When it comes to monitors, the choices at disposal of buyers tend to bifurcate into two classes. One category is aimed at productivity where characteristics like high pixel density, bit depth, and colour accuracy are of prime importance, while the second class is for entertainment purpose like gaming, which demands traits like low response time and high refresh rate. Finding one that offers the best of both worlds is tough, and those few monitors which fulfil the criteria often cost a pretty penny.
The BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor aims to eliminate that price constraint, and at a price point of Rs. 26,990, the BenQ offering appears to be a great purchase. Add to it features such as 1ms response time, native HDR and AMD FreeSync support, and you get a great value-for-money package. But do the on-paper specifications translate into a good experience? Read on to find out in our BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor review.
The BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor has a minimalist design, and it is far from the eye-catching, fancy metallic aesthetics of pricier 4K monitors aimed at the gaming and lifestyle markets. The BenQ offering has an inclined L-shaped pedestal, with the neck sporting a glossy black finish while the base has a dark grey, brushed metal texture. The stand is rather heavy and ships in three pieces in the retail package. You also get an HDMI cable, a power cord, and some paperwork in the box.
The bottom edge of the screen is lined with a grey strip sporting the same metallic texture as the base, while the other three sides are black plastic. The lower edge features a prominent HDR button and the BenQ logo, while the power and OSD (On Screen Display) buttons are on the bottom of the frame. The BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor also has a line of vents running around the sides to keep it running cool.
There is one functional limitation, though. The angled stand only lets you tilt the screen 5 degrees downwards and 15 degrees upwards, and there's no height or swivel adjustment. You can of course use a 100×100mm VESA wall mount if you prefer. Thankfully, the stand does a good job of preventing wobbles when the screen is tilted.
The BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor offers three video inputs – two HDMI 2.0 ports and one DisplayPort 1.4. There's also a 3.5mm audio jack to route HDMI or DisplayPort audio to headphones or external speakers, and a power input port. The BenQ offering has no USB port, which means you can't plug in a USB flash drive or a USB hub to the monitor. All the ports are housed within the mounting cutout at the back and are bottom-facing.
The BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor's dimension are 657.9x476.27x194.6mm and it tips the scales at 5.7kg. Overall, the build quality is quite solid, and despite the design not being fancy with thin bezels and an overall sleek profile, we can't complain about aesthetics, especially keeping in mind the features it offers at the price point.
The BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor packs a 27.9-inch LED-backlit TN display with a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels and 16:9 aspect ratio. The native contrast ratio is 1000:1 while the pixel density stands at 158ppi. The peak brightness is claimed to be 300 nits, which is certainly on the lower side, especially for an HDR monitor. The native colour depth is 10-bit, while the colour gamut stands at 72 percent of NTSC.
Other notable features include the B.I.+ for automatic brightness adjustment, anti-screen flickering, and blue light reduction among others. Talking about the B.I.+ feature, it stands for Brightness Intelligence Plus and automatically adjusts the brightness and colour temperature of the display based on the surroundings. We found that the B.I.+ did a decent job at adjusting the brightness, but it increased the display temperature a tad too aggressively when the surroundings are dimly lit.
The two other key features of the BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor are the 1ms GtG (Grey-to-Grey) response time and AMD FreeSync support, both of which gamers will certainly appreciate. If you are unaware, AMD FreeSync helps reduce screen tearing and stuttering caused by misalignment of frames between a PC and monitor, resulting in a smoother visual experience when gaming.
Before we get into the details of this BenQ monitor's strengths and weaknesses, let's address an important parameter — HDR support, or to be more specific, HDR10 compatibility. BenQ claims that the EL2870U supports HDR content, and it is indeed one of the very few monitors in its price bracket to do so.
However, there isn't much purpose in having an HDR capable display when you can't take full advantage of it. The BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor uses a TN panel with 300 nits peak brightness and a relatively weak colour gamut. Compared to a TN panel, an IPS panel generally offers wider viewing angles and exhibits better colour reproduction, which is why the latter is better suited for HDR content.
The BenQ EL2870U's peak brightness maxes out at 300 nits, and even though it can play 4K HDR videos, colours appear to be less vibrant compared to the same content playing on a monitor with an IPS panel. Comparing it with the LG 27UK650 4K UHD monitor, we found that the gradient shifts and dynamic range on the LG monitor's IPS panel were better than the BenQ monitor's TN panel. Moreover, the peak brightness of 300 nits is simply not sufficient to take full advantage of any HDR content, especially games.
So, despite carrying 4K HDR in its name, the BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor is not the best option for HDR content. The viewing angles, which are listed at 170-degree horizontal and 160-degree vertical, and the subpar brightness uniformity recorded in the EIZO monitor test make matters worse, thanks in no part to the selection of a TN panel. The bottom line is, buyers won't get the true HDR experience with this BenQ offering.
As for the BenQ EL2870U's performance in display quality tests, we noticed that the brightness was a tad higher in the lower region of the screen in the EIZO monitor test while checking for illumination uniformity at different grayscale levels. This was noticeable particularly while viewing content with a darker background.
This non-uniformity also raises its head when viewing content with a lot of shadows, and even in the EIZO test, we came across some banding in the RGB gradient shift patterns while dealing with darker shades. Colour output in the red and blue regions was slightly disproportionate during the RGB test, but greens are well balanced. When it comes to text rendition, the display performed exceptionally well without any jagged or blurred edges, and exhibited ample sharpness.
Similarly, in the PassMark monitor test, we did not come across any colour smearing or blurred edges while assessing RGB and CYM colour blocks. Grayscale gradients were rendered clearly with an easily discernible colour shift. While testing for colour scale, we again noticed uneven colour transitions in the darker regions of the screen with slightly irregular output on the gradient lines.
The BenQ monitor fared well in the convergence dots and lines test with no unwanted colours or distortion of any kind. However, it proved to be a little inaccurate at rendering circular shapes with fine lines at the periphery, but there was no distortion when it comes to linear shapes. As far as the zooming test went, we did not notice any distortion or undesirable object movement.
Synthetic tests aside, a great feature that gamers will certainly appreciate is the 1ms response time (grey-to-grey), and this can be attributed to the fact that this is a TN panel and not an IPS panel, which would typically have a poorer response time. Another gaming-centric feature is the support for FreeSync to tackle screen tearing and stuttering. Despite the 60Hz refresh rate, the BenQ monitor is still a decent option for gamers who want to enjoy their games at high resolution and with vivid details, without forking out a lot of money.
The disadvantage of not being an IPS panel is that viewing angles are not very wide, and blacks are not very deep. On the positive side, IPS panels tend to have a higher response time, which is something gamers take seriously.
We tested out a few games using a Ryzen 5-3550H system with Radeon RX560X (4GB GDDR5) graphics and found that games like Far Cry 5, Battlefield 1, and Destiny 2 ran without a hitch. FreeSync fared well and we did not encounter any screen tearing. However, we did notice that shadows were not handled well, and details and colours sometimes appeared to be muted when the brightness was cranked all the way to peak level.
There are a host of Picture Modes such as Standard, HDR, Cinema HDR, Low Blue Light, Game, Photo, Eco, M-book, and Users. Moreover, there are also options such as Blue Light filter, Display Mode, Super Resolution, and Smart Focus among others. One can also create a custom profile by tweaking parameters such as contrast, gamma, etc. The Super Resolution tool upscales the low-resolution content, and we noticed that enabling it visibly enhanced the sharpness and made the objects appear more detailed.
The Blue Light Mode offers four presets viz. Multimedia, Web-surfing, Office, and Reading, all of which involve changing the colour temperature to a variable extent. The standalone Blue Light Filter tool, on the other hand, does not automatically tweak the colour temperature during daytime with changing ambient light, and is more suitable while using the monitor at night or in dim light.
Out of the box, the BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor rendered somewhat cold visual output with decent saturation levels. One feature that works particularly well is the Brightness Intelligence Plus or B.I.+, which automatically detects ambient lighting and adjusts the display characteristics such as brightness and contrast for a more comfortable viewing experience. However, we found that it sometimes made colours appear warmer than we would have liked.
The Reader Mode comes in handy when it comes to cutting blue light exposure by automatically imparting a slightly reddish tinge to the display. It is worth mentioning here that the BenQ monitor has a TUV Rheinland certification for Blue Light Reduction as well as anti-flickering, and we did not feel much eye fatigue using this monitor during our review period. Watching 4K movies was enjoyable, with a tonne of detail visible even in darker regions of the screen, true-to-life skin tones, and good overall visual output.
Even when watching lower-resolution content, say 1080p, the native Super Resolution feature seemed to help it appear more detailed, with enhanced sharpness and contrast. However, blacks appear to be slightly washed out. For example, while watching The Dark Knight side by side on an IPS panel and the BenQ monitor, we noticed that the latter tried to compensate for inaccurate shadows and dark gradients by enhancing the contrast and raising the colour temperature.
The default display settings are not optimal, with poor contrast and depth. Switching to the ‘User' mode allows one to tweak parameters such as gamma and saturation to adjust the overall colour profile for a better experience. Another minor annoyance is lag in registering the input while interacting with the OSD buttons. A single button for activating the HDR mode and the B.I.+ on the bottom pane can be somewhat frustrating.
When watching HDR content, you have to first press the dedicated button at the bottom pane to enable the HDR mode. Pressing the button twice will enable the B.I.+ and HDR modes simultaneously to automatically adjust the screen brightness based on the ambient lighting conditions. The monitor lets you choose between standard HDR and Cinema HDR modes by using the OSD buttons.
The media consumption experience is somewhat marred by the poor audio output. The BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor comes equipped with 2W stereo speakers, but their output is quite weak with minimal to no bass, shallow profile, and insufficient volume. You will need headphones or external speakers for a decent experience.
The BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor is a great option at its current price point, and there are not many products that can compete with it based on the on-paper specifications. With a low response time of 1ms and FreeSync support, it certainly is a good choice for gamers, with the only limitation being the 60Hz refresh rate. Being a 4K monitor, it definitely shines and shows more details and better colours with a lot of crisp visuals and beautiful gradients.
But folks who are looking to purchase a monitor primarily for HDR capabilities, won't find the BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor to be their best choice. To sum it all up, the BenQ EL2870U 4K HDR monitor is difficult to beat on the value proposition if you use it for work or casual gaming, but if you are a creative professional or a hardcore gamer, you should look elsewhere.
Price: Rs. 28,999 (MOP)
Ratings (out of 5)