Review of the Benq SW 321c – does the monitor matter?

Yes, the monitor matters! And this one is probably one of the very best out there for photographers. Read on if you want a few more details on why monitors are important for us photographers and why the new Benq is so good.

This spring, Benq reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to test and review a new display for them. I print a lot and have always been very concerned with color profiling and working in a fully calibrated environment. When Benq introduced their new high resolution, high gamut 32-inch monitor, I did not hesitate for one second. Of course I wanted to check it out!

The Benq SW 321c photographer’s monitor

Why does the monitor matter?

First, all monitors have their specific characteristics and will display brightness, contrast and colors slightly differently unless they are calibrated towards a common standard. A regular cheap office panel will show a limited number of colors and may drift in brightness, contrast and colors both during a working session and throughout the lifetime of the display. To add to the confusion, various web-browsers may also treat colors differently. So, when you send your latest photograph to a licensee or Instagram, Facebook or 500px for that matter, different viewers will probably see your image with some variation of these properties and most likely the image is different from what it was on the monitor you edited it on. You cannot do anything with the screens of your audience, but you can make sure that your own image is as close as possible to a calibrated standard. Therefore, a good display that is calibrated regularly and display as many colors as possible close to a true standard, is very important.

Second, if you print your photographs, you have likely experienced the phase of frustration when your print comes out looking totally different than the image you edited on your screen. If you don’t print yourself, but have your images made on a local printshop or a high-end printer company; having a good, calibrated monitor may be even more important. Waiting for your prints to return before making new adjustments and new proofs can be very time-consuming and expensive in the long run. Working in a calibrated environment with a good monitor is important for achieving consistently good print results with minimal use of proof printing.

Third, it is important that the monitor is easy and comfortable to work with. As photographers we may spend many hours continuously working on images and that can be quite exhausting. Thus, it is essential to have a monitor that is comfortable for your eyes and head and can be physically adjusted to fit your position.

The SW 321c

The Benq SW 321c is a huge display. As the name suggests, it is 32 inches. That may not sound very much bigger than your regular 25 or 27-inch panel, but side-by-side, the screen area dwarfs the screen area of my 27-inch iMac. At the same time, it somewhat matches in external size, as the iMac has a large area under its proper screen and the Benq has a very slim frame. It has a nice, contemporary design, smoothly blending into a modern office environment. The small footprint means that it doesn’t take up too much of your precious desk space. The display can be adjusted in all directions on the very solid and stable foot and even rotated for portrait orientation. This way you can use the whole screen when editing vertical images.

The Benq sw 321c has a huge screen area, but at the same time nicely matches the external dimensions of my 27-inch iMac. The sleek and modern design makes it blend nicely into a contemporary office environment.

The area of this display makes it easy to work with several windows open side by side. However, as a photographer, I would recommend keeping your old display next to the SW 321c for maximizing the display area and work with e.g. image administration on your old display at the same time as you do the proper editing in full size on the SW 321c. I usually have Lightroom open on my iMac and do the editing in Photoshop on the connected Benq. Having 32 inches available for a single image makes it very easy to see and adjust any details necessary, whether it is noise, sharpness, colors or other properties in the file that needs to be addressed.  


This is a high-resolution backlit LED monitor with 3840×2160 pixels. On a 32-inch display that translates to a density of 137 PPI. More than enough to give a stunningly crisp and clear image in full size. Furthermore, it is a “high gamut” panel that shows a tremendous amount of colors and color-variations with smooth transitions. For the technically interested, it shows 100% of sRGB color space (used online) and 99% of adobeRGB color space (used for printing and display on high quality screens etc) with a 16-bit output.

The screen shows a very good level of contrast (1000:1). Importantly, there is practically no variation in brightness, contrast and colors when viewed from different angles. IPS (in-plane switching technology) means that you can easily shift position at your desk without that affecting how your image look. This is important to make long lasting editing sessions less stressful, and frankly something I haven’t thought about before I experienced it with this display myself. Additionally, the uniformity of the screen with respect to brightness, contrast and colors is striking. There is absolutely no “vignetting” (darker corners) commonly seen on other displays. This is vital when editing images in full-screen view. And of course, you want to do that when you have 32 inches of wonderful real estate at your disposition!

Hardware calibration, as possible with this monitor, is a huge advantage, as you calibrate the screens own chip instead of calibrating the computer’s graphics card. Especially important when you work on multiple monitors.

Set up

The monitor came very well packed with everything you need to release its full potential in everyday use. It comes readily calibrated and even with a full calibration report for your specific display. This shows how seriously Benq takes these matters. All cables, the shading hood and the Benq puck was included. More on that later. It even came with a device for cleaning the special matte surface of the display. Set up was self-explanatory.

Cables were easy to attach and the menu for selecting input etc. was logical and easy to use. The screen and hood were assembled, connected to my iMac and in use less than half an hour after it arrived at my door. If I could wish for one thing, it would be a slightly longer usb-c cable to make it easier to place the screen on your desk, more independently from your computer.

In everyday use, favorite features

Several factors make the editing experience comfortable and easy. It is important that you don’t feel that the monitor comes between you and the image (although, admittedly it does!) With the Benq this is not a problem. The included hood and the extremely matte screen completely remove all reflections. This screen is very, very matte. After having used glossy-suface iMacs the last years, this was a very welcome feature. The display is very comfortable to work with for hours to an end, and I feel much less tired in my eyes and head than I used to.

My current office-space. I have connected the Benq SW 321c to my 27-inch iMac and use the Benq for editing and the iMac screen for digital asset management and other work. Having the monitor close to a light-source or even a large window is not a problem due to the hood and the extremely matte surface of the screen.

One of my favorite features is the included puck. This is a small, cabled remote with programable buttons. I have set mine up for the wheel to adjust brightness and some of the buttons to switch between color-spaces. That way, I have the option of instantly inspecting my image in different color-spaces to judge how it looks on different monitors. I can adjust my image to look good depending on what my intended use is without having to move it between different monitors. The puck can be set up easily according to your preferences in the screen menu system.

The Benq puck is one of my favorite features. Adjusting screen brightness and switching between color-spaces to proof your images is a breeze.

It is important to note that colors and contrast naturally may appear punchier and more vibrant on a high-gamut display using large color-spaces like adobeRGB. I have talked to many photographers that find their images to appear low in contrast and saturation when exported to web or viewed on other monitors after having been edited on a high-gamut display. Using the puck to switch between colors spaces on the SW 321c makes addressing this issue a breeze, as you can easily see how the image will appear when viewed in different colors spaces, e.g. sRGB used on internet.

As mentioned, I print a lot, so another welcome feature is the Paper Color Sync technology. In short, this is a free software that can be downloaded from Benq. You can choose your printer and paper, and the monitor will mimic the print output. Somewhat like soft proofing in LR or PS, but potentially more accurate as it takes your specific screen into consideration. I use it every time I print and have found that my need for proofing copies have been significantly reduced. I hope that Benq continues to improve this program and include more printer- and paper options.

Concluding remarks

I have now been using this monitor extensively, more or less every day, for several months. I have edited images for printing, licensing and for sharing on various online platforms. It was easy to set up and has worked flawlessly in full integration with my iMac and my printers. My conclusion is clear. This is the best monitor I have ever worked with. It comes highly recommended!

Who is this monitor for? Well, I believe Benq are primarily aiming at photographers and videographers in need of an ultra-high-quality display for editing. This product definitely checks all the boxes there. Many of my fellow photographers prefer to work on a laptop. Convenient when you travel a lot or have limited space to do your editing. However, if you have a small space available at home or in your office, I would highly recommend getting a large monitor set up permanently to plug your laptop into when you are doing the proper, final editing. Editing images on a 32-inch calibrated high-resolution, high-gamut display is a totally different ballgame than working on a 15-inch laptop!

This monitor will set you back around 1800 euro. As photographers, we tend to use money on the “fun” stuff: cameras, lenses, tripods and bags, even if those things represent a minimal upgrade. I am definitely guilty here. However, if your focus is on image quality, putting your hard-earned money into a high-quality monitor may be one of your better investments. Especially if you make prints or license your work.

I am primarily a fine-art photographer and I do very little video. I have not edited any video material on this monitor yet. However, specifications and other reviews hint that it may be very good at that as well. Furthermore, I have not yet calibrated my monitor. As mentioned, it came calibrated, and having printed a lot from it already, I find colors and contrast to be spot on so far. I will probably do a calibration in the next few weeks.

Benq did not pay me for this review, but I received the monitor free of charge with the option of keeping it upon completion of a review.

For full technical details and further information, visit Benq homepage:



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