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Another Picture Perfect Pair of Displays

BenQ

The 27-in. BenQ BL2711U and 32-in. BenQ BL3201PH both offer feature-rich 4K (3840×2160) resolutions at affordable prices. Image courtesy of David Cohn.

Last year, BenQ sent us a pair of its new monitors aimed specifically at users of CAD/CAM software. The Taiwanese firm, originally spun off from Acer in 2001, was not very well known in the engineering market despite selling LCD monitors, digital projectors, digital cameras and mobile computing devices for more than a decade. With the introduction last year of its BL-series of monitors, however, that lack of name recognition is rapidly changing. A year later, BenQ is back with updated versions of these two displays: the 27-in. BenQ BL2711U and the new BenQ BL3201PH.

Outwardly, both monitors appear quite similar to their predecessors, but this time around BenQ ups the ante, delivering a pair of panels with 4K (3840 x 2160) Ultra HD (ultra-high definition) resolution at price points that will not break the bank. Both monitors are based on LCD panels manufactured by AU Optronics (AUO) and both now use IPS (in-plane switching) technology to achieve wide viewing angles (178° in both horizontal and vertical viewing directions), response times as low as 4 milliseconds gray-to-gray (the time it takes to change a given pixel from gray to a different color and then back to gray), and a claimed 100% sRGB color gamut. The only significant difference between these two monitors is their size. The 27-in. BL2711U has a 0.155mm pixel pitch and a brightness of 300 cd/m2 while the 32-in. BL3201PH has a pixel pitch of 0.185mm and a brightness of 350 cd/m2. Both have a 1000:1 contrast ratio.

‘4K Ultra HD’ is the terminology to be used by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and its members to describe the emerging category of display products with more than 8 million pixels – four times the resolution of Full HD.

In addition to the power cord, BenQ also provides six cables: DVI-D dual-link; DisplayPort (a DisplayPort to min-DisplayPort in the case of the BL3201PH); HDMI; USB 3.0 input; a power cord; and an audio cable to connect the computer’s audio port to the monitor’s built-in stereo speakers when using DVI (audio is carried as part of the signal when connected using DisplayPort or HDMI). It took just a few minutes to assemble each display by placing the panel face down on a flat surface, attaching the monitor stand to the monitor base and tightening the thumbscrew on the bottom of the base, and then aligning the stand arm with the monitor and locking it into place. Before attaching the monitor to its stand, we noted the standard 100mm VESA mounting holes that enable the panels to be wall mounted or attached to other supports.

The 27-in. BL2711U weighs 17.6 lbs. (including the stand). The panel itself measures 25.1×15.1×2.7 in., has a height adjustment range of 16.1 to 21.6 in., and needs a space 9.4 in. deep. The 32-in. BL3201PH weighs 28.6 lbs., has a panel measuring 29.1×17.2×2.5 in., a height adjustment range of 19.3 to 25.1 in. and is 9.1 in. deep.

The stand included with each monitor provides a very stable support and allows the displays to be swiveled 45° both to the left and the right and to be tilted from -5° to +20°. The panels can also be pivoted 90° from landscape to portrait mode. Cables can be neatly routed through a hole in the center of the lower portion of the stand.

Controls and Inputs

Both displays sport panels with a 16:9 aspect ratio surrounded by a thin black bezel. A power button located in the lower-right corner glows white when the screen is active and amber when in standby mode. Five adjacent touchpad buttons with LED indicators let you access controls using the on-screen display (OSD). The LEDs in these touch-sensitive buttons light up as your finger approaches and the OSD is very intuitive. Both monitors also offer picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture modes, enabling you to display images from two different computers on screen simultaneously.

Each monitor also features a full range of input ports, including dual-link DVI, DisplayPort and HDMI video inputs, while the D-sub (VGA) ports found on last year’s models have been eliminated. Each also includes a USB 3.0 input port and an audio line-in jack. On the BL2711U, all of these connections are located on the bottom of the rear panel along with an AC power connector, a master power switch, audio input jack, DVI-D, two HDMI ports (one supporting HDMI 2.0 only), DisplayPort, USB 3.0 input port, and two USB 3.0 output ports. There is also a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the left side of the bezel along with a headphone jack. A blue headphone hook extends from the rear of the monitor stand. The BL2711U also includes a pair of built-in 3-watt stereo speakers that mute when you plug in headphones. And, sound quality using the built-in speakers was quite good.

On the BL3201PH, the connections are a bit more spread out. The USB 3.0 input port, a mini-USB port (for the OSD controller), three USB 3.0 output ports, and an audio line-in jack as well as the AC power connector and master power switch are located on the bottom of the rear panel. But the five video inputs — DVI-D, two HDMI ports, a DisplayPort, and a mini-DisplayPort — are located on the right side of this panel where they are much more easily accessed. A panel on the lower-right edge of the bezel provides easy access to a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack, and an SD card reader. Other than the difference in size and port locations, the BL3201PH’s vertical stand is silver aluminum whereas the BL2711U’s is black, and the built-in stereo speakers in the 32-in. monitor are rated at 5 watts.

Both BenQ monitors also feature an ambient light sensor built into the center of the bezel below the panel, enabling the display to automatically adjust its brightness as the surrounding lighting conditions change. Additionally, there is a human motion sensor (BenQ refers to this as an “ECO sensor”) that can turn the screen off when it senses that no one has been in front of it for 40 seconds and automatically turn the display back on again when it senses motion.

The BL3201PH includes the same unique OSD Controller we first encountered with the BL3200. This small puck-shaped device, which connects to the min-USB port, provides a collection of buttons that enable users to access and navigate the OSD rather than using the buttons on the bezel. When not being used, the controller fits into a round indentation in the monitor stand.

BenQ also includes Display Pilot, software that automatically detects when the display is pivoted between landscape and portrait mode and matches the on-screen image to the new orientation. Display Pilot also includes an application tuning feature that, once configured, automatically assigns picture modes so that the display takes on color temperature, brightness, and contrast settings that best match the program your are using. For example, when using CAD software, the monitor can switch to CAD/CAM mode. Picture modes include sRGB (for matching colors to devices such as printers and digital cameras), Animation, Presentation, Movie, Photo, Reading (for eBooks and documents), Eco (to lower brightness and conserve power), and M-book (to minimize differences between the monitor and a connected MacBook. You can also use the Display Pilot software to control the ambient light sensor and ECO sensor, set a pop-up message to display at pre-defined intervals to remind you to rest your eyes, set a timer to automatically power off the monitor in power saving mode, span the Windows task bar across multiple monitors, and display the recommended resolution whenever a new input source is detected.

Impressive Performance

We used DisplayMate from DisplayMate Technologies to help evaluate the visual quality of each monitor. DisplayMate uses a series of test patterns both to help users fine-tune the image and to uncover any picture quality problems or video artifacts that might otherwise go unrecognized. Both BenQ monitors displayed excellent color and gray scale and showed absolutely no pixel defects. We were able to read text down to 6.8 points even at different intensity levels and the fast response time resulted in no image smearing when viewing full-motion video.

We were very impressed with the performance of both of these displays. We were also impressed with their price. The BL2711U has a suggested retail price of $679, a bit less than its predecessor, although the best street price we found was $630, a bit more expensive than similar 4K 27-in. displays from Acer, Dell and LG but less those from HP, NEC and Viewsonic. The 32-in. BL3201PH has a suggested retail price of $999, but a street price averaging $100 less, quite a bargain for a display of this size. Both monitors are backed by a three-year warranty that covers parts and labor. Once again, BenQ has delivered a pair of great monitors that deserve a place on the desk of any CAD user.

Technical Specifications

  • BenQ BL3201PH 32-in. IPS Display
  • BenQ BL2711U 27-in. IPS Display
• Price: $999 MSRP ($899 street price)
• Size: 32-in. (diagonal)
• Display type: IPS LED backlit
• Screen dimensions without stand (WxHxD): 29.1×17.2×2.5 in.
• Physical size with stand at highest setting (HxWxD): 29.1×25.1×9.1 in.
• Weight: 28.6 lbs.
• Native resolution: 3840×2160 pixels @ 60Hz
• Display area: 27.9×15.7 in.
• Horizontal frequency range: 30kHz – 83kHz
• Vertical refresh rate: 50 Hz – 76 Hz
• Aspect ratio: 16:9
• Pixel Pitch: 0.185 mm
• Dot/Pixel per Inch: 137.68
• Brightness: 350 cd/m2
• Contrast ratio: 1000:1
• Response time: 4ms (gray to gray)
• Number of colors: 1.07 billion
• Color gamut: 100% sRGB
• Power consumption: 79 watts typical, 0.5 watts standby
• Video input ports: DVI-D dual-link, DisplayPort 1.2, mini-DisplayPort 1.2, 2 HDMI
• I/O ports: USB 3.0 in, five USB 3.0 out, one mini-USB out, audio line-in, headphone jack
• Other features: Tilt/swivel base, portrait/landscape pivot, built-in 5W stereo speakers, Kensington lock slot, OSD controller, SD card slot
• Cables included: AC power cord, DVI-D dual-link, DisplayPort to mini-DisplayPort, HDMI, USB 3.0, audio
• Warranty: Three years parts and labor
• Price: $679 MSRP ($630 street price)
• Size: 27-in. (diagonal)
• Display type: IPS LED backlit
• Screen dimensions without stand (WxHxD): 25.1×15.1×2.7 in.
• Physical size with stand at highest setting (HxWxD): 21.6×25.1×9.4 in.
• Weight: 17.6 lbs.
• Native resolution: 3840×2160 pixels @ 60Hz
• Display area: 23.4×13.2 in.
• Horizontal frequency range: 30kHz – 140kHz
• Vertical refresh rate: 30 – 76 Hz
• Aspect ratio: 16:9
• Pixel Pitch: 0.155 mm
• Dot/Pixel per Inch: 163.18
• Brightness: 300 cd/m2
• Contrast ratio: 1000:1
• Response time: 4ms (gray to gray)
• Number of colors: 1.07 billion
• Color gamut: 100% sRGB
• Power consumption: 42 watts typical, 0.5 watts standby
• Video input ports: DVI-D dual-link, HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2
• I/O ports: USB 3.0 in, four USB 3.0 out, audio line-in, headphone
• Other features: Tilt/swivel base, portrait/landscape pivot, built-in 3W stereo speakers, Kensington lock slot
• Cables included: AC power cord, DVI-D dual-link, DisplayPort, HDMI, USB 3.0, audio
• Warranty: Three years parts and labor

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About David Cohn

David Cohn has been using AutoCAD for more than 25 years and is the author of more than a dozen books on the subject. He’s the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies, a contributing editor to Digital Engineering, and also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. Watch for his latest CADLearning eBooks on AutoCAD 2015 on the Apple iBookstore, at Amazon, and on the CADLearning website. You can contact him via email at david@dscohn.com or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.