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Thursday, 17 November 2016


You clearly already buy keepers Mike!

In which case, I would (did in fact) pair my NEC PA272W with a Dustbin... so over-specced that it will probably see me out. :)

All of the ports at arms reach, very convenient.

And it looks cool on the desk beside the NEC too.

I picked up a similar NEC a few years ago, the 21" model with hardware calibration and bundled colorimeter, and It's been a terrific workhorse.

At first I thought the monitor was flawed. I was getting color fringing, like the effects you see at the edges of a wide-angle lens. Technically that should be impossible on an LCD monitor. But I took the monitor back and swapped it for a new one. Same problem!

After careful experimentation I discovered the source of the issue. The fringing was coming from the progressive lenses in my glasses! I had no idea that was even possible...

Good buy. Bought one of those a couple of years to go with a Lenovo workstation, and it's no dramas, really good colors. Glare isn't really a factor in my work-cave.

Great 1st step, I'm using an older model NEC P series with Spectraview package for about 5 years now, driven by a consumer level Toshiba laptop. I recently swapped the original HD for a SSD and it's night and day difference on speed. I mostly process in LR, rarely go into PS unless I need to remove a power line or road sign from a landscape. You don't need a great deal of computing power for the type of editing you do. Other than the inability to install a graphics grade card to drive the monitor, this could be a low cost option for your computing needs. I send my files to a custom lab for printing on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag and have become fairly adept at pre-adjusting for the difference between monitor and print. Your learning curve will be much shorter by doing your own printing.

I use this exact same monitor. Its great. I pair it with a Mid2015 MacBook pro. Works wonderfully for everything I throw at it. Never had any issues. The shade thing that came with the monitor as a rebate thing was a bit much for my needs. I also found it awkward and flimsy. Unless you get the shade for free, your money is better spent elsewhere(its like 200 bucks or something).

Because of Apple's terribly slow desktop update cycles and the recent Mini being both not user upgrade friendly and a step back in performance, a 2012 version with the quad-core 2.6Ghz i7 may be your best bet. Put a 1TB SSD in there and it will be good for several years. I did this and got the OWC data doubler to hold a 1TB HD as a time machine backup in the machine as well. It will provide you with plenty robust performance for what I'm assuming your uses are and at a very reasonable price point.
I would equate the money spent on your monitor vs computer to be logical in the same sense as a photographer spending more money on lenses than the camera body. It's the right balance.


Buy the Mac mini. They're not in stock at the moment, but Apple often has current model refurbished 3GHz dual core i7 minis with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB PCIe SSD for about $1600. That's $400 less than brand new, but with the same guarantee. That's a lot of bang for your bucks, and I love mine.


What is currently driving this gorgeous new display of yours Mike? Or is it just waiting until you figure that out? (FWIW the Mac mini is woefully outdated and probably only marginally faster than your 2010 iMac).

The world is displeased with Apple failing to update the Mac Pro, the mini, and delivering the super weird, arguably non-pro, new Macbook Pro. I make my living programming, and I'm stretching the life of my 2012 Macbook Pro (the first retina) hoping something current will come out. But Apple couldn't even be bothered to put Intel's newest processors inside. Blech.

Now that you've committed to a fancy monitor, the Mac Mini or a Macbook might not be your only options. Consider getting the wee iMac (the 21.5 inch one, non-retina). It will give you more guts and more flexibility than the either of the other two without shelling out on an expensive monitor you don't need. The small base monitor can then be used for the banal stuff (your finder, email, etc.) while the magic happens on the NEC. I've been using two monitors for years, and I can't imagine ever going back to one, no matter how big. There's something very satisfying about visually dividing your tasks like that.

I'm a long-time Mac user (I currently have two iMacs and a MacBook Pro) and I hate to say it but it's a terrible time to buy a new Mac. If you're able to use the new monitor with your current computer, I would hold out for as long as possible.

Minimum requirements for a new Mac: 16GB RAM and a Fusion Drive. Even better would be 32GB RAM and an SSD. Do not, under any circumstances, buy a Mac with a spinning hard drive, they are being quickly phased out and are dog slow compared to Fusion or SSD.

I don't know if you're familiar with the MacRumors buying guide, but they'll tell you how long it's been since a particular model has been refreshed. The current Mini generation is looking pretty long in the tooth. Once you've upgraded the RAM and storage, you're paying $1000+ for a two year old computer.

One more tip if you're not already familiar is to buy from the Apple refurbished store. Same warranty, like new hardware. I've bought half a dozen computers this way and never had a bad one.

Well done, Mike. Several years ago I was staring into the same Eizo / NEC abyss and also chose the NEC (a cousin to yours, the PA301W). I haven't regretted the expense for even a second and would buy it again. Profile maintenance has been a cinch. And, given the NEC's Adobe RGB gamut, it's wonderful to be able to hold a print next to the screen and see identical image properties.

You'll love it. But does this mean you're moving into the dimension of (gulp) color?! If not, you just spent way too much on a monitor.

Good call. I've been using an NEC Multisync 2690 WUXi for about seven years. With the colorimeter and also the optional screen hood (which is a recommended addition to your new, no-glare future). It is excellent and still running without a hick up. Knock on wood because I would have trouble replacing it at the moment.

Computer monitors are like mattresses. We spend half our lives on each and yet routinely try to cheap out on them. Rather silly.

I am thinking to the future and seeing the same dilemma that you currently have as the most recent iteration of the Mac Pro would be awfully tough to justify given the overall expense of the system and lack of built-in storage capability.

Have you considered looking at a used Mac Pro? Someone else would need to chime in on whether this is actually a good idea or some sort of false economy. You could check Other World Computing's refurbished list. There would be some issues (no USB 3 for one) but my mid-2010 2.8 GHz Quad-Core with a measly 8GB of RAM (ever on the upgrade list) hums along like it came out of the factory yesterday. The only modification I've made is to upgrade the boot drive to an SSD.

The advantage of these machines is such long life as they are truly built better in most regards. I would like to get another two years out of mine which would bring it to about seven years of life for a roughly $3,200 CDN investment. A machine that has run 8-10 hours a day most days a year.

Mike, congrats on getting the NEC! It's a fantastic display. NEC improved the non-glare surface on the 27" model so that it's just right. The earlier 24" models received some comments they were a little too matte-finished, which impacted the viewer's ability to see detail.

You'll find these displays to be truly superb for color work, soft-proofing and printing, so you'll get to your final print sooner and with more accurate results. Their accuracy is really impressive and it's wonderful to work with a true wide-gamut display, instead of being limited to sRGB or less. Just be sure to let the monitor warm up properly before using for color-critical work.


I've been using the older brother of that monitor for 6 years now. Stable, tough, and the color has been a great match for my Epson 7900.

I run PC's, although my wife has a Mac. I have a degree in Computer Science (and Photography), so I want a wide-open platform that I can customize.

I love big, open boxes for the desktop. Plenty of room to add new drives, graphics cards, power supplies and similar. Laptops have 1/2 the life and cost 2x as much (or more) because they can't be upgraded the same way.

I am still running an 8-10 year old Dell XPS i7 desktop with a RAID controller and dual monitors. I paid about $500 for it originally.
About 4 years ago I upgraded to 32 GB of RAM, a new graphics card, 2 SSD drives (OS and Scratch), multiple HDD Project drives in RAID, etc. I spent another $500 on the upgrades, so the "net expense" cones to about $125 per year for a pretty great box that runs Lightroom, Photoshop, and edits 4K video in Adobe Production Premium (Premier, After Effects, efc) without a hiccup.I y has it's own network with a NAS server, but very limited internet access.

I also run a 2+ year old, $500 i5 laptop with 1080P and 8 GB of RAM for daily use- Internet, Excel, etc. I am quite happy with those tools. Desktops are so much easier to upgrade over the long haul. I hate the "everything soldered in place" boxes that become obsolete so quickly.

Obviously, horses for courses. Good luck!


I have owned and used the NEC PA271W for a couple of years now. You will really like it! But moving over from a shiny-glossy iMac may be a challenge at first as the NEC has a nice matte surface. One thing you will discover with the NEC (if you haven't already) is the ability to store multiple profiles and recall them on-the-fly. For example the profile you will probably use for proofing your prints will be dull and boring (as it should be to get a proper soft-proof) vs. a profile you will have for watching movies (if so inclined) vs. a profile for how an image will view on the web (sRGB) vs. a profile for every day work. See how much fun you have in store with this new monitor! Enjoy!

About the new computer...after doing some research, I bought a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro the day before yesterday. I won't go through all the specs here, but it's a pretty high-end machine with 16GB RAM and a 256GB flash drive and lotsa ports -- Mini Displayport, SD card, two Thunderbolt 2, 2 USB-3, headphone jack. Also MagSafe, so you won't yank it off your desk. I bought it at Best Buy and got $200 off, because it's the passing generation, rather than the new announced one, which I think is inferior. Got a Retina display, of course, and the specs say "Dual display and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 3840x2160 pixels on up to two external displays...." You might want to take a look.

Mac laptop to drive the monitor, with a second (full-size) keyboard. Then when you're ready to travel, you unplug the laptop and bring it with you. When you're home, you have a full-size monitor to play with, and you can set up PhotoShop so that your subsidiary palettes, etc. are over on the laptop screen and you get the entire glorious profiled screen to work on an image, with no real estate nibbled away by the history/layer/etc. modules.

I have been insanely happy with my NEC PA271W, purchased years ago now. My prints to my Epson P800 are so easy. If the manufacturing tolerances don't add up agin
ya you'll be as happy as I am. Thanks for your blog. I read most days and it makes me happy.

Monitor profiling alone will only get you so far when printing in color. I tried long ago to make an Epson printer work using the canned profiles for my printer and their various papers, and by using a profiling puck device with my external monitor. The first of these attempts were with Apple Cinema displays. Two of them went back, because they evidently couldn't be profiled properly at 6500˚ Kelvin. (I've since heard this about some of the iMacs too). Then I found the 23"IPS Sony P234, which ultimately worked well, after I determined that the original printer profiles from Epson were so awful I had to find a longer chain profiling software (Monaco). I was hybrid printing at the time, so this entailed printing out an IT8 chart and using the feedback of scanning it, to profile both printer and scanner. Worked like a charm. When I swapped in a digital SLR into the color management chain, the monitor was correct and I only had to calibrate to that.

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. Benjamin Franklin

Funny, I just bought my wife a 27 inch display at Best Buy for $150. She's very happy with it for word processing and spreadsheets. With her macbook pro she just runs both monitors (laptop and external), one usually on the web or another document, the big screen on the main document. I bet running two screens like that would be useful for a busy blogger like yourself.

Good job on the monitor, Mike! I think several of us commenters made that same suggestion. Since I already had an i1 Pro probe from xrite, I got my monitor for under a grand. The Spectraview software is really very easy to use so not to worry IMO.

I do suggest you calibrate in the dark or with very little ambient light. I think that gives you the most accurate results. However, over time I have learned to work on files during the day, but my work area is darkened as much as possible and the monitor can adjust itself to ambient light intensity changes. But my most accurate work is still done after sundown.

But why get a Mac Mini? Go for a last year's model MacBook Pro (even used) and use the 2 Thunderbolt 2 and HDMI ports to advantage to give you multiple monitors, fast ext. hard drives, etc. After some testing I found even my 8 GB MacBook Pro can come so close to my 32GB iMac (mid 2011) that I have decided to sell it and the 13 inch MacBook will now be the sole work horse. It will work for me since I'm scaling my activities down anyway. I no longer need to create 8-12 GB files for a 44 inch printer before flattening. Yay!

But when I want to travel, it is all ready for Photoshop or lightroom in the field. My iPad Pro then can then work as a 2nd small monitor.

I think that you'll see an upgrade in accuracy of color. Combine that with ImagePrint and the P600/800 and you should lower your outlay for paper and ink. I have just gotten IP and my new P800 in synch and love the results. Mind you, when I couldn't get them to work right, I fell back on Ctein's workflow and got very acceptable results, just not as quickly.

P.S. The Colorbyte free tutorials for IP are really good.

Be brave. Your new gear will make you happy. Once set up properly. Enlist outside help.

Before upgrading to any new Mac O/S version, be sure it's compatible with your SpectraView software. I made the mistake of not checking once, and it took over 6 months for Apple to catch up.

BTW, now you have no excuse for not getting ImagePrint 10 to link between that beautiful monitor and new printer. You can set it up as an external editor to Lightroom (or similar for Photoshop, I suppose) for quick and easy access.

Ooh, ooh! You'll definitely want to get the NEC Privacy Hood for NEC 27" Professional Monitor to get rid of that nasty glare too. (Unless you were working on a future article about stressing a monitor!)

(The hood is somewhat similar to a large format viewing hood. How could you resist?)

I'm afraid I have an old monitor that probably hasn't ever been calibrated. But that new monitor should be much nicer for you, seeing as you spend hours and hours in front of the computer.

A newer computer may be nice, but I'd bet the new monitor will make a bigger difference for you. Plus, as mentioned, it's a business expense! Have fun with it!

I too have been thinking of getting a separate monitor, for use with my 2015 13" Retina MacBook Pro. But I like my screen -- even though small it has a resolution of 2560x1600, slightly more than your new NEC monitor. I can't calibrate it, but it does print color nicely on the Epson P400, the only printer with red, yellow, and orange pigment inks. So if you decide to return the NEC, this is an option to consider.

I use a Mac Mini for photo processing, utilizing the built-in Photos, Lightroom cc, and Photoshop cc. The mini does just fine for the light load I impose on it, i.e., no batch processing of hundreds of photos at a time. In my humble opinion, it is the best Mac bang for your buck.

I've been using Mac Minis for about ten (twelve?) years now; I replaced my original one last year and have never felt that it was lacking for anything (except an optical drive) - connected to your new monitor, a decent keyboard and mousing option - and you'll be happy as the proverbial mollusk....

Just recently got another 2012 Mac Pro for about $1,200. A great machine and not a budget buster. Easy to upgrade if/when your needs require with extra RAM, up to four 8TB internal hard drives (perhaps requiring the modified sleds from OWC with the extra screw holes needed with some large capacity drives), and one or two SSD's on a PCIe card.

Lloyd Chambers blog turned me on to Other World Computing, Inc. On their site MacSales.com, Mac Pros for sale are refurbished, certified for peak reliable performance, and you get a 14 day money back guarantee. Many choices from under $300 to over $3,000. I bought one from the middle of the pack and I'm very happy with it. Their very good support staff helped me migrate everything from the old computer. It's worth a look.

Even though the current 27" 5k iMac is a year old, wouldn't it give better color performance and overall value for the money?

[Yes, that's a big part of the problem. The color is "better" on a calibrated monitor because it can be calibrated and managed, but the 5k iMac offers a lot of value for an Apple product. That's what has kept me using all-in-one computers over all these years. Not that there's anything wrong with that. --Mike]

I've got a jury rigged hood on my monitor. Highly recommended.

Get a proper one made by the manufacturer.

Not only does it eliminate any residual reflections, it makes for a consistent viewing experience largely independent of ambient lighting from day to night, to which our eyes automatically adjust.

I need hardly remind a distinguished editor of no less than two renowned darkroom magazines that eliminating variables, which assures repeatability and efficiency, is the name of the game in printing, whether photochemical or digital.

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