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BenQ SW321C monitor review

 


Review of the BenQ SW321C 4K monitor

Published on January 19, 2020   |   Updated on May 15, 2020

 

In early 2020, BenQ is releasing a new 32-inch screen for photographers: the BenQ SW321C. This brand, which has become a must-have at the top end of the market without however matching Eizo and sometimes even Asus, is almost metronomic in releasing new monitors with characteristics that are always very attractive. This is once again the case with this BenQ SW321C. If, during my last tests of BenQ monitors I had noted the high quality of color reproduction, the almost perfect packaging as well as the finish, I had sometimes been less complimentary about the homogeneity of their panels or the anti-reflection treatment of the panel. What about this new monitor?

 

For a quick introduction to this monitor we can say that it is a 32 inch 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels - 137 ppi) screen intended more for photographers or graphic designers, experienced amateurs or professionals. Its glass is obviously matte considering the targeted sector, the panel with IPS technology (White LEDs), Look Up Table on 10/16 bits and wide gamut thus covering Adobe RGB at 99% - so dear to photographers - and still compatible with HDR10 or HLG contents. It falls into the category of monitors known as "Graphic Arts". It is sold for 2000 dollars when it is released when the competition is much more expensive. But for which concessions, if any?


 
 

In a few words...

 

BenQ SW321C


$1,999.99

The technical data sheet of this BenQ SW321C can make photographers dream a priori... and they are right because, for a "reasonable" price in 32" + 4K + Adobe RGB, they can afford a very very nice monitor - Congratulations to BenQ ! - Read my conclusion 

 
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CDN$ 2,323.35
$1,999.99
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£1,549.00
 
     

 

 

Presentation of the BenQ SW321C monitor

Here are a few illustrations of this ergonomically designed monitor with a flawless finish...

   
BenQ SW321C BenQ monitor and its hood   BenQ SW321C screen in vertical position
Rear of the BenQ SW321C screen   BenQ SW321C profile screen
   
  Technical specifications
  BenQ SW321C Launch price: $1999.99
Panel size
32 inches 16:9 - 3840 x 2160 - 137 ppi
 
Panel technology
IPS white LED - Matte coating panel
  Uniformity check No
  Color space 99% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB, 91% DCI-P3
  Certifications Yes (video) : CalMAN, Lightillusion
 
Maximum brightness
250 cd/m2 - 256 cd/m2 measured
  Contrast 660:1 measured at 90 cd/m2 - 1150 to 160 cd/m2
  HDR compatibility HDR10
 
Look Up Table
10 bits / 16 bits - Hardware calibration possible
  Response time 5 ms
 
Screen size
745 x 515 - 660 x 210 mm
  Border thickness 20 mm on the sides
  Calibration software Yes - Palette Master Element
  Inputs DP 1.4 + HDMI + hub USB 3.0 + USB-C 60W
  VESA compatibility Yes - 100 mm
  Hood Yes
  Warranty 3 years - BenQ USA
  Company benq.com
 
 

You'll find in the box...

The monitor - particularly complete - is sold with :

  • The power cord... of course!
  • The HDMI to HDMI cable,
  • A USB 3.0 cable for hardware calibration and powering the USB HUB,
  • One USB-C to USB-C cable,
  • The selection PAD (HotKey Puck G2),
  • Individual calibration report,
  • Palette Master Element on CD,
  • The custom-made hood,
  • And a handy accessory: a brush/roller to clean the panel.


 
 

Important note! BenQ monitors do not have a built-in colorimeter...

This BenQ SW321C doesn't have a colorimeter so I suggest the i1Display Pro or SpyderX Elite colorimeters.

Read my tests: i1 Display Pro and SpyderX Elite


 
     
   
 

Size and perceived quality

The monitor has a 32-inch panel and is 74.5 cm wide overall. The edges (black edges of the screen + screen border) are rather above the 2020 standards: 20 mm. The custom hood is provided. Nothing to complain about, especially since the perceived quality is excellent. It's heavy, well designed and the movements are fluid despite the size and weight of this very large monitor.

The BenQ SW321C monitor and its panel

1 - Definition/resolution - This is an IPS panel, normal in this segment of the so-called "Graphic Arts" screens, of 3840 x 2160 pixels. Its resolution is therefore 137 ppi. Classic for a 32" UHD.

   
Hood of the BenQ SW321C monitor
  The BenQ SW321C hood is sold with the monitor.

2 - Its panel, glass and their anti-reflection treatment - The backlighting is of the white LED type. As I observe it more and more since 2016 and contrary to its little brother the BenQ SW271, this BenQ SW321C has a panel with anti-reflection treatment, that is to say the film that is placed on the panel) in the high standards of 2020. So, if you display a white page, the pixels will not look slightly grainy as it sometimes happens and will offer very silky patterns in light gradations. This is very nice... and it will remain so if you're not tempted to raise the sharpness level on the screen too much (leave it at 5/10)!

3 - The Look Up Table (LUT)

The Look Up Table is a high-end table that works in 10/16 bits. Nothing to complain about.

4 - the gamut

The wide Adobe RGB gamut displayed by this panel gives it a "photo" vocation at first sight.

The BenQ SW321C monitor panel and its Hotkey Puck G2

Thickness of screen edges

They measure 20 mm at the sides and 25 mm at the top and bottom. So we are dealing with a monitor with rather thick edges in 2020 where many monitors have edges of less than 10 mm. This is not particularly conducive to a multi-screen configuration but is it necessary with such a panel ?

 

Edge thickness of BenQ SW321C

 

To be read! My tips for choosing your photo screen - 8 pages updated in January 2020  


The hardware calibration software "Palette Master Element".

This display is sold with its hardware calibration software: Palette Master Element - which is a proprietary solution based on X-Rite's well-known i1Profiler. Among other things, it allows you to choose a gamma according to the L Star curve for those who, for example, print a lot of their photos and perhaps a better control of the black and white levels. Calibration can indeed linger on shades of gray and this monitor comes with an original accessory - a wired remote control - that allows you to change the screen gamut on the fly, just by clicking on one of its three buttons (in addition to quick access to the OSD menu) as on the BenQ SW2700PT. (More about that below).

 

BenQ's Palette Master Element

 

Accessories

This monitor comes with more accessories than usual. Of course we will find the power cord (Phew!), a USB 3.0 cable to power the HUB of two USB 3.0 sockets and allow hardware calibration (by placing the ICC profile directly in the LUT of the monitor) if you use Palette Master Element + the SD card reader on the side of the screen, an HDMI > HDMI cable that complies with the latest HDMI standards (2.1), a Display Port > Display Port cable (1.4) and finally a USB-C > USB-C cable. But this BenQ SW321C adds to this the custom hood that can be used in landscape mode but also in portrait mode + the famous wired remote control called HotKey Puck G2 which allows you to adjust the screen directly without using the screen keys and which has three customizable shortcuts. Well done! And finally, you'll also find in the box an original accessory called a brush but which looks more like a roller, a bit like the tool used to remove lint from clothes, to clean the panel. More than complete!

BenQ SW240 OSD wired remote control option

The controller called HotKey Puck G2 is a kind of OSD PAD that comes in the form of a wired remote control found with the BenQ SW2700PT and that fits naturally at the foot of the monitor. It has three shortcuts in particular that allow, for example, to change color space in one click!


This controller allows the selection of many parameters (to be customized directly on the screen in a first step) but it can be clever to choose different color spaces (Adobe RGB and sRGB at random!).
This remote control or menu also allows access to the OSD menu of the monitor. Very practical even if not essential because it is not often needed!

 

Shortcuts hotkey puck G2 from BenQ SW321C


The buttons on the monitor menu

The buttons of the monitor menu are classic, i.e. via small buttons on the monitor, on the right front panel. The ON/OFF button is illuminated.

Note! As mentioned above, the HotKey puck G2 can replace the use of these keys.

 

Details of the BenQ SW321C and its menu buttons

 

Ergonomics

Ergonomics, once again at BenQ, is exemplary: the range of motion - and smoothness - of the monitor in height, tilt and rotation will allow all users to find their ideal setting despite the XXL size of the monitor. Truly perfect! The same goes for the menu buttons and that famous accessory I just mentioned: the wired remote control which is placed in the centre of the stand and which allows you to control the OSD menu or choose its colour space on the fly. The central column also has a grommet. Excellent!

 

BenQ SW271's ergonomics

 

Connectivity

This monitor has the latest (early 2020) in connectivity: it has an HDMI socket (with direct connection to a digital camera or a camcorder), a DisplayPort socket according to the 1.4 standard, a USB 3 socket.0 socket to guarantee hardware calibration, i.e. to send the generated ICC profile directly to the display's LUT and not just to the graphics card, and finally two USB 3.0 sockets and finally a USB-C socket compatible with 60W power supply (a little just to power the MacBook Pro 16'' however as the latter requires 87W under heavy load). This monitor is therefore complete!

Note! If you use the USB-C cable to connect your display you will not need to connect your USB 3.0 cable to calibrate your hardware display with Palette Master Element. The ICC profile will pass through the same cable. Convenient!

 

BenQ SW321C's connectivity

 

 

What is the BenQ SW321C monitor worth after calibration with the i1Display Pro + i1Profiler?

I calibrated this display with the best current sensor in a simply excellent price/performance ratio: the i1Display Pro + i1Profiler software (version 3.1.1) in this first try and then with the proprietary software, Palette Master Element and always the same sensor in a second try.

As screen settings, I chose :

  • Color space: Adobe RGB,
  • Gamma : 2,2,
  • Contrast: 50% / Native (There's no point in changing it)
  • Color temperature: 6500K (Adobe RGB).

And as target values in the i1Profiler 3.1.1 software...

  • Screen Technology: white LEDs,
  • D65 or possibly a little less if you want a slightly warmer monitor. (Note that at D55, the monitor) is really hot but not yellow like on the lower end of the range,
  • Luminance : 90 cd/m2 then 160 cd/m2 in my tests but you can choose according to your main use (print or Web) and especially the brightness of your room,
    ContrastNative for versatility and possibly 287:1 for photographers who print a lot,
  • Gamma : 2,2 – standard curve,  (The L* is only available with Palette Master Element) and there is anyway a lot to say about this gamma L*)
  • ADC function disabled,
  • ICC standard: V2 to avoid problems of incompatibility with some image viewing software (images too dark especially in some Windows 10 applications) and obviously V4 if you know what you are doing.

And the result is?


Objective data: what does the final report say after calibration?

1 - i1Profiler final report:

 

Final report after calibration of the BenQ SW321C with i1Display Pro

 

My advice - We are dealing with a top-of-the-range monitor because all the target values are well achieved: 6508 K, 0.137 cd/m2 black luminance and 660:1 contrast ratio at 90 cd/m2 and 1171:1 at 160 cd/m2 (logical!). The last value is not a record, and many displays are doing significantly better in 2020. Photographers won't care and this monitor is for them... if they don't feel like watching their favorite series on this display where the black stripes will be darker gray than black as on some minileds panels or even better OLED...

2 - Delta E (2000 standard) :

 

Delta E after calibration of the BenQ SW321C with i1Display Pro

 

My opinion: With the 2000 standard, this gives for all patches: 0.55 and for the highest: 0.91!!! Hard to do much better, even on an Eizo CS or CG. So it's very good !

Now the uniformity tests in luminance and color temperature:

This is the criterion I was most expecting from this monitor because many BenQ realisations have disappointed me a lot...

 

Luminance uniformity after calibration of the BenQ SW271 with the i1Display Pro

 

With a little bit of provocation, I feel like calling it a miracle! This BenQ, which is 32 inches longer, has - at last - excellent uniformity. It's all the more perfect since the numbers are as good at L255 as they are at L127 or L63. Once again, bravo BenQ!

 

BenQ SW271 screen uniformity measurement in luminance

 

And this is in line with the colour temperature of the white point with a maximum deviation of 250 K. On such a large panel, it's remarkable even if the Eizo CG319X does better but for triple the price. Congratulations again to BenQ because the price without being accessible to all budgets is rather contained for such a size and such performances.

The gamut of the display

This display does show 99% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB and 91% DCI-P3 under my SpyderX Elite :


Gamut of the BenQ SW321C

 

 

What is the BenQ SW321C monitor worth after calibration with the i1Display Pro + Palette Master Element (BenQ)?

I then calibrated this monitor in hardware mode so I used the i1 Display Pro colorimeter and the BenQ Palette Master Element 1.3.8 software.

Practical note! As I plugged this monitor in USB-C, I didn't need to plug the USB 3.0 cable to perform this so-called hardware calibration which injects the created ICC profile directly into its Look Up Table. With all the other cables it would have been necessary if you wanted to perform the calibration with Palette Master BenQ.

 

 

Choix des valeurs cibles dans Palette Master Element de BenQ

Final report after calibration with Palette Master Element on BenQ SW321C

 

The values are a bit less flattering than with i1Profiler so I recommend using the latter if you don't need a hardware calibration especially.
Let's just note in passing that you can't measure the monitor's uniformity with this software on this monitor.

And my subjective data: what does my eye see after calibration with PME or i1Profiler?

By displaying a blank browser page, we can clearly see that the i1Profiler calibration is similar to the one performed with Palette Master Element. It is difficult to tell them apart with the naked eye.

My recommendation!The Palette Master Element software may be a "proprietary" software (but is very similar to i1Profiler), allowing calibration with the choice of the L Star gamma curve, hardware calibration and who knows, I prefer my beloved i1Display Pro + i1Profiler because the objective results are even better but I insist again: to say that my eye sees this small difference is exaggerated!

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  BenQ SW321C  
Color Fidelity 10/10
Panel uniformity 9,5/10
Anti-glare coating on panel 9,5/10
Resolution 10/10
Ergonomics 10/10
Connectivity 10/10
Manufacturing quality 9,5/10
Quality/price ratio 9,0/10
  I like it very much...  
 
  • The best figures after calibration with the i1Display Pro + i1Profiler (a little less with Palette Master Element),
  • Perfect contrast for photo retouching,
  • Large real and verified gamut,
  • Almost perfect panel uniformity in 32 inches in luminance and white point,
  • Satin glass and discreetly processed panel that does not "mark" the pixels,
  • Hardware calibration with Palette Master Element,
  • Numerous color space choices on the monitor including Adobe RGB, sRGB, DCI-P3, etc,
  • Perfect ergonomics, too,
  • Very complete and ergonomic menus,
  • Custom hood,
  • State-of-the-art connectivity (early 2020): USB-C in particular!
  • Complete accessories!
  • And frankly the best quality/price ratio today... for photographers looking for an XXL screen,
  • A favorite product for photographers!
 
     
  I regret...  
 
  • The blacks lack a bit of depth and the contrast is a bit tight in 2020 for a versatile use or for videographers,
  • USB-C connection powered in 60W "only" so a little bit just to power the latest Apple MacBook Pro 16''.
 
     
  My overall rating...  
  9,5 / 10... for photographers  
     
  My conclusion...  
 

The data sheet of this monitor, which is mainly aimed at photographers, makes you drool! And for the first time since I've been testing BenQ screens, I wasn't disappointed. It's a 32-inch monitor that's a favorite, even if it lacks a bit of versatility due to the lack of depth in the blacks. Having said that, this display doesn't try to be anything other than a great monitor for photographers, and it's successful. To have more versatility or to satisfy the videographers, i.e. even higher contrasts and really deep blacks, one would have had to spend a lot more money today - Asus PA32UCX - so congratulations to BenQ.

Another suggestion : The Asus PA32UC-K, a priori, looks a lot like this BenQ SW321C whose panel it seems to share. Between the two, my heart swings... so you'll surely choose on details like the black finish of the BenQ or its handy remote control.

 
     
   
 
BenQ SW321C
Soon...
$1,999.99
CDN$ 2,323.35
$1,999.99
Soon...
£1,549.00
 
   
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Here is my complete test of the BenQ SW321C monitor
 
- Complete test of the BenQ SW321C
  1 - Introduction of the BenQ SW321C monitor
2 - What is it worth after calibration with the i1Display Pro?
3 - What is it worth after calibration with Palette Master Element?
4 - My rating and conclusion
 

- My 34 monitor and laptop review!
- How to calibrate your monitor?


 

Calibrate your monitor with the best
colorimeter: X-Rite i1Display Pro !

Read my full review...

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Calibrate your monitor with your favorite colorimeter : Datacolor SpyderX PRO !

Read my full review...

£149.92

   
 

 

     

 

 

 
 
     
 

 

       

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