HDR content is increasingly becoming more popular by the day and companies like BenQ are helping drive the HDR movement by releasing HDR monitors such as the EX3203R. BenQ's EX3203R is the successor to the EX3200R which was released more than a year ago. The EX3203R is the company's first HDR monitor to support both DisplayHDR 400 and AMD FreeSync 2 certification. Supporting DisplayHDR 400 means that peak brightness is set at 400 cd/m² which for me is very bright and I normally lower the brightness levels to around 80% to avoid eye strain. It also comes with an attractive 32 inch curved VA panel with a 2560 x 1440 resolution at 144Hz. The main focus of the EX3203R is to provide an immersive gaming experience and also serve as a multi-purpose monitor for users who are into HDR content such as watching movies and content creation.
Before we move on, I want to mention that we have covered BenQ's EW3270U, EX3501R and EL2870U monitors in our reviews listed below:
The screen has a nice 1800R curve and an amazing 3000:1 contrast ratio and is listed for 178°/178° viewing angles. BenQ is using a VA panel on their EX3203R which is a type of panel that is best known for higher contrast ratio and richer blacks than IPS panel. VA panels typically come with a 3000:1 contrast ratio compared to 1000:1 on IPS. Another great thing about VA panels is that they have little to no backlight bleed whereas IPS panels suffer severely from backlight bleed. Compared to TN panels, VA panels offer much better viewing angles and better colors but not nearly as good as that of an IPS panel. TN panels on the other hand provide faster response times than IPS and VA panels but come at a trade-off in washed out colors and poor viewing angles.
Price-wise, the EX3203R retails for $700 on Amazon and comes with 3 years of warranty including on-site replacement service. BenQ has positioned the EX3203R towards the higher end of the market to compete with other curved gaming monitors on the market such as the AOC Agon AG322QC4 32" ($650), ASUS ROG XG32VQ 32" ($700), and SAMSUNG C32HG70 32" ($600).
Many gaming monitors lack features that distinguish them from other gaming monitors but BenQ has integrated many attractive features into the EX3203R such as the Flicker-Free technology, HDR mode, Low Blue Light technology, Brightness Intelligence technology, Smart Focus and AMD FreeSync 2.
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. The EX3203R comes with an 8-bit color depth that can display up to 16.7 million colors and it supports 100% sRGB coverage. A true HDR display is said to be capable of producing 1,000 nits or higher and more than 10-bit colors but many companies such as BenQ are trying to push HDR on displays with much lower max brightness levels.
BenQ has included support for AMD FreeSync 2 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.
I tested the monitor by playing Battlefield V with all the settings turned to maximum including HDR and I must say that the image quality is outstanding with the EX3203R. Playing Battlefield V on maximum settings with HDR enabled looks amazingly good on the EX3203R. For gaming, I recommend avoiding the other picture modes and sticking with HDR mode because it offers the best image quality. HDR mode does a great job of improving the contrast and enhancing the dark areas in games for a greater level of detail and clarity. To take advantage of the FreeSync 2 feature, you will need a high end AMD video card such as the Radeon Vega 56 or Vega 64 graphics card.
|BenQ EX3203R Specifications|
|Panel Type:||VA Panel|
|Product Color:||Metallic Grey|
|Refresh Rate:||144 Hz|
|Color Bit:||8 Bit|
|Response Time:||4ms (GtG)|
|Max Resolution:||2560 x 1440|
|Display Colors:||16.7 million|
|Color Gamut:||90% DCI-P3|
|Display Area (mm):||697.34 x 392.26 mm|
AMD FreeSync 2
Low Blue Light
Brightness Intelligence Plus
Dynamic Power Saving (DPS)
|Audio:||No Built-in Speakers|
|Power Consumption (On mode):||No ECO mode|
|Dimensions (HxWxD mm):||536 x 712.69 x 223.87 mm|
|Net Weight:||8.1 kg|
|Gross Weight (kg):||13.4 kg|
|Color Temperature:||Reddish/ Normal/ Bluish/ User mode|
|OSD Language:||18 languages|
|VESA Wall Mounting:||Yes|
|Ports:||USB-C (PD10W, DP Alt mode, Data)|
2 x HDMI 2.0
|Release Date:||August 2018|
The EX3203R comes in a big cardboard box that weighs roughly 30 lbs. The features of the monitor are listed on the front and on the sides of the box. On the front, we can see the 'EX Series Curved Monitor' followed by the model number 'EX3203R' and '1800R Curvature' underneath this. On the sides you will find some basic information about the monitor such as the 32" monitor size, eye-care, model number and all the features such as HDR, QHD 2560x1440, curved, 144Hz, Brightness Intelligence Plus, Low Blue Light technology and AMD FreeSync 2.
BenQ includes high quality thick cables which is nice to see. The components inside are well packaged and everything feels well secured inside the box. Inside you will find the 32” monitor which comes with the stand/base pre-attached, power cord (1.8m), 2x HDMI 2.0 cable (1.8m), 1x USB Type-C cable (1m), and a quick-start guide with documentation on a CD-ROM. BenQ also includes a cover that can be used to hide the cables behind the monitor. The monitor's dimensions are 28 inch in width, 21 inch tall and 8.7 inch deep and weighs 18 lbs including the stand.
The EX3203R comes well protected by two high density foams as shock absorbent and plastic wrapping to prevent any accidental damages during shipping. Packaging is top notch and the product arrived in perfect condition.
Design-wise, the BenQ EX3203R features a minimalistic and elegant design with a silver and chrome finish that looks really attractive to the eyes. The display sports an anti-glare screen coating finish which makes it easier to see the screen under bright lights. What stands out the most is the metal stand that gives the monitor a very nice contrast to the black display. BenQ has designed the EX3203R with a nice premium feel to it and it feels robust due to the sturdy design.
BenQ ships the EX3203R pre-assembled so that means the stand and base are already attached to the monitor and all you have to do is lift the monitor out of the box. Of course, if you want remove the stand so you can mount the EX3203R on a swivel desk arm, you can also do that. Normally, when installing a monitor you need a screwdriver to connect the panel to the stand but BenQ has made the installation process so simple that even a caveman can do it.
Moving on, on the back you will be presented with a nice smooth silver surface along with the BenQ logo printed on stand. When it comes to adjustments, you can adjust the height of the monitor up to 60mm and tilt the monitor by -5° backwards and 20° forward. The monitor can only be tilted backwards and forwards so it is not capable of rotating the screen sideways or swiveling the panel. The panel offers 178/178-degree viewing angles and 4ms (gray to gray) response time. The OSD buttons are located underneath the frame and they are easy to press.
We have already mentioned that the curvature of the EX3203R is 1800R which basically means it is quite pronounced compared to other curved monitors that sometimes have a curvature of 3000R, which is more subtle. Some people may find the deep curvature difficult for non-media related activities but I think you get used to it very quickly.
Underneath the bottom center of the monitor is where you will find the Brightness Intelligence sensor. The Brightness Intelligence Plus (B.I+) technology uses a sensor to detect the environment that you are in and change 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. Enabling Brightness Intelligence Plus will help to balance maximum contrast and vibrancy while maintaining viewing comfort.
As far as ports go, you get one 3.5mm headphone jack, two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4 port, two USB 3.0 Downstream, one USB 3.0 Upstream, and one USB Type-C 3.1. The ports themselves can easily be hidden behind a cover which BenQ includes. Also, the EX3203R has support for VESA 100 x 100mm mounting but BenQ has not included a VESA converter plate in the box. You will need a VESA transfer kit that you have to buy from BenQ's store for $39 USD which is a big disappointment because the monitor is already quite expensive.
I love the minimalistic design of the stand that BenQ has gone with here. It feels extremely well designed and high quality. The stand offers fantastic stability and is very sturdy and it doesn't wobble even if you move your desk around. Most manufactures utilize a blocky stand which takes up quite a bit of space but the 'V-shaped' stand of the EX3203R takes up very little space and provides firm and precise movements.
Large monitors normally come with a big power supply and the EX3203R is no exception. The EX3203R comes with an enormous external power supply that measures 170mm in width, 75mm in height, and 40mm in depth. Having a big power brick under the desk can be quite annoying but I guess you can easily hide it since the power cord is ~4 feet long.
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. The OSD menu consists of four settings with the first setting being the picture mode, then we have contrast mode, after that comes brightness mode, and then comes the customizations mode which is where you will spend the majority of the time tweaking different settings.
The picture mode allows you to select between pre-configured options but you can also customize your own profile. The monitor ships with the standard option as the default but you can also choose between HDR, sRGB, Photo, Gamer1, Gamer2, Gamer3, Custom1, Custom2, and M-Book.
The contrast setting is self-explanatory.
The brightness setting is also self-explanatory.
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 Display, Picture, Picture-Advanced, Audio, and System. In the display section, you can select between PIP / PBP and Input. PIP / PBP stands for picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture which can be used to separate the screen into two parts so you can view images from different signals. The input option will display whether you are using an HDMI, DP or a USB-C connectivity.
The picture section provides control over brightness, contrast, sharpness, gamma, color temperature, 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, color vibrance, low blue light, super resolution, dynamic contrast, overscan, display mode, HDMI RGB PC range, B.I+ and adjust by duration. Super Resolution increases the pixel density of low-res content, while 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 EX3203R does not come with built-in speaker so you will need to use external speakers. This is a disappointment because BenQ is advertising the EX3203R as a 'video enjoyment' monitor and you can't even use the monitor out of the box for watching movies or listening to music without external speakers. Even the standard 2x2W built-in speakers would have been great. Most gaming monitors come with 2x2W built speakers which are notorious for being low-quality and having a low sound output, but they can be quite useful for people who can't afford external speakers.
In the system section, you can tweak settings such as Input, OSD Settings, CustomKey1, CustomKey2, CustomKey3, DDC/CI, USB-C Configuration, DP Auto Switch, HDMI Auto Switch, USB-C AutoSwitch, Auto Power Off, Resolution Notice, Information, and Reset All.
The Information option displays some basic information such as the resolution, refresh rate, monitor model, HDR, and input mode.
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 on the sides and top measure approximately 8 millimeters while the bottom bezel is about 21 millimeters thick. BenQ is using a 2-stage bezel design for the sides and top which is a very thin hard outer component and a panel border that appears to blend into the screen when the screen is turned off. We should start seeing true borderless screens in the near future but for now, technology has not reached that point yet and a 2-stage bezel design is as good as it gets.
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 and viewing angles.
Another thing that I want to mention is that VA panels do not normally suffer from backlight bleeding whereas IPS panels are known for
suffering from backlight bleeding. The above photo is tested at 0% brightness and you can clearly see that this monitor does not suffer from
backlight bleeding which is awesome.
Here we are testing the backlight bleeding at 50% brightness.
Now we are testing at 100% brightness and you can see a slight color variation on both sides but it's nowhere near as bad as an IPS panel. 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 this monitor has zero issues with backlight bleeding. 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 and not succeed.
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 and color uniformity are not as good as an IPS panel.
Now we are testing the viewing angles at 50% brightness.
Here we are testing at 100% brightness. During testing, there was color shifting and loss of luminance when viewed from an angle which is to be expected from a VA panel. You can clearly see above that the colors do not stay true when the screen is viewed from an angle without distorting the picture or losing color accuracy. Overall, the viewing angles and color uniformity are acceptable for a VA panel.
The EX3203R is a fantastic HDR monitor and BenQ has done a great job designing it. It has everything you can ask for in a high-end curved gaming monitor such as a high build quality, excellent connectivity, AMD FreeSync 2 support, high brightness, high refresh rate and a reasonably fair price. The build quality is elegant with a minimalistic design which I really like and the OSD menu is clear and simple to navigate. Also, if you have external speakers, the EX3203R makes for a great all-purpose monitor that can be used for streaming music, watching movies and office related work.
BenQ is utilizing a VA panel on their EX3203R so that means the contrast ratio will be far superior to IPS panel and there won't be any backlight bleeding which is a big plus for gamers. As great as the EX3203R is, it is not perfect. Some drawbacks include the lack of built-in speakers and a VESA transfer kit. Unless you already have external speakers, you will have to spend additional money to use this monitor for watching moves, music streaming and gaming. Pretty much most of the curved gaming monitors on the market come with the standard 2x2W built-in speakers and even though they are low-quality, they would still be perfect for the average user who is not tech-savvy. Another thing that I don't like about the EX3203R is the stand and that's because it doesn't offer swiveling and also it is limited to adjusting the height by 60mm which might be an issue for some people.
Something I want to mention about the EX3203R is that it does not 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. The EX3203R comes with an 8-bit color space and with a peak brightness of 400 nits which is far below the true HDR standard but it is more than enough for the average user. There are only a few true HDR monitors on the market but they cost about three times the price of the EX3203R which is too expensive for most people.
+ AMD FreeSync 2 Support
+ Fantastic Color Accuracy
+ 144Hz Refresh Rate
+ Great Gaming Performance
+ Elegant Modern Design
+ Excellent Connectivity
+ HDR Support
- No Built-In Speakers
- Requires VESA Transfer kit
As far as price goes, BenQ has strategically priced the EX3203R to be very competitive and I think at $700, the EX3203R is a much more attractive product than the competition. The EX3203R is directly competing with the AOC Agon AG322QC4 32" ($650), ASUS ROG XG32VQ 32" ($700), and SAMSUNG C32HG70 32" ($600). Personally, I would avoid any AOC monitors because they are notorious for having QC defects. I have had many AOC monitors ship out to me with dead pixels and poor quality control issues so I would stay away from them. The Asus XG32VQ and Samsung C32HG70 are both good monitors but they only support 300 nits of brightness whereas the BenQ EX3203R goes up to 400 nits so in that case I would go with the EX3203R if the price isn't an issue. Overall, the BenQ EX3203R deserves our gold award.
Final Score 9.5