The BenQ PD3420Q will probably take up your entire desk, but you’ll get a lot done.
As a photographer, I typically have more than one program open at once. But only enough screen real estate to work with one application at a time. Enter the BenQ PD3420Q. The PD3420Q is a 34-inch ultra-wide monitor that has 33 percent more real estate than the typical screen. Those 34 inches have the potential to be the multitasker’s dream. Use both Capture One and Photoshop at the same time, without minimizing. Work from three Word documents simultaneously. Heck, watch YouTube while you edit photos; I won’t judge.
Of course, to gain the attention of photographers, a monitor has to be more than just big. The pricey BenQ PD3420Q advertises 1.07 billion colors covering 100 percent of the sRGB gamut. But, advertising expectations and actual experiences are often far apart. And, as part of the PD series, the monitor is focused first on design, unlike the company’s photography-focused SW series. I spent three weeks working with the ultra-wide monitor to see how the monitor stacks up for photo editing — and multitasking.
Table of Contents
BenQ PD3420Q Pros and Cons
- Wide 34-inch screen
- Colors close to print quality
- Good detail
- Anti-glare coating
- Height-adjustable stand
- White balance was slightly off when compared to prints
- Lacks Adobe RGB mode
I used the BenQ PD3420Q with my 2015 MacBook Pro. I used the monitor with Capture One, Adobe Lightroom, and Photoshop, as well as Safari and Pages. I tested the colors right out of the box, without calibration, only switching the different available color modes.
BenQ PD3420Q Tech Specs
These technical specifications are shortened from the full list from BenQ’s website:
- 34-inch, 21:9 display
- 1.07 billion colors
- Anti-glare coating
- 3440×1440 resolution
- 60 Hz refresh rate
- 109 PPI
- Color temperatures: 5000K, 65000K, 9300K
- LED backlight
- 178 degree viewing angle
- Native contrast 1000:1
- Brightness 350, 400 with peak HDR
- Color gamut: 100% Rec. 709, 100% sRGB, 98% P3
- Color modes: Animation, CAD/CAM, Darkroom, DCI-P3, DICOM, Display P3, Low Blue Light, M-Book, Rec. 709, sRGB, User
- Built-in speaker with headphone jack
- Connectivity: HDMI (2), Displayport, USB-C with 65W power delivery, USB Type B, USB 3.1 (3)
- Adjustable stand from 17.9 inches to 23.4 inches (dimension from desk to top of screen)
- Weighs 20.5 lbs.
The BenQ PD3420Q includes a silver height-adjustable stand. The stand adjusts the top of the monitor from 17.9 inches to 23.4 inches from the desk. That height range easily allowed me to position the monitor at eye-level, which tends to be better on the neck and back than looking down towards the desk.
The screen has a thin black bezel on three sides, with a thicker black strip at the bottom. No controls are visible from the front, giving it a nice clean look with just the screen, bezel, and a tiny power light at the bottom right.
On the back of the monitor, an on-off button, joystick, and two mode buttons sit in the bottom corner, within easy reach. The monitor houses ports with USB-C, USB 3, and a headphone jack on the left side.
The remainder of the ports sit at the back of the monitor, situated under an optional plastic cover. Those ports include one more USB-C port, which can also power devices that use a USB-C charging port. The monitor can also connect with two HDMI ports, Displayport, USB Type B, or three USB 3.1 ports.
A loop at the back of the stand helps keeps the cords tidy.
Plugged into the back is the Hotkey Puck G2 control for the monitor itself. Most monitors have a very clunky experience when it comes to making adjustments. The Hotkey is a more straightforward, user-friendly way to adjust the monitor. The dial in the center of the Hotkey adjusts brightness (but can be switched to contrast or volume). The three mode keys flip through M-Book, sRGB, and Display P3, while a button at the top serves as a back button.
I knew the PD3420 would have a sturdier build just by picking up the box. This behemoth of a monitor weighs more than 20 pounds. There’s still quite a bit of plastic on the back and bevels. However, the stand is metal and feels much more high quality than the budget monitors I’ve tried. The stand also has a nice feel to it and lifts and lowers smoothly.
The screen uses an anti-glare coating that gives it a bit of a matte look compared to the glossier screen on my MacBook Pro. Reflection from a window only creates a little soft white light on the screen, however. I can’t say the same for my MacBook, which is more mirror-like when using near a window. It lacks BenQ’s SW series screen shield, but I wasn’t bothered by the window behind my desk or the overhead lights.
The monitor isn’t thin, measuring roughly three inches at the thickest point. But, as something that’s just going to sit on the desk, it’s not a real issue.
Ease of Use
Getting set-up is fairly straightforward — attaching the monitor to the stand only took a few minutes following the instructions. And once you figure out which cord you need on the many connection options, you can just plug-and-play.
However, to get the most out of the monitor, there’s a bit of a learning curve. To be clear, it’s the same learning curve as with any photo monitor. Photographers will get the most out of this monitor if they understand different color modes. It also took some fiddling to learn how to use the Hotkey Puck.
The BenQ PD3420Q has a handful of color modes and ships pre-calibrated. But while sRGB is included, Adobe RGB is not. Asking which one is better is akin to debating Canon vs. Nikon — some photographers just prefer one over the other. sRGB is typically regarded as ideal for working with images that will remain in digital format, while Adobe RGB was developed specifically with the way CMYK printers work in mind.
To judge the colors on the BenQ PD3420Q, I compared the images to other screens and printed images. I compared photos on the screen with both my iPhone 11 Pro and my MacBook screen, and some 8×10 and 11×14 prints. I used the sRGB mode when comparing color accuracy.
Compared to iPhone and MacBook Pro Retina Display
We’re changing our monitor reviews up a bit more. For years, we’ve pushed for photographers to calibrate their displays. And we still believe in it. But we also understand that most photographers don’t calibrate. So we’re comparing displays to some of the most common tools we use.
I took a look at my own Instagram images on both the BenQ and my iPhone. The colors were similar, but the BenQ added a little bit deeper reds and pinks. That gave skin tones a slightly pinker hue than what was on my iPhone and MacBook screens. I preferred the skin tones coming from the BenQ a bit better.
The anti-glare screen feels like you lose the slightest amount of contrast. Photos are a bit punchier and brighter on a screen without that glare protection. I did prefer the anti-glare feature to the glare coming from my Macbook overall. But photographers should be aware that the feature does create a minor difference in contrast.
Detail was still plentiful on the BenQ screen. 3,440 pixels isn’t a lot when stretched across 34 inches, but I still found the 2K sufficient. I could see more stars in an astrophotography shot than I could on my iPhone, even when the images were of comparable sizes. Of course, you’ll get an even clearer view with a 4K monitor, but you’ll also end up paying more.
Compared to Prints
The BenQ PD3420Q comes much closer to the actual printed photo than the Macbook or iPhone screens. The colors from print to the BenQ screen were mostly accurate. Skin tones didn’t appear different like they did on the iPhone. The only color difference I noticed was some slight variation in warmth and tint. Some photos printed slightly warmer than what appeared on the screen. An adjustment of less than 1,500K brought the screen and print much closer. Other shots appeared a little more green in the print than they did on the monitor.
- The huge 34-inch screen makes it easy to have multiple programs open at once, or view lots of thumbnails at once. Make sure you have a big desk.
- The colors are solid and close to print quality except for some slight deviation in white balance.
- The detail is still good, even though it’s not a 4K monitor.
- The anti-glare coating works well.
- I love the height-adjustable stand. I have to use a monitor stand on options without this feature to avoid getting a crick in the neck.
- The white balance wasn’t quite perfect when compared to prints.
- The monitor lacks Adobe RGB mode.
With it’s plentiful real estate, print-like colors, and anti-glare screen, the BenQ PD3420Q is an excellent monitor. The question is, is the monitor (which is part of the series made for graphic designers) a good option for photographers when BenQ has an SW line designed just for photographers?
The BenQ SW270C is the company’s photo-focused monitor that sits at the same price. It’s also 2K, but only 27 inches wide. It does, however, include Adobe RGB with 99 percent color accuracy. And, while still offering the anti-glare coating, it also comes with a shading hood. The connection ports at the side also include an SD card reader.
The smaller monitor may be the better option for more color profiles and eliminating SD card dongles. But, the larger real estate of the PD3420Q is ideal for photographers looking for a multitasking monitor that will easily go from photo-editing to gaming to web browsing. With the real-estate to have two or even three applications open at one time, the BenQ PD3420Q is a good option for mutlitasking creatives.
I’m giving the BenQ PD3420Q four out of five stars. Want one? They typically run for around $899.