A Photographer’s Display

Review by Steve Baczewski

I review displays from the perspective of a photographer, taking into consideration a variety of parameters, including expense, ergonomics, build, etc; but, if there were a hierarchy of the most important features, color accuracy would be at the top. Does the screen act as a reliable predictor of what my prints will look like? How wide is the color gamut and color space? Is the screen uniformly lit from edge to edge, top to bottom? Further down the hierarchy, but still important, are things such as the angle of view and screen movement. 

BenQ includes a hood with the SW line and, while not essential, it acknowledges BenQ’s attention to detail to create the best possible viewing conditions. A comprehensive, logically organized On Screen Manager (OSM) makes life easier with practical features that increase the screen’s versatility and facilitates calibration. The OSM is comprehensive with wonderful features such as Gamut Duo, which allows you to view two different color spaces simultaneously. I’m sure discerning readers will have their own priorities, such as connectivity, but in my opinion, BenQ checks all the boxes with the high-end SW271C

The SW271C is a 10-bit, 27″, matte coated, 4K (3840×2160) display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. It has a Delta E value of <2, and it’s 163 ppi. It uses an LED backlight with a 1000:1 contrast ratio, a brightness of 350 candelas, and its IPS panel achieves approximately 170° viewing angle, making it ideal for a collaborative work environment. The light from edge to edge is uniform with little deviation, and at 4K there’s lots of detail when you zoom in to make adjustments. 

Of significance is the use of a built-in 16-bit LUT and, when used with BenQ’s proprietary calibration software, Palette Master Element, it directly calibrates the screen and bypasses your computer’s graphics card. It achieves 99% of Adobe RGB color space, 100% sRGB, and 90% DCI-P3. Directly out of the box, the display was correctly calibrated from the factory. The practical side of a built-in LUT is that you can make and store more than one calibration profile to accommodate different situations, such as different color temperatures. The SW271C can store three profiles. 

Once calibrated, the screen-to-print match is very accurate. Further, BenQ now includes new soft-proofing software called Paper Color Sync that correlates selected printers and paper for best screen-to-print matching. 

The display is solidly designed with a new, larger base to maximize sturdiness. With an eye to detail, there’s a handle on top to facilitate moving. Assembly is easy, and all of its movements are smooth. It tilts, swivels, and rotates from landscape to portrait modes and, when set in position, it doesn’t drift. It also comes with the company’s second-generation, customizable, USB Hotkey Puck that lets you program the display accessing OSM features such as switching between color and black-and-white modes. 

Connectivity is abundant. On the back are 2 HDMI 2.0 ports, a DisplayPort, and a USB Type-C port (hence the C at the end of SW271C) that delivers 60 Watts to power a laptop or other device. Although both the HDMI and USB-C ports will deliver 4K, the HDMI connectivity clips some colors according to tech support. Also included is a headphone jack, and a USB Type-B port. There are no built-in speakers. On the side is a SD card slot and two fast USB 3.1 Type-A ports. These side ports, especially the card reader, are very practical but the ergonomics are poor because the ports are situated at an angle that makes them difficult to access. That includes the ports on the back (like most other displays) that are always facing down instead of logically facing directly at the user, which would make access simpler. 

The SW271C is a wonderful, sophisticated display aimed at photographers and graphic artists who prioritize color accuracy and detail. ■