NEC PA271W - Design and Specifications

As long as I’ve been following, using, or writing about computers, NEC has been a leader in displays. From the early MultiSync monitors to their current line of LCDs, they have been focused more on pushing performance than on dropping price, which has kept many of us from owning one of their displays. Of course, there is a large swath of users that always want to have the best, and are willing to pay for it.

Back with a CRT, this was pretty easy to do. We didn’t have to worry about lag, we could run multiple resolutions on a display natively, and if a display supported higher resolutions, faster refresh rates, and better sharpness, it was likely going to work for most power users. Now the field is a little different, as you have to worry about the native resolution of your panel, the response time, viewing angles, color quality, and more. All of this has led to a marketplace with different solutions for different needs than before where a "one-size-fits-all" approach doesn't really exist anymore.

Virtually every 27” 2560x1440 IPS display out there currently uses a panel from LG as its starting point. From there your choices can be from CCFL or LED backlights, sRGB or AdobeRGB color gamuts, and the electronics you wish to engineer behind the panel. It is in the panel electronics and settings that NEC adds their own engineering to set their displays apart from the rest.

When you take it out of the box, you’ll notice that the PA271W is very large and almost overbuilt. Where many lower end, consumer focused panels are engaged in a race to how thin they can be, the NEC is a sizable display that is fairly heavy and takes up a large amount of space. One reason for the large size is the presence of a custom designed cooling system for the CCFL backlight. As the monitor warms up and the lamp comes up to its full operating temperature, it can cause color shifts across the panel. NEC is aware of this and has made the display as large as necessary to deal with this issue.

To further deal with color shifts across the panel, NEC has a display uniformity option that lets you sacrifice maximum brightness for a smaller shift across the panel. Each panel is individually measured and calibrated at the factory for this feature, so that if you are looking at a solid white screen it should remain white across the whole screen, free of any shifts to red, green, or blue. There is also a pair of upstream USB connectors instead of the usual one, which allows the NEC to function as a KVM switch as you move between inputs.

The OSD in the NEC is full of all the information you could want to know, from the current colorspace and brightness to how much power you have used since you installed the display. The menu system works well, with labels for all the controls that appear on the screen when you pop it up. It does a good job of not changing how different buttons interact with the menu on different screens, which is what makes some OSD systems a pain to navigate, but it does spread the buttons out a bit which makes it harder to navigate than those from Dell. Overall the OSD is well done.

Of course with an IPS panel you expect good viewing angles, and the NEC doesn’t disappoint here. If you get to extreme viewing angles you can start to see a bit of a shift, but it’s impossible to do any work with an angle like that so I wouldn’t consider it an issue at all.

Video Inputs 1x DisplayPort, 2x DVI-DL
Panel Type IPS (8-bit native, 10-bit with A-FRC)
Pixel Pitch 0.23mm
Colors 1.07 Billion
Brightness 300 nits
Contrast Ratio 1000:1
Response Time 7ms
Viewable Size 27"
Resolution 2560x1440
Viewing Angle 178/178 Horizontal/Vertical Degrees
Backlight CCFL
Power Consumption (operation) 117W
Power Consumption (standby) 1.4W
Screen Treatment Anti-Glare
Height-Adjustable Yes
Tilt Yes
Pivot Yes
Swivel Yes
VESA Wall Mounting Yes, 100x100mm or 100x200mm
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 25.2 x 15.6-21.5 x 9.3 in.
Weight 30 lbs
Additional Features 2 USB Up, 2 USB Down, 14-bit LUT
Limited Warranty 4 years
Accessories DisplayPort cable, USB Cable, DVI Cable, Power Cord. Optional SpectraView calibration package.
Price $1098 + shipping online (as of May 1, 2012)

NEC PA271W - MultiProfiler and SpectraView
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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - link

    Brian Klug is working on a review I believe. Stay tuned....
  • B3an - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - link

    Next time can you or Brian in his future review mention the fact that these are 16:10 junk, instead of 16:9, and point out why this is so stupid for the area these monitors are aimed at (they should be 2560x1600 res!). Many of which will be people that work in some area of design and would benefit from extra pixels.

    These things are not for watching movies. For almost anything else including basic things like viewing this very web page, the extra vertical pixels are better.
  • ectoplasmosis - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - link

    If you're going to go on a bizarre rant, at least make sure you've got your aspect ratios the right way round.
  • theoryzero - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - link

    NEC's page mentions "Rapid Response" or "Response Improve" feature that can be enabled using the MultiProfiler software. Does that feature help with the processing lag?
  • Senti - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - link

    It doesn't. It enables panel overdrive. With it it becomes one of the fastest IPS panels I've seen, but you also get quite bad overdrive artifacts.
  • weiln12 - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - link

    You mention for gaming the HP is the best bet, yet it's worse in lag than the Apple 27". From my quick perusal of the charts appeared to be worse in most categories for color reproduction and everything else.

    The prices don't seem that far off either based on a cursory Google search of the HP ZR2740w and Apple's given prices.

    Could you mind clarifying why the HP is the best bet for gaming, is there something I'm missing?
  • cheinonen - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - link

    The Apple only works with Thunderbolt, so that's not going to be an option for most gamers, who still use a PC and not a Mac. The HP is incredibly close to the Apple in most numbers, and the lag measurement used for the HP is far more accurate than the one used for the Apple, so they could be closer than the charts indicate.
  • ectoplasmosis - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - link

    The Thunderbolt version isn't the only one available.

    I'm using a displayport 27" Cinema Display connected to both a PC (DVI) and Mac Pro (mDP) via an mDP KVM switch. By far the best screen I've ever laid eyes on, and crystal-clear with no horrible murky anti-glare coating like almost every other 2560x1440 27" screen.
  • AeroWB - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - link

    The high gloss display of Apple screen may look fancy and give more punch to the colors, but it can be extremely annoying depending on the room lighting and even in a medium lit room high gloss displays are extremely bad when displaying dark content, as you will see your own reflexion more clearly then the content being displayed.

    Glossy displays do work well in very dark rooms, but I doubt it is good to work in a dark room and stare into a big light. I do not think it is a coincidence that all professional displays and laptops are non-gloss and in general getting a non-gloss display is the safer option. If color is important glossy screens are a very bad option even if you're careful with the room lighting. it seems to me gloss is so prevalent in the consumer space as it is cheaper to built and looks fancier when displaying bright content. Though it must be said those non-glare coatings do have some influence on the brightness and sharpness of the display though after using my PA241W for about a year I am very happy I did not get the glossy Apple display (which a friend of mine has)
  • ectoplasmosis - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - link

    The room my ACD's in is far from dark, but is arranged so that screen reflections are a complete non-issue, even with darker content.

    If you've got control over your environment and lighting then a glossy screen, like you say, gives better contrast, saturation and colour accuracy than an equivalent panel with fuzzy anti-glare coating.

    I know which one I prefer, and it's not about looking "fancy" in the least.

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