In the last few years, monitor technology has gone in a number of new and unique directions, with technology like ultra-wide aspect ratios, HDR support, and 8K resolution. Each of those features appeals to a particular user, but it almost seems like content creators have been left out.
Gamers get high refresh rates, viewers get glossy HDR panels, but what about a photographer or videographer who wants a quality panel, without the premium of professional solution costing thousands? In my search for a new monitor, I believe I found the perfect blend.
To function as a meaningful upgrade to my existing PA279Q, which was a 27in 16:9 IPS display with 2K resolution, I had relatively limited options. I could go with one of a number of ultra-wide options, like LG’s 38UC99, which while wider, added almost no additional height. I pretty quickly ruled these out, as I already had side monitors, and many of these carried notable uniformity issues. Alternatively, I could go to a higher resolution display, but not gain much useable display area.
In my search, I came across BenQ’s PD3200U, a 32 inch 4K UHD display. To upgrade my existing display, this was a perfect option. I could retain my side monitors, while getting 40% more screen area and significant increase in usable resolution.
About the Monitor
The display has a 10-bit IPS panel, a must for color critical work, as TN and VA panels can exhibit significant color shifts. While it lacks 100% AdobeRGB coverage, I rarely find that I need to work in a printing-focused manner, and furthermore, I still have an older AdobeRGB capable monitor to fall back on. Further cementing the monitor’s color cred, it comes factory calibrated. When I checked this against my own calibration, I found that I couldn’t significantly improve on the already great performance.
Physical features include a built in KVM switch, allowing users to plug one mouse and keyboard into the monitor, while being able to control two computers, and a control “puck” with physical, reassignable shortcuts to switch between things like brightness and color mode. The built-in stand, which doesn’t cost an additional $1,000, allows for height, pivot, tilt, and swivel adjustments. One interesting feature is the Eye Reminder — an IR tracker that reminds you to take breaks and rest your eyes.
On the display itself, all the industrial design is very clean and professional. The base is a nice matte black, while the logo in the corner is small and relatively dark, a welcome relief from some shiny silver logos of other brands. Unfortunately, the bezels of the monitor are pretty chunky, especially when compared to some of the newest monitors on the market. At most desk distances, however, the panel takes up such a significant portion of your view that switching to a side monitor is a conscious action anyway.
Inputs are plentiful, with HDMI, USB 3, an SD card reader, and Display Port all supported right on the panel. While I haven’t made much use of the card reader or USB functionality, it’s conveniently located on the right side of the panel, along with additional USB ports on the underside, making it much easier to plug in your cables.
Setting up the monitor was easy, with the stand going together with just 1 thumbscrew. You’ll definitely want to get the panel itself mounted to the stand before moving it onto your desk, however, as the VESA style latch is difficult to line up blindly.
One of the first things I did was drop Window’s scaling down to 100%, instead of the default 150%. At 150%, icons and text, while sharp, are huge. You lose a significant chunk of usable resolution compared to 100%, where things are smaller but still perfectly readable.
It’s tough to convey via a screenshot just how much screen real estate you gain over even a 2K monitor. In Lightroom’s catalog view, I can easily have 8 rows of photos visible in grid view, while still being able to see minor differences resolved in the thumbnails. For other tasks, “FancyZones” in Window’s PowerToys app lets you subdivide the monitor into a variety of areas, like a grid of 4 windows, or a single large window flanked by 3 smaller spaces for things like Spotify, Slack, and an email client.
When used with a video editor, I find it much easier to browse a timeline with small clips, as well as to check focus in a viewer, since the viewer can even be 1:1 with 1080P footage. The same goes for photo editing, where it’s easy to have plenty of resolution for your canvas, along with tools and panels, all on one display.
My monitor arrived with 0 dead pixels and excellent apparent uniformity. While this is only a sample of 1, it’s a positive reflection on BenQ’s QA processes.
The out of the box defaults are all very reasonable for the intended user. The monitor was already set to sRGB, with a reasonable brightness and the previously mentioned accurate calibration. My computer had no problem picking up the display, and after rearranging the display spanning, has worked perfectly since then.
The backlight doesn't use PWM, making it easier on your eyes. The panel has a very slight anti-glare coat, which I don't find necessary, but also doesn't impart a significant "dirtiness" to white areas.
While this is a great monitor for my uses, there are a number of potential issues for other users. The biggest might be the lack of HDR, which has emerged as the big trend in monitor tech since this one was released. It’s also lacking full coverage of AdobeRGB, a potential annoyance if you find yourself working frequently with prints. Lastly, thinner bezels would be nice, as the panel’s size combined with beefy bezels have pushed my side monitors to the very edge of my desk.
I’ve appreciated high resolution monitors since I got my first Retina MacBook. There’s just something to the crispness of the image that you have to see to appreciate. Previous 4K panels were all too small, however, requiring scaling or a magnifying glass to be usable. At 32 inches, however, this panel hits a sweet spot of size and density, without needing to do things like curve the display.
When it comes to color, this panel is perfectly suited to professional use. It’s very accurate, hasn’t drifted, and offers excellent performance. While it might not be on the same tier as $5,000+ professional reference displays, I think it offers all the performance I need at a much better price point. Between the color, resolution, and size, this monitor has already changed my workflow for the better, and I couldn’t be happier with it.
What I Liked
- 32 inches in a 16:9 aspect ratio is a meaningful upgrade over 27in panels and 34in ultrawides
- 130 PPI is perfectly usable without scaling
- Color accuracy right out of the box is perfect
- Industrial design, while not perfect, is better than white plastic and shiny silver logos
What Could Be Improved
- Reduce the size of the bezels
- Remove the badging on the front of the panel entirely
- Broader gamut support may appeal to some users