If you are a content creator shopping for a pro-grade monitor that can fully support your workflow without obliterating your bank account, the SW271C Monitor from BenQ might just be the “affordable” screen of your dreams. Featuring a gorgeous 4K IPS panel, 10-bit color support, plenty of connectivity options, and more than a few panel-specific features, the SW271C offers the power and performance of a pricey, professional monitor at a more reasonable cost.
Specs at a Glance
The SW271C is a 27" IPS panel with 4K resolution and true 10-bit color depth. It features a wide color gamut that supports 99% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB/Rec. 709, and 90% DCI-P3. On top of that, it includes16-bit 3D LUT color accuracy, which is a step beyond the 14-bit support commonly found in other high-quality displays.
Generally speaking, that is the spec quality you should be targeting for professional-level editing. Truly “high-end” monitors will likely feature a higher percentage of DCI-P3 support, but those same monitors will, in most cases, cost you as much as twice the amount of the SW271C, so the value proposition isn’t quite the same.
Upon reviewing the specs, one number I was a little concerned about was the 300 nits of peak brightness, which is fairly dim for an HDR-compatible display. That brightness rating could be a factor for users who need a monitor that supports true HDR rendering and/or mastering, especially for video projects. For non-video applications, editing with sub 300 cd/m2 brightness shouldn’t be an issue. Personally, I keep the brightness setting between 100 and 150 cd/m2, depending on ambient light levels, so the SW271C was a good solution for my workflow.
Color Coverage and Calibration
One of the most important factors to consider when gauging whether or not a monitor is a good fit for your workflow is color―specifically, what type of color coverage does the monitor support, and what are its calibration features?
As we touched on above, the SW271C offers fairly solid coverage with wide-ranging support for multiple color spaces and presets. In terms of color calibration: The SW271C is both Calman Verified and Pantone Validated. According to its calibration report, the SW271C has an average Delta E of 0.30 for Adobe RGB, which is such a slight difference in color it’s generally considered undetectable by the human eye.
I was very impressed with the SW271C’s out-of-the-box calibration, as well its color accuracy and consistency when I tested it in a multi-monitor setup. Once calibrated, the SW271C was able to match my existing monitor’s color to near-identical levels, and it delivered uniform color and brightness levels across the panel.
You can expect that same level of accuracy and uniformity, thanks to a couple of unique technologies that appear in the SW271C, courtesy of BenQ. The first is AQCOLOR, which is responsible for the SW271C’s objectively great color accuracy and adherence to current standards. The second is BenQ’s Uniformity Technology, which ensures those accurate color levels and brightness are maintained throughout the panel.
Custom calibration is available, as well. For example, you can use the Palette Master Element software in tandem with your choice of compatible calibrator to tweak the monitor’s levels to your liking. Or, you can go with any of the other trusted third-party options the SW271C supports, including calibration software from Calman and Lightspace.
Depending on the type of work or application you intend to use it with, the SW271C is either a good monitor or a great one. The difference, in my opinion, comes down to HDR performance.
First, let’s talk about the pros: The SW271C offers support for HDR10 and HLG―which is good, considering these are the two most common HDR formats. It also works as advertised. In other words, I had no problem processing HDR input or outputting an HDR signal via HDMI.
The potential con has to do with something we touched on earlier: the brightness. I am not someone who regularly works with video content, but the consensus is that if you’re looking for true HDR rendering, you’re going to need significantly higher brightness levels than what the SW271C currently supports. All of that’s not to say you can’t use the SW271C for any HDR application. It can handle basic HDR grading fairly well and, overall, it will give you solid HDR performance—it’s just that performance is capped by the limited brightness levels.
Along with the monitor-specific software and calibration tools we mentioned above, the SW271C also features a pair of unique functions worth mentioning. The first is Paper Color Sync, which is designed to simulate the way your images will look once printed—effectively giving you a preview of the final product. I was able to send a couple of files to a boutique print shop to see how well the software performed, and I was really impressed with the accuracy. The Paper Color Sync preview looked darn near identical to the hard copies I had printed.
The other unique feature I wanted to talk about was the Hotkey Puck G2. BenQ isn’t the first company to include this type of device, which, as the names implies, is a puck-shaped controller with built-in preset shortcuts that allow you to perform certain functions very quickly. I will say that, of the pucks I’ve used, I think this model is my favorite. The Hotkey Puck made tasks like switching between color modes and profiles—which aren’t hard so much as they are kind of annoying, especially if you are switching back and forth—straightforward and easy. I really enjoyed integrating the Hotkey Puck into my workflow.
In general, I would say this is a very good display that continues BenQ’s recent trend of delivering professional-grade monitors at a competitive price that only enhances their value. For non-video editing purposes, I would have no problem recommending the SW271C. With a beautiful 4K IPS panel, wide color support, and great connectivity options that include USB Type-C, the SW271C should fit nicely into your current workflow. My one word of caution would be about the SW271C’s HDR performance, which, again, is serviceable but ultimately limited by its peak brightness levels. Otherwise, this is a fairly great monitor that will bolster and sustain BenQ’s ever-rocketing reputation.
Have you had the opportunity to use the SW271C? We'd love to hear your feedback—join the conversation below in the Comments section.