ZR30w Color Quality

We’ll start out with the color quality of the ZR30w. As per usual, we report two metrics: color gamut and color accuracy (Delta E). Color gamut refers to the range of colors the display is able to represent with respect to some color space. In this case, our reference is the AdobeRGB 1998 color space, which is larger than the sRGB color space. So our percentages are reported with respect to this number, and larger is better.

Color accuracy (Delta E) refers to the display’s ability to display the correct color requested by the GPU. The difference between the color represented by the display, and the color requested by the GPU is our Delta E, and lower is better here. In practice, a Delta E under 1.0 is perfect - the chromatic sensitivity of the human eye is not great enough to distinguish a difference. Moving up, a Delta E of 2.0 or less is generally considered fit for use in a professional imaging environment - it isn’t perfect, but it’s hard to gauge the difference. Finally, Delta E of 4.0 and above is considered visible with the human eye. Of course, the big consideration here is frame of reference; unless you have another monitor or some print samples (color checker card) to compare your display with, you probably won’t notice. That is, until you print or view media on another monitor. Then the difference will be very apparent.

As I mentioned in our earlier reviews, we’ve updated our display test bench. We’ve deprecated the Monaco Optix XR Pro colorimeter in favor of an Xrite i1D2 since there are no longer up-to-date drivers for modern platforms. We’ve also done testing and verification with a Spyder 3 colorimeter. We’re using the latest version of ColorEyes Display Pro - 1.52.0r32, for both color tracking and brightness testing.

We’re providing data from other display reviews taken with the Monaco Optix XR alongside new data taken with an Xrite i1D2. They’re comparable, but we made a shift in consistency of operator and instrumentation, so the comparison isn’t perfect. It’s close, though.

For these tests, we calibrate the display and try to obtain the best Delta E we can get at both 200 nits and 100 nits (print brightness). We target 6500K and a gamma of 2.2, but sometimes performance is better using the monitor’s native measured whitepoint and gamma. We also take uncalibrated measurements that show performance out of box using the manufacturer supplied color profile. For all of these, dynamic contrast is disabled. The ZR30w has no other controls save brightness, which we manually adjust to hit our 200 nit and 100 nit targets.

So, how does the ZR30w do? Let’s dive into the charts:


Out of box, the ZR30w looks a tad cool in temperature and is very vibrant. Perhaps even too vibrant, but then again maybe that's what 1 billion colors looks like. I’m a bit surprised that uncalibrated performance isn’t better than what I measured. I ran and re-ran this test expecting something to be wrong with my setup - it just doesn’t perform very well in this objective uncalibrated test. That isn’t to say it doesn’t look awesome - it does - but the ZR30w strongly benefits from calibration.

Moving to calibrated performance at 200 nits, the ZR30w really starts to deliver, with impressive Delta E of 1.01. Pay attention to the charts, there's not a single peak above 2.0, which is awesome. I couldn’t get the ZR30w all the way down to 100 nits - the lowest the display will go is right around 150 nits. Surprisingly, Delta E actually gets a bit worse, and moves up to 1.15 at the dimmest setting. Interestingly, the highest peak jumps up to 2.5 at this brightness. I’ll talk more about brightness in a second, but it’s pretty obvious that the ZR30w wants to be bright. You can just tell from the dynamic range you can get to in the menus, from 150 nits up to the maximum around 400, and it’s somewhere inbetween there that Delta E really really shines.  

Of course, the ZR30w delivers in color gamut. Note that in the volumetric 3D plot, the wireframe plot is the ZR30w, and the solid plot is AdobeRGB 1998 - that’s right, we’ve exceeded the AdobeRGB color space. The raw data is impressive, the display manages 111.36% of coverage, the highest we’ve tested. In this case, we’ve exceed the manufacturer claims of 99% AdobeRGB by a notable margin. I have no trouble believing that HP's claims about 1+ billion colors are totally accurate - you have to see it in person to believe it. There are just some colors I'm used to not seeing represented very well; reds and blues especially, and the photos that I have looked at are spectacular.

IPS panels are still very, very win. It’d be awesome to see a Delta E under 1.0, but I just couldn’t get that from the ZR30w I tested. The additional difference would of course be absolutely indistinguishable to the human eye, but it’d be an awesome bragging right. But you've already got more than a billion colors.
Too big for an OSD and More Impressions Analysis: Color Uniformity


View All Comments

  • Taft12 - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - link


    $150 CAD - if that's a tough sell, how did you convince them to buy you a monitor that costs over $1000?!
  • theangryintern - Thursday, June 3, 2010 - link

    that's weird. We order docking stations with every single laptop we order. When people are in their office, they all want dual 22" displays. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    I'm happy with my Dell U2410 and its HDMI, DVI x 2, Display Port, etc. inputs. :-) Reply
  • ghitz - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - link

    We're talking about 30" here! Reply
  • thorr2 - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    I have the LG W3000H-Bn that I got from newegg. I am very happy with it although it is on the green side before calibration. It would be interesting to see a professional review of it to see how it compares to the others. It is definitely cheaper than a lot of the competition. Reply
  • zsero - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Sorry, but there is a big misunderstanding in this article:

    > I have no trouble believing that HP's claims about 1+ billion colors are totally accurate - you have to
    > see it in person to believe it. There are just some colors I'm used to not seeing represented very
    > well; reds and blues especially, and the photos that I have looked at are spectacular.

    Color gamut and the number of colors are totally different things!

    But what is _missing_ from the article is that:
    1. Using 24 bit color (8-bit per color) with a calibrated display profile you get visible banding.
    2. Using 30 bit color (10-bit per color) you can calibrate a monitor without visible banding.
    3. For 30 bit color you need DisplayPort and a professional graphics card + driver + OS + software support. For example newest professional Nvidia Quadro or Matrox cards, with a good combination of software and OS!
    4. What you have seen was less than 16 million colors, as you have used DVI and a calibrated output from a consumer graphics card.
    5. The billion color thing is nothing but the good sounding fact that 2^30 > billion (actually it's 1 billion, 73 million, 741 thousand and 824)
  • Brian Klug - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    I totally agree and I'm glad someone caught me ;) To be honest, I'm still a bit confused about the 32-bit color setting in windows in the display driver window and how that relates to the 30-bit claim. It would seem to me that 32-bit true color is indeed being driven, no? There's definitely no banding visible, at least from what I've scrutinized.

    I did space on trying DisplayPort though, I'm going to give that a shot in a second here and will probably update if I find something interesting! ;)

  • Brian Klug - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    I now follow completely what you mean. I tried using DisplayPort and DVI both to pass 10-bit Deep Color to the ZR30w, but apparently that feature isn't implemented on the ATI HD5870. I'm hoping to try it on a 2010 MBP, but it'll be some time before my miniDP to DP adapter arrives so I can test.

    Until then, I'm not entirely sure what the status is, but realize this is an important concern and chief feature of the ZR30w. I'm going to continue to investigate. Honestly, I don't expect the gamut to change that much, but it would indeed be interesting to see if 10-bit deep color does work as advertised. I might need a better workstation card. I'll update when I find out.

    Cheers and thanks!
  • prof.yustas - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Excellent. Thank you. In addition, it would be very useful to hear your take on the best 24-inch 16:10 (not 16:9) display out there, which is another way of asking for the DELL U2410 vs. HP ZR24w comparison. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - link

    http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/ has reviewed both, if you're interested. Reply

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