NEC MultiSync PA311D review: A step behind

The price needs to drop if this excellent monitor is to attract 4K video editors away from the Eizo CG319X

Price
£2,403 exc VAT
  • Superb colour response
  • Highly adjustable
  • Comprehensive array of ports
  • Expensive

As a price of almost £3,000 indicates, this is a serious monitor for serious applications. If you don’t have the need for supreme colour accuracy as part of your workflow, it makes no sense to buy the MultiSync PA311D. Indeed, it makes little sense unless you’re a professional video editor needing absolute accuracy as part of your craft.

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If that does sound like you, take note of the NEC’s opposition: the Eizo ColorEdge CG319X. Both 31in monitors share much in common, from their 4,096 x 2,160 resolution to their 10-bit IPS panels, all the way to their ability to instantly switch between six pre-calibrated colour spaces: sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3, Rec.709, Rec.2100 (HLG) and Rec.2100 (PQ). As the HLG and PQ suffixes suggest, this monitor supports both HDR standards. When you don’t need colour accuracy, it also lets you switch instantly to its High Bright mode.

And this is a bright panel. It can soar all the way up to 350cd/m2 and drop down to 20cd/m2, and if you dig into the onscreen display’s menus then you can switch on automatic adjustment where it will tune its output to your surroundings. It also supports “human sensing”, where it will switch itself off if it realises that no one is around, but you might want to fine-tune this: when we were typing while slumped inelegantly in our chair, the screen decided we were too far away and switched itself off.

The OSD isn’t the friendliest, despite using context-sensitive buttons in English. It’s silly things such as using the word “Exit” when “Back” would make more sense, and NEC also makes it harder than it should be to adjust the colour settings. The “Reset” button, which takes you back to the factory defaults, saved our bacon more than once.

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Nevertheless, there’s a huge amount of tuning power here if you’re willing to put in the time to master it. The PA311D is the first outing for NEC’s SpectraView II engine, which works with external calibration sensors to give extreme levels of control over the display’s tone response curve. Note the NEC PA311D includes a 14-bit look-up table and 10-bit panel, so tonal transitions will be impeccable. The bad news for NEC is that Eizo’s panel includes a 24-bit look-up table and its own automatic hardware calibrator.

It almost goes without saying that the PA311D excelled in our colour performance tests; when in the various modes, it displayed 97.6% of the sRGB space (with 98.3% volume), 95.9% for Adobe RGB (96.3% volume) and 92.5% for DCI-P3 (same volume). Colour accuracy was effectively perfect, with an average Delta E of 0.44 and maximum of 1.48. These results were very similar to the Eizo, but it can claim a Pyrrhic victory thanks to a maximum Delta E of 0.61.

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There is one area where the NEC clearly beats the Eizo, however, and that’s USB-C connectivity. If you’re using a laptop, the PA311D can effectively work as a docking station, complete with three USB-A ports, the ability to deliver up to 65W of power and a 10/100 Ethernet port. It all helps to keep a desk tidy and makes connecting and disconnecting a laptop incredibly easy.

The NEC provides picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture options and a plethora of video inputs: two DisplayPort and two HDMI, both of which support HDCP 2.2. NEC also provides a basic set of stereo speakers, but they’re the usual tinny affairs.

Unlike the Eizo, this monitor also pivots 90°, which is one of the reasons why the stand is so hefty: at 14.3kg, it isn’t built for life on the move. But it’s still flexible with a 35° tilt and 90° swivel (even if Eizo’s screen wins courtesy of a 344° swivel).

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NEC also makes it easy to manage a fleet of its monitors via NaViSet Administrator 2 – another good reason to keep that Ethernet port hooked up to your network – while a three-year on-site warranty is yet another plus. Or it would be, were it not for the fact that Eizo provides five years of cover.

This is the problem for the PA311D. It’s an excellent monitor that’s well-tuned to the needs of 4K video editors, but – aside from its USB-C advantage – it feels like the Eizo is one step ahead. Unless the NEC’s price drops closer to £2,000, We’d opt for the Eizo every time. 

NEC MultiSync PA311D specifications

Screen size

31.1in

Screen resolution

4,096 x 2,160

Screen technology

IPS

Screen refresh rate

61Hz

Video inputs

USB-C, 2 x DisplayPort (with HDCP 2.2/1.3), 2 x HDMI 2 (with HDCP 2.2/1.4) 

Speakers

2 x 1W speakers

Ports

3-port USB 3 hub, 10/100 Ethernet

Adjustability

90° pivot, -45° to 45° swivel, -5° to 30° tilt, 150mm height adjustment 

Dimensions

738 x 302 x 433-583mm

Weight

14.9kg

Warranty

3yr on-site warranty including backlight

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