BenQ XR3501 review: 35 curved inches of ultra-wide gaming monitor goodness

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On the 23rd of July, I became a pro gamer. At a BenQ press event, I defeated a field of a few dozen journalists by setting the best lap time in Project Cars at the wheel of a blisteringly fast Le Mans prototype. My prize: an XR3501, an ultra-wide 144Hz gaming monitor.

image001I was so happy that I volunteered to take the monitor back home myself, just so I could show my flatmates as soon as possible. It was a bit of a struggle carrying the 16 kilogram box, but a friend in London and inquisitive strangers made the journey much more fun. Some five hours and four trains later, I finally made it to my top floor flat in Bristol in triumph.

The monitor went straight up on my desk, but to the end of my “to-review” list as it didn’t need to be returned… so consider this a long-term evaluation! Let’s get started by taking a look at its specs and features.

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Startech Bluetooth Audio Receiver with NFC review

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Startech.com are a helpful company to know about — they seem to specialise in simple, helpful doodads that help you connect all of the bigger gadgets in your life together. If you ever think “I wonder if there’s a way to connect my X to my Y”, chances are good that someone at Startech already had the same thought and made a product to do just that.

Today’s review is a perfect case in point, as we’re looking at a doodad that answers the question “Can I connect to my wired speaker system / Hi-Fi via Bluetooth?” The answer is yes, and the doodad in question is the Bluetooth Audio Receiver with NFC (or BAR for short).

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BenQ BL2420U review: a compact 4K monitor for gamers & professionals

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The 24-inch BL2420U is the little brother of one of our favourite BenQ monitors at XSReviews, the BL3201PT. Like its peers, it comes with a full-sRGB IPS panel, an incredibly sharp 4K resolution and a plethora of special modes and added features. This was a winning combination at 32 inches, so how does it work at 24 inches and £380? Let’s find out.

Specifications & Features

Panel

  • 23.6-inch IPS panel with LED backlight
  • 16.7 million colours, 8-bit colour depth
  • 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution at 60 Hz
  • 100% sRGB coverage
  • Blue light reduction, CAD/CAM modes
  • 1000:1 native contrast
  • 300 nits brightness
  • 178 L/R, 178 U/D viewing angles
  • 7ms GTG response time

Ports

  • DisplayPort 1.2a, HDMI 2.0 (4K / 60Hz)
  • HDMI 1.4, DVI-D (4K / 30Hz)
  • 2x USB 3.0 passthrough
  • 3.5mm audio passthrough

Features

  • Modes: sRGB, CAD/CAM, Animation (10 levels), Presentation, Standard, Low Blue Light (3 levels), Movie, Photo, Eco, M-Book, User
  • Adjustability: 25° tilt, 90° pivot, 140mm height adjust

Design

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The BenQ monitor is quite restrained and professional in its design, with just a few telltale signs that this is a higher class of monitor: relatively slim bezels, fancy touch-activated buttons and white LEDs. It’s worth noting that the blue trim in these press photos don’t appear to have made it to my review unit, but their absence isn’t problematic.

The ports are found in the traditional place, on the back of the monitor and facing down. This isn’t as convenient as the side-facing ports of BenQ’s larger monitors. There are plenty of ports here too, including DisplayPort 1.2a, two HDMI ports (one 2.0, one 1.4) and dual-link DVI.

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The BL2420U has two USB 3.0 ports and a headphone jack on the back, which is handy for connecting additional peripherals such as mice, keyboards and gamepads.

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The left and right sides of the monitors are clean, with no ports or features.

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The on-screen display itself is easily fiddled with, thanks to the convenient touch-activated buttons at the bottom right of the monitor. These are far better than small plastic buttons tucked away somewhere behind the monitor, which are all too often found on monitors that are otherwise high-end.

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The BL2420U is a fine looking monitor, but it’s not here to look pretty — it’s here to do a job. Let’s take a look at how well it achieves it, starting with some synthetic benchmarks and moving on to our first-hand impressions.

Benchmarks

First, we’ll look at the monitor’s gamut. As promised, it delivers 100% of sRGB, in addition to 79% of AdobeRGB and 75% of NTSC. That’s more than enough for most photo and video work, and well-suited for the professions targeted by this monitor.

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We can already see a very DeltaE value for white point and 50% gray, something that we’ll return to later with our colour accuracy benchmark. Brightness and white point are damn near perfect after calibration, too.

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Let’s look at how colour is represented across the monitor. Good, professional monitors should ideally provide a very uniform colour, so that an element (say, part of a photo) positioned in the corner of your monitor looks the same when it’s moved to the centre. The BL2420U does well here, with DeltaE values between 0.5 and 2.1 on maximum brightness, and 0.5 and 1.4 on 50% brightness. This is a very good score, and means that colours will not be dramatically different depending where they are physically on the monitor.

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We can do the same test in terms of luminance; how different is each sector in terms of brightness? Here we see again quite strong results, ranging from 1% to 10%. The upper right and bottom left are the most different, but it’s not enough to compromise professional work.

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Colour accuracy is another important consideration. With the exception of the turquoise shade (ID 1F), we see excellent colour accuracy across the board. The average DeltaE value, 0.97, is exactly where we hoped to see it.

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Tone response is also on the money, adhering closely to the Gamma 2.2 standard.

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All in all, the monitor is well suited for professional work, and has no obvious flaws.

Impressions

Here’s what we thought of the monitor after one month of sustained use, both for work (writing, editing, photos and video production) and play (PC games including Fallout 4, StarCraft II, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and UnderRail).

Media

As a monitor for getting work done, the BL2420U unsurprisingly excels. The monitor’s accurate colour reproduction and 4K resolution are ideal for photo or video work, particularly for editing 1080p video as you have space for a 1:1 preview as well as your usual editing tools.

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The monitor is also nice for writing; at 200% scaling you get very crisp text indeed. Having a 200% scale in Windows is much cleaner than the BL3201PT’s 150%, and you still have the option to drop it lower to increase the amount of on-screen space you have to work.

Having extra USB ports and easy controls also helps a lot, ensuring you can have your monitor and other equipment set up quickly and conveniently.

Adjustability is also important, and the BL2420U is also well equipped here. You can rotate the screen 90 degrees for portrait work, as well as adjust the tilt and height. The various professional modes — sRGB, animation, CAD/CAM — will doubtless be a welcome inclusion for users in those fields as well.

Games

As a gaming monitor, the BL2420U is quite strong. Gaming at 4K is a demanding task (our test rig was able to handle medium settings on recent games like Fallout 4 with a Core i7 2600k and a Nvidia GTX970), but it does look fantastic. If you have a multiple-GPU or other high-end system, then you should be in for a treat. Even if you have a less powerful system, then you can still enjoy with older games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive at 4K.

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If you’re playing now fast-paced, competitive titles like DotA 2 or CS:GO, then a 144Hz monitor at 1080p or 1440p makes more sense than a 4K monitor at 60Hz. However, for all other titles, you may as well stick with the highest resolution you can hit 60fps with at your preferred detail settings. Gaming at 4K looks noticeably better than 1440p and vastly better than 1080p, so it’s well worth it if you can reach it.

Conclusion

The BL2420U is a brilliant monitor well suited for professionals and gamers alike; the 4K resolution and excellent colour reproduction ensure photos look true to life and games look sharp. Its high price is well justified by the quality of its panel, the attention paid to detail and the extras provided. If you’re looking for a compact 4K monitor with plenty of extras, the BL2420U should be at the top of your list.

Pros

  • 4K at 24 inches is a beautiful experience, whether working or gaming
  • Lots of ports and passthroughs ensure you’re always connected
  • Touch controls make for easy adjustments
  • Professionals are well catered for, with special modes and features

Cons

  • Gaming at 4K at optimum settings requires a beastly PC
  • 144Hz monitors will better suit competitive gamers
  • You do pay a premium for a professional-grade monitor; there are many cheaper, larger 4K monitors on the market
  • With 200% scaling, you’ll definitely notice low-resolution assets while browsing the web and using some programs

Score

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Links

XMG U506 review: an absurdly powerful gaming laptop

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XMG offer three tiers of gaming laptops — Pro, Advanced and Ultimate. Today, we’re looking at the highest tier, the XMG U506. This is the company’s  most powerful 15-inch gaming laptop, and unsurprisingly it’s an absolute beast. It’s powered by a sixth-generation desktop Core i7 CPU and the best mobile GPU ever made, and includes rare features like G-Sync and an RGB-backlit keyboard. Let’s put it to the test!

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Smartisan Nut U1 review: a colourful contender for best budget phone

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Normally we tend to review the most popular smartphones and tablets; gadgets that most people have heard of or are anticipating. Today we’re doing something a little different – we’re reviewing a little-known phone from a brand that’s just beginning to break into the west. The brand is Smartisan, and the phone is the jianguo, or Nut. At £100 it’s one of the cheapest smartphones on the market, yet it comes with a large 5.5” screen, powerful hardware and a colourful design. It sounds very promising, so let’s take a closer look.

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Creative Woof 3 review: a stylish, feature-rich Bluetooth speaker

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Today we’re looking at the Woof 3, a Bluetooth speaker from Creative Labs. The speaker is more feature-rich than most, thanks to its ability to play MP3 files directly from microSD cards as well as streaming music over Bluetooth. The Woof 3 is good looking too, with a chrome top and coloured body. Let’s take a closer look, and see whether it justifies its £40 price point.

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Cherry MX Board 6.0 review: a stylish, satisfying package

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Out of the blue, a very nice gentleman from Cherry Corp UK asked me if I’d like to review their latest mechanical keyboard: the MX Board 6.0. It’s quite shiny, with 100 levels of red backlighting, Red Cherry MX switches, and full layout and slightly low-profile keycaps.

So of course I agreed, the keyboard arrived and I got down to work. I used it for a lot of things — gaming, writing tech articles—but I forgot to actually use it to write a review of the keyboard itself. Today, that ends: here’s my review.

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Lian-Li PC-TU300 case review: keep calm and carry on

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The Lian-Li PC-TU300 is a PC case with a unique focus: mobility. This is achieved not purely through low weight or tiny dimensions, but through the inclusion of a carry handle and an optional screw-in trolley system. Once installed, the TU300 becomes quite literally carry-on luggage, small enough to fit in an overhead locker and nimble enough to roll around the airport without breaking a sweat. It’s an intriguing concept, so let’s see how well it works!

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Logitech G502 review: keep scrolling scrolling scrolling scrolling…

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Logitech’s G700 mouse is one of my all-time favourites. We gave it a solid 9 / 10 scoreline, and I espoused the belief that a wired-only version had the potential to be even greater, with a slimmer design and lighter weight if the batteries were shed. Today we’re going to see the reality of that belief, as we examine the Logitech G502 Proteus Core wired gaming mouse. It’s the most popular mouse on Amazon, so it should be good, right?

Thanks to ComputerAssistance.co.uk for providing the Logitech G502 sample.

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