While 21:9 displays have never caught on for TVs, they seem to have found a niche with computers. Now most vendors have at least one 21:9 display, and at CES this year we saw larger, higher resolution 21:9 panels introduced. All of these panels are aimed at consumers so far, with an emphasis on integrated audio, multiple video inputs, MHL, and other consumer features. Because of this it isn't a surprise that the 21:9 display from NEC is also consumer focused, but let's see how it performs.

The EA293WMi is a 21:9 monitor with 2560x1080 resolution. As with all the 21:9 displays so far, the backlight is an edge-lit white LED that provides the sRGB color gamut but not AdobeRGB. I asked NEC what their target audience is with the 21:9 aspect ratio, as figuring that out has been somewhat challenging.

As I expected, their main target is people that want a display that multitasks between computer and movies or games. For people that watch a lot of films that are shot in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio (which is around half of the movies released each year), the 21:9 aspect ratio allows you to watch those films without black bars at the top. As someone that has a 2.40:1 projection system at home, I understand the desire to watch films without any letterboxing.

Another target that I was unaware of is medical imaging. For lots of medical imaging, people are still using a pair of 19", 4:3 displays to view content. A 29" 21:9 monitors provides a near direct drop-in replacement for those two displays as you can't really purchase them anymore. The NEC contains a DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) mode, specifically targeting this use case. This is not a use that I, or most people, would likely be aware of but it does help to explain where 21:9 displays will fit in.

Most of the 21:9 monitors on the market have been more concerned with looks over usability. They have nice, thin profiles but lack height adjustments or VESA mounting holes on the back. They look stylish but if you want them at any other height you'll need to place them on top of something. Additionally if you want to use them in portrait mode, where their extra height can be a useful feature, you are going to need to come up with a complex system of mounting it to something. This lack of adjustments is a pet peeve of mine, so I'm happy to report that NEC doesn't restrict their display in this way.

The stand included with the EA294WMi offers both height adjustments and the ability to rotate into portrait mode. There are also VESA mounting screws on the back so you can use your own stand if you desire as well. Even with their consumer line NEC still keeps more focus on ergonomics and usability than looks, which I admire. It also offers full tilt and swivel ability making the stand very versatile.

The EA294WMi is well stocked with inputs: DisplayPort, HDMI/MHL, Dual DVI (only one is Dual Link), and dual DSub mean that anything you want to connect should be possible. There is a 4-port USB hub that is integrated as well but it is only USB 2.0. Unlike the professional displays you can’t use the EA294WMi as a KVM for two computers.

The on-screen display is reminiscent of the professional line but is more consumer focused. Brightness levels are indicated in percent instead of cd/m^2 and there are fewer preset modes to select from. It still provides more flexibility than most displays but not the granular ability found on professional NEC models. The menus are fairly easy to control as button labels pop up on the screen. I’d prefer a 4-way control, or all the controls to be along the same side of the display, but all the required features are at least present.

NEC provides a few features specific to their displays here. One is a human presence sensor that detects if someone is sitting in front of the display or not. If you are absent for a set time period it can dim the display to conserve energy. Many of us just use the power management in our OS to accomplish this, but in case that fails (and Windows has a habit of just turning back on I find) this is a backup. You can also daisy-chain NEC displays together with a 3.5mm cable and have a master control the other units. If you often make adjustments to brightness or other controls this can be handy, but you need a full array of displays from NEC for it to work.

Before we continue, let's quickly look at the specifications for the EA294WMi:

NEC EA294WMi
Video Inputs HDMI-MHL, DisplayPort, DVI-D, DVI-DL, VGA
Panel Type IPS
Pixel Pitch 0.26mm
Colors 16.7 Million
Brightness 300 cd/m2 typical
Contrast Ratio 1000:1
Response Time 6ms GtG
Viewable Size 29"
Resolution 2560x1080
Viewing Angle (H/V) 178/178
Backlight White LED
Power Consumption (operation) No Spec
Power Consumption (standby) 0.8 W
Screen Treatment Anti-Glare
Height-Adjustable Yes, 5.2"
Tilt Yes
Pivot Yes
Swivel Yes
VESA Wall Mounting 100mm x 100mm
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 27.8" x 16.2" x 9.1"
Weight 21.2 lbs. with stand
Additional Features USB 2.0 Hub (1 up, 4 down), Picture-by-Picture, Presence Sensor
Limited Warranty 3 Years
Accessories Dsub Cable, DVI-DL Cable, USB Cable, 3.5mm Cable, ControlSync Cable
Price Currently $700 online

 

Brightness and Contrast
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  • piroroadkill - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    19" 4:3?

    I've only really seen 19" 5:4 - 1280x1024.
    Reply
  • Colin1497 - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    Back in the day I know we had a lot of 1600x1200 Dell monitors, but they may have been branded as 20" instead of 19"? Eventually they ended up paired with 1920x1200 24" monitors before being phased out... Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    I know there were 20" 1600x1200 panels, I've got NEC and HP versions of them, but don't think I ever saw them in a 19" version. Reply
  • kwrzesien - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    Maybe he meant 19" CRT's? We had a host of them from Mitsubishi and they worked great at 1280x1024 @ 85Hz, or 1600x1200 @ 60Hz. They were our "coding" monitors, our production user spec was still at 1024x768 on a 14" CRT at the time!!! (where is the horror emoticon when you need it!) Reply
  • purerice - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    A lot of monitors vintage '98 were 20 or 21" but 19 or 19.8" viewable with 1600x1200 resolution.
    It could just be a difference between official vs viewable size.
    Reply
  • GTVic - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    That is what I have, Dell 2007FP + Dell U2410 plus a matching pair at the office. Both monitors have 1200 vertical pixels, unfortunately the height is not identical, 2107 would have been a near perfect match. Reply
  • blackmagnum - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    It's still 1080p. Good for movies and spreadsheets but bad for reading Anandtech (unless you want it towering over your head). Reply
  • DarkXale - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    Its rather intended to be used instead of two adjacent 1280x1080 monitors. You completely eliminate the border in the middle which provides greater flexibility in how you display your content.

    In other words, maximising it to use the entire width is doing it wrong.
    Reply
  • KnightRAF - Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - link

    Exactly. It's a 1080p high monitor that's wide enough to view two webpages side by side without problems due to the window not being at least 1024px wide. Reply
  • FractinJex - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    Ever since moving to 1440p sometime back I wont go back 1080p...is just old now..the only trhing imo holding back 1440p from being mainstream is the fact that you need a HPU to use it as the intel igpu is crap and same witht he amd....

    keep hearing about 4k this and that yet most don't even understand those craphole panels only do 30hz lol people are skipping and thinking they can go straight to 1080p to 4k over the next year or two.....nope not gonna happen get yourself a good 1440p Korean pnael or even two and be set...don't wait for crappy slow manufactuare to release some overpriced non sense like Asus is doing with the 1440p AOG crapy TN panels and ripping everyone a new one lol 1080p trash
    Reply

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