The BenQ EW3280U is the latest in a long line of quality monitors from BenQ, with the company consistently impressing with its hardware releases over the last few years. This 32-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio, 3840 x 2160 pixel IPS display looks all set to continue that trend.
From the HDR support to the quality of the panel to the stereo speaker system, there's a lot to like about the BenQ EW3280U, as we'll explain below in this review – it's an all-rounder that will suit you for games, office work, movie watching, or whatever else you're doing.
Perhaps the biggest problem for the BenQ EW3280U is that the competition is so strong (including competition from other BenQ displays, we might add). At this sort of price point you've got a variety of top-class panels to pick from, and this is just one among many.
If you're in the market for a monitor that looks good no matter what task you put it to, this is worth getting down on your shortlist. BenQ's long run of hardware in this field means you can rely on it producing a display you can rely on, and that's certainly the case here.
BenQ EW3280U review: design
You'd be hard pressed to argue that the BenQ EW3280U isn't a great-looking monitor, but we're not completely convinced by its brushed, industrial metal appearance – it just feels slightly cold to us. Nevertheless, your mileage may vary, and BenQ has undoubtedly done a very good job with the thinness of the bezels here and the sturdiness of the craftsmanship – we just wish it were a bit less business and a bit more pleasure.
Connectivity is provided by HDMI (x2), DisplayPort (x1) and USB-C ports (x1), and this monitor can act as a USB-C hub too, offering 60W of charging power to other devices (that's enough for most gadgets but not for larger laptops). Getting cables connected to the well-concealed ports when the monitor is upright is as fiddly as it's ever been, but this seems to be the norm for monitors – not just those from BenQ.
At just 58 mm or 2.3 inches thick, the main panel is svelte enough to fit in just about anywhere, and it can be wall mounted too, if required. The straightforward and sturdy stand gives a fair amount of tilting flexibility (some rotation would be nice, but never mind), and viewing angles are excellent in our experience.
In terms of design we'd say the story is the same as it is elsewhere with the BenQ EW3280U: really good without being outstanding. Then again, you're paying a reasonable price to get your hands on it. As long as there's a sharp 4K resolution on offer, we can live without any cutting edge aesthetics around the sides.
BenQ EW3280U review: features
Chief among the specs that you need to know about with the BenQ EW3280U is its 4K UHD resolution, which we've already mentioned. The screen looks stunning in use – we tested it out with a few 4K videos from YouTube, and they all looked great. It's the sort of screen where the hardware upgrade can be really noticeable (depending on what display you were using before of course).
The BenQ EW3280U features BenQ's own custom HDRi to balance out the light and dark parts of a frame, and we had no complaints with it: brightness and contrast were usually very well managed in the content that we watched, with no noticeable sudden shifts. Technically, it's not full HDR, but we're guessing that a lot of people won't care about the small print as long as it does a good enough job.
To tempt in the more professional users, the monitor also supports 95 percent DCI-P3 Wide Colour Gamut coverage, and for gamers there's official support for AMD FreeSync. The monitor manages to cater to everyone to some extent, while not defining itself particularly as a gaming monitor or a monitor for creatives – it's got something for everyone really, and on the whole the results really impress.
The integrated 2.1 Trevolo speakers deliver a punch as well, and there's a convenient volume rocker under the screen on the left-hand side (and speaking of controllers, you get a little remote bundled with the display too, so it's perfect for media consumption). Audiophiles will want more, but for most users the sound is more than satisfactory for movie watching and even music streaming.
BenQ EW3280U review: verdict
In a lot of ways the BenQ EW3280U hits the sweet spot – it has the features and a decent enough 4K spec to justify its price, while still undercutting some of the more expensive panels on the market by not quite offering top-tier functionality. The size of the screen epitomises this idea, because it's impressively large without dominating a desk like one of the expensive ultrawide screens would.
The 60Hz refresh rate is another good example of sweet spot hitting: enough for the vast majority of users but not what hardcore gamers are going to want, and likewise with the 5ms response time. You can run games on it, of course you can, but it doesn't match the specs of the best gaming monitors; instead the appeal of the BenQ EW3280U is in appealing to a broad range of people.
Specs aside, we can attest to the pleasure of viewing games, videos and photos on the 32-inch panel, with bright and clear visuals, very little in the way of ghosting, and more than respectable brightness. We've seen deeper blacks and better HDR on other monitors, but the BenQ EW3280U isn't trying to be the very best monitor around – just one of the best monitors at this price and size, and it very much succeeds in that.
The discerning monitor buyer has a huge number of options to choose from, and they're all a balance between the quality of picture you want and how much you're willing to pay. On that price vs picture scale, we'd say the BenQ EW3280U is definitely right up at the top end of the scale, and is worth considering no matter what you need from a display.