In the end, the proof of a display’s pudding is in the image quality, to mangle a saying. To test, I plugged the screen into my desktop PC along with a 17in Iiyama ProLite H431S that we reviewed here. This is an excellent screen that I use every day so acts as a good reference point.
My first impressions of the BenQ’s image quality weren’t outstanding. The first thing I noticed was that the colours didn’t look as strong as I was used to, even in Windows and that they had a slightly green tinge. It also looked slightly dull overall. This really came to the fore when we ran our DisplayMate tests and in the low saturation test, the lighter bands were almost completely invisible.
Investigating this further, I found that I could sort this problem out by adjusting the contrast and brightness, which were both way out at their default levels. Even so the colours just didn’t seem as vivid on the Iiyama.
I then moved onto some DVD playback testing using a SuperBit copy of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This has some fast moving action scenes set at night, which is a real test for a screens response time and black levels. Comparing the two was almost night and day. While motion was smooth on the BenQ it was difficult to make out the action in the darker scenes, and this was really highlighted when switching the Iiyama. The bigger problem though was viewing angles with a noticeable colour shift as you move up and down and to the sides.
I then fired up a variety of games (not at the same time). To be fair, in games the issues I noticed earlier were not as obvious as in Windows, DisplayMate and DVD playback. Any lag or ghosting was undetectable to my eyes, but when switching to the Iiyama things just got a little bit more vivid, albeit slightly smaller.
The source of the BenQ problems is that to achieve it’s low response times, the display is 6-bit only, limiting the colour gamut to 262k colours, rather than the 16.7 milion than 8-bit panels can handle. And you can, honestly see the difference.
The monitor does its job as a gaming monitor, providing smooth lag free gaming at an affordable price. However, if you’re after a competent all round performer this display won’t really satisfy. And even when it comes to gaming we’d rather have a better looking 17in display, or a widescreen monitor, than a 2ms panel with slightly lack-lustre images.
The BenQ lives up to its billing as a LCD that provides smear free gaming but it lacks the colour reproduction to serve as a more all round performer.