Spoiler alert: This monitor amazes. It will seduce your eyes and make every other monitor unworthy. Trading up to this monitor is like trading up from a Chevette to a Corvette. The Planar packs four times as many pixels onscreen in the WQHD format (2560x1440, or 1440p) as the original HD monitor standard of 1280x720, or 720p). If you're reading this on a FHD (Full HD at 1920x1080, or 1080p) monitor, the largest in common use today, you will still want to accidentally bump it off your desk and replace it with the Planar.
Planar Systems, Inc. was spun off from Tektronix in 1983, and Hillsboro, Ore., is close to the Tektronix site in Beaverton. The company's products include specialty displays like videowalls, but Planar never strayed far from the cutting-edge technical quality of Tektronix. Designed for use in critical color creation and design applications as well as the general office, the PXL2709MW has more color controls and calibration tools than we can test without scientific equipment. Everyone in the prepress, design, or video world needs a monitor with this level of color control.
The surprising details start when pulling the monitor out of the box. Designed as a "bezel free" monitor, the front of the monitor looks like it's cut from a single piece of shiny black stone. The bottom inch of the monitor has a matte finish, so it looks different, but the rest of the monitor looks like a single piece of glass, reminiscent of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. When you turn it on, you see there's an inch or so of bezel all the way around, which makes sense because you know intellectually there's a frame even as you wonder how the company made it frameless. On a desk in office light, when it's turned off, the PXL2790MW looks bezel free unless the light is at just the right angle to show the frame.
Ports abound. There are the obvious VGA and HDMI ports you see on just about every monitor for the last few years. Then you have DVI (Digital Video Interface) and DP (DisplayPort), along with an Audio In and headphone jack out. All necessary cords except for VGA and HDMI come in the box.
VGA provides resolutions from 720x400 up through the normal 1920x1080 found on most new monitors today. It also supports two more resolutions, 1920x1200 and 2048x1152. The 2048x1152 bumps up the size just a little, but with the larger screen size and bright LED screen, it seems far bigger than your typical 1920x1080.
HDMI supports only 1920x1080, which surprised us. But this is HDMI 1.0, standardized for Hi-Def TVs. HDMI 2.0 will jump up the pixel density to 2560x1600.
Until then, to get the most of the PXL2790MW, you need a DVI or DP connection. When we hooked up the DVI cable, and turned on the computer to show a resolution of 2560x1440, the quality of WQHD resolution on a high-end monitor became apparent. The idea of modifying your computer to support two monitors? No need with the Planar.
Everyone who walked by the Planar said the same thing: "Wow, that's a sharp monitor." The bright consistent white of a Microsoft Word document held letters so sharp we worried about cutting ourselves on the edges. Images glow from within, showing more detail than before. Videos looked better than when played on a 1080p TV. Colors are consistent from top to bottom, left to right.
Other physical details include the fact the monitor is only about 1.7 inches deep, and the stand takes up only 7.9 inches of desk space. Of course, there's only about three inches of space between the desk and the bottom of the monitor, depending on how you tilt it, so you can't put anything too sizeable under there. But if you're the type to stack paper, you'll have some room.
Like many other flatscreens today, the Planar includes stereo speakers. Like most of the included speakers, they aren't worth much. These may be slightly better than most because they're separated far enough because of the large monitor size to give a feeling of stereo. But the sound goes out the back, through the heat vent. This means there's room for bigger speakers, since they don't have to cram them into the bottom inch of the monitor under the bottom edge of the glass covering the screen, but the sound projects away from the user. Good enough for kitten videos, but don't try pumping your favorite drum and bass dance music through these. The headphone line out is a nice touch (so you can listen to your DnB privately).
Overall? Our first impression, out of the box and then using it at 1920x1080, was amazement. Clarity, brightness, design, text sharpness, and image depth were all better than any monitor we've seen before. Once we hooked up the DVI connection and started using it at 2560x1440 we were even more impressed. Why spend money on two mediocre monitors to get extra screen real estate, when you can buy one of these Planar monitors and get the screen space you want and the image quality you deserve? Two is definitely not better than one, if the one is the Planar PXL2790MW.
These are available now from a variety of online resellers and through distribution. Pricing is around $600 on the street, which is actually on the low end for a WQHD monitor of this build quality. Full specs on page 2.
Dear Planar: we shipped your monitor back - promise. If you didn't get it, don't blame us. It must have fallen off the truck. No, you may NOT come visit our office.