BenQ PD3220U Evaluate: The MacBook Monitor Apple By no means Made

"The BenQ PD3220U is the super-sharp 4K monitor that Mac fans need."

  • Simple, minimalist design

  • Great stand adjustments

  • Exact colors

  • Easy to use menu

  • Good port selection

  • Thick closet

  • Confusing color modes

  • Expensive

If you're a photographer, videographer, or designer, you're probably using a MacBook. However, it is not easy to find a suitable 4K monitor that fits the display of the MacBook. Apple's own monitor selection is limited to the upcoming $ 5,000 Pro Display XDR, and expensive 4K displays don't show colors the same way.

That's a problem.

BenQ built the PD3220U to solve the problem. From image quality to physical design, the PD3220U would look great next to your MacBook Pro. But does the price of this 4K monitor at $ 1,200 match the value?

It's space gray, but is it Apple worthy?

According to BenQ, the PD3220U was developed for the MacBook. I'll talk about what this means for image quality later, but the similarity is obvious only in appearance. Its color is not explicitly called "Space Gray", but it can be. The stand, base and cabinet are all minimalist. The only branding is a small BenQ logo in the corner of the base.

The base is made of aluminum, while the stand and the housing are made of plastic to allow impressive adjustability. The PD3220U can be tilted, swiveled and swiveled a full 90 degrees for vertical use. The height adjustment is just under six inches, which corresponds to the PD3200U and offers numerous arrangement options on your desk. The Dell UltraSharp U3219Q fits in with its adjustability. The 32UD99-W from LG comes close to this, but cannot rotate for the alternative orientation.

benq pd3320uDan Baker / Digital Trends

Setting up the PD3220U was easy. Thanks to a button mechanism that attaches the stand to the screen, no screws are required. However, it is a heavy monitor at 23 pounds (including stand and base). Cheaper 32-inch BenQ monitors like the EW3227U are considerably lighter, although the older PD3200U was about five pounds heavier.

The color is not officially called "Space Gray", but it can be.

The PD3220U may appear slim from the front with its thin bezels and stand, but its profile isn't that slim. The back of the case is thick and chunky compared to the ultra-thin monitors from Dell and HP. These consumer-friendly models are designed for a different audience, but it's hard not to notice the extra bulk of the PD3220U alongside the PD3200U or the Dell UltraSharp 3219Q

Two speakers are built in, but they are not used very much. Listening to music through a tin can is no fun, and you can get it here. Some monitors have no speakers at all, so it is difficult to criticize the PD3220U too much.

Shocked by Thunderbolt

The PD3220U contains every desired port. This is good news for the creative people this monitor is designed for. On the back there are two HDMI 2.0 ports, DisplayPort, two USB-A 3.1 ports, one micro-USB port and two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports. This effectively turns your monitor into a USB hub.

benq pd3320u

benq pd3320u

These two Thunderbolt 3 ports are great additions and allow video pass-through and a power output of up to 45 watts. Connecting your MacBook Pro via USB-C is the only cable you need at your desk. However, these downward connections are difficult to reach, making connecting and disconnecting a device difficult.

There are some downstream ports on the right side of the screen. Data transfer is supported via USB-A 3.1 ports, a USB-C 3.1 port and a headphone jack.

A simple menu

According to the design of the monitor, the menu system is also simple. In the lower right corner of the screen there is a joystick in four directions, two quick selection buttons and an on / off button. With the left quick selection key you can quickly access the color mode change, while with the right key inputs are displayed.

According to the design of the monitor, the menu system is simple.

A click on the joystick offers quick access to the brightness control, which is practical. From there you can jump to the deeper menus, which contain numerous color modes such as display P3, DCIP-3, sRGB, Adobe RGB, M-Book, no blue light mode and more. "M-Book" is specifically for connecting to a MacBook, while the others depend on the color space in which you work.

This menu also provides access to general settings such as speaker volume, contrast and sharpness. Navigating is easy, which is a huge asset in my book.

Which mode should I use?

No wonder that the BenQ PD3220U offers excellent image quality across the board. The 3,840 x 2,160 resolution IPS display is incredibly sharp and 31.5 inches large enough to justify the number of pixels. It is of course a matte display that is ideal for detailed creative work.

However, the experience depends on which color mode you are using. The default mode is Display P3, which is based on Apple's own color space, which is used on all Apple devices, including iPhones and MacBooks. In other words, it is said to be very similar to the color temperature of MacBook screens where a lot of people happen to be editing photos. Despite incredibly accurate screens, MacBooks usually have a cooler hue. This is replicated in display P3. It's not identical, but it's almost like a MacBook screen like we saw on such a large external monitor. For some people, that alone sells this monitor.

However, the P3 color mode display turns out to be a somewhat strange choice by default. As I immediately noticed, this is not the best example of the functions of the monitor. You don't want to surf the web or watch movies in this mode because it only offers a 480: 1 contrast ratio and a brightness limit of just 190 nits. It just looks boring. For photography and videography, however, the exact color accuracy and the large color gamut in this color mode is excellent. We recorded an average color error of 1.14, which is pretty strong (lower is better in this test), and the display rendered 87% of the AdobeRGB color space. Monitors designed for standard consumer use typically process only 70 to 80% of AdobeRGB. It is clear what this monitor was made for.

However, the P3 display was not originally developed for monitors, which is why BenQ has also integrated some other modes. For example, Adobe RGB mode is also a good choice. The PD3220U achieves a maximum of 312 nits and a contrast ratio of up to 850: 1 in Adobe RGB mode. This is no better than the HP DreamColor Z27X G2 Studio or the LG 32UC99-W, but offers less washed-out colors.

Most useful, however, is a mode called M-Book. According to the company, it offers a color rendering very similar to that of Display P3, with the exception of an optimized white point, so that images are better displayed on displays. The result is a very pleasant viewing experience with the same great colors, except with more appropriate brightness and contrast. This is the one that I have returned to.

While these different modes are somewhat confusing, BenQ relies on its customers to know what they are doing. Since this is a professional monitor, it feels appropriate.

benq pd3320uDan Baker / Digital Trends

This is not a monitor for games. By the way, this is fine, but the 60 Hz refresh rate and lack of adaptive synchronization limit gaming capabilities.

I tried to calibrate the monitor in Display P3 mode with our Spyder5Elite colorimeter. However, it didn't help much. This monitor is factory calibrated and looks great right away – if you choose Adobe RGB mode.

Our opinion

The PD3220U was developed for creative people who need precise and precise colors. The price of $ 1,200 and the numerous color modes make this clear. It's expensive, but the MacBook-specific color mode makes it a must for Apple-oriented developers.

Are there alternatives?

There are many 4K monitors, many of which are half the price of the BenQ PD3220U. Its predecessor, the BenQ PD3200U, is also cheaper. While there isn't a Thunderbolt 3 port or MacBook-specific color mode, it's the better option for most people.

The same goes for options like the LG 32UD99-W or the Dell UltraSharp 32 4K USB-C monitor U3219Q, both of which cost hundreds of dollars less. They lack the MacBook-specific color mode, but they offer the excellent image quality that many people are looking for at a lower cost.

How long it will take?

The BenQ PD3220U should last many, many years. The connections are diverse and future-proof, and the stand and base feel robust. The monitor comes with a three-year standard warranty that applies to all Ben-Q monitors.

Should you buy it

Yes. You should buy the PD3220U if you need the MacBook-specific color mode on which the success of your work depends. It's not meant for Windows users – they have more options – but dedicated Mac fans should seriously consider the PD3220U.

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