suffice it to say, the color options and settings are incredibly impressive. The color amenities keep going.

The NEC folks let me know that the display has its own way of calibrating itself, so that you are at the color profile and temperature you need each and every time you power up. When I trundle on into the office in the morning and wake my system, I see the NEC screen go right to my sRGB color profile in two seconds — even before the desktop is ready for me to begin my ritual morning Woot check. I’ve also been told that the monitor can sense if its color temperature is shifting over time and compensate for it. Sounds rad! It would be great to jump two years into the future to see how that lives up to the claim. But with the level of care that went into the color and brightness controls on this screen, I wouldn’t doubt that claim at all. Heck, you even have an option of changing the blue LED power light to green as well as its intensity from off to full bright. Talk about granular control for the persnicketiest of situations.

And although I had a devil of a time getting 10-bit display working in Windows XP64 through my Nvidia QuadroFX3800, I could see that the color accuracy on this screen is even and superb, with a better than average black level display. I wish I had an HP DreamColor to compare it to side by side. Santa, are you reading? I can tell you that the street price of the 27-inch NEC panel at the time of this writing is around $1,400, while the price for a 24-inch DreamColor is close to $2,000. They both offer 10-bit color support and mad attention to color issues, but there is such a size and price difference — I’d be curious to see what the HP brings to the table to demand such a premium over this seriously compelling NEC screen. On the cheaper side of the NEC, Dell’s U2711, at around $1,000, is also a contender, though it lacks many of the professional level color controls of the NEC.

With a DisplayPort and two DVI inputs, the NEC panel gives you enough options for multiple systems at your desk, but lacks HDMI inputs for HD video feed. With picture-in-picture you can spy on either of the two DVI inputs. Best yet, the screen has a built-in two-way USB KVM switch. That means I didn’t have to rely on a separate switch; I could merely switch monitor inputs and my USB keyboard and mouse inputs got fed from the appropriate system. In these days, when it’s likely to have more than one machine for different tasks, this can cut down on the overall annoyance factor as well as more cable/desk clutter.

It is a pretty large monitor, obviously at 27-inches it has to be, but on the desk, the screen was amply maneuverable on its stand, with a wide range of adjustment options for comfort. I personally liked that I could tilt back the monitor a good 30 degrees, as I prefer my screens low to the desk and angled up. The side-to-side viewing angle was quite good, the same if not better than most of today’s high end LCD screens, coming in close to 170-180 degrees. So all the artists who come into my office to bother me all day could get a good look at whatever eBay auction I was surfing at the time.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The last few months of my time with the NEC PA271W were quite nice. I very much enjoyed the color controls and clean accurate colors of this professional screen. 

You can’t go wrong with this panel for any studio use, from photography to CG to compositing. It gives you a huge desktop at a stunning resolution and rock solid colors to work with.