ZOWIE’s XL2746S Monitor: Incredible For Esports, But It Needs A Refresh

ZOWIE’s XL2746S Monitor: Incredible For Esports, But It Needs A Refresh

It’s a sign of how mature gaming monitors are that Zowie, at least in Australia, are still able to happily command a $1000-plus premium for a 27-inch 240Hz screen with a TN panel’s image quality, brightness and general features. And that’s the benefit of being good at what you do: It doesn’t matter if competitors have newer technology if it doesn’t get you a better product at the end of the day.

However, all good things must come to an end. And that’s the ZOWIE XL2746S’s biggest problem: Time.

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Image: BenQ

First, let’s go through the basics. The XL2746S is the latest flagship gaming monitor from ZOWIE, the esports brand owned by BenQ. It’s largely the same screen as the XL2740, complete with a sight-blocking shield and the all-too-rare physical OSD buttons in the bottom right.

What’s new with the XL2746S is the inclusion of BenQ’s dynamic accuracy (DyAc+) blur-reduction technology, and the lack of G-SYNC compatibility. That adds up to a difference of about $150 between the XL2740 and XL2746S at most retailers. And both screens are pretty pricey from the bat: the XL2740 is going for around $949 at most major retailers, with the XL2746S selling for closer to $1100.

That’s a hell of a lot for a screen that only runs at 1080p. So, who exactly is BenQ’s big black screen for?

It’s a small market. If you’re someone who is heavily into competitive twitch shooters — in the sense that games like Counter-Strike, Valorant, Rainbow 6: Siege etc. is basically all you play — then you’ll be hard pressed to find a screen better suited than the XL2746S.

Why? It’s all about what happens when you move — or rather, the action on screen.

When enabled, DyAc+ basically reduces the amount of shimmer and ghosting you get on enemy models and objects as you’re panning the screen. It’s especially noticeable when doing large flicks from side to side, like you’d do in CS:GO deathmatch or especially intense rounds of Valorant and Overwatch.

It’s an extra degree of visibility on top of running games with a super high refresh rate. I was fortunate enough to be testing the XL2746S alongside another 240Hz 1ms monitor — which I’m still under embargo for, so I can’t mention what it is. But the point is, not all 240Hz monitors are made equal. Higher refresh rates absolutely help with visibility in twitch shooters and battle royale games, but BenQ’s tech is a genuinely useful addition that adds an extra bit of clarity that super competitive gamers will definitely appreciate.

There’s also the benefit of Black Equaliser. What it does is actually adjust the gamma of dark tones in the monitor, making it easier to see details like characters and objects in dark areas without adjusting the overall gamma or brightness of the rest of the image. It’s another great feature in games like Call of Duty: Warzone or CS:GO, but not something that works with more cinematic games.

The build quality is fairly solid, with a thick, broad base that won’t wobble around a lot. There’s USB and audio ports easily accessible on the side, and the whole monitor can tilt and rotate into portrait mode, which also makes life a bit easier when plugging cables and power plugs in. It’s a unit of a monitor, truly.

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There’s 2x USB ports on the side, plus a little tab you can hang your headphones on. There’s a couple of audio jacks to boot. Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku)

Of course, there’s more you have to consider than just a refresh rate.

It’s impossible to get past just how expensive the XL2746S is. Even for the most ardent semi-professional or professional gamers, there are plenty of rival 240Hz monitors that offer a better, more modern features. For one, the XL2746S is a monitor with an aging chassis design. Instead of controlling the monitor controls through a neat joystick, all the OSD controls are handled through individual physical buttons.

On its own that’s fine — that’s how monitors used to be, after all. But there’s a few other features that are getting a bit long in the tooth.

The XL2746S’s biggest issues can all be traced back to its TN panel. TN panels are excellent for those wanting the lowest possible response time — or at least that used to be the case a few years ago. Today, there’s a myriad of quality 240Hz IPS screens. MSI’s recent MAG251RX is a little smaller at 24.5 inches, but it’s a great example of not having to make tradeoffs between colour accuracy, refresh rate and response times.

You can see the difference in vibrancy and detail when playing something like Valorant on the ZOWIE’s XL2746S. But it’s especially noticeable when you move into basically any other video game genre. Lush indie titles like GRIS look flat, washed out and completely lacking contrast. The loss of highlights and contrast in a game like The Witcher 3 almost feels like the character has been drawn out of the game, so great is the detail.

But that’s the downside of TN-based monitors. It’s why so many gamers have been waiting for prices on IPS screens to come down, so they don’t have to make that trade-off between a screen with a great image quality and low latency.

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It’s a fairly sizeable box, with lots of little tidbits and extras. Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku)

The real kicker, too, is the price. It’s understandable for newer screens with fresher technology to be priced at close to the $1000 mark, if not higher. But we’re not talking about screens that offer 1ms response rates with 1440p support and decent HDR, even though those are starting to appear for less than the XL2746S’s asking price. Samsung’s 32-inch 240Hz 1440p screen is only $50 more than the XL2746S. If it’s just a 27-inch 240Hz screen you want, and you’re fine with the lower resolution, LG’s IPS offering is basically half the price. And if you were seriously budget conscious, Alienware’s AW2518HF is going for less than $600. Dell tend to discount their monitors pretty frequently throughout the year, and it’s the same Fast IPS panel that worked so well in LG’s 27-inch 1440p screen.

And the bit that I didn’t mention throughout all of this? Even faster IPS screens are coming. Multiple manufacturers have spoken to me already throughout this year about their upcoming 240Hz IPS screens. Acer just recently announced a 360Hz model and the XB273U GX, a 240Hz 1ms IPS screen that runs at 1440p while supporting 99% AdobeRPG output.

Even if these screens are still a smidgen behind the XL2746S’s excellent motion blur performance, most gamers will find it impossible to justify the tradeoff. People use their PCs for multiple games, not to mention multiple applications. And the (very slow) rise of HDR games on PC, particularly upcoming titles like Cyberpunk 2077, means more and more gamers are going to demand more.

And the addition of new screens later this year will bring prices down as manufacturers discount older models. BenQ’s ZOWIE line won’t be immune to that.

So ultimately, that’s the biggest problem facing the XL2746S. I have no problems recommending it as the absolute fastest, crispest monitor for games like CS:GO, Warzone and that echelon of competitive twitch shooters. But it’s an aging monitor with an older design that’s increasingly having its lunch eaten by competitors offering better resolutions, colour accuracy and decent response times of their own.

It’s good to be the best. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. BenQ’s dynamic accuracy feature is damn useful. I just want to see that tech applied in a modern, fast IPS panel.

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