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The Best Colour Accurate Monitors on the Market June 2014

6th June 2014 Product News

So the end of the financial year is looming, and many of you are probably thinking about buying a new monitor. We have a very extensive article on buying monitors for high quality imaging work in our knowledge base (right) but for those of you who just want the (somewhat!) shorter answer, here’s our quick guide to the current monitor landscape as at June 2014.

Below, we’ve got a table summarising all of this, and a ‘jargon buster’ section explaining some of the terminology.

Top of the line – $2500 to $3300

At the very top end are Eizo CG247W and CG277W – these are the very best monitors made. Not cheap, they are however extremely refined and easy to use. They are wide gamut, and have fully automatic direct hardware calibration.

I have the CG277W monitor on my desk and it is the finest imaging device I’ve used. I use it vastly more than any lens (which costs much the same), and it never ever lets me down. It is unfailingly accurate, extremely even across its field, has excellent clarity, very neutral neutrals, great shadow and highlight detail – and it took me literally less than 5 minutes to set up. It now auto calibrates once a month when I am not even there, and remains perfect each and every day. I love it.

Eizo CG247W (24”) Complete Integrated Package
Eizo CG277W (27”) Complete Integrated Package

There are also the Eizo CX solutions, which are like the CGs with a few things removed. Personally, though, we think if you’re in this price bracket you might as well go the whole way and get the very best.

Eizo ColorEdge CG247X 24" Monitor
Top of the line, best of the best, 24" colour accurate monitor - wide gamut, with fully automatic direct hardware calibration!
More info
  • Panel Size / Ratio24" / 16:10 (1.6:1)
  • Native Resolution1920 * 1200
  • Panel TechnologyIPS
  • Direct Hardware Calibration Support?
  • In Built Sensor? (Calibrator)
  • GamutWide
Eizo ColorEdge CG277 27" Monitor
Our all time favourite monitor - fully integrated with automatic direct hardware calibration using an in-built calibration sensor!
More info
  • Panel Size / Ratio27" / 16:9 (1.78:1)
  • Native Resolution2560 * 1440
  • Panel TechnologyIPS
  • Direct Hardware Calibration Support?
  • In Built Sensor? (Calibrator)
  • GamutWide

Mid Range – $1200 to $2500

Here, NEC is really the king. The NEC PA range offers a great deal of the quality of the Eizo CG range, but at a significantly lower price.

What you lose is some refinement in the screen itself – you get slightly less good neutrals, slightly less uniformity and the NEC warranty is not as long or as good. They still have excellent reliability (much better than consumer brands), offer good uniformity, and excellent clarity. Both are wide gamut and support direct hardware calibration.

I own a PA27 at home which is actually where I do most of my imaging work – and it’s an excellent screen. To take advantage of the direct hardware calibration you will need a i1 Display Pro or Syder 4 Pro and Spectraview2 software.

NEC PA242W (24”)
NEC PA272W (27”)

Entry Level – $500 to $1200

These monitors are all standard gamut, so you lose the ability to work accurately with the more saturated tones that wide gamut monitors can display.

Both Eizo and NEC do good work in this area, but the best value options are in the Eizo EV range. While they don’t support direct hardware calibration, they calibrate very well with a traditional calibration approach. They’re not as good at things like contrast simulation for print work, but they definitely give you the ability to do good quality editing and soft proofing.

These are really your basic starting point for a ‘better than Apple/Dell/Samsung’ monitor, and the bare minimum monitor anyone with any interest in imaging should be aiming for.

Eizo EV2336W (23”)
Eizo EV2436W (24”)
Eizo EV2736W (27”)

At the higher end of the budget, NEC have some direct hardware calibration standard gamut models available (P Series), but we’d recommend if you’re considering those that you stretch to our mid range options as they would be a better long term decision really.

Here’s a summary table to put it all together:

Click it to get a bigger version.

Jargon Buster – Definitions of colour accurate monitor terminology

  • Direct Hardware Calibration: A system where a monitor calibrator can talk directly to the monitor’s hardware – that is, the system can instruct the monitor to adjust brightness, contrast, RGB gain etc. at the hardware level. It also means the system can store the ICC profile (i.e. correction curves) in the monitor’s high quality LUTs rather than the low quality video card LUTS. Lots of jargon there but it means much better AND easier monitor calibration, and makes monitors much more effective as print preparation devices. Contrast this with the two other options – the reasonable ‘software calibration’ (the traditional approach where you use an i1 or Spyder and manually tweak the monitors controls, and the correction curves go in to the video card), and the ‘does not work at all’ by eye calibration where you try and manually match your screen to a print.
  • Integrated Automatic Calibration: Some monitors have calibrators built right into them…this is a massive ease of use improver, and time saver. It’s a little more limiting as you can’t use the calibrator with another monitor if you have one, but it has to be said you can set up a monitor with one of these in about 10 minutes and then it will be perfect for 5+ years after that with no further user intervention – and that’s pretty much the Holy Grail of monitors!
  • Wide Gamut: Monitors are broadly split into two groups – those with ‘standard gamut’ (roughly sRGB) – these were pretty much all monitors until about 4 years ago. They can display a relatively limited palette of colours, missing the more saturated colours that wide gamut monitors (roughly AdobeRGB) can display. Wide gamut monitors can do everything standard gamut ones can do, but are also much better with those saturated colours. It’s not so important for standard wedding and portrait work, but if you work with landscape, commercial, illustration or graphic design – it can make a real difference in helping you pre-visualise your final output, particularly if you’re printing on inkjet which has a much wider gamut than photo-chemistry.
  • Uniformity and Clarity: How even a monitor is across its field, and how well the coating suppresses glare/reflections and if any mottling/rainbow effect results.
  • Monitor Warranty: The longer the better, but it’s not just the time scale, but also just how good the company behind the warranty is, and how often it needs to be called upon. Everything we sell here has a very low failure rate, but there are differences between brands over the years. In short, Eizo’s support is unparalleled – 5 year warranty, barely anyone ever calls on it, but if they do things are resolved very quickly and easily – just fabulous. NEC – 3 year warranty and good support, but the issue rate is definitely a little bit higher than with Eizo and the support is not as fast. BenQ – zero faults so far, but we’re told they will be excellent! They’re new players so a bit unknown so far.