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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  • B3an - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - link

    2560x1440 instead of 2560x1600 on a high end LCD? Disgraceful. Should be 16:9 ratio!

    Most people by far will be using this for colour important work, graphic design and so on, not for watching fucking movies. Those extra vertical pixels are important, not to mention better for just about anything else, including viewing web pages.
  • TegiriNenashi - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - link

    The price for 2560x1600 is insane, even for ebay imports from Korea. No matter how badly ones love tall monitors it is hard to justify spending $1000 vs $350 for 11% increase in screen space. Now that 4K aka QuadHD is on horizon, it's much better strategy to shell small amount and upgrade to 4K later. It is sad that 16:10 and taller AR doesn't seem to be coming back...
  • ggathagan - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - link

    Uh.. you got it backwards, Skippy.

    2560x1440 *is* 16:9
    2560x1600 is 16:10
  • ozmia - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - link

    I like how this review seems to utterly ignore Dell's U2711? It not only has exceptional colour accuracy straight out of the box in the factory configured modes, but very respectable input lag for a 27" screen, and apart from work, I use it for games and it is fantastic.

    I don't think you have been particularly non-biased, Chris, and this review has a strong wiff of the favouritism.

    The U2711 is probably superior to the HP in most ways bar input lag, yet it does not even get a look in. Very poor indeed.
  • cheinonen - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    Someone else wrote the U2711 review, and I've never had the opportunity to use one myself. Any comparisons I make between the two would only be based on my reading of reviews of the display and not from actual use, which is why I didn't mention it.
  • nurfe - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    Did you read the review? The two monitors are in two completely different classes. NEC has a 14 bit lookup-table, hardware calibration, electronically corrects uniformity and colour distribution problems etc. The Dell is a normal ISP office monitor.
  • bishop2020 - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    I've read both this review and the earlier U2711 review that Anandtech did and would disagree that they aren't comparable.

    Uncalibrated DE - Dell 2.24, NEC 7.07.
    Calibrated DE - Dell 1.06, NEC 1.1.
    AdobeRGB - Dell 96%, NEC 106%.

    I'm not saying the NEC isn't a better monitor, I actually wholly agree with you on that point, but to say it's in a different class and not worth comparison seems a tad elitist. Many professionals don't work in AdobeRGB (see and many don't have access to calibration equipment so a lower shipping DE may be something they're more interested in.

    As someone who uses a professional 27" monitor daily I have no problem lumping the Dell & HP in with the NEC & Eizos of the world if only for additional data points even if I don't expect them to come out on top (though I make no assumptions that they can't be superior). The requirements you or I might put on a monitor don't necessarily apply to everyone and seeing the comparisons helps people make informed decisions. That said, I respect the author's decision not to include any direct comparison due to lack of first-hand experience in reviewing the Dell.
  • nurfe - Friday, May 4, 2012 - link

    But that's entirely my point. Using a professional monitor without setting it up correctly, and wihout taking full advantage of its features doesn't make any sense. Of course you'll get similar result buying something else, like a Dell, since you're ignoring the premium features you just paid for.

    Thus, I very much diasgree that finding the common lowest denominator is ground for a comparison.
  • bjnicholls - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    OMG, Ken Rockwell on displays? Next I'll see him referenced as an expert on toaster ovens.

    A professional who isn't provided or can't afford calibration tools isn't a very valuable or valued professional. You need wide gamut if you design for print. But even more, you need a display that has color and luminance uniformity so you can view and work with reasonable precision on large images and designs.

    I just returned a Dell U3011 display because it had an obvious color shift across a third of the display. And looking at uniform background colors, it had really poor luminance consistency. At least compared to my aging NEC 3090 display.

    I was hoping that a Dell would be "good enough" for design and image editing, but I'm back to finding the best buys I can get on NEC displays. The difference is not subtle and if your work requires consistent, accurate color you should at least aspire to a display designed to deliver the performance you need.

    It's interesting that people who spend thousands of dollars on cameras and lenses with excellent image capture capability will cheap out on the one most critical tool they need to view and work with those images. It's like having a professional audio studio but listening to the sound via a cheap sound system.
  • xKeGSx - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - link

    Any word on the VA278q that was announced at CES 2012?

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