We round up and compare seven of the top gaming monitors.
By Bane Williams on April 23, 2013 at 11:17 am
Welcome to our Massive Monitor Roundup! For our testing purposes, we used the website Lagom.nl, which you can use yourself to try and get great reproduction out of your monitor.
While it does have some limitations, Lagom shows a wide array of tests to discern some of the more basic problems that can plague monitors. If you wish to find out more, head on over to get a better understanding of the testing and calibration.
One of two 27” monitors in the roundup, the VG278H has a fairly unassuming exterior that hides a beastly interior. It has a matte finish, standard almost-inch-thick black bezel, and tactile buttons on the bottom right of the monitor. Cable ports on the rear are built deep into the monitor, which actually provide problems when sliding any cables with ferrite rings in (which is the type the monitor comes with). The stand is a weighted round stand with 3D printed boldly on it, and provides the monitor with tilt, swivel, and height adjustment.
Our testing produced a few problems unnoticeable in other monitors. Firstly, getting perfect contrast settings was nigh on impossible, and the monitor lacks an easily findable gamma setting, screwing with White saturation and Black balance. Additionally, colour reproduction seems solidly off, with blues and yellows seeming particularly vibrant. On the flip side, ASUS were the only monitors to not have flicker in the Inversion test, although there was significant ghosting of the navigation rectangle, and test 1 and 2 appeared green when they are supposed to appear grey. Our model also had significant backlight clouding (but not bleeding) on the bottom edge.
Gaming performance is where both the Asus monitors shine, however at times 1920 x 1080 can look decidedly average on such a large screen. The 144Hz frequency means that gaming is significantly smoother than on the standard 60Hz monitors, as long as your graphics card is capable of outputting above 60 frames per second regularly on your quality of choice, and its 2ms grey-to-grey delay offers competitive FPS gamers a definite edge.
As the other 27” contender, the Kogan is the underdog of the bunch. It has a matte finish and a similar bezel and button setup to the ASUS, however the inputs are located on the right of the monitor. Many older PC desks have the case situated on the left, so this may be an important consideration. The stand is a solid square, and offers only tilt ability — however Kogan have mentioned a WQHD S is in the works, which will come with a full complement of swivel and height adjustment.
The testing process is where the Kogan was simply stunning. It offered an impeccable performance through almost all testing. Colours, contrast, gamma were all easy to calibrate and offered perfect reproductions. Black levels and white saturation were all spot on also, and the viewing angles were top notch. The only test the Kogan failed at was a single inversion test, the same one that plagued all but the ASUS monitors (which had other problems outside of flickering). Our model had some very minor backlight clouding (but not bleeding) in the bottom right corner.
Gaming performance is very high with the WQHD, especially with the brilliant reproduction the monitor pulls off. The 2560 x 1440 display ratio is absolutely fantastic both in and out of gaming, and suits the size of the monitor. While Kogan specifies it is a 12ms delay panel, testing showed our model running at a grey to grey of closer to 6-8ms, with no noticeable ghosting during FPS gaming.
The first of our 24” screens, the ASUS offers a matte finish and a .75 inch standard black bezel. and tactile buttons on the bottom right of the monitor. Cable ports on the rear are built deep into the monitor, which, again provides problems when sliding any cables with ferrite rings in (which is the type the monitor comes with). The stand is a weighted round stand with 3D printed boldly on it, and provides the screen with tilt, pivot, swivel, and height adjust.
In testing the 24” performed almost exactly as the 27” did, so there’s no real reason not to hit the bigger one if you can afford it. Its one improvement over the 27” is that it apparently offers a 1ms grey to grey response time, which is as low as you’re going to get for a long while.
The BenQ RL2450H (which we performed a detailed review of here) is the cheaper of BenQ’s two contenders in the roundup. The screen’s bezel is the standard black .75 inch that most 24” monitors have. It has physical buttons on the right of the monitor and features bottom facing input ports with plenty of room for cables of all sizes. This model has a unique looking stand that has just a lick of red around the base, giving the monitor an imposing look — but unfortunately that same stand only provides the RL2450H with tilt and not swivel.
Lagom.nl testing showed great contrast scores, but didn’t do as well in colour reproduction and sharpness, likely due to its TN panel. It performed very well in both black levels and white saturation, but the inversion test gave it a slight stumble, where it failed twice. There was some extremely minor backlight clouding on the very top and bottom of our model.
While the RL2450H seems like an all around average monitor, its gaming features are certainly worthy of taking a second look. It has a 2ms grey-to-grey response performance, and a number of gaming presets that sharpen the image and make any dark areas lighter dynamically for a competitive edge, preventing the need of professional gamers to crank the brightness and contrast to obscene levels. There was no ghosting present at all in the RL2450H, no matter what game I threw at it.
Visually, the differences between the BenQ XL2420T, and its smaller cousin the RL2450H are staggering. While it features a standard black .75 inch bezel, it is crisply cornered. Where the RL featured tactile buttons, the XL features touch sensitive ones, with the added option of an external controller to navigate through the OSD or switch through presets. Where the RL had a small stand that could only tilt, the XL supports swivel and height adjustment as well with a truly daunting heavyweight stand.
Lagom.nl testing showed some significant differences as well. While the contrast scores were comparable, the colour reproduction and sharpness were the best ever seen on a TN panel, although still not as good as some of the other monitors in the roundup. It performed superbly in black levels and white saturation, and even the inversion test only showed a slight flickering, although it was present on three of the seven images. There was extremely minor backlight clouding on the top edge of the panel.
What this monitor does, it does well, and that’s gaming. Games are pristine on the 120hz display rate, and the good colour reproduction meant an extremely enjoyable and incredibly smooth gaming experience, no matter the game… although it performs exceptionally well on the competitive battlefield in both FPS and RTS games thanks to its black equalizer technology. This tech allows the monitor to dynamically adjust contrast and brightness in darker areas, preventing the need for games to look washed out when you want a competitive edge.
The Dell S440L is the only Glossy screen of the bunch. It’s a 24” monitor that features a standard black .75 inch bezel, with touch sensitive buttons on the side of the monitor, with inputs located bottom facing on the back in an extremely hard to see area. It only has VGA and HDMI outputs, and many HDMI cables with thick plug casing will have difficulty fitting. It has a square based stand that offers a simple tilt function.
Lagom.nl testing reveals the best contrast results we’ve seen in a monitor, though sharpness and gamma seemed slightly off in our model and as a result both black levels and white saturation were problematic at the highest end of the scale. While only perceptible to a minority of gamers, the S2440L was the only model to not have any gradient banding at all. Inversion testing showed four problems, however, with two flickers, a miscolour with one test, and ghosting of one navigation rectangle. No perceivable backlight issues occurred.
In gaming, the glossy screen can be a huge problem, no matter the environment as games have a lot of dark areas, and the reflections are generally distracting and off putting. The superb contrast is definitely noticeable when comparing a game like BioShock Infinite across a number of monitors. Its 6ms grey-to-grey is reasonable, though I did notice some minor ghosting in particularly fast sections of gameplay, perhaps due to its overdrive technology.
The U2412M is the other 24” contender from Dell. The screen’s bezel is a standard black .75 inch, which curiously has two problems we noted with our model: the screen doesn’t make contact with the bezel (some of the packing foam was stuck in the grooves) and at various places the bezel actually comes away from the backing, allowing you to see inside the monitor. Outside of this there are physical buttons on the right side and bottom facing inputs that feature plenty of room to plug your cables in. Its stand provides the full complement of four way motion, and can increase the height considerably. A physical feature that Dell provides is four USB ports with this model, which is handy for those with a hard to access tower. We noticed some damage also with what looks to be a physical object stuck between the Anti Glare coating and the panel itself.
Lagom.nl testing showed good contrast and gamma results, with sharpness being slightly off, however black levels and white saturation were a distinct improvement over the other Dell monitor. Inversion testing only had two flicker issues this time, however it showed another problem, which is the strength of the Anti Glare coating. Usually in monitors I don’t notice AG coaring at all, however on this model it is extremely noticeable, especially on large stretches of colour. Significant blacklight clouding occurred on the top right of our model, along with minor amounts in all other corners.
For gaming, the U2412M offers good results. Its 1980 x 1200 (16:10) display does offer a certain additional crispness to the action, and it is quite noticeable in side by side tests with 24” monitors doing only 1080. However movie watching will produce a black band at the top and bottom in fullscreen, which allows that wonderful backlight clouding to shine on through. Its 8ms grey-to-grey was solid, and surprisingly didn’t show any ghosting despite the other member of the Dell family showing some minor ghosting at a lower rate.
The Best of the Best
When I scratched out all the different monitors pros and cons, I was left with a shortlist of only two monitors, the BenQ XL2420T and surprisingly, the Kogan WQHD. I sat down with both monitors for an extended period of time in a whole host of different gaming situations, as well as general use. What I found was that it was mostly up to personal preference, and whether you prefer smoothness or quality.
Ultimately, the BenQ XL2420T is designed solely for the hardest of the hardcore gamers, with a lot of technology that I can see being very useful on an eSports battlefield. It’s smoothness is excellent, and although the ASUS models were a tad smoother, the BenQ provided a higher quality colour reproduction and gamma options. As such, the BenQ XL2420T gets the Best Pro Gaming Monitor Award. This I think is precisely what it is aimed at, and exactly what it does amazingly.
However, the underdog of the roundup is what takes my breath away. It is what is sitting on my desk right now, as I am typing this, and I’ve already made steps to purchase one. For me, even though the Kogan WQHD lacks that ‘ultra fast’ response time, its nigh on perfect colour and contrast reproduction blows me away. After days of rigorous testing I know that not only can this monitor do anything I need it to with excellence, but it has a unique feature… any game I play is displayed exactly as its designers intended it to be. That knowledge is all I need to easily give the Kogan WQHD the Best Gaming Monitor Award.
Some Final Thoughts
When I received these monitors to look at, I had a lot of ideas about which one might be best and what might underperform. In almost every way those thoughts were turned topsy turvy by the end. While Samsung were unable to supply any monitors (due to sending their 2012 models away and waiting shipment on their 2013’s), I wonder how they would have held up under the same light? Seeing this line up showed me what most of the major publishers consider a ‘gaming monitor’, but — looking at the results, one has to ask whether they even know what is important to gamers at all?
The games that instantly blow me away are those that are visually awe-inspiring. Monitor manufacturers these days are doing everything they can to push the envelope, providing huge contrast gamuts or tiny response times (while using vague terms to define both). Each of the monitors that were specifically geared towards gamers had some issue that for me, as a gamer, were not possible to look over when compared to a simple unassuming general purpose monitor with specifications that most would instantly shun.
For me , the WQHD represented a purist approach to monitor manufacturing, and one that I think others could look up to. After all, don’t we want our games to look the way they were intended to look? We ask for the same in our sound equipment, and in our televisions… so it’s about time we started to ask for it in our monitors.