My grandfather, bless his soul, used to tell me that you can have the nicest gaming PC in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you’re connecting it to an old CRT screen from the 1970s. Granddad got a little weird sometimes, but he was right; if you’re going all in on PC gaming then you need to do yourself a favor and pick up a solid gaming monitor.
In 2016, quality displays like the BenQ XL2730Z Gaming Monitor are far from your granddaddy’s monitor. Ideal choices are gradually being tied to video card perks, and in this case, if you’ve dedicated your faith to the AMD camp for your rig, then you’re granted a solid FreeSync-capable screen that’s got everything you want for right now.
Setting this baby up is as easy as snapping the screen onto the base and finding a nice place to put it; at 27 inches this might mean rearranging your desk a bit! Once you’ve hooked up the XL2730Z via one of the HDMI, DP, DVI or VGA inputs, you’ll find that image fidelity is excellent despite this being a TN rather than IPS screen. You’ll probably need to adjust the settings a bit out of the box as colors are a bit washed out by default, but otherwise there are no real issues when it comes to overall quality. The fact that this is a TN panel (as described in loose definition from our resident tech editor) means that you’ll need to look at this dead center for good viewing angles, and ideal for the most latency-free experience possible.
Familiar to the category is the XL2730Z’s flexible stand and mount, that allow you to easily adjust things to your liking both vertically and horizontally, as well as tweaking the screen’s height. Adjusting menu options is easily handled via buttons on the screen itself or via an included remote control that’s meant to rest on the monitor’s base.
This is marketed as a gaming monitor, so gaming performance and features are key. The XL2730Z runs at a lovely 1440p native resolution with a 144Hz refresh rate; the latter means more that you might think, and if you’re coming from a 60hz screen to 144Hz then prepare to be amazed. If you’re after 4K, of course, you’re going to need to look elsewhere, but that remains a fairly niche option that requires slightly more powerful hardware than your average gamer would own. I had no issues enjoying eye-melting glory from pretty much any game I threw at the XL2730Z. There are a few options that can assist with specific game genres, like RTS and FPS titles, as well as a blur reduction option and low blue light mode. Other gaming-centric features include a convenient USB pass-through on the side of the screen, allowing you to easily plug in a wired gamepad or other such peripheral, and a headphone rest that extends out the edge of the bezel.
This leaves the XL2730Z’s FreeSync capability as its key feature and the primary reason it’s more expensive than other monitors with similar specs. FreeSync is AMD’s version of the adaptive sync concept that’s been growing in popularity; essentially it allows you to eliminate tearing due to varying framerates. Everything becomes nice and smooth without any sort of performance drop. It’s a difficult thing to explain in text, but suffice to say that adaptive sync is a glorious thing in action and it’s difficult to go without it once you’ve gotten a taste. Since the XL2730Z uses FreeSync, that means that you’ll need to use an AMD graphics card to take full advantage of this screen. It’s a completely serviceable monitor without AMD hardware backing it up, but FreeSync is what makes this baby shine and Nvidia owners might be better served checking out the G-Sync-supporting Dell S716DG, which is a near-equivalent to the XL2730Z.
I was able to test several games both with and without FreeSync and the XL2730Z performed with flying colors on every single one. Everything from Grand Theft Auto V, Ryse: Son of Rome, to Tales of Zestiria looking as great as I’ve seen; with FreeSync on, this was above my average gaming experience. In particular, Tales is a bright, colorful game with plenty of motion that could be done a serious disservice by a subpar monitor, but it looked great on the XL2730Z. Even without FreeSync capability I found very little to complain about, though gaming without an adaptive sync solution after having used it feels a bit lackluster and somewhat wasted.
Aside from essentially requiring an AMD graphics card to unlock its full potential, my other complaint about the XL2730Z was that my first experience with the unit had some nasty clouding issues. A significant portion of the right side of the screen had white clouding that would show up clearly against dark colors and black; this would also manifest as a faint haze on brighter colors. It wasn’t the easiest thing to notice, but once you do it’s plain as day. Fortunately, a BenQ warranty made switching out this screen was relatively painless by my standards, and the replacement unit I’ve used (and actually bought beforehand) was free of this defect.
Tthe BenQ XL2730Z Gaming Monitor is a excellent gaming display that shines with AMD FreeSync, but obviously not as effective when matched with an Nvidia GPU. It also makes little sense without something like a R9 390X or especially a R9 Fury X in your possession, but when you add those requirements, the XL2730Z becomes one of the better screens out there. It’s gorgeous, packs plenty of convenient features, and it’s got the classic BenQ service backing it up. AMD owners would be hard pressed to do better.