By: Corey Beaulieu (Neoscape)
I recently had the opportunity to try out the NEC EA275UHD 27-Inch monitor. More accurately, I was able to try out two of them, as well as the optional SpectraViewII EA Color Calibration Kit (SVII-EA-KIT). I elected for the dual setup. The arch-vis studio I work for recently switched to singular, ultra-wide, curved monitors, so it was nice to get back to what one might call a more normal display format. (Side note: I was not overly enthusiastic about the switch the studio made, but I’ve come around to its merits.) I’ll break down the experience, but for those looking for the shorthand: A lot of work filters through my desk and it is critical that I am always seeing what the client will see. It is also important that I see a full color spectrum so that the slightest adjustments can be made prior to delivery. These monitors provide a feature rich environment where many of my worries are being traded for certainty. Usability is great, and while the price is slightly higher than average, it is very competitive with any other UHD monitor out there and the features push it over the edge.
A high end monitor is not mission critical to creating great work, but a monitor that will display your colors and contrast in the truest form possible is-- and this monitor provides this.
Introduction; The Arrival:
The monitors arrived pre-assembled and ready to go, with all the necessary cables included and the spring-loaded stand already attached. There was no fumbling with screws and cover panels. I removed the packing materials, setup them up on my desk, and got going. Quick and Easy.
The monitor boasts a UHD, sRGB display (3840x2160) on an AH-IPS panel and a native resolution of 163 ppi which amounts to a color-rich and sharp viewing experience across the 27” display. One thing to note, however, that each monitor is 25” wide, so dual monitors are going to cost you over 4’ of desk space. If you work in a bullpen like I do, answering the phone can get a bit tricky. A new-to-me feature of this twin monitor set up is the ControlSync feature. It allows the user to manage the preferences of both monitors through a single monitor’s menu panels through an additional cable (provided) running beneath the displays. At first I found this cable unsightly, but quickly forgot it was even there and ultimately found it quite useful.
In our studio, we run Windows 7 and that had an impact on my trial. I was ready to be immediately blown away, but Windows had other plans. The UHD display was too much to handle. The lack of automated text and icon scaling impacted the usability of almost every piece of software I use. The small display size was giving me massive headaches and reading the far edge of the second monitor was impossible and active menus were hard to make out. But read on…
This problem is not specific to these monitors. I would have had the same experience with any UHD monitor. I was able to find some built-in workarounds and mostly solved the problem by changing a few settings.
The solution: Windows offers a global display zoom in the Control Panel that will scale all explorer windows and icons. I wound up using 125% native increase in my displays. It wasn’t perfect, but 150% was too big.
Some programs, like the latest Creative Suite, do have auto UI scaling and were not an issue. I never figured out how to scale in 3DS Max 2016, but 2017 does have a degree of auto scaling. It is still on the small side, but it is totally workable and the pixel density of these monitors was amazing for keeping more menus and viewport visibility. Our studio hasn’t made the switch to 2017 yet, though, so I was left to muddle through with a lot of squinting and glasses-wearing. Scaling aside, there is just no trading the ability to see 80+ percent of your final image on screen. The post-pro process was infinitely better.
The optional SpectraViewII EA Color Calibration Kit (SVII-EA-KIT) ensured that I was getting the best color representation. In the interest of full disclosure, I think that anyone looking to get the best out of any monitor should invest in a color calibrator. Yes, it’s extra money, but benefits of a calibrated display are innumerable and make a marked difference in final quality.
A few years ago I purchased the i1Display Pro for both home and studio, and I’m really happy with it. The NEC device is physically the exact same, which I liked, but I was less impressed with the SpectraView software (SVIISOFT). The device itself performs amazingly; it is easy to use and very effective, but the interface was closer to a script than a full UI. Some of the features were better than my previous i1Profiler, like the presets for print, digital, web design, etc., but the UX didn’t give me confidence in making choices when I was on my own. I also felt (true or not) that I was missing options that might have been hidden behind menus. In the end, I did find my way around the product without a problem, but it wasn’t a stand out experience.
The NECEA275UHD monitors store the color profile within the hardware. This bit was very interesting to me as it means that the monitors themselves are storing the profile. While my previous i1 Display Pro created a profile to correct any color deficiencies in my monitor by adjusting the outgoing signal, the SpectraViewII EA Color Calibrator placed the profile in the display which amounts to a noticeable improvement in color banding. Rather than clamping the signal to the display, the profile was affecting the performance of the display at its root and a fuller spectrum of color was being utilized.
While this difference may seem small, what it means is to the end user is far greater. Rather than using all software as normal, default working color space, the implication here is that one needs to be sure and select the newly created profile in order to get the truest output. In using other calibrators, you can keep your standard sRGB color space in all softwares, but with the SpectraViewII EA Color Calibrator, the monitor specific profile for all color sensitive softwares must be selected in the preferences. None of this is hard, but it does add a step in terms of usability, and one I would have missed without a having spoken with the rep. And just so it is said, the result of maintaining a color profile has a huge pay off.
End User Features:
These monitors have several thoughtful, user-centric features, including some great creature comfort features that I found useful. One of my favorite features is perhaps the most trivial: these monitors are able to sense your presence. I sit on an aisle and I attend a lot of meetings and loved that the monitor reacted to my presence and dimmed accordingly. It wasn’t perfect and I would have to reset the feature once in a while, but I liked it nonetheless.
One of my pet peeves is when I switch from modeling to searching the web during a test render and getting blown away by the over-bright whites of many common webpages. Good news. These NECEA275UHD displays manage this imbalance with a content aware mode that suppresses the white backgrounds of websites. It worked so seamlessly that I never once noticed its presence, always noticed its absence.
In other products (i1 Display Pro) the device must be plugged in to account for the ambient lighting conditions of the user and has no content awareness. With these monitors, the ambient light adjustments are done automatically. The alterations were so smooth that I experienced a 100% consistent look to my monitors all the time.
The best feature (in my opinion) is the matte finish screen. The anti-glare, matte-finish gave consistency and solidity to everything I viewed. My visual assessment of the display gave me the confidence to say that I was going to deliver images that were exactly how I wanted them to be delivered. Whether video or 4k+ illustration, I saw an image that was print proof quality and I didn’t need any glossy enhancement to feel good about the content.
Lastly, the synchronicity of the monitors is impeccable and altogether convenient. Anytime I made a decision within one monitor’s menu space, the information was automatically transferred to the other. This means that the human sensor, the brightness awareness, the ambient light sensor, etc. were all being shared amongst both monitors, while also maintaining separate color profiles.
It can be difficult to navigate finding the best monitor for your workstation and on a lot of levels, all monitors can seem the same. Price may set some apart, but with the NECEA275UHD sets itself apart by having some of the most user friendly options around.
The UHD aspect ration and 163ppi are not be unique to the NEC monitor, but the matte finish display and the above user features are. Price is always a factor and these monitors land themselves squarely in the middle, but if you are in the market for a 4k monitor you should take a good long look at the NECEA275UHD. They leave little to be desired and should you get these or any other monitor, do yourself a favor and purchase a color calibrator along with it.
For more information about this display, you can visit the NEC website
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