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BenQ XL2720Z Monitor Review: A 27-Inch, 144 Hz Gaming Display

BenQ XL2720Z Monitor Review: A 27-Inch, 144 Hz Gaming Display
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Many displays are marketed as gaming monitors. But only a tiny handful operate at refresh rates greater than 60 Hz. The BenQ XL2720Z sails along at 144 Hz and offers many gaming-specific features. Today we run it through our benchmark suite.

For a display to truly be classified as a gaming monitor, it must be able to run at high refresh rates. With high-end graphics configurations topping 100 FPS in demanding titles at the most taxing detail settings, competitive gamers need panels able to keep up. G-Sync holds a lot of promise by matching the input and output frame rates, but compatible displays are only just now starting to trickle into the market. We expect to see a few press samples soon.

If you need a gamer-oriented screen today, your best bet is one able to refresh at up to 144 Hz. We tested Asus’ VG248QE back in the fall and concluded that it offered fantastic speed, along with surprisingly good contrast and color accuracy. Today, we continue our inquest by reviewing BenQ's 27-inch XL2720Z.

Brand
BenQ
Model
XL2720Z
Street Price
$499
Panel Type
TN Film
Backlight
W-LED, edge array
Screen Size
27-inch
Max Resolution
1920x1080
Max Refresh Rate
144 Hz
Aspect Ratio
16:9
Native Color Depth
6-bit w/FRC
Native Gamut
sRGB
Response Time (GTG)
1 ms
Brightness
300 cd/m2
Speakers
-
VGA
1
DVI
1
DisplayPort v1.2
1
HDMI 1.4
2
Audio In
via HDMI or DP
Headphone
1
USB
v2.0: 1 up, 3 down
Media Card Reader
-
Panel Dimensions
W x H x D w/base
25.3 x 21.6 x 10.7 in
642 x 548 x 273 mm
Panel Thickness
2.6 in / 67 mm
Bezel Width
.8 in / 20 mm
Weight
16.5 lbs / 7.5 kg
Warranty
One year

There are a couple of features worth mentioning that are not part of the specs. The first of these is Flicker-Free, which is BenQ’s term for an LED backlight that does not use pulse-width modulation. Most monitors reduce their output by cycling the backlight at high frequencies, as high as 20 kHz, in fact. This can sometimes manifest as flicker to more sensitive users. The two ways to combat this problem are to increase the PWM frequency or power the backlight with direct current, as BenQ does. Voltage is kept constant and the backlight is not cycled, regardless of brightness setting, so flicker is not possible even at minimal levels.

The second major feature is Blur Reduction, BenQ's marketing term for backlight strobing. Functionally, it operates like Nvidia's LightBoost technology whereby the backlight is turned on and off between frames to minimize the blur inherent to sample-and-hold display technology like LCD. Since it’s now built into the monitor, you can use it with any graphics card, not just one that’s LightBoost-enabled. Without Blur Reduction, each frame of the image stays on-screen until the next frame is rendered. This is different than CRT or plasma displays that actually go dark between frames. Of course, it’s all happening 60 times per second or more so your eye shouldn't perceive the flicker. Instead, you get smoother motion resolution. The main side-effect is a reduction in light output. But there is a solution in the form of a third-party utility we included in our testing. For the rest of that story, see page nine.

Like Asus' VG248QE and other high-speed monitors, the XL2720Z is a twisted-nematic (TN) panel. In-plane switching (IPS) and its variants have made major strides in most areas of image quality, but speed is not on that list. Today’s reality is that if you want fast response and low input lag, you have to use TN.

The second part of the speed equation is bit-depth. This BenQ monitor uses an AU Optronics six-bit native panel with a frame rate conversion algorithm to create a perceived eight-bit output signal. In practice, it works extremely well. We talked about the banding artifacts that can result from signal compression in Asus VG248QE: A 24-Inch, 144 Hz Gaming Monitor Under $300. We didn’t see any on that display, nor did we see any on this one. By using a six-bit panel, both response time and input lag are significantly reduced.

BenQ includes several more goodies in the XL2720Z that cater to gamers. Let’s take a look.

Display all 41 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Fierce Guppy , May 30, 2014 12:43 AM
    What a coincidence. I got a XL2720Z just this Wednesday. I would've preferred to wait for the arrival of Haswell-E before buying a new monitor, but my Samsung T260 emits something that causes reddening of the skin around my nose, above my left eyebrow, and smack in middle of my forehead. (Sunlight and florescent tubes don't do this to me.) Happy to say the XL2720Z does not cause me any injury, or at least not yet...

    It's still an interim monitor, though. What I really want is a large affordable WQHD or UHD IPS gaming monitor.
  • 9 Hide
    MonsterCookie , May 30, 2014 6:53 AM
    When do monitor manufacturers understand, that 1080p resolution is a JOKE,
    especially on a large 27" screen?
    In the early 2000s it might have been ok to have such resolution, but nowadays
    it is no longer usable. Even for a 24" screen the minimal resolution is
    1920x1200.
    Until they are not making these 27" screens to have more pixels, they are not
    seeing any cash out of me. I rather buy el-cheapo monitors from Ebay as a mail
    order from Korea.

    Monitor manufacturers, please stop living in the 80s and stop hustling us with
    your prices!
  • 4 Hide
    Bernie Fresh , May 30, 2014 6:54 AM
    "oh neat, a new monitor. lets check specs. oh coool 1080p and a bunch of buzz words"
    sometimes I feel like nobody is listening... or just trying to sell me a bridge for the low low.
    decent review, but if youve got the gpu for 144Hz. 2160p @60 is just a cootie shot away
  • 0 Hide
    somebodyspecial , May 30, 2014 7:09 AM
    So from the results I still need an IPS with Gsync or you're stuck with TN. I'm hoping by xmas they have a dozen good choices for gsync monitors with 144hz also in there (why not, what if I go AMD again after maxwell?). Might as well get as many bases covered as possible. IF monitor makers are reading this, 2560x1600! Screw this 1440p crap. Wider is NOT better in monitors of these sizes. I want to scroll up & down less than I am already on 1920x1200 but at least at 1600p I get the same. I won't buy 1440p.
  • 5 Hide
    MonsterCookie , May 30, 2014 7:13 AM
    Quote:
    "oh neat, a new monitor. lets check specs. oh coool 1080p and a bunch of buzz words"
    sometimes I feel like nobody is listening... or just trying to sell me a bridge for the low low.

    To add offense to injury, in 2008 I bought my first LCD (24" Samsung with 1920x1200 pixels) for 330Euros. Now a 24" Samsung would cost me 400 Euros, and it has only 1920x1080 pixels.

    What on earth have happened? Why did prices go up, and resolution went down?
    Why are there no 30" 2560x1600 TN panels out there for gamers for 700 Euros?
  • 0 Hide
    iknowhowtofixit , May 30, 2014 7:29 AM
    27" TN panel at 1080p @ 144Hz?

    I guess that would allow people to look through a screen door with no motion blur or ghosting? I would need QHD or better at anything 24" and above.
  • -4 Hide
    siman0 , May 30, 2014 7:39 AM
    Quote:
    When do monitor manufacturers understand, that 1080p resolution is a JOKE,
    especially on a large 27" screen?
    In the early 2000s it might have been ok to have such resolution, but nowadays
    it is no longer usable. Even for a 24" screen the minimal resolution is
    1920x1200.
    Until they are not making these 27" screens to have more pixels, they are not
    seeing any cash out of me. I rather buy el-cheapo monitors from Ebay as a mail
    order from Korea.

    Monitor manufacturers, please stop living in the 80s and stop hustling us with
    your prices!


    This monitor is made for gaming, true gamers don't care a grate deal about resolution. We are in it for the refresh rates and the response time. Ive been gaming on a old CRT monitor till last year with a change to the Asus VG248QE. Even though its still much slower than my old CRT it works. I have 2 computers 1 for gaming and one for everyday and video work. Gaming machine is set up around a single R9 290X, 4770K, and a Asus VG monitor. My other computer is a crossfired 295s, 3930K, and 3 IPS 4k monitors.

    A single card is better for latency, 4770K is more than enough to push data to the 290X and the monitor has a fast refresh rate. Its better at gaming than my extremely high dollar build. Peripherals are set up differently as you can imagine gaming computer has razer and a 7.1 headset. The other is mostly set up for 2.1 but i do have a 7.1 headset for room sound.
  • 9 Hide
    MonsterCookie , May 30, 2014 7:54 AM
    @siman0

    "This monitor is made for gaming, true gamers don't care a grate deal about resolution"

    You meant, online multiplayer gamers don't care a grate deal about resolution.

    I prefer to play single-player FPS, where I do want to have all the eye candy,
    and I want to see the vegetation, desert, sky etc. The only advantage of a PC is
    that it can provide better graphics, that is the main point.

    Otherwise I could just go out, buy an 1080p TV, a Crapbox1, Crapbox360, or PlayStopper 4, and game on that thing in 1080p.

    I think monitor technology is not moving forward (in fact moving backwards) exactly because people are happy to buy their 1080p crap for 500 Euros.
  • 3 Hide
    iknowhowtofixit , May 30, 2014 8:08 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    When do monitor manufacturers understand, that 1080p resolution is a JOKE,
    especially on a large 27" screen?
    In the early 2000s it might have been ok to have such resolution, but nowadays
    it is no longer usable. Even for a 24" screen the minimal resolution is
    1920x1200.
    Until they are not making these 27" screens to have more pixels, they are not
    seeing any cash out of me. I rather buy el-cheapo monitors from Ebay as a mail
    order from Korea.

    Monitor manufacturers, please stop living in the 80s and stop hustling us with
    your prices!


    This monitor is made for gaming, true gamers don't care a grate deal about resolution. We are in it for the refresh rates and the response time. Ive been gaming on a old CRT monitor till last year with a change to the Asus VG248QE. Even though its still much slower than my old CRT it works. I have 2 computers 1 for gaming and one for everyday and video work. Gaming machine is set up around a single R9 290X, 4770K, and a Asus VG monitor. My other computer is a crossfired 295s, 3930K, and 3 IPS 4k monitors.

    A single card is better for latency, 4770K is more than enough to push data to the 290X and the monitor has a fast refresh rate. Its better at gaming than my extremely high dollar build. Peripherals are set up differently as you can imagine gaming computer has razer and a 7.1 headset. The other is mostly set up for 2.1 but i do have a 7.1 headset for room sound.


    I get the impression that you were looking for an excuse to brag here... :ange: 

    You don't need a top tier $4000 gaming rig to be successful in competitive online play. I've had personal success, never had the best stuff, and never felt like I was "missing the edge" or anything.
  • 3 Hide
    InvalidError , May 30, 2014 9:23 AM
    This seems a little weird to me: the panel uses constant-current to drive LEDs because some people claim to see flicker at ~20kHz PWM frequency yet the very same display uses backlight strobing to reduce blur and this would be occurring at 144-288Hz which is 100X lower.
  • 0 Hide
    DookieDraws , May 30, 2014 1:52 PM
    Serious question. Why not just buy a quality HDTV with 120 (or greater) Hz for your gaming monitor? Especially if you'll be gaming at 1920x1080. A neighbor has his PC hooked up to a quality HDTV and it looks great to me. I've played Battlefield on it with no issues at all. It's pretty awesome!
  • 0 Hide
    Fierce Guppy , May 30, 2014 1:57 PM
    Quote:
    Monster Cookie:
    When do monitor manufacturers understand, that 1080p resolution is a JOKE,
    especially on a large 27" screen?
    In the early 2000s it might have been ok to have such resolution, but nowadays
    it is no longer usable. Even for a 24" screen the minimal resolution is
    1920x1200.



    In the early 2000s CRTs were still the standard. 4:3 was the standard aspect ratio. There were no 1080p LCD monitors let alone large 1080p LCD monitors, and I paid ~$1200(NZD) for a 17" 1280x1024@60Hz (16ms) LCD display in 2003. That's how bad it was back then.
  • 0 Hide
    InvalidError , May 30, 2014 2:54 PM
    Quote:
    Serious question. Why not just buy a quality HDTV with 120 (or greater) Hz for your gaming monitor?

    Most 120+Hz TVs take 60Hz input and pulse their backlight 2-5X per frame to reduce blur during display refreshes and perceivable flicker.
  • 0 Hide
    Fierce Guppy , May 30, 2014 3:43 PM
    Quote:
    DookieDraws:
    Serious question. Why not just buy a quality HDTV with 120 (or greater) Hz for your gaming monitor? Especially if you'll be gaming at 1920x1080. A neighbor has his PC hooked up to a quality HDTV and it looks great to me. I've played Battlefield on it with no issues at all. It's pretty awesome!


    Try searching for a 120HZ HDTV in my country. See what comes up.
    http://pricespy.co.nz/category.php?k=107
  • 2 Hide
    balister , May 30, 2014 4:44 PM
    Quote:
    @siman0

    "This monitor is made for gaming, true gamers don't care a grate deal about resolution"

    You meant, online multiplayer gamers don't care a grate deal about resolution.

    I prefer to play single-player FPS, where I do want to have all the eye candy,
    and I want to see the vegetation, desert, sky etc. The only advantage of a PC is
    that it can provide better graphics, that is the main point.

    Otherwise I could just go out, buy an 1080p TV, a Crapbox1, Crapbox360, or PlayStopper 4, and game on that thing in 1080p.

    I think monitor technology is not moving forward (in fact moving backwards) exactly because people are happy to buy their 1080p crap for 500 Euros.


    It has absolutely nothing to do with people being happy with buying them. The reason monitors are being made at 1080p or 1440p is because of media. Media companies set the standard of 16:9 which is why you see the majority of monitors now only being built at 16:9 instead of 16:10. So blame the media companies for basically forcing the monitor manufacturers into 16:9 because there are far more TVs/Monitors that are sold at 16:9 than at 16:10 (this is why there are also so few TVs/Monitors at 2.35 - True Letterbox).

    Also, you don't understand why having a monitor refresh above 60Hz is useful, even if you play single player games like FPS. There are two aspects to having a monitor above 60Hz, one is 3D so you can play true 3D (ie, there's true depth of image vs. pseudo-depth where the illusion of 3D is provided through 2D) capable games at a respectable frame rate of 60 or 72 (depending if your monitor is 120Hz or 144Hz) and the second (which has been mentioned) is smoothness in turning (with a 60Hz monitor at 60 FPS, each will only show an arc of 6 degrees if you make a full revolution within one sec where as a 120 Hz monitor at 120 FPS will have an arc of 3 degrees if you make a full revolution within 1 sec).

    There is a very noticeable difference when playing between a 120+ Hz monitor and a 60 Hz monitor. It's not something that can be really imparted well through explaination, it's more something you have to see yourself. After spending a few years gaming on a 120Hz monitor, I really can't go back to 60Hz without getting some level or motion sickness due to the fluidity of movement on a 120Hz monitor where I can notice the "jerkiness" in a 60Hz monitor.
  • 0 Hide
    coolitic , May 30, 2014 6:32 PM
    A whopping savings of $10?

    I'm assuming this was either a typo or sarcasm was being used.
  • 0 Hide
    saint19 , May 30, 2014 8:12 PM
    I have the little brother, the 2420z and the monitor is amazing for FPS games.
  • 2 Hide
    BlueCyberPhantomX , May 30, 2014 10:32 PM
    so what beast of a pc will run that? i reckon you'd need at least a 780 ti or r9289x to play games at ultra above 55 fps...
  • 0 Hide
    tykus , May 30, 2014 10:51 PM
    Balister - Said it best.
  • 0 Hide
    tankNZ , May 31, 2014 4:04 AM
    Great article!
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