Top positive review
A rather decent monitor, once you understand the hardware calibration. Lacks sRGB tone curve
15 November 2018
This review is for the SW2700PT, but the comments are relevant to other models of hardware calibrated monitors.
I've had this monitor for almost two years, so have good experience of it. I use it in a multi monitor system, almost entirely for photo editing with Photoshop.
I think the image quality is good for the price of this monitor. Purists will no doubt complain of poor panel uniformity. If you're serious about your work, you might be able to justify an Eizo but, if I'm honest, it's more than adequate for my modest amateur photographic abilities. In conjunction with a nice GTI Soft-View viewer (which I picked up cheaply on eBay) it means I've got a better grip of my print process and no longer have the same nasty surprises when the prints arrive!
If you want to get the very best out of this monitor, you'll need to feed it from a GPU with 10-bit component output (30-bit display) and a 10-bit connection (e.g. via Display Port). Even then, you'll only be able to obtain 30-bit display output in Photoshop if you use a 'Pro' series graphics card (e.g. the NVIDEA Quadro series) with OpenGL support. I use the K1200 which is a fairly low power card and can support four 4K/5K(?) monitors. The GeForce series may have 10-bit output but they lack the OpenGL support required to render images in Photoshop (unless you can find a 3rd party driver). There are still limitations as to when 30-bit display is utilised in Photoshop, but that's far beyond the scope of this review!
It's a shame you need to purchase an expensive calibration tool if you want to calibrate the monitor yourself, which is what's intended. However, even after two years, I find the factory AdobeRGB calibration of my unit to be very good. Therefore it's a purchase you could probably delay. If you want to use the full native capability of the monitor then you will need to calibrate it yourself in order to obtain a custom profile for your monitor. For most of us though AdobeRGB is probably as much as we need.
If you want an accurate calibration, make sure you first let the monitor warm up, with an active image on the screen, for at least 30 minutes. As I recall, the white point gets cooler as it warms up and other parameters will change too. I use the i1 Display Pro and, once you understand it, the results of the hardware calibration using the Palette Master Element (PME) software seem excellent. To my eye the calibration appears to be slightly better than using the i1Profiler for 'traditional' soft calibration.
Initially I had problems getting my head around the internal calibration using the PME software. The documentation is a bit sparse. It had some issues (which may now be fixed) concerning its inability to calibrate with a relative blackpoint. Following discussions with BenQ, Amazon sent me a replacement, without any quibble, and they awaited my return of the original monitor. Unfortunately the replacement was very poorly calibrated and far too warm. It also suffered the same calibration issue. However, it had more recent firmware which allowed PME to offer calibration to a range of RGB primaries. So I returned the second monitor to Amazon and sent the original back to BenQ for a firmware update, which they did very promptly.
Some of my calibration issues stemmed from my misunderstanding of how this hardware calibrated monitor works. I'd assumed that the ICC profile produced at the end of the calibration should be the monitor profile installed for colour management, as you'd expect with a 'conventional' monitor. That's not the case with the SW2700PT. Whatever colour space you calibrate to (the RGB Primaries), the ICC profile output file is always defined for native colour space. You should therefore only use it when calibrated to the native gamut. When you calibrate the monitor to other RGB Primaries the monitor first calibrates to the native space, then characterises the display, then produces the ICC profile, as with a 'conventional' monitor. It then uses internal 3D LUTs to emulate the colour space you require. It appears to do this very well. This means the ICC profile you should use for colour management is the standard profile for that colour space. e.g. if you calibrate to Adobe RGB primaries, use the Adobe RGB (1998) profile. If you attempt to use the ICC file from the calibration, the image will look desaturated.
Of course, when you switch the monitor between one colour space and another you will need to change the ICC profile in your computer. It's a pity there isn't a small app provided to synchronise this for you. It would make the puck a lot more useful for quickly changing colour space. As it is, it's a bit of a marketing gimmick.
Sadly there is a problem with sRGB calibration. With PME it's not possible to select the correct sRGB tonal curve. sRGB should be calibrated to a modified 2.2 gamma curve. This is linear for about the first 4% followed by a gamma of about 2.4. The closest you can select is a gamma of 2.2, but this causes shadows to be darkened and incorrect contrast range. This might be acceptable in a budget monitor but not for a hardware calibrated monitor with 'Pro' ambitions. Given the internal LUTs I'd hope this is something easy to add to PME.
The factory sRGB mode on my monitor has also be setup with a simple gamma of 2.2. It appears this has been done because it's the default on Windows /Mac OS. Strictly speaking I don't think this is an 'sRGB' mode, not without the correct tone curve, but it doesn't really matter what it's called. If BenQ could support the sRGB tone curve for calibration we'd have all we needed.
After some problems on my side and BenQ's I'm now very impressed with this monitor. If I were buying now I might prefer a larger, 4k/5k display. At zoom factors below 66.7% Photoshop performs layer processing at 8-bit level, which can cause noticeable banding. This can be a horrible distraction. With more pixels on the display I could view at higher zoom factors. But that's a Photoshop issue, not the fault of the monitor.