As someone that is as deep in the Apple ecosystem as it gets, I will still pick the BenQ PhotoVue SW 321C over both Studio Display and even the ProDisplay XDR. Not only is this monitor objectively better, but also way more affordable. In this article, we will review the BenQ PhotoVue SW321C.
A monitor for me has always been something mysterious as I could not quite grasp why they can get so expensive if all they do is project an image. Yet, over a few years of testing and using various offerings from a range of companies, I started to see the differences between them. Some have awful colors, others can be impossible to look at, and some even go as far as permanently damaging the eyes. The truth is, it is hard to appreciate a good monitor if you don’t know what a bad one feels like.
If I would sum up my experience with the BenQ PhotoVue SW321C in one sentence, it would probably be something like this: You will not want to look at any monitor other than BenQ PhotoVue SW321C again.
The monitor is definitely a statement piece on your desk. It is not a small or lightweight device. While other companies seem to aim to make their high-end monitors as thin as possible, BenQ takes the opposite approach. Since the monitor is designed to sit on a desk, it is far more important to the viewer to have the best viewing experience than the lightweight and portable design. That said, it is still aesthetically pleasing, unlike some other models. If aesthetics is all you care for, you can just go for the cheesegrater design of the ProDisplay XDR.
Another thing worth mentioning is the stability of the monitor. I don’t know about you, but it takes me all the time in the world to set up a new monitor at the right height, angle, and position on my desk. This step is important, as you are looking at the screen for much of the day, and we all know how damaging an improper desk setup can be. Unfortunately, the monitor seems to lack some stability, perhaps due to the heavy weight of the screen itself. It can start wobbling quite easily. While not a significant negative point, it can get annoying if you use a standing desk while typing aggressively – which I do.
There is a wide selection of ports which I love. Perhaps this is due to my computer having only 4 USB-C ports and nothing else, but I can’t stand devices that have 0 port options. Luckily the BenQ PhotoVue SW321C has HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4, USB-C with 60W, an SD card reader, and USB-B ports. The USB-C port is perfect for plugging in a MacBook and letting it charge, however, it would be nice to see higher power output from it. What I love is the SD card reader. Although many photographers have a dedicated SD card reader, having one in the monitor means one cable less. While some users will point out that the monitor has HDMI 2.0, and not 2.1, I think this technology is more than enough as the current iteration of the BenQ PhotoVue SW321C won’t be able to take full advantage of the newer technology.
As for swivel angles, the monitor does a fairly standard range of angles: 45 degrees to each side, 20 degrees up, five down, and a 90-degree pivot. The ability to use this monitor in portrait mode is especially helpful for photographers who work primarily with vertical images. It feels like I am missing out every tie I don’t take advantage of all the screen real estate I was given.
A separate word has to be said for one of the best hardware features of the monitor: the hood. It protects the monitor from unwanted glare and allows for a much better working experience. The hood can be assembled in either landscape or portrait configuration, which is a nice touch from BenQ. The screen itself is coated in anti-glare material, which might make the hood itself redundant. I really had no issue with monitor glare when working with the BenQ PhotoVue SW321C. Something a lot of photographers will appreciate.
Let’s talk about the hard figures and the actual performance of the monitor. Made for the professional user, this monitor has some impressive features that professionals appreciate. The 32” model delivers 137ppi at 3840x2160 resolution. While falling behind the offerings from Apple, this still allows you to see detail in images. Bear in mind that most of your images will probably end up on a phone screen, where detail is nowhere near as good.
The brightness is only 250 nits, which is fairly low compared to the competition, and some reviewers have pointed out that the monitor hits even less than this in real-life testing. The 1,000:1 contrast ratio is also a spec that is hard to reproduce in real life. Expect to hit below. What does work in favor of the BenQ PhotoVue SW321C though is the ability to stay consistent across the range. BenQ Uniformity technology makes this possible.
The monitor ships calibrated, and I am glad to say that the factory calibration is nearly perfect. I would still use a calibrator from time to time, though. That said, it is perhaps one of the most accurate monitors that I tested. Benq over-delivers on their Delta E<2 promise.
Overall, the monitor's performance is good, only falling short in brightness and contrast. I would say that this is noticeable, and if you are looking for the brightest solution on the market, this might not be your best bet.
What I Liked
- Glare protection
- Build quality
What Could Be Improved
- Contrast ratio
The BenQ PhotoVue SW321C is a decent monitor that offers a lot for its price. With Apple’s Studio display being a literal ripoff, and ProDisplay XDR offering an improvement not proportional to the price increase, this monitor might be one of the best options to consider. This is one of the best monitors in the BenQ lineup, which puts it in the $2,000 price range. This monitor is more of an investment aimed at people who appreciate a good monitor and use their computers for a bit more than watching Netflix.
That is not an inexpensive price $2000 what if you need 2 monitors, what average photographer can afford that?
You are right in saying that $2,000 is expensive. However, for the features it delivers, it is fairly cheap I think. I guess it's like if you want to buy a supercar: it will be objectively expensive, but there are "cheap" expensive supercars.
I saw that line, and with no number figure attached to it = expect the worst.
I prepared myself to be hoodwinked and certainly was :)
$2,000 for a monitor is nowhere close to cheap.
This and the SW271 are beautiful monitors. Compared the to Apple Cinema Display which is more than twice the price for nearly the same specs, basically a no brainer.
Absolutely! Glad the article resonated with you :)
2k? Nah. Hard pass.
The monitor market right now is a mess, but I'm determined to find something that's good for both photo and graphics. Give me a few weeks! (For mac).
The main thing is that it must have 100% Adobe RGB. DCI P3 etc is for video work, and has a smaller color range. For photography especially -and just the most amount of colors available - 100% Adobe RGB.
That's what my research has come up with so far.
I can imagine the monitor market to be hard to navigate sometimes. The naming (for me) is always a little too complicated haha.
In my opinion, 99% RGB is plenty for most photography and design work, however I absolutely understand the people who need 100%. If your workflow requires the extra 1%, and there are differences, go for it!
99% Is fine for me..maybe even 98% depending on the whole.
Once it starts hitting 95- 90% that's too many colors being left on the table.
Unfortunately, many reviews for monitors nowadays make sure that they put SRGB first - especially if it's 100% - because it looks nice on paper. Well, at least to those who don't understand the ramifications.
Does the writer work for apple because otherwise I saw no need for that company to be mentioned so many times in this reviw
I am not sure if Apple would pay me to say that a competitor's product is better than theirs.
This is the dumbest article I have ever read on Fstoppers in ages. Sounds like BenQ pr:
starts with: "I will still pick the BenQ PhotoVue SW 321C over both Studio Display and even the ProDisplay XDR. Not only is this monitor objectively better, but also way more affordable.You will not want to look at any monitor other than BenQ PhotoVue SW321C again."
Then continues with
"The brightness is only 250 nits, which is fairly low compared to the competition,"
"The 32” model delivers 137ppi at 3840x2160 resolution. While falling behind the offerings from Apple, this still allows you to see detail in images. Bear in mind that most of your images will probably end up on a phone screen, where detail is nowhere near as good."
I looked at all the alternatives to Studio and Pro XDR and all had fatal flaws such as low PPI or crappy nit numbers. The Pro XDR is probably still expensive because companies like BenQ can't deliver the same thing for half the price. I settled on Apple Studio monitor and while it has some flaws such as no dimming zones the 5120x2880 resolution at 218 pixels per inch is amazing. it makes 4k video look a little soft.
Thanks for commenting.
I like Apple products and use them daily. Sometimes, however, it is hard to justify the price for the features provided. That said, everyone has their own reasons to buy Apple products. It would be fun to test out the Apple and BenQ side-by-side.
250 nits is twice what you need for print matching. I run my two NECs at 120cd/m2. A more common problem with very bright displays is the inability to dial them down far enough without reducing the bit depth. If the backlight cannot be dimmed sufficiently, the panel has to be turned into an ND filter.
I agree - I find the studio Display from Apple overpriced, but it is the only quality 5k option since the disappearance of the iMac 27. 4k gives hardly more than 50% of the pixels of a 5k monitor, let alone if 4k is streteched out to 30 inches or more. The review is not neutral at all. So I bought the Studio Display with Noncoating and forgot about it - will use it many years.
32" at 4k requires unnatural scaling on the mac operating system and the text becomes not super sharp. That's why apple has the 5k 27" and a 6k 32"
Didn't know that! Thanks :)
If you run a 4K display at reduced resolution that is not 1/2 native resolution for legibility, then when you try to view an image in your photo app at 100%, it will be displayed at an incorrectly small size on the screen. If you rely on 100% view to check focus, artifacts, sharpness, etc., you MUST run the display at 4K or 1/2 that (1920x1080), but at 1/2 everything will look HUGE and your workspace will be greatly reduced.
This is why I never recommend 27" 4K displays. At 4K, UI elements are TINY. For 27", 2540x1440 is better. I find 32" at 4K is just barely usable for text work, and only with my prescription computer glasses.
I can't tell if text is "not super sharp", but it's TINY. I run my 32" 4K at 3008x1692 for greater legibility in daily use, and switch it back to 4K for photo work in order to get proper display of "100%" or 1:1 view of images. With apps that don't have optional UI scaling, such as Lightroom Classic and PhotoLab, this makes small UI elements rather hard to see. Photoshop does have such an option, and I wish more photo app devs would adopt this.
Appreciate the review, the monitor market can be a bit dizzying, and its helpful to see how other creatives, both photographers who print and otherwise approach this. I find it hard to believe that someone will fail at print photography if they don't have >= 99% Adobe RGB color space to work with.
I've been using a late 2013 imac 27 display for many purposes for many years (including for print photo editing), and am finally looking to upgrade my system, which needs to be adequate for a variety of purposes, and i'm not rich lol. I wonder at what point it becomes technophilia as opposed to need.
In any case I find it most important to understand the compromises of a 4k 140 ish DPI display and the impact to accuracy and GPU with scaling. Its hard to justify $1600 on a studio display, and harder to justify $2000 just for some more color and at 4k. I wonder if others had success with something like a BenQ PD series, or what alternatives there are when you need something that is for work, photography and digital, without the absurdity of having multiple expensive displays for each task.
"The brightness is only 250 nits, which is fairly low compared to the competition, and some reviewers have pointed out that the monitor hits even less than this in real-life testing. The 1,000:1 contrast ratio is also a spec that is hard to reproduce in real life."
This and a price of $2000 says it all. It should be better than the Apple cinema display?