Our BenQ EW3280U monitor review takes a look at an interesting proposition in the brand's range. Not all creative professionals need a professional-grade monitor with all the trimmings and an over $1,000/£1,000 price tag. For some, a superb all-rounder with impressive colour accuracy and coverage is enough, especially one that also comes with a terrific feature set like the BenQ EW3280U. This $649/£539 4K display may be part of the brand’s entertainment line, but, testing the monitor for different tasks over several days, we found it to be just as capable of handling productivity and creative workloads, as well as gaming.
That's thanks to features like Brightness Intelligence Plus (which optimises display performance for movie watching and gaming), wide sRGB and DCI-P3 colour gamuts, FreeSync, and USB-C connectivity with 60W PD. It proves that being a jack of all trades isn’t necessarily a bad thing. See our picks of the best monitors for photo editing and the best USB-C monitors if you're looking for more options, but, for now, let's dive in and take a look at the BenQ EW3280U.
BenQ EW3280U monitor review: features
4K resolution looks excellent on a 32-inch panel, and that’s the first win here. The BenQ EW3280U is just the right size for that sharp 3840 x 2160 viewing. Then there’s BenQ’s B.I.+ and HDRi sensors, which detect the intensity of your content and current ambient light, respectively, and automatically adjust things like brightness, contrast, and colour temperature to elevate that viewing experience.
That’s on top of the different colour modes available (Cinema HDRi, Rec.709, and Game HDRi), VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification, and Low Blue Light presets. I found that all of these ensure that you’re getting the best viewing experience, whether you’re streaming movies, gaming, or editing your latest video. Meanwhile, gamers will appreciate AMD’s FreeSync technology as it should deliver smoother, artefact-free gameplay despite its 60Hz refresh rate.
As this is a multimedia monitor, it tries harder in the audio department than most displays. It comes with two 2W speakers, plus a 5W woofer for that extra oomph. Sound modes like Cinema, Dialog/Vocal, and Game are also on hand, as is a volume wheel, a rare feature on displays.
Screen size: 32-inch | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Panel technology: IPS | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1,000:1 | Supported colors: 1.07 billion | Colour space coverage: 95% P3 | Viewing angles: 178/178 degrees (horizontal/vertical) | Connectivity: 2x HDMI 2.0, 1X DisplayPort 1.4, 1X USB-C, 1x 3.5in headphone/mic jack
Not that you’ll need that, thanks to its included remote control. Many monitors come with it, but the one on the BenQ EW3280U might just be the most comprehensive one we’ve seen and used yet. It lets you not just adjust the volume from a distance but also access the OSD, quickly set HDRi, BI+, low blue light, and audio presets, and change inputs without having to reach over every time you need to make such adjustments.
Finally, there’s a USB-C port that boasts 60W PD for connecting USB-C peripherals and charging your laptop. That should make up for the missing USB port.
BenQ EW3280U monitor review: build and handling
For a display that delivers stunning, vibrant images, the BenQ EW3280U feels lacking in design. It isn’t necessarily what you’d call a beautiful monitor. In fact, it looks too simple and functional for one designed for entertainment.
Apart from the grill with the BenQ logo, the back is devoid of any stylish elements. The front of the monitor is in the same boat, although its 8mm top and side bezels do give it a modern look. And not everyone’s going to be a fan of that rectangular aluminium base, which does take up a bit of space on your desk and has an inexplicably hollowed-out middle. It might be an attempt to make the monitor lighter while simultaneously giving you storage space for smaller peripherals and the remote control, but it just feels like it’s in the way.
The BenQ EW3280U doesn’t have the best ergonomics. Its stand barely articulates and only offers 15-degree back and 5-degree forward tilt. There are no swivel, pivot, or height adjustments, sadly, which is a bit of a surprise considering this is an entertainment monitor. If you wish to sit back and relax and still get the best angle, you might have to mount it on an articulating arm. Luckily, a 100mm VESA mount is on hand for that purpose.
Don’t expect much in terms of ports, either. There are several input ports – two HDMI 2.0, DP 1.4, and USB-C. But, there isn’t a USB hub or even a single USB port. However, if you’re still using wired headphones, the 3.5mm audio port might be a welcome extra.
BenQ EW3280U monitor review: performance
It’s in its performance where the BenQ EW3280U truly shines. It might just be a monitor for multimedia consumption, but it delivers sharp and stunning picture quality worthy of creative workflows. That’s especially with its sRGB and DCI-P3 colour gamuts and Rec.709 colour mode, excellent viewing angles, and high colour accuracy.
Its DisplayHDR 400 might not be proper HDR. Still, it delivers accurate colours and gives those visuals a boost in saturation, even if it doesn’t do much in boosting the dynamic range in the darkest and brightest sections to get back some of the lost details. The HDRi modes are also effective in that same way.
While BenQ doesn’t mention anything about its colour accuracy, it’s actually better than one would expect from a non-professional monitor. Using our Datacolor Spyder X Pro colorimeter and the DisplayCal 3 calibration software, we found that although the BenQ EW3280U isn’t accurate enough, especially for creative work, out of the box, it does improve considerably post-calibration, yielding a Delta-E of just 1.20 and more specifically 1.95 for its DCI-P3 colour profile.
BenQ only advertises a 95% DCI-P3 colour gamut on the BenQ EW3280U’s official specs page, but it actually delivers better colour coverage during our testing. It gives us 99.9% of sRGB (although the Datacolor app says 100%) as well as a higher 97.3% of the DCI-P3 colour space.
The brightness falls short, albeit only a little. During our tests, we recorded 344cd/m2 and 990:1 contrast ratio at 100% brightness. That’s not far from the 350-nit brightness and 1,000:1 contrast ratio BenQ has promised, even if it is disappointing to see a less than healthy contrast than the already average number promised.
What BenQ is trying to do with its monitors’ audio capabilities is admirable, and the 2.1 treVolo speaker system in the BenQ EW3280U is certainly a welcome addition, especially considering it’s a monitor designed for media consumption. Regular users who aren’t very particular when it comes to audio quality will definitely approve.
However, if you’re one who’s a little more discerning, the speakers on this might not be enough. The dialogue is hard to hear even at full volume, the high end isn’t crisp, and there’s not much bass either despite that 5W built-in sub. Also, the soundstage isn’t very wide, so everything sounds crowded during scenes when there are several audio elements. And, the centre of the soundstage seems to be missing, which is probably why the dialogue isn’t as clear and why vocals in music sound a little hollow.
For a better audio experience, you’re better off using a separate pair of speakers or a soundbar.
BenQ EW3280U monitor review: verdict
The BenQ EW3280U makes 4K viewing a bit accessible for regular folks who don’t necessarily need professional or gaming tools to perform their every day tasks. It's a high-quality yet affordable proposition for regular users who go from sending emails, drafting work documents and creating presentations to unwinding to the latest releases on their favourite streaming platforms.
But, it’s also much more than that. This monitor might have been intended for multimedia consumption and productivity, but it boasts features that will see you through creative tasks and gaming as well, including great coverage of the DCI-P3 and sRGB colour spaces, high colour accuracy, and Adaptive-Sync.
In short, you’re still getting a well-rounded display that wears many hats. And, at $649/£539, it’s a bargain.