30 inch NEC MultiSync LCD3090WQXi Reviewed
By Jeff Mottle
Those of you who frequent our forums know that I’m somewhat of a color geek. I find the subject of color management, profiling and calibration a fascinating subject. Call me crazy. Each year when I attend SIGGRAPH I make a b-line to the highest end displays on the show floor to see what new technologies display manufacturers have come up with that year. One of the monitors that I saw was NEC’s flag ship 30 inch LCD high gamut display with a native resolution of 2560 x 1600. It took quite while for this display to arrive for us to review. I think almost a year, but now that it is finally here this will marks our first hardware review on the site.
I’ve used higher end CRTs for most of my career and about 18 months ago I purchased one of Dell’s first gen 30 inch high gamut display, which I continue to use today. As I know many people in our industry currently use this same Dell display, part of my review will compare these two displays.
The NEC MultiSync LCD3090WQXi has an impressive list of features:97.8% coverage of AdobeRGB (102% color gamut size vs. NTSC ) Auto Luminance control with X-Light™ Pro backlight/sensor design for consistent brightness and color ColorComp™ technology which compensates for slight variations in luminance and color uniformity, providing even color across the screen IPS active matrix LCD provides superior screen performance, including wide viewing angles, lifelike flesh tones and dark black levels Supports internal programmable 12-bit lookup tables (LUTs) for calibration High resolution (up to 2560 x 1600) allows for more content to be displayed on a single monitor Standalone color calibration and matching function without the need of a PC using an optional sensor connected directly to the display
The display itself is a bit deeper and larger than other displays of the same size, but looks and feels a lot sturdier as well. The display tilts (30 degrees from vertical) and can also rotate for vertical orientation. This functionality also means that the display in horizontal configuration has a height adjustment that is much larger than other displays, up to 190mm. The back of the adjustable stand has hooks for all of the cables as well as cable cover for a clean look.
The front of the display has vertical and horizontal menu select arrows and an input select button. Finally a manufacturer who has put some thought into making the OSD (on screen display) easy to access! I don’t know how many of you have ventured into the OSD for your monitor, but I have yet to find one that did not require five really obscure button presses to make a simple adjustment. This NEC is a breeze. Even more user friendly are the labels (key guide) that appear on the screen directly next to each button when you enter the OSD adjustment mode. When you rotate the screen the OSD automatically rotates to accommodate as well.
The OSD menu contains a lot of the same settings you might expect to find on a monitor including several unique features to this display:There is a light sensor near the select buttons that detects the level of ambient light and adjusts the monitor’s brightness for optimal viewing. A secondary adjustment also adjusts brightness based on the amount of white on the display. This option can also be turned off if you opt not to use it. This display allows R/G/B levels to be adjusted individually and also has a preset to store a color tone programmed into the display by a calibration device. More on this later. Many LCD displays are not capable of displaying color of even luminance across the entire screen. This monitor has a built in luminance function which electronically adjusts white uniformity levels as well as deviations in color. There is an adjustable gamma control as well that has built in presets for gamma including gamma 2.2, manual adjustments, and a programmable mode which stores input from an external calibration application.
The underside of the display has inputs for DVI-D and DVI-I as well as a USB sensor port for closed loop calibration, allowing for the monitor profile to be stored directly to the display. This port can only be used with an X-Rite/Gretag iOne Display V2 and is used primarily for medical environments and for side by side monitor matching. Arch. Viz. users however will use the SpectraView software and connect any supported calibration device to a USB port on the computer. Regardless of how the calibration is done, all of the settings are stored in the display using its 12 bit LUT (Look Up Table), rather than the 8bit LUTs on the video card. This allows for a much better calibration without risk of color banding and gives a true “one click” calibration.
For a full detailed listing of technical features click here to download a brochure for this display.
NEC makes software called SpectraView, which allows you to use a color sensor to take color measurements of the display screen during calibration. The software analyzes these measurements and sends color adjustment commands directly to the display monitor. This means that color adjustments are made in the monitor rather than in the video graphics adapter, resulting in full use of the number of colors available on the graphics adapter and a much brighter image with the maximum possible color gamut. With SpectraView, the video graphics adapter is not used at all to make any gamma or Tone Response Curve corrections to the display, so the full color resolution and fidelity of the system is maintained. SpectraView is available bundled with a co-branded NEC/GretagMacbeth iOne display colorimeter, or as a standalone software only package. The full kit costs $274.99 and the software alone is $99.99. This is an exceptional deal as similar Gretag kits start at around $500.
Now that we have discussed the numerous features and capabilities of this display, the most important question is how does it actually look! I had NEC send me some of the sample images they use at tradeshows to show off their displays. I wanted these images so I could compare them on my current display. The saturation, richness, and sharpness is phenomenal. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I have the Dell 3007WFP-HC, which is Dell’s first generation of high gamut displays. Many of the studios that I have visited have these displays, so I thought it noteworthy to do a quick visual comparison.
Both displays were calibrated and profiled using my GretagMacbeth iOne Pro spectrophotometer and were driven by two dual headed NVIDIA GeForce 790 GTX graphics cards. I took the supplied high res images and expanded each to full screen on each display and did careful visual comparison. I was surprised at how close they actually were to each other, but the NEC displayed a sharper image and also edged out the Dell in very saturated reds, blues and greens. To confirm my observations I opened the ICC profiles created for both displays and found that indeed the NEC is able to deliver a larger gamut. The image below is a chromaticity diagram. One day I will start to write some more detailed color management articles for the site, but briefly this diagram illustrates the colors visible to the human eye as well as the gamuts capable of being displayed by each monitor. The colored arc shaped diagram shows the range of wavelengths visible to the human eye. The solid black triangle inside this shape represents the color gamut of NEC monitor, while the black dotted line represents the Dell monitor. As you can see the profile reflects my visual observations. Although the diagram makes the two seem very similar, the differences are visible.
I’ve also included the chromaticity diagram from the NEC brochure, which very closely reflects my own findings. In their diagram you can also see how their display compares to the sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces.
The NEC MultiSync LCD3090WQXi is clearly aimed at the high end graphics professional and boasts a very impressive list of features. Priced at $2199.99 Estimate Street Price, it costs only slightly more than the Dell and about $300 more than the Apple offering, but considerably less than a comparable Eizo which will set you back over $4000. When I first saw this NEC display a few years ago at SIGGRAPH it retailed for around $4000. With a much more competitive price tag, had I to do it again, I would most definitely purchase the NEC over the Dell. The color and sharpness is better and the ergonomics and color management controls set it heads and tails above any of the offerings by Dell or Apple. What I did not like about this NEC display was the round design of the bottom stand. It sticks out quite far past the front of the screen and takes up more desk space than it should. Other manufacturers have a better case and stand design, however are not able to rotate or adjust near as much, if at all. The screen itself is also quite a bit deeper than most 30 inch displays on the market. That having been said, if you are in the market for a high gamut 30 inch display that will not let you down or eat up your entire budget for the quarter, the NEC MultiSync LCD3090WQXi would be my choice. If you are serious about color, this should be tops on your list!
For More information about this display, head over to the NEC web site here:
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