Group Test: Eight Panels Beyond HD (Part 7) : NEC PA271W

4/11/2013 9:17:22 AM

Brutally expensive, and only comes into its own once calibrated

NEC’s displays have a fine reputation among professionals when it comes to image editing, with a focus on a wide color gamut and color accuracy, which are critical in such situations. They also tend to be eye-wateringly expensive as a result, and the NEC PA271Wisonesuch example. This 27in 2,560 x, 1,440 display matches its high resolution with support for the Adobe RGB color space, in addition to the standard sRGB gamut.



Its color depth of 1.07 billion colors is only rivaled on test by the Dell U2713H and similarly professionally orientated NEC PA301W.The P-IPS (performance in-plane switching - NEC’s name for its 10-bit IPS screens) panel is lit by a CCFL backlight, and the result is a very hefty panel indeed, weighing in at 13.6kg including the stand, so make sure you have a sturdy desk.

The aforementioned stand is similarly beefy in order to support the weight of the panel, but it still offers a large array of adjustment. In addition to tilt and swivel movement, there’s 150mm of vertical adjustment, as well as the ability to rotate the panel into portrait mode.

Inputs comprise the bare essentials for business, though, with just a pair of DVI-D ports and a DisplayPort connector.

The lack of HDMI is particularly grating considering its near-ubiquitous presence in the market, but not surprising for a monitor mainly targeted at graphics professionals. Also included area pair of USB 2 ports, plus a pair of USB 2 Upstream Ports to enable you to switch peripherals connected to the panel between systems quickly. However, this falls short of the USB 3 ports of the Dell U2713M, or the integrated KVM of NEC’s top-end PA301W.

In the bottom-right corner of the bezel are six buttons with which to navigate the bafflingly expansive OSD. By default, the panel is set to its 220cd/m2 high brightness setting, but there’s a number of color presets, including the sRGB and Adobe RGB settings. There are also additional options to separately adjust the color temperature, as well as the hue, offset and saturation of any of the principal colors. You can also fully control the brightness, right up to a super-bright 400cd/m2, and that’s just with the default options.

There are numerous other advanced settings that require a good read of the lengthy manual to understand, but some notable extras include ambient light compensation, panel uniformity compensation and even compensation for long cable runs. The end result is a panel that’s configurable to an incredible degree, and equipped with enough features to make a small Photoshop studio weak at the knees.

Thankfully, the result was much more in line with what we’d expect from a premium panel

Thankfully, the result was much more in line with what we’d expect from a premium panel


Despite this arsenal of settings, though, we struggled to get the PA271W to produce competitive color accuracy at any of its default presets. Out of the box, the high brightness setting and native color temperature was very disappointing, with a color temperature of 6,184K being noticeably warm.

Its average de94 color accuracy of 3.7 and peak de94 of 9 were also disappointing; in comparison the $544 Digimate IPS-2701WPH’saverage color accuracy out of the box was 1.8 and its peak de94 was just 4.2. The PA271 W’s gamma levels weren’t perfect either, with an average of 2.13 - 0.07 off the ideal. The only highlight was the 825:1 contrast ratio, which ensured deep blacks, despite the suspect color accuracy.

While we realize this is a professional panel that’s meant to be regularly calibrated, these shortcomings are too obvious and the price is far too steep to consider the NEC PA271Wagood investment

Switching to the sRGB preset and 6,500Kcolour temperature did little to improve the situation, dropping the dE94 to 2.7 but raising the maximum dE94 to 9.5. The color temperature also dropped to a very warm 5.655K, while the gamma level worsened further to an average of 2.07. What’s more, at this preset, the brightness is locked to 80cd/m2, resulting in a picture that’s only bright enough in very dark environments. What’s more, this change in setting dropped the contrast ratio to 535:1 - the lowest result measured during this Labs test.

Startled by the disappointing image quality available within the reach of most users out of the box, we set about calibrating the PA271W using our colorimeter and Blue Eye Pro software. Thankfully, the result was much more in line with what we’d expect from a premium panel, with a color temperature of 6.535K, an average dE94 of 0.6 and a maximum dE94 of 1.1.

These results are much better, but frustratingly still not as good as the calibrated results of the much cheaper U2713H. The contrast ratio, even when calibrated, was also stuck at a miserly590:1, resulting in a loss of depth and detail in blacks. On the plus side, the backlight was at least excellent, with no discernible bleeding.


The depths to which you can manually adjust and configure this panel are phenomenal. Sadly, however, our efforts to squeeze competitive image quality out of it without the use of an expensive calibrator proved fruitless, leaving the NEC PA271Wlooking like an overpriced disappointment.

While the Adobe RGB support predictably drives up the price, the Dell U2713H supports the same feature set for less money, and with superior image quality. For the sRGB, even the $544 Digimate I PS-2701 WPH is better both out of the box and when calibrated.

What’s more, despite its premium price, NEC doesn’t offer any kind of pixel policy beyond the standard Class 2, requiring three bright or dark pixel defects before replacing the panel.

While we realize this is a professional panel that’s meant to be regularly calibrated, these shortcomings are too obvious and the price is far too steep to consider the NEC PA271Wagood investment. Only photographic specialists need apply, and even they will be better served by the cheaper Dell U2713H in terms of image quality.


§  Price: $1,385

§  Manufacturer:


§  Panel Technology: IPS

§  Viewable Image Size: 27"

§  Aspect Ratio: 16:9

§  Native Resolution: 2560 x 1440

§  Pixel Pitch: 0.23mm

§  Pixels Per Inch: 109@ native resolution

§  Backlight Type: CCFL

§  Brightness (typical): 300cd/m2

§  Contrast Ratio (typical): 1000:1

§  Viewing Angle (typical): 178° Vert., 178° Hor. (89U/89D/89L/89R) @ CR>10

§  Response Time (typical): 7ms

§  Color: Gamut       

§  Lookup Table: 14-bit (3D)

§  Displayable Colors: 1.07 billion out of 4.3 trillion

§  Horizontal (Analog/Digital): 31.5-93.9 kHz (Digital only)

§  Vertical: 50-87 Hz

§  Input Connectors: DisplayPort, DVI-D Dual Link (2)

§  Dimensions (WxHxD) Net (with stand): 25.2 x 15.6-21.5 x 9.3 in. / 640.4 x 396.2-546.2 x 235.5mm

§  Weight: 30 lbs. / 13.6 kg


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