BenQ PD3220U Review: Professional 4K IPS Monitor With USB-C

The BenQ PD3220U is a 32" 4K IPS designer monitor with a wide color gamut, decent factory calibration, USB-C, KVM and more!

Bottom Line

The BenQ PD3220U is an excellent 32″ 4K IPS monitor with extensive connectivity options (Thunderbolt 3, KVM, hotkey puck), a robust design and plenty of useful features. Factory calibration could be a bit better though, but it’s good enough for most use cases – more serious colorists can fine-tune the display via a colorimeter.

Design:
(5.0)
Display:
(4.8)
Performance:
(4.5)
Price/Value:
(3.5)
4.5

The BenQ DesignVue PD3220U is a 32″ 4K IPS monitor for professional color-critical work with excellent factory calibration, a wide 95% DCI-P3 color gamut, various dedicated color modes and plenty of useful features.

Additionally, it features a premium and robust design with extensive connectivity options, including Thunderbolt 3 input/output and integrated KVM functionality.

Image Quality

The BenQ PD3220U is based on LG’s LM315WR1-SSB1 31.5″ 4K 60Hz IPS panel with 178° wide viewing angles, a 5ms (GtG) response time speed, a wide ~142% sRGB gamut volume, a peak brightness of up to 300-nits and a static contrast ratio of ~1,000:1.

BenQ PD3220U Service Menu

The 4K UHD resolution offers a high pixel density of 139.87 PPI (pixels per inch) on the 31.5″ viewable screen of the PD3220U. As a result, you get plenty of screen space as well as sharp details and text.

By default, the screen is set to 150% scaling, but we find that 100% (no scaling) offers a better experience as small text is still readable at a normal viewing distance and you get more screen real estate. You can see how different scaling options affect screen real estate in the images below.

Now, one of the main strengths of this monitor lies in its various different color modes (mainly Display P3, DCI-P3, sRGB, Adobe RGB and Rec.709) that come with their respective ICC profiles, which you can find here.

First, let’s see what kind of image quality and accuracy we’re getting out of the box with the default Display P3 color mode and without any ICC profile applied.

For testing, calibration and profiling, we’re using the DataColor SpyderX Pro and DisplayCAL software.

BenQ PD3220U DataColor SpyderX Calibration
BenQ PD3220U Picture Accuracy Default
Click to enlarge

The Display P3 color space uses the same gamut as DCI-P3, but instead of a flat 2.6 gamma, it has the sRGB tone curve, which the monitor follows correctly in this mode with a small deviation at 95% (2.47 instead of 2.27). The color temperature, however, is noticeably higher at 6900K instead of its 6500K target (or 6300K for DCI-P3), so white has a subtle bluish tint.

When compared to the sRGB color space, the Display P3 color mode has an average Delta E of 1.86 and a maximum of 4.44 due to the increased saturation.

To get rid of the over-saturation in color-managed applications, you can apply the provided BenQ PD3220U Display P3 ICC profile, in which case the average Delta E is reduced to 0.95 and the maximum to 2.7 – in accordance with BenQ’s specified Delta E ≤ 3 factory calibration.

Alternatively, you can just use the monitor’s sRGB color mode or clamp the gamut via software if you have an AMD or NVIDIA GPU. Here’s the monitor’s gamut coverage in the Display P3 color mode:

BenQ PD3220U Color Gamut

By default, the brightness is set to 100/100, resulting in 230-nits, which is more than bright enough under normal lighting conditions, especially after considering that most colorists work in a light-controlled environment. The minimum brightness in this mode is just 27-nits, so the BenQ PD3220U is suitable for work in particularly dim rooms.

While BenQ specifies a static contrast ratio of 1,000:1, the panel is rated at 1,300:1. In this color mode, the monitor has a contrast ratio of 919:1 due to the applied ‘BenQ Uniformity Technology.’

This feature improves brightness and color temperature uniformity across the screen but sacrifices a bit of brightness and contrast. However, note that there is no way to manually enable this feature, it’s just applied to the sRGB and Display P3 color modes. You can disable it in the service menu, but you can’t enable it for other modes.

Thanks to the panel’s high native contrast ratio (for an IPS panel at least), the 919:1 result is actually excellent as we’ve seen 1,000:1 IPS displays drop to ~500:1 when using this type of technology.

Here’s a look at all color modes and how they perform.

 Display P3
(Default)
DCI-P3Adobe
RGB
sRGBRec.709HDRUser
Max. Brightness (nits)229267270230273274274
Min. Brightness (nits)27454627474746
Contrast (x:1)919152215319211533 14361241
Color Temperature6900K6300K6800K6900K6700K7300K6900K
Gamma2.22.572.212.212.382.542.12
Delta E (avg.)0.951.522.130.510.523.792.57
Delta E (max.)2.73.856.141.521.4910.424.89
sRGB (%)99.699.899.697.596.799.799.7
DCI-P3 (%)95.59585.670.269.797.196.1
Adobe RGB (%)8281.18367.666.783.182.6

While you can change brightness and sharpness in these modes, color temperature and gamma settings are locked.

Apart from the DCI-P3 color mode, all modes have a higher color temperature than the target, resulting in a ‘colder’ whitepoint. The DCI-P3 mode has a proper color temperature of 6300K and a correct 2.6 gamma, while the maximum Delta E is higher than ideal (less than 3) since the monitor doesn’t cover the entire DCI-P3 color space.

Next, the Rec.709 color mode is close to the ideal 2.4 gamma and has the least deviation from the 6500K color temperature target, whereas the sRGB mode is excellent apart from the higher color temperature.

The gamma in the Adobe RGB mode follows the sRGB tone curve instead of the target, which is 2.2 flat. However, considering that the monitor is not intended for Adobe RGB usage with only ~83% color space coverage, this is not a big issue. The mode can still be useful for some comparisons as it clamps the gamut from extending into the DCI-P3 color space.

Note that the HDR color mode just simulates HDR by saturating the colors and increasing the sharpness to 10 (5 is the default). The image appears more vibrant in this mode, but it’s not accurate as shown by the high maximum Delta E of 10.42, high 7300K color temperature and a wonky 2.54 gamma.

HDR

Once you actually enable HDR in Windows or in a compatible game (or both), the monitor will display an ‘HDR: On’ message and the Color Modes will be locked, along with gamma and hue settings.

Unlike with the HDR Color Mode, Saturation is left at the default 50 value instead of 65, but sharpness is increased to 10. There should also be a small boost in peak brightness, but we only measured 276-nits when displaying a pure white HDR scene, a bit shy of the specified 300-nits.

Either way, this monitor doesn’t even meet VESA’s entry-level DisplayHDR 400 certification nor does it have any proper HDR hardware besides a wide color gamut.

On displays with this type of HDR support, the HDR experience will vary from content to content. Most HDR content will look washed out (the first example below in Doom Eternal).

In other content (the second example, God of War), you might get a bit more saturated colors, but since the monitor lacks proper contrast and brightness, details in shadows and highlights will be lost. You might prefer the added vibrancy, but keep in mind that this is far from the creator’s intent or the true HDR viewing experience.

BenQ PD3220U SDR Doom EternalBenQ PD3220U HDR Doom Eternal
BenQ PD3220U God of War SDRBenQ PD3220U God of War HDR

Other Color Modes

You’ll also find several miscellaneous color modes:

  • CAD/CAM – increases sharpness, color temperature and gamma
  • Animation – improves visibility of dark objects (adjustable from 0 to 10)
  • Low Blue Light: Multimedia – lowers the color temperature (6500K)
  • Low Blue Light: Web Surfing – 6000K
  • Low Blue Light: Office – 5500K
  • Low Blue Light: Reading – 5200K
  • Darkroom – lowers the gamma (1.91)
  • M-Book – increases color temperature (7400K)
  • DICOM – 8200K and 3.26 gamma

We don’t recommend using these modes if you want an accurate image. For instance, CAD/CAM increases the sharpness, but it has inaccurate colors and gamma. It can still be useful to quickly highlight some lines or details if needed, for instance.

BenQ Uniformity Technology

The contrast ratio is lower in the Display P3 and sRGB color modes due to the uniformity technology being enabled. Here’s how the monitor’s uniformity looks with and without this feature:

BenQ PD3220U No Uniformity Technology
User mode without BenQ Uniformity Technology
BenQ PD3220U Uniformity Technology
sRGB mode with BenQ Uniformity Technology

As you can see, without BenQ Uniformity Technology applied, the top of the screen is up to 18% dimer than the center, though this isn’t really noticeable to the naked eye during everyday use. For professional color-critical work though, the sRGB and Display P3 modes provide you with excellent uniformity!

Calibration

The User mode allows us to adjust the color temperature and gamma (1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.4 and 2.6), as well as hue and saturation. There are three color temperature presets:

  • 6500K – we measured 7000K
  • 9300K – we measured 10200K
  • 5000K – we measured 5300K

So, we used the ‘User Define’ mode with configurable red, green and blue channels. By default, it has a color temperature of 6900K. Changing red to 98, blue to 94 and leaving green at 100 resulted in a color temperature of 6500K on our unit.

After calibration, the minimum brightness is 47-nits, the maximum is 272-nits, while the average contrast ratio amounts to 1165:1, gamma follows the sRGB tone curve accurately, the maximum delta E is 1.25 and the average Delta E is 0.33.

You can download our ICC profile here. We calibrated for 120-nits, which is at 33/100 brightness setting.

The overall color gamut is also slightly increased with 99.8% sRGB coverage (142.5% gamut size), 96.7% DCI-P3 and 83% Adobe RGB.

BenQ PD3220U After Calibration
BenQ PD3220U Brightness Contrast and Color Temperature

With this profile, you get the full gamut for more vibrant colors when viewing most content, while color-managed applications are properly mapped to sRGB. In case you want to restrict the gamut to sRGB for all applications, we also tested AMD’s software gamut clamp.

Using AMD’s Custom Color, the monitor’s color gamut was restricted to 98.7% sRGB in order to prevent over-saturation in non-color-managed applications. We also got excellent calibration results with an average Delta E of 0.4 and a maximum of 1.01; gamma followed the sRGB tone curve accurately, color temperature was at 6500K and we got a contrast ratio of 1181:1.

If you have an NVIDIA GPU, you should be able to get similar results using the novideo_srgb third-party application. We’re not sure if Intel GPUs have a similar feature.

BenQ PD3220U AMD Custom Color

Performance

The BenQ PD3220U has a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz and no support for variable refresh rate, so it won’t be particularly interesting to gamers.

However, the monitor has a decent pixel response time speed, so you won’t see a lot of trailing artifacts behind fast-moving objects. There’s also no dark-level smearing that’s usually associated with VA panels.

For pixel response time and input lag testing, we’re using OSRTT.

BenQ PD3220U OSRTT

The response time overdrive settings are available under ‘AMA’ in the OSD (On-Screen Display) menu with three modes available: Off, High and Premium.

We recommend using the default High mode since it’s a bit faster than ‘Off’, while ‘Premium’ adds too much overshoot. To illustrate these measures in real use, we’re using Blur Busters’ UFO ghosting test.

BenQ PD3220U UFO Ghosting Test

As you can see, ‘High’ is slightly clearer than ‘Off’, while ‘Premium’ adds visible inverse ghosting. Here’s how the BenQ PD3220U compares to some other monitors we tested, including the MSI MAG281URF 144Hz monitor that has visible overshoot at 60Hz even at its lowest overdrive setting.

You can also see how a higher 144Hz refresh rate of the BenQ EX3210U improves motion clarity in comparison to 60Hz.

Benq PD3220U vs BenQ EX3210U vs MSI MAG281URF Ghosting UFO Comparison

The BenQ PD3220U has a display latency of 10.47ms on average. Since the monitor has a 16.67ms refresh window, you won’t be able to notice any delay between your actions and the result on the screen.

BenQ PD3220U Input and Display Lag

Next, we detected one dead pixel in the lower left corner of the screen, but due to the monitor’s high pixel density, it’s really not noticeable in real use.

The monitor uses DC dimming to regulate brightness meaning that the backlight is completely flicker-free.

Lagom’s 4a inversion (pixel-walk) test also revealed some minor flickering, though we haven’t encountered this in regular use. Displaying this particular pattern does not make the monitor exhibit noticeable horizontal lines, like it’s the case with some other displays (mainly those based on Samsung’s VA panels).

Finally, we didn’t find any stuck pixels, frame skipping, image retention or similar visual artifacts. IPS glow and backlight bleeding was also minimal; the image below is taken at a distance of ~1 meter in a dark room with the monitor’s brightness set to 120-nits.

BenQ PD3220U IPS Glow 120 Nits

Features

At the rear of the monitor on the right side, there’s a directional joystick for quick and easy navigation through the well-organized menu.

Next to the joystick, you’ll find a power button and two hotkeys – by default, one can be used as a shortcut for up to three Color Modes, while the other changes the input source. You can assign other shortcuts to these two buttons, including DualView, KVM and mute.

Along with the monitor, you also get a Hotkey Puck that you connect to the screen via the provided mini USB cable. The puck has five buttons and a dial, allowing you to remotely and effortlessly adjust OSD settings. The buttons can be assigned to the same five shortcuts mentioned above, while the dial can be used to adjust brightness, contrast or volume.

Other useful features in the OSD menu include input source selection, Picture in Picture and Picture by Picture (up to 4 inputs), brightness adjustment of the LED power indicator, Auto Switch (input detection), an on-screen timer and off timer.

DualView is another interesting feature that allows you to display two different color gamuts (Color Modes) side by side.

BenQ DualView Feature

Finally, you can make all of your OSD-related adjustments in the Display Pilot desktop application using your mouse and keyboard.

The Display Pilot software includes a few additional features, including Auto Pivot (automatically changes the screen orientation when rotated) and ICC Sync, which will automatically apply the ICC profile related to the active Color Mode – we recommend disabling this if you’re using the ‘User’ mode with manual calibration.

BenQ Display Pilot Software

You also get access to three more hotkeys for your keyboard, Print Assist (places a grid on the screen for easier alignment), Desktop Partition (offers templates and customizable layouts for splitting the screen) and Application Mode (allows you to apply Color Modes to specific applications).

Design & Connectivity

Note: The dead/stuck pixels on the images are from the camera, not the monitor

The base and stand of the BenQ PD3220U monitor are made of metal and are quite heavy and sturdy. The stand doesn’t take up a lot of your desk space as you can place items on it.

You also get full ergonomic support with up to 150mm height adjustment, 90° clockwise pivot, +/- 30° swivel, -5°/20° tilt and 100x100mm VESA mount compatibility, while the screen has a matte anti-glare coating that prevents reflections without adding too much graininess to the image.

Further, the screen has a 4-side borderless design with ~1mm thin bezels, but there are black borders around the image: ~6mm thick at the sides and top, and ~7mm at the bottom.

Connectivity options are abundant and include DisplayPort 1.4, two HDMI 2.0 ports, Thunderbolt 3 input (DP Alt Mode and 85W PD), Thunderbolt 3 output for daisy chaining, a USB-B upstream port, two USB-A 3.0 downstream ports, a mini USB port for the Hotkey Puck, dual 2W built-in speakers and integrated power supply.

On the right side of the display, you’ll find a headphone jack, an additional USB-A 3.0 port and a USB-C port (data transfer only). There’s also an integrated KVM switch (one source needs to be connected via Thunderbolt 3).

In the box, along with the monitor, hotkey puck, factory calibration report and user’s guide, you’ll get all the cables you need, including HDMI, mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort (without adapter), Thunderbolt 3, power and USB-A to USB-B.

Price & Similar Monitors

The BenQ PD3220U price amounts to $1,200. It’s expensive, but if you want a high-quality 32″ 4K IPS panel for color-critical work and you can put the monitor’s premium features (Thunderbolt 3, KVM, etc.) to good use, it is worth the price.

If you’re looking for something similar at this price range, you should also check out the Lenovo P32u-10 with full Adobe RGB color gamut, the Dell U3223QE with an IPS Black panel and the ViewSonic VP3268a-4K (sRGB gamut only).

For both gaming and work, check out the LG 32GQ950.

Finally, you can check out our best photo/video editing buyer’s guide and our best Thunderbolt 3 monitors guide for more information.

Conclusion

BenQ PD3220U DisplayNinja Review

All in all, the BenQ PD3220U is an excellent monitor when it comes to its build quality, connectivity options and plethora of exclusive features. It uses a high-quality IPS panel, but despite BenQ’s 6500K color temperature factory calibration report, we measured 6900K in most color modes, which is too high.

Further, BenQ’s Uniformity Technology greatly improves brightness uniformity and thanks to the panel’s high native contrast ratio, the monitor still manages to maintain a decent ~1,000:1 contrast ratio in this mode, unlike many displays with this type of technology.

Sadly, you cannot enable this feature in Color Modes other than sRGB and Display P3, which both have an inaccurate color temperature without the ability to adjust it! In the end, you have to choose between image uniformity and color temperature accuracy.

A simple solution to this would be to either unlock color temperature settings in Color Modes or to make Uniformity Technology available in the User mode. Hopefully, BenQ could make this happen via a firmware update.

In truth, a lot of these professional factory-calibrated displays often have a ~500K color temperature deviance, most likely due to panel variance. Since every serious colorist should also have a colorimeter at hand to ensure proper accuracy at all times (as the backlight degrades over time, occasional re-calibration is required), the 6900K color temperature of the PD3220U is not a deal-breaker.

You get an excellent contrast ratio for an IPS panel and decent brightness uniformity even without the BenQ Uniformity Technology; therefore, we can recommend the BenQ PD3220U to any professional photographer or designer working with the sRGB color space, that might also want to dabble in the DCI-P3 color space or just enjoy the extra color gamut for more immersive content consumption.

To ensure you’re getting your money’s worth, you’ll need to take advantage of Thunderbolt 3 connectivity as you are, after all, paying extra for it.

In addition to its exceptional design and build quality, extensive connectivity options and all the useful features, such as the hotkey puck for convenience, DualView, DisplayPilot software, KVM and PiP/PbP, the BenQ PD3220U is fully equipped for a comfortable and productive photo/video editing experience.

Specifications

Screen Size31.5-inch
Resolution3840×2160 (Ultra HD)
Panel TypeIPS
Aspect Ratio16:9 (Widescreen)
Refresh Rate60Hz
Response Time5ms (GtG)
Speakers2x2W
PortsDisplayPort 1.4, 2x HDMI 2.0,
Thunderbolt 3 input (DP Alt Mode, 85W PD)
Thunderbolt 3 output
Other PortsHeadphone Jack, USB-B, USB-C,
3x USB-A
Brightness250 cd/m²
Brightness (HDR)300 cd/m²
Contrast Ratio1000:1 (static)
Colors1.07 billion (8-bit + FRC)
95% DCI-P3
HDRHDR10
VESAYes (100x100mm)

The Pros:

  • High pixel density
  • Wide color gamut
  • Robust and versatile design
  • Extensive connectivity options, including KVM and Thunderbolt 3

The Cons:

  • Too high color temperature without the ability to manually adjust it in most Color Modes
  • BenQ Uniformity Technology only available in two Color Modes

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Rob Shafer

Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time managing DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.