BenQ XL2730Z 27-inch FreeSync Monitor Review

For our first chance to examine AMD’s FreeSync, BenQ sent us its brand-new XL2730Z, and we’re running it through our demanding suite.

Last August we got our first look at a G-Sync-capable gaming monitor – the Asus ROG Swift PG278Q. By matching incoming frame rates to the monitor’s refresh cycle, stuttering and tearing from moving images is eliminated. It was quite an eye-opener to see it in person after so many simulated demos had circulated online.

Of course G-Sync requires not only a compatible monitor but also a modern GeForce GTX graphics board. That shuts out a legion of AMD users (and even a lot of Nvidia owners) from this slick new tech. FreeSync, added to the DisplayPort standard as Adaptive-Sync, was announced at about the same time as G-Sync and held great promise. As part of DisplayPort 1.2a, it would not require an additional PCB in your display. It would simply be there waiting to connect with the right video card and driver set.

Reality took a little longer to materialize, but today we’re checking out our first FreeSync display, BenQ’s XL2730Z. Known for its quality gaming screens, BenQ takes a QHD resolution panel, adds its tried-and-true gaming features and makes it fully DP1.2a-compatible, which means it supports FreeSync with certain Radeon cards. For a specific list, check out AMD's FreeSync technology page.

Specifications

We’re always hoping for more IPS gaming monitors, but BenQ doesn't answer our wishes here. The XL2730Z uses a TN part from AU Optronics. It’s a brand-new piece sporting 8-bit color depth, 2560x1440 resolution, a 144Hz max refresh rate and a constant-current W-LED backlight. Constant-current means there is no flicker-inducing pulse-width modulation, unless of course you engage the blur-reduction feature.

Blur-reduction is standard fare on pretty much every gaming monitor these days. It’s accomplished by scanning or strobing the backlight between frames. LED’s super-fast response allows this to happen. The big differentiator between products is how much their light output is affected. The amount of time the backlight is actually on determines how much brightness there is. And it’s a Catch-22 proposition. If you want less blur, you have to keep the backlight off for longer.

Some monitors take a large hit to output with blur-reduction engaged (on the order of 65 percent or more). Unless you’re starting with a 450cd/m2 panel, this makes for an extremely dim picture. Better displays include a pulse width adjustment that lets you determine how much output is reduced. BenQ does a superb job in this area. The XL2730Z has one of the best-implemented versions we’ve seen yet. Even on its lowest setting, the blur-reduction improves motion resolution while only dropping output by 35 percent.

Of course there are plenty of other features to talk about, not the least of which is FreeSync. We’ll check that out on our newly-upgraded test system with the latest AMD Catalyst drivers. Page three has instructions on how to enable the technology and page eight has the results of our motion resolution tests. Let’s take a look.

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  • norseman4
    I don't understand why the price is so high. The only things I see that are different (in any meaningful way) from the Acer XG270HU (which I have, and am a fan of) is hight adjustment and an external puck to load configurable screen settings. (that is pretty cool though)

    The Acer also doesn't have the raised bezel that is actually about 8mm (Top, Left and Right)

    The Benq looks like a good monitor, I just don't see what justifies the premium price.
  • Xajel
    I'll wait for 29" 21:9 1440p instead, the only option available is curved, which is pricey, I don't see the curvation worth the extra cost... FreeSync is a plus but this will drive the cost up again ( to have a 144Hz panel at that resolution )... and please add a USB 3.1 hub with 2x Type-A & 2x Type-C ports
  • eklipz330
    i may have missed it in the article, but what is the range of frames freesync covers on this monitor?
  • I Hate Nvidia
    Quote:
    i may have missed it in the article, but what is the range of frames freesync covers on this monitor?
    First thing I was thinking of is FreeSync Range , and I double checked the article and there is no mention of it at all! I think the writer is not well informed regarding FreeSync - GSync Range.
  • ceberle
    The frame-rate range is 40-144Hz.

    -Christian-
  • JTWrenn
    This was a good article for a monitor review....it was a very bad article for one of the first Freesync monitors to be released. Many of us wanted more info on that and you acted like all monitors are the same as long as the tech works...that is just not true. Please add more about the Freesync tech, how it worked and what it's limitations were.
  • singemagique
    Why does the author not add a comparison to the Acer XB270HU? Instead they make reference to the ROG Swift? At ~$740, the XB270HU offers 1440p, 144hz, and Gsync on an IPS panel and is definitely at the top of my list at this price point. Could Toms please add info on the Acer panel to this review?
  • Falkentyne
    Christian, I sent you an email about Version 4 firmware for the previous monitor you reviewed--the XL2720Z.
    And "Area" is the same thing as "strobe phase" is on the older Z series.

    http://forums.blurbusters.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=560
  • Bondfc11
    He says it's 40-144, but has that been tested? Or is that just the normal statement? Recall plenty of FS monitors state a range and then the panel won't oblige once it was properly tested.
  • Falkentyne
    That's the refresh rate capability, NOT the blur reduction rate capability. The older Z series can't even single strobe at 50hz without a Vertical Total tweak which tricks the scaler into using 60hz backlight pulse widths (if you try single strobe at 50hz without it, the backlight becomes overdriven with voltage and the current makes the monitor reset from overcurrent protection.

    It can "double strobe" at 50hz and 60hz but that's only because the single strobe option is missing from the service menu (it was there in all of the previous benq blur reduction monitors including the 2430T).
  • Falkentyne
    Also as I said the current firmware is bugged.
    The monitor is hardware capable of "single strobing" at 60hz but the option to force it is missing from the service menu, so it double strobes instead, which is ugly and useless (the older Z series had a service menu option to enable or disable single strobe. This was left out when they switched Scalers from Mstar to Realtek for this model). Also 100hz strobing is broken. It strobes at 120hz pulses, at 100hz, causing an uneven and stutter image.
  • ubercake
    I'm glad to see this competitive technology emerging. The problem I have with it is AMD touted this technology as something that would NOT add a premium to the cost of a monitor. This is definitely NOT the case. You pay a premium for this DP "standard" tech (adaptive sync) that monitor manufacturers are definitely not adopting as a true standard. They are charging us all for the functionality and not incorporating it into their standard production process. Gives people little reason whatsoever to switch from the competition.
  • Falkentyne
    I don't agree with you, ubercake.

    This monitor is $600 dollars and it's a 1440p UHD panel. 2560x1440. (and may be an 8 bit TN but this is still unconfirmed; it's fully confirmed that the Rog Swift is 8 bit, but the panel model number is different on the ROG).

    The XL2720Z is 27", 1080p and STILL $500 dollars. This 2730Z is 1440p and ONLY $100 more.

    You aren't paying a premium for anything, Mate.

    You ARE paying a premium for the XB270HU and the ROG Swift, at $700-800 dollars.
  • somebodyspecial
    Not sure this is a review or advertisement. Better off reading PCper articles on this stuff. One paragraph on freesync doesn't tell us if it's ghosting etc. IT works or it doesn't is NOT good enough, as many have shown it works, but sucks currently.

    http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Displays/Acer-XB270HU-27-1440P-144Hz-IPS-G-Sync-Monitor-Review/G-Sync-Errata-and-TCON-Artifa
    from the writers comments:
    "The TCON issues I pointed out were common to both G-Sync *and* FreeSync panels. The other issues we've pointed out in the past (overdrive not functioning in VRR, behavior at low refresh rates, etc) were specific to FreeSync *only*. Calling it like we see it hurts AMD at present because their tech (as implemented currently) is currently (and obviously) falling behind. We, as enthusiasts, naturally want to see them catch up just as much as the AMD fans, but for now it is what it is."

    We need you to actually TEST freesync to find out if it's fixed. Most people should just wait for Freesync GEN2 or GEN3 to see if they fix it at some point, until PROVEN otherwise. I can't believe you put a stamp of approval on a product without actually testing the main feature of the product, inside and out. The 4 articles PCper did are on the first page there.

    http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Displays/AMD-FreeSync-First-Impressions-and-Technical-Discussion
    When will they put out a 9-240 range monitor like their chart says? Gen2? I came to read an article on freesync. I mean freesync dissected, showing strengths, weaknesses of the freesync stuff in it or if it's all fixed up, and a comparison to gsync of course. But what I got is a "it's in there" instead. Don't get me wrong, of course you have to run the other tests (to show how good the actual monitor itself is), but freesync is the selling point here and at this price it should be tested inside out.

    AMD claimed a month ago they'd have multi-gpu drivers coming too, so that needs proving too (that was Apr13th, in techreport's article on this monitor tested today):
    https://techreport.com/review/28073/benq-xl2730z-freesync-monitor-reviewed
    Note how much of the article is dedicated to freesync vs. gsync debate ;) Even including discussions about issues with AMD and NV employees.

    If we're out here trying to figure out who has the best monitor with this tech (either tech), it would seem the reviews should show that as a major point of interest. Price doesn't matter? Again, I'm confused after all the "freesync is free" talk.

    "It’s not cheap but once you’ve experienced the frame-rate matching offered by FreeSync, you won’t care how much it costs. AMD users finally have their solution and it’s a good one. "

    Uhh....You have to TEST freesync to say that, not give it lip service right? According to all the Nvidia bashers on this site, everyone cares about the cost...LOL.
  • Falkentyne
    @somebodyspecial:
    the main problem is that Benq's own blur reduction is NOT working correctly on this monitor. It works at 120hz and 144 hz but NOT at lower refresh rates. The author of the tftcentral review is in contact with Benq about firmware fixes for this. I'm assuming they're going to fix the overdrive circuit with freesync active and the blur reduction working at 100hz and the missing "single strobe" service menu option also.
  • JackNaylorPE
    Hard to believe this review and TFTcentral reviewed the same monitor. No mention here of the Freesync bug. Despite the rave review here, i wouldn't buy any Freesync monitor until the Freesync bug is fixed.

    http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/benq_xl2730z.htm

    Quote:
    XL2730Z at the moment. The issue is that the AMA setting does nothing when you connect the screen over DisplayPort to a FreeSync system. This applies whether you are actually using FreeSync or not, you don't even need to have the option ticked in the graphics card settings for the problem to occur. As a result, the setting appears to be in the off state, and changing it to High or Premium in the menu makes no difference to real-World response times or performance. As a result, response times are fairly slow at ~8.5ms G2G and there is a more noticeable blur to the moving image. See the more detailed response time tests in the previous sections for more information, but needless to say this is not the optimum AMA (response time) setting on this screen. For some reason, the combination of FreeSync support and this display disables the AMA function.... Having spoken to BenQ about it the issue is a known bug which apparently currently affects all FreeSync monitors. The AMD FreeSync command disturbs the response time (AMA) function, causing it to switch off. It's something which will require an update from AMD to their driver behaviour, which they are currently working on. It will also require a firmware update for the screen itself to correct the problem. Both are being worked on and we will aim to update this review when it is fixed, hopefully within a couple of weeks. Assuming that fixes the issue the performance when using a FreeSync system should be much better than now, as you can move from AMA Off to the better AMA High setting. At the moment if you use the FreeSync function, or even just have a FreeSync enabled system in place, the response times are slower than they should be by a fair amount, and so you will experience a moderate amount of blur. If you need to, you can always switch to DVI or another interface other than DisplayPort to benefit from the AMA setting (but lose FreeSync). It is unclear at the moment what would be required to update an existing XL2730Z model, and what would be required in terms of new firmware. We will update this review section when we know more.
  • somebodyspecial
    190072 said:
    @somebodyspecial: the main problem is that Benq's own blur reduction is NOT working correctly on this monitor. It works at 120hz and 144 hz but NOT at lower refresh rates. The author of the tftcentral review is in contact with Benq about firmware fixes for this. I'm assuming they're going to fix the overdrive circuit with freesync active and the blur reduction working at 100hz and the missing "single strobe" service menu option also.


    You know what happens when you ASS-U-ME something right? You need to update the article saying FREESYNC is not working correctly so if you buy this, you're ASSUMING it will get fixed, but YMMV. Stamp of approval on a currently FAILING product on its main feature. Correct me if I'm wrong, but FREESYNC is this monitor's main feature right? I mean it is part of the freaking title of your article for crying out loud. As it is, it IS NOT WORKING correctly (a bug affecting all freesync monitors is still a bug), correct? Motion blur and slow response is NOT working correctly. You have to turn off freesync to get rid of these two things. As TFTCentral says it's in ALL freesync monitors, so it isn't fixed yet and we've had these how long? At this point there should be a STERN warning against buying these.

    It's hard to not say you SOLD OUT here on freesync when the monitor doesn't work right, and worse pointing to someone else waiting for a fix at another review site rather than covering it in detail yourself. They did the correct thing having the whole part on the problem in YELLOW while saying they'd update the review when/if it gets fixed. Your review just says go buy it, enjoy. REALLY?

    "Obviously a huge part of the BenQ XL2730Z is the addition of the new AMD FreeSync technology"
    From tftcentral's review (link posted already from jacknaylorpe), clearly they think it's a big part of this monitor too and the amount of space dedicated to the problem shows they did their job.

    I wouldn't touch one of these either, until we see fixes. As a person sitting here holding my radeon 5850 (and old monitors) for as long as I can until both sides get sorted out (since most of us have to buy a CARD+Monitor), I am really disappointed you guys completely ducked reality here and basically DUPED your readers. I do not believe you could have missed this reviewing the monitor considering NOBODY has glowing reviews so far of FREESYNC; I expected much of the review to be TESTING freesync. This is a complete fail.
  • Steeps
    For anyone complaining about the price, the MSRP is $600. The Swift (almost the same specs with G-Sync) still costs $780.
  • somidiot
    Looks like it's time for a FreeSync in depth article.
    My questions: Will FreeSync work across more video cards in the future and will Nvidia be included if they update drivers for it? (I have an Nvidia card currently)
    Does it work as well as G-Sync.

    Side comment: I'm hoping they do a decent implementation of this so that these sync technologies can become more affordable.
  • Falkentyne
    somebodyspecial:
    You do realize I am not the monitor reviewer? Any reason you're raging at me?
  • soldier44
    27 inches and over $700, nope. Better off spending a few hundred more for a 32" Benq 4K monitor.
  • rwinches
    Not buying that pcper 'the sky is falling' nonsense.

    You can get a 27" 1440 144 Freesync monitor for 471.99 from acer
    Model Acer XG270HU on Amazon. That's not too much of a premium fro Freesync.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B00VRCLHYS/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&condition=new

    OTH

    The 24" 1080p 144 monitors from LG and AOC still look good for non Freesync

    LG 24GM77 on sale for $299.99 at Best Buy

    AOC G2460PQU $249.99 at Best Buy
  • rdc85
    702716 said:
    I don't understand why the price is so high. ...

    IMO, they know the market for this product is small enough to ignore competition...
    They tried to make more money from their brand loyalist..
    at least their monitor/product.. "good enough" to not leave "major" bad experience to the one that buys it..
    (In their mind)

    190072 said:
    ...Any reason you're raging at me?

    Errr.. don't feed the troll..
    after long enough at here u will learn to ignore those brand fanatic... :P
  • ubercake
    The other thing with free sync monitors is there is a limited range (a minimum and a maximum frequency) in which free sync works for each particular monitor. This is supposed to be specific to each implementation and based on a number of factors. Another free sync monitor I read about (LG 34UM67) had a range of 48-75Hz in which free sync would function. If your framerates fell lower than 48fps (or went above 75fps though less noticeable) at any point, you'd get tearing. What is the free sync range for this monitor?