The BenQ SW2700PT monitor is a hard sell on paper to those that only look at pixel count. At just over $600, it teeters on the edge of premium monitor territory, but you’ll soon see why it gets a strong recommendation here. Hint: it's not about the pixels.
If you’ve been monitor shopping this past year, the allure of affordable sub-$500 4K monitors might be hard to beat. Sure, you can get some 4K monitors for closer to $300, but for us photo nerds, $500 is the number to beat for the slightly better panels that aren’t so cheap we’ll regret it. That said, the affordable 4K display market still has some work to do on the quality end. And at the end of the day, do you really need 4K? You might think you do, but trust me: you don’t.
Far more important than going up to a 4K-resolution monitor is getting your colors to be right and having a set of features that will fit your professional needs. That’s exactly what BenQ addresses with its SW2700PT 27-inch 2K QHD monitor.
I’ll be honest. Years ago, I used to think BenQ produced not just affordable products, but cheap products. But I’ve been following them closely for some time, and in the last few years especially, they’ve really attacked the professional market in a great way, and the SW2700PT is a great example of that. It offers 100 percent sRGB coverage and — this is the big one — 99 percent of the Adobe RGB gamut. That last part is hard to do for under $600, but BenQ did it by coming down a bit to a more reasonable 2,560 x 1,440 screen resolution. That does not, however, mean it lacks other features.
On the contrary, this monitor comes with an array of features that won’t leave you wanting more. A monitor hood to reduce glare and maintain a distraction-free environment is something we should all have, but that we also usually skimp out on when we see they cost upwards of $50. But BenQ includes a custom-fit monitor hood that snaps into locking points built into the monitor. In the box, you also get a controller for direct access to selecting different monitor profiles. I don’t use this much, personally, but for those printing often and/or exporting for different real-world applications, this could certainly come in handy.
Of course, the SW2700PT has a great matte finish to it that I found to reduce glare as well as or better than most other matte-finished monitors out there. Nice features such as the stand with height markings and that allows the monitor to easily go up and down or swivel to portrait orientation are a nice touch. And excellent I/O ports such as the added USB 3.0 and SD card slot on the side offer handy access to some things photographers might really need (especially those with the new MacBook Pros that ditched the SD card slot).
The out-of-box calibration is hands-down the best part. I did end up profiling the monitor with the Spyder 5 Elite. But it didn’t change much at all from its starting point. The fact that this monitor covers so much of the gamut that you shoot with (or should be shooting with — reminder: check your settings now) and edit with every day is a huge help. Yes, printer calibration is helpful if you are printing a lot, but it’s monitor calibration that does 99 percent of the work of getting great prints. On the first try, I did a quick 13 x 19 test print, and it was good enough to call it a day.
That said, as with everything else in the world, the monitor isn’t perfect. I did have a very small, but noticeable amount of backlight bleed in two areas on either side of the logo on the monitor. This is something simply happens on occasion with any monitor and that BenQ said they would fix with a replacement for anyone that had this issue. But it also is something that would never effect your editing and that you only really notice when that portion of the screen is black, such as while watching letter-boxed films on Netflix, for instance.
This aside, the quality of the monitor is excellent. Viewing angles are almost on-par with my MacBook Pro’s Retina display, where it’s only viewing from up higher and looking down on the monitor that the standard “metallic” monitor tint starts showing slightly. Of course, you monitor should be right at eye level or even perhaps slightly above you, but never below you anyway, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
Meanwhile, the resolution of the monitor is perfect. For a 27-inch screen, 2,560 x 1,440 might not sound like a lot in the world of Retina displays. But there’s something everyone always forgets (or wants to forget as they convince themselves to shell out for 4K): you’re not sitting anywhere near the viewing distance from your desktop monitor as you are from your laptop. At just over three feet away (I measured), it’s true that the pixels aren’t entirely seamless. But they’re not distinguishable, either. No, it doesn’t have that absolutely buttery crispness of 4K, but if you’re not looking at a UHD monitor side-by-side, you honestly wouldn’t be able to know. But I have another reason for not liking 4K, too.
At 4K, the pixel size is so small that you can miss tiny elements in a photo that might be distracting. Of course, you’re not going to care much about a one-pixel issue. But a dust spot in an image just a few pixels in diameter can be distracting on an otherwise perfect print. Yet when that becomes so small that you don’t catch it, you are simply wasting time. There is actually merit in having a slightly higher pixel density that doesn’t introduce the requirement of viewing images at 200 or even 400 percent just to be able to notice the finest details up close.
That said, this is rather photo-editing specific. If you’re shooting video, it does absolutely make sense to get a 4K monitor today almost for the same reason I would argue for a 2K monitor for photo editing: you really should be able to see the full video at 100-percent on the screen, even when shooting 4K. And of course, it’s great to do the same with 1080p full-HD footage while taking up only a quarter of the screen. But if photo editing is your game, then save the money and put it into something that gives you much wider gamut coverage. For those that do want (or “need”) 4K, BenQ does offer a 4K version of this exact monitor for $1,100, which is also an excellent value alongside similarly spec monitors.
But for everyone else with some reason, the SW2700PT is a very reasonable buy that I can fully recommend. I'll tell you what I did myself in another future monitor review coming soon. For a few complicated reasons partially due to timing, I didn't get this. But I wish I had.
What I Liked
- Perfect color with near-full Adobe RGB gamut and full sRGB coverage
- Excellent ergonomics with easy adjustments and clear height markings for repeatable settings
- Comes with monitor hood, which makes it an even better value
- Profile-switching controller plugged in via USB is a great feature for some, but admittedly one I personally wouldn't need much
- Excellent I/O from Display Port to HDMI and USB 3.0 alongside an SD card slot
- Perfect balance of monitor size and resolution
- Excellent viewing angles and overall uniformity
- Excellent overall value
What I Didn't Like
- Slight backlight bleed in one general area is borderline acceptable and a somewhat moot point, as BenQ would replace it
- If you don't want a monitor hood for some reason, the clips on the outside are purpose-built, but not necessarily beautiful
- This is not a slim-bezel display, but those usually sacrifice quality for design anyway
- The price of this monitor makes it an excellent value for the features offered, but yes, it would be easier to swallow for a little less dough
The BenQ SW2700PT is available at B&H for $599.00.