BenQ SW271C 4K 27" monitor review
BenQ SW271C is an updated version of a UHD 4K 3840×2160 pixel 27” monitor that offers the latest connectivity versions, excellent matte surface finish, and workflow options for editing both stills images and 4K native video. BenQ continue their SW line monitors which are wide gamut, covering 100% sRGB+Rec709, 99% Adobe RGB to maximise colour rendition and fidelity.
At a glance
This new SW271C 27″ monitor is an ultra high definition IPS professional editing display with even more custom features to fit into any situation be it a home environment to a multi-post full production studio.
All SW line monitors accept 10bit display signal with 16bit LUTs with the SW271C.
What is a subtle, yet important difference is the SW271C has maintained its excellent photographic capabilities, meanwhile greatly expanding the video editing capabilities. This includes source feeds RGB and or YCbCr 4:4:4 4:2:2 from SDI devices from AJA and Blackmagic. The SW271C can take straight through video frame rates without teardown (re-interpolation) at 24, 25, and 30 fps. As with its bigger brother the SW321C, HDR and HLG formats are available for video editing with simulated response.
Taking the best from its SW line family monitors, the new features include a new anti-glare anti-reflection coating, excellent improved color uniformity technology allowing for better multi-post set ups, and 3rd generation uniformity technology raising the bar with superior across display luminosity evenness for all modes except HDR and or Dicom.
Calibration has always been the strong point with BenQ SW line. With the SW271C they have added support for 3rd party calibration Calman and Lightspace for video, and certification for Calman Verified and Pantone Validated. These points are indeed big steps in making the SW271C polyvalent in professional working spaces with standards in mind.
On the photography front now the SW271C includes direct Paper Color Sync with the goal of making screen to print preview matching easier and more intuitive.
USB C with power delivery up to 60W is the most requested feature, now present. Designation with a C in the SW line is USB-C and both the SW321C,SW270C, and SW271C have (PD) over USB C as well as data transmission over 3.1 allowing 4K display at 60Hz.
Another understated update is a version or Generation 2 Hot Key Puck, which has a fantastic range of customisable keys.
What hasn’t changed and is still the hallmark of BenQ SW editing monitors is the quality of screens, stand, and the best in market shading hood.
Read on for more details!
Highlighted feature upgrades
What is not to love in a USB-C single cable that provides 60W power delivery (PD) to your portable computer? Extreme connectivity, encompassing all data transfer, audio and video over a single cable without a power supply. This combined with the ingenious M-Book colour mode let’s you connect your Apple or high end PC IPS display such as Asus to the SW271C with one cable and one button screen matching!
New surface coating reducing glare and reflections. A nice touch on an already solid performance in this regard on all BenQ SW monitors.
Uniformity Technology (3rd generation), measured and corrected at the factory using a Minolta CA2000 radiometer for the finest precision control. Each new version of the BenQ SW line shows their progressive leading-edge technology at an accessible price point. By micro controlling the surface’s zone uniformity both in colour and luminosity overall performance is greatly improved to the point of being a non-issue.
This not only helps for each individual monitor yet goes further to providing closer tolerances between monitors (often referred to inter device agreement) for those with multiple monitors in a multi seat environment or multi-site situation (say one monitor at work, one at another workspace). BenQ have applied the uniformity technology mapping to all colour modes executions being HDR and Dicom.
The BenQ SW271C has excellent uniformity, better than previous monitors, and far better than other brands at this price point. It does however make my iMac 27” 5K look really bad side by side in terms of uniformity. Both the BenQ SW270C, and SW321C have this technology.
BenQ continues to deliver top-quality products with a better price point than any other competitor that it is possible to fulfil needs of quality first with a price point that defies all competition! Highly recommended for those seeking an updated USB-C or Thunderbolt enabled editing monitor with 27” 4K super fine pixel pitch 0.1552 mm.
Who is this monitor for?
Photographers and or videographers wanting super high native 4K resolution with extended high gamut potential, fully aligned to all important color standards. BenQ’s new SW271C monitor has more polyvalence than ever before, yet maintains the very highest professional standards in a more convenient 27″ form factor.
BenQ have designed the SW271C monitor for almost every image creator or editor . The added robustness will stand the test of time going forward with you many years in the future. Being feature packed with so many options is a big plus for redundancy. With this SW271C you are ready for anything in way of image creation and edition at industry level specifications and standards.
What does it have that covers all bases? Pantone Certified for graphic artists and prepress, CalMAN verified for video editing, Light Space CalMAN video calibration hooks for external access by calibration software directly to the monitor colour processor at 16bit, and going forward with Paper Color Sync software for intuitive print to monitor matching.
That is what the BenQ does for you with AQcolor delivering accurate colour beyond expectations in every domain you are working in.
Into the details
This review is intended for image editors and content creators both stills and video. It is a review from a user’s point of view to others looking for information on the use and application of this monitor and not intended to be a technical review, which will be available from qualified technical writers. To be clear, in the past BenQ have graciously offered to keep monitors after reviewing them.
There are so many details to be covered in my reviews, you may find yourself a bit lost. Thing is, I too can get lost looking for the nuances. I have spent decades working as a consultant to developers of imaging equipment constantly assessing image quality.
We are as image makers often looking at these details wishing for perfection. Truth in simplicity is perhaps closest to the truth! That feeling of joy when you know everything is just right. Such is the feeling day after day with BenQ SW monitors. In fact you monitor becomes your reference, BenQ deliver that promise, and do so at a fantastic price point!
It is also easy to get twisted into the numbers such as the colour spaces covered. BenQ SW line monitors all cover the large wide gamuts of Adobe RGB, and beyond. The numbers themselves don’t mean as much as where those colours are covered, and how. The numbers only tell a fraction of the story. How the colours are controlled in these spaces is an undeniable benefit of AQcolor technology.
For a full specs list click on the link below.
The new BenQ SW271C has similar display qualities comparable to the SW270C, SW320,SW321C, and SW271 consistant across the line this one being 4K UHD at a 27” diagonal viewing surface.
My favourite stills monitor was the BenQ SW2700PT (my review here) which was/is near perfect for photographers and videographers alike in an HD 27” monitor. It was the first release from BenQ launching them into the pro editing market sector, and the first of its kind at that price point.
Recently I have been using the SW270C (review here) a perfect update to the SW2700PT. For the same reasons the SW271C, and SW321C are perfect is having USB-C PD 60W. Before receiving the SW321C I was using my trusted SW320 (review here) for any video editing and live shooting in studio.
As computers and video cards become capable of editing video at very high resolution of 4K, 5K, 6K even 8K UHD, with 10 bit video card out, the SW271C finds its place perfectly suited for the most demanding polyvalent workflows. The SW271C will last well into the future as it covers 4k video editing natively, and any high resolution stills images with exacting details.
BenQ SW271C has added new electronic features to allow advanced USB-C connectivity while maintaining and exceeding colour capabilities for certification.
BenQ SW monitors have common aligned colour space options. SW line panel gamut maintains 100% of sRGB/ REC 709 and 99% of Adobe RGB, with only some slight variations in DCI P3. BenQ state a DCI-P3 coverage at 90% with the SW271C which is a very good performance.
Targeting video standards, BenQ continues to strive for excellence by rendering DCI P3 with smooth transitions, and offering the ability to view video streams in HDR or a new video HLG. This HLG profile can also used for recording flat or raw video footage to be graded in Post.
Many digital cameras have log profiles for shooting video with specific gamma power curves to allow better resolving of highlights and details for which there are 3 HLG profiles.
Incredible effort by BenQ with this SW271C is HDMI input connectivity from SDI video out devices/cards such as;
Black Magic Teranex Mini SDI to HDMI 12G, Micro Converter SDI to HDMI | Black Magic DeckLink 4K Extreme 12G
AJA Hi5-12G | AJA KONA5
Bringing affordable monitors into the zone of reference monitors costing 10 times as much is a feat!
When the SW271C senses HDR over HDMI, HDR profiles applying settings to your monitor with a colour space adapted for the highest contrast, shaping of light, and colour to best represent simulation of HDR content.
Said simply, if you plug an HDR device into the monitor you have optimised settings for these devices showing more shadow detail, brighter highlights, while retaining a high level of contrast and colour saturation. . If you want to read more about HLG or Hybrid Log-Gamma click on this HGL
Colour consistency between multiple SW271C monitors has been improved thanks to new Uniformity Technology as well as the newest screen coating for truly superb uniformity in both luminosity and colour deviation. This is factory measured, and registered for each display, an important step for maintaining the utmost in quality delivered.
I am pleased to say the new SW271C continues the trend of BenQ SW monitors moving up to the next level of quality of much more expensive monitors without raising the initial investment. The SW271C has a good overall uniformity which can be assessed with the factory calibration report. This is a factory measured value field reported and delivered with each unit from BenQ.
You can also measure uniformity in i1 Profiler. Be aware that i1 measured uniformity will not correlate to factory precision measurements made with a very finely tuned device.
What I am delighted with is the out of the box factory colour space settings. This is the first BenQ SW display that is so very close to a hardware calibration showing negligible differences calibrated and factory settings.
Cameras have been producing images with more colour than monitors can show for a long time. Monitors now are targeting Adobe RGB colour spaces as the reference point, with the goal of managing extended colour spaces such as DCI P3 within the scope of SW line monitors.
Apple decided on a wide gamut device space called DCI P3 for retina displays. BenQ added a colour matching function called M=Book which allows matching of the default MacBook Pro screen to the SW271C.
This could also be valid for PC portables with IPS displays like Asus, Lenova, Dell etc. as their screens are quite similar to Apple Retina, and the colour space is Display P3. Matching this colour spaces is easy with the included presets for P3, as well as the possibility of targeting the chromatic boundaries in Palette Master Elements at a hardware calibration level.
The BenQ SW271C monitor is to be viewed at a normal viewing distance compared to the much bigger 32″ versions.
Laptops with USB C paired with a BenQ SW271C will make for an ideal editing setup, as will desktop towers! If you have a higher level graphics card the BenQ SW271C will perform even better, yet fear not a more modest card will still do fine for both video and photo, as well as watching movies.
One of my favourite features is Benq’s fabulous quality hoods supplied for both landscape orientation as well as portrait.
Choosing between WQHD or 4K | 27" or 32"
For example, if you like to be close to the monitor(s) a standard sized monitor as the SW270C, or SW271C would be your choice. It is a question of desk space vs distance between you and the monitor(s). All 4K monitors have you further away for a reasonable viewing distance compared to WQHD.
I am finding the text on the SW271C very sharp, around the same as my iMac 27” 5K when set to medium text size scaling.
It also comes down to how the OS manages text on above HD. Apple does this well on their Retina monitors. For any monitor plugged in that is managed by the system Mac or Windows text rendering is somewhere between acceptable and good. Happy to report that the very fine pitch of the SW271C renders every little bit of details as good as it gets.
Strange things occur unfortunately with text scaling in respect to image sizing. To compound this, the SW271C seems to forget that it is not a 5K monitor as the system information reporting does. All of this affects text and image size reproduction and pixel grid scaling.
For editing images, I find the operating systems run smoother with HD or QHD monitors regardless of video card. Hence my recommendation for stills or non 4K video workflow you’ll be happier with a SW270C monitor over a 4K such as this excellent BenQ SW271C .
Recent computers are capable of delivering 4K video output signal yet not all can drive this at 10 bits per channel (over HDMI 2.0 or Display Port). With the addition of USB C much more data can be sent. Now all three models SW271C, SW321C, and SW270C have USB C with Power Delivery at 60w. That is largely sufficient for most operations. If your portable needs more power temporarily, your battery should do, then when idle the USB C PD cable will recharge the battery..
The SW271C is supplied with a high quality USB-C PD cable for all data including the USB hub, card reader, 10 bit workflow and sound etc. Not only is the performance enhanced, the power supplied from the monitor (60w) is enough to power a MacBook Pro or other USB C portable. One cable does it all, no need for additional power bricks, or cables.
The USB 3.1 ports and SD card reader come in extremely useful too. Please note: if you set the display system preferences the SW271C you have a choice of 4K at 60Hz with USB 2.0 speeds or 4K at 30Hz with USB 3.1. That is if you use the ports or card reader your choice will affect transfer or copy speeds greatly. Yet the visual difference for me between 30 and 60Hz refresh is , well, not much.
Time required for calibration with Palette Master Element is approximately 6 minutes thanks to USB C using an i1 Display Pro.
Implementation by Apple with Thunderbolt 3/ USB C, however is not perfect, and these problems still exist! Delays on wake up persist after the last OS updates, yet thankfully all connections are HDMI, Display Port, and USB-C are working without fault.
Although the Apple specs are similar the viewing angles specifications it is readily apparent that the BenQ really outperforms any glossy screen at extreme angles. Uniformity is superb on the SW271C, beyond my expectations.
When clients are present, the undeniable repeatability and viewing angle comfort of the BenQ SW271C will prove its worth.
As photographers, we are drawn to video more and more. Not long ago video editing was a specialised domain reserved for mid-sized companies with experts in editing with very expensive equipment required to do so.
Now, the requirements have become in reach of independent artists and content creators making high quality video editing a reality with a smaller investment in equipment as well as training. Yet delivery of content needs a reliable editing post where the monitor is the portal into the visual world we are working with.
BenQ addresses the needs by aligning colour display to your workflow both video and stills.
When the output video is the same as the display colour, an assurance is made. This is not to say a display will replace a reference monitor (in terms of video reference monitors certified for various broadcast standards). It will however assure colour coordination and workflow in editing will be maintained.
BenQ SW271C is Pantone Validated which is an outsourced colour certification program that measures ability to meet or exceed a standard set of controls such as white point, gamut, contrast and brightness specification as well as colour fidelity.
CalMAN and Lightspace calibration ready, allows for third party remote access to the colour processor in the SW271C. Many production studios use these tools for aligning parcs of editing stations.
Paper Color Sync is an additional BenQ software and hardware package aiming at making intuitive screen to print matching possible for some printer and media combinations. Print media profile information (printer media combination specific) is paired with the monitor profile to simulate a suitable screen to print matching, if the viewing light is a true viewing environment lightbox.
It is a good idea, holding promise yet the implementation is missing finesse and printer options.
This can of course be done with a second or third hardware calibration with a reduced luminosity and colour temperature inside of Lightroom or Photoshop with Proof Preview, yet requires more fundamental colour management basics.
Palette Master Elements
Hardware calibrations are the best way to go. Yet there are numerous caveats.
All SW line monitors can be calibrated using the included downloadable Palette Master Elements software. You will need one of the later devices from X-Rite or DataColor to proceed. These are supported:
X-Rite il Display Pro / i1Display Pro Plus / il Pro /il Pro 2 / i1Pro 3 Plus /il Studio/ ColorMunki Photo, Datacolor Spyder 4/ Spyder 5/ Spyder X.
Please refer to user guide for more information, and also download the software here.
At the time of this writing PME is not compatible even in Rosetta 2 with M1 Apple chips. Not only is it not recommended but a warning: do not use PME with PME until an update comes for Apple’s M1 chips. While here, it even gets more complicated, X-Rite are also slow to get an update out that is validated thus M1 processors and colour management are not making for good company!
I will update this as soon as this changes!
The good news; this SW271C on other operating systems works very well indeed!
This is the first time I had great numbers out of the box with and without hardware calibrations. Very consistently I am receiving <DeltaE 1.5 which is really phenomenal.
The last updates of PME include the ability to set a specified black point which is very nice. Recommended is 0.2>0.4 from my testing.
The 3D LUTs are now all 16 bit, matching profile depth, ultimately achieving the highest fidelity in profiling.
I also have made one custom setting which is very close to factory settings, as well as custom PME hardware calibrations.
Some hardware details
To go with this is a sturdy hood which is easy to assemble, and comes with optional extension panels so you can use the hood in portrait mode. It is the same hood as the SW270C. Materials used are heavy grade nice finishing likely the best in the industry. Inside of the hood is an efficient black velvet which removes all spurious reflections. It also has a calibration device sliding drop port for easy fixing of a calibration device.
All BenQ monitors have nice stands. This monitor has a very heavy duty stand, even larger than the SW321C 32″! There is a detent at landscape and portrait orientation positions. This makes it easier to find its home position. That said the detents are only guides and are not precise so some fiddling around is necessary. I wish they would put a center line for 0º rotation…
This stand allows rotation and height adjustment (sprung dampened preload) as well as pivot. It is more than adequate for reasonable operation yet you can easily mount it on a Vesa 100mm mount by removing four screws behind the stand mount.
Frame, bezel, outer casing strong and well done a dark grey 18% reflectance* mat finished plastic just a touch finer than the SW270C. The bezel is larger and similar to the SW321C.
I often see comments on why BenQ doesn’t make the SW monitors with no bezels or very fine like the SW270C. The reason, not an excuse is to have the electronics perform reliably with repeatability and longevity, bezels have to be there. This is true of all the top end editing monitors in general.
There is a sturdy handle on the centre column for safe transport of the monitor. The height adjustment is fluid and has a strong spring which counter acts the weight of the monitor for smooth controlled adjustments. The base also has a nice cut out for cable routing, and the embossed are for the controller disc.
BenQ’s remote controller, has been updated to G2 or generation 2 include a rotary control knob. While the panel itself has every control button on the facade, once you use the wired puck you cannot help to love it. Fully customisable for each button, and quick easy access to all functions otherwise done with the front panel buttons.
I set button 1 to calibration 1 (after doing a hardware calibration with an X-Rite i1), leave button 2 for sRGB and button 3 to B&W. OR make a hardware calibration set for low luminosity for screen to print matching and put that in slot 3. What I like about having 3 calibration slots is whatever you set the hot keys to, the calibration slots are always available in the menus.
Since it is cabled you can change settings and view the results at a comfortable distance compared to the front panel buttons. It sits nicely into a round embossed base of the column. I leave the rotary knob to brightness for custom spaces. The new G2 remote takes some getting used to yet I find going back to G1 tells me the new one is just so much better.
The B&W mode is a very nice feature that makes viewing of an entire window of colour select images or video show in B&W or greyscale/ monotone without having to set any colour grade or develop settings! There are 3 different B&W settings to choose from to your preferences. They are not just a desaturation mode yet an ideal conversion to Monochrome with a look that photographers will appreciate. A photographer’s dream come true, exactly why I leave controller button 3 assigned to B&W!
Ports: Connecting cables is a bit tricky as the ports are all down pointing. I use a small mirror which makes swapping cables or plugging them in quick and easy.
An SD card reader is a really nice touch as it is USB 3.1 rapid and useful for times when you have no card reader in the computer. Two additional USB 3.1 ports are also a nice touch. Be aware that your USB C settings for screen refresh rates 60 or 30Hz affect USB level transfer speeds. IF you are using the SD reader or USB ports for hard drives, then choose 30Hz forgoing faster refresh rates.
BenQ supplies all cables USB C (1m), HDMI cable 2.0 (1.8m), mDP to DP cable(1.8m), USB 3.1 cable (1.8m) and Power cable.
Hardware Shipping box has an extremely robust design, logical placement in a very reusable box. It is also quite heavy! Important for those wanting to use it on location.
Advantages of the BenQ SW271C monitor
A factory measured report ensuring each monitor’s quality assurance is delivered to show your monitor will perform exactly as intended from the factory. Out of the box a BenQ SW271C colour will be at a high level and close to perfect without calibration.
To align your graphics card output you can calibrate at a hardware level with included Palette Master Elements (both Windows and Mac) with a number of X-Rite and Data Color devices (not included). It is almost automatic, as the screen communicates with the operating system and sends the calibration data to the monitor which hosts this internally.
Doing so is recommended as each computer and graphics card will have slight variations easily corrected at a very high precision inside the monitor. This is much more effective than any local generated ICC profile as it will not have the precision to correct for the panel in the same way.
User settings also include PictureInPicture and or PbP if you want to preview two different colour spaces at the same time. This is perhaps useful for colour grading for different outputs. The user manual will show you the way, in words it would be a long winded explanation. I don’t use this often but it is there just as is Gamut Duo which allows for comparing two gamut colour spaces coming from two independent sources.
REC 709 and sRGB 100% gamut covered
AdobeRGB 99% gamut covered
DCI P3 90% gamut covered
USB-C PD60W, DP Alt mode, Data
USB 3.1 (2x) hub, SD Card reader 1 USB 3.1 to host 1 mini USB for the controller disc only
2X HDMI V2.0 + DisplayPort 1.4
300 cd/m2 with a 5ms GtG response time
16:9 format 60 Hz refresh rate DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) P3
For the full list of technical specifications please click here!
New Video settings in the BenQ SW271C
You can switch rgb signal settings to full or reduced (16-235 closer to broadcast specs), also 12 bit upstream video.
Because of the better data rates and processor, video playback at 24fps, 25 or 30 fps is native without 3:2 pulldown. Pulldown is a technical remapping of television signals for video making an offset half frame every 3 frames. For some interesting ready on this click here This was introduced with the SW270C. The addition of viewing HLG video with the correct profile started with the SW321C, and continues here. What is new is the source over HDMI from SDI devices or cards.
Click on this link for a full Resolution report and video data specifications.
BenQ is continuing to improve uniformity with new technology to adjust multi-zone and sub zone levels to maximise evenness in luminosity and colour! With 16bit table conversions and the new regulation circuits measurements and embedded integration at the factory a very tight tolerance uniformity has been achieved. This is not only for each monitor but for overall matching between multiple monitor set ups, and or multiple sites.
Conclusion the BenQ SW271C Professional Series Monitor
After a week of testing the SW271C is delightful, and top line professional equipment delivering everything that is expected, and much more that was not expected!
Making precise edits at this level with this top performing monitor at a very reasonable justifiable price is accessible to all serious content creators! Your photography editing will be as good as it gets, and now the video in native 4K UHD is a reality that cannot be had on a HD monitor.
Getting used to a 4k monitor regardless of brand will take a bit of getting used to, that is no different with this BenQ SW271C.
There are some quirks, like waking up the monitor, changing text scaling, mouse response after waking it up, and system reporting. It could be that Apple has not included the right information in their updates. I have not yet tested this display with Windows but will shortly.
BenQ is putting their best into the SW pro line of monitors, and doing so with affordable prices that no other brands match. This BenQ SW271C is their best 27″ 4K display, offering superb gamut, brightness, resolution, user customisation of usage settings, repeatable and reliable colour accuracy with included software for hardware calibration.
Build quality improved with a beefy stand for added robustness with excellent finishing. The stand, casing, included hood, and controller disc all are of professional system hardware grade. Stand quality and the hot key G2 controller are intended for ease of use, again BenQ is putting users first.
I fully recommend this monitor for anyone wanting a 4K pro level monitor for photography and or video without hesitation.
- Very tight tolerance uniformity and surface technology
- Panel Guarantee for stuck over bright pixels 6 months
- USB-C PD 60W for one cable operation
- Very wide gamut, high contrast and controllable monitor
- 10-bit panel with 16bit correction internally
- Unequalled quality hood both orientations portrait and landscape panels included
- Supplied with proprietary calibration software
- Supplied with quality cables
- Source HDMI SDI uncompressed nor redrawn video flux
- Power consumption a mere 37w
- Long life MTBF numbers
- Perhaps just a bit shy on the maximum brightness for HDR (300cd/m2)
- Palette Master needs more QA and more frequent timely updates
- The card reader and USB ports poorly placed
- USB-C or Thunderbolt through port for daisy chaining
- EDID information unreliable
- Lack of positive position guides and detents