A long, long time ago – fine, around 2005 – when gamers wanted quick response times for their favorite first-person shooters (FPS), they'd pick up a plasma TV. Sure, they ran hot, but those 600MHz screens displayed crisp, high-contrast images just as fast as the machine could spit them out. For a time, this solution served gamers well.
But BenQ's line of gaming monitors came along and ruined an otherwise fine option. The company released top-shelf LED screens that not only rivaled the picture quality of plasma TVs, but outpaced them in speed, too.
The BenQ XL2720Z, the screen maker's latest 27-inch gaming monitor, carries the pedigree I've come to expect from the manufacturer. But this time, the screen packs an even higher refresh rate (up to 144MHz) and enhanced motion blur reduction.
While most monitor companies can make a mechanically sound display, few can make an aesthetically pleasing one, too. But one look at this slim, 1-inch deep panel and you can tell BenQ isn't like most monitor makers.
The XL2720Z measures 21.5 x 25.2 x 1 inches (W x H x D), and uses most of that space for the 27-inch 1,920 x 1,080 TN panel. The display is beset by one inch of plastic trim and sometimes-finicky capacitive buttons, all supported by a multi-point articulating stand.
Tilt the panel 90 degrees and you'll see the plethora of ports on the back: two HDMI, D-Sub, DVI-DL, and standard DisplayPort. However, BenQ dropped the ball on audio, offering a single 3.5mm headphone jack as its only source of audio-out.
Built-in speakers are generally a mixed bag. Low-end, 5-watt drivers sound tinny, produce static noise and add extra cost to the panel. So, while I understand BenQ's decision to omit speaker, the lack of an optical audio-out stopped the XL2720Z from replacing my go-to monitor, an old Samsung TV with some PC video inputs.
That, however, is a small complaint. Anyone who outputs sound directly from their PC or runs consoles directly into an audio receiver won't have this hangup.
Specifications and performance
As a straight desktop monitor, the XL2720Z is phenomenal. Sporting a 12,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, this monitor can differentiate between black levels and produce exceptionally nuanced images. A 1,920 x 1,080 resolution may not be the highest around (or even sharper than one of this screen's rivals, the Acer B326HUL), but it was more than enough to play CPU-heavy FPS games in stunning detail.
Within the menus, blur reduction can be toggled, and aspect ratios can be set to 4:3, 5:4, 16:10 or 16:9. Of course, brightness, contrast, color temperature and saturation levels can all be changed and saved to one of three custom settings. If advanced video isn't your thing, you'll find a number of preset video options like movie, photo, real-time strategy and FPS available at your finger tips.
The shining achievement of the XL2720Z – and every monitor in BenQ's catalog – is the 1-millisecond response time. I witnessed no noticeable ghosting on most FPS games or motion blur. And though it made the screen noticeably dimmer, the feature facilitated a buttery smooth on-screen experience. While choosing BenQ's lower-end, 100MHz RL2455HM panel may not give the exact same level of performance, expect the 1ms response time to consistently impress.
Monitors versus TVs
There are myriad reasons to pick a monitor over a TV (e.g. response time and refresh rate), but one reason to hesitate is the price; the XL2720Z will run you a cool $530 (about £320, AU$570). Compare that to a similarly-sized HDTV: Samsung's UN28H4000, a mid-range 28-inch TV, costs around just $200.
It's a huge trade-off in terms of quality – you're losing the FHD resolution along with contrast ratio, response time, refresh rate, motion blur reduction. But if you're only measuring screen sizes, you'll get the impression that BenQ is running a monitor racket.
BenQ is known for making premium products, and its gaming line is especially expensive. If you're a cost-cutter, the price can be a tough pill to swallow. Press the "Buy Now" button, though, and you're guaranteed to fall in love with your screen.
As far as gaming monitors go, the XL2720Z is one of the best. It's nimble, color-accurate and produces a picture that's a pleasure to look at for hours. That, thanks to the built-in blue light filter, is a very real possibility.
So long as you have a GPU that can handle it, games are guaranteed to look great at in full HD. And the menu buttons, while a bit finicky, are always there to fine-tune any image discrepancies you see.
Finally, while they're not absolutely vital, USB ports located on the side and back of the monitor are a helpful touch. Not to mention the included preset-switching peripheral (with three settings).
Despite it being worth every penny, the XL2720Z is an expensive addition to any gaming setup. There are cheaper alternatives out there, but expect trade-offs in terms of quality.
Worse, the lack of audio-out options here can really put the kabosh on a multi-console set-up you might already have in place. There aren't any built-in speakers, and without optical audio output, be prepared to route audio signal directly from its source to your speakers without counting on the monitor for any assistance.
The BenQ XL2720Z is an unapologetically premium gaming monitor. This screen is slim, sleek and aesthetically pleasing – however, it carries a price tag to match. The 27-inch model should be enough screen real estate for any power user.
And while the FHD display doesn't quite compete with sharper screens in the same price range, the rapid, 1ms response time more than made up for any shortcomings. If you're as serious about monitors as you are about about your kill-death ratio, this gaming monitor can't be beat.