NEC monitor

NEC monitor delivers accurate color, 508-compliance tools

Government employees working with graphics, 3D applications, simulations, modeling or even medical or scientific imaging will appreciate the need for accurate color. But how well imaging software can model real life depends largely on the type of monitor. And while a sub-par display can torpedo an entire computer setup, a high-end monitor can actually provide tools to help feds do their jobs and more easily comply with Section 508.

The PA242W from NEC Display Solutions is a 24-inch wide-screen display that has true LED backlighting using GB-R. That means that the LEDs are blue and green, but the monitor uses red phosphorous for illumination. This results in stunningly accurate colors that can be rendered quickly for just about any application. Using the Passmark MonitorTest benchmark, we found that the PA242W was able to render even very fine differences in hues that most monitors would have simply blended. Even with less than a 1 percent difference in color saturation, there was a hard line visible between color levels at both the bright and dark ends of the color spectrum. 

NEC was also able to eliminate the slight sparkle effect seen on previous models that was caused by the anti-glare coating. Given the horrible lighting conditions in most offices, for accurate color work anyway, the anti-glare coating is a necessity. The PA242W’s  matte finish can kill most glares, but it no longer causes the screen to twinkle.

Besides just displaying colors accurately, the PA242W also keeps light levels homogenous throughout the entire panel, which is not easy on larger and especially wide screens. Using our light meter, we could detect only a 28 lumen difference between the center of the screen and all four corners. Given that it takes 100 lumens of difference before the human eye can even notice, this makes the PA242W precise enough for any type of graphical work. 

Colors also are accurate. In fact, for the designers out there, the PA242W gets 100 percent coverage of the sRGB color gamut and 99.3 percent of the Adobe RGB gamut. We tested this out and were surprised to find that the monitor didn't skew towards any part of the color spectrum, as we have seen with almost every other unit we've tested over the past 10 years, other than ones specifically created for graphic designers. We suppose the PA242W would be considered specially made too, but with a price of $1,049, it's almost within the typical price range for 24-inch panels. An additional advantage is that the monitor achieves this color accuracy within seconds of being powered up. There is no warm-up time needed to achieve optimal results.

One of the most interesting things about the PA242W is that, while it's incredibly accurate, it doesn't need to be. It can be set up to emulate output on a variety of media. For a brochure, for example, users can set the PA242W to emulate what that output will look like once it gets on paper. The PA242W can also emulate other monitors, which is useful for those who plan to show their work on a large screen CRT or run it through a projector. That way, users can eliminate blending and color choices that are too precise for the presentation's ultimate destination. There are five open and available picture mode presets that users can define.

And the PA242W can emulate other devices using a picture-by-picture interface on its wide screen. The monitor is able to render its perfect color accuracy in a window to the left while the flawed image is shown on the right. This is all handed within the firmware of the display, so there shouldn’t be any rendering problems or flaws that aren't purposely induced. We ran the video benchmarks on both screens at the same time, and the native one for the PA242W performed just as well as when it took up the entire screen.

Probably one of the most helpful features for government beyond color accuracy is the fact that the PA242W can emulate the deficiencies humans have with color perception. The most common color deficiencies are already set up inside the monitor as special presets. That means that users can work on a brochure or a Web page in one window and see what it would look like to someone with, for example, red-green color blindness in the second picture. That way all government-produced products are accessible to as wide a range of users as possible.

As a final extra feature, in addition to lots of inputs such as DisplayPort and HDMI, is the unit also a USB hub with two ports acting as inputs and three as outputs. That effectively makes the PA242W a keyboard, video and mouse switch. Having a KVM would help multiple systems share the larger screen, which would be especially useful for those that have access to a standard box for email and then another more powerful system for design work.

Despite its size, the PA242W is also energy efficient. Without the USB hub engaged, the monitor is rated to pull in about 56 watts of power, which is great for a 24-inch display. In our testing, it actually often sat lower than that, in the 45-watt range most of the time. It also generated almost no heat. Even after a full day of use, there was very little warmth coming out of the topside vents, which is good news for overworked HVAC systems servicing busy offices.

The PA242W has a good price for such a precise LED-backed LCD monitor. Users can't get better than the 100 percent sRGB color gamut that’s ready almost as soon as it's powered up. Extras like a KVM hub help to round out the package, but the picture-by-picture feature is what really makes this monitor a star, especially with the pre-loaded Section 508 visual impairment views available right out of the box. The PA242W would be a great 24-inch monitor for anyone, but for government designers and content creators who need good value, color accuracy and 508-compliant output, it's especially attractive.    

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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