Big & Beautiful – The NEC MultiSync PA322UHD with SpectraView II

When you open the box of the NEC MultiSync PA322UHD and lift the screen out (probably after getting a friend to help you) your first impression is that it’s a big screen. A really big screen. A full 32 inches across the diagonal. Once you’ve made space on your desk, or bought a bigger one, and plugged it in to your computer your second impression is that the picture quality is beautiful. Truly stunning. I’m running Mac OS Yosemite and when the default desktop pic of Yosemite’s Half Dome popped up it was almost, but not quite, as impressive as seeing the real thing.

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NEC MultiSync PA322UHD has a resolution of 3840 x 2160, a gamut of 99% Adobe RGB and comes with NEC’s SpectraView II software for full hardware calibration. The PA322 is aimed at the photography, design and film/TV editing markets but would suit anyone wanting a high quality UHD display. UHD (Ultra High Definition) has four times the resolution of a HD TV. The SpectraView II software has previously only been available with NEC monitors outside of Europe but now NEC are shipping it here with the MultiSync PA series. The SpectraView Reference 322UHD is a slightly higher specced version of the same monitor. It comes with a hood, pixel fault warranty, SpectraView Profiler calibration software and has to achieve slightly higher quality control targets.

Connections & Compatibility

The PA322UHD has 2 DVI, 2 Display Port and 4 HDMI inputs so connecting it up to your computer shouldn’t be a problem. However, you will need to make sure your system supports the high resolution and at a high refresh rate. Those of you who have read my blog on the EIZO ColorEdge CG318-4K will know that I had trouble getting it to work with my MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013). This wasn’t the fault of the EIZO monitor but rather the spec of my Mac. This time I had no trouble at all. The PA322 connected via a mini Display Port cable into a Thunderbolt port on the MaC and came up at full native resolution at 60hz refresh rate. Being the wrong side of 40 years old the type at full UHD was too small for me to be comfortable working with so I used the MacOS display scaling options to get the type and icons a bit bigger. All the settings worked at 60hz and all looked sharp. The one you choose depends on how big you like the type compared with how much room you want on the monitor.

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Mac OS display scaling allows you to get text to a more readable size on very high resolution monitors.

 

The UHD 3840 x 2160 resolution is more widely support by graphics cards than the full cinema spec 4096 x 2160 so if you are going for a high resolution monitor it’s an important factor to think about, unless of course you have a specific need for full 4K.

SpectraView II Calibration

The SpectraView II software comes on a memory stick and is quick and easy to install. The interface is pretty basic and ironically doesn’t seem to cope that well with display scaling but it has more than enough features. It supports all the usual suspects for measurement including the X-Rite i1 range and Spyders (including the new Spyder5).There are plenty of preset calibration targets, including many for the film/TV industry. I thought the Photography preset had a slightly high brightness target at 140 cd/m2 but it’s easy enough to define your own target. The software may require a USB connection to the monitor for communication on some systems for some MultiSync models. The software also has built-in test patterns and allows you to adjust some hardware settings on the monitor. Overall it’s a good piece of software, but one that could do with an interface revamp.

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SpectraView II has a basic interface but it does have most of the features you need to get a good calibration and profile.

 

When I launched SpectraView II it auto detected the i1 Display Pro that I had connected and warned me when I clicked the calibrate button that the screen still had a few minutes to warm up. Once I’d waited the calibration process was easy, but took longer than most similar software. However, it doesn’t require any user intervention so you can go an make a coffee while it does it, and I’m always happier to get accuracy rather than speed. The resulting calibration was very, very good. The validation report gave very low delta E values. Our test image looked excellent in Photoshop, and being a UHD screen it not only looked very accurate for colour with exceptionally smooth tonal gradations but also was pin sharp with a totally pixel free look to it.

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Editing Images on a UHD Display

Editing photographs in both Lightroom and Photoshop on the PA322UHD was a joy. You had loads of space for palettes etc and still had a very large view of the image. At any of the display scaling options the image was very crisp, no matter what zoom factor I chose. I was able to evaluate sharpening and retouching very well whilst still being able to see most or all of the image. The sharpness of the image also helped when matching from screen to print as you didn’t have that slightly softer look on screen that you sometimes get when comparing to a good inkjet print.

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Conclusion

The PA322UHD surpassed my expectations. My previous experience of high res screens connected to my two year old MacBook Pro led me to expect a bit of struggle getting a setup I was happy with but out of the box the PA322 was excellent. I think if you are a photographer then UHD makes more sense than full 4K purely because you’ll find it better supported on a wider range of computers and graphics cards. The PA322UHD with the SpectraView II software does make a very good choice for photo or video editing. If you need the very highest standards of colour accuracy then the jump up to the SpectraView Reference 322 would possibly be worth it in the longer term. The SpectraView Profiler software is better and the hood and extra quality assurance means you would expect slightly better image quality.

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