The Benq EX2780Q comes very close to being a strong all-round candidate for a good gaming monitor. Besides a very stylish frame – which is a pleasant surprise considering Benq’s previous attempts – the monitor ticks all the boxes for a feature-rich gaming monitor.
It features a finely tuned IPS display, a crisp 2K QHD image, AMD FreeSync support, and 144Hz refresh rate. Also – in a mind-boggling twist - it has two speakers that are excellent and could easily substitute for a 2.1 speaker system.
Benq’s designs were never something that set the company apart. Their gaming monitors have always looked like rectangular slabs of black plastic with very little variance between the different models. In fact, they have hardly changed the designs of their monitors for a good few years.
The EX2780Q is, thankfully, cut from a different cloth. It’s not outlandish like some of the Asus monitors out there, but it’s got a pleasant aesthetic that blends into any workspace without screaming “GAMING!”. It has a distinct metallic look with narrow bezels, and a thicker edge at the bottom that houses the speakers as well as the ambient light sensor (which the HDRi uses to gauge brightness and contrast).
The base is a rectangular ring which has a small enclosure that you can use to store the remote (more on that in a bit) and other peripherals (a DualShock 4 controller fits rather nicely). The base offers some tilt control, but bafflingly, it lacks swivel, pivot or height adjustment. This is a strange design choice as the display sits quite high above the stand, so if your setup requires any sort of ergonomic adjustment, you are pretty much out of luck.
Another quirky thing about this monitor is that comes with a remote control. It allows you to change your inputs, select the different HDRi modes, adjust brightness and contrast, and tinker around with the audio. But the monitor isn’t large enough that you would sit far enough to warrant a remote control. It doesn’t even play/pause your media, so why would you sit back with it?
The monitor’s on-screen display controls at the back – handled by a spiffy joystick – work incredibly well for all sort of selections, and we found ourselves sticking to that to make adjustments. Sure, some will find a use for the remote, but we would rather Benq omit it completely to decrease the price even further.
The EX2780Q has a modest range of ports, which includes two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort, a USB-C port, and a headphone jack. The USB-C supports both data transfer as well as video input and can also be used to charge your devices, as it spits out 60W of power, which should provide enough juice to quickly energize your mobile phone or a laptop.
HDRi and Display Performance
Let’s talk about the HDRi first. This is Benq’s own blend of traditional HDR and an extra layer of ‘intelligence’ to further enhance the image quality. The HDRi works using the ambient sensor attached to the front of the screen, where it detects the room lighting to adjust the brightness and contrast accordingly (it also works out of the HDRi mode if you enable the Brightness Intelligence feature).
To fully utilize the HDRi feature, you must first enable HDR in Windows 10, and then play original HDR content – we don’t believe the monitor converts non-HDR content to HDR. If you don't enable the feature in Windows, it will result in overly saturated, dark images.
If you are a PC-only user, the HDR feature isn’t all that enticing. None of the streaming services, and neither most videos found on YouTube, stream in HDR on the PC. To make use of this feature, you will have to hope that your favorite game supports it. Of course, if you attach a PS4 or an Xbox One to this display, you will able to utilize the HDR feature like you would on a compatible TV.
The EX2780Q provides with three different HDRi modes: Game HDRi, Cinema HDRi, and DisplayHDR. The Game and Cinema modes provide different levels of contrast, where the Game HDRi provides slightly better brightness in dark areas. The DisplayHDR mode is simply unmodified HDR but is slightly inferior to the other two modes when it comes color enhancements.
So does the HDR work? Well, yes, technically. Under normal circumstances, HDR is achieved when the display has 1000nits of peak brightness to deliver the required range of colors and contrast. The EX2780Q peaks at 400nits, qualifying it for the HDR400 classification, which is one of the sub-levels of the HDR10 standard catered to budget monitors, so they can conform to the HDR format in some way.
That said, the EX2780Q has an extremely capable display to put out an impressive picture - with or without the HDR mode. In Far Cry 5, which is one of the few games to support HDR, the image quality was wonderful. Ubisoft’s open-world FPS is a scenic delight, and the monitor made great use of that with exceptionally rich and accurate color tones that did the game’s excellent visuals proper justice. Playing the game with HDR turned off resulted in similarly pleasing visuals, so you don’t have to worry about having HDR on for every game you play.
The only thing that I found problematic with the display was its handling of darker areas - the display tends to crush blacks even with the brightness at the highest level. This was evident in The Outer Worlds where the image appeared slightly darker than usual because the monitor was hiding a lot of details in the shadows. The only way to rectify this is to ramp up Benq’s Black Equalizer feature, but that simply blows out the contrast and is only meant for competitive play.
Besides HDR, the EX2780Q also has AMD FreeSync and 144Hz refresh rate, and they work as expected. Throwing some Overwatch at the screen, the image quality was smooth and artifact-free, with barely any noticeable input lag. The HDRi mode doesn’t seem to affect the input lag all that much either, which is good news.
Historically, gaming monitors have never had great built-in speakers. It’s always confusing why manufacturers would opt to put tiny tin cans in their monitors, which barely produce any bass, and sound thin and lifeless.
But the EX2780Q is different. Designed by Benq’s own treVolo audio team, the monitor packs the best 2.1 speaker system we have heard on a monitor. It’s loud enough to fill a small room and is clear and punchy to listen to music or watch a TV show - almost as as good as a TV’s built-in speakers.
In fact, they do work reasonably well for gaming if you do not feel like wearing your headphones or simply want some rest from them. Playing The Outer Worlds on the speakers provided a fairly good experience, with a decent bit of stereo surround and forward vocals. Even when watching YouTube videos and Netflix, the performance was quite good. They aren't as good as a true pair of 2.1 speakers or headphones, but they get the job done with above average performance.
The Benq EX2780Q is a top performer and is easily one of the best monitors right now that supports HDR. The only trade-off when compared to other similar monitors – such as the Asus VG27AQ or the MSI Optix MAG272QP – is the lack of ergonomic adjustment. Those that require their monitor at a certain height or angle will be severely disappointed.
However, the EX2780Q does offer a great set of speakers that the others don’t, which may or may not be a value addition to you. Priced at AED 1,899, it truly offers phenomenal value for its features.