I’m dubious whenever I see a product labelled as “gaming”. A cynical person could see it as an easy opportunity for an obscene price mark up, like that fancy $100 designer label on a $10 shirt. A more optimistic person could see it as an easy way to distinguish the product as one for a more ‘hardcore’ audience – a serious product for a serious gamer, someone probably more serious than you. Me? I see it and say “what kind of gaming?” The needs of someone who plays MMOs are different from those of someone who plays online shooters, or indie platformers, or turn based strategy games.
So what does the BenQ XL2720T 120Hz gaming monitor do to earn the “gaming” tag? Quite a lot, actually.
In the box we have the usual stuff you would expect – the monitor and stand, power cord, D-Sub and DVI-D dual link cables, a USB cable, a quick start guide, and CD with drivers and manuals. Additionally, you will find a plastic screen protector, made to drape over the assembled monitor. There is also a strange wedge-shaped contraption with a scroll wheel and four buttons – BenQ are calling this the S Switch. More on that later.
The whole kit is easily assembled, with the base twisting onto the stand, and the monitor clipping into the stand simply. The inputs on the back of the monitor themselves, however, are not in the most convenient place to access. I found myself having to pick the monitor up and move it around quite a bit to get access to the DVI-D input, and plugging in the S Switch was just plain cruel. Once plugged in, cable management is handled by an oval cut-out in the bottom of the stand, allowing for all the necessary cables to run through it, which is a pleasant touch. Luckily, the two downstream USB ports and the headphone jack are located on the left hand side of the panel, making for much easier access.
Positioning the screen is simple and comprehensive, allowing users to find their optimal display location and angle. You can tilt the screen up or down with ease, and there’s a decent range of motion – the manual states between -5 and +20 degree range. You can swivel the screen left or right up to 45 degrees each way. Adjusting the height is a simple process of moving it up or down – no locking mechanisms necessary, which makes vertical motion simple, although whether it will keep its height after years of use is unknown. The display can also be rotated up to 90 degrees, allowing for a slightly canted view, the ability to level off the monitor on an uneven surface, or to use the monitor in portrait mode.
It’s also quite portable despite its considerable 7.5kg weight, with a handle on the top of the stand and a Kensington lock on the back. You can port it about assembled with the screen protector, or break it down quickly using a quick release button for the panel on the stand and a thumb screw on the bottom of the base. You will also find a removable headphone hook pre-installed on the back of the stand.
Aesthetically, the complete setup looks very nice. The black with red accent colour scheme is elegant. Matte black dominates, with the inside of the oval hole laced with shiny red. The headphone hook is also red, although you’ll rarely see it. Managing the cables cleans the setup up, adding to the sleek look. The S Switch carries the black and red colour scheme, with matte black buttons with red markings, and a shiny black strip on the right side.
The bezel is interesting. The panel deep-set within the bezel, set straight back with no angle. Luckily, the inside of the bezel is not reflective, so distracting light reflection is not really an issue. The bezel is perhaps a little thick, but not abnormally so. Most notable, is the complete lack of buttons on the bezel.
That’s right – there are no buttons on the top, sides, or bottom of the monitor. Instead, control of the monitor settings is handled through touch buttons. Five white LED lights are located up the right side of the monitor, and one power light. Touching an LED (or the side of the monitor next to the LED) acts like traditional OSD control buttons, giving you control over the monitor settings. Touching the power LED turns the monitor on or off. The touch controls are assumedly to make changing OSD settings easier by not fumbling around for out of the way buttons. In reality, it makes it inconveniently easy. I found the move towards touch input completely unnecessary and occasionally inconvenient as I unintentionally brushed against the touch areas while moving the monitor or things beside the monitor. It looks and sounds nice in theory, but I would have preferred traditional buttons.
Which brings us to the S Switch. This mouse-like contraption that plugs into the back of the monitor allows for complete control of the OSD settings, as well as the quick switching between three pre-saved profiles. You can completely customise each of the three profiles as much as you want and save them to the buttons. The implementation of the S Switch controller is very welcome, since it’s much easier to manipulate the OSD settings via the S Switch than to use the fiddly touch buttons. The OSD settings themselves are more advanced than what you usually get. Basic options allow control over brightness, contrast, sharpness, gamma, and colour. BenQ have built in their own tech for further enhancement, like their generally unremarkable Senseye and AMA features which you are free to forget about. There’s a Smart Scaling system in place that allows you to change the aspect ratio and screen size between a few presets if you so desire. Better is the Black eQualizer system, which brightens dark areas on screen, and can be tweaked to your liking. Out of the box the display settings are adequate, but a dedicated tweaker will want to go deep into the settings to customise the picture to their taste.
But what does the picture look like? The panel itself is a 27 inch LED TN matte finish panel. Matte finish panels are always delightful, and this is no exception. Testing the panel in a bright room, I experienced very little glare or reflection, as to be expected. A regular IPS user will notice the difference in colour reproduction, but again, that’s to be expected with a TN panel. Although the colours were slightly dull and warm, they were still brighter and more vibrant than the typical TN panel. The monitor performed exceptionally well in most areas after calibration, producing great results when tested for contrast, sharpness, and gamma. Black levels were visibly helped by the Black eQualizer system.
Best of all is the speed of the thing. In their tech sheets BenQ boasts a response time of 5ms, with a 1ms grey to grey. While tech sheets usually list the maximum theoretical response time under ideal conditions, the reality of it is that monitors rarely perform to these standards. I can’t confirm the supplied numbers exactly, but I can confirm that the response times are indeed blisteringly fast – under 10ms on average. There is absolutely no ghosting to mention, giving a clear and consistent image. It ensures snappy response times and minimal input lag.
And that brings us to the big feature – 120Hz. The XL2720T is capable of full 120Hz display. This means that you’re able to play your games at 120 FPS – if you have a compatible GPU. And a compatible game. The step up from 60 FPS to 120 FPS is noticeable, producing sharp, crisp, and butter smooth motion. You’ll notice the biggest improvements in games that contain lots of frantic action. I tested the performance with Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 quite extensively and found that shooting blank-slate foreign dudes in the face with digitally rendered guns quite enjoyable. There was a pleasant responsiveness and cleanness to the action that 120 Hz brought to the game. Twitch shooting felt more comfortable and natural. Battlefield 3 likewise felt very smooth, even if I did have to turn down most of the graphics settings to hit the 120 FPS mark. Just make sure that the games you want to play are 120 FPS compatible, and that you have a compatible GPU. And – it almost goes without saying – you’ll need a rather beefy system to run games at 120 FPS.
By the way, if you have the required kit, the XL2720T is Nvidia 3D Vision compatible. You need to buy the kit separately, though, and have a system with all the required drivers and hardware. BenQ offer a 24 inch monitor in the XL series that comes with the kit included – the XL2420TX – but for the XL2720T you’ll need to splash out extra for 3D. If that’s your thing.
I did feel the 27 inch screen felt slightly too big for the 1920×1080 resolution on offer. I do personally favour smaller screens, however, since my workspace is relatively compact. Still, the full HD panel is nice and big and the image is snappy. For those who also strangely prefer a smaller screen – and yes, those people do exist – BenQ also offer a 24 inch version with the XL2420T.
Which brings us back to “what kind of gaming?” If you play a lot of shooters or other reflex heavy games and want fast frames, and don’t mind missing out on the more accurate colour representation or higher resolution of an IPS monitor, you’ll get a lot out of this panel. If your tastes are more sedate, the boost in image speed is nice, but not totally necessary. Chances are if you’re willing to splash out the required $500-$600 on the BenQ XL2720T, you’re a serious enough gamer to enjoy the frame rate boost it will give you.
As it says in the box, gaming definitely is in the details. The BenQ XL2720 definitely has a lot of details that a dedicated gamer with a big budget could want. The aesthetics of the base, the customisability of viewing angle, the pleasantly nice colours of the TN panel, having access to three custom profiles hot swappable with the S Switch, and Black eQualizer brightening your blacks all make the monitor a very capable package. More subjective is the speed of the refresh and response – the more sensitive you personally are to the changes, the more you will get out of this monitor. If you’re after a 120Hz monitor for fast and responsive gaming, the BenQ XL2720 is definitely a great option.
Review sample provided on behalf of BenQ Australia. Thank you.
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Build Quality – 9/10
Design – 8/10
Useability – 8.5/10
Performance – 9.5/10
Price – 8/10
Overall – 9/10
(Not an average)
There is a gallery – a mix of promotional shots and my own (rather shoddy – sorry!) photographs – below.