Wednesday, September 11, 2013

REVIEW: NEC PA242W Color Critical Wide Gamut Backlit Desktop Monitor (vs PA241W)

NEC PA242W-BK Color Critical Wide Gamut Desktop Monitor
NEC PA242W-BK Color Critical Wide Gamut Desktop Monitor

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably read my NEC PA Series reviews. I love my NEC displays because they are a fraction of the cost of an equivalent Eizo with quality differences that can only be measured with instruments, and not the naked eye. The price / value ratio of these displays have made them some of the hottest selling displays on the market for photographers, so I was pretty excited when my NEC contact informed me about the new backlit models they are introducing.

The NEC PA242W (and upcoming PA302W in November) take everything you love about the current models, and add HDMI input and a backlight to them which translates into a 41% power consumption savings. While I’m told the green and blue primaries in the new backlit displays are supposed to be better, I can’t easily notice a difference.What I do notice is that these are effectively as great as the monitors that I’ve enjoyed over the last few years, but my electricity meter spins a little slower now. ;-) Given how many electronic devices I have in my house, this is a very good thing!

The Upgrade Question

Just as flexible as its predecessor
Just as flexible as its predecessor

I think the burning question on the minds of any PA Series owner is going to be – should I upgrade?

My short answer is probably not. While it’s great to use less energy for both environmental and cost savings reasons, this model isn’t going to look measurably different against your current display. I do think if you are buying a new PA Series, this is the model to get because of the energy savings which theoretically should also translate into a longer service life. The energy cost savings will probably pay for itself after a few years, and if this gives you a longer life for your display then it just makes sense. In addition, HDMI is becoming even more popular so that might be a great reason to own it for some as well.

I wouldn’t dump my old PA series for this model just to have the latest model as I haven’t fully realized my investment cost of my display. I suspect this will be the case for many of my readers as well. However, if I were to add another display, then this would certainly be the one I’d get.

What about the Calibration Hardware & Software?

NEC PA242W-BK-SV (includes SpectraView II and SpectraSensor Pro)
NEC PA242W-BK-SV (includes SpectraView II and SpectraSensor Pro)

As I’ve mentioned in my previous review, you definitely need the SpectraView II software and a compatible calibration device. If you buy the bundle you get the best deal, but if you already have a compatible calibration device and/or the software then it makes sense to buy the monitor by itself. The SpectraSensor Pro does not appear to have improved since I reviewed it last, so if you own that device and/or the SpectraView II software then all you need is version or later and you are in business.

It should be noted that SpectraView II supports multiple NEC displays, so you can mix and match with wide gamut PA series models without any problem. No new hardware or software purchase is required for this scenario.

Click here to learn more about SpectraView II and its compatible devices.


I had already moved to a backlit TV in my family room, so I already had some expectations about what to expect with this new PA series display. While I was a little disappointed that the picture quality didn’t really improve as it had done for my TV, I was very pleased that I was still able to get excellent calibration and soft proofing performance using SpectraView II and a SpectraSensor Pro. This is a great display to add to your system when you are in the market for a new display, but I wouldn’t retire a healthy current generation PA series display for this one.

Please consider my previous review when shopping for NEC displays.

Where to order

Click here to order the PA242W or click here to order the PA302W from B&H. My friends at Adorama have it available here. You can also click here to order from Amazon (but look carefully at the model numbers).

Other articles you may enjoy

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Éric said...

Hi Ron,

Thanks for all the information found on your blog. They were really usefull to me.

I was wondering which monitor you would suggest I buy, considering the lower price tag (800 $) (and the bigger screen) of the NEC PA271W VS the NEC PA242W (900 $).

Is the older version of the display still a good investment?

Thanks again! said...


The older model performs nearly identical to the new model, but the newer model has better edge to edge uniformity and is 40% less expensive to operate. It probably would take a few years to justify the extra cost of the newer model where I live, but if your electricity bill is very expensive you could end up paying more in the long run with the older model.


Éric said...

Wow, thanks for that QUICK answer! :) said...

You had good timing. ;-)

Unknown said...

I have a ColorMunki Photo and am a little confused regarding SpectraViewII. Is this software and/or hardware? Do I need SpectraViewII since I already have ColorMunki Photo? I see that is listed as a compatible device...

I used the Adorama link on your page, and I see 2 PA242 monitors. The only difference as far as I can tell is the SpectraView II...

Can you clarify? said...

Hi Jerry,

I cover your question in this article, but the short answer is YES you need NEC's software to program it's LUT.

Yes, there's a bundle that includes the software ($100 when purchased separately) and the calibration device (covered in my previously mentioned article).


David Jay said...

Hi Ron,

I'm trying to decide between the PA242W and the PA241W. I've seen some reviewers mention the difference in screen coating with the newer monitor being less matte. I'm currently using a Barco Calibrator. Would the 2421 be more matte than that? What is your feeling about the difference.

Thanks! said...

Hi David Jay,

I've not noticed any difference in the matting surface of the current and previous generation PA series and I have both generations sitting side by side next to each other.

I'm sitting with sunshine right on my display right now and the matte finish is sufficient on both the current and previous generation for viewing without any glare. That said, I prefer using the hood as I mention in my previous generation PA241 series review. I don't get hoods with my review units though, so I typically only use mine when I'm not reviewing displays.

A Barco Calibrator wouldn't work with the NEC Spectraview software from what I see in the list of supported devices, so that would not allow you to calibrate the display properly.

Tom E. said...

Hi. I can get this pa242w or the eizo cx240, with software ( if its possible to get this outside of us for the nec ? ) and calibrator for almost the same price. Not sure what to choose, the only thing im a little worried about is that ive had read that the cx make a lot of noise. any opinion on what to choose ? said...

I haven't tested the Eizo CX series, only the CG series which was excellent.

I've been very happy with the PA series so I have no reason to change. I don't expect the CX series is going to be on par with the CG series, and it's the CG series that Eizo told me was comparable with the PA series.


Bradly M. said...

Great articles regarding the NEC PA242W and the compatible calibration software/devices. About 5 months ago, I bought my PA242W-bk from B&H; I absolutely love this monitor. Presently, I have a Dell XPS (Windows 8.1) laptop with the Graphic Adapters showing Intel(R) HD Graphics 4000 and NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M on the Device Manager. I already had a X-Rite ColorMunki Display calibration system for my previous sRGB monitor which it worked great. I recently calibrated my PA242W-bk using the ColorMunki Display, which I think it has done a good job. After reading up some articles on the web, I realized that the ColorMunki Display is unable to change the LUT on the PA242W monitor. I am not sure how much difference it will make when displaying the pictures that I have taken with my DSLR camera? is the difference noticeable with non-pro eyes? I am not a professional photographer, but would like to calibrate my monitor as close as to the originally done by the manufacture when I purchased it. For this monitor, would you recommend me getting the NEC Color Sensor and SpectraView II Software Kit or just keep using the ColorMunki Display? Also, how often should I calibrate it? said...

Hi Bradley M,

The trick is that you need a colorimeter that can support a wide color gamut and to program the NEC LUT you must use their SpectraView II software. See my choosing the right display calibration device article for more details.

There's no harm in frequent calibrations but it is time consuming so NEC offers reminders from 2 days up to 6 months (plus never). Personally I try to do them at least every other month or more often if I'm doing something very important.