Reasonably priced. Good color accuracy and grayscale performance. Displays HDR content. Inky blacks.
Relatively low resolution. Short on features. HDR performance is only slightly better than standard.
- Bottom Line
The BenQ EW277HDR is a 27-inch High Dynamic Range monitor that displays colors and blacks well, but comes up short with HDR performance.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology has made its way into most of the current crop of high-end HDTVs, but it's been slow to arrive in desktop monitors. Enter the BenQ EW277HDR ($269), a 27-inch monitor that uses Vertical Alignment (VA) panel technology and BenQ's Brightness Enhancement technology to enable HDR by increasing overall luminance by up to 33 percent while displaying HDR content. In testing, I noticed only a slight improvement when viewing HDR content, but I was impressed with the EW277HDR's color accuracy and its ability to display dark blacks. That said, the Philips Brilliance Full HD Curved LCD Monitor (279X6QJSW) offers more features, including FreeSync technology and a curved screen, for just a few bucks more.
Looks and Controls
The EW277HDR's 27-inch VA panel is housed in a black bezel-free cabinet with a strip of gray trim along its bottom edge. The cabinet is supported by a stand that provides 20 degrees of tilt, but lacks height, swivel, and pivot adjustability. It also lacks VESA mounting holes. There are six buttons at the bottom edge of the cabinet for powering up the display and accessing the on-screen menu system. There's also an HDR button that enables HDR mode. Although the monitor automatically kicks into HDR mode when it detects a true HDR source, you can press the HDR button to enable HDR emulation while viewing standard (non-HDR) content. This button also enables B.I.+ (Brightness Intelligence Plus technology) mode, which uses an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust brightness and color temperature levels based on the current lighting environment.
The panel covers 93 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut (a common color space for digital movie projection systems) and 100 percent of the REC.709 gamut (a color standard for high-definition television), but its 1920-by-1080 resolution is relatively low for a 27-inch panel designed to display HDR content. It has a peak brightness of 400 cd/m2, a 3000:1 contrast ratio, a 4-millisecond pixel response (gray-to-gray), a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a 60Hz refresh rate. It contains two HDMI 2.0 inputs, a VGA input, a headphone jack, and an audio-in jack, which are around back, facing outward. Missing is a DisplayPort input, and as is the case with the Philips 279X6QJSW, the EW277HDR lacks USB connectivity.
The EW277HDR offers 10 Picture Modes (Standard, HDR, Low Blue Light, Game, Photo, sRGB, Rec.709, ECO, M-Book, User). In the Eye Care settings menu you can select one of four Low Blue Light modes, enable the aforementioned B.I.+ mode, and set a light sensitivity threshold. Picture settings include Brightness, Contrast, Gamma, Color Temperature, Sharpness, Hue, Saturation, and Dynamic Contrast. In the Advanced Settings menu, you can enable Super Resolution, which adds edge enhancement to sharpen up the picture, and Smart focus, which lets you view a specific area of the screen with full brightness while the remaining areas are dimmed.
The EW277HDR comes with a three-year parts, labor, and backlight warranty. Included in the box are an HDMI cable and a resource CD containing drivers and a User Guide.
Lackluster HDR Performance
If you're unfamiliar with HDR, there's an excellent primer here, but in a nutshell, HDR allows the monitor to achieve a higher contrast (brighter whites and darker blacks) and a wider color gamut to deliver sharper image detail and more vivid colors. In addition to an HDR monitor, you'll need a device that can deliver HDR content, such as a current Nvidia or AMD graphics card or a streaming device such as Google's ChromeCast Ultra or an Apple TV box.
While watching Chasing Coral on Netflix using a Google Chromecast Ultra to deliver HDR, the EW277HDR's overall image quality was sharper than what I noticed while watching the same content in Standard (non-HDR) mode. Shadow detail showed more definition and colors appeared more robust, but the differences were subtle. Results were similar while watching Marvel's The Defenders, also on Netflix. The difference between HDR emulation mode and Standard mode was negligible.
As shown on the sRGB chart below, red, green, and blue colors were all very closely aligned with their CIE coordinates, indicating good color accuracy while set to sRGB mode.
The HDR chart below shows the panel's ability to expand the color range to allow for more vivid colors while in HDR mode.
Grayscale performance was generally good, but the two darkest shades of grays were slightly crushed (too dark). That said, the panel provided nice inky blacks without sacrificing detail, and viewing angles were wide with no obvious color shifting.
While not considered a gaming monitor the EW277HDR can certainly be pressed into service for casual gaming duties. It's 4-millisecond pixel response did a good job of keeping most motion artifacts at bay although I did observe minor ghosting and screen tearing while running our Crysis 3 (PC) and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare 9Sony Playstation 4) gaming tests. The panel's 12.2 millisecond input lag, as measured with a Leo Bodnar Lag Tester, is relatively quick, but not as quick as our current lag leader, the Lenovo L27q (9.5 milliseconds).
The EW277HDR used 22 watts of power in testing while set to standard mode and 14 watts while in ECO mode. That's more efficient that the ViewSonic VP2768, which consumed 28 while set to Standard mode,23 watts in Optimize mode, and 18 watts while in Conserve mode. The Philips Brilliance Full HD Curved LCD Monitor (279X6QJSW) consumed 24 watts and the BenQ PD2710QC consumed 27 watts, but neither offers a power-saving ECO mode.
Not HDTV Quality
Although the BenQ EW277HDR is capable of displaying HDR content, don't expect the kind of HDR performance that you'll get from an HDTV like the Vizio M65, which can achieve a peak brightness of more than 800 cd/m2 through the use of intelligent backlighting. That said, the monitor does offer improved color and detail when displaying true HDR content, and its color accuracy and ability to display dark blacks make it a solid choice for watching movies, editing home photos, and casual gaming.
A couple of USB ports would be nice, as would a DisplayPort input. If you require DisplayPort connectivity and want to eliminate screen tearing, check out the Philips Brilliance Full HD Curved LCD Monitor (279X6QJSW). It doesn't offer HDR support, but it does offer a broader selection of video inputs and it has a curved MVA panel that delivers spot-on colors, solid grayscale performance, and wide viewing angles. It remains our Editors' Choice for affordable big-screen monitors.
By John R. Delaney Contributing Editor
As a Contributing Editor for PCMag, John Delaney has been testing and reviewing monitors, TVs, PCs, networking and smart home gear, and other assorted hardware and peripherals for almost 20 years. A 13-year veteran of PC Magazine's Labs (most recently as Director of Operations), John was responsible for the recruitment, training and management of the Labs technical staff, as well as evaluating and maintaining the integrity of the Labs testing machines and procedures. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, John spent six years in retail operations for… More »
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