BenQ SW2700PT Photography Monitor Review

For the past 9 years, my main computer has always been a Mac laptop and I’ve been using the small 13- to 15-inch displays for most of my photo editing. Mac displays are known to be bright and beautiful so I have enjoyed seeing my photos on a vibrant and colour-rich display. The small screen real estate has always been the downside though, and I’ve been wanting to purchase an external monitor for a while now. So when BenQ contacted me and asked me to review their 27-inch monitor designed specifically for photographers, I jumped at the opportunity.

Christmas came early last year when the monitor arrived and I opened up the box and set it up. After using it for a few weeks, I’ve shared my thoughts on the various features below. First-impressions are important though, so let me give you my initial thoughts too.

First Impressions

The monitor came nicely packaged as you would expect. However, unlike other packaging with fitted polystyrene pieces, you have to pull everything out of the box at once because everything is interlocked. It was fairly simple and straightforward to assemble, even though the stand came in a few different pieces. Once I got everything plugged in and turned on, I was able to really appreciate the quality of this monitor. I found the colours very similar to my MacBook Pro, with slightly warmer tones, especially noticeable in the whites. All in all, I was quite impressed with this beautiful display. In the photo above, I’ve set the monitor up on a Loctek Monitor Arm with my laptop sitting on a Roost Laptop Stand.

27-inch IPS 16:9 QHD Display

The IPS (In-Plane Switching) feature gives the monitor an incredible 178˚ viewing angle which means that I can view the screen from any position and still see the same colours. I can call others over to show them a photo or even watch a movie and we all get the same visual experience. A Quad High Definition (QHD) display has 4 times as many pixels as a Standard HD 720p. This means that the BenQ display has 2560×1440 pixels over its 27″ screen space at 109 DPI. The results of all this is a widescreen display that is a pleasure to use. Everything is sharp and the photos almost jump out of the screen.

99% Adobe RGB coverage

This is a bit of a technical term about colour spaces, but still very relevant. What it means is that this monitor will display a wider gamut of colours when the Adobe RGB colour space display mode is activated than when using other colour spaces like sRGB. All digital media is designed using sRGB, as that’s what most of the consumer devices use, however, having the wider colour range that Adobe RGB offers is important for photographers wanting to print their work.

Colour Depth

When using other displays in the past, I often find that they cannot display gradients very well. This is because a typical monitor has an 8-bit colour depth and can be especially troublesome as a photographer when you want to see your photos with smooth gradients from dark to light. The SW2700PT has a 10-bit colour depth which gives you 1,024 shades of every primary colour, and over a billion colours in total. In my use of this monitor I’ve never seen any issues displaying gradients and enjoyed the vivid colours portrayed as I’ve edited my photos.

Shading Hood

The included shading hood shields three sides of the display from stray light and glare. It was nice to see that inside of the plastic shield is lined with velvet-like material which absorbs any extra light. This gives you the peace of mind that the colours on the side of the display are just as accurate as the ones in the centre.

Mac-Ready

The box proudly displays the Mac logo indicating it’s ready to go with your Mac computer right out of the box. I found this to be true, as one of the cables inside was a DisplayPort cable which plugged right into my Thunderbolt port on my MacBook Pro. If you don’t have a Mac, you’ll have to BYO HDMI cable as it doesn’t come with one of them or you can use the included DVI cable.

Extra Connectivity including an SD card slot

On the left hand side of the monitor you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports and a slot for your SD card. Because the included cable is a DisplayPort cable and not a true Thunderbolt device, you will need to also plug in the USB 3.0 cable to your computer to power the extra ports (and SD slot). This setup effectively only gives me one extra USB port since I have to use one of the ones on my MacBook to power the ones on the monitor, but they are handy none-the-less. I have a lightning cable plugged in there to charge and sync my iPhone whenever necessary and I also leave my Wacom Tablet plugged in too so it’s always ready to go.

2x USB 3.0 ports and 1 SD card slot

I was curious to see if there was any speed difference in the SD slot on the monitor as opposed to the one built into my laptop so I carried out an unscientific experiment. I transferred 213 D610 raw files (just under 6GB) using each slot and timed them on my phone. The results were about the same, with all files transferring in 1:10 from the MacBook and 1:11 from the monitor. It was nice to see that no real speed has been lost there. While it’s definitely a great inclusion for those who are using a Mac Pro or another computer that doesn’t have a built-in SD card reader, I don’t think I’ll be using it since the shade hood makes it awkward to easily access and I have one built into my MacBook pro.

DisplayPort and USB cables plugged in to MacBook Pro

The monitor also comes with a headphone port which could be handy if you’d like to have a set of speakers or headphones always plugged in at your workstation. The downside of this is that the DisplayPort cable doesn’t carry audio, just like it doesn’t carry USB connectivity. If you want to use this feature, you’ll have to use an HDMI cable. This is a limitation of the DisplayPort cable technology, not BenQ’s monitor, although if BenQ uses Thunderbolt in their next iteration of this display, that issue should be solved.

OSD Controller

The OSD (on-screen display) controller is a handy peripheral device that gives you easy access to the straightforward menu system for the monitor. This can either sit at the base of your monitor in a spot designed for it, or pull it closer to your keyboard for faster access. It also has three hotkeys which you can map to various colour profiles. I’ve set mine up with the standard AdobeRGB profile, a low blue light profile for use in the evening hours, and a custom calibration profile for photo editing. I created the custom calibration by using the Palette Master Element software, which is included with the monitor and available for download from BenQ’s website, together with an X-Rite i1Display Pro unit (seperate purchase required).

Left: OSD Controller; Right: X-Rite Calibration tool at work

Price & Recommendation

The BenQ SW2700PT monitor for photographers is priced at a very attractive $599 USD on Amazon or for about $999 AUD from various Australian retailers. The quality you get in this monitor goes beyond the price point and I think it’s a worthy investment for all photographers out there who are editing their photos on a laptop screen or sub-standard monitor. BenQ has done a great job with this display and it receives my full and unbiased recommendation.

If you’re interested in purchasing this monitor, please check it out on Amazon. Making any purchases through this link helps support me without costing you any extra.