When it comes to serious computer gaming, having the right rig is equally as important as being quick on the buttons and having lightning-fast reflexes. When it comes to playing first person shooters, it is vital that you have a decent surround sound system in your speakers or headphone set-up - and pin-sharp images on your display, which will keep up with breakneck action without ghosting, freezing or smearing.
So perhaps it wasn't so surprising when BenQ decided it wanted to upgrade their last gaming monitor (the XL2410T). The company has called on the services of the friendly Counter-Strike whizzes (HeatoN and SpawN), who helped them develop that unit and invited them to bring along three more pals to make sure it got it right. The result was the XL2420T and this time BenQ believed it has done enough, to create the ideal pro-gamer's companion.
Unlike many so-called upgrades that do little more than tinker with the design, then add one or two relatively minor additions and adjustments to the previous version - the XL2420T is a complete rethink, from the bottom up. For a start, the screen size has been expanded from the 23.6in LED backlit display, of the XL2410T to a full 24in. This is while retaining the thin matt black bezel around the edge, to ensure a maximum playing area.
As style is key when it comes to being a hard-core gamer, the stand has also been entirely revamped. Gone is the solid, upright column. In its place comes a new ultra-flexible stand, with a striking red oval cut into the lower section and a matching headphones hook at the top. A new raised curved section, attached to the base, provides extra stability. In addition to the 130mm height adjustment, you can tilt from -5 to 20, swivel 70 degrees from left to right and even pivot 90 degrees, from landscape to portrait. These changes make for a reassuringly sturdy unit, which can be swiftly altered with a light touch - and it still weighs less than its predecessor does, at 6.1kg.
There has been a significant change in connectivity too. The XL2410T came with a standard VGA, DVI-D, one HDMI and a headphone jack, only the XL2420T adds an extra HDMI, plus three USB 2.0 ports; very handy for plugging in material from flash drives.
New touch OSD
However, the most important design innovation comes with the access and operation of the OSD. The familiar rectangular panel layout - under the bottom right corner of the monitor - has been dispensed with, in favour of a touch sensitive strip that is built into the lower right bezel. Passing your hand over the area causes a series of white lights to illuminate, where touching any of them causes the OSD options to horizontally slide out on to the screen. While this is undoubtedly cool, you have to beware of accidentally 'waking up' the menu, when you're in the excitement of full FPS mode. Perhaps with this in mind, BenQ has also provided a separate mouse-like ‘S Switch' remote controller, in matching red and black. This contains both a scroll button to navigate through menus, and three presets, for customising your favourite display settings.
The screen resolution has remained unchanged, at 1,920 x 1,080, as has the contrast ratio of 1,000:1, the fast 2 ms GtG response time and the 120Hz refresh rate - which ensures game details are smoothly rendered, even in the most frenetic action scenes. Brightness levels have been augmented, to 350 cd/m2 and you might have to tone down the initial settings when you first plug in.
Once you start exploring the menus, you'll find that the range of choices has been considerably widened. In Display Mode, screen sizes have expanded from four to seven, ranging from 17in (4:3) to 24in W (16:9), or you can opt for Smart Scaling to create your own custom size. On the other hand, no matter which size you plump for, the viewing angles have not been improved, from the previous model. This remains at a slightly disappointing, at 170 / 160.
On the plus side, there are now two preset FPS modes - one designed for Counter-Strike 1.6 and the second for Counter-Strike Source - as well as an RTS alternative. As half the population seems to be well-engrossed in Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, don't despair as you won't have to spend hours tinkering with the settings. BenQ has thoughtfully provided a website where you can download special gaming presets for these games, as well as for Team Fortress 2 and Need For Speed. The chances are you'll prefer to customise your own settings, for your current favourite game, as we found some of the downloadable settings too dark.
The other novelty is the inclusion of a new Black eQualizer setting that is specifically intended to boost poor visibility, in dark scenes, thus making it easier to spot your enemies lurking in the shadows. If you're fortunate enough to have a decent NVIDIA graphics card, the XL2420T is NVIDIA 3D Vision 2 ready. Here, you'll enjoy the benefits of their 3D LightBoost technology, but the necessary NVIDIA 3D Vision Kit doesn't come with this model, only the slightly more expensive XL2420TX version has this. Alternatively, you can use the monitor to play some funky 3D movies, on an appropriate Blu-ray player, via the HDMI input.
In practice, we found the colours, contrast, brightness and clarity exceptionally impressive for both full-on shooters and Blu-ray movies, such as The Dark Knight. The stark variations in light and shade in this film were particularly enticing. With so many manual picture variations possible, as well as further presets for Movie, Photo, Eco and sRGB - this should be considered as a strong choice for both mad-for-it gamers, and anyone looking for an all-round entertainment monitor.
With Amazon currently offering this monitor at £20 below the RRP, it's hard to think of a more attractively affordable, stylish and versatile 3D-capable gaming screen than this intelligently reworked XL2420T from BenQ.
Pros: Extensive degree of customisable display settings.
Cons: A tad disappointing still on the vertical viewing angles.
Price: £299.99 inc. VAT
Product Colour: Black-Red
Screen Size: 24inc Wide LED-backlight
Resolution (max.): 1,920 x 1,080
Pixel Pitch: 0.276 mm
Brightness: 350 cd/m2
Contrast: Ratio: 1,000:1
Response Time (tr/tf): 2 ms (GtG)
Viewing Angle (L/R;U/D) (CR>=10): 170 / 160
Display Color: 16.7 million Colour 72%
Terminals: D-sub / DVI-DL (Dual Link) / HDMI x 2 / DP 1.2 / Headphone Jack
Colour Temperature: Reddish / Normal / Bluish / Usermode
Power Consumption: 24 W (Based on Energy Star 5.1 test criteria)
Auto Switching Power Supply: Built-in
Features: Black eQualizer Smart Scaling FPS Mode RTS Mode Game Mode Loader NVIDIA® 3D VisionTM 2 ready Senseye 3 AMA HDCP K-Locker mount
Adjustments: Height adjustment: 130mm Tilt (down / up): -5 / 20 Swivel (left / right): -45 / 45 Pivot: 90°
Dimensions (HxWxD): 516.98 x 571.4 x 149.9 mm
Weight: Net weight: 6.1kg. Gross weight: 7.3 kg.
Accessories (Standard): S Switch / Dust Cover / VGA cable / DVI-D-DL cable / Power cord
Vista Certification: Win7 Compatible Vista Premium
OSD talen: 17 languages
VESA Wall Mounting: 100 x 100 mm