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

 

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  • DanNeely - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    I seem to've missed the 21:9 1440p CES reports; and the only thing I'm finding Googling now is some pre-CES rumors about a 34" Dell monitor. Who else is playing in the 1440p crazy wide segment? Reply
  • REALfreaky - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    http://www.anandtech.com/tag/219 Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    There's no CES 2014 coverage in that link at all and all the reviews are for the existing 2560x1080 panel. Reply
  • marcosears - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    NEC sure is trying, but just can't meet the standards of some of the great monitors that have come out. /Marco from http://www.consumertop.com/best-monitor-guide/ Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    > DVI SL

    What's the use of DVI SL on this display? It can't drive 2560 x 1080 can it?

    > CES this year saw the introduction of 21:9 displays with 1440 lines of vertical resolution as opposed to 1080, making it a more direct replacement for 27” displays.

    3360 x 1440? That's nice!
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    You can use single-link to drive standard 1080p resolutions (1920x1080), so it's just another input. VGA and HDMI can't handle 2560x1080 either AFAIK (unless it's HDMI 1.4 maybe?) but people still have old devices around that use those. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    HDMI 1.4 offers it; but AFAIK monitor support has been a problem because only offering 1.3 on the monitor allows them to use same hardware as DVI instead of having to use a decoder that's clocked 2x as fast. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    VGA delivers 2560x1600@75Hz on my FW900. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    And unless you have something like a Matrox, I bet the picture looks awful. No recent AMD/nVidia card I know of has decent VGA output. And 75Hz is really on the low side for a CRT for me. Below 80 gave me headaches and eye strain in some situations. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, February 13, 2014 - link

    The PQ is excellent for gaming, however that resolution is slightly less crisp for text near the edges of the screen. I usually just run 1920x1200 since it is uniformly crisp and offers a 96Hz refresh rate, which is great for twitch games and perfect for viewing film content. Reply

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