High dynamic range (HDR) is popping up everywhere these days, offering the potential for more vibrant colors, deeper blacks, and brighter whites on TVs and PC monitors alike. More than even 4K, HDR represents a true step up in image quality with content that supports it. The only catch is that it has to be done well, not only with content, but with the display itself.
Cheap or incomplete HDR implementations will leave you wanting, but when it's done well, it really stands out. An excellent example of the latter is BenQ's new EX2780Q gaming monitor, which offers up vibrant HDR that is a treat for the eyes. Combined with a crisp IPS display, 144Hz refresh rate, FreeSync and a surprisingly good set of speakers, it's a solid contender for one of the best gaming displays on the market right now.
But is it worth the $600 price? Let's take a look.
HDR on display
Bottom line: The BenQ EX2780Q is the best-looking and sounding monitor I've laid eyes on. A combination of great HDR, solid gaming features, and thoughtful extras makes it well worth the money.
- Vibrant colors
- Excellent HDR
- Surprisingly great speakers
- Crisp motion
- Cable management can be crowded
- No height adjustment
What you'll like about the BenQ EX2780Q Gaming Monitor
To get it out of the way up front, the BenQ EX2780Q might be the best-looking desktop display I've laid eyes on. Further, it has what is probably the best set of built-in speakers I've heard on a monitor to date. The kicker is that all of this is packed into a relatively unassuming, if handsome, metal frame.
I'm so used to seeing gaming monitors with colorful, aggressive flourishes and RGB lights that I didn't quite know what to expect when unboxing the EX2780Q. BenQ seems quite content to let the display and speakers, well, speak for themselves. Because I'm one of those people who prefers my monitors to just be monitors without any distracting flair, I'm fine with that, though I recognize some may disagree.
Once the EX2780Q is fired up, the quality of the display is immediately apparent even without HDR engaged. Colors are relatively poppy while remaining easy on the eyes, and the contrast feels great out of the box. But when you view HDR content, that's when the monitor really comes to life.
The BenQ EX2780Q might be the best-looking display I've laid eyes on.
With the EX2780Q, BenQ is using what it calls HDRi technology. Essentially, HDRi is the extended range of colors and contrast HDR offers, mixed with some intelligence BenQ has built into the display to adjust the image based on your ambient lighting. According to BenQ, this results in less eye strain and, ultimately, a clearer picture that tones down overexposed areas of the screen and helps you pick out more detail in shadows.
That's a lot of hype from BenQ, but HDRi actually does exactly what it says on the tin. HDR games and video looked noticeably more vibrant than I've experienced with other displays, and I was able to pick out more detail than usual. It didn't conquer the experience offered by Dolby Vision for me, but it's certainly close. Moreover, I didn't find my eyes getting as fatigued over extended play sessions.
Where the EX2780Q surprised me more was with its emulated HDR modes. The display can boost standard definition content by adjusting the image to emulate HDR enhancements. There are several different emulated HDR modes for things like cinema and games, giving you a fair amount of control over how it looks.
The emulated HDR certainly didn't work flawlessly with every bit of content; it noticeably blew out highlights in The Outer Worlds when I engaged it, for example. However, it definitely made a lot of standard definition content much more vivid and engaging to watch. I even found myself leaving it on while working and enjoying the way it adapted to my normal workday of endlessly writing and browsing RSS feeds.
|Response time||5ms (grey to grey)|
|Brightness||Up to 400 nits|
|Viewing angles (H/V)||178°/178°|
|Color depth||10 bit|
|Connectivity||HDMI (2.0) x2, DisplayPort x1, USB Type-C X1 (PD10W, DP alt mode, data)|
|Speakers||2W x 2 + 5W|
While I could go on about the HDR experience for days, there are other things to like about the EX2780Q as well. The 144Hz refresh rate is an absolute must on a gaming monitor in this price range, so it's great to see it here. If you have a decently powerful gaming rig, you'll be able to push frame rates well to the point of buttery smooth.
Helping those high framerates is the inclusion of FreeSync support here as well. If you have any modern AMD graphics card, you'll be able to take advantage of FreeSync to make sure the frame output of your PC remains in sync with the display. The result is the elimination of screen tearing and hitching, which makes the whole experience smoother.
Then there's the audio, which kind of caught me off guard. I'm used to monitor speakers being an afterthought, preferring to simply plug in my headset and never touch them again. However, the EX2780Q's combination of a set of stereo speakers and a small subwoofer, packed in a bar sitting below the display, was much punchier and engrossing than I anticipated.
Music actually sounded robust, and game audio was immersive without requiring me to slap my headset on. There are plenty of audio modes to choose from as well, if you need to tweak the sound for gaming, movies, or music.
Finally, there's the remote. Honestly, I didn't think I'd use it much, but it became a delightful little addition to the experience of using the EX2780Q. Instead of fiddling with buttons on the rear of the monitor, I could much more quickly switch between HDR modes or increase the volume with the remote. I like that.
What you'll dislike about the BenQ EX2780Q Gaming Monitor
While the display, HDR, and sound on the BenQ EX2780Q are both great, I still have a couple of minor nits to pick. Namely, those lie in BenQ's design choices regarding cable management and screen adjustment.
On the cable management side of things, my only complaint is that things can get crowded quickly. There's a portion of the stand that can be uncovered to route cables through. Inside that portion, there are metal pins under which you're meant to tuck cables before placing the cover back on. This works out just fine for one or two cables, but you'll fast find yourself begging for more room.
I'm a sucker for elegant cable management solutions, and I'm a big fan of how Samsung handles cables on its line of QLED gaming monitors. There's a removeable cover over the rear inputs that, once snapped on, allows cables to be routed out of a single cutout. From there, they can be clipped to the back of the stand, staying mostly out of sight. Something akin to that system would be preferable.
Where BenQ could improve things further is on the display's physical adjustments as well. You've got a bit of freedom here, with the ability to tilt the display up and down. However, it'd be nice to see an option to adjust the height as well.
So should you buy the BenQ EX2780Q Gaming Monitor?
The BenQ EX2780Q's HDRi alone makes this a monitor well worth buying. If you can swing the $600 price, that combination of poppy color, mixed with must-have gaming features like a fast refresh rate, FreeSync, and more make it an enticing package. The excellent sound quality from the 2.1 speaker setup is just the cherry on top.
While HDR still isn't as fully baked on PCs as it is on TVs, it hasn't quite become a must-have in the space yet. For my money, however, I wouldn't want to game without it, especially on a quality display. The BenQ EX2780Q nails it on all fronts.
A damn good display.
If you don't mind the price, the BenQ EX2780Q is one of the best gaming monitors you can get your hands on right now. Its thoughtful combination of excellent HDR, solid gaming performance, and little extras make it well worth the investment.
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