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What’s the difference between an NEC PA monitor, a SpectraView & a SpectraView Reference?

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Like many manufacturers NEC would like to maximise their sales by offering a range of products to suit different budgets and requirements. So they offer three levels of monitors aimed at professional users wanting high quality and accuracy. Unfortunately the differences between the levels isn’t always that obvious and it is easy to wonder why the prices are so different. Please note this article refers to NEC Europe monitors. The range differs in the USA.



The MultiSync range is targeted at amateur photographers, graphic designers and CAD users. The PA242, PA272 and PA302 monitors all offer IPS LED backlit panels with 99% Adobe RGB coverage, 14-bit look up tables, 10-bit capability, three year warranty, good connectivity and great features. They are very good monitors for design, image editing and video editing. They have great satin finish anti-glare coating delivers a wonderfully sharp, crisp image with deep blacks. But they do lack one important feature for colour accuracy and ease of calibration and that is the ability for software to edit their internal look up tables for a full hardware calibration. In the US you can buy the SpectraView II software to do this but for licensing reasons it’s not available in Europe. To get hardware calibration you need to step up a level.


All SpectraView screens start life as PA screens so you have all the features of the PA but in addition the firmware is updated so that the included SpectraView Profiler software can access the internal look up tables for a full, easy, and accurate hardware calibration. SpectraView Profiler is a version of the excellent BasicColor Display software. All you need to do is tell the software what brightness, colour temperature, gamma and a few other variables you’d like to calibrate the monitor to, connect a compatible calibrator and then the screen is measured and adjusted automatically. The SpectraView 242 and SpectraView 272 models are aimed at professional photographers, video editors and other users needing just that bit more colour accuracy than the average PA users and the hardware calibration does deliver that. You also get a mini Display Port cable that you don’t with the PA.

One thing that really colour critical users demand is very uniform colour across the screen. SpectraView monitors do have a Digital Uniformity Control feature and the screens are measured in the factory and variations compensated for, however there is no standard that the screens have to pass and and in rare cases there may still be visible uniformity problems. To get a guarantee of uniformity you have to step up a level.

SpectraView Reference

The SpectraView Reference 242, 272 and 302 are aimed at the most demanding users – top professional photographers, retouchers and prepress users. SpectraView Reference models are the most uniform 2 or 3% of monitors and they have to achieve a uniformity of less than 3 delta E. You get a certificate of uniformity with each screen. In addition the warranty is extended to five years with a  six month pixel defect guarantee and you get a shading hood. These extra features increase colour accuracy and let you trust the monitor that little bit more. You know you won’t get uniformity problems or unpack the monitor to find a full pixel failure.

Whilst we can outline the differences in the levels we can’t say if the extra features at each step are worth the price increase for you personally. Some customers demand the very best, others know they have to compromise to keep within their budget. For some the PA will be more than adequate, especially when compared to standard high street brands. For others for whom any imperfection of colour is unacceptable when they are editing their images only a SpectraView Reference will do.

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