HP ZR30w 30-Inch S-IPS LCD Monitor Review

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How should you go about determining what size monitor to buy? It's simple - go out and purchase the biggest, baddest display you can afford, because really, you only get one shot at this thing called life, so why waste it staring at a 23-inch panel? If you're still not convinced, consider that, more than any other component in your entire build, it's the monitor you'll use to its fullest 100 percent of the time. You can't say that about your dual-videocards, six-core processor, or even your keyboard, but it certainly applies to your display, the one piece of hardware that brings the entire build together.



Suffice it to say, when HP asked if we were interested in evaluating their new ZR30w display, we answered 'yes' before they were finished giving us their pitch. We didn't need to hear the rest - the fact that this is a ginormous 30-inch display built around a sexy S-IPS panel is all we needed to know. S-IPS, or Super In-Plane Switching, is the Rolls Royce of display panels and almost always offers significantly better color reproduction and far wider viewing angles than the much more common (and cheaper to produce) Twisted Nematic (TN) panels. S-IPS displays also tend to tap deeper into your gold reserve than TN-based monitors, and when you're talking about 30 inches of screen real estate, things can get expensive awfully quick. Or at least that used to be the case.

HP's ZR30w carries an MSRP of $1,300, and depending on your perspective, that's either a king's bounty compared to what lower end 23- and 24-inch monitors run, or a veritable bargain considering you could have spent three or four times as much  for the same size display not all that long ago. Pitted against other 30-inch displays on the market, the ZR30w is one of the least expensive models around.  And unlike your other components, it's probably not going to become obsolete in 6-12 months, so we tend to view the price point as a positive in this case. Barring any manufacturing defects or unfortunate acts of God, a quality monitor can potentially last several years without being any worse for wear.

But is the ZR30w a worthy way to spend $1,300? Let's find out.

HP ZR30w 30" S-IPS LCD Monitor
Specifications and Features
Display Size
30" Widescreen
Resolution
2560 x 1600
Aspect Ratio    
16:10
Brightness
370 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio
1000:1 (Typical)
Response Time
7 ms (GTG)
Viewing Angle
178º / 178º (Horizontal / Vertical)
Display Type
S-IPS
Connectors
DisplayPort, DVI-D
Power Consumption
<2W standby / 185W maximum / 135W typical
Speakers
No
Stand
Ring - Tilt Adjustable
I/O Ports 5 USB 2.0
Dimensions (with stand)
27.3" x 23.3" x 10.9". (WxHxD)
Weight
28.6 lbs
Included Accessories

Power Cord, D-sub Cable, HDMI to DVI Cable
Quick Start Guide, Ring Stand
Warranty
3 Years (Parts, Labor, On-Site Service)

Right off the bat we have to give HP kudos for listing the ZR30w's typical contrast ratio rather than the dynamic one. Contrast ratios measure the range between the brightest and darkest points a display can produce, and the higher the contrast ratio, the deeper the blacks, resulting in better detail in low light scenes. In an attempt to one-up the competition, monitor makers have begun listing dynamic contrast ratios. These are measurements of the brightest whites and darkest blacks a display can possibly produce, just never at the same time, so it's not as useful as a typical contrast ratio. So why use it? Dynamic contrast ratios are much higher than typical ones -- some as high as 12,000,000:1 -- and manufacturers are banking on consumers not knowing the difference between these two types. And for the most part, they're right.

The rest of the spec sheet is pretty typical of a 30-inch monitor, save for the 30-bit panel. According to HP, the ZR30w comes capable of delivering 4.1 million pixels and a staggering 1.07 billion displayable colors, enough to cover up to 100 percent of the sRGB and 99 percent of the Adobe RGB color ranges. It's clear HP is targeting graphics professionals and anyone else who values color accuracy above all else. 

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