The BenQ EW3280U is a Great All-Around Display

1Share

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could have a single display that worked for gaming, color-critical applications, entertainment, and just general computing tasks? I don’t know if there is a perfect monitor out there—at least for a reasonable price—however, the BenQ EW3280U 32" 4K HDR IPS Display comes very close for those looking for something that works for all their multimedia content.

BenQ EW3280U 32" 16:9 4K HDR FreeSync IPS Monitor
BenQ EW3280U 32" 16:9 4K HDR FreeSync IPS Monitor

The Core Specs

With any display, there are key numbers you have to run through to get a good understanding of its capabilities. The EW3280U is no different. One always must know the size and resolution of the display, and this one is a comfortable 32" UHD 4K panel—definitely suitable for work and entertainment. Next up is the refresh rate, which hits 60 Hz at the native resolution, a respectable figure for this type of display.

BenQ lists it as a 10-bit panel, meaning a much better gamut and more vibrant colors. It even reaches a 95% coverage for DCI-P3. The cool thing is it offers HDR support with a brightness of 400 cd/m2, which is a decent setting for users who want to watch movies or play games. There is HDRi tech and it is VESA certified to DisplayHDR 400. A response time of 5 ms is okay, too. Admittedly, the speed isn’t going to compare with top-notch gaming monitors, but the resolution would demand an incredibly powerful machine to run at greater than 4K at 60 Hz, regardless. For media, this setup should be ample.

What separates this from your average computer monitor is enhanced sound. A 2.1-channel speaker system and DSP provide multiple sound modes to optimize performance to different forms of media. The best part is the included remote control. I’m used to seeing the hotkey pucks included with BenQ’s other displays, but this wireless remote is perfect for an all-around model. It lets you adjust a few key settings quickly, including HDR and volume. If you are at the desk, a nice button setup and joystick on the back make things easy.

As for connectivity, the best option is the USB Type-C with DisplayPort support. This means you can have one cable for video, audio, and data transmission. It even supports USB Power Delivery of up to 60W for charging your connected devices. Other available ports are the standard two HDMI 2.0 ports and a DisplayPort.

BenQ packed in plenty of its other features, and a couple of very nice ones. FreeSync is supported for gaming, HDRi offers modes for Cinema and Gaming (and work quite well), and there are the helpful options such as Blue Light filtering and other eye-care tech.

In Use

I’ve been fortunate enough to try many other, higher-end monitors, which made one aspect of the EW3280U irritating: the stand. One I set it up, I quickly realized the stand didn’t have anywhere near the range of motion or height that I would like. It is a fairly static stand that doesn’t have any of the usual adjustments, and it sat significantly lower than my other monitor.

Once set up and plugged in, the monitor was very pleasing. Video looked good and the HDR images I put through it looked like they were mapped well. Still, having seen many true HDR displays in my media work, I still struggle with how dim some of these consumer-grade displays look during some of the most intense scenes. The HDRi options do surprisingly help a great deal to make the picture look a bit better, and the Game and Cinema modes do seem to optimize well. One thing that I wish were more controllable is the ambient sensing. It seems always to be on in HDR modes, which could be problematic for some users.

HDR
HDR
Game HDRi
Game HDRi
Cinema HDRi
Cinema HDRi

Returning to what makes this a great display is its ability to work for so many different options, an especially useful option for people who can only afford or want a single display in their apartment or office. And the fact that you can control most settings from a convenient remote control just makes it that much better to use for entertainment. Have it as a work PC during the day where the 32" screen gives plenty of room for all your apps. Transform it into a gaming system at night and then switch over to watch a movie when it’s time to relax. It performs very well in all the modes.

My concerns tie more closely into how it works for color-critical applications, such as photo and video editing. The 95% DCI-P3 spec is promising, and after calibrating it with my own software and tools, it does provide a good picture. I very much trust it in Rec. 709 mode, so if you were an amateur photographer or filmmaker uploading to the Internet, who also wanted a monitor to serve as a home for their PS4 or Xbox, I would have no hesitation recommending this screen.

Also, the speakers aren’t bad. I’ve never been impressed by or bothered with the built-in speakers of any monitor, because I get displays for their screens, not their sound. But these are decent. Are they amazing if you want to do competitive gaming and need every edge? Not quite, but you get a good degree of sound and separation with okay bass, thanks to the use of two 2W speakers and a 5W subwoofer. Perfectly okay is what I would say.

The best parts of the sound system are the built-in Digital Signal Processor and its sound modes. I can’t recall seeing something like this on any other monitor I’ve tested. You can clearly hear a difference between the modes. The Dialog/Vocal option makes talking sound clearer, which is great for listening to podcasts while you work. There’s a Cinema mode that should give a nice bump to certain frequencies, like the bass, that give a better feel for the content. Other options include Pop and Rock for making music sound better and finally there is a Gaming mode. This one is interesting, because it’ll help accentuate game sounds and minimize music. They claim it’ll help you hear footsteps and the like better, to give you the edge. A lot of thought was put into making the audio experience one of the best you can get in a monitor.

I’m going to be honest, after seeing half a dozen pro photo and video displays in the past few months, this was completely different for me. I was very happy seeing it and using it for more standard computing tasks (and a bit of gaming fun). It is something that I would tell my brother or friends outside the photo industry to get and they would surely be very happy with what it provides.

Close

Close

Close