BenQ XL2720Z: Speed And Features For Gamers
Whenever we publish a display review, we get numerous reader requests to cover more gaming monitors. The problem is there just aren’t that many products out there that truly qualify. Yes, there are inexpensive TN screens with one or two millisecond response times. But in our experience, a panel can’t truly enhance gaming without a fast refresh rate.
Not too long ago, 60 Hz was a well-established standard that forced enthusiasts to play their favorite titles with v-sync disabled (for optimal responsiveness) and suffer tearing, or use v-sync and risk stutter. Doubling the refresh to 120 Hz, and then increasing it further to 144 Hz lessens the impact of tearing with v-sync turned off, since less time passes between cycles. If you prefer playing with v-sync turned on and own a potent graphics configuration, a 144 Hz refresh is going to give you much smoother motion as the monitor and graphics card work at a much higher rate.
We covered Asus' 24-inch VG248QE last year and gave it Tom's Hardware's Smart Buy award. It offered top speed, great contrast, and the added bonus of decent color accuracy. BenQ obviously used that screen as its target when the company conceived the XL2720Z. This product matches or exceeds Asus’ entry in pretty much every way.
In our speed tests, it edges out Asus by a couple of milliseconds, though the win is hardly definitive. Its color accuracy also beats the VG248QE by a small margin. Again, we can't call that a clean sweep. Where BenQ really pulls ahead is the extra screen real estate offered by the XL2720Z. Granted, pixel density suffers when you increase size by three inches without improving resolution. But this is still the new monitor to beat for power users interested in the absolute lowest screen draw and input lag times.
We do recognize the importance of price and perceived value in any monitor we review. A quick search reveals that the only mainstream competitor for the XL2720Z is BenQ’s own XL2720T. For a whopping savings of $10, you get 120 instead of 144 Hz. Naturally, it's hard to claim you get better value by stepping down when BenQ is the only game in town. Of course, there's a lot more money to save if you're willing to go the 24-inch route. And you’ll have a few more choices too (though not many). The unfortunate truth is that while HDTVs are commonly available in 120 or even 240 Hz, computer monitors are not. Screens faster than 60 Hz are just not that plentiful.
BenQ raises the bar higher with its extensive feature set intended for enthusiasts. The company's Blur Reduction (especially with Blur Busters add-on utility) technology is a very effective way to increase motion resolution beyond what’s possible at 144 Hz. And we absolutely love the S Switch. It’s hard to imagine a cooler way to work through a large menu system. And programmable setting presets, a common fixture on HDTVs, are a welcome addition to this computer monitor. We also applaud BenQ’s decision to use direct current rather than pulse-width modulation to control backlight intensity. Even though flicker is not an issue on the other gaming screens we've tested, the XL2720Z should not exhibit the artifact to those who are sensitive to it.
Obviously we’re impressed with this product. We hope it inspires other manufacturers to innovate in the quest for higher refresh rates, creating additional options for the performance-oriented enthusiast market. For its stellar performance, and a truly useful and relevant feature set, we’re giving the BenQ XL2720Z our Tom's Hardware Smart Buy award recognition.