I've been working remotely for the better part of the last five years, and a good chunk of that time was spent writing and cutting video from a 27-inch iMac. I always loved the convenience of an all-in-one computer, especially one with such a great 5K display. But at the start of the year, I sold my iMac and started working exclusively from my laptop because with how much I travel for work, it just didn't get much use anymore.
Even a 15-inch laptop can start to feel cramped when you're cutting video, though, and now that we're all stuck at home indefinitely, I'm spending a lot more time back at my desk. That's why I was thrilled to check out the BenQ EW3280U, a 32-inch 4K monitor that connects over USB-C and has surprisingly good built-in speakers.
Big, bright, and beautiful
Bottom line: The EW3280U is a giant monitor with a focus on media consumption. It has built-in speakers and a 4K HDR-capable display, along with an included remote for easy controls. It's color accurate enough for content creation as well and provides up to 60W of power to connected over USB-C.
- Large, well-calibrated display
- Nice cable routing with the included stand
- Impressive built-in speakers
- USB-C PD up to 60W
- Intelligent HDR and blue light options
- Expensive for a 4K monitor
- Maxes out at 60Hz
- 60W not enough to power higher-end laptops
BenQ EW3280U What I like
BenQ is known for making excellent monitors for a wide range of consumers, covering anyone from budget-conscious shoppers to professional colorists and hardcore gamers. The EW3280U's main focus is media consumption, with a large speaker grill underneath the massive 32-inch display and a focus on HDR.
The design of the EW3280U is simple and reasonably attractive. It's made of plastic, but it doesn't feel cheap at all; there's very little flex in the chassis, and the bezels around the display are kept to a minimum. I dig the pop of color from the copper brown in the speaker grill, and the stand has a unique shape that leaves room to hold the included remote.
The hardware is great, and the display is bright and color-accurate.
Of course, you can also mount the monitor to a VESA arm if you'd prefer, but I appreciate the included stand's built-in cable management. You can slide the cover off of the stand to reveal some cable routing — it's a bit tight if you try to cram more than two cables in, especially because the included power cable and USB-C cable are both pretty thick, but it's manageable.
You also probably don't need to fit more than two cables into the cable routing, since one of the main benefits of the EW3280U is its support for USB-C. With it, you can connect a single cable to your computer for both audio and video, and provide up to 60W of power. My 15-inch MacBook Pro takes up to 87W, but 60W is still enough to charge it, albeit more slowly.
In case your system doesn't have USB-C, the EW3280U also has two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort. It's easy to switch between inputs using either the remote or the monitor's onboard controls, meaning you can connect your computer and, say, a gaming console at the same time.
Once you've got your computer connected, you're greeted with a fantastic 4K display. The EW3280U has great color calibration right out of the box and supports 95% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. That means that while it's mainly intended for media consumption, the EW3280U is also useful for photo and video editing.
BenQ's HDRi tech works surprisingly well, though I typically leave the monitor on its default settings.
Within the monitor's menu system, there are options for useful tools like blue light filters, ePaper mode, various color profiles, and AMD FreeSync, which compensates against screen tearing and stuttering. The most noteworthy feature, though, is denoted right on the hardware: HDR.
The EW3280U supports HDR400, which looks great for content specifically designed around HDR. BenQ offers a proprietary technology called HDRi (short for HDR intelligence), which uses sensors hidden in the housing under the display to detect changes in ambient lighting to adjust settings like peak brightness and contrast automatically.
For SDR content, the EW3280U also features several emulated HDR settings that aim to improve dynamic range and contrast through image processing. It isn't perfect, often blowing out highlights in various footage, but it's a neat trick that works surprisingly well on occasion.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the monitor's built-in speakers. The EW3280U features stereo 2W speakers along with a 5W woofer, with adjustable volume that can be controlled with either the remote or a handy scroll wheel on the left side of the monitor's bottom edge. They're still lacking in bass compared to my studio monitors, but that's to be expected — these are considerably louder (if not a bit less focused) than the speakers on my MacBook Pro, and they're easily the most impressive built-in speakers I've heard on a monitor.
BenQ EW3280U What's not so great
There's a lot to like about the EW3280U, but it isn't perfect. For one, I would have really liked a higher power output through the USB-C port, especially considering this monitor was released at the tail end of 2019. Plenty of Mac and Windows machines with USB-C draw more than 60W, and there are plenty of other monitors on the market that output as much as 90W.
60Hz is an instant showstopper for gamers.
This monitor also maxes out at 60Hz, which could be an instant deal-breaker for some PC gamers that typically look for refresh rates of 144Hz or even higher. Being a filthy casual who games from consoles in the living room, though, this really doesn't bother me. 60Hz is plenty when I'm editing 30fps video in Final Cut Pro X, which amounts to the bulk of the time spent at my desk.
While I'm a fan of the included monitor stand's cable management routing, I do wish it were a bit more adjustable. The monitor can be tilted up or down to get a better angle, but the stand is so rigid that at first, I didn't think you could move it at all. It also isn't height-adjustable, nor can the monitor be rotated vertically — the latter problem is a bit more niche, but height adjustment can be crucial to certain desk setups.
BenQ EW3280U Should you buy it?
The EW3280U is an excellent monitor for both content consumption and creation, with great HDR capabilities and four ports for connecting multiple sources at once. The remote means you can even use it as a makeshift TV — which feels hilarious to me when I remember that my TV in college was 32 inches as well.
There is the issue of pricing; at $800, the EW3280U is pretty expensive for the average consumer. It isn't hard to find a similarly sized 4K monitor for half the price or even less, many of which still support standards like FreeSync and wide color gamuts.
But between HDR support, great built-in speakers, uniform backlighting, simple and thoughtful controls, and USB-C compatibility with 60W Power Delivery, the EW3280U is still a compelling offering. If all you're after is a large 4K monitor, you can get a better deal elsewhere, but if you need color accuracy and work from a modern, USB-C powered laptop, this is a great addition to your desk.
Big, bright, and beautiful
Built to consume, poised to create
The EW3280U is a giant monitor with a focus on media consumption. It has built-in speakers and a 4K HDR-capable display, along with an included remote for easy controls. It's color accurate enough for content creation as well, and provides up to 60W of power to connected over USB-C.
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