BenQ XL2730Z Freesync gaming monitor review
I have not only been privileged to get hands on with BenQ’s new curved monitor but I was given one of their XL2730Z gaming monitors to live with for a while.
The BenQ XL2730Z is a gaming monitor packed with all the features you would expect, such as a peeper-pleasing 2560 x 1440-pixel resolution, blur-reduction mode, 144Hz refresh rate and a grey-to-grey response time of 1 millisecond – it even packs its own remote control with quick access to programmed settings!
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test out the included FreeSync tech that also comes as standard with the BenQ XL2370Z as my machine is rocking an overclocked GTX 780 GPU (graphics processing unit) and FreeSync plays with AMD cards.
So, is the BenQ XL2730Z LCD gaming screen worth its price tag?
BenQ XL2730Z design
You may have already decyphered the monitor’s name and worked out that the 27 refers to the screen size. The BenQ XL2730Z is a 27-inch gaming monitor and it certainly looks the part.
The black-bezelled monitor sits atop a square base and slender stand and has nothing extra or overtly garish that would distract or draw your eyes away from what’s happening on-screen.
There is a little flash of red, the default colour for gamer-ware it seems, inside the cable management ring in the stand and also on the remote control but everything else follows Henry Ford’s colour brief.
In contrast to the relatively plain front, around the rear of the monitor it gets pretty angular. This is also where you’ll find input for a microphone, the miniUSB socket for the remote, a DVI-D socket, two HDMI, one DisplayPort, one VGA and a USB B input. It’s always good when a company doesn’t skimp on ports and it’s nice to see ‘legacy’ hook-ups catered for – and there’s even more!
On the left-hand side you’ve got two USB 3.0 sockets and both a headphone and microphone jack – perfectly positioned next to the headphone stand. Oh yeah, the monitor also has a built-in 70mm retractable arm that springs out when you push the seemingly inconspicuous red button to hang your cans from.
The headphone port on the side of the monitor uses its own sound card and it only works over HDMI and DisplayPort. The microphone is just a normal pass-through. The sound is better than I was expecting through the XL2730Z’s headphone port and will be fine for most gaming applications but, for music, I’ll stick with my Musical Fidelity V90 DAC, AMP and headphone amp thank you. For me it was missing the low end so explosions seemed a bit thin, even through the Oppo PM-3 headphones.
The USB-tethered puck is used to control the onscreen menu and consists of five buttons with a central scroll wheel. Far from being a frippery I found it actually useful, especially when first setting the monitor up. If you don’t have use for it, then at least the monitor stand base comes with its own cup holder.
I am well impressed with the amount of adjustments you are able to make to the monitor’s positioning. The XL2730Z will swivel, slide, and pivot in just about any way you might want it to and thus allowing for great flexibility. You get 5.5-inches of height adjustment, 25° worth of tilt, 45° of swivel in each direction, and 90° worth of pivot right round into portrait mode.
I am guessing, as my regular lowly monitor has none of these ergonomic features, this is one area that you are paying the extra for. Having paid for a decent office chair it was nice to be able to spend hours in front of a perfectly adjusted monitor – I didn’t even have to add any books underneath it!
One feature I can only imagine using once in a blue moon is the carry handle that protrudes from the top of the metal-clad stand. Granted, it did make it easy to carry from where I had put it together over to my desk but… not sure when I’d next need to use it if I had bought the monitor.
BenQ XL2730Z set up and features
Setting up the BenQ XL2730Z is relatively straightforward. It comes in three parts, with the stand screwing onto the base via a captive finger screw, then the display clips easily onto the stand section. If you want to use a VESA mounting arm then the display section has the applicable mounting points.
It seems that BenQ wants you to keep your new monitor in mint condition as they provide a plastic cover that slides neatly over the monitor. Great for transporting the monitor (you also get to use the handle again!) or if your screen has some idle time – mine not so much.
When it comes to setting up the display, this is where the little remote comes into its own. There’s no need to poke around the array of buttons on the right edge to get to the settings you need. It’s all about the scroll wheel and back button and these will quickly allow you to navigate the OSD (On Screen Display).
The OSD menu itself is decent, although there did seem to be a few duplicated options but you are certainly not short of modes and features to choose from. It’s a decent selection and should mean that everyone should be able to tweak the picture to just how they like it.
Let me get the AMD FreeSync out of the way first as it is there as a feature but I wasn’t able to test it having only a pair of Nvidia-powered puters to hand. FreeSync makes for smoother more responsive games as this tech enables AMD APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) and GPUs to directly control the update rate of a compatible monitor. This basically means that the monitor updates the moment a new picture is ready. It only works with some AMD graphics cards at the moment but it will no doubt become a standard feature across the AMD range soon enough. Nvidia isn’t left out though as it has its G-Sync tech.
Anyhooo, the 27-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 pixel panel is kitted out with the prerequisite 1ms response time and 144Hz refresh rate that has become the benchmark for gamers.
You can also call upon the blur-reduction mode, which is available via the puck or the not-so-obvious buttons which live on the right-hand face of the bezel. This uses a backlight-flickering technique to reduce the appearance of blur. But there are plenty more modes and settings, don’t you worry.
Stating the obvious here but it’s probably best to start off in Standard mode and turning all the extra features off and then start to tweaking.
Making adjustments via those five identical buttons on the front of the monitor could have had me tearing my hair out but, thankfully, that plucky little puck makes navigating the upteen variables in the menus a breeze.
BenQ XL2730Z performance
Let me kick off by saying that BenQ have chosen to go with a TN panel for the XL2730Z. This does tend to send cold chills of restricted viewing angles in to most monitor-geeks. I didn’t find the view angles hideous by any stretch of the imagination and you do get the pay off with those impressive response times mentioned earlier.
I have been suitably impressed but the XL2730Z’s high-quality image with no hint of uneven backlighting. After a few hours of gaming (Counter Strike Source and Global Offensive, Black Ops II, Crysis II and Project Cars) I fell in love with the monitor’s smooth handling and peppy response rates. Also the clarity and size of this panel made games that I have spent an inordinate amount of time playing even more immersive. My usual 23-inch widescreen monitor just doesn’t do it for me anymore after gaming on the BenQ beast.
It has been a total joy editing photographs thanks to the monitor’s vibrant colours and impressive blacks although those viewing angles can play tricks on you if you’re not careful.
The blur-reduction technology flickers the backlight on and off in time with the refresh rate to reduce the appearance of motion blur, in a method that simulates black frame insertion – a common technique for reducing motion blur. This actually seems to work with motion immediately appearing reduced and images looking much sharper and more immediate. The photo above is with blur-reduction switched off during a reply of a rather wet session on Project Cars.
There is a trade-off though. Apparently FreeSync and Blur Reduction cannot be used together should that be what you’re planning. If you value no stuttering and lower input lag, enable FreeSync if you’re rocking a Radeon GPU and set AMA to High. If a ghost-free image is most important, then increase your refresh rate to at least 120hz and enable ‘Blur Reduction’ to significantly reduce motion blur. Keep in mind that your peak brightness will be capped if you choose to do this.
The Black Equalizer (why does that make me think of Denzel Washington?) basically changes the gamma to boost the darkest parts of an image. This does actually destroy the image quality of what the game designers had in mind, but does provide an advantage for gamers who want to make it easier to see enemies in the dark – or cheat as I like to call it 😉
You can also adjust the colour vibrancy and reduce the blue light level to reduce the sleep-depriving effects of blue light.
BenQ XL2730Z gaming monitor review conclusion
Overall I have been wowed by the BenQ XL2730Z.
I have to share my desk space and the prospect of loading my side, which is already pushing its luck thanks to my CM Storm Stryker full tower, with a 27-inch monitor I thought it would push me over the line. Thankfully, the XL2730Z is a large monitor but with quite a dainty footprint.
I like the slim and sleek design as well as its ease of set up, partly thanks to the remote and partly thanks to its many angles of adjustment which makes plugging in cables a lot easier and reduces the need for Yoga skills.
The XL2730Z is solidly built and does feel like a premium monitor. Add in its myriad ports, a carry handle and headphone stand it certainly ticks all the boxes.
The headphone port is a handy addition for those of you who have your machine a distance away from your monitor but I wouldn’t want to have to rely on it as my only sound source. The headphone hanger, on the other-hand, is a neat feature.
I have no issue with the image quality of the BenQ XL2730Z which is perhaps only very slightly marred by the TN panel’s viewing angles. Not one for pro photographers or video editors but, If you’re looking for an amazing gaming monitor, I reckon that the BenQ XL2730Z is definitely one that you should have a look at.
The BenQ XL2730Z is certainly a speedy LCD monitor that’s packed with premium features and with the addition of FreeSync, blur-reduction and other bits of visual tech, offers excellent gaming performance.
You can grab a BenQ XL2730Z now for £453.41 from Amazon.co.uk.