BenQ Zowie XL2546K Gaming Monitor REVIEW
Here’s a monitor specially designed for first-person shooters. PAT PILCHER puts the Zowie through its paces.
In a world where PC gaming has become a televised sport where pro-level players earn huge dollars, monitors play a crucial role. They’re literally a window into a gamer’s world.
BenQ has been cranking out gamer-centric PC gear forever, and their latest effort is the Zowie monitor. Cool name aside, the Zowie is squarely aimed at first-person shooter (FPS) gamers.
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It’s no shrinking violet, with a diagonal corner-to-corner size of 24.5-inches. The 1080p Zowie might not be petite, but it really is the business when it comes to FPS gaming.
Out of the box, the first thing I noticed was its excellent matte anti-glare coating. While it is an LCD panel, it has a 240Hz refresh rate which delivers incredible on-screen smoothness. Adding to this is BenQ’s proprietary DyAc+ tech, which uses backlight strobing to hugely reduce ghosting and motion blur. In use, it meant I could go nuts with a fully automatic assault rifle. Its recoil (and resulting explosions) was displayed in sharp relief, which really helps with aiming during a heated frag-fest. For FPS gaming, it really is a game-changer.
The BenQ team seem to have taken their mission to deliver the goods to gamers seriously. For example, they didn’t just offer tilt, swivel, and height monitor adjustments, they’ve added notches to all the adjustments. This means everything can be tweaked as needed as quickly and accurately as possible.
For quickly setting up a screen at a LAN party, you can’t go wrong with the Zowie, which has a carry handle and PVC screen protector. Another nice gamer-centric design touch is the monitor’s base, which is smaller and sticks out in front of the screen less while keeping the monitor stable. This handily means that keyboards, computer rodents and other peripherals are easier to place.
On the connectivity front, you’re also well covered. The Zowie has three HDMI 2.0 ports, a DisplayPort 1.2 and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It also handily comes with a DisplayPort cable in the box.
Looks-wise, the Zowie is all about function over form. That’s not to say it’s unattractive. Added red accents give it some rugged charm that’ll immediately appeal to gamers. BenQ has clearly put a lot of thought into cable management and other gaming-related practicalities, too. These come in the form of a cable-tidy hole in the monitor’s stand and two light shield blinker panels, which can be attached to the monitor’s sides. Another nice touch is a small fold-down hook at the top left of the monitor for hanging your gaming headset on. The other crucial design element is the on-screen display and user controls. To this end, the Zowie can be driven using an intuitive mini-joystick setup, or what BenQ calls the S-Switch, a small wired remote. This makes navigating menus and tweaking settings both intuitive and quick.
As impressive as the DyAc+ tech is, synchronizing the backlighting at 240Hz means that you can’t use FreeSync or G-Sync when it’s enabled. Having said that, the Zowie supports both FreeSync and G-Sync. Doing some research also revealed that for console players, DyAc+ can work with console titles. Still, the console will need to input content at 100Hz or higher.
Another practical feature I liked came in the form of the Setting to Share app, which enables gamers to save and export their monitor settings. This is a boon for getting set up at a LAN party as it saves gamers from farting about with setup menus.
LCD and frenetic FPS are traditionally not a great mix. An LCD panel’s limitations mean viewing angles are poor, and colour distortions occur when viewing off-angle. LCD backlighting doesn’t generate the same contrast levels as OLED. Then there’s the halo effect (light bleeding from bright elements on dark backgrounds) too.
DyAc+ and the 240Hz refresh rate do work together to make a considerable difference to motion blur. And let’s be realistic – if you’re buying the Zowie as a gamer, contrast or colour accuracy will most likely be secondary considerations. The gameplay can look rather good with some tinkering of the many settings available. Being a gamer-centric display, settings have been added to help gamers identify enemies in darker hued games. These include Black eQualizer, Colour Vibrance, Low Blue Light, Flicker-free and K Locker. Game designers might weep, but gamers will shout for joy – and then kick some ass and take some names.
For use with regular desktop PC tasks, the XL2546K works well too. Its output was easily comparable with similarly sized office screens.
If FPS gaming gets you up in the morning, then BenQ’s XL2546K might be just what the doctor ordered. Its affordable sticker price and excellent feature set aimed specifically at gamers make it a pretty sweet deal.