BenQ SW320 Monitor Review

Benq SW320 is a promising entry in the world of Color Management IPS Displays for photo editing, video editing and graphic design applications. As soon as you open the box you realize it's a lot of real estate (31.5") and a lot of pixels (3840x2160‎ 4K UHD) to make any image editor happy. I have been using my EIZO CG223W monitor for 4 years now along with a latest edition of 27" iMac in my studio. The BenQ SW320 definitely makes the aging EIZO look like a minion and the iMac 27" also falls short in size. Though you get a brighter 5K Retina display and more pixels with Apple but personally I prefer the colors from a good calibrated display. The BenQ SW320 promises that and much more along with a few tricks up its sleeve.

OVERVIEW


BenQ SW320 is a monster of a display at 31.5 inches that offers 99% AdobeRGB color with 10bit support in a 4K Ultra High Definition (3240 x 2160) screen, also supports High Dynamic Range (HDR 10) and a 178⁰/178⁰ viewing angle. Shading hoods which are a standard with color management displays are also included in the package along with the required cables to directly work with you Apple ports or HDMI ports in Windows systems. There are built-in USB3 ports (x2) and SD card reader in the monitor.

SETUP

BenQ SW320 is easy to setup and took me just 15 mins to get it out of the box and ready to use, connected to a MacBook Pro 15. The monitor base is sturdy and heavy to hold up the display with the monitor stand. You can move the display UP or DOWN to adjust the height of the display and Tilt front (20⁰) or down (-5⁰) as needed to align with your viewing position. It also swivels from the base 45⁰ both ways. The monitor can be rotated 90⁰ to portrait view if you need it when working on images in portrait orientation to get the most out of the display area for a much better editing experience.

Though I noticed it was not able to go 90⁰ in portrait view by rotating it directly as the display touched the base in doing so. It required a slight tilt forward to turn, not a major inconvenience but a little longer base would have helped. I did not use the shading hood for my review sample but if your work desk has an overhead light or side lamp its a good thing to setup to avoid any unneeded glare caused by the bright lights. The shading hood supplied with the monitor is of very good quality and feels sturdy compared to the one in EIZO. Make sure your computer hardware is compatible to support the monitors full 4K resolution. I had no issues connecting it to my late 2011 MacBook Pro 15 laptop, the experience was thankfully as simple as plug & play.

IMPRESSIONS

In the age of constant innovation and new products launching everyday, the BenQ SW320 is an attractive package for photographers looking for a good monitor for daily image editing work with consistent color output. Editing images on the large 31.5” display is a great experience, the 4K UHD resolution shows images with good clarity and color reproduction from my 24 megapixel Fujifilm XPRO2 and 36 megapixel Nikon D810 camera images. Color rendering is smooth, images are sharp and there is no banding or posterization that I get to see on my MacBook Pro display.

The Hotkey Puck which might feel like a gimmick was fun to use, with one specific feature that I loved. There are 3 dedicated buttons to easily switch between color profiles. Just one click of a button and I could view the image I am working on in Black & White without actually making an edit to the actual image and with another click I can revert back to the working AdobeRGB profile or custom calibrated profile. I always had a b&w copy of most of my images but with this feature I save time of b&w conversion and do it only if I needed. Instead of considering it a gimmick its worth spending time to know and configure the little unit for added convenience. There is a slot to position the Hotkey Puck on the base of the display but it did not feel like a convenient place to access for me and prefer to keep it somewhere around my keyboard or wacom to switch modes quickly.

The other cool feature is GAMUT DUO where you can compare your image side-by-side from one color profile to another. Eg: Working on an image in AdobeRGB and preview it for sRGB output when converting your final edit to upload on web. A quick and convenient way to see the difference between what the output would be when the images are uploaded online on social media platforms.

The monitor comes with a ambient light sensor on top that works automatically, adjusting the brightness as per the ambient light that you are in and increases or decreases the brightness of display as and when needed. I did not see the function in play as my working environment light is consistent.

For Hardware Calibration, the list of supported calibrators are X-Rite i1 Display Pro / i1 Pro / i1 Pro 2 , Datacolor Spyder 4/5. You will need to install the Palette Master Element software which is not provided in the CD-ROM so you will have to download it from the BenQ website. Unfortunately my Spyder 3 hardware was not supported to test the Palette Master Element software but out of the box factory calibration was sufficient for my limited time usage . In general use I would calibrate my work displays every 2 weeks.

I would have preferred if the USB3.0 ports, Headphone socket and SD card reader were located on the side of the monitor instead of the back. It would make it convenient to access the ports which are meant to be used with external media that is plugged in and out frequently.

AVAILABLE PORTS

  • Micro USB (Probably only to connect HotKey Puck)
  • HDMI
  • DisplayPort
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • Headphone Socket
  • USB Upstream connection
  • USB3.0 (2 slots)
  • SD Card Reader

The old fashioned VGA and DVI ports are history.

WHATS IN THE PACKAGE

  • BenQ SW320 LCD Monitor
  • Monitor Stand
  • Monitor Base
  • Shading Hood
  • Printed Quick Start Guide
  • CD-ROM with User Manual and Drivers
  • Factory Calibration Report
  • Hotkey Puck
  • Monitor Power Cord
  • HDMI Cable
  • USB Cable
  • DisplayPort Cable
  • DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort Cable

PROS

  1. Big size, 31.5in
  2. 4k UHD Resolution 3240 x 2160
  3. 99% AdobeRGB, 100% sRGB
  4. 14-bit 3D LUT & Delta E ≦ 2
  5. Smooth color gradation, no visible banding on images
  6. USB3.0 Ports
  7. SD Card Reader
  8. Competitive price (compared to similar displays in market)
  9. Works great to take a break and enjoy movies or games

CONS

  1. Support for hardware calibrators limited
  2. Access to USB3.0 and SD card slots
  3. No DVI port
  4. Minor magenta color cast on one side (I noticed only when browsing full screen with plain white color of the browser)
  5. Availability (Limited distributors in the region)

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS (Data from BenQ website)
http://www.benq.co.ae/product/monitor/sw320/specifications/

OVERALL

Priced at around AED 6500 (approx) this monitor is not for everybody, but at this price range it's a bargain compared to other 32" monitors. Photographers, Videographers & Graphic Designers will appreciate the resolution, size and color output from the BenQ SW320. Even though there are companies coming up with 8k monitors, it would take a few more years for 4K to be the base standard so you can be sure that you will have a display to view your work or other work online in sharp detail and accurate colors for years to come. Hands down an easy investment for 5+ years till something bigger & better may come.

AVAILABILITY

Currently available for sale from BenQ headoffice in Dubai, UAE.

BenQ (M.E.) FZE

Office # 511, 5th Floor, Building # East 3 (E3)
Dubai Airport Free Zone
Al Ghusais, Dubai
Tel # +971 4 2991000
Fax # +971 4 2990808
Toll free # 800 2367 (BenQ)

Website : www.BenQ.co.ae
Email : Info.ae@benq.com