The Trend Continues
I’m on my third BenQ monitor review and I am starting to see a trend. The three models I’ve covered are very different from each other, yet they offer an excellent value in each of their respective category and price point. Today is no different. The BenQ EW3280U, with an MSRP of $799, is a 32″ UHD monitor intended for mixed use of production work and media consumption. The EW3280U features a similar aesthetic to the EX2780Q we covered before, with a thin frame around all but the bottom bezel. The speaker design and pedestal are nearly identical as well.
- Resolution: 3840×2160
- Contrast: 1000:1
- Brightness: 350 nits, 400 nits (HDR)
- Color Support: 10 bit (8 bit + FRC)
- 178 degree viewing angle
- 5ms GtG response time
- Refresh Rate 60Hz
- Panel Type: IPS
- Backlight: LED
- Color Gamut: 95% DCI-P3
- HDR Support: HDR10, DisplayHDR 400
- VESA 100×100 (mm)
- Audio – 2.1 Trevolo (2w x 2, 5w x 1)
- Inputs: 1x DisplayPort 1.4, 2x HDMI 2.0, USB-C (PD60W, DP Alt Mode)
High Value – Even at $800
I started with the specs early this time because it’s important to consider what’s offered at this price point. Some monitors tend to excel in certain areas like response time, color reproduction, contrast, etc., but struggle in other areas. The EW3280U is an incredible monitor because there aren’t apparent weaknesses. Sure it won’t have the insane contrast of a VA panel, but the contrast is still excellent, and motion handling is much better. It’s not just that the monitor is well balanced, it’s amazing in almost every category. That’s a big difference.
Using a 32″ monitor is quite an upgrade in size to what many people are used to. Thankfully, that size transition is quickly accepted when you look at the picture performance of the EW3280U. The DCI-P3 color gamut rating of 95% is excellent. Even though it doesn’t have a true sRGB mode, the Rec. 709 picture profile gets close with nearly 99.9% color space covered. This monitor has incredible potential for content work and editing without paying a premium that often comes with this capability. The 10-bit display (8-bit plus FRC) allows you to see more color range than lower quality panels are simply capable of displaying. I found that with some minor tweaks I was able to confidently edit footage knowing the end result had the desired look I was going for.
This monitor performs a masterful juggling act of producing incredible picture quality while remaining clear and responsive during high motion scenes.
At the opposite end of the usage spectrum, connecting an HDMI 2.0 cable to my new Xbox Series X allowed me to game on an absolutely brilliant screen. Motion blur was minimal (at most) and to many, completely imperceptible. Looking past motion handling and the 5 ms Grey-to-Grey (GtG) response time… the color reproduction, contrast, and brightness all combine to provide a world class gaming experience. The Xbox detected and enabled HDR10, which provided even more punch and color saturation on games like Call of Duty’s Warzone. In many cases, a true gaming monitor (ultra fast response time and high refresh rate) usually punishes you in the picture quality department. With the BenQ monitor, I was able to remain competitive and still enjoy what I was looking at. It is a truly impressive feat, because this level of picture quality is usually reserved to expensive 4k televisions from companies like Sony and LG. The problem with using a TV for gaming is the higher input lag, which is a deal breaker in competitive gaming. This monitor performs a masterful juggling act of producing incredible picture quality while remaining clear and responsive during high motion scenes.
BenQ also includes an handy remote that fits within the base of the monitor. The remote has dedicated buttons for volume, input, B.I.+, HDRi, and more. It’s very handy and in some cases quicker than using the buttons built in to the monitor. I often used the remote for everything but changing the input.
There are some other awesome features to point out beyond the stunning picture performance. For one, this monitor supports USB-C with a 60 watt PD rating. That means you can connect this directly to a MacBook and charge your laptop while using this display as an extended monitor. Additionally, BenQ offers a MacBook color profile mode to better emulate the characteristics of Mac display.
Another cool feature, and one this is almost never discussed on monitors, is sound quality. The EW3280U monitor features a 2.1 treVolo speaker array. It has two 2 watt speakers on the front chin, and a 5 watt woofer on the rear. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s surprising how good it is. If you are a primary headphone user and occasionally use monitor speakers for things like watching the news or a YouTube clip, these speakers are more than serviceable. For those who want a clean desk aesthetic, the built in speakers can still provide a great experience. I’m not saying it replaces a separate speaker system by any means, but it certainly makes every other monitor sound bad in comparison. BenQ also provides a great feeling volume knob on the bottom left, with a smooth an consistent resistance when adjusting.
Rounding out my list of cool and innovative features is BenQ’s intelligent image enhancements. In addition to speakers, the front lower bezel houses a light bar in the center. Two key features that use this piece of hardware are Brightness Intelligence Plus, and HDRi. B.I.+ senses the brightness in your room and automatically adjusts brightness and even blue light levels to reduce eye strain and fatigue for long sessions at the desk. As a personal advocate for specialized office glasses (to reduce blue light spectrum), having this technology built into the monitor itself is liberating. The long term affects of staring at a screen and the discomfort that goes with it are not desired by anyone so I’m glad BenQ is addressing this at the monitor level.
HDRi is short for HDR with Intelligence. While also using the light sensor, BenQ uses some fancy algorithms to emulate an HDR picture from an SDR source, thus managing brightness to suite your viewing area. I found the HDRi Game Mode was absolutely amazing, but the brightness reduction was a little too aggressive on some sources, leading to a lack of detail in dark scenes. I wish HDRi was available without using the light sensor so I could benefit from the awesome color enhancement and contrast tweaks when playing some dynamic games like Halo or Gears 5. It really makes the game even more engaging. It’s easy to enable or disable HDRi so if you feel the brightness is lacking, just turn it off and you’ll get the brightness you’re looking for.
At $799 MRSP, the BenQ EW3280U monitor is still a great value. There’s a massive difference in picture quality when you look at budget monitors and compare it to something like this. Even though it runs at 60hz, which is common for 4k monitors right now, the big win revolves around color reproduction and accuracy while not skimping on motion handling. Overall this monitor performs great in content creation, media consumption, and even gaming. If you want a single monitor that does a great job in any workload, the EW3280U is a wonderful choice to consider. I can’t imagine disliking it considering what you get for this price.
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