Updated 10/2/2013: Review has been updated to correct an issue with the non-SpectraView data. Please review the sRGB and AdobeRGB pages again if you have read this article before as they have been updated. The conclusions have been updated to match these test results as well.

What separates a professional grade monitor, like the NEC PA242W, from a similarly designed consumer display? You can easily go to Dell and find a 24”, 1920x1200 resolution display with GB-LED backlighting for a few hundred dollars; why are displays like the NEC PA242W worth almost twice the price? Are they just coasting off the reputation they had from their CRT days, or do they engineer their LCD displays in a way that set them apart from everyone else? I set out to examine the PA242W and find what it offers that sets it apart from the competition.

The NEC PA242W is a 24”, GB-LED backlit display with 1920x1200 resolution. I recently saw GB-LED backlighting in the Dell U3014 monitor and it performed well. GB-LED backlighting allows for the full AdobeRGB color gamut while still using LED lighting. Also on the NEC are a full complement of inputs: HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, and VGA, as well as a 3-port USB hub. I would like to see USB 3.0 on the hub for the price of the NEC but we only get USB 2.0. What you do get are dual USB upstream ports, letting you connect the NEC to two computers. Video inputs can be assigned to a USB upstream connection, so when you switch the display from one PC to another, your connected peripherals switch to that PC as well.

You realize the NEC PA242W is different as soon as you open the box. There is no attaching a stand with screws or clicking it in. The whole monitor is fully assembled, ready to be lifted out of the box and put to use. The construction is unlike other displays: solid and thick, with a handle at the top to lift it out. The stand is a nice ergonomic model that allows for a wide range of adjustments and is already set up. The bottom of the display houses all of the inputs and USB outputs.

As soon as you use the OSD you’ll realize the NEC PA242W is unlike conventional monitors as well. Brightness is measured in cd/m^2 instead of a random slider. It is fully adjustable in 1 cd/m^2 increments up to 240 cd/m^2. You can adjust it beyond this but the control turns red indicating that the display uniformity will suffer. There are five monitor presets that you can control with a variety of settings: Colorspace, Brightness, Contrast, Gamma curve, White Point, and more. Moving between sRGB and AdobeRGB can be done at the touch of a button.

The selections for white point and color space go well beyond the usual options. White Point can be set from 3000K up to 15000K in 100K increments. Colorspace offers AdobeRGB, DCI, sRGB, Native (Full), SMPTE, and more. Any photo or video editing you need to do with the NEC PA242W should be covered by these options. The menu system is also very easy to use, with Up/Down and Left/Right arrows, on-screen labels, and a simple design.

All of these options provide supreme control over the NEC PA242W. There's even a standard 4-year warranty with 48-hour replacement. The real question is if the on-screen performance matches up with the controls.

Video Inputs DVI-DL, DisplayPort, HDMI, Dsub
Panel Type AH-IPS
Pixel Pitch 0.27mm
Colors 1.07 Billion
Brightness 340 mc/m^2
Contrast Ratio 1000:1
Response Time 8ms
Viewable Size 24.1"
Resolution 1920x1200
Viewing Angle (H/V) 178/178
Backlight GB-R LED (20 kHz PWM)
Power Consumption (operation) 56W
Power Consumption (standby) 0.2W
Screen Treatment Anti-Glare
Height-Adjustable Yes (6")
Tilt Yes
Pivot Yes
Swivel Yes
VESA Wall Mounting Yes, 100mm x 100mm
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 21.9" x 14.9" x 9"
Weight 23.4 lbs.
Additional Features USB hubs with KVM switch, 3D LUT,
Limited Warranty 4 years with 48-hour replacement
Accessories Power Cord, DP Cable, MiniDP Cable, DVI-D Cable, USB Cable
Price $1,049


Brightness and Contrast
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  • cheinonen - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    The current version of CalMAN, at least one of the higher end versions, has support for calibrating a set of displays to look identical. It might mean none of them are perfect, but they all look about the same. I've never tested it out, as it's meant for commercial installations, but that might help with this issue if you already have the monitors.
  • 1Angelreloaded - Saturday, October 5, 2013 - link

    instead of using 3 monitors, have you ever thought about moving to a large format display they make professional based ones for 40inch and higher now at 4k levels with IPS tech, that's a lot more realestate than say 3 1080p s side by side.
  • nathanddrews - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    I think I already know the answer to this: "too much".

    How much would it actually add to the cost of a monitor to have it pre-calibrated using this method at the factory? Obviously a trained human would be expensive and time consuming, but what about a series of sensors on the assembly line that tune the display before packaging? Panels that meet the requirements for uniformity and gamut get one price, displays that can't make the cut go off to a different bin. Doesn't seem too ridiculous to me.
  • Senti - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    The problem is the transportation after that will likely screw everything in unpredictable way.
  • nathanddrews - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    How, exactly? I've never heard of shipping or transporting affecting display calibration...
  • foxalopex - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    Professional calibration software like Spectraview is designed to ask for a recalibration every 2-4 weeks. So yes by the time it gets to you it's not as calibrated as it could be. Keep in mind this is a professional monitor so they're nothing like a normal user. If you're more on a budget, a good $600-700 IPS monitor would probably work for most folks but for folks who insist on the best, you can't go wrong.
  • DanNeely - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    That drift is due to components aging with; a good factory calibration should still be good when you unbox it and will stay better than what we normally suffer with for a while since the bad one is drifting too.

    Some tablet vendors have been doing it for at least a year now. I'd be interested in seeing how much the screens on them have drifted if Anandtech used any of the tablets they did color calibration testing a year ago as daily drivers.
  • bobbozzo - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    see above:
    cheinonen - Friday, September 27, 2013
    ...the out-of-box experience is also very good and it is still more uniform than any other display tested to date. The calibration does not affect the uniformity.
  • cheinonen - Saturday, September 28, 2013 - link

    Just as an FYI, measuring the uniformity to the degree that I do takes close to two hours per display. That's with a fast meter and moving it between locations as quickly as possible but still allowing time for each sample to settle and be accurate. Adding that kind of testing to every display will increase the price a lot. Most companies wouldn't see any return on investment there, since the majority of consumers still don't care enough. Even if you only add $25 to the cost, that's a lot for most people unless you're talking about $1,200 displays.
  • dushyanth - Friday, September 27, 2013 - link

    which would you choose: Eizo CS230 or this

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