Variable-refresh displays are one of the most exciting developments in PC gaming lately. For the first time, we're not forced to choose between the lesser of two evils: ugly screen tearing or sluggish vsync. We get to enjoy a smooth, responsive experience with unmarred visual fidelity, often at frame rates that would make a console gamer blush.
Nvidia teamed up with display makers to bring us the first variable-refresh monitors last year, under the G-Sync umbrella. Since then, the open Adaptive-Sync standard has been added to the DisplayPort spec, and AMD has introduce its FreeSync initiative, which promises to endow Adaptive-Sync monitors with an extra layer of certification. AMD's and Nvidia's efforts bode very well for the adoption and democratization of variable-refresh monitors this year and beyond.
Of course, right now, Nvidia's G-Sync is the only game in town. It's the only port of entry into the wonderful world of variable-refresh goodness. And that means we're still very interested to see what G-Sync displays are out there.
Today, we're turning our attention to BenQ's XL2420G, a 24" offering that's currently selling for about $580 at Newegg. This display is a little smaller and more affordable than some of the other G-Sync monitors we've looked at, but it's not lacking in functionality or connectivity. Quite the opposite.
|Panel type||TN (8-bit)|
|Max. refresh rate||144Hz|
|Response time||1 ms (gray to gray)|
|Color gamut||72% NTSC|
|Viewing angles||170° horizontal
1x DisplayPort 1.2
1x USB (Type B)
|Outputs||2x USB 2.0
|Stand adjustments||Height, pivot, swivel, tilt|
BenQ outfits the XL2420G with a 1080p TN panel capable of refresh rates up to 144Hz and gray-to-gray response times as low as 1 ms. That high refresh rate makes the XL2420G perfect for G-Sync, and it also enables support for Nvidia's 3D Vision stereoscopic technology, provided that you bring your own 3D Vision active-shutter glasses (another $150 at Newegg).
According to BenQ, the XL2420G can display eight bits per color channel and a 16.7-million color palette. The luminance and contrast ratings are more than respectable, as well, and the input selection is generous: dual-link DVI, DisplayPort 1.2, and dual HDMI. The monitor even doubles as a two-port USB 2.0 hub, and it can pipe HDMI audio through a 3.5-mm headphone jack. Then there's the stand, which supports a full range of adjustments—assuming you don't forgo it for a VESA mount, which the XL2420G also supports.
Going by the specs, the only sore spot seems to be the viewing angles. 170°/160° seems a little narrow in an age when IPS monitors are so ubiquitous. However, those angles are par for the course among TN panels, and you'll be hard-pressed to find non-TN monitors that support refresh rates and response times as rapid as the XL2420G's. More to the point, I'm only aware of one IPS display that supports G-Sync, and it's not even out yet.
The BenQ XL2420G has one other notable trick up its sleeve. It's equipped with two scalers: an Nvidia one for G-Sync and an additional scaler that drives what BenQ calls "Classic Mode." The G-Sync scaler enables variable-refresh capabilities, while the Classic one offers more elaborate adjustment options and profiling capabilities. Switching between these scalers is done via the on-screen menu, and the inputs are partitioned between them. The DisplayPort input only works in G-Sync mode, while the DVI and HDMI ports are Classic Mode exclusives.
Despite the intriguing dual-scaler mojo, BenQ hasn't forgotten about little ergonomic touches. The XL2420G's stand has a carrying handle and a headphone hook, so you can hang your gaming cans without taking up unnecessary space. Below the hook is a cable-management hole with the same glossy red finish.
The monitor also ships with the S Switch, a rodent-like contraption that plugs into the monitor via Mini-USB and allows the user to control the on-screen display (OSD) menu and choose between profiles without holding their arm up at a 90-degree angle. Sadly, the S Switch is only usable in Classic Mode, so G-Sync users will have to leave it in the box.