Disclosure ‐ Our thanks go out to BenQ for loaning us the XL2735 for this review.
When I visited the Zowie booth at PAX, I learnt a lot about their approach to developing and designing products. For them it was never about the numbers, although they did most certainly help. Instead, their focus centred on creating a powerful set of instruments fine tuned into the professional gamer’s needs. Zowie is an experience made for the pro’s, by the pro’s.
Over the last week or so I have been rather fortunate to have had the opportunity to be taking the XL2735, a 27″ gaming monitor by Zowie, for a spin. This monitor is large, it is fast and it is very different to any monitor I have ever tried before.
Reviewing hardware is difficult, unlike software, it is all about drawing a comparison between like devices. A graphics card could be good, but it might still be objectively worse than another type at a different price or power. The same often runs for all internal PC components. However, when it comes to external accessories there is more room for objectivity. Accessories can have character. Zowie has shown to me that it understands more than others, how to make products that not only have some jolly good specs, but also harbour a fantastic experience.
27 inches is huge. I currently run a dual 22″/24″ or a dual 24″/19″ setup (depending on the computer I am using at the time). But yet I am still a surprised. I was expecting a 27″ monitor to feel unwieldy, but it wasn’t. It nestled quite nicely in the space where my 24″ stood. What was even better was that the XL2735 did not come across as intimidating or unreasonable. For someone who is more used to using smaller monitors, I feel that it might come across a little on the large size. However, I was able to enjoy all 2560 x 1440 pixels and at no point did it feel extreme.
I have friends who use 30″ monitors, and they do come across as quite bonkers big. Equally, they also aim to be flashy. The designs embrace bevels and curves like they are going out of style. They want the monitor to stand out and grab your attention. This only seems important if your screen is turned off, and there is nothing sadder than a monitor which is turned off. The XL2735 aims instead for simple design. Visually it does not try to stand out, and for a monitor this is a great thing. After all, if you are looking at the border, you are not looking at the image it is projecting. That is not to say that the XL2735 has bad styling, it is far from it. Instead of trying to be flashy, the monitor aims to help move, and keep, your focus on the game. It is just that it doesn’t shout into the wind that it is a gaming monitor, it could quite happily blend into any regular office environment. It is modest.
I quite like the restrained use of the red highlights that pepper the monitor, the built-in headphone stand and the slight dip made to fit the S-Switch; it is these more subtle design choices really demonstrate they are building for serious gamers. Anything that could be a distraction from the game is seen as being in excess of requirements. Even those features which are unique to this monitor also work towards this goal. For example, the shields that fit onto each side of the monitor help to focus the attention of gamers by reducing the number of external distractions.
Professional gamers are not always in one spot, nor are they always needing the same settings. For quick access to your regular settings, regardless of where you are playing, the S-Switch makes flicking between profiles fast and easy. All you need to do is set up all your settings once, and then carry them with you for the rest of time.
The settings that the XL2735 ships with are also very thorough. You can do all the regular colour, contrast and brightness settings; they are simple and straight forward. The juicy stuff comes in with some of the tech that underlies the monitor itself. I am used to living on the simple 60Hz screens. Switching up to 144Hz (which worked thanks to my chunky 1080GTX) was like a huge leap in graphical responsiveness. While the huge 144Hz is just nuts, it is the DyAc™ technology which works the amazing magic.
Many games of Overwatch and CS:GO later (as far as the high speed games I played) I was able to confirm that: yup, it is amazing good. The shift from 60 to 144 frames was not something that I actually expected to notice any change with. Everything was much clearer, especially with the faster paced scenes. It is something I understand is rather hard to imagine, so instead I will send you to look at a UFO test. There are two I want you to look at. The first is the slowest, it is just to give you an idea of what the UFO looks like. The second is the ghosting test, it will show the same spaceship moving at full fps. It is tuned so that you will see the cost of fast movement. There will be ghosting and blurring of the image. This makes the UFO harder to see clearly. However, on the XL2735 the UFO looks as sharp as day as it zooms across the screen. There is limited ghosting and no blurring. It shocked me.
While I can describe what I see on the screen, I do not think that it is as useful as one of the videos that Zowie put together to demonstrate the technology, so check them out below.
In the end, I must ask the question: “Would I buy it?” I think that I could happily say that if I had the money, for sure I would. I have never seen a monitor that performs so well. It does gaming, it does video and it does general use like no other piece of visual hardware I have ever seen. There is the thing about the price though. It is not cheap, as it retails at $899. This is less than the money I spent on the 1080GTX video card, it is less than the money I spent on the Vive. I have no doubt that I use my regular screen more than either of those other high-end pieces, but does that make it sound like an easy buy?
Not quite, while there are cheaper alternatives for the graphics card, when you are after certain levels of processing you do have a minimum spend. Same goes with the Vive, while there are cheaper headsets on the market none of them quite compare. The XL2735, on the other hand, competes against a much more established scene. People often go bigger, wider or simply cheaper. This is a monitor that for a regular gamer will make you feel like a pro, but whether it would be better bought over an improved processor or mouse is something else all together. It is just in a much more niche position in the market.
That said, If you are after a super responsive and amazingly beautiful medium to large size monitor, I wholeheartedly recommend this. It does things that I have never seen displays do before. If you are just entering into the PC scene I would start off making sure that you have a super comfy mouse, keyboard, and a higher performance rig before moving onto the vision that is this screen.