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Categorized | Articles, Gear, Jason DiMichele

Gear – BenQ SW320 32″ 4K Monitor (full review)

Review by Jason DiMichele

Many have heard of the term 4K, often with regards to video. However, 4K essentially refers to resolution and can be beneficial when used in the post-processing workflow of still photos. Affordable 4K TVs have been on the market for many years, but it’s only been relatively recent that 4K monitors have been available at reasonable prices. Is it time for you to consider a 4K monitor for editing your photos? The BenQ SW320 is part of the Colour Management series of monitors, which is ideal for photographic work. Based on its feature set and specifications, I was excited to see if it delivers.

BenQ SW320 32" 4K Monitor

BenQ SW320 32″ 4K Monitor

The BenQ SW320 ($1,950) is a 32” (31.5” viewable) 4K UHD (3840×2160) monitor. The dimensions (H/W/D) are 44.81 cm x 74.72 cm x 7.32 cm and it weighs a whopping 20.3 kg!  Some of the more notable features include a 10-bit IPS panel (providing over one billion colours), 99 percent AdobeRGB colour gamut coverage and 100 percent sRGB coverage, GamutDuo, 14-bit 3D LUT (for very smooth tonal transitions), internally controlled brightness uniformity, high dynamic range support, 90-degree pivot with viewing angle of 178 degrees (horizontal and vertical), DisplayPort and HDMI video ports, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 (for Hotkey Puck) ports, SD memory card reader and headphone jack.

The best monitors are wide gamut, meaning that they can essentially reproduce the entire AdobeRGB colour gamut. Covering 99 percent of the AdobeRGB colour gamut, the SW320 is classified as a wide gamut monitor. The AdobeRGB colour gamut is quite a bit larger than sRGB and contains more saturated colours, mostly greens, blues, and some yellows and oranges. If your photos contain some of these more saturated colours, you won’t see them on a monitor that doesn’t support AdobeRGB.

To calibrate the SW320, BenQ supplies the Palette Master Element software, which requires the use of a hardware calibration device. The software is wizard driven, making the process straightforward, and when attached to your computer with a USB cable, can directly control the monitor settings and program the calibration information into the monitor. One of the reasons the SW320 calibrates so well is that it contains an internal brightness uniformity process that will ensure consistent brightness in all areas of the monitor, which is just as important as accurate colour.

Calibration device

Calibration device

The SW320 comes with a couple of accessories, including a shading hood and a hotkey puck. You should use the shading hood to ensure no contrast reducing light will hit the monitor, causing your perception of shadows to be inaccurate. It’s brilliantly designed in that it can be used in both the horizontal and vertical monitor orientations. The SW320 has an anti-glare screen (shiny monitors are less than ideal for photo editing), and when used with the shading hood, provides a very controlled display for editing. The hotkey puck is a clever device that provides buttons for quick and efficient access to the GamutDuo feature. The GamutDuo is an innovative way to compare an image in various colour spaces such as sRGB, AdobeRGB. There are a few ways to use GamutDuo, but I found the most useful method was to use the picture in picture feature with half of the SW320 displaying the image in AdobeRGB, and the other half in sRGB. It’s a great feature that could really come in handy!

Palette Master Element calibrationsh

If possible, I suggest testing a 4K monitor with your computer before purchasing. Because of the high resolution (up to four times more than non-4K monitors), it’s more important to purchase a larger monitor. My suggestion is to look at monitors at least 27” for processing your images in 4K. It will allow for a more pleasant viewing experience.

The SW320 is designed for serious photography enthusiasts and professionals. It’s packed with amazing features that are sure to impress when it comes to producing extremely accurate and consistent colour. If you can find the desk space, and the monitor is within your budget, this comes highly recommended, and it was a complete joy to use. When considering the price, performance and features the SW320 has, at the time of writing this review, nothing is comparable. Looks like the time to incorporate 4K photo editing has arrived!

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