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BenQ XL2730Z Review (AMD FreeSync Follow-up)

BenQ XL2730Z Review (AMD FreeSync Follow-up)

Last month AMD launched a new technology, FreeSync, which is designed to enhance the visual experience for gamers by solving long standing issues. Today we take a look at one of the first screens to support this technology in our BenQ XL2730Z review.

BenQ XL2730Z Review – What is FreeSync?

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Tearing in games (as shown in the first screenshot above) has long been an issue (especially on higher end hardware, but also on mainstream parts with older less demanding games). Why does it happen? Keeping to the basics, our displays are set to draw each frame at a set time. If the GPU does not delivery a frame at a time which “fits” this, it isn’t shown and we move on to the next render time (where we could run into the same issue) but if the next frame does render then it appears out  of sync as the game world has moved on. FreeSync looks to resolve this by using DisplayPort cable/connectivity and its inbuilt adaptive-sync functionality to ensure that the graphics card and display show the frame as it is ready. As the name suggests, they are Sync’d.

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AMD are keen to point out that their FreeSync solution will hit the market at lower price points than the competition due to it not requiring any proprietary hardware or licence fee. Additionally this is an open standard and the aim is for it to be as compatible with as many display manufacturers key features as possible. Finally, there should be little, or no performance penalty when using FreeSync. The AMD product supported by Freesync include the R9-295X2, R9 290/290X, 285, 260/260X and A10/A8/A6 APUs such as the 7850K, 7650K and 7400K.

BenQ XL2730Z Review – The Screen

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We have reviewed a few of BenQ’s screens recently, including one from the XL series. The XL2730Z offers a pretty similar box which notes the key features of the product and then inside, suspended in plenty of protective material, is our display. Also included is a dust cover, DVI cable, HDMI cable, DisplayPort cable and USB cable. BenQ also include a control pod which is specific to this model and allows us easy access to configuration of the screen settings/profiles. It should be noted also that the inclusion of the DisplayPort cable is critical on this product, or any FreeSync screen, as that method of connecting is required and some manufacturers do not include the cable.

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Shown above is the XL2730Z when fully assembled. This is a 27? 2560×1440 TN LED display. It measures 557.4×663.7x226mm and weighs 10.8Kg. BenQ list a vertical refresh rate of 144Hz. Pixel pitch is 0.233mm, brightness 350cd/m2 and contrast is 1000:1 (DCR 12m:1). Viewing angles are 170/160 degrees with response time set at 1ms GtG.

We can pivot the screen, tilt -5 to 20 degrees and swivel by 45 degrees. Height adjustment via the stand is 140mm. The controls for our on screen display are located on the right edge of the bezel and at the bottom corner is out power button.

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On the left edge of the display we find 3.5mm audio in/out along with 2x USB 3.0 ports and a red arm which extends out to hang our headphones on. Round at the back of the screen are our other connectors, another 3.5mm audio, mini-USB for the control pod, DVI, 2x HDMI (inc HDMI 2.0), DisplayPort, VGA and the USB passthrough/hub connector.

BenQ XL2730Z Review – Setup

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BenQ stick with their standard on screen display for the XL2730Z, offering plenty of options such as profiles for various game genre’s, detailed tweaking of key aspects and the ability to enable manufacturer specific features such as blue light tweaks (reduces eye fatigue) and black eQualizer/dynamic contrast which enhance dark areas of our games to provide an advantage over other gamers. Blur reduction is also present however that is not compatible with FreeSync (an issue not specific to BenQ).

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To enable FreeSync we first connect the screen to our graphics card with the BenQ bundled DisplayPort cable. Next we ensure that the AMD driver is installed, version 15.3 and newer required. After rebooting the software detects that a FreeSync compatible system is being used and prompts us to enable the technology. We do this by ticking a box in the control panel. Simple as that.

BenQ XL2730Z Review – Performance

When we first tested FreeSync we did so on a screen limited to 75Hz in FreeSync mode and tailored our game settings to best suit this refresh rate. For the BenQ screen we have tweaked the settings again, this time reducing Anti-Aliasing to allow for greater framerates. Performance was tested on AMDs 990FX platform (FX-9590) with 2x8GB DDR3-2133, the Radeon SSD and Windows 8.1. All latest Windows updates, drivers and game patches were installed.

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There are four main modes which are available to us and they are created from the on/off status of FreeSync and VSync. they are:

Free on V on – Smoothest experience, refresh rate limited performance. (E.g. 75Hz on LG, 144Hz on BenQ. Theoretically, up to 240Hz is supported by FreeSync)
Free on V off – Benefits of FreeSync up to refresh rate. Framerate not limited so tearing can occur.
Free off V on – Display limited FPS, no FreeSync benefits.
Free off V off – Maximum FPS, no FreeSync benefits

For those who want the smoothest performance the On/On combination is the way to go. Why would we choose FreeSync On, VSync Off? Thats all about getting access to the lowest possible mouse latency. That said, AMD do note that with On/On latency is typical and not worse than a standard display.

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What difference does the Hz rating of a display make to performance? That is shown in the char above where the 75Hz limit of the LG model limits our framerate to 75fps. BenQ allow the GPU to perform higher, hitting 144fps which drags the average and minimum framerate up too. Of course the LG screen does allow framerates at the higher level, we just loose the FreeSync benefits when above 75fps, just as the BenQ can hit over 144fps without FS benefits.

BenQ XL2730Z Review – Conclusion

When we first tested FreeSync this is what we had to say…

“Starting with FreeSync itself, quite simply it works great. Our gaming experience was smooth, we encountered no bugs and no real effort was required to set it up.”

Does anything change on the XL2730Z? Actually, yes. The higher refresh rate of the BenQ screen at 144Hz allows for a much wider range in which to have FreeSync benefits. The setup was also a touch easier as on this screen the settings are pre-set to enable FreeSync in software, rather than have to delve into the OSD.

The XL2730Z is also very much a gaming monitor. That starts with little touches such as the headphone holder and carry handle and continues on through the control pod, gaming features such as Black eQualiszer and 1ms GtG time. The viewing angles are good and the gaming profiles also make sense, though for desktop use we did tweak things a little for enhanced sharpness/contrast…thats just personal preference though. Brightness was also uniform across the panel and we noticed no significant ghosting during our gaming sessions. The inclusion of USB 3.0 ports and HDMI 2.0 is a nice bonus.

Summary: The BenQ XL2730z is one of the more expensive FreeSync enabled displays however it is packed with gaming features and future proof tech such as HDMI 2.0. Very much a case of you get what you pay for… including some class leading framerates under FreeSync conditions.

Performance Award

Available to buy from Overclockers and Newegg .

About Author

Stuart Davidson

2 Comments

  1. johnothon

    tn… ewwww

  2. I’ve been waiting for a 4k or 5k displays that uses freesync/adaptive sync….. frankly i don’t understand why anyone would bother with g-sync.

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