32" 4K USB-C BenQ EW3270U Monitor Review

Uh, this isn’t my desk. But it is the monitor I’m reviewing.

Disclaimer: BenQ gave me this monitor for free in exchange for this review. That said, as you’ll see these are my honest impressions.


As a software developer, I’ve run 2 or 3 monitors for years. But a few years ago I realized I preferred using a single display. The question is, what’s the perfect single display? I currently use a 24" Dell 4K in the office and a 27" Dell 4K at home. BenQ offered me their new EW3270U 32" 4K display with USB-C in exchange for writing an honest review.

Size

Wow, this thing is big. At 32", it’s large enough to run the native 3840x2160 resolution. Doing so creates a massive desktop with small, crisp text.

To give you a sense of how much real estate you get, you can easily split the screen into 4 pieces and have plenty of room in each window to work comfortably.

Look at all the white space around the medium post, even with the screen split in half!

In fact, there’s enough real estate to comfortably display 6 windows!

However I find text at the native resolution too small for comfort. Most will find 2560x1440 more practical. This is still a sufficient width to comfortably run windows side-by-side. However, this resolution isn’t as sharp. Why? Because math. Since 2560x1440 isn’t evenly divisble by the native resolution, it requires scaling. So you have to sacrifice a bit of text clarity and performance for the increased real estate. MacOS even warns you that these intermediate resolutions may impact performance (due to scaling overhead):

Note “Using a scaled resolution may effect performance” warning when selecting 2560x1440.

To avoid scaling, you have to run either the native resolution or 1920x1080, which is conveniently 1/4 the native resolution, so scaling isn’t required.

I currently run both my 27" and 24" Dell 4K displays at 1920x1080 to avoid scaling. At 1920x1080, text is huge on this 32", but it’s also crisp and very easy on the eyes. Although this display’s PPI is only 140, the text looks about as sharp as my 27" and 24" 4K displays.

Stand

The stand is sturdy and tilts, but unfortunately lacks height adjustment, rotation, and cable management. The good news is the stand sits at a natural height for a traditional desk. My eyes sit in the upper third which is the recommended height. That said, I suspect many will attach this to a VESA mount.

Panel

There are three common LCD panel technologies: TN, VA, and IPS.

Here’s a summary:
“VA panels provide a good middle ground with better-than-IPS refresh rates and contrast levels, but have worse viewing angles and color production, although generally still better than TN. Response times are VA’s largest downfall, though, being slower than IPS and its variants and TN.” — Michael Kerns

More here.

This is a VA panel, so the viewing angles and color fidelity aren’t as good as my IPS Dell 27", but the refresh rate and contrast is better. I prefer IPS panels, but this is a solid VA panel with a subtle matte finish that is effective at handling glare yet subtle enough that it doesn’t seem to degrade the picture.

Unfortunately, at my standard viewing distance, the colors on the edges fade slightly compared to the middle. And that’s the core problem with using a VA panel at this size: The edges are far enough away that the viewing angle limitations are visible on the sides — even when viewed from the sweet spot.

Note how the edges are slightly lighter.

On my IPS displays, colors and brightness are uniform.

That said, unless you’re doing image critical work such as editing photographs, this is a minor annoyance in most real world cases. It’s unlikely to bother you if you’re used to TN or VA panels.

Design

This BenQ design is clean enough, but not as modern as some competitors. For example, my Dell U2718Q has a panel that is flush with the bezel (rather than inset), and bezels that are less than half as wide as the BenQ display’s. And given the BenQ’s bezel size, it’s disappointing a webcam isn’t included.

I/O

I was excited to see this monitor provides USB-C, and the included USB-C cable displays at 60hz as expected. However, there are two notable issues with this monitor’s USB-C implementation:

  1. No power is passed over USB-C. This is a big disappointment given competitors like LG do so. Other BenQ displays provide power as well. Without USB-C charging, you can no longer enjoy a single cable hookup experience.
  2. No daisy chaining support. You can’t connect another display to the back of this one. Again, this is supported on other USB-C monitors and some BenQ displays.
  3. There are no USB inputs, which greatly reduces the usefulness of the USB-C input.

Bottom-line, this monitor’s USB-C input is redundant. The DisplayPort 1.4 port is also capable of displaying 4K@60hz, so one could simply buy a USB-C to Displayport cable if they have a USB-C machine and get the same experience. So unfortunately, I see no benefit to this monitor including USB-C.

Two HDMI inputs are also included, as well as a headphone jack.

Speakers

The included 2 watt speakers get loud enough, but sound thin. My Macbook Pro’s built in speakers are clearer and equally loud. Shoot, even my iPhone 7’s speaker sounds notably better and reproduces a greater frequency range. That said, most monitors don’t include speakers, so having this in a pinch is a nice touch.

Eye Care

This monitor also includes BenQ’s B.I.+ (Brightness Intelligence Plus), which adjusts the backlight and color temperature based on the environment. This feature works well and I’ve found it useful. I often work in a dimly lit room at night and very bright room with many windows during the day. This display is looks great in both extremes and I don’t have to fiddle with any settings. And much like my MacBook Pro, the brightness changes are gradual so they’re not jarring. Turn out the lights and it subtly dims over a short period. Nice.

BenQ promotes other eye care features on this monitor including a “low blue light” setting which filters out blue light that can cause eye strain. The effect is subtle, but I will say the display is easy on the eyes and much more pleasant to look at than many harsh, bluish LCDs I’ve seen. Filtering blue light should help foster sleep in the evenings too.

Other Unique Features

This is an HDR display. I streamed 4K HDR content from Netflix and was very impressed with the results — it looks excellent. You can press the dedicated HDR button on the front of the panel to enable emulated HDR mode, which produces a brigther, bluer picture. This works well for video content. A second press on the front panel button enables the aforementioned B.I.+ feature.

“Super Resolution” claims to enhance the resolution of low quality images. I found it seems to operate like a sharpness control on a TV. Like my TV, I prefer to keep sharpness turned off since it creates visible artifacts in an effort to enhance edges.

“Smart Focus” grays out a portion of your screen so you can focus on a specific area.

Price

At $699, this display isn’t cheap. 32" 4K displays are significantly pricier than 27" competitors. The only 32" 4K USB-C competitor I’ve found is the LG 32UD99 which is $999. For the extra $300, you get an IPS panel, smaller bezels, a height adjustable stand that rotates vertically, USB ports, more powerful speakers, and 60 watts of power over USB-C. But the LG display lacks the unique eye care features offered on this BenQ.

Conclusion

So who is this for? This monitor is a worth considering if one or more of these apply to you:

  • You want a massive desktop for multi-tasking and are okay with small text. 32" is arguably the bare minimum size for running native 4K.
  • You want to run two windows side-by-side at 2560x1440 and are willing to take a slight hit in text sharpness and performance due to scaling.
  • You want big, beautiful, crisp text with high contrast. This monitor touts unique eye care features, but perhaps the most significant eye care feature is the ability to display crisp content at a very easy-to-read size when run at 1920x1080.
  • You work in various lighting conditions and would thus appreciate the B.I.+ feature.
  • Your use cases don’t require an IPS panel’s superior viewing angles and color fidelity.
  • The lack of integrated USB ports doesn’t effect you because you’re using a desktop or your laptop has sufficient ports built in.

If any of these points apply to you, the BenQ EW3270U is worth considering.