The NEC PA311D HDR Display: Incredible Tech for Color-Critical Work

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I have a very accurate display already sitting on my desk. I made sure to calibrate it when it arrived, and I figured it would be fine to check it only once in a while, even though I am well aware that isn’t the ideal process. Then the NEC MultiSync PA311D showed up, and showed me just how badly I need to recalibrate my current screen. Very rarely do I take a monitor out of its box for review and, without any calibration, see its quality—the PA311D is one of those monitors. The factory calibration and overall look and feel of its panel prove why it is NEC’s new benchmark for creative applications.

NEC MultiSync PA311D 31.1" 17:9 Color Critical Desktop HDR IPS Display
NEC MultiSync PA311D 31.1" 17:9 Color Critical Desktop HDR IPS Display

By the Numbers

The specs alone should impress anyone familiar with display tech. It is a 31.1" IPS LCD panel with a Wide Gamut W-LED backlight and a contrast ratio of 1400:1. It has relatively rare DCI 4K 4096 x 2160 resolution—which is much appreciated by we video/film people—and a brightness of 350 cd/m2. As for response times, it offers 8 ms that's typical, and can provide refresh rates of up to 60 Hz at DCI 4K and 75 Hz with lower resolutions. It is a true 10-bit panel with a 14-bit 3D LUT for smooth, accurate representation of your images with 100% coverage of the Adobe RGB color space, which is my go-to choice for color-sensitive work.

As for color spaces, this display has all the important ones, and they are handled very well. Adobe RGB is 100%, as I already stated, sRGB is 99.9%, and NTSC is 97.4%. All great specs. There is also support for DCI-P3, Rec. 709, and Rec. 2100 for the more video inclined. And, its most modern spec is the inclusion of HDR support. It’ll work with HLG and PQ, meaning it should support the most commonly used devices.

Running behind the scenes is the SpectraView Engine. Using MultiProfiler software and the OSD you can fine-tune tons of settings on the monitor related to brightness, white point, gamma, and more. If you have an extremely particular need for your monitor’s profiles, you should have no problem setting it here. If you need or want some more built-in control, there is the SpectraViewII Kit, which comes with SpectraView calibration software and a calibration sensor.

NEC MultiSync PA311D 31.1" 17:9 Color Critical Desktop HDR IPS Display with SpectraView Engine and SpectraViewII Color Calibration
NEC MultiSync PA311D 31.1" 17:9 Color Critical Desktop HDR IPS Display with SpectraView Engine and SpectraViewII Color Calibration

Other functions I wasn’t able to put to use are a Multi-Picture Mode that can support Picture-in-Picture and Picture-by-Picture for showing multiple image inputs simultaneously. There’s also an Ethernet connection for controlling the monitor via LAN. This is useful for server setups or business installations.

In Use

Even after putting the monitor through some routine calibration, I was still very pleased. Some monitors that come across my desk have great panels, but need care to keep calibrated or require substantial changes to basic settings to hit their stated targets. This setup, after calibration, had a nearly imperceptible difference, with the measured parameters coming in at the targeted specs—much better than certain displays I’ve reviewed, which ended up with white targets off by 1000K. Another great thing was the uniformity. Sure, you can see some very, very slight dimming in the corners if you set your screen to all white, but this is practically nothing in real use.

General usage features are quite good. Wake-up time is speedy; it beats my current display even though it has higher resolution. The OSD is standard, though there are a ton of options available in it. One thing that is a personal gripe is the use of touch-sensitive “buttons” instead of just classic buttons. I get that it creates a smoother bezel or cleaner look, but I hate the moments where I tap it and I’m unsure if I didn’t tap it right or it just isn’t doing anything.

Connectivity is what you would expect from this type of display. Two DisplayPort 1.2 inputs, two HDMI 2.0 inputs, and USB Type-C. There is also a 2-up / 3-down USB 3.2 Gen 1 hub that works with DisplaySync Pro for operating two computers with a single keyboard and mouse. These all work as advertised. One helpful feature of the USB Type-C connection is its 65W of Power Delivery, meaning you can charge many connected laptops as you work. Also, it can support DisplayPort, though you will need a 10 Gb/s USB 3.2 Gen 2 cable to achieve 4K at 60 Hz resolution.

It’s a solid display with outstanding color accuracy. Working with it felt great and the customization options made it easy to set up the way I prefer, with Adobe RGB and lower brightness. I was excited to test the HDR support. Since macOS isn’t set up to output HDR content natively, I use a DeckLink Mini Monitor 4K in an Akitio Node Lite box to output, and HDR feed from DaVinci Resolve for editing. It not only worked flawlessly with the PA311D, it looked good.

One thing I found interesting is that the display doesn’t max out brightness when detecting HDR content, which means that it looked quite dim, initially. But, if your calibrations are set for very particular brightness settings, the display will remain just as accurate. I bumped up the brightness to maximum to see how the HDR content looked, and it was mapped out extremely well. Exporting and then previewing the content on a separate HDR display showed that it can serve as an affordable HDR grading monitor in the right situations. Will it replace a true, cinema-quality grading display? No. However, it is also a fraction of the price and is a solid everyday workhorse.

There isn’t all that much more to say about a display that just works. Unfortunately, I can’t test it over an extremely long period of time, but almost two months has shown that this display is as good as its specs indicate. This is an impressive display, and if you are looking for one of the best displays imaginable for creative applications, such as photography and video editing, the PA311D is the one to beat.

Are you interested in a new editing display for your workstation? NEC pique your interest? Let us know what you think in the Comments section here.

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