I know it’s hard to believe from my cat-hair encrusted pyjamas and super-sexy bedhead, but I work from home. Dragging my poor dry eyes from laptop to phone to TV and back again takes a toll, which is why I’m a big advocate of eye-saving tech measures like dark themes on apps and blue-light filtering night modes on screens.
My latest acquisition in the battle for comfortable eyeballs is the catchily-named BenQ EW277HDR Eye-Care Monitor. It’s got all the bells and whistles of a good monitor: it’s 27 inches, full HD, and offers HDR including HDR10 and emulated HDR for non-HDR content. Have I said HDR enough yet? HDR.
But it also includes something not enough monitors consider: eye-loving features like extra-high contrast (3000:1), intelligent brightness and colour-temperature adjustment, flicker-free tech and four low-blue-light modes (blue light is the one that can cause sleep problems). Eyes, I hope you appreciate all this.
The EW277HDR is actually designed for people who work from home. Sadly this doesn’t mean it includes a cupholder, but it does take into account the dramatic shifts in lighting across the working day and into the evening, as well as the increased screen time because we’re reading Twitter instead of commuting (ner ner).
So is it really any better than a normal monitor? Let’s find out.
For your eyes only
BenQ tout four main benefits of the EW277HDR (sorry, I wish it had a better name too):
- Brightness Intelligence (self-adjusting to the lighting environment)
- No flickering
- Low blue light modes
- Smart focus, which dims things you’re not looking at so you can focus on your cat video
The first feature — which has a hardware button on the front of the monitor — adjusts the screen depending on how bright the room is. It tweaks the colour temperature too: at midday, the screen had crisp, cool colours, whereas by lamplight the tones were much warmer. The built-in light sensor ensured a smooth transition, to the point that I didn’t notice the change until I looked at my phone, which suddenly looked like the actual sun in comparison.
Similarly, I didn’t notice the lack of flickering, because it’s difficult to notice something that’s not there — whereas you very much do notice when a monitor is flickery. I trust the absence of subliminal flashing was appreciated by my eyeballs, even if it didn’t enter my conscious attention.
There are four blue-light modes, which you switch between using a hardware button on the monitor itself. They go from most-blue to least-blue, cycling through multimedia mode, webpage mode, office mode (for documents and such), and reading mode. The last one is much warmer and easier on the eyes than the first, but it obviously wouldn’t be ideal for Netflix unless you want everything to look like the Mexico scenes in Breaking Bad.
Lastly, and probably my least-favourite feature, is Smart Focus. This lets you define an area of the screen to keep in focus, and the rest gets sort of ghosted out. It’s meant to help you concentrate, but I didn’t find it particularly useful — the human eye basically does that anyway. It’s optional though, so you can just not use it.
But is it any good as a monitor?
Well, it certainly looks the part. The EW277HDR is very slim, expensive-looking, and classed up my home office considerably. The bezels are tiny, it’s a nice size, and it comes with a stand (which tilts, although you can’t adjust it up and down or turn the monitor sideways).
Resolution-wise, the 16:9 VA panel is Full HD — not QHD or UHD. That means 1920 x 1080, combined with a refresh rate of 60Hz and a response time of 12ms, 4ms GTG. It’s not one for the hardcore gamers, then, but we found it perfectly good for films, photos, text and just about everything else.
It’s an HDR monitor, so you can use the EW277HDR to watch your fancypants content on the Xbox One S, PlayStation Pro etc. It’s not the kind of mindblowing HDR quality you get from a pricey TV or a higher-end monitor, but it does deliver deep blacks and good colour contrast.
The monitor comes with a 1.5m HDMI cable, and includes two HDMI 2.0 inputs. There’s also a D-Sub (VGA) input, a headphone jack and audio line-in. There are no USB ports, but there are more than likely some on the thing you’re connecting it to.
The built-in speakers are fine — it’s a slim panel so they’re not going to blow your hair back, but they’re more than good enough for getting absorbed in Game of Thrones.
The EW277HDR is a pretty good monitor by itself: it looks slick, performs well and has the option of HDR if that’s important to you. But add in the eye-loving features and it becomes a smart choice — yes, at about £190 it’s pricier than your basic HD monitor, but the eye features really do make a difference. It’s like buying an office chair with proper back support: you know you really ought to shell out a bit more, and you appreciate the difference when you do.