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NEC SpectraView Reference 272 monitor review
A high end 27" (61 cm) LCD Monitor
Monitors are improving all the time, and Keith recently had the chance to try out NEC's new 27" top end monitor.
We don't do colour critical proofing work at Northlight, but we do a lot of editing work on our own images, and Keith does a lot of black and white print work, so a good reliable monitor is essential.
This particular test is with the SVR272 connected to Keith's OS X 10.6 24GB Mac Pro, with an ATI Radeon HD 4870 display card, and also an Apple 15" MacBook Pro.
The monitor was profiled and calibrated with NEC's SpectraView Profiler 5 software.
Note that the software has changed somewhat from earlier versions, and supports any make of second monitor you might have attached.
The NEC 'Reference' range is aimed at users working in colour critical applications, and includes a zero defect warranty.
The monitors are screened for display evenness and quality before shipping, and you get an included monitor hood. In Europe, the reference monitors have a 5 year warranty (6 months for the zero pixel defect part). The SV272ref has a uniformity guarantee (plus certification in the box), and is pre checked at 16 points across the display.
It can almost match the Adobe98 colour space (108.6% size / 99.3% coverage) and features hardware calibration (not found on the cheaper 'Multi-sysnc' range of monitors).
There are 'non-reference' versions of the monitors available (PA272): no hood, 3yr warranty, no pixel warranty, less stringent QA but otherwise the same screen at a lower cost.
NEC have  a web page devoted to the SpectraView monitors.
The basic specs are:
In the UK its (RRP) price is ~£1660 (excluding VAT), but can be found at less than this.
NEC has recently updated all three SpectraView models including 24" NEC SpectraView Reference 242 and the 30" SpectraView Reference 302. See the September 2013 press release at the foot of this review.
The monitor comes well packed, with a simple setup guide, power, DVI and HDMI cables, and a much appreciated DisplayPort cable (mini) which made it easy to connect to both my MacBook Pro and Mac Pro.
Here's the box, as delivered. Well packed, with lifting slots, and easy to carry a moderate distance.
No shortage of cables, and a decent length too...
The monitor hood comes in parts (it fits the 24" and 30" monitors too).
It clips together quite easily. The inside is a black flock finish.
You also get two books about aspects of colour, and some screen cleaner.
The screen is adjustable in height/tilt, and has a comprehensive collection of i/o connectors.
The side USB connector is useful for calibrators (or even web cams).
The 2560 pixel width and relatively good resolution (although not at iPad levels) and can give very impressive views of photos.
Both displays are at 6500K in the shot, and the extra depth of colour and evenness is very obvious compared to the laptop.
There are a range of on-screen adjustments. If you press the menu button, a guide to where the other buttons are appears.
The image is slightly de-focused here to avoid moire in the photo (an older camera is often better if you need screen shots for web use).
For initial setup, I just picked the basic Adobe 98/6500K setting.
The monitor required no special setup after I'd plugged it in to my MacBook Pro (USB2 and DisplayPort).
I'd happily use the SVR272 at 5500K. I have a viewing cabinet that is around 5000K, but careful use and positioning has meant I'm just fine with my monitor at a higher colour temperature (see my review of the GTI PDV 3e for more).
Of course, to get the real benefits of this monitor, it needs calibrating and profiling...
As I expected, all produced perfectly good profiles, but if I was going to buy a monitor like the SVR272, I'd really want to get the best out of it, and might consider the BasICColor Discus, but at around £800, I'd need to be doing a lot of colour critical work, in an office somewhat better lit and more neutrally furnished.
The software installer offers a choice of installing the Discus driver.
If you carefully read the associated text on all the screens of the software, you'll find a mention of BasICColor still left in the text, suggesting that SpectraView Profiler is based on it (no bad thing, it once again produced some excellent profiles for my assorted old kit when attached to the same machine as the SVR272).
Adjustments carried out by profiling software for most monitors are relatively basic, some parts are still implemented via (LUT) adjustments of your graphics card. The SpectraView Profiler 5 software adjusts internal aspect of the monitor that other software can't reach (this may change, but depends on the manufacturer offering enough technical information).
The software fully supports the profiling of any other monitor that may be connected to your system. It needs no license key to work, if the monitor is attached (and in use). The software works with other NEC monitors, which may or may not need a license.
I installed the software from a CD, which also contains some useful test files.
There are a number of preset options for different types of monitor use.
I did most of my testing of the monitor at the 5500K setting.
My older monitors are happier at higher colour temperatures, but 5500K matches prints better and doesn't seem too yellow (D50 always feels too warm for my liking, I just don't seem to adjust to it well - but as I said, I don't do prepress or any other critical work).
The software supports an impressive range of measurement devices (I'd only got eleven of those mentioned, in our test equipment cupboard).
However I'd suggest that some of those in the list are well past retirement age for a monitor of this quality.
The Spyder4 offered several options, when selected (but with no explanation of what they actually meant).
I've since found out that it refers to the back light technology - cold cathode fluorescent, wide gamut CCFL, white LED and RGB LED. The SV272 uses GB(R) LED. Green and Blue LEDs and filters to make the red, so one might guess at the last setting in the list
The flap on top of the hood opens for you to lower a measurement device into place for measurement.
The dim (tungsten) lighting in the background is not ideal, and it's suggested that you turn out the lights.
The software displays a measurement area for you to place the measuring device (full screen optional).
Those numbers on the side would be more useful if they corresponded to the current colour/grey being displayed, rather than the previous one. That said, they seem to fulfil no necessary function, other than to distract you from a measuring process that seems to go on for rather a long while.
The Spyder 4 sensor works well.
To be fair, I also got excellent results with an i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer and an i1 Display Pro.
The software can display (and save) sets of reference measurements. I have lots of these, from different profiling settings and measuring devices, they all differ slightly...
When looking at numbers like these, do remember that there is no cheap way of knowing how accurate they are. The instrument I most trust is my fairly new X-rite i1 Pro 2 spectrophotometer, which has a test certificate, and is relatively lightly used (I use a i1 iSis for my printer profile building). I'd note though that variation between the instruments I used is likely well below what would be visible to most people. If I was really concerned over colour precision, I wouldn't have a wooden desk or the brightly coloured books and files on a shelf over it.
This monitor is designed for those who require extreme colour accuracy, and a monitor that will remain stable and consistent.
Buying the NEC SVR 272 (PA272W-BK-SV in USA)
We make a specific point of not selling hardware, but if you found the review of help please consider buying the SVR 272, or any other items at all, via our link with Amazon.
It won't cost any more (nor less we're afraid) but will contribute towards the running costs of our site.
In the UK, available fom Native Digital and others.
I'm looking at the UK supplied version, but the US PA272W-BK-SV is the same basic monitor.
The design is fairly plain - it's black, so you don't see it (the US version is also available in white).
The supplied hood works very well, and once attached is much more sturdy than you'd think, when first looking at the supplied box of parts.
Specifications are raised from the previous SVR271 I looked at a while ago.
The monitor doesn't lack for connectivity and comes with a good set of leads.
The specifications say that it does picture in picture (or split screen mode), but I only ever use one computer at a time, and having images on the same screen in different colour spaces, doesn't appeal (I have another monitor connected anyway, and it's not wide gamut).
The monitor can work in portrait mode, but having occasionally tried this with monitors on Macs for over 20 years, I just don't like having my monitor this way round (YMMV).
The supplied SpectraView Profiler 5 software is excellent, giving very good results and with a wide range of profiling options, even for my other monitors used alongside the SVR272. It did seem a bit slow for a full calibration, not something I'd fancy doing for a collection of such monitors (there is a slightly faster calibration validation option).
There is an option in the US to get a NEC branded i1 Display Pro device, although you might wish to use a different device. Do note that I only tested the software supplied with the UK version, so elsewhere, check with your supplier if unsure.
There is no built-in monitor calibration, so you will need to check regularly.
Using the SpectraView software for calibration/profiling, internally adjusts the monitor, which really helps in getting the best out of what it can do.
The software disk includes a number of test files, including some full gamut images and one that shows just how much can hide 'out of gamut' with your normal 'sRGB' monitor (quite a bit).
A free download of Multi-Display Management Software (NaViSet Administrator 2) lets you manage all your connected display devices from a centralised location, however it's Windows only which is pretty poor given the wide use of Macs in design and print environments (we have no win PCs here at all).
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If you've not used a wide gamut monitor before, then the appearance of your computer desktop and some software applications may come as a surprise.
If the software isn't colour managed then that light blue folder on a 'normal' monitor may take on an intensity that you don't want (you get used to it).
This isn't a cheap monitor, and many people (myself perhaps included) may not truly benefit from all its capabilities. Even so, it's a superb monitor to use and I'd happily still have it sitting on my desk...
However if you're working in colour critical areas, where accuracy and consistency really matter, then this is a monitor well worth considering.
Review first published January 2014
27 inch 16:9 LCD monitor. Uses 10 bit AH-IPS display and supports hardware adjustment and calibration.
Supplied with monitor hood and SpectraView Profiler V5 software.
Includes backlight ageing correction to compensate for changes in brightness and white point.comments powered by Disqus
Professional 27 inch Colour Display. The NEC SpectraView Reference 272 is a high-end professional performance LCD monitor using latest 10-bit AH-IPS with GB-R LED backlight for colour critical applications with many features and benefits for obtaining best picture quality and colour accuracy, whilst maintaining attractive value for money.
The ideal display for all creative professionals, designers, photographers, precision engineers and anyone who cannot accept compromise on colour accuracy.
Backlight Ageing Correction - brightness and white point.
Consistent Colour Viewing - with 10-bit AH-IPS and GB-R Backlight 16:9 TFT display.
Ergonomically Mastered - comfortable viewing with ErgoDesign and TORO design.
Facility to create and calibrate - thanks to the SpectraView Profiler software, the SpectraView certifier document and detachable black light protection hood including accessories.
True Colours - with a wide colour gamut (108.6% size / 99.3% coverage AdobeRGB) and hardware calibration with 14-bit LUT (look up table) for 42-bit colour control and gamma correction, irrespective of colour and input.
Zero Defect Pixel Warranty - up to 6 months after date of purchase.
Free Download of Multi-Display Management Software - with NaViSet Administrator 2 you can manage all your connected display devices from a centralized location.
Special Characteristics - Adjustable power LED (colour and brightness); AmbiBright ; Auto Black Level ; Auto Brightness; Auto Contrast; AutoBright ; Backlight Ageing Correction ; CableComp with Sync Continuity Detection; Consistent colour viewing with 10-bit AH-IPS 16:9 TFT; DDC/CI compatible; Digital Uniformity Control (ColorComp) ; Direct Brightness and Contrast; EcoModes ; GammaComp (14 bit Look Up Table) and 14 bit Gamma Correction; NaViSet Administrator 2; NaViSetand NaViSetAdministrator compatible; OmniColor : sRGB and 6-Axis-Colour-Control; Overdrive; Picture-in-Picture Mode ; Quick release Stand and Handle; Rapid Response Technology ; RapidMotion; Self Diagnostics; SpectraView Profiler Software; TileComp ; TileMatrix ; TORO Design ; Windows 8 compatible
The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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