I’ve always known BenQ to be a budget option which are usually found in office spaces. I guarantee if you walk through an office, you will no doubt see a BenQ monitor. But we’re now at a time in technological history that the cheaper end of the market are pumping out superior products that can match those really expensive models. I’m talking about the BenQ EL2870U.
First off I want to talk about the price. Checking out Amazon, our usual go-to for all thing… ever, I found that the monitor was priced at around the £300 mark. Bear in mind that this monitor is a 4K panel, with HDR10 capabilities. Other comparable models were coming in at around £400. However, there are a number of caveats to the BenQ which make the more expensive options viable for purchase; they’re built for gaming, while the BenQ EL2870U quite frankly isn’t.
The aim of the game here is for video enjoyment. It does come with Freesync for those of you in the Radeon fan club (sorry nVidia) but because of its meagre 60Hz refresh rate, doesn’t make it ideal for fast moving images that you would typically find from games such as Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and other games that rely on smooth motion to get the most from them, and of course kills.
The design is pretty basic, sporting a grey and black matte finish. The bezels are pretty thick too measuring at 2cm for the top and sides and 3 cm at the bottom. Controls are housed on the underside of the monitor in which you can access some quick menus and a full menu too. A far cry from the intricate and innovative joystick design from LG of late. The monitor sits on a basic stand too, which quite frankly I do like. I’m not keen on massive stands that take up vast amounts of real estate on my desk. I have limited space so need to keep this small. The glossy black arm gives the ability for the monitor to tilt a maximum of 20° degrees: 5° forward and 15° back.
On the back you will find one DisplayPort 1.4 and two HDMI 2.0 ports. That’s it. Sound can also be carried through HDMI too, but if you’re using monitor audio, just stop. Get a set of speakers. There is also an included VESA mount so you can attach the monitor to a wall or even a desk mount with ease. A decent feature which I find is disappearing in thinner monitors.
Performance wise as I said above, this is definitely not a gaming monitor. Although yes it does have Freesync for that variable AMD refresh rate, the overall 60Hz panel as well as it being a TN panel, really doesn’t do much for smooth gaming, when compared to IPS panels. It has a 1 ms response time which is fairly decent, but where this monitor suffers is with its HDR capability.
The BenQ EL2870U has a maximum brightness of 300-nits, which is way under-par for the 400-nits HDR requires to get the full advantage of the increased image quality. It is also edge lit too, so there is no local dimming unfortunately. It feels like it’s a way of keeping the cost down for BenQ and gives them the ability to sell the monitor at a cheaper price to us to undercut the competition but don’t be fooled. Checking out some online HDR content too I was kind of disappointed with the colour reproduction. Marco Polo, which generally looks fantastic on native HDR televisions felt a little dull. I never used the emulated HDR mode on the monitor, purely because the Standard with a few tweaks to the image settings seemed to produce a far more pleasing image. Remember though that this is a £300 screen, so you are really getting what you pay for.
The biggest thing affecting colour reproduction however is the fact that BenQ have used a TN panel for the EL2870U monitor. It’s nowhere near as sharp or as colourful as an IPS panel, but it does offer some nice response times. Viewing angles as well are significantly worse than an IPS panel, but that didn’t bother me too much as I rarely sit at an angle to my screen as it’s on my desk, which I sit straight in front of. Gaming I didn’t feel was too bad on the screen itself. I’m very much a casual gamer, and was really impressed with the way my games looked. I never myself noticed any tearing, and I am using an nVidia GTX980TI. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was pretty much maxed out which looks great.
Okay, so the BenQ EL2870U has its problems, but it’s still a very affordable 4K monitor. If you’re a casual gamer, then at this price you can’t really go wrong. However, if you’re more of an enthusiast or at least playing at a competitive level, whether that’s tournament or ranked games of CS:GO, then there are far more suitable monitors out there for you. For media consumption however, don’t expect too much. There’s a slight bump in quality when watching 4K content, but compared to something like Dell U2718HM we took a look at a little while ago, there’s no competition. But again, the Dell is double the price of this. For more information on the BenQ EL2870U, then head over to their website.