NEC PA271W - Design and Specifications

As long as I’ve been following, using, or writing about computers, NEC has been a leader in displays. From the early MultiSync monitors to their current line of LCDs, they have been focused more on pushing performance than on dropping price, which has kept many of us from owning one of their displays. Of course, there is a large swath of users that always want to have the best, and are willing to pay for it.

Back with a CRT, this was pretty easy to do. We didn’t have to worry about lag, we could run multiple resolutions on a display natively, and if a display supported higher resolutions, faster refresh rates, and better sharpness, it was likely going to work for most power users. Now the field is a little different, as you have to worry about the native resolution of your panel, the response time, viewing angles, color quality, and more. All of this has led to a marketplace with different solutions for different needs than before where a "one-size-fits-all" approach doesn't really exist anymore.

Virtually every 27” 2560x1440 IPS display out there currently uses a panel from LG as its starting point. From there your choices can be from CCFL or LED backlights, sRGB or AdobeRGB color gamuts, and the electronics you wish to engineer behind the panel. It is in the panel electronics and settings that NEC adds their own engineering to set their displays apart from the rest.

When you take it out of the box, you’ll notice that the PA271W is very large and almost overbuilt. Where many lower end, consumer focused panels are engaged in a race to how thin they can be, the NEC is a sizable display that is fairly heavy and takes up a large amount of space. One reason for the large size is the presence of a custom designed cooling system for the CCFL backlight. As the monitor warms up and the lamp comes up to its full operating temperature, it can cause color shifts across the panel. NEC is aware of this and has made the display as large as necessary to deal with this issue.

To further deal with color shifts across the panel, NEC has a display uniformity option that lets you sacrifice maximum brightness for a smaller shift across the panel. Each panel is individually measured and calibrated at the factory for this feature, so that if you are looking at a solid white screen it should remain white across the whole screen, free of any shifts to red, green, or blue. There is also a pair of upstream USB connectors instead of the usual one, which allows the NEC to function as a KVM switch as you move between inputs.

The OSD in the NEC is full of all the information you could want to know, from the current colorspace and brightness to how much power you have used since you installed the display. The menu system works well, with labels for all the controls that appear on the screen when you pop it up. It does a good job of not changing how different buttons interact with the menu on different screens, which is what makes some OSD systems a pain to navigate, but it does spread the buttons out a bit which makes it harder to navigate than those from Dell. Overall the OSD is well done.

Of course with an IPS panel you expect good viewing angles, and the NEC doesn’t disappoint here. If you get to extreme viewing angles you can start to see a bit of a shift, but it’s impossible to do any work with an angle like that so I wouldn’t consider it an issue at all.

NEC PA271W
Video Inputs 1x DisplayPort, 2x DVI-DL
Panel Type IPS (8-bit native, 10-bit with A-FRC)
Pixel Pitch 0.23mm
Colors 1.07 Billion
Brightness 300 nits
Contrast Ratio 1000:1
Response Time 7ms
Viewable Size 27"
Resolution 2560x1440
Viewing Angle 178/178 Horizontal/Vertical Degrees
Backlight CCFL
Power Consumption (operation) 117W
Power Consumption (standby) 1.4W
Screen Treatment Anti-Glare
Height-Adjustable Yes
Tilt Yes
Pivot Yes
Swivel Yes
VESA Wall Mounting Yes, 100x100mm or 100x200mm
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 25.2 x 15.6-21.5 x 9.3 in.
Weight 30 lbs
Additional Features 2 USB Up, 2 USB Down, 14-bit LUT
Limited Warranty 4 years
Accessories DisplayPort cable, USB Cable, DVI Cable, Power Cord. Optional SpectraView calibration package.
Price $1098 + shipping online (as of May 1, 2012)

NEC PA271W - MultiProfiler and SpectraView
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  • cheinonen - Tuesday, May 01, 2012 - link

    And that's why in the conclusion I have a section that reads "If you are a design professional who needs accurate color more than anything else, and things like display uniformity and a wider gamut are of high importance, then you are the target for the NEC. You already know you might need this, which features you can’t live without, and are willing to pay the extra price."

    I'm not discounting it because of my use or because I'm not a hard core gamer, I'm drawing the conclusion that if you aren't in that target audience that I already covered in the conclusion, there are other monitors that likely offer a better price/performance ratio for you, or in the case of gaming that offer better performance overall. I tried to cover in depth all of the extra features that design industry professionals would use, as that is the target for the monitor, but also cover it for a general audience as well.
    Reply
  • analogworm - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    Chris,

    In this review you state Nec as being top of the line for graphics proffessionals. Ofcourse your review fully supports this statement, and i have no doubt the nec does a wonderful job. However i miss comparisons to the EIZO monitors, as ive been thought EIZO is top of the line for graphical use, albeit a wee bit more expensive. Could you review one of eizo's monitors for comparison? Id very much appreciate it.

    kind regards,
    Analogworm
    Reply
  • Origin32 - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    How I wish some manufacturer would come along with a 120Hz 2560x1440 monitor already. It's not that not having 3D is such a dealbreaker, but it is awesome and the 120Hz is actually useful in 2D FPSs too. It noticeably improved my performance when I got my Acer GD245HQ 18 months ago.
    So going back to 60Hz really wouldn't be much of an upgrade, even if I got more pixels.

    Oh, and I know 120 is going to be expensive. But I'm more than willing to sell my mother for one.
    Reply
  • AeroWB - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    I have an PA241W, which closely resembles the PA271W. My main problem with it is the mediocre black-levels. The black-levels are fine if its standing in an well lit office though. At home the room often isn't so well lit and then it is fairly obvious that the blacks are worse then of the older IPS NEC screens like the 2090UXi which I use as a second monitor. This difference is because the newer models do not use the A-TW polarizer film. According to NEC the polarizer film was dropped as it increased the color-shift that occurs when looking at the display from the side.
    What I love about he unit is the great color gamut which can make pictures more alive, and when working with sRGB I only have to press one button on the monitor to switch between color-modes.
    The portrait mode is great option which I do use regularly.
    Next to that I do use it to game and while I do not play the fastest FPS games, anything non-FPS is not a problem and I even play Battlefield 3 without any problems, maybe the 24" model has a slightly lower input lag then the 27" though the 24" does also have an input lag that is higher then most other displays, so the difference can't be big.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    The first paragraphs, which show up in the front page, may be a nice general introduction, but say absolutely nothing about the product - not good for the front page. Reply
  • svojoe - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    I'm curious why they used CFL's? I personally feel that the decent LED back light put out a more even and brighter color than the CFL's. At half the power consumption. 110Watts is more draw than my whole computer!

    I would have otherwise been very interested in this!
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    The best CFLs still have wider gamut and lower deltaE than the best LED backlights. Although other people buy them, the 2560 monitor market in general and NEC (among others) in particular are targetting profesional graphics/image/video editing customers for whom color quality is a much larger priority than saving $20/year on their power bill. Reply
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    Overall, it seems like the Apple 27" is better - and cheaper even factoring in the $30 DVI adapter, while coming close to it in color quality. Reply
  • cheinonen - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    With any of the 27" panels tested so far you could say they are "close" to the NEC, but for some people they need that extra bit of quality and uniformity for their work, irregardless of cost. It costs a lot more to get it since it takes a lot more work and engineering, but for some people it's a necessity. Reply
  • nurfe - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    Except that Apple won't support 14 bit lookup-tables, hardware calibration, and it won't electronically correct uniformity and colour variation problems. If nothing I mentioned matters to you, go for something cheap. If you care about it, you'll get a NEC, EIZO or Quato. Reply

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