Designed for gaming use, the BenQ puts a lot of weight into its 120 Hz refresh rate. If you haven’t used a 120 Hz display before, you really need to do it in person to see the extra fluidity that it offers in comparison to 60 Hz. It isn’t something that can be captured in video, since it would be seen on a 60 Hz display, but in person it’s impossible to miss. Simple things like a mouse cursor or dragging a window are much more fluid. Playing games, animations and movement are much more fluid than with 60 Hz, and the change is almost instant to notice. Even myself, who is a casual gamer at best, can notice the difference that it makes in fluidity.

The downsides here are that all 120 Hz monitors seem to currently be limited to 1080p resolution, though some people are overdriving their import 27” IPS LCDs to do 120 Hz as well. Moving to 120 Hz at a higher resolution would also require a much more expensive graphics card, so I can understand the focus on 1080p because of that, but it also makes the monitor not as nice for general work as a higher resolution display is now.

As far as the gaming modes and the quick keys, what these modes are really doing is radically altering the gamma, going from the 2.2 that we might generally want to something closer to 1.4 in my measurements. This brings out things that might be hidden in the shadows, but in doing so it also destroys all the shadow detail and leads to a very washed out, flat looking image that isn’t attractive at all. It might offer you a bit of a performance advantage by seeing more things and not missing someone that is hidden away, but it isn’t nearly as enjoyable to look at in normal use. Perhaps if I was playing in a competitive game against someone I would utilize them, but for solo play I’m almost certain to go back to the calibrated settings, as I far and away prefer the higher contrast ratios and visual pop that it offers.

Update: Lightboost

As many people pointed out in the comments, you can use Lightboost, and some trickery, to get the XL2720T to display at 120 Hz with a strobing backlight. Working much more like a CRT, where you have black frames between objects and not object permenance on the screen, this should provide for better motion resolution and a more CRT-like feel. After I was made aware of this (it's not in the documentation with the monitor, or mentioned by BenQ, or really officially supported) and hooked the XL2720T back up and tested it in this mode.

One thing this does do it lock out all the picture controls except color and brightness. You also take a significant hit to light output in this mode. Motion does look smoother, that I can say for sure. However the extra flickering that this backlight causes also gives me a bit of a headache. I went away from CRTs to LCDs a decade ago because the flicker caused more eye-strain for me, and with the BenQ it seems to bring that feeling back. Games were smoother than before, with a noticeable difference in motion resolution, but it wasn't perfect. Losing all adjustments and the light output is a downside as well.

I also ran the numbers on the display with Lightboost enabled. As all of the controls except for Contrast are really locked off from you, then you need to rely on a video card LUT to calibrate and get anything remotely close to accurate. I also found the maximum contrast level I could drive was 48 without having severe clipping of whites. At this setting your maximum light output is 129 cd/m2. With the contrast at maximum I got 140 cd/m2 but also severe highlight clipping and color distortions.

Lightboost also causes a severe blue-shift in the image. I mean an extreme shift in the image. If you've read our display reviews, you'll know that 6503K is the ideal color temperature (CCT). Lower than that is reddish and higher is bluish. Sometimes we see a display come in around 10,000-12,000K, but that's very high. With Lightboost enabled, the BenQ has an average CCT of 36,025K. It is very, very blue. Here's a table with the data for the BenQ with Lightboost enabled, and after calibration with Lightboost on.

  Lightboost Default Lightboost Calibrated
Average CCT 36025K 6541K
Grayscale dE2000 19.8149 0.9748
Contrast Ratio 779:1 718:1
Peak Light Output 129.1 cd/m2 103.6 cd/m2
Gamma (2.2 target) 1.29 2.15
Color Points dE2000 10.6246 1.5229
Gretag Macbeth dE2000 16.7849 1.7451

So if you calibrate it, you can get a decent image with Lightboost enabled, but you also have to trade your contrast ratio and peak light output for it. It has to reduce Blue all through the video cart LUT to remove that horrible color cast on the image, and doing that drops the light output. At the default settings, the color tint is extreme and while you might be OK with it for gaming, for any daily use even those unconcerned with a calibration might find it to be way too blue for their liking. Post calibration it looks fine, though. All of the Pre- and Post-calibration charts are in the gallery below.

I wish they would make this a normal choice to use the monitor in, and not hidden away and requiring research and work. If motion resolution is the most important aspect to you, then you'll want to at least test out Lightboost mode on the XL2720T. Just know it does entail a few trade-offs as well.

For lag testing, I’ve settled on using the Leo Bodnar lag tester for reviews. Talking to other reviewers with it, our data indicates consistent results with everything except plasma TVs at this point, and that’s not an issue for PC monitors. It means I can only test 1080p60 over HDMI or DVI inputs, but that is similar to the limitations that SMTT introduced. It also lets me measure across the screen at three points and provide different data that I can then average to an overall lag number. The BenQ measures out at 22.1 ms of lag using the Leo Bodnar test. Using the FPS mode or the regular mode led to the exact same scores, so that didn’t influence it at all. I didn’t notice any perceptible lag in use, but that number is higher than I expected it to be.

Processing Lag Comparison (By FPS)

Brightness, Contrast and Power Use Conclusions
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  • chizow - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Glad to see you are revisiting the review of this monitor with a fresh outlook. Honestly, after you have your new results with LightBoost, you may consider just re-writing the entire review. It's a completely different market for this type of monitor that gets away from the muddy mosaics of finely pixeled high-res monitors. Reply
  • qiplayer - Saturday, November 9, 2013 - link

    The today's problem is comunication. Companies want to throw stuff on the market and us to buy. Actually they have no idea what is our need expectations and so on. They lack on ability to observe. ...Today I saw the graps of gtx 780 gtx780ti gtx titan clock behaviour during heavy load/gameplay. Clock is high and every 45 seconds it drops by 40% =every 40 second you get fps drops. Is it possible that they sell a card for 1000$ and haven't found a better solution? YES, they (nvidia) probably even didn't notice it. It would have been enough to let the max clock be 3-5% lower to avoid the needing to downcloack.
    So yes they produce and hope to sell, they found out the solution that many gamers aspire to have in a monitor by case, by looking for a better 3D.

    And if we look cell phones, I'm since years looking for something that is not an iphone, but I always felt I can't type half that fast with samsung htc and so on because the keys had a lag lighting up when pressed. For years this aspect hasn't been seen in reviews, then, one day "tadaaahhh" revelation: a test of touchscreen responsetime. Iphone was far better than the best samsung. So is it possible that no one of the thousands worldwide reviewers noticed it? No one engineer?
    Reply
  • cheinonen - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - link

    I've added charts and data on Lightboost to the review, as well as commentary on the image quality of it. They can all be found on the gaming use and lag page. Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - link

    "One thing this does do it lock out all the picture controls except color and brightness."

    It only locks you out once you enable LightBoost, prior to that you can make any adjustments to presets, color, temperature, sharpness etc. At least that is how it worked on my 2 previous 3D Vision monitors.

    Also, you shouldn't lose any brightness, if anything, the image is usually too bright for those who are not accustomed to it as brightness is maxed out and locked and strobing at 2x brightness.

    Anyone interested in the truly important vitals of this monitor should follow mdrejhon's links as they give a much more accurate picture of this monitor's strengths.
    Reply
  • cheinonen - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - link

    You're going to lose brightness because it's working with black frame insertion basically to mimic the performance of a CRT in that way. The lack of object permanence on-screen causes the eye to see motion as being more fluid when tracking something. This same behavior also means that instead of the backlight being on all the time, it's shut down every so often and that causes a measurable drop in light output. With the monitor at factory settings, other than Lightboost, and contrast set to the maximum level before clipping, I got under 130 cd/m2. Going higher requires clipping.

    As far as the user controls being locked out, at least on the BenQ when it went into Lightboost mode my previously set user color temperature settings were removed, leading to the blue image. Different monitors could easily have different settings, but on the BenQ they were all locked out.

    I've read all of mdrejhon's links, and he's providing his perspective. He, and many others, are after the least amount of blur no matter what, and that's fine. To me, the trade-off in brightness, color quality, and noticeable flicker are not worth it to me. But that's my opinion. However I think comments that color quality is unimportant compared to the 120Hz mode is giving BenQ a free pass. They could easily provide both, but choose not to due to cost or another reason. If color accuracy isn't important to you at all, that's fine, but it shouldn't be dismissed outright.
    Reply
  • sweenish - Monday, June 17, 2013 - link

    180-220 is a 10% range, is it not? Reply
  • brucek2 - Monday, June 17, 2013 - link

    Thanks Chris. I really appreciate direct, straight forward conclusions like yours. The most important part of most reviews to me is the part that says this product is either the winner for some specific use case, or if not here are the likely better options to consider. Far too many reviewers are afraid to be so blunt so I always appreciate it when I see it. Reply
  • mdrejhon - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    To be fair, SkyViper (a former CRT user) thought a 120Hz monitor was disappointing until he enabled LightBoost:
    http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?p=1039591537#p...

    "I felt like I may have wasted $300 bucks on a monitor that is full of compromises. The next thing I tried of course was using the Lightboost hack."
    [...Enables LightBoost....]
    “SWEET MOTHER OF GOD!
    Am I seeing this correctly? The last time I gamed on a CRT monitor was back in 2006 before I got my first LCD and this ASUS monitor is EXACTLY like how I remembered gaming on a CRT monitor. I was absolutely shocked and amazed at how clear everything was when moving around. After seeing Lightboost in action, I would have gladly paid twice the amount for something that can reproduce the feeling I got when playing on a CRT. Now I really can’t see myself going back to my 30″ 2560×1600 IPS monitor when gaming. Everything looks so much clearer on the ASUS with Lightboost turned on.”
    Reply
  • Panzerknacker - Monday, June 17, 2013 - link

    Agree with your conclusion Chris, TN monitors are just completely worthless for anything, looking at them makes me puke. Many years ago I used to be a hardcore gamer, but when my CRT died and I was forced to purchase a LCD monitor, that completely spoiled the fun I had in gaming. Everything suddenly looked like complete crap, especially the dark atmospheric games I used to enjoy like Doom 3 and Splinter Cell. Displays like this are maybe only good for one thing, and that is proffesional gaming tournaments where nothing matters but respons. Even while practicing at home though I would prefer the better looks of a IPS over the faster respons of the TN.

    offtopic:
    How do modern IPS screens do in terms of allround gaming vs CRT's? I still use to think all LCD's just suck, I just bought a phone with the best display on the planet and everybody and every review says it has the most awesome black levels ever in a LCD, but imo it still sucks compared to CRT.
    Reply
  • Insomniator - Monday, June 17, 2013 - link

    TN panels ruined gaming for you? Give me a break. Reply

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