BenQ's XL2730Z is a feature-packed, gamer-centric WQHD monitor.
Get The Best Price On Ben Q's XL2730Z Monitor
BenQ has been the official sponsor of MLG's displays for the past few years, and the brand is a popular choice among gamers for both console and PC displays.
At this year's Consumer Electronics Show 2015, I stumbled upon BenQ's new XL2730Z, a 27″ model designed for gamers with impressive specs like a WQHD panel capable of 144Hz along with support for AMD's FreeSync technology.
With a retail price of $599, this is by not a budget-friendly option although it caters to the high-end of the gaming spectrum with a concentration on superior performance for the price.
We got our hands on a temporary review unit from BenQ so we could accurately evaluate this monitor and determine whether it is worth the premium price-point. Rest assured, no outside influences or bias have had any effect on the outcome of this review. All opinions expressed in this article are based solely on hands-on experience with our XL2730Z review sample.
Design & Build Quality
The XL2730Z lacks any over-the-top features in regards to its appeal yet although I still find it pleasing to the eye. With thin black bezels, an adjustable stand, and a wide rectangular base, it looks great on any desktop especially next to a custom build gaming PC.
BenQ took the design of this monitor very seriously with little tweaks and features that add extra convenience. The power button and OSD buttons are on the bottom right side of the bezel for easy, uninterrupted access. The power button illuminates white when the display is powered on and along with the OSD buttons, it offers a pleasing, tactile feel when pressed.
The branding is kept to a minimum with only a subtle logo found in the bottom center bezel and a larger milled into the back chassis. On the left side of the chassis, there are two USB 3.0 ports, audio in/out jacks, and a bright red headphone holder that can be pushed in to hide when not in use.
The base of the monitor is large and heavy to ensure maximum stability. BenQ includes a wired micro-controller for quick changes of display profiles/settings. It plugs into the back and sits nicely in designated spot that has been milled into the base of the stand.
Moving up to the neck, there is great versatility with the option to rotate, raise/lower, and articulate the panel from a landscape to portrait orientation. The neck has a circular cutout outlined in red which adds some appeal as well as functions as a passthrough for your cables. At the top of the neck, there is a cut out to use as a handle for carrying the monitor for LANs or travel without making it susceptible to damage.
Something I didn't notice initially but came to appreciate was the in-depth measurements that are present throughout the XL2730Z's design. Since many gamers like to LAN and transport their rig from location to location, BenQ made it easy to dial and match your exact preference for your monitor's height, tilt, and rotation even after it shifts out of place while in transit.
The build quality is robust and well-made throughout its components although the push-out headphone holder doesn't match the rest. While the actual build material is solid, the execution of this slide-in/out design is rather sloppy. It doesn't have a crisp feel like you'd expect and when in the out position it offers a bit more “play” than I would have liked. A small gripe for sure, but one still worth noting.
I'm not going to go over every little detail about this monitor's features and specifications in this section, but I will be covering the significant features that this monitor harnesses. For a more complete and detailed list, visit the BenQ product page.
27″ WQHD 144Hz Display
This model offers a 27″ TN panel with a WQHD native resolution of 2560 x 1400 pixels. Compared to a 27″ 1080p HD monitor, the WQHD resolution boats 77% more screen real-estate, and this translates into greater detail and image clarity when in a gaming environment. While this is still significantly fewer pixels than a 4K UHD display like the ASUS PB287Q, which sells at a similar price-point, it is still a notable increase in resolution when compared to a 1080p display.
To keep up with fast-paced gaming situation, the panel packs both a 1ms GTG response time (minimum input lag) as well as a 144Hz refresh rate. This high refresh rate will keep movements fluid and precise without any hiccups in their presentation. It is important to note that the 144Hz refresh rate will only work when the monitor is hooked up via the DisplayPort connection.
AMD FreeSync Technology
The addition of AMD FreeSync Technology to the XL2730Z is highly anticipated as it keeps the refresh rate of the monitor and game on par. This feature will help to avoid “tearing” which are artifacts in your screen that can be distracting while gaming. With the XL2730Z, users with compatible VSYNC AMD cards will be able to enable the feature and get adaptive refresh rates between 40Hz and 144Hz.
Black eQualizer, Blur Reduction, & Low Blue Light Adjustment
Within the OSD, you have the option to dial in different levels of a Black eQualizer, Blur Reduction, and Low Blue Light.
The Black eQualizer offers greater detail in dark environments without blowing the highlights of bright areas. You can adjust this level from 0-20 depending on your needs, and it can be configured between profiles for quick changing.
Blur Reduction is rather self-explanatory, but changing this component can help achieve a smoother, free-of-blur experience thus making for a more pleasing gaming experience. Unlike the Black eQualizer mode, the Blue Reduction feature is a simple on/off toggle within the OSD.
Lastly, the Low Blue Light is a convenient feature that is best suited for someone who will be putting in a heavy amount of hours looking at this display. Science has proven that blue spectrum light emitted by a monitor such as this can be a direct cause of eye damage, eyestrain, headaches, and sleeping disorders.
By adjusting the Low Blue Light level from 0 to 10, you can minimize the amount of blue light emitted and save your eyes from unnecessary irritation or damage. This is a digital alternative to wearing gaming glasses like Gunnars that can be costly and a hassle to wear for long periods.
Performance & Function
I've been using this model as my primary display for the past two weeks in both gaming and everyday environments. While it is a display designed primarily with a gamer in mind, I think it is still important to cover both aspects as many consumers won't be able to swap out their $600 gaming display when it comes to standard tasks.
Prior to receiving the XL2730Z in for review, I had been using my ASUS PB287Q 4K UHD monitor that is sold at a similar price-point. Making the switch to the BenQ on a full-time basis has been an adjustment as I've been spoiled with the added convenience of the UHD resolution for tasks like web browsing, email/social media, and photo/video editing.
Straight out of the box, the XL2730Z needed to be calibrated pretty heavily as the stock image coming out of the display on ‘Standard' mode was very contrasty with lots of details being lost within the blacks and white areas. The backlight in this model is powerful so turning this down immediately solved most of this problem.
After hooking up my DataColor display calibration unit and running through the calibration process, I was able to dial in the settings to the best that this panel can offer in regards to color representation and uniformity.
If you are coming from an HD monitor, the increase in pixels will feel unusual at first although there are many benefits that you'll learn to love. Most notably, your photos will look crisper, word documents can be read at full-size pages without squinting and you'll be able to view more on a webpage before needing to scroll.
The monitor's large, stable base that keeps the panel safe and secure at all times even when raising or lowering my sit/stand desk. I am a big fan of the highly adjustable stand as it allows me to adjust my monitor height when I am standing versus sitting at my desk with ease and no tools are necessary.
At this price-point, you'll sometimes see models equipped with built-in speakers although these are usually terrible sounding so this isn't an issue for me. I'd rather settle for the convenient side placement of the extra two USB 3.0 ports and audio in/out.
Once the monitor was properly calibrated, my day to day workflows with software like Adobe Premiere, Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC 2015 weren't affected much by the swap from my PB287Q. The lower resolution is less ideal for media work, but far better than 1080P. Keep in mind, the TN panel while ideal for the fast performance needed for gaming is not favorable when it comes to viewing angles.
In terms of color-sensitive work, the XL2730Z beats out the PB287Q in regards to the panel's color sensitivity although not by much (+/- 5%). If your day job is a colorist, photographer, or retoucher where color sensitive work is critical, then you are going to want a backup IPS monitor and just designate this monitor for gaming. The color range and homogeneity will vary too much for someone who requires perfect color representation throughout their work.
Obviously, the most important aspect in regards to this monitor is its gaming performance as that is what this model is primarily designed to do. Throughout the past two weeks, I've been gaming on a daily basis via the XL2730Z with an emphasis on GTA V as well as the early-access version of Killing Floor 2.
My gaming experience thus far has been overly positive. When I am ready to game, I switch to my ‘Gamer 1' profile that I've previously configured with the optimal settings for my needs. Since accurate color representation is not necessary for gaming, I have the backlit bumped up to a much brighter intensity, as well as blur reduction enabled, and the black eQualizer turned up on all the way.
The OSD is well thought out and easy to access via the front side buttons, as well as the wired controller. I appreciate the two options as both are superior to my PB287Q, which requires me to feel around the rear of the panel to locate the buttons based on feel which can be quite frustrating.
With a high-quality TN panel like this, my gaming experience has been ultra smooth thanks to the ability to run at 144Hz with a 1ms response time and blur reduction enabled. This is most evident when playing a fast-paced, high-intensity game like Killing Floor 2 where my screen is continually being bombarded with movement from tens of dozens of characters all charging at me simultaneously. The panel has kept up with the action without any noticeable hiccups and this is an impressive feat.
Gaming in this resolution is highly pleasing as you can harness the extra pixels for a better resulting picture that is superior to that of an HD panel. The downside to this is that it is more resource intensive so you'll need to make sure your machine can handle it.
I prefer the WQHD resolution over my PB287Q's 4K UHD for gaming as my PC can handle this resolution on max settings powered by a sole Nvidia 780ti graphics card. When I try to run these games at max settings running at 4K UHD, the card begins to struggle, and a secondary card would be beneficial in order to handle the increase in resolution.
I have experienced a few odd graphics-related situations when launching Killing Floor 2 and changing my monitor settings while in-game. For example, if I forget to turn blur reduction on and enable it while in the KF2 menu, I sometimes am stuck at a blank black screen and can hear the KF2 background music although I am shown no picture. At this point, I have no other choice but to quit out of the game by way of the task manager. I think this may be a game or graphics card-related issue over a monitor issue, but I think it was worth noting as maybe a future display driver from BenQ may be able to help remedy the problem.
Benchmark Results (After Proper Calibration)
BenQ's XL2730Z delivers on its promise to offer a high-end monitor that boasts excellent visual performance in a gaming environment. For the price, it packs all the bells and whistles like a 144Hz refresh rate along with support for AMD's FreeSync technology. While spending the $600 for this model won't be a suitable fit for all consumer budgets, those who are willing to spend the extra money will be satisfied with the XL2730Z's top-notch performance. Sure, its TN panel isn't the best in regards to resolution, picture quality, color accuracy or viewing angles although it does exactly what it is designed to do, offer silky smooth visuals for all gaming environments.
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