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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  • purerice - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    good points there. My old monitor is 16x10 which was supposed to be 16x9+subtitles/menus but that didn't fly I guess.
    As long as you don't have to watch a movie like Multiplicity with the camera shaking back and forth to catch the various Michael Keatons (VHS version). That was perhaps the worst edit-butchering of any decent film I have ever seen.
    Reply
  • iamezza - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    The best use case by far for 21:9 is for gaming. Just about any game that uses a first person (and not just FPSs) or over the shoulder perspective is a lot better with a wider screen.
    I've had triple 16:9 screens for a couple of years and it friggin rocks!
    Reply
  • kyuu - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    Agreed -- I'm quite tempted to use a 21:9 monitor since it seems ideal for gaming. Reply
  • Panzerknacker - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    Nice screen but too high input lag. Reply
  • purerice - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    ?????? Stated market, medical imaging...
    Not sure how much movement you get in your MRIs or X-rays but the ones I have seen seem to be pretty still.
    Reply
  • gochichi - Friday, February 14, 2014 - link

    Though it sounds like it may be insignificant, there's actually 33% more pixels in a 2560x1440 27" display than 2560x1080.

    I initially thought that if a laptop could drive one resolution it would drive the other and vice versa. This is NOT the case in practice, where I had laptops whose HDMI outputs displayed plug-n-play perfection on the 2560x1080 display but couldn't handle 2560x1440 without a bunch hacking and compromise(to where you had to hack the settings and go to 30Hz and so on, or it just going 1920x1080 etc).

    So keep that in mind, I had an HD4000 Samsung Ultrabook that worked flawlessly with the 2560x1080 but not at all on any of me 1440 screens via HDMI.

    So for some it may be well worth the strange aspect ratio to gain the plug and play functionality on some fairly decent still relevant laptops (the original 13" Yoga for example).

    I'd love to see 1440P on a high quality 21" screen for some $400. 3360 x 1440 p sounds beautiful too. For me these 29" 1080p widescreen have pixels that are entirely too chunky... but I suppose for frame rate purposes having 25% fewer pixels to push would be a boon games.

    2014 should be a year of much overdue innovation in the PC monitor space. I'm loving the 4k displays from Dell so far and can't wait to see what ASUS, Apple, and others will come up with.
    Reply
  • dszc - Sunday, February 23, 2014 - link

    Chris and Jarred,
    I can't thank you guys enough for your continuing excellent display reviews. You continue to be my trusted "go-to" source.
    I have a request. I'd like to know what TV I can use as a monitor, so I'd like to see some tested. What I need doesn't need to be reference quality level, like some of the higher-end EIZOs or NECs. But it does need to be in the same ballpark as these: HP 27xi, AOC i2757fh, ViewSonic VX2770Smh-LED. We need a very accurate representation of what our customers are likely to see on the web in the sRGB color space.
    I suspect that there are LOTS of folks out there who would like to have an accurate 1080p sRGB monitor in the 50-60" size that can be comfortably viewed by a few people simultaneously, whether it be a workgroup or small conference setting, or a home family room, or gaming group.
    Anyway, please move this request up as high as you see fit on your list. Currently, we have lots of reviews and information on 20-30" monitors that are really largely similar. We could REALLY use your help on a bigger size class (40-60" TV size) of monitors.
    Thanks for your consideration.
    Ever a fan of Anandtech,
    Dave
    Reply

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