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BenQ SW240 monitor review

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BenQ SW240 24″ monitor review

24 inch, wide gamut, hardware calibration


Keith has been trying out the latest BenQ monitor aimed at photographers and graphics professionals, wanting a wider gamut hardware calibrated display.

At 24″ it’s smaller than his 32″ or 27″ preference for desktop use, but absolutely ideal for working in a more limited space or with a laptop as a main display.

More info. at BenQ

sw240 and orange flowers

Buying a monitor – these links help support the site.

Amazon (US) | B&H (inc. free hood)| Amazon (UK)

The BenQ SW240

Ok, perhaps I’ve become too used to big monitors, but my first thought on seeing the SW240, was how small it was…

Then I realised that I wasn’t looking at a replacement for my big desktop stuff, but at a high quality monitor that would work in smaller spaces or as an external display for my laptop.

Monitor features

The new monitor is aimed at the photo editing market, complementing the 27-inch QHD SW2700PT, the 27-inch UHD SW271, and the 32-inch UHD SW320 – Links are to my reviews

  • 24.1″, 16:10, 1920×1200 res.
  • 99% Adobe RGB coverage
  • 100% sRGB and 95% DCI-P3
  • 14-bit 3D LUT, ΔE ≤ 2
  • Hardware Calibration with Palette Master Element calibration software
  • Colour Mode HotKey for colour mode switching
  • Advanced Black & White mode
  • Optional shading hood (SH240)

I’m looking at the standard version without the hood here.

Note: I’ve subsequently written a short review covering fitting the SH240 hood and its use.

The monitor is well packed, and on opening you get the monitor’s own calibration certificate.

You can click on many of the images in the review to see at larger size.

calibration report

Assembly and test

The monitor only takes a few minutes to assemble and connect up.

First up a quick check of the box contents.

unpacked

You’ll note that I’ve used the bag for the display to protect it and the table from marks.

The stand comes in two parts.

stand-and-base

The two slot together.

stand-and-base-fitting

The screw can easily be tightened by hand.

lock-base-to-stand

The panel mounting plate then simply clips into place at the back of the screen.

stand-fitted

A good set of leads – even if I have to swap the power lead I’ve got for a UK plug version.

cables

All the connections at the base.

rear-connections

There are two USB-C sockets at the side, along with an SD card reader.

side-sockets

I just need the DisplayPort lead and the USB lead for my MacBook.

cables-for-MacBook-Pro

Here it is set up and working (in black and white mode).

The whole process would take not a lot more time than it has for you to read this.

(BTW, the room is orange because of the halogen lighting – I’ve white balanced shots to the screen)

black-and-white-mode

The display worked just fine with my oldish MacBook Pro, whether in landscape or portrait mode.

vertical screen

You’ll notice the device to the left – this is an X-rite i1Display Pro calibrator [review] that I used for initial screen calibration and profiling.

Profiling and calibration

Before using any new monitor I like to make sure it’s set up correctly and that means profiling and calibrating it.

Remember that profiling is measuring the characteristics of the monitor (how red its deepest red is for example) whilst calibration involves setting it to a known state (its whitepoint or maximum luminance for example). These two terms are often used interchangeably, but remember that they do actually refer to different things.

BenQ supply free software that allows for the monitor’s internal hardware calibration to be set up. Hardware calibration tends to be superior in that it allows for much more precise setting of monitor characteristics, and can give a smoother more consistent output.

This is a feature that used to be confined to very high end monitors, but is pushing its way into more economical (better quality) monitors.

The Palette Master Element software (Mac and PC) supports a number of different measuring devices.

choose measurement devices

No ColorMunki support I’m afraid – You’ll need to complain to X-rite, not BenQ about that though, since they don’t make drivers available to third parties.

The software has basic and advanced modes. The main difference is that you get more options for the advanced mode.

I’m using the i1Display Pro device – the software will let you check that it’s connected.

sensor choice

There are default groups of settings such as the ‘photographer’ one here.

basic-whitepoint

I can change the white point as I see fit.

I’ll come back to a discussion of my personal choices for settings later.

I can choose how bright I want the screen too.

set-brightness-basic

Once I’ve decided on the settings, I move to measuring the screen characteristics.

I need a name for the ICC profile generated – the suggested one contains the various settings and will do just fine.

basic-profiling-setup

I’m actually saving this calibration set to one of the custom ones (I’ll come back to these choices).

sett-custom-calibration-setting

Once I’m ready to take the measurements, I just hang the sensor over the monitor.

position-calibrator

With the MacBook Pro I need to set the screen brightness manually, but on other systems it’s automatic.

Once the brightness is set, the screen displays various greys and colours, whilst the the i1Display measures them.

screen-measurement

After a few minutes, the process is finished.

You can run a validation check – some more measurements are taken and you get this report.

basic report A98

I’ve used the Adobe98 gamut setting of the monitor here.

Advanced mode

The calibration/profiling process work just the same with the advanced mode, you just get a few more options and the workflow is slightly longer.

advanced mode

If you’re new to setting up such monitors, don’t get too concerned about all the options.

I’d suggest that if you take the approach that a ‘default setting you don’t understand is one that probably doesn’t need changing’, you won’t go wrong to start with.

Take these ‘photographer’ settings for example…

photographer settings advanced

Nothing too bad about selecting D65 and Adobe98.

Personally, I find 160 cd/m2 a bit bright for my editing choice. I’d prefer ~120 or even 100 if I’m working in a darker room and editing for prints.  It does depend on just what sort of environment you’re working in, but remember that having your monitor too bright is one of the most common reasons for dark prints.

You can also set the RGB primaries to the best the display can do (native) or other specific settings.

cal-2 widest gamut

You can specify a larger set of target colours to measure.

cal-2 large target

The measurement process is just the same and when completed you get the chance to run the validation step.

cal-2 done

Note how I’ve saved this particular configuration to ‘Calibration 2’.

Cal-2 validation

The validation report (info as above) can be saved as well.

My setup preferences

As I mentioned, the default ‘photographer’ settings of the monitor are not going to be an issue for many people using one.

However, my own preferences are to fine tune things a bit for my work.

D65 at 120 is fine for my day to day editing, where I’m often supplying images for web use. I use the panel’s native gamut settings to get the best range of ‘real’ colours it can manage.

I generate the 16 bit LUT versions of profiles since they give a marginal benefit on my Mac.

One of the features of the SW240 is that you can quickly switch between stored calibrations via the on-screen display.

set custom calibration

The quick selection button offers three settings to be used.

The standard setup includes a B&W mode for the screen – I do a lot of B&W work, so prefer to do conversions from colour to B&W under my control. That lets me cut out that one.

My own set of three ‘quick select’ options are:

  • Calibration 1:
    D65 120cd/m2, native gamut, G2.2
    – Day to day use
  • Calibration 2:
    5500K, 100cd/m2, native gamut, G2.2
    – Print preparation and soft proofing
  • sRGB
    160cd/m2
    – ‘Quick check’ of what images will look like to many web users

With my Macs, there is one thing to note about swapping calibrations on the monitor. Swapping the calibration does not change the active ICC profile for the screen. The ICC profile is what applications (such as Lightroom/Photoshop) use to ‘know’ what to display.

This means that if I swap from C1 to C2 I need to swap the active profile in my System Preferences – this is why meaningful profile names matter.

For the ‘quick sRGB check’ I don’t bother, since web display colour management still remains an area of unpredictable mystery (made worse by phones).

For video, you might want different settings groups, but the nice thing is that you have all the options.

Conclusions

A very nice monitor to use.

The matt screen surface is good at handling extraneous light, as you can see from the print frame and glass behind the screen (note a bit of moire on the screen – a camera artefact).

screen reflection

The IPS screen is pretty even, with only a slight falloff along the very bottom of the screen I tested. Even that is much less noticeable if you’re properly square on to the screen.

I use  a monitor hood with the main monitors in my office, so did wonder if I’d notice the lack of one with the standard SW240.

Not too much actually – reminding me that I never used one for the first 25 years of my image editing history.

The BenQ hoods fit very easily (see my other reviews) but I’m sure that if you’re really on a tight budget and wanted to use the SW240 in a bright environment, you could make one from black art board ;-)
(Note – At the time of writing, I see the SW240 being offered in the US with a free hood)

In these days of super high resolution screens, I’m going to say that for general working I prefer the lower PPI of this 1920 pixel wide screen. I don’t do 4k or 8k video and have no desire to watch video/TV content on a screen that close to me.

I need glasses for screen use and find that current implementations of content scaling for high DPI screens don’t work well enough. I know that when Karen tested the 4k SW271 (see my SW271 review) on her Mac she found that at 27″ she preferred to set the resolution to 1920 wide (with super fine 4k HDR as and when actually needed).

I suppose I’m saying that you don’t need to jump on the 4k bandwagon just yet – at least not at 24″ width.

It’s difficult to show the real benefits of a wide gamut monitor in a web article, but the image of the cactus flowers in our conservatory made it really clear (click to enlarge).

colour differences

The insides of the red flowers show almost no structure when viewed on my laptop screen, or with the SW240 set at sRGB.

Move to A98 (or ‘native’ as I had it set) and there is clear detail in those intense reds.

colour differences

A different view (slightly different white balance) shows some of the detail, but for both these examples I’ve had to turn down the saturation when processing the images for display here, on the web.

The use of a larger gamut also brings out more detail and depth in those dark background greens/browns.

As you’d expect, printing this image raises all kinds of issues.

Update: I’ve written another article covering the editing and printing of bright colours in photos.

The monitor has a useful range of inputs, with the two USB sockets and SD card reader at the side being helpful, although a little tricky to reach without access to the back of the monitor.

The screen is quite elegantly styled, and it was only when I looked at some older monitors I realised just how thin that edge was.

It’s interesting to see what were once the specifications of really high end monitors making it into the broader market. If you take care with your approach to colour management, stepping up to a monitor like this can make a real difference to your photographic output and print quality.

It’s a monitor I’d be happy to take with me when explaining the benefits of colour management to clients, if just to show the clear difference between the MacBook display and the SW240 for those red flowers.

–ooOoo–

Buying a monitor – these links help support the site

Amazon (US) | B&H (inc. free hood)| Amazon (UK)

If you’ve any questions, please ask below, or drop us an email

Specifications

Product Colour
Product Colour Gray
Display
Screen Size 24.1″
Aspect Ratio 16:10
Resolution (max.) 1920×1200
Display Area(mm) 518.4 x 324.0
Brightness ( typ.) 250
Native Contrast ( typ. ) 1000:1
DCR (Dynamic Contrast Ratio) (typ.) 20M:1
Panel Type IPS
Viewing Angle (L/R;U/D) (CR>=10) 178 / 178
Response Time(Tr+Tf) typ. 5ms (GtG)
Display Colours 1.07B
Colour Gamut 99% Adobe RGB , 100% sRGB, 95% DCI-P3
Colour Bit 10 bits
Back Light Unit LED
Vertical Refresh Rate 60Hz
Input/Output
DVI x1
HDMI 1.4 x 1
USB 3.1(Gen1) x2 (downstream), x1 (upstream)
DP Input 1.2 x 1
Signal Cable mDP to DP cable(1.8m), ,DVI-DL cable (1.8m), USB 3.1 (Gen1) cable (1.8m)
Headphone Jack Yes
Support Calibrator X-Rtie i1 Display Pro / i1 Pro /i1 Pro 2 , Datacolour Spyder 4/5‎
Power
Power Supply (90~264 AC) Built in
(Power saving mode) 0.5W
Power Consumption (Off mode) 0.5W
Power Consumption (Base on Energy star ) 19.02W
Voltage Rating 100-240V
Calibration
Palette Master Element Yes
Hardware Calibration Yes
Support OS Win 7 32/64bit or above , Mac OS X 10.6.8 or above‎
Dimensions & Weight
Net Weight Without Stand H: 4.9
Pivot: 5.1
Net Weight with Shading Hood H: 7.6
Pivot: 7.7
Dimensions with Wall Mount ( H x W x D mm ) 356.2 x 533.2 x 56.44
Net Weight (kg) 6.7
Gross Weight (kg) 9.5
Special Features
Colour Mode HotKey Yes
AMA Yes
Delta E Less than 2 (avg.)
HDCP Yes‎(1.4)
Colour Temperature 5000°K/6500°K/9300°K/User Mode
OSD Language 18 languages
VESA Wall Mounting Yes
Swivel ( left / right ) 45°/45‎°
Tilt ( down / up ) -5°/20‎°‎
Dimensions(HxWxD mm) (without shading hood) Landscape: 428.5-543.51 x 533.2 x 230.71
Pivot: 631.98 x 356.2 x 230.71
Dimensions(HxWxD mm) (witt shading hood) Landscape: 428.5-554.91 x 545.4 x 300.95
Pivot: 643.38 x 368.4 x 300.95
Pivot 90°‎
Dimensions with Wall Mount (HxWxD mm) (w/o Base) (with shading hood) 367.6 x 545.4 x 191.78
Height Adjustment (mm) 140mm
Video Format Support Yes
Kensington Lock Yes
Slim Bezel Yes (3 side)
3D LUT Yes (14 bits 3D LUT)‎
Black Level Yes
Certification
Windows 7 Compatible Yes
Windows 8 Compatible Yes
Windows 8.1 Compatible Yes
Windows_10_Compatible Yes
Mac OS Compatible Yes
Other Accessories CD, QSG, Individual Calibration Report

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