A few weeks I put a speculative bid on a 2013 Mac Pro on eBay thinking that I’d probably be outbid. Little did I know that a few hours later I’d find myself making a payment and waiting for it to arrive.
I’ve been using my 2014 27 inch 5k Retina iMac since, you guessed it, 2014. It’s been my main editing machine for the past 7 years and I was starting to get concerned about the display I would need to match the editing experience on the Mac Pro to the 5k iMac.
I came across the BENQ design and photography series of monitors, which had excellent reviews among creatives online both in terms of quality as well as in terms of value. As I didn’t have an option to test the displays locally I was forced to make a decision by comparing specs and watching a bunch of youtube videos.
The BENQ PD2700u 4k HDR monitor kept coming up as the best value to performance ratio. While it doesn’t cover 100% of the Adobe RGB colour gamut neither does the iMac and the monitor does come with a calibration certificate from the factory for 100% coverage of the sRGB range.
A couple of days later it showed up and I decided to put it to the test against the iMac to find out just how comparable the two displays are.
I don’t think that I need to describe the design of the iMac to anyone but the BENQ display is surprisingly smaller than the iMac even thought they are both 27 inch due to the very slim bezels. What I particularly like about the PD2700u display is that is very minimal and can fit on pretty much every desk.
Taking the shape of the screen aside the main difference between the two is the coating on the display. The 5k iMac has a glossy feel to it, while the PD2700u has a matt anti reflective coating.
The glossy finish on the iMac makes the colours pop more, with a lot more apparent saturation and contrast, which are more pleasing when consuming content. The matt screen of the PD2700u feels a lot more refined and makes it a lot easier to work in a bright room during the day.
Personally in the past I always picked matt over glossy displays but this was never an option with the iMac and that was a compromise I had to make.
Now that I had the opportunity to test them side to side, I think I still prefer a display with a matt coating for content creation as opposed to a glossy display for content consumption.
One main difference between the two displays is the iMac 5k running at a 5k resolution (5120 x 2880 pixels) and the PD2700u running at 4k resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels).
I always run the iMac at a scaled resolution of 2560×1440 however it’s important to remember that this is essentially a non-native resolution for the 4k display.
With the displays next to each other and when pixel pipping, text rendered on the iMac display felt slightly sharper and better defined. In practice, however, unless you see the displays next to each other you would struggle to tell the difference.
It’s worth saying that for some reason a DisplayPort connection gave me much better results than HDMI.
While this isn’t a direct comparison of the two, given that one is a full computer in a display and the other one is just a monitor, but it’s worth mentioning that the PD2700u also serves as USB hub:
I used the Datacolor Spyder 5 Elite calibration hardware to calibrate and compare the displays. First up was the sRGB colour test and as expected both cover 100% of the sRGB gamut.
Then came the Adobe RGB gamut test and surprisingly both displays were again extremely close with the iMac just over 2% better.
And just for comparison I also had a look at the P3 colour gamut, which is supposed to be a strong point for the Apple Displays, with the iMac again just edging it with 3%.
In conclusion these two displays are a lot closer together than I expected before purchasing the PD2700u and I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by the results.
I would have no hesitation recommending the PD2700u or any of the BENQ design series of monitors, so much so that I am thinking of purchasing a second one to run alongside this one. They do exactly what they promise on the box and offer extremely good value for money.