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BenQ ZOWIE XL2546 ESports Monitor: Press the Advantage

By Christopher Coke on June 26, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

BenQ ZOWIE XL2546 ESports Monitor: Press the Advantage

If you want to play like the best, you have to press every advantage you can. Skills are important but even the best player will find themselves at the bottom of the leaderboard if their gear isn’t up to snuff. Today, we’re looking at a monitor custom-made to give you the advantage with the BenQ ZOWIE XL2546 e-Sports Monitor. Its purpose is right there in the name but does it deliver? Read on for our full review.

Specifications

  • MSRP: $549.99 ($499.99 without DyAc)
  • LCD size (inch)‎: 24.5
  • Aspect ratio‎: 16:9
  • Max. resolution: 1920 x 1080 at 240Hz (HDMI 2.0, DP)‎‎
  • Display area (mm)‎: 543.744 x 302.616‎
  • Pixel pitch (mm): 0.28
  • Typ. brightness (cd/?)‎: 320
  • Typ. contrast: 1000 : 1
  • Typ. DCR (Dynamic Contrast Ratio): 12M:1
  • Panel type‎: TN
  • Response time‎: 1ms (GtG)
  • Connectivity: DVI- DL/HDMI x2/DP1.2/headphone jack/microphone jack‎‎‎/x4 USB‎ (Downstream x3 Upstream x1‎‎‎)
  • Stand:
    • VESA wall mounting 100x100 mm‎
    • Pivot 90°‎
    • Swivel (left/right)‎: 45/45
    • Tilt:‎ -5 ~ 20 degrees
    • Height adjustment (mm)‎: 140
  • Special Features: Dynamic Accuracy, Shield‎, S Switch‎ (profiles to go), Black eQualizer, Color Vibrance‎, Low Blue Light‎, Flicker-free (DyAc off), K Locker‎

Features and Functionality - The ZOWIE Difference

Before taking on this review, I hopped on the phone with ZOWIE to talk about what made the XL2546 special. That’s not unusual, companies like to make sure you’re not misunderstanding anything or left with unanswered questions before writing your review. What did strike me as unusual is how breezily ZOWIE moved right past the specs and into the features. A $500, high performance competitive gaming monitor and they’re not bragging about specs? That’s a first for me.

Looking into ZOWIE, however, you’ll find that they’re really not a company who focuses on tech specs; bragging about numbers isn’t what they’re about. Instead, when you look at their catalog, you see an emphasis on features, features they hope will change the way you play. When we looked at the Celeritas II earlier this month, that’s exactly what we found: a purpose-driven e-Sports keyboard that couldn’t care one whit about RGB; instead, it focused on specialized springs under every key to make it more consistent and reliable for competitive gamers. Features, man, and an attention to detail.

So, rather than focus too much on the specifications, that’s what I’m going to focus on here today, too. Yes, it’s a 24.5”, 240 Hz, 1080p monitor with a 1ms grey-to-grey response time, which means it’s incredibly fast and smooth. Beyond checking some boxes, however, that’s not what sets it apart. Let’s look at what does.

Custom-made for E-Sports

When I first unboxed the XL2546, it didn’t take long to notice how many small touches ZO?WIE included to tailor-make it for competitive gamers. It’s clear that the intent was to save you time fussing with your setup and into the game as fast as possible.

Complete assembly from the box to your desk takes less than ten minutes and is as simple as tightening a captive thumbscrew on the base and snapping the panel onto the arm. If you didn’t disassemble the base from the mount, you could easily be up and running in five minutes, ready to practice with your team.

The monitor is meant to travel. On the base is a dial to set your best viewing angle and the arm features a height marker with sliding pointer to get it back in optimal position. These additions might seem small but when you’re in a competition, you want to be as close to the conditions you’ve been practicing in. Feeling like the position of your monitor is off can be a mental hurdle and XL2546 does away with it.

Moving around to the left side of the monitor, we have two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone and microphone jack, and a pop-out headphone hanger. This provides all of the IO you’d need for a mouse, keyboard, and tournament-acceptable headset at a competition without needing to reach behind a tower.

The XL2546 also comes with a pair of shields that mount on either side of the display. They can be adjusted 90-degrees forward or back, but you do lose the headphone hanger if the left is tilted too much. These shields serve to take up more of your field of vision without requiring an ultrawide screen ratio. Competitive gamers will often have distractions just beyond their monitor which these shields will help to block. Again, it the same attention to detail we found with the Celeritas II and see glossed over by other manufacturers.

Buttery Smooth

I don’t want to belabor specs but at least one is the defining feature: the 240Hz refresh rate. Compared to your standard 60Hz monitor (or even a 144Hz which I used previously), everything is buttery smooth. Even moving your mouse across your desktop feels like gliding on air. In games, this translates directly through but it’s also here where questions arise.

The most common question we hear from gamers considering a 240Hz monitor is whether you can actually tell the difference, especially compared to cheaper 144Hz or 120Hz displays. The answer is yes, but if you’re coming from a high refresh rate monitor already, the jump will feel far less than when you upgraded from 60Hz. But you do feel it in how smooth all motion is, so long as your system can push that kind of frame rate.

Don’t go into a monitor like the XL2546 expecting everything to instantly run at 240Hz, though. The truth is, very few AAA games outside of e-Sports will. Even with two 1080 Ti’s running in SLI, AAA single player games rarely hit above 150 FPS for me. In a game like Counter Strike: GO, however, following ZO?WIE’s recommendation of at least a GTX 980 or RX480 minimum, you can achieve 240Hz easily.

Coming from a 60Hz panel, you’ll first notice the smoothness of everything on your screen. If you were running a 144 or 120Hz, it’s more subtle but visible in quick turns and fast movements. Since the monitor generating more images a second, motion blur is all but eliminated. Competitive games are often won on millisecond differences. On that level, 240Hz is a noticeable and meaningful upgrade.

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Kills (Black Equalizer, Dynamic Accuracy (DyAc), Color Vibrance, S-Switch)

One of the killer features on ZO?WIE's panels is something called Black Equalizer. Think of it like this: You know when you start a new game and they ask you to adjust the brightness until the logo is just barely visible? It’s a bit like that.

Hidden in the menu (at least until you map it to a custom key) is an option to adjust this from 0 to 20, to lighten up dark areas on your screen. Raising the level increases the brightness of your screen too but you get used to it fairly fast. At moderate levels Black Equalizer allows you to see through shadows to find hiding enemies. This is perfect for locating snipers set back in windows and provides a real, core advantage to any shooter, even outside the world of e-Sports. 

Going hand-in-hand with the Black Equalizer is ZO?WIE’s Dynamic Accuracy system - DyAc. DyAc is technology custom-made for high-intensity shooters like Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Anything that rapidly shakes the screen - like bullet spray - causes blur. With DyAc enabled, that blur is vastly reduced, giving you a better handle on recoil and better accuracy when it matters most.

When I tested this, I did exactly as the picture above indicates and fired in as tight a pattern as I could with DyAc disabled. I repeated the test with it enabled and, indeed, seemed to hold my pattern better. I was worried about the placebo effect, however, so I headed over to UFO Test to see for myself. With DyAc off, the lines are fuzzy. With it on, they’re crystal clear. If you’re a competitive gamer, this is another core feature to give you that edge over the enemy.

The XL2546 also features a Color Vibrance setting which adjusts color saturation at a hardware level. I love rich, vibrant colors, which is why I’ve chosen VA and IPS panels in the past. Competitive gamers need that ultra-fast response time delivered by TNs, but Color Vibrance really works well to make the screen pop. In competitive games, it can also help you pick out enemies from the background based on their outfit.

The XL2546 ships with a unique accessory I’ve not encountered anywhere else in the S-Switch. It’s a bit like a wired remote but instantly lets you switch between three separate picture profiles. Since having it, I find myself swapping settings to kick up the Black Equalizer when rolling as a sniper. In the evening, I’ll swap to the Low Blue Light filter when gaming in the evening. It also has a clickable wheel to instantly open the menu and rapidly make changes. It’s far more efficient than using the buttons on the display itself. If it only had a power button, I might never touch the display again.

Final Thoughts

The BenQ ZO?WIE XL2546 is a monitor made for gamers after every advantage they can get. The marquee feature is, of course, the 240Hz but focusing too much on that would be missing the forest for the trees. More than any other monitor I’ve tested, the XL2546 is a “package deal” with killer features like Black Equalizer and DyAc to go hand-in-hand with that high refresh rate. At $499, it’s clearly a monitor designed for a professional class of gamer. If that’s you, or you hope for it to be you, the XL2546 could be a key tool in your competitive arsenal.

Pros

  • Feature rich, purpose driven for competitive play
  • Black Equalizer and DyAc provide real advantages in-game
  • Convenient IO for tournaments and LANs
  • Easy assembly/disassembly for traveling to tournaments
  • S-Switch: the tool you never knew you needed (but do)

Cons

  • Comes at a high price

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.