The BenQ GW2760HS is a monitor with a lot going on for it. For starters, you get a massive 27″ VA 1080p panel for a very modest price of Rs 20,000. It features all the necessary HDMI/DVI inputs, in addition to onboard speakers, 3.5mm audio input as well as headphone output. This is a boon for those who want a reasonably large display that can handle their PCs as well as consoles. What's more, the picture quality appears pretty kickass right out of the box. However, its biggest party trick lies in its ability to deliver a flicker-free experience. This is great for most computer users because flicker can prove to be a major contributing factor for operator fatigue.
A Flickering Issue
A large number of users complain of headaches and blurry vision owing to long work hours viewing computer screens. Contrary to popular belief, this phenomenon isn't caused by refresh rate issues on modern LCD monitors. This is, in fact, a direct fallout of the PWM-based technique used to control the intensity of the LCD backlighting, which typically switches the backlight on and off at an average of 175 times per second to create varying levels of light intensity. The only problem with this technique is that an average human can detect the flicker it creates.
A 27″ large 8-bit panel for Rs 20,000 is a good deal
Although, BenQ hasn't mentioned what it exactly does to fix the flickering issue, the only viable way to achieve this is by boosting the PWM cycling rate from the basic 175Hz to a frequency that's at 500Hz and beyond. The improvement isn't just palpable to the naked eye, but I made it a point to verify it by comparing the BenQ GW27 to a plain-vanilla LED-backlit LCD monitor. A simple phone camera or table fan test was enough to show the conspicuous difference between the chronic levels of flicker evident in a regular LED-backlit monitor and the lack of the same in the BenQ monitor.
Design and Build Quality
The BenQ makes no bones about its budget leanings. This is, after all, a 27″ VA panel that costs just Rs 20,000. This generosity is tempered with a frugal approach that's evident elsewhere in the monitor's design. The looks, for example, are Spartan with no fancy LEDs, embossed-backlit logos, or translucent plastic in sight. The entire chassis and the stand have been fashioned from piano-black glossy plastic, which is prone to scratching and smudges. While the whole shebang doesn't look premium, it's designed to be as minimalistic and inconspicuous as possible. The bezel is remarkably thin, which makes it ideal for multi-monitor setups, whereas the overall panel thickness would have been quite low if it weren't for the small hump that houses the I/O ports, speakers, and electronics.
The stand is a bit wobbly, but you always have the option of detaching it by releasing a single screw–that is, if you wish to wall mount it. The general theme of frugality trickles onto the user controls as well. Instead of the hard-to-use capacitive buttons, the BenQ GW27 bears regular buttons hidden away behind the bezel. The UI is a breeze to use despite the unusually placed controls, and is actually quite faster than the more elaborate capacitive alternative. On the bright side, this arrangement allows the bezel to look clean without having to put up with flaky controls. The connectivity options are standard for a monitor, with an HDMI, DVI, and D-Sub inputs in addition to line in and headphone jacks.
Overall, while the monitor may not look expensive, it has common sense design that's geared more towards function and minimalism. That is, if you ignore the ridiculously high elevation of the stand, that can only be adjusted for rake and not height. This means, the monitor is way too high for an average-sized man with an average-sized desk. Unless, of course, you belong to the Padaung tribe of Burma; in which case, you may disregard this paragraph.
The monitor is quite thin, but the stand isn't height adjustable
When I unboxed and plugged in the monitor for the first time, the performance after the initial factory reset was absolutely shocking. There was a very flagrant lack of detail, loss of colour gamut, and an alarming level of black crush. Thankfully, going through the settings menu led me to an option to unlock the full RGB colour gamut. Once that was done, the picture quality improved remarkably. In fact, the image fidelity of the monitor was pretty good without any calibration in this state.
BenQ claims that the GW27 incorporates a true 8-bit panel capable of displaying 16.7 million colours, as opposed to a regular 6-bit panel employing dithering or FRC to bump up the 242,000 colour palette to interpolate 16.2 million colours. The monitor showed no tell tale signs of dithering and FRC such as grainy pixels in darker colours or banding in test gradients. Its ability to handle test images meant to underscore FRC and dithering artefacts well means that there's some semblance of truth in BenQ's claim. This is quite remarkable, because an 8-bit panel at this price is very hard to digest.
The out of box colour performance was good enough to come pretty close to that of my colour-accurate ASUS PA238Q monitor. This is praise of the highest order because the ASUS is a 23″ monitor that costs roughly the same. When calibrated with Datacolor's Spyder colourimeter, though, the image quality improved palpably. However, unlike the ASUS, the BenQ GW27 doesn't have individual RGB colour adjustment options. This means, the calibrated settings will only be applicable to PC sources and not to consoles and Blu-ray/DVD players.
The monitor nevertheless exhibited impeccable performance in the colour gradient test. Virtually every single bright and dark tone – even the difficult-to-render red and blue tones – were reproduced with discernible variation in each gradient swatch. The gamma and sharpness settings were pretty good out of the box too. The black levels were excellent, which was evident from the GW27's ability to render all but the darkest block. The white saturation levels were pretty spot on, again with the display being able to discern between all but the last two white levels. The gradient banding test pretty much showed the pedigree of the 8-bit panel and its ability to render a silky smooth gradient.
The connectivity options include an HDMI, DVI, and D-Sub inputs
Such stellar performance notwithstanding, the monitor however falters in the viewing angle department. This is quite uncharacteristic for a VA panel, but this monitor had major gamma uniformity issues at the slightest deviation from the sweet spot. It's disappointing that even a slight deviation from the vertical axis is enough to affect the black levels greatly as a consequence. The problem is so acute that this alone has cost the monitor a whole star. However, the image quality is good as long as you sit directly in front of it, which makes sense because this is, after all, supposed to be a monitor first and foremost.
Once I put my Blu-ray test suite through the paces, the GW27's image fidelity shone through. The black detail was faithfully rendered on The Descent, Pandorum, and Suck Blu-rays. The presence of slight backlight bleed at the corners is the only thing that could potentially distract in such movies. However, there was no sign of black crush at all. The monitor was quite successful in underscoring the overall colour fidelity and extracting fine details in good transfers of Blu-rays such as Resident Evil: Extinction, Shaun of the Dead, and Band of Brothers. If you ignore the viewing angles, BenQ's panel is good enough to humiliate LCD televisions costing a whole digit more. However, that has always been the case with good PC monitors.
The gaming performance was pretty good as expected, considering the fact that this panel claims a grey-to-grey response time of 4ms. This is most confounding because this feat is nigh impossible to achieve with a true 8-bit panel. I won't get into the technicalities here, but speedy response time and colour accuracy has always been mutually exclusive. You can either have a 6-bit display with FRC/dithering that sports a super fast response time, or you can have a slow true 8-bit panel. The response time of the BenQ GW27 is pretty fast for an 8-bit panel. This was pretty much evident in fast-paced racing and FPS games I put it through. In a nutshell, what you have here is a colour-accurate monitor that's fast enough for gaming.
Having a slim bezel has its benefits
Verdict and Price in India
The BenQ GW2760HS is quite remarkable indeed. It's a cheap, no-nonsense PC monitor that gives you a large and capable 27″ VA panel for a ridiculously low price of Rs 20,000. Not only does this panel seem to possess true 8-bit fidelity, but it doesn't compromise in response times for gaming either. The colour and greyscale accuracy makes everything from movies to videogames quite fun, while it's minimalist good looks make it all the more appealing. All you need to worry about are a few niggling problems such as a bit of backlight bleed, a rather tall unadjustable stand, feeble onboard speakers, and poor viewing angles. Having said that, these are issues that can be worked around considering the fact that you're essentially being offered a damn good panel for a throwaway price. The BenQ GW27, then, comes highly recommended.
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Oct 21, 2016