NEC SpectraView Reference 271 concise review
Price $1,882, £1,549 (ex VAT), £1,858 (inc VAT
Contact NEC, 0208 993 8111, www.nec-display-solutions.co.uk
Pros Picture quality, wide-gamut, hardware-calibratable with SpectraView profiler, ergonomics, build, three-year warranty
Cons Granular text, no bundled Mini DisplayPort cable, calibrator extra (UK version)
Please follow the link to buy from UK retailer Warehouseexpress.com
Color management is essential for critical color reproduction and the NEC SpectraView Reference 271 (MultiSync PA271W-BK-SV in the USA) is one of the few wide-gamut monitors available to come close to covering the Adobe RGB color space. Most monitors, even so-called high-end models, are barely able to reproduce the gamut of the much smaller sRGB color space. And, if your monitor doesn’t display the colors available to your output space, such as a photo-inkjet, then making accurate color adjustments to your photos or video is made all the more difficult.
With a 16:9 aspect ratio, the SpectraView Reference 271 is the first 27-inch monitor from NEC in its Professional Color Management series. As well as 2560 x 1440 pixel native resolution, it packs a new 10-bit P-IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel for wide viewing angles and instead of LED backlighting, it adopts the cold cathode tubes of earlier offerings. This sounds a lot like rival 27-inch offerings, including NEC’s Multi-Sync siblings but the SpectraView Reference models are individually selected and certified for zero pixel failure.
Furthermore, they’re supplied with the SpectraView Profiler utility that controls 14-bit hardware LUTs (Look UP Tables). These data instructions are written directly to the chassis electronics during calibration (a screen calibrator, such as the i1Profiler, is required*). This is a more reliable and consistent method of achieving accurate color reproduction than using the same calibrator to re-write the software LUTs on the computer's video-adaptor (known as software calibration), which in turn is corrected by the color profile.
Setting up the NEC is a pretty simple affair, but they’re a couple of points to be aware of. Firstly, unlike the earlier 24-and 30-inch models, the SpectraView Reference 271 has no analogue ports, just two DVI-D ports and a single, full-size DisplayPort. If you’re a Mac user with a spare, full-size DVI port you’ll be fine, if not it gets tricky.
If you intend to run a second monitor from your current MacBook Pro, iMac, or from a single video card on your Mac Pro, that means having to locate either a Mini DisplayPort adaptor or Mini to full-size DisplayPort cable, as neither are supplied. To make matter worse, they aren’t widely available. Luckily, Lindy (www.lindy.com) has just released a reliable adaptor (which was used in this test, see image above) and they now have a 1.0m cable option (not available at the time of testing). Alternatively, you could use a dual-link DVI to Mini DisplayPort adaptor, but at £70 (inc VAT) the price is prohibitive, while the cheaper single-link DVI adaptor doesn’t support the monitor resolution.
Neither is a calibrator supplied with the European version*, but colorimeters such as the i1 (EyeOne) Display and Spyder2 are supported. Thankfully, the previously messy licensing procedure of the SpectraView utility has been abandoned, but it will only run if the monitor is powered on, a niggle only if you intend to use it for a second, third-party monitor.
SpectraView handles the whole calibration and profile creation, and is made simpler by the inclusion of a number of optional presets. These are intended for different color space emulations and workflows; photography, pre-press, web-design, and others. However, SpectraView has a raft of manual options if you wish to modify the process.
With simple adjustment for height, tilt, and rotation (the screen can be rotated 90-degrees from horizontal to vertical format), the SpectraView Reference 271 has excellent ergonomics. And it’s also bundled with an excellent flocked hood that can be left in place during calibration.
As you might expect the picture quality and color reproduction is outstanding. Images are particularly sharp, sharper than most 30-inch monitors at a closer working distance, thanks to the finer pixel pitch. Also noticeable when compared to a calibrated 27-inch iMac are a wider range of blues and greens, greens in particular. Reds were deeper, less orangey and very vibrant. Uniformity of brightness was excellent too. I couldn’t see any hot spots on a black background and there were no signs of the ugly yellow colored mura that affected the late 2009 27-inch iMac.
If there’s a niggle it’s that text in a word-document, for instance, isn’t quite as smooth as the glossy screens, again, in part due to the texture of the matte finish anti-glare coating. When compared with rival Eizo ColorEdge models, it’s a competitively priced offering and an outstanding choice for imaging pros.
* The USA MultiSync PA271W-BK-SV is bundled with a NEC branded EyeOne Display calibrator made especially for the color characteristics of the display.
NEC has announced the 30-inch SpectraView Reference 301, also known as the MultiSync PA301W-BK-SV display in North America. This will replace the SVRef 3090, not the SVRef 275 reviewed above..