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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  • 1Angelreloaded - Saturday, October 05, 2013 - link

    Actually the whole 1080p labeling is for the HDTV industry and makes no complete sense to use in the PC space and 1080p(1920x1200) is 16 megapixels with 16:10 wide(Camera dependant). Reply
  • bobbozzo - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    I have the Dell u2412M... I like that it's 16:10 (versus my 16:9 Samsung (below)); on 16:9 I don't feel like there's room for the taskbar...

    Anandtech reviewed the 2412:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5550/dell-u2412m-16-...

    At home I have a 23" Samsung 2343bwx which is 2048x1180, but its TN panel has serious problems for me when doing design or photo work; the viewing angle affects colors so much that a solid color looks significantly different at top or bottom of the screen versus the middle. If I move my head, it changes, so it's not a uniformity problem; just viewing angle. I sit over arm's length away, so it'd be even worse closer up.
    Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Saturday, September 28, 2013 - link

    2412 is only sRGB, not wide gamut like the 2408, U2410 and U2413.

    I agree on anything wider than 16:10 being too wide. 16:10 IMO is the perfect size this side of dynamically-sized holograms.
    Reply
  • tarzan1234 - Monday, December 09, 2013 - link

    This monitor is designed for graphic designers and digital photographers and they don't need and don't want high contrast. The goal is what you see on screen is what you get in prints. That means what's on the display must be as close to what's on a print as possible. In a standard viewing condition (standard light, natural daylight white), matte paper prints have contrast ratio of about 1:200, luster paper has contrast ratio of about 1:250 to 1:300 and glossy paper has a contrast ratio of about 1:350 to 1:400. For that reason, if you have a high contrast monitor, what you see on screen will be different from what you get in print. You can't change contrast ratio of paper, the only thing you can do is to have a monitor that can be adjusted close to that. That's what professional grade monitors are for. Some of the very best (and most expensive) graphic monitors are made by Eizo, and their contrast ratios are in 1:250 to 1:400 range. One additional note, photographers often set their monitor light output to around 80cd/m2 to 120cd/m2 for the same reason, getting close to how prints look. If the display is brighter, you often end up with dark prints because if it looks OK on a to bright monitor, the prints will be too dark. Reply
  • WhitneyLand - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    >>do you need this? If you’re asking that question then you probably don’t.

    Instead of this answer how about telling us things like:
    1) Is it possible to see benefits without calibration tools?
    2) Is it possible to see benefits in applications that don't manage color profiles?
    3) If you grab a couple non color-pro friends and ask them if it looks better, what do they say?
    Reply
  • cheinonen - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    OK, I'll answer those quickly then:

    1) Yes, because the out-of-box experience is also very good and it is still more uniform than any other display tested to date. The calibration does not affect the uniformity.
    2) Yes, and especially with calibration. The SpectraView software does all of its work inside the monitor LUT, leaving the video LUT alone. So color profiles or not, the image should be basically perfect.
    3) I'd have to grab them and see, though I'll admit to mostly having friends who I've converted to really caring about color.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    As a multi-monitor user #3 matters to me because it makes all my screens look the same. At work I've got 3 mismatched Dell screens (1901, 2208, 2210); and the fact that despite fiddling I can't get the colors on them to match is noticeable and a bit annoying. At home I have 3 NEC monitors (all bought refurbed to avoid breaking the bank) 2x 2090 and 1x 3090; out of the box colors between the three are close enough to each other that I've never felt the need to buy a colorimeter to calibrate them. Reply
  • inighthawki - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    My experience has taught me to always go with the same monitors in multimon setups. 2x or 3x of the same brand, same model. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    Even if I could've afforded multiple 30's at home I don't have the deskspace for them; and in any event I bought the 20's a year or two before the 30. (The 3way setup was however a major factor in why I bought what I did.)

    At work I got the screens one at a time; and had a pair of 2208's at one point; they matched each other about as poorly as the 2208 and 2210 do.
    Reply
  • powruser - Saturday, September 28, 2013 - link

    We have very similar setups. I have one 2490WUXi as my primary display and two 2090UXi as secondary display. All are first generation models which have the A-TW polarizer which greatly reduces the purple IPS glow on dark images when viewing at off angles. I also bought mine refurbished. NEC has excellent refurbs, and their warranty service is excellent as well. You'd have to pry my A-TW NEC displays from my cold dead hands! :) Reply

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