When 25” 240 Hz monitors first appeared costing over $500, we wondered if they would be a flash in the pan. The AOC AG251FZ is now the third such display to come to our lab, and after experiencing their superior gaming chops, we’re confident they will keep right on selling. Considering G-Sync’s price premium, it was only a matter of time before manufacturers included FreeSync users in their marketing strategy. When hardware performance is equalized, it’s nigh impossible to tell a difference between the two technologies. G-Sync offers more consistent specs from panel to panel, but if you choose carefully, AMD can deliver exactly the same experience.
We continue to be impressed with AOC’s efforts in the gaming arena. By developing the Agon line as a separate group of products, it’s put itself in competition with Asus ROG and Acer Predator, the two mainstays.
While it’s true that the AG251FZ represents a savings of $120 or so, you are giving up adaptive sync down to 24 Hz and blur-reduction in the process. At FHD resolution, the refresh rate issue just isn’t worthy of concern. When you spend $400-plus on a gaming monitor, it’s unlikely you plan to drive it with a slow PC. Even a modestly priced graphics board will push this display past 60 FPS. And proper selection of detail levels can get you over 100 FPS with little difficulty.
In our tests of G-Sync monitors, we’ve always found a brightness reduction associated with ULMB. Besides giving up adaptive-sync, the backlight strobe exacts an output penalty; though in fairness, that penalty is much smaller in more recently released displays. And it can be eliminated when the panel has sufficient output, like the AU Optronics 24.5” part in use here. Still, there will be purists who will insist that ULMB results in lower input lag. If that’s true, we’ve been unable to measure it. Our tests show the AG251FZ to be every bit as responsive as its G-Sync cousins.
Color performance is not a gamer’s highest priority, but our sample acquitted itself well in the benchmark tests. Most users will be satisfied with the AOC in its stock configuration. If you don’t calibrate, we suggest trying the Gamma 2 setting at the very least. Gamut and grayscale tracking are dialed in properly from the factory. And our press sample shows particularly good uniformity, superior to nearly every monitor we’ve ever tested.
If you’re still stuck on the AG251FZ’s FHD resolution and TN screen, we urge you to try one out before passing judgement. Those specs may seem anti-evolutionary on paper, but trust us, the gaming experience is more than a cut above the norm. Control response feels as though the system is reading your thoughts with every input resulting in instant action. The image becomes an extension of your hands.
For its top-shelf gaming performance and excellent out-of-box color, we’re giving the AOC AG251FZ our Tom’s Hardware Editor Recommended Award.
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