BenQ EX3203R Monitor Review – The 1440p upgrade you didn’t know you needed.
As we move into a new decade, the monitor industry continues to get more complex by the day. Brands are now releasing extremely affordable, high-performing gaming monitors at an increasingly fast rate - making consumers lives that bit more difficult when it comes to their next monitor upgrade.
Today we'll be taking a look at another new addition to the monitor market, BenQ's EX3203R curved gaming monitor. This is a monitor that offers premium features such as a 144Hz refresh rate, 4ms GTG response time, FreeSync 2 support, and BenQ's full eye care package as well.
We'll be putting the EX3203R through its paces to see how it fares against some of the market's top sellers to answer some of the big questions surrounding this new panel; have BenQ managed to create another well priced, premium gaming monitor? How well does FreeSync2 technology work with AMD GPUs? And is this monitor worth your hard-earned cash?
We'll be answering all those questions and more, so let's waste no more time and get straight into it!
- Large (32”)
- Great Color
- VA panel
- Large Screens Aren’t for everyone
- No power eco mode
- 4ms response; could be faster
Currently, in the WePC testing studio, we have a whole plethora of gaming monitors to choose from. However, the BenQ EX3203R, with its impressive 32" curved display catches the eye in more than one way.
Aesthetically it looks superb, visually it's just as good. HDR, 144Hz, FreeSync 2 and a curved screen make this monitor one of the stand out performers.
EX3203R - Large Monitor Or TV?
We've had the privilege of testing a lot of BenQ's monitors over the last couple of months, all of which have their own unique set of features and benefits. However, this is the first monitor they've sent us that is 144hz and curved. Oh, and 32", did I mention that?
Now, when someone references a 32-inch display, you're probably thinking, TV? Not in this scenario, though. The EX3203R is a huge gaming monitor and one that, if you're used to a 27" or less monitor, is going to look enormous on your desk.
I suppose this opens up the EX3203R to an entirely new consumer demographic, the console gaming market. The issue with TVs is they have lower refresh rates, which leads to screen tearing and display issues. Obviously, the EX3203R doesn't have this issue, thanks to a 4ms response time.
Since we're talking about the EX3203R's specs, we may as well go over the full list now:
The specifications of this monitor are pretty impressive, especially when you consider not only the size and curvature of this panel, but the price tag as well. It's always tricky finding a large monitor with decent performance levels. However, this one seems to tick all the boxes and then some.
Physical Size and Weight
As stated above, this monitor is huge. It comes in at 32” diagonally (which is how screen size is determined) and has a total monitor area of 437 inches (2823 cm). For reference, a 24” 16:9 monitor has a total area of 246 inches (1588 cm). That’s an additional 77% extra usable monitor space.
The total HxWxD size specifications for the monitor are 21.1 x 28 x 8.77 inches (536 x 712.69 x 223.87mm).
This monitor does come in at a pretty hefty 18 pounds. This probably won’t be an issue for most users. But, if you’re using a desk with thin glass or a shelf as your monitor stand, 18 pounds is quite a bit heavier than your standard monitor. So just keep that in mind when considering this display.
With a curvature rating of 1800R, this monitor is also perfect if you have a desk that’s not very deep. It will allow the user to sit a little further back and will provide additional levels of immersion to the overall user experience.
For those new to curved displays, 1800R is a measure of the curvature and indicates a radius of 1800mm. Taking into account the size and curvature, the recommend sitting distance for this monitor would be about 1.8 meters away.
However, I sat much closer than this during my time with it and had no problems with image quality or eye fatigue.
Personally, I felt the curved screen was a great choice. It not only looked superb from pretty much every angle, but it also provided levels of immersion that you simply can't get from a flat panel.
Resolution and Refresh Rate
The EX3203R boasts a resolution of 2560×1440 (1440p, or QHD), a 144Hz refresh rate, and a 4ms response time.
Let’s discuss these features in more detail below.
This monitor is a 1440p display. If you’ve been wanting to upgrade from a 1080p monitor, but don’t have the money to run a 4K setup, I'd recommend 1440p as a cheap, middle-ground alternative.
Be aware, though: you might have to upgrade your GPU to accommodate for the more taxing resolution when gaming.
Resolution is the number of pixels that a monitor can display. The max resolution of a monitor refers to the number of pixels vertically and horizontally. So a monitor with a maximum resolution of say 2560×1440 (1440p), will have 2,560 pixels running widthways, and 1,440 pixels running vertically.
Response time measures how fast colors change on the monitor; the LEDs have to react and change as well. This is measured in milliseconds (ms). If the change happens too slowly, you can get ghosting on your images. In general, you should always look for 5 ms or under when it comes to gaming - with 1-2ms being optimal. The BenQ is rated at 4ms, which is not ideal, but not bad for a monitor of this size either.
As for your refresh rate, it represents how fast your monitor can refresh the image that it's currently displaying. The refresh rate is a very important factor when it comes to a gaming monitor. It has a direct impact on image smoothness and needs to be in sync with your frame rate output. If your PC is pushing a game at 250FPS and your monitor can only refresh at 60Hz, you will ultimately experience screen tearing.
The contrast ratio of a monitor can be very important as it’s a measure of the darkest darks and brightest brights. More specifically, contrast ratio is measured by the number of shades it takes to turn black to white. The more shades it takes, the more color range the monitor has.
The EX3203R native contrast ratio is 3000:1. This would mean that there are 2999 shades of grey between the monitor’s blackest black and its whitest white. 3000:1 is an excellent contrast ratio, but it gets even better thanks to HDR, which we discuss below.
This monitor is top of the line and bang up-to-date when it comes to inputs. You get the following: 2x HDMI v2.0, Display Port, and USB-C. It should be noted that if you choose to use USB-C as the input, your refresh rate is limited to only 60Hz, as there’s not enough bandwidth for higher.
As for media inputs, this monitor is equipped with 2x USB 3.1, and an auxiliary port for headphones.
For me, a monitor shouldn't just excel in performance and practicality; it must also look the part whether in use or not. The BenQ seems to have nailed this thought process expertly.
The first thing that caught my eye, apart from the massive 32" 1800R curved screen, was the stand. It's been finished with stylish chrome metal, which only adds to the luxurious feel of this display. The metal works brilliantly with the thing bezels of the panel to give a good contrast of materials and colors.
The screen itself is, as mentioned above, a VA panel and has an extremely small bezel. In the center of the bottom border, you can clearly see BenQ's brightness intelligence sensor. This is part of the eye care package and doesn't really affect aesthetics in any way.
The back is classic BenQ and comes with a grey finish with the BenQ logo branded above the top of the stand.
Overall I really enjoy the way this monitor looks when compared to other curved monitors in its price range. But like I said at the start, it must be able to perform well and be practical, so let's dive into this monitor's main features.
The guys at BenQ decided to kit this monitor out with every feature they could think of - luckily, they all seem to work in harmony, unlike other monitors in today's market.
I never felt like the features were just “there,” and I actually ended up using most of them. That being said, the one feature I didn’t need for was Super Resolution (discussed below). I’m sure I’ll end up using it later on down the road for some retro gaming, though.
Starting the features portion of this list is High-Dynamic-Range. One of the biggest things that contribute to how good a picture looks is the range of colors and the contrast that can be displayed.
HDR increases that range significantly, allowing for much deeper, richer, and brighter images.
This was my first time using an HDR monitor, so I wasn’t sure whether it would be a pain to set up. Luckily, the BenQ EX3203R made it incredibly easy and self-intuitive. Just select HDR from the display settings built into the monitor, and turn HDR on in Windows and any program with the feature.
I decided to use Shadow of the Tomb Raider as a test subject, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The changes are fairly evident.
Initially, I planned to use screenshots for this test. Unfortunately, screenshots don’t capture the true essence of HDR and end up looking washed out. This being said, both of the above pictures were taken at the same time, and haven’t been retouched. You can see how much richer the game looks in HDR.
Remember when I was talking about screen tearing and refresh rates? Well, BenQ has you covered with FreeSync2 technology.
FreeSync is a technology from AMD that allows their GPUs to sync with a monitor’s refresh rate. This allows the refresh rate and the FPS of your game to sync together. This creates a super-smooth playing experience since your monitor will only refresh when a new frame is available; it will also help eliminate screen tearing.
Sometimes when you’re using a monitor, and you need to run a resolution with a different aspect ratio (say your monitor is a 16:9 and you need to run something at 4:3), there can be changes and distortions in your image.
Super Resolution allows the non-native resolution to run freely, without fear of distortion.
Brightness Intelligence Plus
Brightness Intelligence Plus (B.I.+) is a feature BenQ added as part of their eye care package to lessen the strain on your eyes. It does this by using a built-in sensor to detect the ambient light around the monitor. It decides whether or not the monitor's brightness needs to be adjusted in order to provide a more natural image.
You do have the option of disabling this feature if you're the kind of person that likes to set their brightness and leave it.
BenQ has gone above and beyond to make sure their monitors are causing as little damage to your eyes as possible. Along with B.I.+, they’ve added their Eye-Care technology as well.
There are two main features that Eye-Care brings to the table: reduced blue light filter and elimination of screen flicker.
Strong blue light can be harmful to the human eye over long periods of time - and monitors produce a lot of blue light. This monitor comes with blue light eliminating technology, which physically reduces the harmful blue light without changing the color balance.
This leaves you with a great looking image, without any undetected damage to your eyes.
Screen flicker is another big one that’s harmful to your eyes. Screens typically flicker - and usually at a rate that's impossible to detect - but it’s still happening. This can cause strain and fatigue on your eyes.
By equipping this monitor with screen flicker technology, the EX3203R pretty much eliminates any potential damage caused by screen flicker.
My primary monitor is a 27” curved 144Hz screen, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when testing the EX3203R. I only sit 2.5-3 feet away from my monitor, so I feared this 32” monster would be too big, and I'd have to move back to obtain the best viewing experience.
After getting everything hooked up, I sat down at the desk and realized that even though I was way closer than the suggested 1.8 meters, the monitor didn’t feel too big at all - a factor I largely attribute to the viewing angles and the curved display.
Messing with the settings for my initial setup was a breeze. Everything is well labeled, and the monitor controls are intuitive.
As mentioned above, once in HDR mode, this monitor has a crazy contrast ratio, and you can certainly tell. I love how much richer and more realistic the content looks with HDR enabled.
This monitor is great for people transferring from a dual monitor setup thanks to its large display & high resolution, which will easily allow for screen splitting and multiple on-screen programs.
After using this monitor for a few days, I can safely say that I can’t recommend this monitor enough. If you’re looking to upgrade to a large monitor, then I say look no further than the BenQ EX3203R.