BenQ SW240 PhotoVue IPS Monitor

      Photo Review 8.9

      In summary

      The BenQ SW240 controls are well set up and easy to access and fine-tune; the adjustments are wide enough to cover most potential users’ requirements.

      The screen itself is bright without being glaring and the brightness level is very easy to adjust.

      Image colours were displayed with a natural balance and modest saturation.

      If you’re on a tight budget, the SW240 represents very good value for money.

      Full review

      BenQ’s  SW240 PhotoVue IPS monitor is a smaller sibling to the SW2700PT monitor we reviewed in October 2017. The first model in the company’s ‘Accurate Colour On the Go‘ concept, it features a slim bezel design and ‘one push’ release system that enables the screen to be packed into an optional carry case so it can be used outside the studio environment. When the monitor was announced in July 2018, the ‘Accurate Colour On the Go‘ accessories were still in the ‘testing’ phase, which meant they weren’t available for us to review in August.

      Angled view of the BenQ SW240 monitor with the optional SH 240 hood attached. (Source: BenQ.)

      The Accurate Colour On the Go accessories include the Powerbank, which can provide enough power for up to 15 hours of usage. Other options include a Hard Carry Case, Soft Case, Soft Shading Hood and Tripod Mounting Kit. The regular SH240 shading hood, which is bundled with the screen for Australian buyers, was supplied for this review.

      The monitor comes with USB, DP to mini DP, HDMI and DVI-DL cables (but no USB-C cable, which owners of recent MacBook Pros might need).  Also in the package are a programmable OSD controller that helps you switch modes quickly plus a software CD-ROM.

      This disk contains a PDF copy of the detailed instruction manual and the setup guide plus BenQ’s direct hardware calibration software (Palette Master Elements) for calibrating the screen.  If you mislay the CD-ROM, visiting the product’s support page allows you to download them.

      The only thing missing is a calibrator, which you’ll need to keep the screen within specifications.  Compatible calibrators include the i1 Pro, i1 Display Pro, Spyder 4 and  Spyder 5 but not older Spyder models or the popular ColorMunki. We used the Spyder 5 Elite for our tests.


      The calibration report is packed in a special holder on the inside of the cardboard carton containing the screen and stand.

      Like the SW2700PT, the SW240 leaves the factory fully calibrated and comes with a unit-specific calibration report (printed in a tiny font that requires magnification to be read). While this indicates the screen should meet key parameters when you buy it, regular re-calibration will be needed to keep it within specs.

      Who’s it for?
      At a very reasonable RRP of AU$699, the SW240 will suit photographers who are interested in printing their images.  Offering a wide-gamut, colour-accurate screen that can be hardware calibrated, it takes up very little desk space and is an ideal companion for a laptop.

      While it doesn’t match the resolution of 4K video, at a pinch it could be used for basic video editing, assuming the software used can downsample footage effectively. The screen is also portable enough for anyone who needs to move their work space frequently and could appeal to photographers who want to check shots on location, where the shading hood would be really advantageous.

      Some potential buyers could find the built-in SD card slot handy for accessing files in the field. Unfortunately, it shares a recessed panel on the back of the screen with two USB 3.1 ports and all three interfaces are quite difficult to reach, particularly when the hood is in position.

      Setting Up
      Although the printed Quick Start Guide in the box only provides step-by-step diagrams, they are quite easy to follow. The monitor stand comes in two pieces, which are connected via a built-in screw. It slots neatly into place on the back of the screen and provides solid support.

      Once the stand is in place, all that’s needed is to connect the power, USB and video (DisplayPort, HDMI or DVI-DL) cables and turn the computer and monitor on. If the screen displays the message ‘No cable connected’, it indicates the I/O board in the monitor hasn’t detected the input signal. This should be relatively easy to fix.

      Just press any one of the physical buttons on the lower bezel. This brings up the inputs menu, which displays three icons on the screen. Press the nearest button to the input icon to select the input you’re using to connect the display to the computer and the screen should come to life.

      The hood is similar to the one supplied with the SW2700PT and consists of five pieces if you plan to use the screen in landscape orientation. Seven pieces are used for portrait, orientation, among them extensions for the sides and a smaller top piece.

      The instructions in the user manual provide clear instructions for connecting the side pieces and installing them on the screen and it doesn’t matter which side you start with. The final piece of the hood clips in on top to connect the left and right sides of the hood. It has a hatch with a sliding cover to allow a calibrator to be passed through, as shown in the illustration below.


      Calibrating the BenQ SW240 monitor with an i1 Pro colorimeter. (Source: BenQ.)

      Once installed, the hood seems to stay in place and even though the hatch was a tight fit for the Spyder5 colorimeter you can easily thread the cord through before connecting it to the USB port on the screen. It’s easy to keep the colorimeter in place by closing the hatch enough to trap the colorimeter’s cord. This provides some welcome relief from having to hold the device in place while measurements are taken.

      Design and Ergonomics
      Design-wise, the SW240 looks neat and stylish, with its 16:10 ratio and 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution. The screen has a matte finish and features technologies that reduce eye fatigue for user comfort visual safety during extended use.

      The bezel around the top and sides is only 2 mm wide increasing to 23 mm wide along the bottom of the screen. There’s a handle slot in the top of the stand to make the monitor easy to move around. As well as being mounted on the supplied stand, the screen is slim enough to be mounted on a wall using an optional mounting plate.

      On the stand, it can be tilted, swivelled and/or pivoted and the height of the screen can be adjusted to take full advantage of the 178° horizontal and vertical viewing angles. The hood is easily configurable to suit landscape or portrait orientation, as shown in the illustrations below.


      The monitor can be rotated through 90 degrees when mounted on the supplied stand. (Source: BenQ.)

      The main controls, which consist of six control buttons plus a power button, are located on the front of the bezel towards the right hand end of the screen. They are very easy to locate and the pull-up menus they open are logical and easy to use.


      The button controls on the SW240.(Source: BenQ.)

      The outer buttons in the row have defined applications. On the left is the hotkey button (1) that accesses the colour mode settings, while on the right is the power on/off  button (3). Between them are five function keys (2) for accessing the functions or OSD (on-screen display) menu items displayed on the screen immediately above them.

      Pressing any of these keys calls up the hot key menu with options for adjusting the colour mode, input, brightness, contrast and menu. The line of icons ends with a key that exits the OSD menu. The three middle keys are customisable but, for our tests, we have left them on the default settings listed above.

      Features
      The SW240 features BenQ’s AQCOLOR technology with a 10-bit display that covers more than one billion colours.  It includes a 14-bit 3D Look Up Table (LUT) for accurate RGB colour blending with a colour difference of Delta E ≤ 2 for both the Adobe RGB and sRGB colour spaces, which are factory calibrated.

      The Colour Mode HotKey makes it easy to switch between Adobe RGB and sRGB or select the third option, an advanced Black & White mode, which contains three different black and white presets. These can be used for previewing photos before applying adjustments in an editing program.

      Other options in this menu include Rec. 709, DCI-P3, DICOM, Darkroom and three Calibration memories in which different calibration results can be stored for quick recall when Palette Master Element has been used to calibrate the screen. This can be a time-saver when switching between different calibration targets. There are also two customisable memories for storing a combination of user-defined colour settings.

      We didn’t test the Rec. 709 and DCI-P3 settings because they target different end uses and the results delivered when we tested them for our review of the SW2700PT  suggest they wouldn’t normally be used for image editing. Instead, we concentrated on the Adobe RGB and sRGB colour spaces, which are supported by all image editors.

      Manual adjustments for brightness, contrast and sharpness are accessible through the button controls, which also allow colour temperature to be adjusted. There are three presets 5000K, 6500K and 9300K, along with a Custom mode that provides adjustments in 100K steps and a user mode that allows the ratios of red, green and blue to be adjusted individually across a 0-100 degree range.

      Other parameters that can be adjusted include gamma (tone luminance), saturation, hue and black level. Two memory settings are provided for saving customised colour settings and there’s a reset button for returning the screen to the factory defaults.

      The screen also includes proprietary ‘eye-care technologies’ that are designed to reduce eye fatigue during prolonged use. We experienced no eye strain during the time we were using this monitor, which indicates they are probably quite effective.

      Software
      The software is the same Palette Master Element application as supplied with the SW2700PT. It was co-developed with X-rite and supports recent X-Rite (iOne) and Datacolor (Spyder) calibrators.

      We found the software almost as difficult to install as we did with the last BenQ monitor we reviewed, although this time we carried out our testing before attempting to load it into our computer. Even then, the computer had to be re-started three times before the application loaded up to be usable.

      The software automatically detects the calibration device and lets you check that it’s connected.

      There are two calibration modes: Basic and Advanced.


      Software modes

      In the Basic mode you accept the default settings provided by the software. This includes the default Photographer mode, which will suit most people using the screen for image editing.


      The screen displays a target where the calibrator must be placed before you initiate the calibration process by clicking on the ‘Continue’ button.

      Progress can be tracked by watching the white line beside the Writing LUT label above the calibrator target extend across the screen. Once it reaches the end position the application switches to Measuring mode and, again, progress can be tracked with the adjacent line above the target box.

      The application returns to Writing LUT before the calibration is completed. According to the software manual, it should take roughly seven minutes to complete a basic calibration in the Basic mode.  Even with a fast computer, in practice we found it took roughly double that time when the Writing LUT times were included as numerous delays occurred while this took place.

      The application returned to measurement mode before completing the calibration and again finished by writing a LUT.

      The end result is a brief calibration report (shown above) showing luminance, colour temperature and Delta E results.  You can ‘Validate’ the calibration by clicking on the Validate tab below the target. Validation takes a couple of minutes and results in a table of measured values plus an indication of whether the calibration had ‘passed’ or ‘failed’.


      The validation report shows the calibration ‘passed’ the key criteria.

      In the Advanced mode, the same system is used but more adjustable parameters are available, among them the white point, colour space, screen brightness and contrast and the black point. Depending on ambient lighting, you might want to change the brightness setting to 120 or even 100 if the room light is very low.

      Consequently, the process takes a lot longer, although it follows the same pattern of measurements interspersed with Writing LUT periods. Allow at least 30 minutes when doing a calibration in this mode. There are just as many (if not more) delays during the Writing LUT periods, which accounts for part of the additional time spent.

      The calibration and validation reports are essentially the same as you get with the Basic calibration, as shown in the screen grab above.

      You can save calibrations in the custom memories provided, regardless of which mode is used. The software will generate a name for the ICC profile, based on the white point, colour space, brightness, contrast and date/time settings. This makes it easy to identify both the settings used and when the screen was last profiled.

      The advanced mode in the software also provides options for creating 8-bit and 16-bit look up tables (LUT) as well as specifying a larger set of target colours to measure. We found the default ‘photographer’ settings of the monitor worked well in most cases.

      The profile name can be changed if you wish. One nice feature of the SW240 is the ability it provides to switch between stored calibrations via the on-screen display. There are three memory banks for storing profiles, which means you can store separate calibrations for normal printing and soft proofing, editing for screen viewing and B&W work. One of these could be used for storing a video profile.

      Performance
      Advanced Analysis of measurements taken with the Spyder5 Elite colorimeter and software showed this monitor’s performance varied with the different parameters. The results of our tests are shown in the graphs below.

      With perfect scores for the gamut and contrast plus 4.5 out of a possible 5 for tonal response, colour uniformity and colour accuracy, the SW240 is a respectable performer. However it is let down by a below-average result for luminance uniformity and an average result for white point.

      The overall results represent the sum of individual parameter tests. The individual data graphs and tables are presented below.

      1. Colour Gamut


      The review monitor failed to provide complete coverage of either the sRGB or the Adobe RGB colour space, although it came close enough with both to make it usable for image editing. The green triangle in the plot shows the boundaries of the sRGB colour space, while the purple triangle delineates the Adobe RGB colour space. The red triangle shows the measured colour space for the monitor at the designated screen mode.

      1. Tonal Response
        Tonal response measurements deliver gamma plots showing the relationship between the brightness of a pixel as it appears on the screen and the numerical value of that pixel.  They are a good indicator of how mid-tones will be reproduced. If gamma is set too high, mid-tones appear too dark; if too low, they will be too light.


      The measured gamma (shown above), was  identical to 2.2, the recommended gamma for image editing with Windows PCs. This is an excellent result that is reflected in the contrast score in the monitor rating.

      1. Colour Accuracy

      The graph above showed the majority of colours were very close to their ideal values, which is desirable in a monitor used for image and video editing. The average deviation (Delta-E) measured ranged from a minimum of 0.14 to a maximum of 0.71, with an average value of 0.54. This is reflected in the monitor’s colour accuracy score of 4.5 out of 5 and indicates the monitor would be very suitable for image editing.

      1. Brightness, Contrast and White Point

       Contrast and white point measurements were nicely consistent across all brightness settings from zero to 100%. 

      1. Screen Uniformity
        The two Screen Uniformity tests check the brightness and colour consistencies of the display in nine sections of the screen (a 3×3 matrix), at various luminance levels. Since the results are quite similar for all four brightness levels measured so we’ve published only the upper and lower graphs for each category.

      Luminance Uniformity.

       

       Luminance uniformity plots show a hot spot in the lower right third of the screen at all measured brightness levels. At the lowest brightness level (50%) the top third of the screen emits significantly less light than the middle or lower thirds.

      When screen brightness was increased to 100%, the brightness levels increased, although the central and left side sections of the middle band remained darker than the rest of the screen. The hot spot in the lower right corner persisted, with the two sections directly above it remaining brighter than the rest of the screen.

      Colour Uniformity

      In the colour uniformity plots the hot spot shifts to the top left corner of the screen, while the centre of  the screen shows no deviations. The maximum deviations from the ideal values are greatest with maximum screen brightness, which means they are likely to have little impact on the screen’s usability for image editing. This is reflected in the 4.5 out of 5 score in the overall ratings.

      Conclusion

      While the isn’t quite a match for the Eizo monitors we’ve tested, it’s roughly half the price of  similar models and achieves comparable results for the most important parameters for image editing  – gamut, contrast, colour accuracy and colour uniformity.  If you’re on a tight budget, the SW240 represents very good value for money.

      The screen is easy to assemble and doesn’t take up much space on an average desktop. It worked well in our two-screen set-up. The controls are well set up and easy to access and fine-tune and the adjustments are wide enough to cover most potential users’ requirements.

      The screen itself is bright without being glaring and the brightness level is very easy to adjust to suit users’ preferences. And while our initial assessments found it brighter than the Eizo FlexScan SX2262W screen we used in parallel, we felt image colours were displayed similarly, with a natural balance and modest saturation. We also found we could use the screen all day without experiencing any eye strain.

      All these features make the SW240 a good choice for dual monitor setups and a cost-effective option when a colour-accurate screen is required for studio use as a tethered shooting  monitor. It can be plugged into computers running the current ‘flavours’ of  Windows and Mac operating systems

      Its fast response times and negligible input lag make it well suited for video editing. Build quality and ease of use are both of a high standard and the shading hood is a genuine bonus at this monitor’s price point.

      Price comparisons were impossible when we reviewed the SW240 because it was new to the market and few outlets had it in stock. Once the initial sales period ends, we’d advise potential purchasers to take care when shopping online to include any associated delivery costs. High shipping costs and the risk of damage in transit would make it uneconomical to buy this monitor from an off-shore re-seller.

      Buyers of this monitor are entitled to the protections available under Australian Consumer Law and BenQ provides a three-year warranty that applies from the product’s purchase date. Full details can be found here.

      SPECS

      Panel size: 24-inch
      Active display size (h × v): 518.4 x 324.0 mm
      Panel type: IPS with LED  technology
      Viewing angles (h / v): 178°/ 178°
      Brightness: 250 cd/m2 maximum
      Contrast ratio (typical): 1000:1
      Response time (typical): 5 ms (grey-to-grey)
      Gamma: 1.6 – 2.6
      Colour bit depth: 10 bits
      Native resolution: 1920 x 1200 pixels
      Pixel pitch: 0.27 mm
      Display colours: 1.07 billion colours
      Wide gamut coverage: 99% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB, 95%  DCI-P3
      Built-in Calibration Sensor: No
      Hardware calibration support: Yes
      Look-up table: 14-bit 3D LUT, Delta E ≤ 2
      Screen adjustment: Full, Aspect Ratio, 1:1
      Colour adjustment: 5000°K / 6500°K/ 9300°K / User Mode
      Preset modes: sRGB, Adobe RGB, B&W
      Video input terminals: DVI-DL, HDMI 1.4, DP1.2
      USB ports / standard: 2x USB 3.1 (Gen 1) downstream, 1x USB 3 upstream
      Card reader: SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC
      Power consumption: 55W (Max, On) 0.5W (Standby)
      Height adjustment range: 140 mm

       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$699

      • Build: 8.9
      • Ease of use: 9.0
      • Viewing quality: 8.8
      • Photo editing quality: 8.7
      • Versatility: 9.0

      Buy