For game players hunting for a gaming monitor at 1080p resolution, the BenQ Zowie XL2740 hits all of the big checkboxes. It claims a sizeable 27-inch screen, a very speedy 1ms response time, and a top of the line refresh rate of 240hz. Yet at a price point of $549, buyers are going to expect an exceptional build quality from the XL2740 in addition to its impressive list of specification highlights. But it is an impressive list, nonetheless.
There is, of course, much more of the XL2740 worth considering than its response time and refresh rate. The monitor, like virtually all high refresh rate monitors, is a TN panel display, which can suffer with regards to deep blacks, coloring, and viewing angle. 1080p monitors are also worth questioning at large sizes like 27 inches, where pixels-per-inch (PPI) begin to stretch.
The XL2740 is also marketed for esports, offering a range of physical features that may or may not be of value to every buyer. But that's also why the BenQ Zowie is targeted specifically toward gamers, particularly those who take the hobby seriously or who may even be professional players. The physical features all focus on usability. Packing up a monitor and using it effectively on the road or at LAN events may not be a use-case for the average gamer, but the XL2740 wants to be the monitor for those that do.
The BenQ Zowie XL2740 will be bought first based on its impressive 240hz refresh rate. And considering that reason alone, the XL2740 excels. Whether it's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Fortnite, or any other high-performance game that's optimized for high framers per second, the XL2740 can enable such games to look incredibly smooth and can even provide a player with significantly improved accuracy potential. For fast-paced online multiplayer games where reaction time and accuracy are a priority, the XL2740 offers unparalleled performance.
Of course, a monitor with a high refresh rate doesn't guarantee high frames. It requires equally impressive, and expensive, PC hardware to back it up. BenQ Zowie recommends an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 or an AMD Radeon RX 480 video card or better, but even those recommendations seem low. With more affordable monitors offering 144hz or 165hz, the XL2740's value is really found in attaining 200+ framerates. An AMD RX 5700 an Nvidia GeForce GTX 2070 are the base line for meeting those standings along with a fitting high-performance CPU.
To go alongside the XL2740's 240hz refresh rate is its 1ms Gray to Gray response time. A quick response time is key to taking advantage of the monitor's impressive refresh rate, and the XL2740 delivers in that regard. Gameplay on the XL2740 feels liquid-smooth, with no noticeable input lag.
The BenQ Zowie XL2740 is also G-Sync Compatible (software, not hardware-based), which requires a GeForce 10 series or better graphics card to enable. For games that run at 240 frames-per-second, G-Sync isn't going to add much to the already smooth experience, but playing graphics-intensive games on their highest settings will lower overall fps even on high-end PCs. With G-Sync, screen tearing or stuttering in graphics-intensive games like Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Battlefield 5 is all but gone.
Performance-wise, the XL2740 is optimized to provide a top-tier gameplay experience no matter what game is being played. But again, without high-quality PC components, it will be difficult to take advantage of the XL2740's strengths.
Like most high-performance monitors targeted toward game players, the XL2740 opts for a TN panel over the often slower and expensive IPS and VA panels that prioritize image quality and color reproduction. The XL2740's panels don't break from the norm here. The XL 2740's TN panel does suffer from color shift at relatively narrow viewing angles that are just outside of straight forward. For game players who will be using this monitor almost entirely as their main desktop monitor, there should be little to no problem. However, if used at a distance or used with a group of people, like for watching movies, buyers should be wary.
The TN panel is also notable in certain other regards. For a TN panel, its contrast ratio is a workable 1000:1, denoting average qualities of brightness and blacks. Compared to an optimized IPS or VA panel the difference is immediately recognizable, but compared to other TN panels of similar contrast ratio, the XL2740's brightness appears much better than may be expected. This is likely intentional, as bright screens are preferred for competitive games to lighten dark corners and draw out details. The XL2740 even features a Black eQualizer setting intended to expose dark areas of the screen, but in practice does tend to overexpose the entire screen.
Perhaps due to the XL2740's overall very strong brightness, color reproduction does suffer, but the monitor does feature a setting with 20 levels of Color Vibrance to help. Unfortunately, blackness on the monitor does suffer due to the screen's brightness. Optimizing the monitor's settings can help alleviate some of this at the cost of brightness and color. A perfect mix of brightness, color vibrancy, and deep blacks isn't this monitor's strong suit.
Perhaps due to the limitations of the XL2740's TN panel, the BenQ Zowie has included a wide range of settings options built-in. In addition to the Black eQualizer and Color Vibrance settings, there are also settings for Low Blue Light and Color Temperature. The XL2740 does allow for multiple profiles with custom settings so that users can switch between then for different games or for viewing multimedia.
The XL2740 is also a 1080p monitor, which is perfect for the intent of the monitor. 1080p allows game players to reach frame rates that would be extremely difficult to attain at 1440p or 4K. One issue with this resolution is the XL2740's size. At 27 inches, the XL2740 begins to reach a PPI (pixels per inch) that may not be preferable to some game players, where a smaller 24.5-inch monitor with better pixel density would be. In certain multiplayer games having visual information compacted is an asset. Of course, that's nothing that shifting the monitor's distance couldn't fix.
All in all, the visual quality of the XL2740 isn't the monitor's main selling point. But for a TN panel monitor at 1080p, the XL2740 provides as much as necessary for the monitor's intended purpose. Plus, the monitor's healthy range of settings and customizability makes its weaknesses more tolerable.
The BenQ Zowie XL2740 is being sold explicitly as a monitor for esports, and it delivers that beyond just sheer performance. The monitor itself is designed for ease of use, optimal whether it's being used in a home setting, at an impromptu LAN, or taken to a convention to compete in a tournament. And it achieves that through a diverse array of physical features.
Simple features that are of particular importance include the XL2740's small weighted base stand. The XL2740's stand is a small heavy square that rests near directly under the monitor, meaning that it can fit in very small spaces. Another simple but useful feature for the XL2740 is its strong handle at the top of the monitor's stand, making the monitor very easy to carry despite its weight.
The XL2740's stand also allows it to be shifted and adjusted as necessary. Its height can be raised over 5 and a half inches, it can be tilted upward 20 degrees, and it has 45-degree swivel left and right to make for full vertical usage. And all movements feel very fluid yet firm. There's no need to be forceful or worry about the monitor drifting out of position. It's an impressive amount of maneuverability for a large monitor. Alternatively, the stand can also be discarded, as the XL2740 supports a VESA mount.
On the side of the monitor itself are several useful features including two USB 3.1 ports, passed through with an included cabled, as well as passthrough headphone and microphone ports. These easily accessible features are also intended to be for esports players, those who may need to set up quickly or otherwise have limited access to their case. In testing, they each worked perfectly fine with no noticeable additional delay, including with a keyboard and mouse slotted into the USB ports.
Smaller monitor features include a USB-connected button pad with several buttons and a scroll wheel for quick menu navigation and a headphone hanger inset in the side of the monitor. Also advertised is a nonreflective inner frame, a solution for a rare problem where frustrating lighting can create distracting reflections a the side of the screen. While this isn't a high priority feature, it does seem like a thoughtful addition.
Finally, the XL2740 comes with a set of mounted blinders that can be attached on either side of the screen. These blinders can be useful to block out distractions and are easily removable for a desktop setting. This "Shield" is another example of the XL2740's many options available to ensure the monitor is useable in a wide variety of environments. Like many of these features, the blinders aren't necessarily important, or even likely to be used by a majority of buyers, but it is nice to have as an option just in case.
BenQ Zowie's XL2740 is a uniquely positioned high-end 1080p monitor. Its two core selling points are its performance and its esports feature set. The concept of an esports monitor isn't necessarily odd, given that playing competitive games professionally is an increasingly feasible option. However, while those additional features are interesting they aren't necessarily adding much value to the monitor. The handle, blinders, and non-reflective frame can be useful, but they're more handy than meaningful. It's worth setting aside the XL2740's esports virtues to focus on its performance.
Where the XL2740 makes a persuasive esports argument is with regards to the performance of the monitor for online competitive PC gaming. The 240Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time are this monitor's core selling points, and are well justified in that regard. For 1080p competitive PC gaming, the XL2740 is top of the line. Playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Fortnite, Apex Legends, or the latest Call of Duty title online feels incredible. Playing these games or similarly fast-paced action games at over 200 fps provides an absolutely noticeably smoother and more reliable experience even compared to a 165Hz or 144Hz monitor.
The XL2740 is for game players that know they want as high of high FPS as possible and who have the PC hardware to reach it. It's for those who are willing to sacrifice some visual quality for extra frames.
While the XL2740 may be somewhat of a niche product, that isn't at all a negative. For what it is, the BenQ Zowie XL2740 is very impressive. For those who want the buttery smooth experience of over 200fpsand have the PC hardware to back it up, the XL2740 is the monitor of choice. That it also comes with a solid array of customizable settings and a number of useful adds makes it all the more attractive a product, but it's the opportunity of 240fps competitive multiplayer gaming that justifies the XL2740's expensive price tag.
[NOTE: Game Rant was provided a review unit for testing purposes.]