On the very first monitor review I did for AnandTech, I skipped over the input lag tests. I didn’t have a CRT I could use for a reference, and as someone that isn’t a hard-core gamer themselves, I wasn’t certain how much overlooking them would really be missed. Well, I was wrong, and I heard about it as soon as it was published. Since that initial mistake I’ve added two CRT monitors to the testing stable and tried to find the ideal way to test lag, which I’m still in search of.

To serve the large, and vocal, community of hard core gamers, there are plenty of monitors out there that directly target them. One such display is the BenQ XL2720T, a 120 Hz LCD that’s also used in many sponsored gaming tournaments. Beyond its gaming pedigree, I was interested to see if it also performed well as a general purpose display, or if it really is just designed for a small subset of the market.

Probably the key feature on the XL2720T is its 120 Hz refresh rate, which as usual means that it is a TN-panel. The other key feature on it is a quick select switch that it includes to let you switch between monitor presets with a single button press. For their gaming target, BenQ sees you utilizing this to have different presets for different games, and they even provide some specific profiles for popular games that you can load and use for these. Another use would be to use one for daytime settings, one for nighttime, and one for gaming. The quick access to switch modes makes it easy to do so, and providing “optimized” settings for games might be a very beneficial use.

The included stand for the XL2720T is very well done, with a full range of ergonomic adjustments and you can assemble the whole thing without a single tool. I’d use a screwdriver at the end to make sure it is really tight and secure, but the overall stand design is great. One feature I’d still like to see from a monitor company is inputs that either rotate or are angled at 45 degrees to make it easier to hook up cables than to have to reach underneath. Thankfully since it pivots to vertical, it is still easy to hook up the BenQ XL2720T to your computer or video game system. It has a pair of HDMI ports, so it is well equipped for both PC and console gaming.

One disappointment is that the USB ports are still just USB 2.0 and not 3.0 as most new, higher end monitors have now. Another disappointment in the monitor design is the touch sensitive buttons that control the on-screen display.

As with the Dell U3014 that I just reviewed, I find the touch screen buttons to be less responsive than actual buttons, and wish companies would go back to standard buttons. It doesn’t look quite as nice but it is far more functional. This is somewhat alleviated by the S Switch that BenQ includes. Though mostly used to switch between three preset modes, you can also use the wheel to control the OSD, and here it does a great job. The OSD has been redesigned from previous BenQ displays so it is much better to use, with all selections going Up and Down, without any Side-to-Side inputs. This combination is one of the better interfaces that I’ve used; I just wish controlling it without the S Switch worked as well.

As mentioned, the on screen display from BenQ has been totally redone from the last display that I used. Previously you would move Left to Right to select a category, Up and Down to select a function to adjust, and then Left to Right to adjust it, all with just two buttons to move all four directions. The OSD now resembles the ones that Dell has, where all selections and inputs are Up and Down, making it very easy to adjust the display. It also lets you see all the levels of sub-menus on the screen at once, which makes it easy to see what you are working on and not get lost in the menu system. BenQ has moved from having one of the worst menu systems for user controls to having one of the best that I’ve used. Bravo for that!

On the exterior and the on screen display, BenQ has gotten most everything right with the XL2720T. Sure I would change a couple little things, but they manage to get the overall user experience with the monitor as correct as anyone else has right now, and that’s much different than I said about their displays two years ago. I wish every monitor vendor would take this feedback and improve their products as much as BenQ did in these areas.

BenQ XL2720T
Video Inputs 2xHDMI, 1xDisplayPort, 1xDVI-DL, 1x D-sub
Panel Type TN
Pixel Pitch 0.311mm
Colors 16.7 million
Brightness 300 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio 1000:1
Response Time 1ms GTG
Viewable Size 27"
Resolution 1920x1080
Viewing Angle (H/V) 170/160
Backlight LED
Power Consumption (operation) 27W
Power Consumption (standby) <0.5W
Screen Treatment Anti-Glare
Height Adjustable Yes (140mm)
Tilt Yes (-5/20 Degrees)
Pivot Yes
Swivel Yes (45/45 Degrees)
VESA Wall Mounting Yes (100mm)
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 21.5" x 25.3" x 10.8"
Weight 16.5 lbs.
Additional Features USB 2.0 Hub (3 port), S Switch, Headphone Jack
Limited Warranty 1 year
Accessories Power cable, USB Cable, D-Sub Cable, DVI-D Cable, Protective Cover
Price $482 (on 5/17/2013)

 

Viewing Angles, Pre-Calibration Numbers and Gamut
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  • Pastuch - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    "The input lag is because the Leo Bodnar input lag tester is limited to 60Hz and HDMI. So it's not an accurate measurement of input lag."

    If this is true you need to change your testing method completely. 120hz displays should be tested for input lag at 120hz with a dual link DVI cable preferably with Lightboost enabled in gaming mode!
    Reply
  • mdrejhon - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Input lag should be measured with and without LightBoost.

    There's a very interesting phenomenon with LightBoost with input lag testers including my Arduino Input Lag Tester (google "Arduino Input Lag Tester"; contact me if you want to be on the beta test list). My input lag tester, that I am designing at Blur Busters, supports all refresh rates on all inputs.

    LightBoost is an all-at-once strobe backlight (flashes only on fully-refreshed frames) so the input lag is identical for the top and bottom edges of the screen. The top of the screen has more lag relative to non-LightBoost, but the bottom edge of LightBoost has almost identical lag to non-LightBoost.

    I am very impressed that so many people here know about LightBoost & are gently nudging the reviewer for forgetting to test this very important monitor-selling feature (as evidenced by mentions of LightBoost by end users in Amazon and NewEgg reviews)
    Reply
  • mdrejhon - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    UPDATE:

    -- The LightBoost HOWTO is now updated -- http://www.blurbusters.com/zero-motion-blur/lightb...
    Easier method. No .reg and .inf files needed anymore! (Completely removed from HOWTO)

    -- ToastyX informs that the new utility is coming by July that makes enabling LightBoost as easy as pressing a hotkey!

    Good news indeed!
    Reply
  • mdrejhon - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - link

    P.S. For those wanting motion clarity matching the Sony FW900 CRT, reduce the LightBoost percentage setting via the monitor on-screen menus (On the XL2720T, you have to find the Brightness/Contrast setting then, scroll down to below the bottom of the menu).

    This takes a slight hit to light output, but eliminates even more motion blur because the strobe flash lengths are shorter (motion becomes even sharper). The best motion clarity occurs at the LightBoost=10% setting -- the backlight is strobing for a mere 1.4 milliseconds; resulting in 92% clearer motion than a 60Hz monitor. This works great in dark rooms at night, when the higher brightness modes are too bright anyway.
    Reply
  • blackoctagon - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - link

    "The only reason people are still buying 120hz displays is for Lightboost capable 2d gaming."
    -As exciting as the (NVIDIA-ONLY) LightBoost hack is, it is not the "only" reason people buy 120Hz monitors. Plenty of people buy then for...drumroll...120Hz. If your argument was correct, monitors like the Catleap 2B and Overlord Tempest OC would have magically stopped selling as soon as the LightBoost hack was revealed.

    "Do you know how many video cards it takes to run Planetside 2 at 2560 at 80FPS+?"
    - Do you realise how inappropriate it is to cite such a poorly optimised code in order to back up your argument? You might choose a 1080p monitor over a 1440p one just for one poorly made game, but that is NOT a valid why a 1440p IPS monitor is money badly spent

    "I used to own a 2560x1440 IPS for desktop work but I couldn’t play CS on it due to slow pixel response and horrible input lag."
    - And I own a 2560x1440 IPS screen overclocked to 120Hz and with minimal input lag. It's not and will never be as snappy as a LB-enabled LCD or a CRT, but it holds its own a hell of a lot better than pretty much any other IPS in a gaming environment, and subjectively feels about as responsive as my old Samsung S27A950D (120Hz TN) monitor did.

    "I don't own a LB display yet but I've tried it at a lan party. I was blown away and I was hoping that Anand would provide a comprehensive review of the Benq 2720T"
    - I agree with you, but at the same time would like them to review a 1440P IPS monitor overclocked to 120Hz. Given that the latter has been around longer than the LB hack, I doubt either of us are going to get our wish anytime soon. Looks like review sites are only reviewing monitors in a condition that is approved by the manufacturer (i.e., not tinkered with). If you want that, you need to rely on independent reviewers and forums.

    "If you want to read solid monitor reviews go to http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/"
    - Yes, they specialise in monitor reviews, so they should be better than AT. But btw, PRAD.de is quite a bit better than TFT Central, not least as regards input lag.

    "Honestly, this review is a huge let down. When I started reading this website 10 years ago the articles were always informed and well researched. This review is sorely lacking in that regard."
    - The review is only a let down because of your expectations, and I'm not convinced those expectations were reasonable (much as I can empathise with what you would have liked to see reviewed)
    Reply
  • Pastuch - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

    Lightboost hacks for AMD video cards already exist and are improving all the time.

    While Planetside 2 is a bit of a pig, it's far from the only game that is difficult to run past 60fps at 1440P. Metro 2033, Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3, etc. The point of that argument was that Chris suggested spending $150 more for a 1440P monitor was all that was required but that doesn't include the additional video cards necessary to drive almost DOUBLE the pixels.

    I'm not against 1440P gaming, I also love the 120hz Korean 1440P monitors and for Civ 5 they are bloody brilliant. I may even order the semi-gloss Qnix 1440P 120hz Qnix with the Samsung panel to go next to a lightboost display.

    Prad.de does have excellent monitor reviews but TFT has recently revamped their Input lag testing and provided a solid test of Lightboost. Prad is largely ignoring lightboost.

    You're right that my expectations are a little high but I still think Chris didn't give the 2720T a fair review. Testing input lag over HDMI on this monitor is totally unfair and his conclusion is that of a non-fps-gamer who are the target market for the product.

    P.S. I too would enjoy a test of a Catleap or a Qnix at 120hz 1440P.
    Reply
  • blackoctagon - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    I didn't realise LightBoost hacks for AMD existed...got a link? I remember reading recently that ToastyX is working on something to simplify the BlurBusters method, but I can't remember if that includes AMD functionality. The BlurBusters how-to still says that this is NVIDIA-only

    Take your point about 1440p, but 150 beans to upgrade from this BenQ to 1440p refers to an upgrade from 1080p@120Hz to 1440p@60Hz. If memory serves correct, about the same approximate GPU processing power is required in non VRAM-bound situations to drive 1440p@60fps as is required to drive 1080p@120fps. 1440p@120fps is of course another story, but that's not what I believe Chris is referring to. P.S., 1440p is 77.7777% more pixels than 1080p (not quite 'almost double'), but that's just a detail.

    Regarding possible improvements to TFTCentral's input lag testing, I'm no expert so you may well be right. However, I'd understood from this little thread that many of TFT's results are way off compared to PRAD's oscilloscope testing: http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1751100

    In any case, I agree that this review would have been better with comprehensive testing of the monitor's performance when running at 120Hz. Input lag testing at 60Hz is certainly incomplete. It seems to be a question of AT determining the best (affordable!) methodology and then implementing it. To that end, I would certainly love it if this review could be updated in the future...(hint hint!) :)
    Reply
  • Pastuch - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    The guys at Hard forum managed to make it work with AMD cards. Blurbusters won't include information on the AMD hack because they don't want to piss off Nvidia (I don't blame them). Overclockers.com forum also has some info, I believe it involves swapping the DVI cable between and AMD and Nvidia card. I run Nvidia at the moment so I didn't look into it much.

    TFTCentral has updated their input lag test in the last two months but like Chris said below it's still not perfect. The truth is that no one has a perfectly accurate input lag test yet so I definitely criticized Chris unfairly in that regard. Sorry Chris.

    The only other thing I would suggest for future monitor reviews is a short paragraph describing the type of AG used on the monitors. I know this is a difficult thing to describe but after the horribly thick AG coats on the Dell U2311 and other similar LG IPS panels it can be a rude awakening. I know a couple people that returned their monitors based only on the AG coating being so thick it looked like dirt on the display. I love the new Semi-gloss a lot of the manufacturers are using, perfect compromise between reflective and AG. Benq has it on the cheap GW2750HM and a lot of other VA panel monitors have it too.
    Reply
  • Pastuch - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

    NCX posted a pretty excellent review of the Korean Qnix PLS here:
    http://wecravegamestoo.com/forums/monitor-reviews-...
    Reply
  • cheinonen - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    "Looks like review sites are only reviewing monitors in a condition that is approved by the manufacturer (i.e., not tinkered with). If you want that, you need to rely on independent reviewers and forums."

    No one provides limitations or restrictions on how a display can be reviewed. The only restriction that ever comes up is "We need this back in X weeks for someone else to review" but nothing for testing, or I wouldn't do it. Why didn't Lightboost initially get tested? Because it's an undocumented, unsupported features that requires registry tweaks and only works with a specific video card. Basically, because it passed my attention in reading up on the display, and BenQ didn't think to mention it either.

    As far as the 1440p, 120Hz monitors you mention: I'll review it if someone can get me one. I don't have the resources to spend a few hundred dollars on a review for a display, so unless I can get a sample, I can't do it. Most forum/independent reviews are from people that have bought the product themselves and so aren't subject to this limitation, but also are subject to a different set of biases. I'd love to review one of them, but since they're all imported without a company or PR firm to loan me a sample, it won't happen I don't think.
    Reply

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