Updated 10/2/2013: Review has been updated to correct an issue with the non-SpectraView data. Please review the sRGB and AdobeRGB pages again if you have read this article before as they have been updated. The conclusions have been updated to match these test results as well.

What separates a professional grade monitor, like the NEC PA242W, from a similarly designed consumer display? You can easily go to Dell and find a 24”, 1920x1200 resolution display with GB-LED backlighting for a few hundred dollars; why are displays like the NEC PA242W worth almost twice the price? Are they just coasting off the reputation they had from their CRT days, or do they engineer their LCD displays in a way that set them apart from everyone else? I set out to examine the PA242W and find what it offers that sets it apart from the competition.

The NEC PA242W is a 24”, GB-LED backlit display with 1920x1200 resolution. I recently saw GB-LED backlighting in the Dell U3014 monitor and it performed well. GB-LED backlighting allows for the full AdobeRGB color gamut while still using LED lighting. Also on the NEC are a full complement of inputs: HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, and VGA, as well as a 3-port USB hub. I would like to see USB 3.0 on the hub for the price of the NEC but we only get USB 2.0. What you do get are dual USB upstream ports, letting you connect the NEC to two computers. Video inputs can be assigned to a USB upstream connection, so when you switch the display from one PC to another, your connected peripherals switch to that PC as well.

You realize the NEC PA242W is different as soon as you open the box. There is no attaching a stand with screws or clicking it in. The whole monitor is fully assembled, ready to be lifted out of the box and put to use. The construction is unlike other displays: solid and thick, with a handle at the top to lift it out. The stand is a nice ergonomic model that allows for a wide range of adjustments and is already set up. The bottom of the display houses all of the inputs and USB outputs.

As soon as you use the OSD you’ll realize the NEC PA242W is unlike conventional monitors as well. Brightness is measured in cd/m^2 instead of a random slider. It is fully adjustable in 1 cd/m^2 increments up to 240 cd/m^2. You can adjust it beyond this but the control turns red indicating that the display uniformity will suffer. There are five monitor presets that you can control with a variety of settings: Colorspace, Brightness, Contrast, Gamma curve, White Point, and more. Moving between sRGB and AdobeRGB can be done at the touch of a button.

The selections for white point and color space go well beyond the usual options. White Point can be set from 3000K up to 15000K in 100K increments. Colorspace offers AdobeRGB, DCI, sRGB, Native (Full), SMPTE, and more. Any photo or video editing you need to do with the NEC PA242W should be covered by these options. The menu system is also very easy to use, with Up/Down and Left/Right arrows, on-screen labels, and a simple design.

All of these options provide supreme control over the NEC PA242W. There's even a standard 4-year warranty with 48-hour replacement. The real question is if the on-screen performance matches up with the controls.

NEC PA242W
Video Inputs DVI-DL, DisplayPort, HDMI, Dsub
Panel Type AH-IPS
Pixel Pitch 0.27mm
Colors 1.07 Billion
Brightness 340 mc/m^2
Contrast Ratio 1000:1
Response Time 8ms
Viewable Size 24.1"
Resolution 1920x1200
Viewing Angle (H/V) 178/178
Backlight GB-R LED (20 kHz PWM)
Power Consumption (operation) 56W
Power Consumption (standby) 0.2W
Screen Treatment Anti-Glare
Height-Adjustable Yes (6")
Tilt Yes
Pivot Yes
Swivel Yes
VESA Wall Mounting Yes, 100mm x 100mm
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 21.9" x 14.9" x 9"
Weight 23.4 lbs.
Additional Features USB hubs with KVM switch, 3D LUT,
Limited Warranty 4 years with 48-hour replacement
Accessories Power Cord, DP Cable, MiniDP Cable, DVI-D Cable, USB Cable
Price $1,049

 

Brightness and Contrast
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  • sweenish - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    By your own admission, the monitor reviewed is fine as it does have the 1000:1 that you quote for a display being good. I know you say "at least," but that still makes all your complaining useless as this monitor meets your criteria. Reply
  • khanov - Sunday, September 29, 2013 - link

    Hulk fail. :-(
    Hulk mad!
    Reply
  • foxalopex - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    Senti - I own this monitor so I can attest that you are right. What's striking about this monitor visually is that at first it doesn't look like it has a lot of contrast. That is the absolute white and absolute black colours are not as extreme as most monitors. At least until you put up a picture or run a movie that has very light and dark scenes. What you end up seeing is a lot of gradients of grey that are not pushed into absolute black or white. The results are amazing compared to what you would see in a normal monitor. Reply
  • Gothmoth - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    we have pro eizo and quato monitors here, they are the best for photographers and designers and they have a contrast ratio of .. guess what.... 1000:1

    some noobs think higher contrast ratio numbers and maybe even dynamic contrast makes a monitor better... well they are wrong.
    Reply
  • rabidwombatsquirrel - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    Well higher contrast ratios DO make a monitor better and I can't wait until we get OLED tech and 4k+ in these NEC displays since I do miss the extra deep blacks and contrast even for photos.

    That said screen uniformity, colors not going wonky looked at even a hint off angle, perfect primary location, perfect saturation and primary luminance tracking, wide gamut, etc. also matter a ton and these PA series do all that amazingly well (Eizo too, although they cost twice as much).
    The internal 14bit 3D LUT in these PA monitors works wonders. And unlike with most wide gamut monitors you can pop it into a PERFECT sRGB emulation with not only just gamma 2.2 option but even sRGB TRC options as well, in fact, it does sRGB a lot better than virtually any sRGB monitor, almost all of which actually fall a bit short of sRGB primaries.

    These are superb monitors!!!! That also said I can't wait until they get OLED into them for amazing blacks and contrast ratios and also 4k+ since the current res is bothersomely low (not that it's worse than 99.9999% of others, I just want the tablet/HDTV retina type stuff to appear in desktop monitors already).
    Reply
  • rabidwombatsquirrel - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    Yeah being able to get low black levels is important and I surely wish IPS was better.

    That said, much of what you are saying is totally wrong! Dynamic range is not the ability to distinguish between various dark tones and various bright tones. And a low contrast ratio absolutely does not mean that dark tones appear crushed!!!! (unless you are using absolute calibration to pure black instead of relative, which doesn't work out all that well on anything other than OLED screens, although the top PVA and plasma could almost start to get away with it without crushing too much but even then you'll lose the ability to tell apart the very darkest tones) or that bright tones appear clipped!

    A monitor with a poor contrast ratio tends to have blacks that are not all that dark and it's often easier to see into deep shadow details on them.

    A monitor with superb calibration will leave the lowest steps all distinguishable if you use relative black level calibration while many cheap ones, even with intensely deep black levels and high contrast ratio, may crush all those tones together with no way to separate them and they might also clip the top end so the top few shades all look the same, that definitely isn't the case here.

    Not measure here are things like saturation tracking curves and primary luminance tracking curves, many monitors appear to be perfectly calibrated but if you toss in these tests many will fail, some quite badly, here the lines are near perfect thanks to the 14bit 3D LUT.
    Reply
  • rabidwombatsquirrel - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    My post above was supposed to be to Hulk not you Senti, sorry it got placed wrong. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    Well, NEC has been doing it like this for most of their high-ish end monitors for years and clearly they are much sought after. The way they make their displays so homogeneous is resulting in this "low" contrast ratio. I haven't ever seen anyone complain about contrast ratios above 500:1 in the professional space this is aimed at. I have also never seen anyone want an OLED display for their work, as you seem to desire. Also, last I checked, print contrast ratios are below 500:1 as are nearly all film/tv contrast ratios. Reply
  • chrnochime - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    If you are as much an expert as you claim to be you wouldn't need to cast doubt into how good this monitor is when it comes to contrast, since you'd KNOW already. And if it's anywhere as bad as you think it is, NEC would not have people still buying them to warrant making this most recent iteration. Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    A 16:10 display! rare things these days..

    Nice results, but how does it compare to the similarly-targeted/specced Dell U2413, or even the older U2410?

    Kinda dissapointed at the lack of 4K at 24" 16:10 (3840x2400), but I guess we still have to wait for the current stock of 1920x1200 panels to get pushed out and 4K stocks to build... Then again, with some good production, marketing, we could be having 8K at 20" already (my phone has 1920x1080 at 5", just scale up the panel)
    Reply

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