|Introduction & Specifications|
Most people associate business with boring, but there's little about NEC's MultiSync EA273WM-BK monitor that's a snooze-fest. As the premiere model in NEC's next generation MultiSync EA Series of desktop displays for high-performance enterprise users, the EA273WM-BK brings a big 27-inch, LED-backlit display to the workplace and is ready to impress with a completely redesigned chassis that's up to 30 percent thinner and 25 percent lighter than previous models. It also has a 130mm height-adjustable stand and a boatload of inputs, including DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA, DVI-D, and an integrated 4-port USB 2.0 hub.
In addition to its physical characteristics, NEC also slimmed down the power consumption on this display. NEC claims the EA273WM-BK reduces power by more than 40 percent compared to previous generation EA Series models, and it's loaded with eco-friendly features like an ECO Mode and smart sensing technology with ambient light and human sensors. By detecting user activity in front of the monitor, the EA273WM-BK will darken or turn off its panel to reduce power by up to 95 percent during periods of inactivity, and spring back into action when you return from flirting with the secretary down the hall (or from your lunch break, as it were). This power saving features won't work miracles on a per user basis, but if you're in charge of outfitting a department or entire business with hardware, the potential for collective savings can add up in a hurry, not to mention let you sleep more soundly at night knowing you're doing your best not to offend Mother Nature, if that's the sort of the thing that helps you rest easy.
The EA273WM-BK has other tricks up its sleeve too, which we'll cover in detail on the following pages. We'll also take a close look at the panel's performance, which is a monitor's primary function, after all. In this case, NEC opted for a Twisted Nematic (TN) panel with LED backlighting rather than a higher quality (and more expensive) IPS screen as found on NEC's Professional lineup. With the exception of a couple of PVA panels, all of NEC's Commercial Enterprise Displays sport TN screens.
There shouldn't be any squinting with the EA273WM-BK. Despite rocking a large 27-inch panel, the native resolution is 1920x1080 (Full HD, 16:9). It also has a 5ms response time, 1,000:1 contrast ratio (typical), 300 cd/m2 brightness, and fairly standard viewing angles for a TN display. One thing that really stands out, however, is the weight. The EA273WM-BK weighs less than 16 pounds and feels surprisingly light for its size, which is the first thing we noticed when unboxing the unit. By comparison, NEC's PA271WM we reviewed in October 2010 is quite a bit chunkier and weighs nearly twice as much at 30 pounds. It's not really an apples-to-apple comparison, nor does it need to be. Bottom line: you won't throw out your back unboxing the EA273WM-BK.
The EA273WM-BK is the largest of NEC's refreshed MultiSync EA Series, and is one of just two models currently available, the other being NEC's 24-inch EA243WM. It sports a similar feature-set, but in a smaller package with a 1920x1200 (16:10) resolution and 250 cd/m2 brightness for $100 less ($399 compared to $499).
Even though the EA273WM-BK is 'only' 15 pounds and change, it's a well balanced monitor that doesn't feel at risk of tipping over from a violent sneeze or from getting pegged by a USB rocket when mid-week office warfare inevitably breaks out. The stand is easily one of the high points and is height adjustable up to 130mm, supports screen tilt from -5 degrees to +30 degrees, swivels from -170 degrees to +170 degrees, and rotates from landscape to portrait mode (0 degrees to 90 degrees). There's also ample room in the stand's spine to hide the thick power cable, USB cable, display cable, and any other wires you're routing behind the monitor, a real boon for obsessive compulsive types.
Alternately, you can pop the panel off the stand/base by removing a series of Phillips screws and stick the monitor on your wall via the Vesa Mount (100mm). It's a feature that's of limited appeal in the workplace, unless you work from a home office.
The EA273WM-BK features 27 inches of TN screen real estate bordered by a thin bezel measuring barely more than half an inch on all four sides (we measured it at 9/16th of an inch). It's native resolution is 1920x1080 (Full HD, 16:9 aspect ratio), enough to fire up a Blu-ray video and do a bit of multitasking with multiple windows open at the same time, but well short of the number of pixels that can be comfortably packed into a 27-inch display.
What may be of more interest to the workhorse crowd is the panel's ability to rotate from landscape to portrait mode, a welcome feature for power surfers and Word document wizards. Combined with the flexible base/stand, the EA273WM-BK lives up to its billing as an ergonomic monitor for the office. Unfortunately, the OSD doesn't rotate with the screen, so if you need to make adjustments on the fly, you'll either have to turn the screen back into landscape mode or tilt your head like an owl.
Another feature that's friendly for the workplace is NEC's ControlSync technology. Users are able to copy the settings from a designated 'Master' monitor to up to five additional sub-monitors by using the included ControlSync cable. The neat thing about this is that settings made to the master panel will be automatically applied to all others. This also works with the human and luminance sensors so you don't have to worry about disabling the energy saving features on monitors you won't be sitting directly in front of.
There are plenty of connectivity options on the EA273WM-BK. Underneath the panel are two USB 2.0 ports, a USB uplink, audio input, ControlSync input/output, HDMI (with HDCP support), DVI-D, 15-pin D-Sub connector, and a DisplayPort. NEC also hid a pair of 1W speakers in the back. Like most integrated cans, NECs are nothing to write home about, though they're sufficient for watching YouTube clips and listening to video presentations.
Over on the side of the panel are two additional USB 2.0 ports and a headphone jack.
|Calibration & Controls|
NEC tells us its engineers redesigned the On Screen Display (OSD) controls with a user-friendly menu that's easier to navigate, and for the most part, it really is. Separate and dedicated up/down and left/right controls makes it a breeze to get where you want to go without fumbling through button combinations, and the controls that do pull double duty with alternative functions are clearly labeled within the OSD.
Touch-sensitive buttons run along the lower right corner on the bottom and side bezel. We continue to be unimpressed with touch-sensitive controls and prefer physical buttons, which do a superior job at registering input commands, especially if you're trying to rapidly scroll through your available options. NEC's implementation is on par with the better touch-sensitive controls we've played with, which means you'll only occasionally curse their janky behavior, and usually only when you're in a hurry.
NEC provides a fair amount of fine grain control within the OSD, along with half a dozen preset "DV (Dynamic Value) Mode" options. These are described by NEC as follows:
If you're really into leveling up your eco-friendly skill-set, you'll love the Carbon Savings menu. This displays the estimated carbon savings in kg and displays how much money you've saved on a cost per kWh basis.
One feature that's noticeably absent on the EA273WM-BK is Picture-in-Picture (PiP). This is something that's found on NEC's higher end professional PA Series, but not the EA models. Understandable, though it would have added value to a $499 TN panel trying to justify its somewhat lofty price tag.
We're now using DisplayMate for Windows (www.displaymate.com) as part of our monitor evaluation process. DisplayMate's smorgasbord of tests allow us to root out potential problems areas, such as geometry distortion and color inaccuracies, to name just two.
Twisted Nematic panels tend to vary wildly by model, unlike IPS displays, in which even the worst performing monitors are usually still pretty good. The EA273WM-BK proved above average in our DisplayMate tests, though it wasn't without flaws. It displayed excellent black levels without any evidence of backlight bleeding, but white level performance wasn't quite as good with noticeable degradation at the 250 mark in DisplayMate. Ideally blocks 240 through 255 would all be visible. Performance picked back up in the grayscale portion of DisplayMate. The display also did well with color intensity, but we were most impressed with the out-of-box experience. Just as we saw with NEC's PA271W, the EA273WM-BK appears to be well calibrated from the factory.
The EA273WM-BK is a good all around performer, though photo editing professionals will still want to save a little extra coin and invest in a large size IPS monitor. NEC's LED backlight burns bright and may be the reason why photos appear a bit oversaturated.
Viewing angles are also prohibitive for professional graphics applications, limitations of which are especially noticeable in portrait mode. If you're primarily interested in filling out spreadsheets and editing vacation photos for posting on Facebook/Google+, the EA273WM-BK is certainly serviceable.
While DisplayMate lays out a monitor's performance in black and white (and blue and green and red and...), we also take into consideration a subjective analysis. After all, you're not purchasing a monitor to view test patterns for hours on end. To see how the EA273WM-BK performs in the real world, we viewed a series of high definition movies and fired up a few games. Torturous, we know, but hey, you guys are worth every minute of our entertainment.
The Grey @ 1080P
Depending on where you work, your boss is likely to frown if he finds you've been spending your weekdays watching Blu-ray movies and high-definition YouTube videos, though if you're determined to slack off on the job, there are worse monitors to watch videos on. The EA273WM-BK provides 27 inches of Full HD real estate, big enough to host an impromptu cubicle party. Serious movie buffs will be put off by the slightly saturated colors, and there isn't a whole lot for armchair directors to get excited about, but for casual viewing, this is a big panel that does a decent job playing back content.
NEC's EA273WM-BK is positioned as a workhorse for the enterprise consumer and isn't primarily targeted at gamers, nor should it be. We love the size, but limiting a 27-inch panel to just a 1920x1080 resolution results in a lower pixel density than what you'll find on higher resolution monitors of the same size, or lower size panels of the same resolution.
The advertised 5ms response time is also a little higher than what you'll find on high performance monitor intended for gamers, though it's not too often we run into serious ghosting or streaking problems on today's monitors, this one included. If you're the type that enjoys taking in the scenery, you'll miss out on deep, rich colors offered by other panels, and once again the tendency to produce saturated and almost over-bright images will rear its unwanted head. Otherwise, the EA273WM-BK handled our game tests without issue.
|Performance Summary & Conclusion|
Let's get one thing straight. Unlike NEC's MultiSync PA271W, the EA273WM-BK reviewed here isn't a suitable panel in our opinion for graphics professionals or anyone who makes a living doing tasks that require the accuracy of an IPS panel. The EA273WM-BK employs a less expensive Twisted Nematic screen, albeit a large one packed with ergonomic features for the work place. Colors tended towards being overly bright and saturated, though black level and grayscale performance were both superb in our tests. It also proved decent for watching Full HD movies and playing games without being annoyed by ghosting or other artifacts induced by low quality panels.
Where the MultiSync EA273WM-BK really struts its stuff is in its blue collar work ethic. Need to view a webpage or PowerPoint slide in portrait mode? Rotate the screen. And don't worry about tangling all those wires behind the display, there's plenty of room to tuck them neatly away in the arm of the base. We also dig the easy-to-navigate OSD controls, though the choice to implement touch sensitive buttons wasn't ideal.