Earlier this year BenQ released three new E-series HDR monitors each designed to serve as a multi-purpose monitor for users who are into HDR content such as watching movies, streaming music, or casual gaming. First, we have the BenQ EX3501R ($900) which is a curved 35" ultrawide QHD monitor with a VA panel that looks really attractive and could very easily be the new king in the curved gaming monitor market. BenQ was nice enough to send us a sample of the EX3501R and you can expect the review for that very soon.
Along with the EX3501R, BenQ has also released the EW3270U which is a 32" 4K monitor that is positioned towards the higher end of the market and costs $700. The EW3270U features a 95% coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut that makes it ideal for graphic designers, video editors and photographers. Last but not least, we have the EL2870U that retails for $500 and is designed to be an affordable 28" 4K monitor aimed at casual gamers and also users who simply want an all-purpose monitor.
Today we will be reviewing the EL2870U and like I just mentioned, it is a 28-inch 4K 60 Hz monitor with a 1ms (GtG) response time that retails for $500 on Amazon and comes with 3 years of warranty. Thanks to BenQ, you can get 15% off by using this Amazon promo code (15EL2870U) that expires on 4/16. Making affordable 4K gaming monitors is not easy so BenQ is leveraging a Twisted Nematic (TN) panel on their EL2870U to keep the cost down. TN panels typically provide faster response times than IPS and VA panels but come at a trade-off in washed out colors and poor viewing angles. BenQ has competitively positioned the EL2870U to compete with other 4K TN gaming monitors on the market such as the ViewSonic VG2860MHL ($530), Samsung U28H750 ($510), and Acer Predator XB281HK ($600).
BenQ has incorporated a wide range of attractive features into the EL2870U such as the Flicker-Free technology, Low Blue Light technology, Brightness Intelligence technology, Smart Focus and AMD FreeSync. Flicker-Free technology is used to reduce or eliminate screen flickering which effectively reduces eye fatigue and it can also help with reducing headaches brought on by prolonged computer use. There have been many studies that have shown that blue light coming from the computer monitors may be very harmful to the eyes causing macular degeneration or sleep disorders and that's where BenQ's Low Blue Light technology comes into play to combat the possible side effects.
The Brightness Intelligence technology is used to reduce eye strain in any light environment by detecting the environment that you are in and changing the brightness and color temperature of the monitor accordingly. When HDR mode is enabled, the Brightness Enhancement engine will increase the luminance from 300 nits to 400 nits for significantly higher contrast performance. Now a true HDR display is said to be capable of producing 1,000 nits or higher and require more than 10-bit colors but many companies such as BenQ are trying to push HDR on displays with much lower max brightness levels.
Since the EL2870U is being targeted at casual gamers who want an affordable 4K gaming experience, BenQ has included support for AMD FreeSync to help attract more gamers. AMD FreeSync technology is an adaptive synchronization technology that is used to reduce screen tearing by synchronizing the refresh rate of the monitor to the framerate of an AMD Radeon video card. Both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync behave very similar but essentially what it comes down to is cost. AMD does not charge monitor manufactures a licensing fee to use the FreeSync technology whereas nVidia will charge a premium price for it which is why G-Sync monitors are about $100 to $200 more expensive than FreeSync monitors.
The refresh rate of the EL2870U tops out at 60Hz which is to be expected from a 4K monitor. Any monitor claiming to have a higher than 60hz refresh rate at 4k is probably not true and it is most likely using frame interpolation which introduces input lag. Also, HDMI 2.0 is limited to 4K @ 60hz which is fine for movies, streaming and casual gaming but for competitive gamers who are into fast-paced games such as CS:GO, it is better to go with a monitor that has a 100Hz+ refresh rate at 1440p.
Gaming with the EL2870U was excellent. I fired up Battlefield 1 on maximum settings and started playing it for a few hours. The EL2870U comes with a 10-bit color depth that can display up to 1.07 billion colors and it supports 72% NTSC color gamut which is roughly equivalent to 100% sRGB coverage. For a TN panel, the EL2870U offers amazing colors and everything in Battlefield 1 appears natural and vivid. The TN panel used in the EL2870U is really good because I have never seen a TN panel output such good color accuracy before.
|BenQ EL2870U Specifications|
|Panel Type:||TN Panel|
|Product Color:||Metallic Grey|
|Refresh Rate:||60 Hz|
|Color Bit:||10 Bit|
|Pixel Pitch (mm):||0.16mm|
|Response Time:||1ms (GtG)|
|Max Resolution:||3840 x 2160|
|Display Colors:||1.07 billion|
|Color Gamut:||72% NTSC|
|Display Area (mm):||620.9 x 341.3mm|
Low Blue Light
Brightness Intelligence Plus
Dynamic Power Saving (DPS)
|Audio:||2 x 2W Built-in Speakers|
|Video Bandwidth (MHZ):||600MHz|
|Power Supply:||90 ~ 264 AC|
|Power Consumption (On mode):||<55W|
|Power Consumption (Power saving mode):||<0.5W|
|Power Consumption (off mode):||<0.5W|
|Dimensions (HxWxD mm):||657.9 x 476.27 x 149.6 mm|
|Net Weight:||12.56 lbs|
|Gross Weight (kg):||15.87 lbs|
|Color Temperature:||Reddish/ Normal/ Bluish/ User mode|
|OSD Language:||18 languages|
|VESA Wall Mounting:||Yes|
|Tilt (down/up):||-5° ~ 15°|
|Signal Cables Included:||HDMI 2.0 Cable (1.5m)|
|Ports:||DP, HDMI, Headphone Jack|
|Release Date:||March 2018|
The EL2870U comes in a basic brown carton with the monitor model number on the top left corner. On the sides you can will find some basic information about the monitor such as the 28" monitor size, eye-care, model number and all the features such as HDR, 4K UHD, 1ms response time, B.I+, Low Blue Light technology and AMD FreeSync.
BenQ includes fairly decent quality cables and the components inside are well packaged and everything feels well secured inside the box. Inside you will find the 28” monitor, the stand/base, power cord, 1x HDMI 2.0 cable and a quick-start guide with documentation on a CD-ROM.
The EL2870U is tightly protected by two high density foams as shock absorbent and plastic wrapping to prevent any accidental damages during shipping. The packaging is good and the product arrived in perfect condition.
Visually, the BenQ EL2870U sports a minimalistic design and the display sports a matte finish that makes it easier to see the screen under bright lights. The side bezels and the stand are black while the bottom bezel along with the base feature a metallic gray finish. The stand and base do not come pre-assembled but the installation process is very simple and won't take more than a few minutes. All you need is a screwdriver to connect the panel to the stand and the base attaches via a single thumb screw.
When it comes to adjustments, you can only tilt the monitor by -5°, 15° so basically it can only be tilted backwards and forwards. It is not capable of adjusting the height, or rotating the screen or even swiveling the panel. The panel offers 170/160-degree viewing angles and 1ms (gray to gray) response time. Moving on, on the back you will find your ports and the BenQ logo. The OSD buttons are located underneath the frame and they are easy to press.
Looking at the picture above, you will notice something sticking out underneath the bottom center of the monitor and that is the Brightness Intelligence technology camera. The Brightness Intelligence technology uses a camera that sits under the bottom bezel and detects the environment that you are in and changes the brightness and color temperature of the monitor accordingly. Before a change occurs, an icon appears at the bottom right corner of the screen to inform you that the sensor has detected a change and adjustment is about to happen. BenQ allows you to disable this notification without turning off the Brightness Intelligence feature.
As far as ports go, you get one 3.5mm headphone jack, two HDMI ports, and one DisplayPort port. Also, the EL2870U has support for VESA mounting which might come in handy if you want to mount it to a stand or to the wall.
In most monitors you will find some USB 3.0 ports on the side of the monitor but BenQ has decided to keep it simple without any ports on the side. USB ports can be quite useful because they can be used to connect your keyboard, webcam, mouse, and other devices.
The EL2870U has a mostly plastic construction but it does not feel cheap. The stand offers solid stability and is quite sturdy and it doesn't wobble even if you move your desk around. The stand does take up quite a bit of space due to being blocky. Typically, large monitors come with a big power supply but BenQ has integrated the power supply inside the monitor so you don't have to worry about finding a place to hide the power brick.
The on-screen display menu is easy to navigate and the buttons are located underneath the frame of the monitor. The buttons are quite snappy and easy to press. Now let's go over the OSD setup. From left to right, the first setting is called Low Blue Light, then we have Picture mode, after that comes input mode, and then comes the customizations mode which is where you will spend the majority of the time tweaking different settings.
In the Low Blue Light setting, you can choose between four options, Multimedia, Web surfing, Office, and Reading. I tested each option independently and they all seem to be well calibrated. The monitor ships with the Multimedia mode enabled.
The Picture mode is self-explanatory and you can select between nine options. The monitor ships with the Low Blue Light option as the default option but you can also choose between Standard, HDR, Cinema HDR, Game, Photo, sRGB, Rec. 709, and User.
Moving on to the Input setting, here it will display whether you are using an HDMI or a DisplayPort connectivity.
Now in the customization mode is where you will be spending most of your time. This is where you will go to play around with settings such as Eye-Care, Picture, Picture-Advanced, Audio, and System. In the Eye-Care section, you can select between Low Blue Light, Bright Intelligence and Adjust by duration. The Low Blue Light option can be adjusted to reduce the effects of eye strain while the Bright Intelligence will automatically adjust ambient light and on-screen content to protect your eyes.
The Picture section provides control over Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Gamma, Color Temperature, Hue, Saturation, AMA and Reset Color. Most of these settings can be left the way they are but if you find yourself making a lot of changes, you can easily reset all colors to default.
In the Picture Advanced setting, you can tweak Picture mode, Super resolution, Smart Focus, Dynamic Contrast, Display Mode, Overscan, and HDMI RGB PC Range. Super Resolution increases the pixel density of low-res content, while Smart Focus allows you to brighten up a selected area on the screen for better focus. Dynamic contrast is used to allow the monitor to automatically adjusts picture detail and brightness. When you enable HDR, some of these settings become locked and you can't adjust them until you deactivate HDR.
The audio setting is pretty self explanatory but I will say that the 2x2W built-in speakers are fairly low-quality and the sound output is low even when it is set to 100%.
In the system section, you can tweak settings such as Input, OSD Settings, CustomKey1, CustomKey2, DDC/CI, Input Auto Switch, Auto Power Off, Resolution Notice, Information, and Reset All.
The Information option displays some basic information such as the resolution, refresh rate, monitor model, and input mode.
When you press the HDR button, you are given the option of toggling between HDR and B.I+ modes. Enabling HDR along with Brightness Intelligence Plus will help to balance maximum contrast and vibrancy while maintaining viewing comfort.
You will find the BenQ logo located in the bottom center bezel and underneath the bezel is where you will also find the Brightness Intelligence sensor.
Here's a close up picture of the monitor and you can see that the panel goes all the way to the frame of the monitor and there is no gap between the screen and the frame. The bezels are quite thick at the top and sides but the bottom bezel is noticeably much thicker. To be more precise, the bezels on the sides and at the top measure approximately 16 millimeters while the bottom bezel is about 21 millimeters thick.
Now we are going to test the backlight bleeding at 0%, 50% and 100% brightness and the testing will be performed in a dark room. Backlight bleeding is a major concern among enthusiasts and gamers because it is a major issue with IPS panels but not so much with VA and TN panels. VA panels normally have superior blacks to IPS panels, but IPS panels typically have better color accuracy.
The above photo is tested at 0% brightness and you can see that despite the brightness being 0%,
this monitor does suffer slightly from some backlight bleeding but it's nowhere near as bad as an IPS panel.
While it's completely normal for IPS panels to suffer from backlight bleeding, it should happen way less with TN panels.
Here we are testing the backlight bleeding at 50% brightness.
Now we are testing at 100% brightness and you can see a heavy concentration of backlight bleeding in the bottom right corner and also left side. When it comes to backlight bleeding, it will all depend on how sensitive you are to it but I can tell you from spending a week testing this monitor, that it's not a big issue and you won't notice it unless you look for it. Also, keep in mind that backlight bleeding varies from panel to panel and you could spend a lot of time trying to a find a monitor without any bleeding but each one will suffer from backlight bleeding to a certain degree.
Now we are testing the viewing angles at 0%, 50%, and 100% brightness and the testing will be performed in a dark room. The above photo was tested at 0% brightness and you can clearly see that the viewing angles are acceptable for a TN panel and the color uniformity is decent.
Now we are testing the viewing angles at 50% brightness.
Here we are testing at 100% brightness. As to be expected from a TN panel, there was quite a bit of color shifting and loss of luminance when viewed from an extreme angle. The colors do not stay true when you view the screen from basically any angle without distorting the picture or losing color.
BenQ's EL2870U is a great 4K budget gaming monitor and on paper it has everything you can ask for in a budget-friendly gaming monitor. It comes with AMD's FreeSync technology, a good build quality with a minimalistic design, a clear and simple to navigate OSD menu and it also comes with a long three-year limited warranty. The EL2870U is a very good all-purpose monitor that can be used for streaming music, watching movies and office related work.
Since this is a TN panel, the viewing angles are not going to be as good as an IPS panel and the EL2870U also suffers slightly from backlight bleeding. Another downside to this monitor is the 2W built-in speakers. They are fairly low-quality and even when the volume is set to 100%, the sound output is still too low. I rarely use the built-in speakers so this doesn't affect me but definitely keep that in mind if you are looking for good built-in speakers.
Like I already mentioned, the EL2870U doesn’t deliver a true HDR experience but it tries to emulate it. In order for a monitor to display true HDR content, it must support above 10-bit color, have a very high DCI-P3 color space coverage, and also have 1000+ nits of peak brightness. If you are looking for a true HDR monitor, look into the Dell UP2718Q but that will cost you over $2K.
+ AMD FreeSync
+ Cheaper Than Competition
+ Minimalistic Design
+ Three-year warranty
+ Great All-Purpose Monitor
+ Good Packaging
+ 4K Resolution
- TN Panel
- Weak Built-In Speakers
- Not Fully Adjustable Stand
The BenQ EL2870U offers super quick panel response with 1ms and the color accuracy and image quality is very good for a TN panel. Price-wise, the EL2870U is much cheaper than the competition. At the time of writing this review, you can find the EL2870U on Newegg for $450 which makes it significantly cheaper than the ViewSonic VG2860MHL ($530), Samsung U28H750 ($510), and Acer Predator XB281HK ($600). The EL2870U is an excellent choice for users who want an affordable 4K gaming monitor in the $500 price-rage. Overall, the BenQ EL2870U deserves our gold award.
Final Score 9.0