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BenQ BL3200PT 32" Professional Monitor Review

AkG

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With the rising stars of 4K, G-SYNC, FreeSync and 120Hz hogging the headlines, professional monitors like BenQ’s new BL3200PT have gone largely unnoticed. However, while gamers have been driving many of the display innovation boundaries around TN panels, image quality focused products have still been making some substantial headway.

Every year the average screen resolution used by consumers grows, while the average price per pixel gets lower and lower. Not that long ago a 1920x1200 monitor was considered large, and the sole domain of professionals who required all that space for work-related tasks. Today it is not that uncommon to see 2560x1440 resolution in the workplace with even higher '4K' 3840 × 2160 resolutions are starting to trickle into certain professional environments. This increase in resolution is certainly a boon for productivity, but in certain situations, that increase in resolution requires an even greater increase in overall screen size or productivity can actually plummet. This smaller dot pitch phenomena has been known for some time now, but with the exception of some very niche monitors it has been largely ignored by manufactures. After all, it is a small subset of people and only minor groups of consumers that are negatively impacted by higher PPI counts.


The most vocal of professionals negatively impacted by decreasing dot pitch are typically CAD/CAM designers. While it may not impact everyone equally, working with rather thin wire diagrams, and assistive button-focused interfaces on ultra high resolutions monitors can take some getting used to. The BenQ’s BL3200PT on the other hand focuses on a large amount of working space (in this case 32”), accurate color reproduction and an extremely aggressive price point but sticks to a 1440P format.

Obviously a resolution of 2560x 1440 spread across a 32” display canvas will remove the BL3200PT from serious consideration for anyone overly concerned about a razor sharp dot pitch ratio. However, we also have to remember this screen is only about 10% larger than a 1600P 30" monitor's specifications and many do not consider using that class of display to be a particular hardship. In a market that’s becoming increasingly dominated with very expensive 4K options, an affordable large size 1440P display may be the perfect solution for budget-focused worplaces.

To help keep the asking price within the realm of reasonable, BenQ has made an interesting design choice. Instead of a PLS or IPS based panel the BenQ BL3200PT uses an Advanced-MVA panel. A-MVA is not all that common but its unique blend of performance and price certainly make it an attractive option. In fact it is the AMVA panel which allows this large monitor to boast great 10-bit color fidelity, a 4ms screen refresh rate, and also an average online asking price of only $799. Mix in an excellent assortment of connection types, a very flexible stand, as well as LED backlighting, and on paper the BenQ BL3200PT may just be able to appeal to a much wider audience than it was originally intended to.

 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the BenQ BL3200PT

A Closer Look at the BenQ BL3200PT




For anyone not used to dealing with larger monitors BenQ BL3200PT will seem downright massive as it dwarfs most others in both width, height, and girth. It truly is massive and requires a good amount of desk space.

Unlike the RL2460HT we recently reviewed, the BL3200PT uses an anti-glare coating that is nearly perfect. It may not be as impressive as the one used on Dell’s UltraSharp U3014 since it is a touch too aggressive, but this AG coating does do a very good job at blocking glare without negatively impacting image quality to any great extent.

This certainly is a good thing as the panel BenQ opted for is very impressive, once you get past the low resolution in relation to 4K. It uses a 16:9, 2560x1440 panel which uses Advanced-MVA technology which is actually a newer iteration of the classic multi-domain vertical alignment panel design. Usually when consumers think of MVA they hearken back nostalgically to the old days of LCD panels where the mainstream options were TN or MVA, as IPS was reserved solely for ultra-expensive models.

Unfortunately, many will equate that old MVA technology with the BenQ and that’s not a good thing. While MVA was better than TN at color reproduction, it suffered from color washout, somewhat poor off-angle viewing characteristics and poor contrast in comparison to IPS and later PLS technologies. AMVA on the other hand improves on all of these points while also featuring higher grey-to-grey response times and a stunning real-world contrast ratio that should be far beyond what even IPS panels can achieve.

With a refresh rate (GtG) of 4ms and a color pallet that is impressive wide, the BL3200PT’s 10-bit A-MVA panel delicately balances the best of both IPS and TN. In testing, we found it not quite as good as the best IPS at color fidelity, and not as fast the best TN, but it is significantly better in both of those respects than most monitors we have looked at.


Usually 2560x1440 panels come with a 27" form factor, and adding a good 5 inches of diagonal real-estate does boost the overall dimensions rather noticeably. It may not sound like much but that extra size inches means anyone using a 'typical' 1440P monitor will not easily be swapping out their 27" monitor for this monster without first clearing off a lot of additional room on their desk.

Even excluding the panel footprint BenQ’s base is also rather massive. On the positive side this is actually a very, very good thing since it boasts some pretty impressive abilities, but is also completely stable. Unlike many 'business' orientated monitors we have looked at in the past it will take a good hard push to tip the BL3200PT over.


BenQ’s conservative aesthetics are perfect for business environments. Even the BenQ logo is black and the only dash of color comes from the metallic silver support arm. That suits us just fine since we can do without the additional cost incurred by racing stripes and clear Lucite bezels.

Despite an all-black design, the BL3200PT actually looks smaller than its 29.1" X 25.9" X 9.1" dimensions would lead you to believe. It only tips the scales in at approximately 13 Kilograms or 28.6 pounds. It isn’t precisely slim either.


In the input option category, BenQ has opted for a very impressive array of options that covers all the bases. Not only is there an included USB and a card reader, but they also include ports for HDMI, DisplayPort, dual-link DVI, and analog D-Sub. This monitor even includes a 3.5mm in and out audio jacks so that you can use either built in speakers or attach headphones (or better speakers) directly to the monitor. The only issue with the I/O options is they are located on the side of the panel and not the bottom. This may make installation easier, but does make for a slightly messy cabling appearance.


As previously mentioned the stand which accompanies the BenQ BL3200PT is rather impressive. It offers 150mm of height adjustment, 25° of tilt (+5° to -20°), excellent swivel capabilities, and even offers portrait mode capabilities. This is actually more than most sub-1,000 dollar 32" monitors offer. However, you will first need to extend the BenQ BL3200PT to its full height and then tilt the panel as much as possible before trying to change it from landscape to portrait mode.


What really impressed us was the design of the OSD controls. Simply plug in the attached the mini-USB cable to the back of the monitor and the BL3200PT's on screen display can be controlled by these buttons.

Being being able to sit back from the monitor for precise color adjustment makes this sometimes-difficult task extremely easy and user friendly.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations


As a work orientated monitor it came as no surprise to see an On Screen Display that is straightforward and rather bland. To be fair, compared to most this monitor's OSD is actually pretty good with plenty of options and features but pales in comparison to what Dell offers on their UltaSharp series or ASUS with their ProArt series.


With all that said this OSD is still more than adequate for its intended use: set up the color profile and leave everything else alone. In fact, the remote “puck” OSD controller makes the BL3200PT the easiest to navigate monitor we have ever used. Even though the OSD itself was not what we call deep and full of hidden features in need of ferreting out, we did find ourselves spending an inordinate amount of time simply playing with the OSD - all because of the controller interface. It really does give a totally unique perspective to monitor setup.


To actually use this OSD all you need do is either leave the puck in its small indent in the base or pick it up and press any of the buttons. This instantly activates the OSD and then just like a very small remote control you then can scroll through the fairly well laid out menus at your leisure.

The only issue with this setup is that the base controller can occasionally be bumped by pens, keyboards or anything else that you may lay down underneath the monitor. This will cause accidental OSD events, and can be annoying but it can also be unplugged without losing any settings to free up some space.

Upon entering the OSD you are greeted to a monochromatic-esque interface that has seven top level menu layers and multiple sub-menus. The number of sub-menus does vary depending on which section you are in, but the number of sub-submenus is extremely limited. BenQ certainly got this part of the equation right as it does make finding more advanced features a fairly straightforward endeavor.


The seven menu options are: Display, Picture, Picture Advanced, Audio, System, Ergonomics, and Eco. For most users the first three are the sections will be where the vast majority of setup time is spent.

The Picture mode is where adjustments can be made to the color temperature, saturation, gamma, sharpness, contrast, and brightness. What was missing from this section was fine grain gamma control as 5 levels (with no real explanation) is less than optimal for a professional monitor. Also missing was six-way color control. Instead of these advanced color tuning abilities, BenQ relies upon the old standby of R,G,B. On the positive side each of the three main colors can be individually adjusted.

The 'Picture Advanced' submenu allows user to quickly and easily choose between eleven preconfigured modes. These modes are sRGB, CAD/CAM, Animation, Presentation, Standard, Low Blue Light (decrease blue levels), Movie, Photo, Eco, Photo, M-Book (allows the monitor to work happily with a Macbook), and User (full custom mode).

In addition to those eleven picture modes this section is also where you would turn on/off the Dynamic Contrast (default is OFF), modify the overscan settings to stretch or shrink the image to fully fit the screen, change the Display mode so to make the image look like it would on various smaller screens, and even change the color format from RGB to YUV and vice-versa.

Technically this monitor does come with speakers and as such requires the user to modify speaker settings as well. In reality, the included speakers are mediocre and we strongly suggest not using them as the sound they create may be better than no sound at all, but that is about the best we can say about their abilities.


The System section includes seventeen different languages, the ability to change the internal time, changing the remote’s three custom keys to various default actions including, choosing from the eleven predefined picture modes and a few other items.

The Ergonomics section is a rather unique list of options that includes the ability to automatic dimming of the screen based on the amount of light hitting the integrated light sensor. In practice this feature does work somewhat well, but like most single sensor designs it can be easily fooled by everything from stay light beams hitting the sensor to a desk lamp that just happens to throw just enough light to mess with it. For most professional users this will be the first thing they disable if their HR drones demanded it was enabled on all monitors for power saving purposes.

As the name suggests the Eco section deals with making the BenQ has economical to use as possible. While it may not seem like such a big deal to home users, saving a few watts per monitor can quickly add up if your company is using hundreds or even thousands of systems.
 
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AkG

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Image Quality (Uniformity, Panel, & Gamma Performance)

Image Quality (Uniformity, Panel & Gamma Performance)



Calibrated Settings
Please remember that the settings below have been calibrated for our specific environment and your viewing conditions may differ from ours.


Mode Used: Factory Default "User" Picture Mode

Notes:
- All tests done at default settings at 120 cd/m2.
- Unless otherwise noted, the tests were carried out via DVI

Going into the testing phase we must admit to having rather mixed feelings. On the one hand the A-MVA screen and it's specifications did pique our interest like few monitors have done in the recent past. On the other, this is a both a professional orientated display that costs significantly less than a lot of the competition. This combination has proven to be less than optimal in the past. Thankfully, the BenQ BL3200PT quickly put our mind at ease.

While it will take a bit of doing to wrap your head around the fact that an $800 monitor is indeed a budget orientated choice the 3200PT is a low cost solution for its capabilities.

The only real negatives that we found with this monitor was its power consumption, and less than perfect out of the box color reproduction. This is one area BenQ really need to work on as professional grade monitors should never leave the factory without first being color calibrated. This does put the BL3200PT at a disadvantage but the overall performance of this panel did quickly win us over, and it is not like the default colors are terrible; rather they just are not perfect out of the box like they should be. However, with a bit of color calibration, BenQ's 32" panel is among the best available.


Panel Uniformity


In a perfect world a screen’s brightness output would be equal throughout the entire panel. This is not a perfect world, but the lower the variation the less chances you will notice overly bright or dark sections on the screen. For the consumer LCD marketplace a variance of 10% is our gold standard but anything below 15% can be considered excellent as we doubt anyone will notice a -7.5 to +7.5 variation. A variation above 15% but below 24% can be considered adequate, but anything above this does not meet our basic minimum standards.


Considering the size of this panel a variance of 23% is decent, but by the same token this amount of variance not overly good either. Considering most of this variance takes the form of a dark spot in the upper corner, the variance may be noticeable when used in CAD/CAM scenarios. On the positive side, in normal professional usage scenarios you will have to look hard to notice the dark spot.


Panel Performance


In a perfect world a screen’s real world response rate would be so high that motion blur, ‘ghosting’, ‘reverse-ghosting’ would be a thing of the past. No matter how fast the action on screen all images would be represented in pristine condition similar in quality to a static image. This is not a perfect world, but the less amounts of blurring which occurs the less chances you will notice the issue in real world scenarios. While the panels response rate (ms) and and frame rate (Hz) can give a fairly rough idea of how much blurring to expect it is not the end all and be all.


To this end we have taken PRAD’s Pixel Persistence Analyzer ‘Streaky Pictures’ program and using a high speed camera captured exactly how much and what kind of motion blur you can expect from a given monitor.



Since this is our first A-MVA panel we are unable to judge it against other similar products, and rather have to compare it to TN, PLS, and IPS displays. Compared to budget friendly IPS panels, these results are very good and when placed against high end 10-bit IPS monitors they are simply excellent.

TN technology does outshine the 3200PT, as do many monitors equipped with PLS panels to varying degrees but the amount of difference here won't be picked up in a professional environment.


Gamma Performance


Gamma correction is one of the hardest terms to explain. However, for our purposes the gamma correction of any electronics device is how bright or dark an image will be displayed on a screen.

All PC devices now use 2.20 gamma as the default. Any variance from this will result in an image being either underexposed which will create black crush and underexposed shadow detail or washed out with too little black level detail (aka being over-exposed).

While 2.20 is the gold standard, a minor deviation of 0.10 will in all likelihood never be noticed by anyone other than professional photographers. Higher levels of deflection however will be noticed by just about everyone.



While certainly not perfect, the stock gamma levels are very good. By the same token, anything less than perfection for business consumers has to be considered a failure. BenQ really needs to get serious about factory calibration if they want to be considered a Tier 1 manufacturer and serious competition for the likes of ASUS, Samsung, and even Dell.
 
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AkG

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Colour Saturation Levels / Default RGB Levels

Colour Saturation Levels


While there are numerous colors the human eye can’t “see”, the human color space confined to three primary colors and combinations thereof. To make things easier for manufactures (and not waste resources displaying colors we can’t see) a color space was mathematically described and while various models do exist, the CIE RGB color space is the de facto standard.

In the below image, the dark triangle which isn’t highlighted is the sRGB color space while the overall CIE color space is displayed as the background colors. Meanwhile, the white triangle with highlighted color represents the results of what a given monitor can display. No monitor can display the entire CIE color spectrum but a good monitor should be able to display the sRGB spectrum of possible colors as this is usually used as the standard for image encoding.

A monitor which uses the “wide color gamut” moniker can display more than the sRGB spectrum and is considered primarily for professional use. If a monitor cannot cover off the entire sRGB triangle, the resulting image will appear “off” to an observer. The end result is a picture displayed on the panel which won’t be as rich, vibrant or as correct as it should be.



If we were to sum up these results in one word it would be 'impressive'. The BL3200PT may not feature quite as wide gamut as the best 10-bit IPS panels we have looked at, but it is damn close. More importantly, compared to 99% of monitors the BL3200PT is well above average, bordering on excellent.


Default RGB Levels


An LCD or LCD LED backlit panel relies on accurately blending Red, Green and Blue pixel clusters to create an overall image so closer to each of these colours is to a “perfect” 100 output, the better and more accurate the default colors will be.

In this case, we have a low tolerance for anything less than perfection since any color shift can be noticeable even to untrained eyes and will require a color correction be applied at the software level to overcome a monitor’s stock output. We do however consider a minor variation of only a few points per color to be acceptable.



It may not be perfect, but it is damn close. Unless your job depends on creating and/or manipulating 100% color accurate images the BL3200PT will be more than good enough.
 
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AkG

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Viewing Angles / Contrast Ratio / Power Consumption

Viewing Angles


Unlike CRT displays, the manner in which LCD panels create an image can result in one large weakness: the image can lose contrast when viewed off angle. While we do not recommend watching an LCD at anything besides perfectly straight on, the reality is this cannot always be done.

To help give you a glimpse of what a panel will look like when seen from either above the horizontal or vertical plane we have taken pictures at fairly extreme angles.



As with the color gamut results, the BL3200PT may not be quite as good as the best IPS has to offer, but it is very close. At all but extreme viewing angles the amount of image degradation is nearly unnoticeable and it is only at extreme angles that you can easily see any issues.

At off vertical viewing angles there is a moderate loss in brightness and contrast whereas changes in horizontal viewing will result in a slight loss in color fidelity first. Overall we consider this monitor to be a nearly as good as what the best PLS or IPS has to offer and light years beyond TN.

This is actually a huge surprise since A-MVA hasn't typically fixed the viewing angle issues of MVA technology but it seems like BenQ has overcome this.


Maximum Contrast Ratio


While manufactures love to throw around “maximum” contrast ratios in the millions, the fact of the matter is that to get these high numbers they have to use "dynamic contrast" which—at best—results in overly optimistic specs. With DC turned off, the number of shades between purest white and blackest black a given monitor can display is usually in the low hundreds rather than the thousands.

The higher the contrast ratio, the better the monitor will display shades of dark and light. For IPS monitors, anything below 450:1 is unacceptable, with 500:1 or above considered optimal. For TN anything above 120:1 will be considered “good enough” for most consumers.



Considering the other options in the chart above feature the same resolution as the BL3200PT but cost significantly more. And yet, BenQ's monitor is more than able to hold its own.


Power Consumption


To obtain the maximum number we set the monitors brightness to 100% and the contrast to 100%. The Calibrated results are taken at 120 cd/m2 with the contrast set to the default level.


This is one area the BL3200PT does fall behind most of the competition. By that same token, these results are not terrible, just less than optimal by modern standards. Even compared to other business grade monitors BenQ's does use a bit more power than we had hoped for despite using LED technology. Luckily, it can be calibrated so it consumes significantly less.
 
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AkG

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Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results

Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results


In a perfect world either every monitor would come factory calibrated to perfection or every single consumer would own a decent colorimeter. We don’t live in such a world and as such most consumers simply use the old Mark 1 Mod 0 eyeball to fix any imperfections with the stock colors of their new monitor.

In order to gauge how easy this is to do for a given monitor we have included a new set of tests. These tests will be carried out before any of our standard tests and will consist of us using a combination of the free online LCD Monitor Test Images (found here LCD monitor test images) and then if necessary the free Hex2Bit Monitor Calibration Wizard (found here Hex2Bit - Software by Mike Walters). The goal of these tests is to not only gauge how easy it is to accurately calibrate a given monitor using only the onboard monitor tools, but to see how closely we can come to what a Spyder3 Elite can do.



To obtain these results we did the following
- used “User” picture mode
- ensured dynamic contrast was off
- adjusted the brightness to 26 (which resulted in a 119.6 cd/m2)
- left Red to 100
- adjusted Green to 99
- left Blue at 100
- All other settings left to default levels





On its own the BL3200PT's touch-sensitive 'buttons' provide for what can be considered - at best - a slightly frustrating user experience. Navigating the OSD can be at times frustrating as the sensors either fail to pick up your input, or sees a single button 'press' as a double input command. This is why very few enterprise grade monitors make use of touch-less buttons and it is only the cheapest of the cheap that do so.

Luckily, BenQ has included that USB-based adapter 'puck' that holds controls for OSD navigation and its combination of physical buttons and maneuverability made setting up and properly configuring this monitor a true joy.

With a few minor adjustments, hitting optimal color saturation levels is quite easy, even though the default profile is still quite good all things considered.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


In creating the BL3200PT, BenQ certainly took some risks. With users increasingly looking for UHD displays or high refresh rates, some may mistakenly think there isn’t a sustainable market for something a bit more down-to-earth. Yet that’s exactly what is being offered here and believe it or not, as a result of not pushing the technology envelope, the BL3200PT moves the yardsticks in an entirely different way for professional users.

This monitor is all about offering a massive amount of visible real estate and a very accurate color profile without costing an absolute fortune. While many of its competitors adhere to the usual 27” design, the BL3200PT pushes itself out to 32”. This does affect the dot pitch ratio and can result in some image sharpness loss when viewed extremely close up but the effect will be nearly imperceptible to all but the most eagle-eyed of viewers. It’s even less evident than all those 1080P monitors that spread their pixels over 27” of diagonal space.

The BL3200PT’s screen space will be a serious force multiplier for CAD/CAM users who don’t want the miniscule tooltips high resolutions bring to the table but still need a reasonably high resolution. However, the use of an A-MVA panel may allow for a much broader appeal. MVA technology initially took its lumps due to poor viewing angles, off-center color shift and slow response times but those issues are now a thing of the past. BenQ’s A-MVA panel boasts off-angle viewing characteristics that are nearly as good as many IPS displays, very good observed response times and accurate colors. These characteristics make it a good companion for other activities like movie watching and light gaming where the lightning quick response times of TN aren’t a necessity. Image editing is also a possibility but we’d still prefer the near-complete accuracy potential of IPS for those types of scenarios.

With all that said, this monitor is not going to be right for everyone. If razor sharp images are a pre-requisite, the larger dot pitch will drive you crazy. If you want the absolutely best gaming experience possible a G-SYNC enabled option is still the way to go. If you want a factory calibrated monitor, or even if there isn’t room in your current setup for 32 inches of diagonal goodness, then the BL3200PT should certainly not be on your short list.

In the end there really is a lot to like about BenQ’s offering and while the elevated dot pitch ratio, huge form-factor, and less than perfect default colors may take it out the realm of possibility for many consumers, both home users and business professionals alike should give this monitor serious consideration. It may be different, but it’s a type of different that may actually increase your productivity a lot more than a 4K monitor would.


 
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