Designed for video editors, photographers, and graphic designers, the $1,199.99 BenQ PD3220U DesignVue Designer Monitor provides a 32-inch-class screen with a UHD (4K, or 3,840-by-2,160-pixel) native panel resolution, good color accuracy, a wide selection of ports, and a host of convenience features.
Examples of the latter include an ergonomic stand, as well as a BenQ-specific accessory, the HotKey Puck, for manipulating the monitor’s brightness, contrast, color-mode, and other settings on its onscreen display (OSD). It performed well in our testing for color accuracy, and it earns an Editors’ Choice as a large-screen professional monitor.
The PD3220U has a two-tone (gray-and-black) design. The panel is housed in a matte-black cabinet, and the monitor includes an ergonomically friendly stand that allows for height, tilt, swivel, and pivot adjustment. With the stand fully extended, it measures 24.7 by 28.1 by 7.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 22.9 pounds. The base has a large (8.5-by-11-inch) footprint, and a sturdy shaft extends from it to connect to the cabinet.
All four bezels are so thin as to be barely visible. This, combined with the monitor’s built-in KVM switch, makes the PD3220U a good choice for multi-monitor (and multi-computer) arrays.
he PD3220U’s 31.5-inch, 10-bit IPS panel has a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, a BenQ-rated 300-nit (candelas per meter squared) luminance, and a 1,000:1 rated contrast ratio. The pixel density works out to 140 pixels per inch (ppi), a good figure though not as high as 4K monitors with smaller screens. Of the monitors we have reviewed, the 24-inch LG UltraFine 4K Display (24MD4KL-B) takes the cake at 186ppi. Generally, the higher the pixel density, the sharper the image.
[accordion][spoiler][/spoiler] [spoiler]Content[/spoiler] [spoiler]Content[/spoiler][/accordion]
Return of the HotKey Puck
Although BenQ touts the PD3220U’s Mac-friendliness, it also works well with Windows machines, unlike the squarely Mac-centric LG UltraFine 4K Display (24MD4KL-B). That panel has no external controls and integrates directly with macOS, so you control the monitor through the operating system’s menus. Although the 24MD4KL-B can connect to most USB Type-C-equipped Windows computers, without a bit of modding you have almost no control over its settings.
In contrast, you can control the PD3220U’s OSD through the monitor’s mini joystick or through its HotKey Puck G2 included accessory, so you can change color mode and other settings regardless of your computer’s operating system. With a Mac, you do get the benefit of being able to control both the OSD settings and macOS’s display settings (the latter’s range of color modes, for example). For my testing and experimenting with this panel, I used an Apple MacBook Pro 15-Inch laptop, as well as our standard Windows testbed, plus my Dell XPS 13.
The HotKey Puck G2 is an improvement over its predecessor, which we saw with the BenQ SW320 and a few other BenQ monitors. The original HotKey Puck let you switch among Adobe RGB, sRGB, and Black and White color modes. The buttons could be mapped to other settings or color modes, as well. The HotKey Puck G2, like the original, sits on the desk in front of the monitor, to which it’s connected by a USB cable, and has three programmable buttons plus a return button. It adds a knob on top that, by default, lets you adjust brightness. Rotating the knob lets you cycle through all of the OSD’s settings. Picture modes are abundant, among them DCI-P3, Display P3, HDR, sRGB, Adobe RGB, Rec. 709, CAD/CAM, Animation, Low Blue Light, Darkroom, M-book, DICOM, and User.
Using the HotKey Puck G2 to control the PD3220U’s settings is more convenient than doing the same by reaching behind the monitor to manipulate the joystick controller. With the knob now sticking up, this accessory doesn’t really resemble a hockey puck anymore, but it works better than the original.
Emerging from the HotKey Puck G2’s side is a USB cable, whose plug fits into a Mini USB Type-B port on the bottom of the monitor. (Mini-B is seldom seen these days, but you needn’t worry about misplacing the cable, as it’s affixed to the HotKey Puck G2.) Other ports on the PD3220U include two HDMI 2.0 inputs, one DisplayPort 1.4 input, one USB 3.0 upstream and three USB 3.0 downstream ports, one USB Type-C port, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The Thunderbolt 3 ports support both data and power delivery (one up to 85 watts, the other up to 15 watts), so you can charge your laptop even as you’re displaying content on the monitor from it over the interface. You can use the Thunderbolt ports to daisy-chain the PD3220U to a computer and a second monitor.
Last, there’s a 3.5mm audio jack, for headphones or powered external speakers should you find the built-in speakers too faint. The jack is placed conveniently on the monitor’s side, as are one of the USB 3.0 ports and the USB-C port. The rest of the ports are face-down in back of the monitor, near the bottom. This is an often unwieldy arrangement, but thanks to the PD3220’s pivot mode, you can rotate the monitor into portrait orientation for easy access to those ports.
BenQ covers the PD3220U with an industry-typical three-year warranty on parts, labor, and backlight. The monitor ships with HDMI, mini DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, and USB Type-B-to-A cables, and it bundles the HotKey Puck G2.
Brightness & Color Fidelity
I did our color, brightness, and black-level testing for the PD3220U using our usual Klein K10-A colorimeter, Murideo Six-G signal generator, and Portrait Displays’ CalMAN 5 software. I measured the PD3220U’s luminance at 320 lumens in its DCI-P3 mode mode, topping its 300-nit rating, and 327 nits when I switched to HDR. I calculated its contrast ratio at 711:1, a bit short of the 1,000:1 ratio claimed by BenQ.
According to BenQ, the PD3220U covers 95 percent of the DCI-P3 and Display P3 color spaces, and 100 percent of sRGB. In our testing, it covered 94.9 percent of DCI-P3 (see the chart above) and 99.2 percent of sRGB. (We also tested it at 86.7 percent of the Adobe RGB space, for which BenQ doesn’t supply a rating.)
DCI-P3 is a color standard developed primarily for cinema video by Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), a joint venture among the leading movie studios. Starting in 2015, Apple has phased in DCI-P3 as its primary color space for its iMacs and MacBooks—just one of the reasons that BenQ considers this monitor as Mac-friendly.
Video & Photos
I viewed selections from our test video suite on the PD3220U. The monitor rendered video well, with colors looking bright and true, and detail showing well in both bright and dark scenes. HDR video showed a modest improvement in brightness and contrast over standard-definition (SDR) content. The monitor handled a series of photos that I viewed (and in some cases, edited) well. Audio from the embedded pair of 2-watt speakers was of reasonable quality for in-monitor speakers, though a little on the soft side.
With no notable gaming-centric features, this monitor is not a prime choice for gamers. For one thing, at a time when we are seeing some professional monitors with high refresh rates for the benefit of game designers, the PD3220U sticks to a standard 60Hz refresh rate. That said, it had no trouble handling the Final Fantasy XV benchmark at full 4K resolution with a minimum of artifacts, using our Windows 10 testbed equipped with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition card. If you have a rig with a powerful graphics card (see our roundup of the best cards for 4K gaming), there’s no reason you can’t get in a few rounds of your favorite AAA game while on a break from your design work.
A Feature-Rich Professional Monitor
With its sprawling screen real estate, ergonomically friendly stand, generous port loadout, good color accuracy, and host of convenience features, the BenQ PD3220U should thrill most creative professionals, whether videographers, photographers, or graphic artists.
Our Editors’ Choice large-screen professional monitor is the Asus ProArt PA34VC Professional Curved Monitor, which has a slightly larger (34-inch) curved screen at an ultra-wide (21:9) aspect ratio. It adds gaming features such as a 100Hz refresh rate and AMD FreeSync adaptive-sync technology. For its part, the PD3220U has a slightly wider range of ports (adding a USB-C port and having a more robust Thunderbolt power transfer rating of 85 watts, versus the PA34VC’s 40 watts). It also has the HotKey Puck G2, while the PA34VC is limited to a mini joystick for OSD control, and adds a built-in KVM switch. The BenQ PD3220U adds enough in the creature-comforts column to earn an Editors’ Choice in its own right.
Neither model covers the full Adobe RGB color space, which not all professionals need. For instance, many photographers, particularly if they specialize in shooting for the web, are better off sticking to viewing their wares in sRGB. But for those who need a monitor to cover the Adobe RGB color spectrum, you should consider the BenQ SW320 and the Editors’ Choice ViewSonic VP2785-4K, which each cover 99 percent of that space.