Editors' note: Because of an oversight on our part, the original scores for Design, Features, and the overall score for the NEC Multisync PA271W were wrong. Design has changed from 8 to 9; features from 8 to 6; and the overall score from 8.7 to 8.8. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
$1,649! Yes, I just want to get the price out of the way as soon as I can. If you're a professional graphics artist and you don't buy the NEC MultiSync PA271W, its price probably scared you away. Still here? OK. Since you haven't moved on to another review, I'll assume you're comfortable with the price. If that's that case, the NEC is the best performing monitor we've tested and has the most ridiculously robust onscreen display we've ever seen. Its color reproduction is impeccable and it has virtually no backlight bleedthrough.
Beyond the price, its other limitation is its lack of connection options, especially when compared with the similar performing and lower priced Dell UltraSharp U2711. Although the NEC monitor performs better overall, the Dell U2711's performance is within the same echelon and has a plethora of connection options at a lower price. However, pro users will appreciate the NEC MultiSync PA271W's incredibly detailed onscreen display.
Design and features
The 27-inch NEC MultiSync PA271W is a behemoth of a monitor. Although it shares the same screen size as the Dell UltraSharp U2711, at 30 pounds it's 7 pounds heavier than the Dell is. The dark gray panel is a thick 3.5-inches deep and its bezel is 0.8-inch wide, and its foot stand is 12.5-inches wide by 9.2-inches deep. The PA271W includes the full assortment of adjustable ergonomic options. The screen height is adjustable by 5.75 inches, and is 0.75 and 6.5 inches from the desktop when at its lowest and highest points, respectively. The panel swivels left and right 45 degrees and pivots 90 degrees to the right. The panel also tilts back about 30 degrees. At the top of the panel, on the back, NEC includes a carrying handle for the monitor. Some users won't use the handle given the display's hefty weight; however, if you're actually strong enough to carry it, this makes moving it much more convenient. Also, with its heavy weight and wide foot stand, there isn't be much chance of the display toppling.
The monitor's onscreen display array has several buttons aligned along the lower right-hand corner of the bezel. The buttons include Menu, Input, PIP, Right and Left ,and Up and Down buttons. To the left of the array is a blue (or green, depending on your preference) LED, the power button, and an ambient light sensor. Pressing the Menu button brings up onscreen labels aligned next to each button of the array as well as a user interface window, which appears in the lower middle of the screen.
The interface has controls for brightness, black level, sharpness, an eco mode toggle, and an aspect ratio control feature that lets you adjust the screen up, down, left, and right a few centimeters. As a bonus, the brightness dial includes a candelas per square meter squared readout that attempts to estimate your current brightness output. The tool is mostly accurate, but the higher you adjust the brightness, the less accurate the reading becomes. The display also has a fairly robust carbon footprint interface that includes an estimate of how much in dollars--with five additional currency options--the monitor's current power consumption is costing you.
The monitor has five presets, including Adobe RGB, sRGB, High Bright, Full, and DCI. With each preset, you can also adjust the color temperature from 3,000K to a maximum of 15,000K. Also, in addition to the red, yellow, and green adjustment options, the OSD lets you change the cyan, blue, and magenta colors as well.
The NEC MultiSync PA271W also includes an advanced menu that gives you even more granular control over its picture settings. Some of these include adjusting the RGB concentration in specific areas of the screen as well as a uniformity fine-tuning option.
The monitor's connection options include two DVI ports, a DisplayPort, an S-video port, and two USB upstream and two downstream ports. However, we're disappointed to see that NEC didn't include an HDMI port, and the amount of connections the monitor has pales in comparison with the large number of ports the U2711 has.
Pressing the PIP button brings up an additional, small screen embedded into the main screen and displays the signal from the second DVI port.
Connectivity: DVIx2, DisplayPort, S-Video
Ergonomic options: Tilt, Pivot, Swivel, and height adjustment
Resolution: 2,560x1,440 pixels
Aspect ratio: 16:9
VESA support: Yes
Included video cables? DVI, DisplayPort
Panel Type: IPS
Screen film: Matte
Pixel-response rate: 5ms
Number of presets: 5
Picture options: Brightness, Contrast, Black level, Ambient Light Sensor
Color controls: Location-based RGB controls, Color Temperature, Blue, Cyan, Magenta
Gamma control: Yes
We tested the NEC MultiSync PA271W through its DVI input connected to a Windows Vista PC. The display posted a composite score of 98 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests; tying the U2711 for the highest score we've ever seen. The NEC MultiSync PA271W has accurate color reproduction, showing no color tint problems in our color tracking test. In our Black Level test, the PA271W impressively displayed dark gray down to level two, which is two levels above true black. Finally, the PA271W impressed us with its uniformity performance; in particular, its showing in our Dark Screen test which tests for backlight bleeding or clouding. The NEC only showed the slightest hint of clouding as its screen remained black, with only a slight hint of light during this test.
In text, we saw no color problems with black text on a white background, and fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8 point size.
We tested the NEC MultiSync PA271W using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." The NEC's colors were as accurate as on the Dell U2711 were, with no sign of any tint problems. Also, its colors popped enough to look impressive and pleasing to the eye, but not enough to feel oversaturated and its blacks were deep without losing much dark detail in dark scenes.
Because of our intimate familiarity with World of Warcraft, it remains the best tool for us to use when judging color quality and vibrancy in games. We tested games in the High Bright mode and found the NEC displayed accurate and vibrant colors. World of Warcraft looks as good on the NEC as it did on the Dell U2711, with full-looking color that doesn't oversaturate the image.
We looked at some photos in the Adobe RGB and sRGB presets and noticed that while photos in both presets had accurate color, Adobe RGB looked more natural and appropriate. We also looked at photos on the Dell U2711 in its Adobe RGB preset and saw slightly fuller color on the NEC compared with the Dell.
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 at 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 they are not viewed from optimal angles. On the other hand, IPS panels usually show only minimal color shifts with angle changes. The NEC MultiSync PA271W has an IPS panel, and when it's viewed from the sides, we perceived the screen to darken about 15 inches off from center; more than twice as wide of a viewing angle as a typical TN panel has.
Recommended settings and use
For general use and when playing games, we found the NEC's High Bright was the most appropriate preset to use. For movies, using its DCI preset was best and Adobe RGB was best for photo editing.
As with most IPS-based monitors, NEC gears its MultiSync PA271W mostly toward professional use, when accurate color reproduction is required; however, the monitor is also great for watching movies, playing games, and for general use.
|NEC MultiSync PA271W
|Average watts per hour
|On (default luminance)
|On (max luminance)
|On (min luminance)
|Calibrated (200 cd/m2)
|Annual power consumption cost
No surprisingly given its large screen and emphasis on professional performance, the NEC MultiSync PA271W uses a lot of power and has a very high Default/On power draw of 87.79 watts compared with the U2711's 93.72 watts in the same test. The monitor's power consumption delta was a lot closer in our Sleep/Standby test with the NEC drawing 1.17 watts and the Dell U2711 drawing 1.19 watts. Based on our formula, the NEC MultiSync PA271W would cost a low $27 per year to power, compared with the U2711's $28.78 cost per year.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.
Service and support
NEC backs the MultiSync PA271W with a solid four-year parts-and-labor warranty that also covers the backlight. Its toll-free technical support is available weekdays from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. NEC also offers e-mail and live chat support. NEC's support Web site is simple to navigate, making the monitor's manual easy to find.