Benq produces very good monitors for photography, with professional quality but cheaper than other pro brands like NEC and Eizo. And if you buy a high end Benq monitor with hardware calibration, like the great SW271 that is a 27" 4K monitor with almost 100% AdobeRGB gamut, you surely care a lot for color accuracy, so periodic monitor calibration with a colorimeter is a must.

Benq provides its software for hardware calibration: Palette Master Elements (PME). I made myself a lot of testing on color accuracy resulting from using this software and found one particular problem with it.

PME is not a super sophisticated tool like others from X-Rite for example or the wonderful free DisplayCal but for native hardware calibration you are bound to use Palette Master Element, but how are the calibration results with this tool?

Let's start from saying that typical contrast ratio of Benq monitors is 1000:1 and native presets (e.g. AdobeRGB, sRGB) achieve and surpasses it by 10-20% range but... cannot be re-calibrated during the lifetime of the monitor and we know that monitor aging will deviate from the optimal factory calibration.

So to keep using a "perfect" calibrated monitor, you need to periodically hardware calibrate it using one of the custom presets (SW271 has three of them). The problem? After calibration, using best settings you will get no more than 700:1 as contrast ratio.

Why? Because PME is not so able in setting the black levels, at least on Windows.

Let's better elaborate with numbers:

  • you'd typically calibrate your monitor at 120 cd/m2 as the maximum level of brightness of white for comfortable view in a room in daylight;
  • to achieve maximum contrast, you need to have the darkest black possible, so in PME you select "absolute black" in the options of calibration process;
  • set gamut to "native" in calibration to achieve best results.

After calibration, if you measure the darkest black obtained with another reference software, like the above mentioned DisplayCal, the best value you can get is something around 0.170 cd/m2 of brightness. Let's then calculate the contrast (max brightness divided by min brightness): 120/0.170 = 706. So we have lost about 30% of contrast (in the dark/shadow areas) with calibration. Not good for a professional-level monitor.

I found this issue in January 2019 (exactly one year ago) and have been in contact with Benq support for its resolution, they did replied they would work on a fix.

Less than a week ago, on December 29th a new version of PME was released: 1.3.13 and one of the issue that have been resolved for Windows version is the black point!

I rushed to install the new version and test it: now the darkest black gets as low as 0.103 cd/m2 so the contrast is now 120/0.103=1165! Also the precision of whitepoint is slightly improved (D65), a similar concept to the white balance in cameras.

A good reason to update PME and optimize your Benq hardware calibrated monitor.

PME is available to download for Windows and Mac at this link.