As gamers, we love high resolution textures and fast refresh rates. BenQ has delivered the 144Hz 2650×1440 XL2730Z at a price point within reach of many gaming enthusiasts.

In the past, 144Hz was available at 1080p but that resolution on any panel larger than a 24″ looks a little blurry due to the pixel density. We have seen a couple of screens capable of 2560×1440 resolution at up to 144Hz but the options have been limited. To date, 144Hz has been something we were used to seeing on 24″ 1920×1080 displays and BenQ has a lot of experience in this area.

The previous XL2720Z monitor from BenQ was capable of 144Hz, had the same viewing angles, colour gamut and contrast as the new XL2730Z but that’s where the similarities start to fade away. The new ’30Z’ model has the following improvements:

  • 2650×1440 resolution (up from 1920×1080)
  • 350 cd/m2 brightness (up from 300)
  • a pixel pitch of 0.233 (sharper than the lower resolution 2720Z which had 0.311)

So when you compare the two 27″ XL series gaming displays it quickly becomes clear that the comparison isn’t fair and these monitors are aimed at different types of gamers. These two models are very different products despite being so close together in terms of model numbers and sharing other technological features that will be covered later in the review such as the Black Equaliser, S-Switch, Flicker Free and Smart Scaling. 

Gallery lcdm xl2730z 004

 

60Hz vs 144Hz

In FPS and some simulation games this makes a massive and potentially game changing difference and the rule of thumb is the more Hz, the better. At 144Hz the movement is much sharper and I’ve found it easier to spot movement in first person shooters like Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Titanfall. The overall gameplay experience is smoother too, at a higher refresh rate which adds to the immersion of flight and space simulations – especially at 2560×1440 on a 27″ display. This is something that you have to see in order to really appreciate it and individual results do vary because it depends on your eyes and the types of games you play. The higher refresh rate makes movement easier to detect because the screen displays more of it.

60  144

BenQ use the above graphics to show the difference between 60Hz (left) and 144Hz (right). The illustration is meant to demonstrate that in the same period of time, you can see twice as much movement so when you are aiming, your target is redrawn twice as many times. In my case, my reflexes aren’t competitive grade so it might not help my accuracy a lot but I found it much easier to spot other players in first person shooters via the clearer movement.

Freesync

Logo for AMDs FreeSync technology

BenQ has implemented the VESA Standard Adaptive-Sync technology to allow AMD Radeon GPU owners to use FreeSync functionality with the XL2730Z.

FreeSync is an adaptive-sync technology developed to mitigate the tearing that is associated with VSync and runs in competition with NVIDIA’s G-SYNC technology. Basically, FreeSync dynamically adapts the monitors refresh rate to match the content being put out by the (FreeSync capable) GPU provided that it is within a certain range. If the frame rate exceeds the range, you either see choppy results when the frame rate is too low or Adaptive VSync needs to kick in when the frame rate is too high to cap the frame rate. AMD developed FreeSync as a cheaper and royalty-free alternative to G-SYNC and built into the VESA standard but despite being royalty-free, it is not currently supported by NVIDIA. Time will tell if team green end up supporting both FreeSync and G-SYNC.

Our testing involved an R9 285 GPU so we would like to hold off on a verdict as the card was never going to drive 144Hz at 1440p. The experience did feel much smoother with FreeSync enabled but the frame rate was lower than we would have liked due to the capability of the card. We expect to have a high end FreeSync compatible GPU soon from the team at AMD.

FreeSync operates in the range of 40-144Hz and that was our first issue because at native resolution, the R9 285 that we used regularly dipped below this in our testing unless we dialled back the quality which also impacted on the experience so we elected to reserve our final opinion for now. Early indications were good in some older titles (such as Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, CS:GO, X3, Skyrim) where we had seen tearing in the past and gameplay did feel noticeably smoother when we had optimal conditions.

If you have an NVIDIA graphics card, this isn’t a reason to go past the XL2730Z, I found the experience with the GTX 970 and 980 via Display Port, using adaptive VSYNC really smooth in general. As always, your experience may vary with different titles as I’ll cover off later.

Black Equalisation

I spoke to a former ‘competitive’ gamer about this and was told that as much as he likes it, he feels like he’s cheating a bit when using it. It can be the difference between seeing a camper in a dark corner or being killed by the said camper. Black Equalisation achieves this by lightening up the dark spots without washing out the whole screen with a brightness boost.

black-equal

I sat the XL2730Z next to an older Samsung P2350 TN display and looked at the same scene on both then tried to reproduce the BenQ Black Equalisation result using brightness and contrast adjustments on the P2350 without any real success. It’s a nifty feature but personally I would prefer to see the game in the way the developers intended so I turned it off most of the time.

Smart Scaling / Auto Scaling

This feature is aimed at the competitive and hardcore gamers. When you practice an activity, you will develop muscle memory. This holds true for mouse sensitivity, key placement on a keyboard and how far your eyes have to move to get from one edge of the screen to the other. The XL2730Z can scale the display to 8 different physical sizes (not to be confused with resolutions). The idea is that if you know that you will be playing CS:GO at a tournament and using a 24″ monitor, you can practice with 24″ of active screen real estate so that your eyes get used to scanning only that much panel. 

customize

I’m not a competitive gamer and will probably never use this feature but it does show that BenQ were serious when mapping out the feature set for this display. 

Pre-sets galore

Although I tend not to use colour pre-sets, I found myself using them on the XL2730Z when switching from ‘work’ to gaming. The handy remote makes switching settings a single button press and menu navigation is also a lot easier with the scroll wheel, select and back buttons. From a useability perspective, BenQ has excelled here.

Connectivity & Convenience

  • Headset connection
  • Menu orb
  • USB 3.0 Hub
  • Headset stand/hook (retractable)
  • Easy adjustment of swivel, height and tilt
  • Cable management hole on the stand
  • Handle for easy relocation
  • Monitor cover bag

Specifications

 

Gallery lcdm xl2730z 002

BenQ XL2730Z

Product Colour

Black-Red

Back Light Unit

LED

LCD Size

27″W

Aspect Ratio

16:9

Resolution (max.)

2560×1440

Display Area(mm)

596.74 x 335.66

Pixel Pitch (mm)

0.233

Brightness (typ)

350

Native Contrast ( typ. )

1000:1

DCR (Dynamic Contrast Ratio) (typ.)

12M:1

Panel Type

TN

Viewing Angle (L/R;U/D) (CR>=10)

170°/160°

Response Time(Tr+Tf) typ.

1ms (GtG)

Display Colours

16.7 Million

Colour Gamut

72% NTSC

Monitor (Audio / Video inputs / outputs)

Input Hor. Frequency (KHz) VGA/HDMI1.4: 30KHz ~ 88KHzHDMI2.0 : 30KHz ~ 222KHz

DVI-DL: 30KHz ~ 88KHz

DP1.2a: 222KHz

Input Ver. Frequency (Hz) VGA/HDMI1.4 : 50Hz ~ 76HzHDMI2.0 : 50Hz ~ 144Hz

DVI-DL : 50Hz ~ 76Hz

DP1.2a : 40Hz ~ 144Hz

Video Bandwidth (MHz) 600

Power Supply (90~264 AC)

Built-in

Energy Star

6.0

Input Connector D-sub / DVI-DL / HDMI2.0x1 / HDMI1.4×1 / DP1.2 / Headphone jack / Mic jack 
Included Accessories DVI-DL cable / DP cable / Power cord / USB3.0 / S Switch
HUB USB3.0 Downstream x2 (side); Upstream x1USB2.0 Downstream x1 ; Upstream x1

(S switch Arc) mini USB 

Power Consumption
(on mode )
<65W
Power Consumption
(Power saving mode)
<0.5W
Power Consumption (off mode) <0.5W
K Lock Yes
CTN Dimensions(HxWxD mm) 703x486x245
Dimensions (HxWxD mm) 557.4×663.7×226.0
Dimensions with Wall Mount (HxWxD mm) (w/o base) 372.6×663.7×61.0
Net Weight (kg) 7.5 
Gross Weight (kg) 10.8
Features
Flicker-free Technology Yes
Senseye® Senseye 3
AMA Yes
Windows® 7 Compatible Yes
Windows® 8 / 8.1 Compatible Yes
HDCP Yes
Colour Temperature Reddish / Normal/ Bluish /User mode 
OSD Language 17 Languages
Speakers No
VESA Wall Mounting 100x100mm
Swivel (left/right) 45 / 45
Pivot 90°

Tilt (down/up)

-5°~20°

Height Adjustment (mm) 140mm
Auto Scaling Yes

Instant mode 

Yes 

Smart Scaling

Yes 

Display mode      

Yes 

Black equalizer    

Yes 

Auto Game mode

Yes 

Blur Reduction

Yes 

Game mode to go

Yes

Auto Pivot 

Yes 

Display Pilot 

Yes 

AVESA Standard Adaptive-Sync

Yes

S switch

Yes
Colour Vibrancy Yes
Low Blue Light Yes

Build Quality

Excellent is the first word that comes to mind here. The stand is the most solid I’ve seen and the case is nice and heavy. I didn’t truly appreciate the build quality until I sat the screen next to another cheaper brand and tried to wobble them both. The BenQ stayed firm and the other screen demonstrated significant movement. Assembling the XL2730Z couldn’t be made any easier. Packing and unpacking the screen for RESPAWN LAN was simple and took minutes – plus there was no need for any screwdrivers etc. We give BenQ a double ‘Thumbs up’ for ease of assembly and build quality. 

The panel has a matte finish that looks and feels the same as the BL3201PT. This is a less reflective surface but at the same time, it isn’t grainy or dirty. The coating provides a good balance of colour and brightness without the mirror-like effect in the darker areas of a scene. I didn’t notice any variation in backlighting and the colours were as even across the display as you can expect with a TN panel. The review sample we had was also free from backlight bleed.

One other thing that I really liked about the stand was the indicators on the height, tilt and pivot. The stand has a handle and is intended to be moved around but the markings on the axis of adjustment mean that you can easily reset it to the original ergonomic position when you get the screen home without needing to spend much time on it. It doesn’t look hard to implement but we don’t see it in many other products.

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Viewing angle

The panel type is a TN panel which means that the viewing angle is a compromise from the start but you have to ask yourself how much viewing angle really matters. As a gamer, I sit directly in front of my screen and don’t need to share it with anyone. The tilt, pivot and height adjustment of the XL2730Z are so effortless and precise that viewing angle was significantly less of an issue than other screens I’ve used to the point where I’m reluctant to list it as a negative. The thing is that many of us don’t just game on our PCs and if you “need” a wide viewing angle, then an IPS panel is a better option but you will be generally sacrificing refresh rate (speed) – at this price point, you won’t get both.

Testing

Respawn LAN

We had the XL2730Z at RESPAWN LAN on the 27th June as part of our Project Cars Setup. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive as the gamers checked out the setup. We had a Logitech G27 racing wheel and pedal setup with a range of DX Racer chairs for added immersion. Aerocool provided a Dead Silence Cube chassis for the showcase which was decked out with an overclocked i5-4670K, Gigabyte GTX 970 G1 Gaming graphics card, 16GB of ADATA XPG V3 DDR3 and an ADATA SX900 256GB SSD. This setup deserved a decent monitor for smooth gameplay and the BenQ XL2730Z delivered. 

We had many people asking about the display and despite not running FreeSync, the GTX 970 in Adaptive VSync mode did a great job pumping out the frames from Project Cars. It became pretty clear that the difference between 60 and 144Hz was noticeable to the masses in a racing title. 

Gaming Experience

The following gaming observations were made using the XL2730Z with an MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G connected by Display Port running at 144Hz in Adaptive VSync mode with all eye candy on running at 2560×1440 resolution.

First Person Shooters

This is where the XL2730Z shines and I mean blindingly. 

Titanfall box artTitanfall

Even though Titanfall is almost dead on PC due to a lack of community support, when you do finally get into a game the experience is awesome.

The faster refresh rate is certainly noticeable in this fast paced FPS title and made the game a lot more enjoyable than 60Hz

 

Advanced Warfare
COD: Advanced Warfare

Like Titanfall, this is a quick running game with less open spaces than Battlefield 3 or 4. Twitch gaming means that you need to be able to spot the movement and react fast.

I noted the difference and spotted my enemies earlier due to the black equaliser and faster refresh rate. Sadly, my ageing reflexes didn’t capitalise and I basically got to see the people who killed me before the fact more often.

The key thing that I noticed was what felt like a new game feature where subtle movement is way more obvious than playing at 60Hz.

Battlefield 4 cover art
Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 just felt a lot smoother. I found myself spotting enemies more often and it seemed that my accuracy was up in both infantry mode and in vehicles. There is the possibility of placebo but I know that I preferred to game on the XL2730Z than my alternate 27″ IPS display running at the same resolution but 60Hz.

Far Cry 4 box art
Far Cry 3 & 4

Both of these titles look great on Ultra settings but getting frame rates in the 144 FPS range at 2560 x 1440 is a tall order. Whilst gameplay was really nice with our GTX 980, this would have been a great test for a high end Radeon. So watch this space and we will revisit it. 

At the end of my testing, I preferred the XL2730Z over a 60Hz IPS 2560 x 1440 display.

Counter-Strike Global Offensive
CS:GO

Hands down – this was an obvious win for me. I had the benefit of playing CS:GO on both the 4K BL3201PT and the XL2730Z and I’d take the 144Hz option every day of the week. 

Role Playing Games

RPGs are meant to look pretty and draw you into the immersive world that the developers have created. Whilst smooth motion is important here, so are the colour palettes that are undeniably better on IPS panels.

The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim cover
Skyrim

The motion was clearly smoother and although I adapted to the colour difference, when looking at the experience side by side I had trouble making a choice between the XL2730Z and a 1440p IPS display. When using a high resolution texture pack, it makes the decision harder because the true colours can be pretty compelling.

I’d have to call this one a tie because the features cancel each other out for me.

Elder Scrolls Online cover
Elder Scrolls Online

As with Skyrim, I’d be less likely to purchase a 144Hz TN panel for this game. Despite being an online title with PVP, this isn’t twitch gaming and 60Hz with better colours probably provides a more immersive experience.

The only caveat I’d like to raise is that ESO would likely benefit from FreeSync and it did look pretty smooth even on the R9 285 we had. Again, I’d like to see this one again with a better Radeon GPU as FreeSync might square the ledger or even steal a win under the right conditions.

Real Time Strategy

RTS titles can benefit from high refresh rates when scrolling and when there is a lot going on but colours and screen real estate can’t be forgotten about. I tested the XL2730Z alongside the 4K BL3201PT and would choose the bigger 32″ display for games like Civilization, Supreme Commander 2 and Age of Empires 2 HD. For Starcraft 2 the choice was harder, I found that scrolling around felt much smoother and the resolution was less of a factor. Whilst the IPS panel does provide better colours, I didn’t really notice when gaming.

As a casual RTS player, I see the XL2730Z as a safe general option and I thought it seemed easier to spot movement when scrolling around the map. The 2560 x 1440 resolution is a great choice for the RTS genre and a good upgrade from 1920 x 1080 at the price point available – 4K RTS is EPIC but it will cost over $1K and other genres will suffer from being capped at 60Hz. 

Racing Games

Project Cars looked great on the XL2730Z and it didn’t matter if the weather was sunny or raining in game, the movement felt natural and very immersive. I switched the refresh rate around and found that the difference was subtle but there. I didn’t notice the benefit as much as something like CS:GO, COD: Advanced Warfare or Titanfall.

Space Simulators

I did get to test FreeSync in X3: Terran Conflict with our Radeon card and noted that the game was much better with it enabled. Tearing can be pretty obvious in space games due to the stars and other light effects on the darker background. Ships, laser beams, exhaust trails are also unforgiving when it comes to tearing. X3:TC is an older game but I still play it a little and visually it still holds its own until something with more substance comes to market. This was one of the best FreeSync experiences I had with our GPU/XL2730Z combination.

Others

There were a few other titles that I tested out but didn’t really get that WOW factor from the XL2730Z at the higher refresh rate. GTA V is a beautiful game and whilst I enjoyed playing it on the XL2730Z, I also enjoyed it on the 60Hz IPS panel and wouldn’t say that I had a preference either way. Similarly, World of Warships and War Thunder also had me feeling indifferent between the new BenQ speed demon and my IPS display. These titles wouldn’t make me upgrade to the XL2730Z.

Overall Impression

To provide some context, I’ll divide up my gaming into genres by how much I typically play each one as a percentage.

  • 50% First Person Shooters
  • 20% Role Playing Games
  • 10% Real Time Strategy
  • 10% Space Sims
  • 5% Racing
  • 5% Other / Platformers

Based on the above, the XL2730Z is an appropriate display for my gaming habits. The $799 makes it expensive but still cheaper than a 4K display or a 144Hz IPS offering at the same resolution. The XL2730Z is an attractive offering when I consider what it gives me for the outlay.

Value

Although initially launched as $999 online, we have seen this display available for $799 which makes it well priced! There are alternatives at the top end for 144Hz gaming, some are even IPS panels to give the colour and speed but you have to stretch the budget even further by at least another $200 so it isn’t really a fair comparison. Build quality comes into the decision as well and with our sample coming out of the box in perfect condition – it’s a key factor. Everything about the XL2730Z feels premium and although the colours aren’t as rich as an IPS display, for most gaming it isn’t an issue. 

At ~$800 we can’t give this a Value Award but I wouldn’t consider it expensive for the package/experience on offer.

Gallery lcdm xl2730z 002

Conclusion

I prefer the colour reproduction of an IPS panel without a doubt but see the IPS viewing angle as an added bonus. From my own personal point of view, the trade-off of the XL2730Z is colour accuracy for speed/fluid motion. In the case of this 2560×440 144Hz gaming screen I think the colours are close enough and really appreciated the 144Hz refresh rate.

My biggest regret of this review was that I couldn’t acquire a decent Radeon card to test out the FreeSync properly. The R9 285 just didn’t have the grunt or video memory to run 2560×1440 with eye candy in the upper range at decent frame rates. That said, the XL2730Z performed really well on our GTX 970 and GTX 980 in Adaptive V-Sync modes.

RPG players may prefer the richer colours of an IPS monitor at the expense of a high refresh rate but when playing FPS games online, I did feel that the extra Hz gave me an advantage – however slight it might have been.

I really appreciated the design elements such as the headset hook, S-switch and adjustment mechanism. It’s extras like these that make a great product even easier to use and I wouldn’t expect that it cost BenQ a fortune to develop and implement such ‘useability’.

At the end of the day it’s a perfect match for my gaming preferences and I’d buy one.

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