- Excellent gaming performance
- Reasonable image quality – eventually
- Atrocious initial image quality
- Side panels add cost but of very limited use
- Far too expensive
- 27-inch TN LCD panel
- 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution
- 144Hz maximum refresh rate
- Adaptive-Sync technology
- Side privacy panels
- Wired remote control
- Manufacturer: BenQ
- Review Price: £600.00/$900.00
WHAT IS THE BENQ ZOWIE XL2735?
The BenQ Zowie XL2735 is an updated version of BenQ’s flagship gaming monitor of last year, the XL2730Z. Sporting a near-identical feature set, it packs in a 144Hz, 2,560 x 1,440-pixel TN LCD panel, adaptive sync, a wired remote for its on-screen display (OSD), and dials on its stand so you can adjust it to the same place every time.
New to this version is the addition of side flaps that can be used to shield your monitor from prying eyes in competitive gaming environments. It’s almost completely pointless for home gamers, but on the off-chance you’ll take your monitor to a LAN event, it could be useful.
BENQ ZOWIE XL2735 – DESIGN AND FEATURES
First things first, for those who aren’t aware, Zowie is an independent PC peripherals manufacturer that was bought by BenQ. Its name will now be plastered on all the company’s gaming gear, which may appear a little odd to those of us in the UK considering most of us have never heard of Zowie before.
Back to the monitor itself, it sports the same rather utilitarian/gamer look as its predecessor. Rough matte-black plastic is used throughout, bar a small patch of glossy plastic on the rear. The bezel is thick and chunky, with splashes of red highlighting key features. All in all, it’s a far cry from the sleek and classy feel of the Dell S2716DG, for instance.
It’s a practical monitor, though. The panel attaches to the stand via a simple one-button system, plus it offers VESA mounting if you want to use a monitor arm.
The stand also offers height, tilt, rotation and pivot adjustment, so you can quickly and easily get this monitor setup just right. In fact, BenQ has markers on the base and stand that allow you to mark the perfect rotation or height, so if you ever need to move the monitor then you can dial those features back in straight away.
Also in the base is a circularly divot in which sits the wired remote that can be used to adjust the display’s menus. It’s a useful addition that makes it quicker and easier to navigate the menus, but it’s unlikely to be used often. In fact, if you’re going to have a remote that does such a job then it would make sense to hide the normal buttons to make the monitor look tidier.
Not that this monitor would ever look that tidy with its wings attached. The two side panels screw on to the edges of the panel and can be rotated through 180 degrees to either hide your monitor or sit out of the way round the back. I really can’t highlight enough how niche a feature this appears to be. I simply don’t see the appeal for home use.
This monitor features adaptive sync technology, which is the open and free equivalent to Nvidia’s G-Sync technology. As well as eliminating tearing and stutter in games, it also means you get more connectivity options; G-Sync tends to be limited to just two. Here you get a DisplayPort 1.2, two HDMI and a DVI port.
On the left side of the panel you’ll also find a two-port USB 3.0 hub plus headphone and microphone jack, plus a pop-out headphone stand. This whole selection is the single best thing about this monitor.
Easy access for plugging in USB sticks plus a convenient place to hang your headphones and the plug for them right there too. That is, unless you ever want to fold the left side panel backwards and out the way – it will knock into the ports.
Unlike several other manufacturers, BenQ hasn’t opted to use an IPS panel, but instead sticks with TN. This is in keeping with BenQ’s aim to provide the ultimate in gaming performance; TN remains that bit faster to respond than even the latest 165Hz IPS models.
However, this choice does mean that you’ll have to put up with the tech’s associated problems of poor viewing angles and lower overall image quality.
BenQ also include several picture modes for getting the best out of the monitor in different situations. These include a Black Equalizer, which essentially shifts the gamma setting to make dark areas of games appear lighter.
Also included is an Advanced Motion Accelerator, which is basically an overdrive setting for making the panel response even faster; and Instant Mode, which bypasses as much image processing as possible to reduce input lag.
BENQ ZOWIE XL2735 – SETUP AND OSD
Physical setup of the XL2735 is simple enough, thanks to the easy-attachment system for the stand and the full set of ergonomic adjustments. However, getting this monitor to look right is another matter altogether.
The main culprit is that this monitor has just about the worst out-of-the-box image quality I’ve ever seen. This means having to dive into the OSD to find a better option, and although it’s reasonably clearly laid out, it certainly isn’t all that obvious just what settings you need to adjust to get it looking its best.
It took a lot of trial and error to find the best combination of settings, and even then it still required manual colour temperature adjustment and use of a colorimeter to get the picture looking right. At least the remote made making changes quick and easy.
BENQ ZOWIE XL2735 – IMAGE QUALITY
As mentioned, this monitor has awful image quality in its default settings. On firing it up, it clearly looked washed out, overly bright and lacking in contrast. Plus, sure enough, our colorimeter measured its contrast as just 530:1 – which is about half what you should expect.
The gamma setting was also way off. It measured 1.1 when it should ideally be 2.2, and it’s very seldom this figure deviates more than 0.5 from the ideal. Gamma is the measure of the transition from dark to light, so a low gamma will make dark colours look lighter, resulting in a washed-out looking image; a high gamma will make everything appear darker.
By default, the XL2735 has terrible image quality compared to a properly calibrated monitor
A low gamma is desirable in some gaming situations, since it means you can more easily see opponents hiding in the gloom, but it destroys overall image quality and shouldn’t be the default option.
By switching from the default FPS 1 picture quality option to the Standard option things improved dramatically. The contrast nearly doubled to 1,005:1, while gamma rose to 1.63. Colour temperature was still way off the ideal of 6,500K, however, measuring 7,424K.
I had to adjust the gamma setting to the highest option, turn of the Instant Mode, and opt for the user colour temperature mode to further get things looking right. The latter was adjusted from 100x100x100 (RGB) to 100x100x87.
With all these changes made, and the brightness reduced to just 15/100, the monitor finally looked decent and was ready for a final software calibration with our colorimeter.
Even with all those changes made, though, this is still far from the most impressive monitor we’ve ever seen. Gamma was slightly off, at 1.97, and sRGB coverage was just 90.4%. In comparison, the Asus PG278Q that also uses a TN panel managed 100% sRGB and a perfect gamma of 2.2.
The display’s uniformity is actually quite good
All of which leads me to say that if you’re looking for a monitor that’s good for other tasks as well as gaming then there are better options available, such as the £400 Acer XF270HU (IPS).
For gaming, however, this is a very capable display. Its raw panel performance means it keeps up with lightning-fast movements, while I detected no hint of input lag. Not that it’s any better than most other gaming panels, mind.
The Instant Mode and AMA options seemed to have modest impact, but the most discerning players might be able to detect the difference. Meanwhile, the Black Equalizer option is rather superfluous considering this monitor naturally has such a low gamma anyway, but it does work if you need it.
SHOULD I BUY THE BENQ ZOWIE XL2735?
The core features of the XL2735 make for a perfectly decent gaming monitor. It’s fast, has a good resolution for its size, it’s easy to adjust, and adaptive sync is on hand to smooth out tearing and stuttering.
However, by tacking on so many extras to the basic format, BenQ has bumped up the price so much that it’s only fair to expect more – and the XL2735 just doesn’t deliver. Image quality can be tuned to be decent, but hardly better than monitors that are half the price.
In fact, this display’s predecessor, the XL2730Z, was selling for around £350 just before it finally hit end-of-life, and there’s little here – aside from those niche-appeal side panels – that puts this display ahead of it.
Put simply, the BenQ Zowie XL2735’s price needs to be much closer to £400 before it’s even worth considering. Certainly, any Nvidia gamers would be much better off with the G-Sync-equipped Dell S2716DG.
BenQ has aimed for the upper echelons of competitive gaming with the Zowie XL2735 but has forgotten to add mass appeal. It’s a good gaming panel, but its extra features aren’t worth the money for most home gamers.