As skill-based FPS and TPS games continue to grow in popularity, so too does player demand for equipment that can offer a competitive advantage. It’s with that in mind that the BenQ team designed the BenQ ZOWIE XL2546K, where every design decision is focused on helping a player achieve optimal competitive play. In having the opportunity to test one for several weeks, it became clear that these design decisions can have a noticeable impact on gameplay. It’s sometimes difficult to tell a useful feature from a gimmick, but with this monitor, which retails for $499, the player isn’t paying for one differentiator so much as they’re paying for a gameplay-focused experience.
While ZOWIE produces several monitors for competitive gaming, this model, which is 24.5 inches and boasts a 240hz refresh rate (including FreeSync if DyAc is disabled), is a major step up even for ZOWIE, putting the player in complete control of the display.
What Differentiates The BenQ ZOWIE XL2546K? An Overview of Display Settings
There’s no shortage of companies out there making gaming monitors, many of which tout gimmicks such as color enhancing effects and crisp visuals. But BenQ’s ZOWIE monitors offer the opposite of that. With diluted color quality and lower resolution, it seems hardly worth the investment for people who want cinematographic excellence. However, for an FPS or TPS player, the graphics qualities that would ruin a beautiful narrative story like that of Red Dead Redemption 2 are actually valuable competitive advantages.
So, it was this thinking that inspired Zowie to produce the 240Hz ZOWIE XL2546K monitor featuring DyAc technology. DyAc refers to "dynamic accuracy," which reduces motion blur in LCD screen technology. This is useful in preventing screen shaking and helping control recoil, according to BenQ’s overview.
Why DyAc is not unique to this monitor model, in previous ZOWIE models that were limited to 144Hz refresh rates, turning on the DyAc setting caused a 50% reduction in brightness due to technological limitations. But with the 240Hz refresh rate, this dimming is no longer an issue.
But the bigger benefit of the 240Hz refresh rate is that it eliminates latency, leading to gameplay smoothness that may amount to only milliseconds, but still make a difference in competitive games.
The monitor requires either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 or better or an AMD Radeon RX 480 or better to operate. In order to take advantage of the 240Hz capability, the player be able to maintain 240hz in-game, which is often not possible with older games. I ran it with an EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Super and used it primarily for Apex Legends.
BenQ ZOWIE XL2546K Hardware Features
ZOWIE’s newest monitor puts comfort at front and center. A player can adjust the height, tilt the monitor upward and adjust it from side-to-side. The height isn’t quite as high as I would have liked. It’s my experience that tilting my head downward ever so slightly during gameplay can upset my posture, so it’s helpful for me to position it at a height that allows a more direct line of sight. That said, others who have this issue can simply purchase a monitor riser, most of which cost less than $15.
The ZOWIE XL2546K comes with plastic blinders, designed to help the user focus on the gameplay by deflecting any excess light that could cause glare. One of the main benefits of this monitor’s technology is that it allows dim lighting with high contrast. Therefore, to take advantage of the tech, it's important to keep background lighting at bay. Though it initially felt to me like an unnecessary feature, it may be practical in some cases. For example, some streamers may find it helps block out light from their second and LED lighting setups, and it could be useful at LAN events, where players will play on many side-by-side monitors. However, not all players care for the frames, so they’re easy to remove -- the player can easily slide them in and out as desired.
The monitor’s thick, black frame is meant to help the player focus on the picture and reduces some of the glare. This design decision stems from the idea that a frame will allow a person to better focus in on a picture. So, while it may look more dated than the modern monitors with thin frames, it actually serves a competitive function.
It also comes with a cover, which doesn't feel entirely necessary in a residential setting, but may be useful should a player need to protect their screen from damage when traveling or storage. The stand is designed to take up less surface area on a desk, which gives the player more room for their mousepads and keyboard placement. This relatively small design decision may not be groundbreaking, but the decision to allow more desk space for mouse movements is a nice touch.
Players can adjust the screen settings using a small joystick on the back of the screen, which reveals an intuitive user interface. The monitor comes with a round attachment called an S-Switch. The S-Switch has several buttons that a player that allows players to quickly switch inputs and preset display settings. They can also customize their settings using this tool.
One thing that’s important to note is that there is no speaker on the unit. The monitor itself produces sound but requires either headphones or an external speaker system to hear it. Presumably, this is a way to keep costs down and functionality focused on gaming as competitive players will generally use headsets to play.
Customizing The ZOWIE XL2546K Display Options
In addition to supporting 240Hz, one of the biggest features of this monitor is its display customization options. It allows for FPS mode presets, and there’s also a movie mode and standard display settings. While people who are looking for top-tier graphical immersion won’t find it in this monitor, they’re still “good enough” for a player who will be using this monitor primarily to game.
The monitor's primary adjustable settings are the brightness and the black equalizer, which allows darker shapes (which, in gameplay, will typically be other players) to stand out against the more washed-out colors of the background. As with many standard monitors these days, the user can also adjust display mode ratio, RGB range and other standard elements.
It’s incredibly easy to swap between the display settings, so low-lit maps might need different lighting (in Apex Legends, Olympus is full of cool colors likes blues and greens while Kings Canyon is full of reds, browns and oranges). I tinkered with these options constantly, frequently setting on mid-level brightness with maximum black equalizer.
Players that want to share their settings can even do so using Zowie’s Setting-to-Share program, a unique offering that makes it easy to share your monitor settings with other players and to transfer the settings from one monitor to another, which can be useful in LAN events where players may have to jump from computer to computer.
Conclusion: A Competitive Product For A Competitive Player
Overall, it felt great to have a monitor that puts gameplay front and center. While it seems that the general population would likely want something more versatile, this monitor suits the niche demographic of competitive players. It’s not quite perfect, but it’s an ideal investment for anyone looking to achieve peak performance in competitive gameplay.
The BenQ ZOWIE XL2546K retails for $499. This review was conducted over a period of two weeks and 30+ hours of gameplay.
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