The first time I saw the BenQ Zowie XL2540 monitor in action, I was aghast.
Its screen seemed overly bright and images looked washed out. There were black bars at the sides as the person using it, who was playing a first-person shooter (FPS), appeared to have adjusted the screen size to 19 inches, down from its native 24.5 inches.
I later realised that the XL2540 had been deliberately set to offer exactly what he and many other competitive gamers want.
These gamers are looking for the slightest advantage they can get over their opponents. Hence, the screen must be bright enough to make it easier to spot enemies lurking in the shadows.
It so happens that the XL2540, already rated at an above-average peak brightness of 400 nits, has a Black Equalizer mode that further brightens darker scenes. This mode is enabled automatically if you select the FPS display profile from the eight presets available on the monitor. The brightness and sharpness of the screen are also altered in this profile.
Other gaming-centric features include two privacy shields, basically pieces of plastic that attach to the left and right sides of the monitor, to reduce glare. They also prevent prying eyes from checking out the screen. A pull-out hook at the side lets users hang their headsets when not using them.
The puck-like S Switch accessory lets you toggle between three display profiles by pressing a button instead of delving into the monitor's on-screen display (OSD) settings. And when you do need to use the latter, a scroll wheel on the accessory makes it easy to navigate the OSD.
RESOLUTION: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
BRIGHTNESS: 400 cd/m2
RESPONSE TIME: 1ms
PANEL TYPE: Twisted nematic
CONNECTIVITY: DVI, DisplayPort, 2 x HDMI, headphone and microphone jacks
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
The Display Mode lets you change the size and aspect ratio of the screen. You can choose from various display sizes, ranging from 17 to 24 inches. The purpose: a smaller screen lets gamers spot enemies and move their targeting reticle more quickly to the desired spot, compared with a wider display.
More importantly, the XL2540 has one of the highest refresh rates (240Hz) - which affect the speed at which the screen redraws the pixels - currently available on a computer monitor.
This monitor renders 240 frames per second (fps) for a truly smooth gaming experience.
For instance, when I swiped my mouse to change where I was looking in Doom, the screen shifts fluidly with no smearing. I felt that my shooting was more accurate than usual, though this perceived improvement could be a placebo effect. Overall, the monitor feels more snappy.
To enjoy the benefits of a high- refresh-rate monitor, the game must also be running consistently at or above the monitor's refresh rate. In this case, though, I had set the refresh rate at 144Hz instead of 240Hz.
This is because running Doom at above 240fps would require a beefy system, or turning off the eye candy. Fortunately, popular e-sports games, like Counter- Strike: Global Offensive and Defense Of The Ancients 2, can easily exceed 240fps on a mid-range gaming computer.
For non-gaming usage, I would switch the XL2540 display profile to Standard. The colours look more vibrant and natural, while the brightness, too, is lowered to a more comfortable level. The monitor's viewing angles, however, are not as wide as ones using in-plane switching technology.
•Verdict: The XL2540 offers unique features that cater to its niche but demanding gaming audience.