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HP ZR30w review: HP ZR30w

HP ZR30w

Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
Expertise Graphics and display technology. Credentials
  • Once wrote 50 articles in one month.
Eric Franklin
6 min read

It's difficult to review the $1,660 HP ZR30w fairly, without also mentioning the $1,500 Dell UltraSharp U3011. I won't speak in specifics concerning the Dell's performance (we've tested but not yet reviewed it), but I will say that it offers many more connections and features than the HP ZR30w, at a lower price. The monitors use the same LG panel, but unlike Dell with the U3011, Hewlett-Packard decided not to include an onscreen display (OSD) with the ZR30w, severely limiting its performance potential, as the only adjustable option is brightness. Although the ZR30w has great baseline performance, it's difficult to recommend it when there are other, much more well-equipped 30-inch monitors on the market for a lower price.


HP ZR30w

The Good

The HP ZR30w has excellent performance, high brightness, and ample USB connections.

The Bad

The HP ZR30w lacks an OSD, limiting its adjustability. Also, compared with other 30-inch monitors, the ZR30w is missing many video connection options.

The Bottom Line

The HP ZR30w lacks too many features to be competitive with other, lower-priced 30-inchers.

Design and features
The HP ZR30w is a giant beast of a monitor. Not unexpected given its 30-inch screen size. The panel measure an ultrawide 27.2 inches and is 2 inches in depth initially and adds another inch for the power and connection options, bringing the panel's full depth to 3 inches. The footstand is the footstand to end all footstands, measuring a full 17 inches in width and 10.6 inches in depth. The monitor offers screen height adjustment, swivel, and a 35-degree back tilt. The bezel is 0.9 inch thick and the screen measures 5.2 inches from the desktop at its highest and 1.6 inches at its lowest. When at its lowest height, the monitor doesn't budge when knocked from the sides, and moves only slightly even at its highest height, thanks to its super footstand and 27.3-pound weight.

In the lower right-hand corner of the bezel is a button array, aligned horizontally. Options include brightness control and a source button and on the far right is the power button. Each button is about an inch wide, and each has a tactile feel and emits a soft "pop" when pressed.

The ZR30w's connections include DVI, DisplayPort, four USB downstream ports, and one upstream. Accessing these from the front was an exercise in mental anguish, as they are embedded fairly deeply in the monitor.

Design highlights:
Connectivity: DVI, DisplayPort, Component
Ergonomic options: 35 degree back tilt, 45 degrees swivel, 3.6-inch screen height adjustment range
Resolution: 2560x1600
Aspect ratio: 16:10
Audio: n/a
VESA wall mount support: Yes

Feature highlights:
Included video cables: DVI, DisplayPort
Backlight: CCFL
Panel Type: H-IPS
Screen film: Matte
Pixel-response rate: 7ms
Number of presets: n/a
Overdrive: No
Picture options: Brightness, Dynamic Contrast Ratio
Color controls: n/a
Gamma control: n/a
Additional features: Four USB downstream; one upstream

We tested the HP ZR30w through its DVI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using the included DVI cable. The display posted a composite score of 95 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.

The ZR30w excelled at most of our color-scales tests, tending to correctly display dark to light scales; however, we noticed a heavy green-tint problem in our color tracking test. This imperfection reared its ugly head somewhat when we watched movies. In our grayscale bars test, we were able to see dark gray down to level 2--two levels above black, which indicates good black-level performance. The ZR30w performed well in our uniformity and dark screen tests, showing only a minimum amount of backlight bleed-through. Unfortunately, we did see clear evidence of static streaking. Static streaking occurs when there are large changes in contrast and either the darker or lighter color "streaks" onto its counterpart, giving, for example, black bars on a white background.

The biggest problem with the ZR30w is that its performance cannot be adjusted beyond the luminance of the backlight, severely limiting its performance potential.

Text: In text, we saw no color problems with black text on a white background. Fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8 size. Not much wrong a monitor can do at this high a resolution on such a large screen.

Movies: We tested the HP ZR30w using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." We saw deep blacks and mostly accurate color that looked great on the huge 30-inch screen. Faces looked natural with no egregious tint problems, but an option to tweak the green down a few points would have been welcome.

Games: Because of our intimate familiarity with StarCraft II, it is our new favorite tool for judging color quality and vibrancy in games. Yes, StarCraft II looks incredible running at 2,560x1,600 resolution and has definitely spoiled us, as after testing we found ourselves crawling back to our 24-inch monitors, which seem positively limited now (sigh). The colors and vibrancy on the ZR30w are second to none and everything looked detailed and popped from the screen.

We also used DisplayMate's Motion tests and found that the ZR30w, with its 7-millisecond refresh rate, produced noticeably more streaking than the Samsung PX2370, running at a 2ms refresh rate.

Photos: The HP ZR30w delivered clear photos with good color saturation and accurate color tints.

Viewing angle: The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a quarter of the screen's distance down from the top. At this angle, you're viewing the colors as the manufacturer intended them. Most monitors are not made to be viewed from any other angle. Depending on its panel type, picture quality at nonoptimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when not viewed from optimal angles. On the other hand, IPS panels usually show only minimal color shifts with angle changes. The HP ZR30w has an LG H-IPS (Horizontal In-Plane Switching) panel, and when viewing it from the sides, we perceived the screen as darkening about 15 inches off from center, meaning its viewing angle is more than twice as wide as that of a typical TN panel.

Recommended settings and use: The HP ZR30w does not have an OSD, and only brightness is included as an adjustment option. Not surprisingly, this severely limits the amount of customization possible with this monitor. The display does include a Dynamic Contrast Mode, but maybe you already know how we feel about dynamic contrast.

As with most IPS-based monitors, HP gears the ZR30w mostly toward professional use requiring accurate color reproduction; however, the monitor is also great for watching movies, playing games, viewing photos, and general use. Gigantic, high-res screens usually are.

Power consumption: The HP ZR30w showed poor power consumption, with a Default/On power draw of 141.7 watts, compared with another 30-incher, the HP LP3065, which drew 133.62 watts in the same test. Both monitors' numbers are understandable given their gigantic screens. In our Sleep/Standby test, the ZR30w used 1.23 watts and the LP3065 pulled 1 watt. Based on our formula, the ZR30w would cost $43.12 per year to run, compared with the LP3065's $40.55 per year.

Brightness (in cd/m2)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Contrast ratio
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

CNET Labs DisplayMate tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Juice box
HP ZR30w Average watts per hour
On (default luminance) 141.7
On (max luminance) 141.7
On (min luminance) 71.39
Sleep 1.23
Calibrated (200 cd/m2) 87.9
Annual power consumption cost $43.12
Score Poor

Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.

Service and support
HP backs the ZR30w with a three-year limited parts-and-labor warranty that covers the backlight--the same great deal other vendors, such as Dell, provide. HP includes free shipping labels and in-home service, as well as support through its 24-7 toll-free number. Just be aware that the free service ends after one year and HP will charge you after that. HP's Web site offers Web chat and e-mail support that, according to the company, it replies to within an hour.


HP ZR30w

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 4Performance 8Support 8