BenQ 4K monitor review: A 4K monitor for everyone
BenQ’s PV3200PT aims to be a 4K monitor for everybody. Director of photography Michael Sanders runs it through its paces
The BenQ PV3200PT 32in 4K UHD monitor is the company's second offering into the high-end calibrated monitor sector and has been specifically targeted at video post production professionals.
At £1099, the PV3200PT is one of the cheapest real 4K displays on the market, utilising a 3840x2160 IPS panel. As well as gaining a huge amount of screen real estate, the main advantage of using a true 4K display is that you can view 4K material without any scaling being used.
Ergonomically the monitor offers the usual features, including the ability to be raised up and down, as well as being able to be turned 90 degrees into portrait mode - for those editing iPhone video, I guess. The monitor also has a built-in two port USB3 hub and SD card reader. Video connection is via HDMI, Displayport and MiniDisplay Port.
The first thing you become aware when you use a monitor of this size is just how much easier work becomes. Whilst it’s true there are much cheaper 32in monitors available, with 3840x2160 pixels everything, from working on spreadsheets to editing, becomes easier. Although I must confess when using it in “office” mode, I set the Mac’s display scaling preference up a click otherwise the text was just too small for my 49-year-old eyes.
On this basis alone, as a day-to-day monitor the BenQ is worth the money, but the story does not end there.
What sets this class of monitors apart is that their performance is calibrated to match specific standards, giving the user an extremely faithful picture, with brightness, gamma and colour rendition all set to exacting standards. Whilst an IPS monitor being used as a computer monitor is never going to compete with a £20,000 OLED reference monitor, with the PV3200 there is now a reasonably priced monitor that offers editors and other creative, such as VFX artists, a good confidence check that others will see what they are seeing.
The PV3200 is calibrated to 100% REC709, as well as providing EBU and SMPTE colour spaces. BenQ are keen to point out that the monitors are first calibrated at the factory, with each unit coming with a certificate of performance. They have then gone one step further by having the monitor (along with its smaller cousin the PV270) certified by Technicolor to meet Technicolor’s exacting, “Hollywood” standards.
To ensure the monitor is always calibrated BenQ have developed their own software called “Palette Master Element”. They have opted not to use a built in probe (presumably to keep the costs down) but instead use readily available hardware probes from X-rite such as the iDisplay Pro. The software works in the same way as X-rite’s own solution, running through a series of colours and greyscale, writing the calibration into one of two profiles in the monitor’s memory.
Initially the verification part of the process failed with my iDisplay Probe, but during the course of testing the software was updated and the software passed the verification. I also understand BenQ are working with Light Illusion to enable the use of their advanced calibration software Lightspace CMS with the PV3200.
I particularly liked using the remote control puck. The remote is wired and plugs into a small socket on the back. As well as being able to access the monitor’s main settings, the monitor has three hot keys dedicated to the REC709, EBU and SMPTE colour spaces, making it very easy to switch between profiles to check work in the different colour spaces. One nice little touch is that the monitor will even remind you when it’s time to check the calibration.
The puck is very handy and a wonderful alternative to having to root around the side of a monitor to change menu set-ups. However, one small misstep on BenQ’s part is that the buttons are not lit, so finding which one to press in a dimly lit edit suite is quite hard.
Final Cut Pro-blem?
In terms of testing; over the month I had the monitor I used it connected to a mid-2015 Macbook Pro, alternating between HDMI and the Displayport. In terms of input, the specifications are HDMI 1.4 and Display port 1.2, but as the monitor’s refresh rate is a maximum of 60Hz I cannot see that being a problem.
To put the monitor through its paces I used Final Cut Pro X, Resolve 12 and Lightroom. As a test, I graded some rushes where I knew the face tone was off (due to an overly dimmed tungsten lamp), the sequence was then rendered to various files and online video sharing sites and then watched back on a number of dedicated TV monitors as well as laptops and ipads. All the pictures showed me what I was expecting to see, giving me a lot of confidence in the monitor’s performance.
I did experience an oddity with Final Cut Pro X whereby the computer - through AV foundation - assumed the monitor was at full brightness. With the monitor calibrated to the recommend brightness of 120cd/m2, colour bars were very dark, and I could not see either the just above or well above black bars. Putting the monitor in to Rec709 at full brightness was better, but I could still not view the just above black bar.
A reasonably priced monitor that offers editors and other creatives, such as VFX artists, a good confidence check that others will see what they are seeing
Whilst the 3200 does not have some of the advanced features of its direct competitors (the Eizo GC318 has a built in calibration sensor, and the NEC PA322 can display four HD signals side by side), it’s noticeable cheaper and performance seemed very good. As such, I would happily consider giving the BenQ desk space.
With the explosion of in house facilities (usually consisting of a Mac Pro, Final Cut or Premier and a couple of monitors) producing work for the web and broadcast, accurate monitoring is becoming ever more important, especially with a number of producers insisting on shooting some form of Log and grading in house. Whilst there are number of monitors that perform well, only a very few are marketed as being anywhere near calibrated.
For the price the BenQ does offer the user a confidence check at for a significantly cheaper outlay than its rivals and could be the obvious choice for a smaller facility or an editor’s home based system.