Friday, June 24, 2011

REVIEW: NEC PA301W 30” Display

NEC PA301W Monitor

NOTE: This model is being discontinued and has been replaced by the PA302W. Click here to go to that review now. Here’s an index of my NEC reviews not covered by this article:

When I wrote about the NEC PA Series earlier this year the response was overwhelming. I got lots of questions and lots of emails from those who bought the PA241W-BK or PA271W-BK who said they loved them. Of course for some of you asked me “what about the big 30” display”, to which I had little to say. I explained that I had heard that they weren’t as good as the 24 or 27 inch displays, but that I hadn’t actually used one myself.

My Desktop Configuration with a GTI Lightbox, PA301W and PA241W in Portrait Mode

I’m pleased to say that I’ve had the luxury of using the PA301W since March and NEC had to remind me to pony up the money to buy it or send it back. It’s with regret that I’m choosing to send it back, but not because it isn’t a blast having such a huge monitor.

I’m sending it back because for $1149.95 (at the time of this writing) I can get the PA271W-BK which I feel performs better than paying $2169 (6/23/11 @ B&H) for the PA-301W-BK. Those extra 3 inches aren’t worth $1000 to me, and the time it takes to get the 27” up to operating temperature is about 50% less. For a photographer that means that you can calibrate your display at operating temperature and work at a later time 50% faster because you aren’t waiting for the display colors to normalize.

PA301W, PA271W and PA241W Excel Overlays
Does Size Really Matter?

Don’t feel insecure by going three inches shorter with the PA271W because you don’t lose any width as the graphic above demonstrates. Instead you just lose a little height which can easily be compensated for by using my favorite configuration – a PA241W in portrait orientation to the right of the PA271W. Here’s how it breaks down:

Display Resolution Max Excel Cell
PA241W 1920x1200 AC47
PA271W 2560x1440 AM60
PA301W 2560x1600 AM67

As you can see, you only are getting an extra row that’s 160px tall (or 7 more cells in Excel), but for those pixel peepers out there that is an extra 409,600 pixels. 


Aside from the aforementioned warm-up time, and a nasty color shift at startup, this display performed very well. I was able to successfully view 10-bit per channel color on it (Windows only) and calibrate it with both a ColorMunki and i1XTreme using NEC’s SpectraView II software (required). It worked fine with my MacBook Pro and Windows 7 64-bit systems using DisplayPort connections.


Overall I enjoyed this display and it was nice to have the extra space. Once the display got to operating temperature it performed well and was wonderful for proofing large landscape prints. As I mentioned earlier though, for the price I’d much rather spend the money and get a PA271W-BK and a PA241W-BK which results in a lot more space and two outstanding monitors that are a brilliant together in a color managed photography workflow.

I will say that this display BLOWS AWAY the Apple 30” Cinema HD Display which is only capable of up to 16.7 million colors versus this display which can do 1.6 BILLION colors (via DisplayPort on PC only at this time). It also doesn’t have the annoying reflection problems of the Cinema HD. It also has significantly better contrast, response time, viewing angle and more so if you have a Cinema HD and want to upgrade – this is MUCH better than anything Apple has to offer – even the new Apple 27” LED Cinema display!

No matter which display you get, I highly recommend getting a ColorMunki to calibrate both your display and printer. They make a great team! I also would get the hood for the landscape display (doesn’t work on portrait orientation)

To learn more about this display, visit NEC’s website or visit B&H

Where to order

Order your NEC PA Series display by clicking any of the following B&H links:

NOTE: Use the links below to see the newer models and links for both Amazon and B&H for those new models

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NEC loaned this display to me for a few months so I could experience it in every day life and review it. I did return this display and NEC had no influence on this article in any other way.

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Bob Towery said...

Really glad to read this review. I sat down in front of a friend's 30" mac LCD and was pretty blown away. Seriously have been thinking of upgrading. Now you show us this NEC unit. Cheaper/better (I'm with you on the 27" decision). Yes! said...

This blows the Mac away. It's case is sexy as hell, but what is in that case is just a cheap display. The NEC PA series displays blow it away. This is quality that is almost as good as Eizo for a fraction of the price, so a combo of the 27 & 24 is a dream setup for about what you'd pay for a 30".

Anonymous said...

What you didn't say is that the Pixelsize in the PA271W is much smaller so you have to reduce the distance if you want't to recognize letters etc. said...

Hi Anonymous,

I consider small pixel size to be a positive feature, and I do assume that readers will take advantage of the accessiblity features of Windows or the Mac if they need a larger font size when dealing with small pixel density resolutions. In addition, a user may always elect to not use the maximum resolution if they have vision issues which cause a small pixel density to be an issue.

I'm used to running 15" laptops at 1920x1200, despite my having vision challenges in my left eye so this issue never crossed my mind.

Thanks for pointing this issue out though for those with vision issues who might be impacted.

That said, I still stick with my recommendation of purchasing a 27" over the 30" and for the cost of a 30" you could do both a PA271W and a PA241W and have a much larger display area even if you chose to not leverage the maximum resolution of those displays.

Anonymous said...

I had a 2180ux with 1600x1200 for a few years and want something above 24'' because I would also increase the pixel in height. After the PA241W the PA271W was available and I first want to buy this but also waited and now bought the PA301W after two years waiting while pa series was accounced because it hase more height and normal pixel size. I also would prefer more pixel density but only with more pixel on the same screen size.

I have a 15,4 notebook with wuxga and you have to sit very close to work with. with a notebook when you are mobile its ok but at home the screen size is too tiny I think.

jlib said...

Excellent review. I like your idea of combining the 27 with the 24 in portrait mode. I think I will go that route.

Note that LCD panels always display at native resolution. They will just scale any other resolutions leading to artifacts and pixelation. So you always want to feed them the full rated resolution.

As you suggested, those with difficulty with standard fonts on a high resolution display can just turn on the high resolution fonts. Used to be called "large fonts" in XP but I think now it is just a percentage setting in the display preferences in Win 7.

The default font resolutions in Windows are still based on the standards when Windows 95 was released last century where 1024x768 or less was considered the likely screen resolution. I don't know how Macs handle such things but it is probably similar.