UHD (Ultra High Definition) resolution. Supports HDR content. Modest price. Very fast pixel response. Low input lag.
Mediocre color performance. Few ports, and poorly placed. Stand allows for tilt adjustment only.
- Bottom Line
Budget-friendly and FreeSync-capable, the 28-inch EL2870U exhibits fast pixel response and minimal input lag that make fast-motion graphics a breeze, but it has some trouble with colors.
Designed for home entertainment use, the BenQ EL2870U ($499) is a 28-inch monitor that provides UHD (3,840 by 2,160) resolution and the ability to handle HDR content at a decent price. Its image quality, though fine for casual use, leaves a bit to be desired, particularly in its ability to accurately display colors. This is a common issue with TN (twisted nematic) monitors, though, and leaves the EL2870U coming up short of the Editors' Choice Viewsonic VP2768 and the BenQ EW3270U, which use IPS (in-plane switching) and VA (vertical alignment) technology, respectively. Still, its fast pixel response and brief lag time make it a good choice for action video and gaming.
Design and Features
The design is similar to those of several other BenQ monitors we have reviewed, including the BenQ EW3270U and the BenQ BL3201PH. The EL2870U's look is simple and understated, with a matte-black cabinet with half-inch bezels, and a stand that can tilt but doesn't offer height, swivel, or pivot adjustments. In back are four VESA-mount holes for use with an optional wall-mounting kit.
The EL2870U has a basic set of ports, including two HDMI 2.0 inputs and one DisplayPort 1.4 input, all full size, plus an audio-out jack. The ports face downward at the back of the monitor, a common if inconvenient configuration. It lacks USB ports. A pair of two-watt speakers is built into the monitor.
The EL2870U's 10-bit TN LCD panel provides for a UHD (Ultra High Definition) native resolution of 3,840 by 2,160. It has a 16:9 aspect ratio, a 1,000:1 native contrast ratio, and a 300 cd/m2 (a.k.a. "nits") rated luminance. I measured its luminance at 219.63 nits in SDR mode, and 318.69 nits when I switched to an HDR signal, using a Murideo SIX-G test-pattern generator and a Klein K10-A colorimeter, and SpectraCal CalMAN 5 software.
Gray-to-gray pixel response is a mere 1 millisecond, and input lag—as measured with a Leo Bodnar Lag Tester—came in at a very reasonable 11.2 milliseconds. (The BenQ SW2700PT remains our leader in this area, with a 9.5-millisecond input lag.) These results, coupled with AMD FreeSync technology (which reduces image tearing and broken frames in games, when used with a FreeSync-compliant AMD graphics card), mean the EL2870U can handle gaming and fast-motion video. Gamers will get the most out of the display, though, with a late-model AMD card.
You get a good selection of settings with the EL2870U. In addition to Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, and Color Temperature settings, you can choose one of 10 Picture Modes: Standard, HDR, Cinema HDR, REC. 709, Photo, sRGB, ECO, Low Blue Light, M-book, and User Defined. Within the Low Blue Light setting—overexposure to blue light may contribute to eyestrain and sleep disorders—are four sub-settings for different kinds of content: Multimedia, Web Surfing, Office, and Reading.
A button at the bottom right corner of the monitor's frame enables so-called "HDR emulation," which in my experience improved the contrast and color saturation of some standard-definition content. This button also enables B.I.+ (Brightness Intelligence Plus technology) mode, which uses an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust brightness and color temperature levels based on the current lighting environment. The monitor also kicks into HDR mode automatically when it detects a true HDR source.
BenQ covers the EL2870U with a three-year warranty on parts, labor, and the backlight.
Color Accuracy and Image Quality
Color accuracy out of the box was passable. As shown on the sRGB chromaticity chart below, when tested with an SDR (non-HDR, or standard dynamic range) signal in sRGB mode, my blue color measurement (represented by the colored dot) is closely aligned with its ideal CIE coordinates (represented by the box) and the green point is reasonably close, while the red is not as well aligned.
When viewing movies in sRGB mode, colors looked a bit pale compared with the BenQ EW3270U—a VA (vertical alignment) monitor that I tested at the same time—with the reds, in particular, poorly saturated. Colors in photos also looked a touch muted with the EL2870U. Still, the image quality for both video and photos should be fine for casual use.
When testing with an HDR signal, however, the points were more closely aligned with their boxes, with several outside of the triangle, indicating a slightly wider color gamut than with SDR. The EL2870 also did reasonably well in our grayscale testing. The monitor's viewing angles, from both the side and above, were wide for a TN panel, with some dimming and color shift obvious only at extreme angles.
Modest Power Use
The EL2870U consumed 17 watts of power in ECO mode, and 30 watts in Standard mode. That's a bit more efficient than two other 28-inch monitors we tested, the Westinghouse WE28UX8310 and the AOC U2879VF, which consumed 33 watts and 36 watts, respectively, while operating in their Standard preset modes. (Neither offers an ECO power-saving mode.) Unsurprisingly, the slightly smaller (27-inch) BenQ EW277HDR's power consumption was slightly lower than that of the EL2870U, using 22 watts while set to Standard mode and 14 watts in ECO mode.
High Resolution at a Decent Price
There's a lot to like about the BenQ EL2870U. It offers UHD resolution and HDR compatibility at a budget-friendly price. Its resolution is higher than the Editors' Choice Viewsonic VP2768's WQHD (2,560-by-1,440) resolution, and its fast pixel response and low lag time make it suitable for both gaming and fast-motion video.
The EL2870U, however, has a less robust port selection than the VP2768, which adds a USB 3.0 port and a DisplayPort output for daisy-chaining multiple monitors. And as with many TN monitors, the EL2870U's color reproduction is not particularly good, making it impractical for photographers and video buffs.
For accurate color, in-plane switching (IPS) monitors are generally preferable; the VP2768, for instance, aced both the technical and the experiential portions of our image testing. But while the VP2768 holds onto its Editors' Choice as a midrange monitor, the EL2870U should appeal to those seeking a reasonably priced high-resolution monitor that can handle motion in videos or games, especially PC gamers who own a FreeSync-compatible AMD video card.
About the Author
As Analyst for printers, scanners, and projectors, Tony Hoffman tests and reviews these products and provides news coverage for these categories. Tony has worked at PC Magazine since 2004, first as a Staff Editor, then as Reviews Editor, and more recently as Managing Editor for the printers, scanners, and projectors team. In addition to editing, … See Full Bio
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