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April 2014
Issue: November 1, 2012

Review: HP's ZR2740w 27-inch monitor

By: Dariush Derakhshani
PRODUCT: HP’s ZR2740w

WEBSITE: www.hp.com

PRICE: $714
- High-caliber LED backlit IPS panel
- Colors are rich without being overbearing or too sweet
- Attractive price point



Who wouldn’t want a big screen? While a 27-inch isn’t the largest you can get in the desktop monitor world, it is a perfect size for a lot of people. What matters next is how the display looks, and how well it works for the user. The user? Me... demanding and critical. I work with screens all day long, judging color constantly. At home, I’ve sported a Dell 24-inch 2405FPW for quite a long time as my primary display. It has held up incredibly, and I thought nothing short of a minor miracle would get me to upgrade.

Enter the HP ZR2740w. In short, it’s an impressive display with fantastic brightness and clarity without washing out colors or blowing out blacks. This is undoubtedly due to the high-caliber LED backlit IPS panel, which is just about as good as you can get before wandering into DreamColor territory. 

I recognize that I stepped into this new technology from my trusted, but older, Dell 24-inch panel, and I can’t expect that sort of performance and clarity from years-ago tech — but I was actually blown away at how much of a difference this new monitor made for me. I’ve since moved the Dell to my secondary display, rotated into portrait mode, and have been using this HP for weeks now.

For me, no amount of lab testing can best long-term subjective use; you have to be comfortable with your display — everyone has different needs. For the professional, the ZR2740w comes to the table armed for battle at a very attractive price that puts it in line with Dell’s well-regarded U2711 and NEC’s PA271W-BK. All these IPS panels boast an impressive color gamut, which is key for professional use, as is the native resolution set at an impressive 2560x1440. There are less expensive 27-inch panels on the market, to be sure, but they sure won’t be able to match the color accuracy, range and crisp resolution of these higher-end models.

GETTING STARTED

Getting this monitor in-house brought up a concern for me: desk space. I have rocked a dual flat panel set-up of a 24-inch and a portrait mode 21-inch display for a while now, both on Ergotron LX monitor mounts that allow me to easily move them around my desk for the best in arrangement and view. Figuring the 27-inch would be a bigger and heavier screen, my desk space was a concern. That is until I got the screen unpacked. 

The HP panel itself is surprisingly light, weighing about as much as my old Dell 24-inch. Mounting it to the Ergotron arm (which supports up to 24-inch screens) was no problem, and it held it in place perfectly. I was able to create a new dual-screen set-up with more screen real estate than I’ve ever had, short of the dual 30-inch displays I had for a time at my old office. Yes, I’m a size queen.

Once I hooked this up to my home-built rig with an ATI FirePro V8750, I immediately began stretching the display to its limits. First off was enabling 10-bit color support to rid myself of color banding and a truly high-color range. As nice as 10-bit color is, it’s still not as well supported in Windows and drivers as I would like. Enabling my ATI card to run 10-bits disabled Windows 7 Aero Glass interface — a bit of a bummer, but certainly no deal breaker — I instantly noticed smooth color gradation in Maya’s work, including windows and renders, as well as Photoshop. Since I work with images a lot, it’s nice to know displaying colors just got better.

The screen looks sharp and bright. Colors are rich without being overbearing or too sweet. White looks pure, and the blacks are nicely dark. I did notice a bit of glare at extreme angles, more so than my previous screen, but it’s not often I’m off axis when working at my screen. The text readability is insane: crisp and clean, even at full resolution going down to a tiny six-point font in Word, which is small, mind you, but the text stayed sharp and legible.

The cabinet is nice, simple matte black bezel with minimal buttons for power and control and a nice brushed aluminum accent band. Nothing to write home about as far as style goes; there is a fairly standard look to the display. There are 2 USB ports on the side, but no memory card reader, and plenty of inputs along the back, with easy-to-get-to cabling. The monitor’s stand has a large footprint and is a bit hefty, but since I mount the screen, it doesn’t concern me at all. But the stand does offer a comfortable range of movement options. Placing your screen is important for a comfortable work experience that is not lost on HP here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

A few small details are missing from the ZR2740w, likely due to the extremely competitive price point. First, is a lack of on-screen display, which ultimately limits the amount of control you have over the calibration of the screen. This leaves you with just overall brightness control, which is a shame unless you already have hardware calibration tools. This is where the HP DreamColor displays kick ass. Also, the lack of an HDMI port on the ZR2740w may make this screen less desirable to the home user, but DVI and DisplayPort were fine for me. 

The sheer clarity and performance of the screen outstrips those niceties, especially at the price point well below $1,000. Colors are bright, text is beautiful and clean, and contrast is great. While you won’t get the same level of control, calibration and full color accuracy as the much more expensive DreamColor displays, the ZR2740w presents an extremely affordable large-screen display with great color and performance for imaging pros.

Dariush Derakhshani is an LA-based VFX/CG supervisor. He can be reached at:
dariush@koosh3d.com.