Finally, the perfect video editing monitor: Fate led me to the inimitable BenQ PD3200Q

About a year ago, I found myself in need of a professional-caliber monitor for my video editing computer, which doubles as a workstation for most of the creative work I do with the Adobe suite (graphic design, flyer layouts in InDesign, line drawings in Illustrator).

While I wasn’t aiming for a reference monitor with perfectly calibrated colors, I did want something that could display the 10-bit color capability of my video card (an NVIDIA Quadro K1200 – nothing out of this world, but nothing to sneeze at) and provide broadcast color space if and when I needed it. Mind you, I’m not made out of Flanders Scientific money, so an industry-standard professional reference monitor was out of the question.

I was shooting semi-regularly with a Blackmagic 4K Production Camera at the time, so I wound up choosing BenQ’s BL2711U. I was seduced by its 4K resolution and ability to display sRGB and REC.709, and – of course – 10-bit color. I’d also picked up – quite by chance – a rather basic BenQ GL2760H in my travels, and it had been surprising me with its simple robustness and its ability not to burn my eyes off like the Dell U-series monitors I’d been using up to that point.

For better or worse, the BL might have been trying to fill a tall order a bit too soon – shortly after acquiring it, I realized that 4K on a 27″ screen sounded better than it worked in practice. Unfortunately, all those review sites also don’t tell you about QC issues: I quickly RMAed mine due a chronic flickering problem that turned out to plague most BL2711Us.

Yet, in a roundabout way, this massive disappointment was to become the stepping stone to a BenQ monitor which has properly impressed me and erased any of the frustration I experienced with the BL: After a particularly rough day of flickering issues, I contacted BenQ to voice my displeasure with it, and to my surprise, they were willing to work with me to RMA the BL (again) for an entirely different BenQ monitor.

I wound up being able to upgrade to a brand-new BenQ PD3200Q.

This model carried over all the important features of the BL – 10-bit, sRGB, REC.709, DisplayPort, etc. – in a massive 32″ WQHD/QHD (2K, 2560×1440) monitor. Going down in resolution to 2K wasn’t an issue either; the novelty of the 4K BL was quickly lost within the first week of using it; I ran it at 2K almost exclusively.

For once, somebody engineered DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort connections that don’t require a contortionist for servicing.

My only trepidation was that Amazon really had very few user reviews of the PD3200Q. Apparently, it’s not as if there’s a stampede of people looking for a professionally-equipped 32″ monitor – and that’s a shame, because this thing is a hidden gem.

So far, I’ve had the PD3200Q in operation non-stop (other than hibernation) since it’s arrival, and I wish it had been the monitor I’d bought in the first place. The image is flawless, the 32″ screen is perfect (just big enough to justify bragging rights if you’re that sort), and the size and resolution is absolutely perfect for working in After Effects or Premiere Pro. There’s no flickering, no light leaks, no unevenness, no ghosting, and the casing and stands are just as sturdy – if not better – than Dell’s best UltraSharp models.

The color space of the PD3200Q is pretty darn good too, if not spot on. For mere mortals who aren’t pulling gigs that justify throwing $5 to $7,000 at a used Flanders Scientific monitor, the PD3200Q really does the job quite admirably. (Tom’s Hardware agrees to the point that the PD3200Q just might be the greatest bargain of the decade as reference monitors go).

I also discovered that the PD has a multi-function “hotkey puck” that apparently lets you swap from one picture mode to another quickly. I didn’t even realize this when I chose it. It sounds like a great concept, and while I have the puck sitting below the monitor, I haven’t even had a chance to use it yet. Sounds like a pretty nice perk, though I’m wary of becoming attached to it.

“What are you looking at, ya hot-key puck?”

Perhaps it seems odd that I should be so happy that a monitor does what it is supposed to do, but like the never-ending search for the non-existent “perfect” camera, it is next to impossible to find high-end monitors with all the desirable features that aren’t subject to some weird quirk to drive you up the wall. Not so with the PD – it really is everything I wanted in the first place and then some.

The PD is such a joy that it’s hastened my desire to change my two secondary monitors. Since I’m not made of money, the 32″ PD is flanked by the BenQ GL2760H I mentioned earlier and the hateful QHD Dell U-series that burns my eyes and generally goads my demeanor into Bruce Banner territory.

While there’s no real reason other than QHD to retire the GL, the PD3200Q is so nice that it has tempted me to match it with a pair of PD2700Qs – the little brother to the 32″. It’d also give me an excuse to throw that old Dell in the trash can like the Hulk.

But that might have to wait a bit, as the only throwing I’ve done as of recent has been of money, at equipment. Namely, a Canon C300 which has proved to me once and for all that there’s no savings in buying a first-gen Canon C100 on the used market. But that’s another story.

(Note: No compensation from BenQ was provided for this review, nor were they aware that I’d produce any review, good or bad, in exchange for the monitor I ultimately received. In all fairness, I ripped them pretty hard on Amazon for my initial disappointments with the BL2711U).

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