4k HDR on the cheap.
Now that the HDR format is becoming more commonplace in new games, more and more display manufacturers are finding ways to work the technology into more affordable monitors. BenQ has done just that with the reasonably priced EW3270U (See it on Amazon), which is a 32-inch monitor with a 3840 x 2160 (4K) resolution, HDR10 compatibility, and 10-bit color. If those sound like impressive specs for a display that costs $600, you are absolutely correct—most UHD HDR monitors of this size are over $1,000. But a spec sheet only tells part of the story, so I spent some time with the EW3270U to see if it’s worthy of taking up space on your desk.
BenQ EW3270U – Design & Features
The BenQ EW3270U has a very basic design. Actually, that’s an understatement; this monitor could easily pass for just another boring office monitor in pretty much every regard. The body is housed in simple, matte black and gray plastic. The top and side bezels are a respectable half-inch in size and the bottom edge of the monitor is a bit thicker with a small BenQ logo. The stand, while sturdy and offering a conveniently small footprint, doesn’t provide much beyond holding the EW3270U upright with a very slight amount of tilt. Frustratingly, there’s no way to adjust the screen’s height and since the display sits so low, you’re probably going to need to set this monitor on some books or use the VESA mounting holes.
…the deep 3,000:1 contrast provided by this VA panel is certainly welcomed.
Under the hood, BenQ sports a 32-inch Vertical Alignment (VA) panel with UHD resolution, 60Hz refresh rate, 10-bit color, and HDR10 support. While I personally prefer the crisp visuals and colors of In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels, the deep 3,000:1 contrast provided by this VA panel is certainly welcomed—especially on an HDR monitor where those deep black tones matter. Moreover, BenQ claims the EW3270U impressively covers 95% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, but you can also opt for sRGB mode if that’s more aligned with your workspace needs.
Despite its HDR bonafides, the EW3270U tops out at 300 nits brightness and uses backlighting, as opposed to something like the 384 local dimming zones found on the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ. Granted, that monitor also costs roughly four times as much. You could put three EW3270U monitors side-by-side and still have money left over for a really nice mechanical keyboard for the price of one PG27UQ.
As I mentioned, the EW3270U has a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz, and while there are other 4K HDR monitors which now offer up to 144Hz refresh rates, current GPUs are rarely able to provide such high frame rates in UHD anyway. That is to say, I found the 60Hz panel in the EW3270U more than adequate considering current tech. Additionally, BenQ has included FreeSync adaptive refresh if you’re using a compatible AMD card.
I found the 60Hz panel in the EW3270U more than adequate considering current tech.
The I/O connections on this monitor are setup in the common and also annoying down firing position. As much as I dislike down firing ports on monitors, it’s exacerbated more by the small amount of tilt and absence of height adjustment on the stand. Anyway, once you practically turn the entire thing upside down, the EW3270U includes two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4, and one USB-C port. While USB-C is a nice addition, the lack of any USB 3.0 ports for connecting peripherals is a big drawback, but one of the sacrifices made by the low-ish price tag.
The on-screen display is controlled by five physical buttons under the bottom edge of the monitor. I found the menus easy to use and fairly straightforward. What’s more unique is the small HDR/B.I.+ button located on the bottom bezel of the EW3270U. Pressing the button once turns on an “emulated” HDR mode for non-HDR content. While the idea is certainly interesting, the results don’t match the ambition. I found the emulated HDR added a noticeably blue tint to everything while only slightly increasing contrast.
Pushing the button a second time activates Brightness Intelligence Plus, which uses a sensor at the bottom of the monitor (seen below) to detect changing lighting conditions in the room to automatically adjust color temperature and brightness accordingly. While this may be helpful for some users, I can’t see myself using something that alters the picture spontaneously during gaming.
BenQ EW3270U – Testing
As usual, I used the Lagom LCD testing pages to get a better look at the BenQ EW3270U in regards to variables like contrast, gamma, viewing angles, and response time. As expected, the contrast on this VA panel is excellent. Black tones are deep and varying shades are easily distinguishable against a pure black background. Similarly, white tones were not saturated against a white background. Gamma testing came in just a bit under the sRGB standard 2.2, but I didn’t find this to have much impact on the visible luminance of the monitor.
Viewing angles on the EW3270U aren’t great. Even a moderate off-angle viewing of the screen degrades picture quality to a noticeable extent. On a related note, there was some light bleed from the bottom corners of the unit that was sent to me for review, but I didn’t notice it outside of a totally black screen. In regards to response time, BenQ claims a 4ms grey-to-grey response time and my testing appeared to run fairly consistent with those figures. Concurrently, I noticed very little ghosting—leaving visible artifacts behind fast moving objects—on the EW3270U while using the UFO Tests over at Blur Busters. All in all, this monitor performed as advertised, even if it runs just a bit dimmer than I would have expected.
BenQ EW3270U – Gaming
The EW3270U works great as a standard UHD monitor, but where it really shines is with HDR content. I’ve said this before in other reviews, but if you haven’t experienced real HDR gaming (HDR10, Dolby Vision) on a compatible monitor you’re seriously missing out. The way light reflects off of environments, the realism of fiery explosions, the wide color gamut—it’s really something to behold. I spent quite a few hours playing HDR-ready games like Destiny 2, Doom, Battlefield 1, and Far Cry 5. While the picture quality on the EW3270U isn’t quite up-to-par with some higher-end monitors like the Asus PG27UQ, it’s damn close and the quality-to-price ratio is incredible.
That said, HDR remains a finicky proposition with its own share of headaches, too. More often than not, getting an HDR-compatible PC game to look right takes some work. You’ll need to turn on HDR in Windows 10, then in most games you’ll have to go in and adjust any number of sliders for brightness. Then you’ll need to—in the case of Destiny 2—set black and white HDR levels to make sure you can actually see anything in dark environments. But after all that hassle, you’ll experience a great looking game with realistic colors and lighting, and it’s mostly worth the effort. Pulling apart demon heads in Doom just looks like it’s supposed to in HDR on the EW3270U.
Every game I played had no problem running between 50 and 60 frames per second at 3840 x 2160 on my GTX 1080. I did, occasionally, notice some screen tearing. If I had an AMD card on hand, I’m confident FreeSync on the EW3270U would have taken care of the issue. Needless to say, there’s a reason G-Sync adds a substantial premium to monitor cost, but I wouldn’t say the tearing was consistent enough of an issue to negate the impressive value of this monitor.
The BenQ EW3270U has an MSRP of $699.99, but has been just $599 on Amazon for a while: