BenQ EX3210U

Author: Adam Simmons
Date published: August 25th 2022

 

Introduction

PC and console gamers alike are now able to enjoy the benefits of a high refresh rate and 3840 x 2160 (‘4K’ UHD) resolution, with this combination also providing a pleasant experience for desktop usage. The BenQ EX3210U of the MOBIUZ series is aimed at a both PC users and console gamers, facilitating ‘4K’ UHD @120Hz plus VRR for devices including the PS5 and Xbox Series X. We put this monitor through its paces in our usual testing suite, which focuses on a mixture of gaming, movie and video watching plus desktop usage.

Specifications

The monitor uses a 32” IPS (In-Plane Switching) type – more specifically AHVA (Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle) panel – from AUO with 3840 x 2160 resolution. A 144Hz refresh rate and 10-bit colour (8-bit + FRC dithering) is also supported. A 2ms grey to grey response time and 1ms MPRT response time is specified, but as usual you shouldn’t pay much attention to such figures. Some of the key ‘talking points’ for this monitor have been highlighted in blue below, for your reading convenience.

Screen size: 32 inches

Panel: AU Optronics M320QAN02.3 AHVA (Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle) LCD

Native resolution: 3840 x 2160

Typical maximum brightness: 300 cd/m² (600 cd/m² HDR peak)

Colour support: 1.07 billion (8-bits per subpixel plus dithering)*

Response time (G2G): 2ms (1ms MPRT)

Refresh rate: 144Hz (Adaptive-Sync + HDMI 2.1 VRR)

Weight: 9.5kg

Contrast ratio: 1000:1

Viewing angle: 178º horizontal, 178º vertical

Power consumption: 48W (typical)

Backlight: QD LED (Quantum Dots + blue LED)

Typical price as reviewed: ~$1000 USD (£1100)


*10-bit can be selected in the graphics driver at any refresh rate, up to the native resolution using DP 1.4 (with DSC) or HDMI 2.1 under SDR or HDR. 12-bit can also be selected when using HDMI 2.1; this includes an additional 2-bit dithering stage applied by the monitor’s scaler to facilitate work with 12-bit depth content. The bit depths listed here are using a Full Range RGB signal.

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BenQ EX3210U


Features and aesthetics

The monitor offers distinctive MOBIUZ styling, with a ‘penguin foot’ stand topped with matte silver plastic and with an orange-coloured inner surface. This inner surface is composed of thick diagonal orange stripes and thinner diagonal purple stripes, appearing largely orange or coral red at casual glance from a distance. We didn’t find this as visually distracting as you might expect based on images of the screen. It has the appearance of a sticker but is quite firmly stuck on – we’re not sure if removal is possible, but if you’re creative covering it with an alternative design or material should be doable. The overall feel of the monitor was quite solid and the neck element was weighted to give a premium feel to the screen and keep things firmly planted. The stand base looked and felt a bit plasticky and combined with the coloured inner section reminded us more of a toy than a premium monitor. The stand neck piece is matte white plastic, whilst black matte plastic is used for the bottom bezel of the monitor. The bottom bezel is ~35mm (1.38mm) thick and has a ‘honeycomb’ texture, acting as a speaker grille which houses 2 x 2W speakers as part of the TreVolo sound system (explored shortly). The top and side bezels are dual-stage with a slim panel border flush with the rest of the screen, plus thin hard plastic outer part. Including both components, these bezels are
~8.0mm (0.31 inches) thick at the top and ~8.5mm (0.33 inches) thick at the sides. The main feature from the front is the large screen, with a light to very light matte anti-glare finish which is explored a little later.


Some bold styling elements

Switched on

The OSD (On Screen Display) can be controlled either using the included IR remote or by a joystick, just to the right of centre beneath the bottom bezel. To the left of this there’s a button which controls the integrated microphone (requires USB upstream cable connected to monitor) and a source select button. A status LED faces forwards above the microphone control button, glowing green when the microphone is on and ready to use, amber when muted – or off if the microphone isn’t available for use. To the right of the joystick there’s a power button with integrated power LED – this glows a cool white when the monitor is on and orange when it enters a low power state (signal to the system is lost). It can be disabled with the ‘LED Indicator’ feature in the OSD, if preferred. A dedicated front-facing ‘HDRi’ button is located at the right side of the bottom bezel. The video below runs through the menu system and its functionality, including ‘Brightness Intelligence Plus’ (B.I.+) and other features such as ‘Lighting’ (RGB LED lighting), ‘Black eQualizer’ and ‘Light Tuner’.


IR OSD remote

The screen is reasonably slim at thinnest point (~25mm or 0.98 inches), lumping out a bit more centrally. The stand offers tilt (5° forwards, 15° backwards), swivel (15° left, 15° right) and a bit of height adjustment (100mm or 3.94 inches). At lowest stand height the bottom of the screen sits ~46mm (1.81 inches) above the desk with the top of the screen ~489mm (19.25 inches) above the desk. The total depth of the monitor including its stand is ~270mm (10.63 inches) with the screen sitting ~80mm (3.15 inches) back from the frontmost point of the stand. So the screen takes up a moderate amount of depth on the desk, though not a huge amount for a screen of this size.

The side

The rear of the monitor is largely white matte plastic, with some matte silver plastic visible for the stand base. This is broken up into 4 sections by diagonal RGB LED ‘Lighting’ strips which are explored in this section of the OSD video. The stand attaches centrally via a quick-release mechanism, detached by pressing a button beneath the attachment point. This reveals provision for alternative 100 x 100mm VESA mounting. A square cable-tidy loop is located towards the bottom of the stand neck. The ports face downwards beneath a removable plastic cover and include; DC power input (external ‘power brick’), 2 HDMI 2.1 ports, DP 1.4 (with DSC), a 3.5mm headphone jack and 4 USB 3.0 ports (plus upstream). A K-slot is located to the right of the port area. Standard accessories include; a power cable and adaptor, DP cable, Ultra High Speed HDMI cable and USB cable but may vary regionally.

Towards the top of the screen there’s a backwards-facing 5W subwoofer covered by a dark grey speaker grille, completing the 2.1 channel TreVolo sound system. There are a range of ‘Audio mode’ settings which change the equalizer and sound processing – our preference goes to the ‘Pop/Live’ setting as we found this the best balanced. But everyone will have their own preferences and acoustics are also affected by your desk and room setup. The sound output on this model is quite impressive overall, with an excellent volume control which allows you to play content very quietly or rather loudly with plenty of values between. The bass is decent but not extreme, with the integrated subwoofer helping add definite depth to the sound. Whilst trebles and mid-tones seemed quite well-balanced to our ears. Whilst not quite as impressive as the more powerful TreVolo system of the BenQ EW3880R, they’re a huge step above what most monitor integrated speakers provide. In terms of directionality the ‘FPS’ mode is arguably best, but the sound is also quite hollow using this setting and it doesn’t make good use of the integrated subwoofer at all. Either way, it won’t give you the sort of directional cues that a nice pair of headphones or surround speakers would provide.

A matte white rear

DC power input

The ports

3840 x 2160 @144Hz plus HDR and Adaptive-Sync can be leveraged via DP 1.4 (with DSC), whilst 3840 x 2160 @120Hz plus HDR and Adaptive-Sync can be leveraged via HDMI 2.1. AMD FreeSync Premium Pro and Nvidia’s ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’ is supported on compatible GPUs and systems via suitable versions of DP and HDMI. Compatible Intel graphics hardware can also leverage Adaptive-Sync. HDMI 2.1 includes integrated VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) capability which does not rely on Adaptive-Sync and can be used via ‘G-SYNC Compatible’ and the PS5 which doesn’t support Adaptive-Sync. With HDMI 2.1, games consoles like the Xbox Series X and PS5 are able to run 3840 x 2160 @120Hz. The HDMI 2.1 ports of this model are full bandwidth (48Gbps), which means the PS5 can use its maximum supported ‘4:2:2’ signal for ‘4K’ UHD @120Hz, with PCs and the Xbox Series X using their fully supported Full Range or ‘4:4:4’ signal.

The images below show the refresh rates supported for the native 3840 x 2160 (‘4K’ UHD) resolution. The first image shows the resolutions categorised in the EDID of the monitor as ‘TV’ resolutions and listed here under ‘Ultra HD, HD, SD’. The second image shows resolutions categorised in the EDID and listed here as ‘PC’ resolutions. This includes 3840 x 2160 @120Hz, which can be used by the Xbox Series X and PS5 via HDMI 2.1. Note that both lists are the same via suitable revisions of DP and HDMI, except HDMI is limited to 120Hz maximum on this model.

Refresh rates '4K' UHD 'TV'

Refresh rates '4K' UHD 'PC' (120Hz maximum via HDMI)

Via DP the same refresh rates are also listed for 2560 x 1440 (WQHD or 1440p) and 1920 x 1080 (Full HD or 1080p). Via HDMI the same refresh rates are listed for 2560 x 1440, but for 1920 x 1080 different refresh rates are listed as shown in the images below. With the ‘TV’ and ‘PC’ (as categorised in the EDID) resolution list shown, respectively.

Refresh rates Full HD 'TV'

Refresh rates Full HD 'TV' (HDMI)

If you’re intending to use the monitor with the PS5 or Xbox Series X/S, be aware that a small settings tweak may be required to ensure 120Hz is selectable for supported resolutions. Details can be found in this article.

Calibration

Subpixel layout and screen surface

The image below is a macro photograph taken on Notepad with ClearType disabled. The letters ‘PCM’ are typed out to help highlight any potential text rendering issues related to unusual subpixel structure, whilst the white space more clearly shows the actual subpixel layout alongside a rough indication of screen surface. This model uses what we’d broadly classify as a light to very light matte anti-glare screen surface – we’d put it just a bit more towards the ‘very light’ matte side compared to competing models with Innolux panels we’ve looked at, such as the Gigabyte M32U. This screen surface offers reasonable glare handling, whilst providing relatively direct light emission for a matte surface with a reduced level of diffusion. Vibrancy and clarity potential is better preserved, without a clear layered look in front of the image. In brighter lighting conditions and in particular when direct light strikes the screen, sharper patches of glare and some reflection can be observed which gives a ‘glassy’ look to the screen. Similar lighting conditions would cause a more diffused haze across the screen for stronger matte screen surfaces and more distinct and sharper reflections on most glossy screen surfaces. The screen surface texture provides just a light ‘misty’ graininess rather than a heavier graininess or anything smeary in appearance. Most users should be just fine with this level of graininess or simply not notice it at all.

Although we were unable to capture them on camera, we noticed faint and thin horizontal stripes running across the screen when observing brighter shades, a very slightly darker variant of the shade being displayed. These were static and ran across the entire screen (from top to bottom) in an even fashion. They may have been part of the screen surface structure or could’ve been related to another aspect of the monitor. They were unaffected by any setting on the monitor or system (including refresh rate and colour signal) and didn’t require specific patterns to be visible. Simply that light enough shades were displayed for them to be visible. We wouldn’t classify them as ‘interlace pattern artifacts’ (scan lines) but rather some sort of ingrained pattern. The bands were well-blended and something most people likely wouldn’t readily notice – we’re not sure if all units would have them, either, but it’s not something we’ve observed before.

Subpixel layout

As shown above the standard RGB (Red, Green and Blue) stripe subpixel layout is used. This is the default expected by modern operating systems such as Microsoft Windows. Apple’s MacOS no longer uses subpixel rendering and therefore doesn’t optimise text for one particular subpixel layout to the detriment of another. You needn’t worry about text fringing from non-standard subpixel layouts and won’t need to change the defaults in the ‘ClearType Text Tuner’ as a Windows user. You may still wish to run through the ClearType wizard and adjust according to preferences, however. The subpixels are slightly ‘squat’ with slightly larger gaps above and below than some models will show. In some cases this contributes to ‘static interlace pattern artifacts’ and can affect text and fine-edge clarity. On this model we observed no such issues, likely as the pixel density is so high that the gaps above and below the subpixels are still tiny. We therefore had no subpixel-related concerns related to sharpness or text clarity on this model.

Testing the presets

The BenQ EX3210U includes various ‘Color Mode’ presets; ‘Game HDRi’, ‘Cinema HDRi’, ‘Display HDR’, ‘FPS’, ‘RPG’, ‘Racing Game’, ‘sRGB’, ‘M-Book’, ‘ePaper’ and ‘Custom’. The first 3 presets, with HDR in the name, are the only options available when running the monitor under HDR. They can also be used as so-called ‘HDR emulation’ modes under SDR. There’s nothing ‘HDR’ about the experience when the settings are used under SDR, they’re really just filters which make various adjustments to the image which some may subjectively like. We briefly explore these presets in the OSD video, but will focus mainly on the most flexible ‘Custom’ preset with various manual adjustments in this section.

The table below shows gamma and white point readings taken using a Datacolor SpyderX Elite colorimeter, alongside general observations by eye. Our test system uses Windows 11 with an Nvidia RTX 3090 connected using the supplied DisplayPort cable. Additional testing was performed via HDMI and also using an AMD Radeon RX 580, though observations on this table didn’t differ significantly between inputs or GPUs. The monitor was left to run for over 2 hours before readings were taken and observations made, without any additional monitor drivers or ICC profiles specifically loaded. Unless stated otherwise or for our ‘Test Settings’, assume the default settings with ‘Color Mode’ set to ‘Custom’ were used, except with ‘Light Tuner’ set to its neutral point of ‘0’ (even though ‘1’ is default for ‘Custom’). The refresh rate was set to 144Hz in Windows, although this didn’t affect the readings or observations in this table. When viewing the figures in this table, note that for most PC users ‘6500K’ for white point and ‘2.2’ for gamma are good targets to aim for. Individual targets depend on individual uses, tastes and the lighting environment, however.

Preset Mode Gamma (central average) White point (kelvins) Notes
Custom, Gamma 1 1.8 6864K Some definite vibrant elements but lack of depth to many shades due to gamma handling (averages ‘1.8’ but even lower for some medium shades). A cool and somewhat green tint.
Custom, Gamma 2 2.0 6846K As above, extra depth due to higher average gamma.
Custom, Gamma 3 2.2 6826K As above with superior depth – very vibrant overall. Gamma averages ‘2.2’ but deviates significantly in places as explored shortly.
Custom, Gamma 4 2.5 6831K As above, extra depth overall due to increased average gamma.
Custom, Gamma 5 2.7 6840K As above, further increase in gamma giving a very deep and ‘contrasty’ look.
Color Temperature = User Define 2.2 6472K As factory defaults but colour channel balance improved.
sRGB 2.2 6879K An sRGB emulation setting, clamps the gamut very close to sRGB to curtail saturation. Gamma tracks ‘2.2’ curve closely – image remains a bit cool with a slight green tint. Colour channels and gamma control is locked off, though brightness is adjustable.
Low Blue Light = 10 2.2 5345K A moderately effective Low Blue Light (LBL) setting. The image appears warm with modest blue channel reduction. No obvious green or yellow tint (slightly amber appearance if anything), so better balanced in that respect compared to many LBL implementations.
Low Blue Light = 20 2.2 4309K As above but significantly stronger effect. A highly effective LBL setting, significantly reducing blue light output. A warm amber tint to the image without unwanted green or yellow push.
Test Settings 2.1 6498K Highly vibrant with superior balance to image compared to factory defaults

With the monitor running its ‘Custom’ setting it offered a vibrant look, with a cool and somewhat green tint. Gamma averaged ‘2.2’, but didn’t track the ‘2.2’ curve well as shown in the first image – taken with the monitor running ‘Custom’, ‘Light Tuner = 0’ and ‘Gamma = 3’. There was significant central ‘bowing’ where gamma is higher for various medium to brighter shades, which adds some extra depth. And gamma is a touch lower than it should be for some very dark and very bright shades, brightening them up a touch – which adds a bit of extra visibility in darker scenes, for example. For general purpose usage this should look fine to most people and it doesn’t cause a ‘washed out’ look to the image. But it does throw off accuracy and affects representation in a way those with a discerning eye might dislike. This can be improved by adjusting the ‘Gamma’ setting in the OSD whilst also adjusting the ‘Light Tuner’ setting. For our ‘Test Settings’ we adjusted both settings in a specific way, which achieved better tracking of the ‘2.2’ curve on our unit. Despite the gamma now averaging ‘2.1’, it doesn’t have the same significant bowing as you can see in the second image. The third image shows gamma tracking using the ‘sRGB’ setting, which tracks the ‘2.2’ curve closely. Achieving this sort of tracking with the native gamut would require calibration (profiling) with a colorimeter or alternative calibration device.

Gamma 'LT 0, Gamma 3'

Gamma 'LT 0, Gamma 3'

Gamma 'Test Settings'

Gamma 'Test Settings'

Gamma 'sRGB'

Gamma 'sRGB'

Given the intended uses for the monitor, inter-unit variation and pleasing performance on our unit with OSD tweaking alone we won’t be using any ICC profiles in this review or including any measurements or graphs using them. We wouldn’t recommend using them unless created for your specific unit using your own calibration device. But we appreciate some users still like to use profiles and some aspects such as gamut mapping for colour-aware applications can be useful. You can download our ICC profile for this model, which was created using our ‘Test Settings’ as a base. You can also download our sRGB profile which was created using and designed for the ‘sRGB’ setting (sRGB emulation mode). Be aware of inter-unit variation and note again that these ICC profiles are not used in the review.

The monitor includes an easily accessible Low Blue Light (LBL) slider, which can be set between ‘1’ (weakest effect) and ‘20’ (strongest effect’). Higher settings such as ‘20’ which we looked at in the table are highly effective, significantly reducing the blue colour channel whilst providing a strengthened red channel and neutral or slightly reduced green channel. This gives a warm amber tint to the image which our eyes adjusted to fairly readily – more easily than if a green or clear yellow tint is provided. This warm look to the image is considered more relaxing by some and can be particularly important in the hours leading up to sleep. We used the strongest setting (‘20’) on top of our ‘Test Settings’ for our own viewing comfort in the evenings. But not for any specific testing beyond that involving the setting itself.

Test Settings

For our ‘Test Settings’ we set ‘Color Mode’ to ‘Custom’ and made various tweaks. These were more extensive than the tweaks we’d usually have to make due to the quirky gamma tracking. We were able to improve this to a satisfactory level, though not completely correct it with OSD tweaking alone. Our unit was very well-balanced with respect to colour channels after switching ‘Color Temperature’ over to ‘User Define’. But note that individual units and preferences vary, so these settings are simply a suggestion and won’t be optimal for all users or units. We’ve also included the refresh rate used in Windows and our preferred ‘AMA’ setting used for most of the review, just for reference. These settings only apply to SDR, HDR has separate settings associated with it (is far more restrictive) and is explored in the relevant section of the review.

Monitor Setup (defaults used for remaining settings)

Color Mode = Custom

Light Tuner = -2

Brightness = 46 (according to preferences and lighting)

Gamma = 2

Color Temperature = User Define

R = 100

G = 100

B = 100

AMA = 2

Refresh rate (Windows setting) = 144Hz


Contrast and brightness

Contrast ratios

An X-Rite i1Display Pro Plus (Calibrite ColorChecker Display Plus) was used to measure the luminance of white and black using various settings, including those found in the calibration section. From these values, static contrast ratios were calculated. The table below shows these results. Blue highlights indicate the results under our ‘Test Settings’ and with HDR active. Black highlights indicate the highest white luminance, lowest black luminance and highest contrast ratio recorded under SDR. Assume any setting not mentioned was left at default, with the exceptions already noted here or in the calibration section. This includes the monitor being set to ‘Custom’ and ‘Light Tuner’ set to ‘0’ for the SDR readings on this table – aside from under ‘sRGB’ which is a separate ‘Color Mode’ entirely.

Additional patch size readings for ‘Display HDR, Backlight Control = Off’ aren’t documented in the table but were recorded and graphed. The white luminance readings are the same regardless of patch size as no Dynamic Contrast, local dimming or ABL (Automatic Brightness Limiter) is used with this configuration. Also note that ‘Blur Reduction’ was tested at 120Hz and 100Hz as well as at 144Hz, but this didn’t impact brightness or contrast.


*HDR measurements were made using this YouTube HDR brightness test video, running full screen at ‘2160p 4K HDR’ on Google Chrome. The maximum reading using the patch size (measurement area) specified in the table was used. The black luminance was taken at the same point of the video with the colorimeter offset to the side of the white test patch, equidistant between the test patch and edge of the monitor bezel.

**These readings were taken using the above test. A reading was taken using a white screen fill (‘all pixels’), 30 seconds after it was displayed. This is used to represent the sustained luminance level the monitor can provide under HDR, rather than the peak luminance achieved for smaller sections of the screen. Because the entire screen is white for this test, black luminance levels can’t be read and an HDR contrast reading can’t be ascertained.

The average contrast ratio with only brightness adjusted was 912:1, just slightly shy of the specified 1000:1 but within normal range for a model with IPS-type panel. The peak contrast recorded was 972:1, which happened to be using our ‘Test Settings’ which includes the colour channels at their neutral position. Reduced contrast was measured using the ‘Low Blue Light’ settings, particularly ‘20’ which provides the maximum effect – this is due to the significant colour channel adjustments made for these settings. The highest white luminance recorded under SDR was 308 cd/m² (201 cd/m² using ‘Blur Reduction’), whilst the minimum white luminance recorded was 55 cd/m² (53 cd/m² using ‘Blur Reduction’). This provides a luminance adjustment range (without ‘Blur Reduction’) of 255 cd/m² with a reasonably low minimum and reasonably but not overly bright maximum.

Under HDR the monitor provides local dimming with 16 edge-lit zones running as vertical bands running from left to right with each band extending from the top to bottom of the screen. They’re illuminated from the bottom of the screen. This feature is referred to as ‘Backlight Control’ and accessible using the ‘Display HDR’ setting when an HDR signal is detected. With this we recorded a peak HDR luminance of 506 cd/m², falling short of the specified 600 cd/m². We tested various patch sizes (percentage white window) and were unable to record anything higher – in fact usually, the readings were a fair bit lower. The local dimming algorithm seemed to favour dimming things down where mixtures of light and dark were present – remember each zone runs from the very top to very bottom of the screen and the white patches measured sit in the middle surrounded by black. The maximum contrast recorded under HDR was 4400:1, which is certainly higher than under SDR but not as high as we’ve seen even with a limited number of dimming zones. The monitor doesn’t like to shut off the zones completely even if a zone is only displaying black, perhaps to increase the response speed a bit and also make the dimming of the zone seem slightly gentler and potentially less noticeable. Large areas of ‘pure black’ being displayed like this would be rare in real world content, anyway.

With ‘Backlight Control’ disabled contrast was similar to what it was under SDR, with the monitor staying at a reasonably bright level all the time. The ’HDRi’ settings were curious as they’re supposed allow the brightness to adjust according to room lighting. We tested in various conditions and the maximum change in brightness was still rather subtle – even comparing a dark room to a very bright room. Although not documented, we found increasing the ‘Sensor Sensitivity’ to ‘100’ in the ‘B.I.+’ section of the Eye Care slightly increased the brightness adjustment levels. But comparing a dark to very bright room still yielded ~30 nits difference at most which is nowhere near as much as we’ve seen with this feature on other BenQ models. There were additional changes made to the image to areas such as gamma and colour temperature as ambient lighting chanhged. The sensor did react as expected using ‘B.I.+’ under SDR in terms of brightness adjustment, incidentally. Another oddity was that the black point seemed to stubbornly stay at the same level with both ‘Game HDRi’ and ‘Cinema HDRi’, despite the former showing somewhat lower brightness. The contrast recorded here ranged from 661:1 – 750:1. A significant reduction compared to under SDR and indeed the ‘Display HDR’ setting with ‘Backlight Control’ disabled – the most apples to apples comparison as it uses the same measurement site for the black point and excludes local dimming. The graph below shows the HDR luminance data using the ‘Display HDR’ setting under HDR.

HDR luminance


PWM (Pulse Width Modulation)

The EX3210U does not use PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) to regulate backlight brightness at any level. Instead, DC (Direct Current) is used to moderate brightness. The backlight is therefore considered ‘flicker-free’, which will come as welcome news to those sensitive to flickering or worried about side-effects from PWM usage. The exception to this is with ‘Blur Reduction’ active, a strobe backlight setting which causes the backlight to flicker in sync with the refresh rate of the display. The ‘on phase’ of the strobe is broken up into 2 main smaller pulses with some oscillation between. This oscilloscope trace was taken at 144Hz with ‘Blur Reduction’ enabled, showing this behaviour. In terms of perceived flicker this appeared to us much like the normal single strobe that most strobe backlight settings produce.

Luminance uniformity

Whilst observing a black background in a dark room, using our ‘Test Settings’, we noticed slight backlight bleed and associated clouding. It’s important to remember that individual units vary when it comes to all aspects of uniformity, including backlight bleed and clouding. The following image was taken a few metres back to eliminate ‘IPS glow’. This was observed as a cool silver or warm golden (or slightly orange) haze, depending on angle, which emanates from the corners of the screen. This ‘IPS glow’ blooms out more strongly from steeper angles, as demonstrated in the viewing angles video later.

Monitor displaying black in a dark room

The SpyderX Elite was used to assess the uniformity of lighter shades, represented by 9 equally spaced white quadrants running from the top left to bottom right of the screen. The table below shows the luminance recorded at each quadrant as well as the percentage deviation between each quadrant and the brightest recorded point.

Luminance uniformity table

Luminance uniformity table

The luminance uniformity was variable. The maximum luminance was recorded at ‘quadrant 5’ in the centre of the screen (162.8 cd/m²). The greatest deviation from this occurred at ‘quadrant 4’ to the left of centre (139.0 cd/m², which is 15% dimmer). The average deviation between each quadrant and the brightest point was 8.25%, which is reasonable. Remember that individual units vary when it comes to uniformity and you can expect further deviation beyond the points measured. The contour map below shows these deviations graphically, with darker greys representing lower luminance (greater deviation from brightest point) than lighter greys. The percentage deviation between each quadrant and the brightest point recorded is also given.

Luminance uniformity map

Luminance uniformity map

The SpyderX Elite was also used to analyse variation in the colour temperature (white point) for the same 9 quadrants. The deviation between each quadrant and the quadrant closest to the 6500K (D65) daylight white point target was analysed and a DeltaE value assigned. Darker shades are also used on this map to represent greater deviation from 6500K. A DeltaE >3 represents significant deviation that may be readily noticed by eye.

Colour temperature uniformity map

Colour temperature uniformity map

Results here were quite good, with borderline significant deviation towards the bottom left (DeltaE 3.0) but no further significant deviations recorded. Note again that individual units vary when it comes to uniformity and that you can expect deviation beyond the measured points. It’s also worth noting that due to how wide the gamut is, deviation in colour temperature can appear more exaggerated than these sorts of measurements might suggest. When viewing large patches of bright shade such as white, warm regions can appear with more of a reddish tint than you might expect. And cool regions noticeably cool-tinted or slightly greenish in comparison. This wasn’t a particular issue on our unit – white uniformity was visibly quite good even looking beyond the measurements.

Contrast in games and movies

On Battlefield 2042 the monitor provided reasonable contrast output. With a measured contrast ratio of 972:1 under our ‘Test Settings’, the contrast sits a bit below some IPS models but isn’t the worst we’ve seen. This wasn’t sufficient to give an ‘atmospheric look’ to darker content or scenes dominated by such content, nor did it provide the same ‘inkiness’ or defined look that models with much stronger contrast might provide. ‘IPS glow’ was also a feature, generally observed as a cool silver haze towards the bottom and a warmer golden or slightly orange shade further up, from a normal viewing position. This originates from the corners of the screen and eats away at detail for darker shades, whilst detracting from the atmosphere of darker scenes. ‘IPS glow’ was at the expected level for a screen of this size and is brought out more strongly at higher brightness settings, if sitting closer to the screen or if your unit has significant issues with backlight bleed or clouding. The far from amazing contrast and ‘IPS glow’ was particularly noticeable if sitting in a dimly lit room – with IPS models and LCDs more generally we’d recommend bias lighting or lighting behind the monitor if the room is otherwise dim. The screen provided quite direct emission of light without obvious layering in front of the image, whilst the surface imparted just a light ‘misty’ graininess to lighter content.

We made similar contrast observations on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. There is plenty of darker content interspersed with a few brighter elements – caves and dark passageways lit up by flames or a few point light sources being particularly common here. The monitor again failed to provide strong depth or an atmospheric look, which alongside the ‘IPS glow’ was as expected for the panel type. A key strength of IPS models like this compared to models using other LCD panel types is excellent gamma consistency. Some detail is lost for darker shades peripherally due to ‘IPS glow’, but aside from that is maintained appropriately throughout the screen. In contrast to TN models where there are shifts vertically and VA where some detail is lost centrally and there’s potentially excessive detail peripherally. Some medium-dark shades were raised just a little due to the gamma handling under our ‘Test Settings’, but unlike with the factory default configuration very dark shades were represented appropriately so unintended detail wasn’t revealed. Deviation from the desired ‘2.2’ gamma elsewhere was also reduced with the OSD tweaks we made. The screen surface again provided quite direct emission of light from the screen for a matte surface, with just a little ‘misty’ graininess.

We also viewed the film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. As with Tomb Raider, this craves a strong contrast performance to look its best. With plenty of dark areas lit up by a few sources of light, such as explosions, flames and lightsabers. The contrast experience was again not sufficient to deliver the desired look to such scenes. Whilst not the worst we’ve seen in that respect, some IPS models are a touch stronger – although without a complex FALD solution, IPS panels are always quite limited in that respect. The film is presented in a ‘letterboxed’ format, so there are black bars at the top and bottom. Particularly if viewed in dimmer lighting conditions, these highlighted the weaknesses in static contrast and ‘IPS glow’ quite readily. In a brighter room the weaknesses in contrast performance were far less apparent. The screen surface didn’t provide a layered appearance in front of the image, with a touch of ‘misty’ graininess. Light striking the surface often imparted a ‘glassy’ appearance as described earlier in the review, too.

Lagom contrast tests

The Lagom tests for contrast allow specific weaknesses in contrast performance to be identified. The following observations were made in a dark room.

  • The contrast gradients were presented well overall with distinct brightness steps in most cases. The darkest blue block was just a touch less distinct from the background than it ideally would be.
  • Performance on the black level test was good. The first few blocks were very difficult to distinguish from the background, which is expected for appropriate ‘2.2’ gamma tracking. The remaining blocks were distinct from the background and one another, though the blocks on the 2nd and 3rd rows were a touch lighter than they should be due to the gamma tracking. No obvious dithering was observed.
  • Performance on the white saturation was good, with all patterns visible against the background. The final pattern was a little fainter than it could be, as usual, and masked slightly by the misty graininess of the screen surface.
  • The greyscale gradient appeared smooth without obvious banding or dithering.

Colour reproduction

Colour gamut

The monitor uses a Quantum Dot (QD) backlight solution to enhance the gamut, employing blue LEDs layered with red and green Quantum Dots. This creates much larger peaks of green and red light than you’d see on your typical standard gamut monitor. These strong green and red peaks enhance the colour gamut whilst also creating a more balanced and less blue-biased spectral profile, potentially aiding viewing comfort. The colour gamut of the EX3210U is shown as a red triangle below. It was compared with the sRGB (green triangle) and DCI-P3 (blue triangle) reference colour spaces using our ‘Test Settings’, as shown in the first image below. The gamut fully covers sRGB (100%) with significant extension beyond. We recorded 96% DCI-P3 coverage which is just slightly shy of the specified 98% DCI-P3. The exact measured gamut can vary depending on measurement instrument and software, with slight inter-unit variation also possible. This undersells the gamut, really, as there is also significant extension beyond DCI-P3 for the green to blue edge and for some red shades. The second image shows the monitor’s colour gamut (red triangle) compared to Adobe RGB (purple triangle). We recorded 100% Adobe RGB coverage with some extension beyond, particularly in the red region. This gamut is very generous, so for standard sRGB content outside of a colour-managed environment there’s significant extra vibrancy and saturation.

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut 'Test Settings' vs. Adobe RGB

Colour gamut 'Test Settings' vs. Adobe RGB

The monitor offers an sRGB emulation setting, switching ‘Color Mode’ to ‘sRGB’ in the OSD. This cuts down on the gamut very effectively – we recorded 100% sRGB coverage using this setting with only the slightest sliver of extension beyond in the green region. Brightness can be adjusted with this setting active and so can ‘AMA’, though many other settings are locked off including gamma, colour channels and ‘Blur Reduction’. To maximise colour accuracy within the sRGB colour space, for colour-managed workflows, full calibration and profiling with a colorimeter or similar device is recommended. The highly customisable ‘Custom’ preset will allow colour channel adjustment on the monitor and should provide good results within the sRGB colour space. The generous DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB coverage would also make the monitor suitable for work within those wider colour spaces. Calibration using the ‘sRGB’ setting may be preferred for some who wish to work only within the sRGB colour space and gain good appropriate saturation levels outside of colour-aware applications as well. You may try the ICC profiles featured in the calibration section which include various corrections including gamut mapping for colour-aware applications, but best results are always obtained by calibrating your own unit with your own hardware.

Colour gamut 'sRGB'

Colour gamut 'sRGB'

Instead of using this ‘sRGB’ setting and putting up with the associated restrictions, AMD users can activate a flexible sRGB emulation setting via the graphics driver. This is done by opening ‘AMD Software’, clicking ‘Settings’ (cog icon towards top right) and clicking on ‘Display’. You should then ensure that the ‘Custom Color’ slider to the right is set to ‘Enabled’ and ‘Color Temperature Control’ set to ‘Disabled’. It may appear to be set this way by default, but the native rather than restricted gamut is likely in play. If that’s the case, simply switch the ‘Color Temperature Control’ slider to ‘Enabled’ then back to ‘Disabled’ to leverage the sRGB emulation behaviour. This setting is shown in the image below.

AMD Color Temperature Control disabled

The gamut below shows results using our ‘Test Settings’ with this driver tweak applied. The colour gamut now covers 95% sRGB with very little extension beyond, so you lose a bit of coverage compared to using the sRGB setting of the monitor. This driver setting offers reasonable tracking of sRGB and helps to cut down on the colour gamut without profiling, including in applications that aren’t colour managed. And you don’t have to put up with restrictions associated with the monitor’s sRGB emulation setting such as locked colour channels.

Colour gamut AMD 'CTC disabled' setting

Colour gamut AMD 'CTC disabled' setting

Whilst Nvidia doesn’t have a similar option in their graphics driver, a third party tool called ‘novideo_srgb’ can be used. This provides a similarly effective GPU-side gamut clamp to the AMD driver option. The resulting gamut was very similar to that shown above with the AMD tweak – this is expected given it uses the same data from the EDID of the monitor. The tool and its usage is covered in our sRGB emulation article. As covered in the article, the tool can also provide DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB emulation. It can remove over-extension in the gamut but can’t add additional coverage, so you won’t quite get full DCI-P3 coverage.

Colour in games and movies

Colour output was vibrant on Battlefield 2042. As with most content observed under SDR, whether gaming or on the desktop, things are designed with the sRGB colour space in mind here. If the monitor’s gamut extends beyond this, it invites extra saturation and vibrancy that goes beyond the intentions of the creators. With a measured gamut of 96% DCI-P3 and some extension beyond, there was certainly a good dose of extra saturation and a vibrant look to things here. Earthy and woody brown shades often had their red component brought out too strongly, whilst greens sometimes had a somewhat neon appearance. With yellowish greens overly yellow and some other shades simply more bright, eye-catching and less muted than intended. Sky blues were also rather strong, giving a vibrant look to many outdoor daylight scenes. This vibrancy was shared by brightly painted red and blue objects, bright orange cones, bright red flowers and roaring flames – with some particularly strong (if overly red) oranges observed. This is certainly a vivid look, which some will appreciate.

We also observed Shadow of the Tomb Raider, where similar observations were made. A definite dose of extra vibrancy and saturation. There were some very lush-looking forest greens, though some shades appeared more neon and less muted than intended. Earthy browns again had a red push in places that’s beyond what’s intended, whilst some skin tones appeared too rich or tanned. Skies were also rather eye-catching in places due to the extension beyond sRGB in the cyan (blue to green) region of the gamut. On both titles and indeed more broadly the strong colour consistency of the panel was evident, ensuring saturation levels were maintained well throughout the screen. In contrast to VA models where some saturation is lost peripherally or TN models where there’s a vertical saturation gradient. Some will very much enjoy the level of vibrancy provided by the native gamut, but for those seeking a more ‘as the developers intend’ and toned-down appearance the sRGB emulation setting (switching ‘Color Mode’ to ‘sRGB’) might be preferable.

We also made observations on the TV series Futurama, which features large areas of individual shade and is therefore an unforgiving test for colour consistency. The monitor performed well here, without obvious shifts in saturation. Minor shifts could be observed in places, for example Leela’s purple hair appearing with a bit more of a pink tint peripherally. But such shifts were significantly lower than you’d observe on VA or TN models and also lower than some IPS models. Shades were presented in a vibrant and punchy way, which made shades such as neon greens, bright pinks and deep oranges stand out in a rather eye-catching way. Pastel shades were more saturated than intended, with extra richness and ‘pop’. Overall shade variety was excellent, though, so such shades remained distinct from one another and distinctly less saturated than the bright and vibrant neon-looking shades.

Shade representation using SpyderCHECKR 24

The image below shows a printed reference sheet of 24 ‘sRGB’ shades, included as part of the Datacolor SpyderCHECKR 24 package. The screen is displaying reference photographs of this printed sheet, in both the same order as printed (right side) and reverse order (left side). The camera is mounted slightly above centre so that the image is representative of what the eye sees from an ergonomically correct viewing position. This, coupled with the inclusion of a flipped version of the shade sheet, allows both accuracy and colour consistency to be visually assessed. Bracketed numbers in our analysis refer to shades on the printed sheet or right side of the screen if they’re ordered consecutively from top left to bottom right.

Note that there is always some disparity between how emissive objects (monitor) and non-emissive objects (printed sheet) appear. The monitor is set to a very low brightness to help minimise this disparity. The representation of shades in this image depends on the camera and your own screen, it’s not designed to show exactly how the shades appear in person. It still helps demonstrate some of the relative differences between the original intended sRGB shade and what the monitor outputs, however. Full profiling and appropriate colour management on the application would provide a tighter match, our intention here is to show what can be expected in a non colour-managed environment.

SpyderCHECKR 24 'Test Settings'

The monitor provides vibrant shade output using its generous native colour gamut. There’s significant extension beyond sRGB in various regions of the gamut. There’s an eye-catching look to red-biased shades such as medium orange (3), tango pink (11) and candy apple red (14) with the latter appearing somewhat neon. There’s also a noteworthy red push to peach pink (20) and light chocolate brown (24), whilst gamboge (23) also appears a touch too rich with too much orange. There’s significant extra vibrancy and saturation to some of the other shades displayed as well, such as cerulean (2) and dark lime green (18) which appear somewhat livelier and more eye-catching than intended. Lemon yellow (10) as displayed on the screen appears brighter in the photo than it did to the eye – visually it was actually a bit richer on the monitor than on the sheet. Colour consistency is strong overall, without the clear saturation shifts observed on VA or TN models depending on the on-screen position of the shade. There are slight shifts in places for uniformity reasons but these were minor and if anything exaggerated slightly in the photo. The image below shows how things appeared with ‘Color Mode’ set to ‘sRGB’.

SpyderCHECKR 24 'sRGB'

The saturation levels are now significantly reduced and most shades now match their intended look more closely. There’s a bit of undersaturation to some shades – medium orange (3) for example is a bit paler than it should be and neighbouring aquamarine (4) appears too icy. This is exaggerated slightly in the photo, but our unit did have quite a high white point with the ‘sRGB’ setting which can’t be corrected in the OSD. Gamboge (23) now appears too much on the yellow end, too. Shades such as candy apple red (14), light chocolate brown (24) and dark lime green (18) have been nicely toned down and match the intended look more closely. Most remaining shades do as well. As usual, we’d recommend profiling the monitor with your own calibration device if you require the highest level of colour accuracy.

Viewing angles

Lagom’s tests for viewing angle tests help explore the idea of colour consistency and viewing angle performance. The following observations were made from a normal viewing position, eyes ~70cm from the screen.

  • The purple block appeared pinkish purple throughout the screen. It appeared just slightly pinker peripherally, with a slight pink hue shift alongside head movement. We didn’t observe the sort of clear flashes of pink and shifts between pink and purple with a little head movement you’d observe with TN or VA panels.
  • The red block appeared quite a consistent rich red throughout the screen. It was a very slightly duller red near the extreme edges, but this was a relatively subtle shift. There were no clear saturation shifts as you’d observe on VA or TN models or as much peripheral dulling as weaker IPS performers might show.
  • The green block appeared saturated green chartreuse throughout. It was very slightly lighter (more yellow) near the extreme edges, but this was again subtle. It was free from the clear shifts between a purer green and more yellowish shade as you’d observe on TN and VA models.
  • The blue block appeared royal blue throughout.
  • The Lagom text appeared with pinkish red striping throughout the screen, very slightly lighter towards the extreme edges. This tint is due to the combination of gamma handling and generous native gamut. Switching over sRGB rectifies both things and gives the text a more blended grey appearance to its striping. The consistency was strong either way, without clear shifts between saturated red, orange and green at different points of the screen or with a bit of head movement. This indicates a low viewing angle dependency to the gamma curve of the monitor, as expected for an IPS-type panel.

Lagom Text Test

The video below shows the Lagom text test, a mixed desktop background, game scene and dark desktop background from various viewing angles. The colour shifts for the mixed desktop background and game scene are relatively minor, significantly lower than you’d observe on VA or TN models. There’s some ‘hazing’ (contrast loss) from sharper angles, mainly horizontally, but this is at quite a typical level for an IPS-type panel. The dark desktop background highlights ‘IPS glow’, which blooms out as viewing angle increases. This appears as a cool silver or warmer golden or slightly orange shade depending on angle.


Interlace pattern artifacts

On some monitors, particularly but not exclusively those with high refresh rates, interlace patterns can be seen during certain transitions. We refer to these as ‘interlace pattern artifacts’ but some users refer to them as ‘inversion artifacts’ and others as ‘scan lines’. They may appear as an interference pattern, mesh or interlaced lines which break up a given shade into a darker and lighter version of what is intended. They often catch the eye due to their dynamic nature, on models where they manifest themselves in this way. Alternatively, static interlace patterns may be seen with some shades appearing as faint horizontal or vertical bands of a slightly lighter and slightly darker version of the intended shade. We did not observe either artifact type on this monitor.

Responsiveness

Input lag

A sensitive camera and a utility called SMTT 2.0 was used to analyse the latency of the EX3210U. Over 30 repeat readings were taken to help maximise accuracy. Using this method, we calculated 2.72ms (under ½ a frame at 144Hz) of input lag and recorded similar values at other refresh rates including 60Hz and 120Hz. This figure is influenced by both the element of input lag you ‘see’ (pixel responsiveness) and the main element you ‘feel’ (signal delay). It indicates a very low signal delay which shouldn’t be bothersome even for sensitive users. Note that we don’t have the means to accurately measure input lag with VRR technology active in a VRR environment or HDR active in an HDR environment.

Perceived blur (pursuit photography)

Our article on responsiveness explores various factors affecting monitor responsiveness. A key concept explored is ‘perceived blur’, contributed to by both the pixel responses of the monitor and movement of your eyes as you observe motion on the screen. This second factor dominates on modern monitors, but both factors play an important role. A photography technique called ‘pursuit photography’ is also described, using a moving rather than stationary camera to capture motion on the screen in a way that reflects both parts of perceived blur. Rather than only reflecting the pixel response element.

The images below are pursuit photographs taken using the UFO Motion Test for ghosting, with the test running at its default speed of 960 pixels per second. This is a good practical speed to take such photographs at and highlights both elements of perceived blur well. The UFOs move across the screen from left to right at a frame rate matching the refresh rate of the display. All three rows of the test are analysed to highlight a range of pixel transitions. The monitor was tested at 60Hz (directly below), 120Hz and 144Hz using all available ‘AMA’ (Advanced Motion Acceleration) pixel overdrive settings. The two final columns show reference screens, both with IPS-type panels, set to what we consider their optimal response time setting for a given refresh rate. The Gigabyte M32U which is quite fast and provides a well-rounded performance and the ASUS PG32UQX which is rather slow for a modern IPS model.

Note that wavy patterns surrounding some UFOs in the background are slight image retention. This was only observed during this test and is something we’ve seen on various monitors before. It soon disappeared when using monitor normally.

Perceived blur, 60Hz

At 60Hz, above, the UFO appears soft and unfocused without clear internal detailing. This reflects a moderate amount of perceived blur due to eye movement. Trailing is observed in places behind the UFO, due to weaknesses in pixel response time or overshoot (inverse ghosting) from aggressive pixel overdrive. There’s a fair bit of ‘powdery’ trailing with a bold initial section near the UFO with ‘AMA = 0’. These weaknesses are less apparent using ‘AMA = 1’, though a bit of powdery trailing remains for the dark background (top row) with a slightly bold initial section for the medium background (middle row). There’s just a touch of overshoot for the light background (bottom row) – ‘halo’ trailing that’s a touch lighter than the background shade. The reference screens show less ‘powdery trailing’ in comparison, without strong overshoot. Using ‘AMA = 2’ acceleration is ramped up a fair bit with all rows showing some ‘halo’ trailing. In practice we found it fairly eye-catching for the bottom row, standing out more due to its brightness than it does in the image. These overshoot levels are not extreme by any means and are lower than you might expect based on performance at higher refresh rate (explored shortly) – this is due to a degree of variable overdrive being used, explored in relation to FreeSync shortly. ‘AMA = 3’ ramps up the overdrive in a way that’s very distracting in practice. We consider ‘AMA = 1’ or ‘AMA = 2’ optimal here, depending on sensitivity to overshoot. Below you can see how things appear with refresh rate doubled to 120Hz.

Perceived blur, 120Hz

At 120Hz, above, the UFO appears significantly narrower with clearer internal detail. This reflects a significant decrease in perceived blur due to eye movement. The pixel response requirements for a good performance here are significantly increased. ‘AMA = 0’ shows clearer weaknesses now, with some quite bold trailing behind the object – though nothing we’d describe as ‘smeary’ here. ‘AMA = 1’ reduces these weaknesses quite effectively. There’s still a bit of a bold ‘tail’ to the UFO for the medium background which is a bit more pronounced than with the M32U. And some ‘powdery’ trailing behind the cockpit for the dark background – but much less of that than with the PG32UQX. The trailing is reduced with ‘AMA = 2’, with some ‘halo’ trailing introduced. To the eye this was again a bit more eye-catching for the light background than it may appear from the photo. ‘AMA = 3’ ramped up overshoot, with an ‘inky’ look to it in places and extreme ‘halo’ trailing. We again consider ‘AMA = 1’ or ‘AMA = 2’ optimal depending on overshoot sensitivity. It’s worth bearing in mind that this test only shows a small subset of transitions. In practice there are some more pronounced weaknesses (more obvious ‘powdery’ trailing – still not ‘smeary’) where some very dark and very bright shades are involved. This is less apparent with ‘AMA = 2’ but some weaknesses do still persist, beyond what you’d see on the M32U but significantly less apparent than on the PG32UQX. This is explored subjectively shortly. Below you can see how things look with a slight bump in refresh rate to 144Hz.

Perceived blur, 144Hz

At 144Hz, above, the UFO appears very slightly narrower with slightly better definition. This reflects a slight reduction in perceived blur to eye movement – not as significant as the initial boost from 60Hz to 120Hz as this is only an extra 24Hz. The pixel response behaviour is quite comparable to at 120Hz overall. There’s a bit of a step up in pixel response requirements due to the increase in refresh rate, so some of the weaknesses are a touch more pronounced – such as some of the bold trailing that sits close behind the UFO for the medium background. Using ‘AMA = 1’, there’s a bit more ‘powdery trailing’ behind the UFO cockpit and body for the dark background and UFO body for the medium background compared to the M32U. But far fewer weaknesses apparent than on the PG32UQX. ‘AMA = 2’ cuts down on this ‘powdery trailing’ to a fair degree – some overshoot is introduced for the medium and light backgrounds. This ‘halo’ trailing is again more noticeable by eye than it appears in the photo, but it isn’t extreme for these transitions. We again consider ‘AMA = 1’ or ‘AMA = 2’ optimal depending on overshoot sensitivity. We slightly preferred ‘AMA = 2’ in practice and used that for our subjective testing. As mentioned at 120Hz, there are some weaknesses not highlighted with these particular transitions and those are explored subjectively very shortly.

The monitor also includes a setting called ‘Blur Reduction’, which can be used at the same time as VRR technology. This is a strobe backlight setting which forces the backlight to flicker in sync with the refresh rate of the monitor. 100Hz, 120Hz and 144Hz (DP only) can be selected as a static refresh rate, or as the ceiling of operation if using VRR at the same time. The lowest refresh rate the monitor will strobe at is ~77Hz – 93Hz, with the floor of operation varying within that range depending on content. Below that point the monitor resumes its regular VRR operation without ‘Blur Reduction’. Sensitivity to the flickering of the backlight varies and some will find it bothersome whilst others may notice accelerated eye fatigue, even if the flickering isn’t actively bothersome to them. The pursuit photographs below were taken with the monitor set to 100Hz using ‘Blur Reduction’. AMA can be adjusted just as it can without the setting active and our recommendations there would be the same. We’ll just be testing ‘AMA = 1’ and ‘AMA = 2’ here as these are the two optimal settings you will choose from. The reference screens used for comparison are the AOC C24G1 using its ‘MBR’ setting and the Dell S2417DG using its ‘ULMB’ setting. These are both quite useable strobe backlight settings and make appropriate references.

Strobe behaviour was similar regardless of whether VRR was active in the OSD. Subjective analysis over a range of refresh rates is included deeper into the review. Brightness can be adjusted according to taste, as explored earlier. A lower brightness can potentially improve motion clarity, but we didn’t find it had a significant effect in this case – for reference, these photos were taken at minimum brightness.

Perceived blur, 100Hz 'Blur Reduction'

With ‘Blur Reduction’ active at 100Hz, above, the main object is significantly narrower with clearer internal detailing compared to with the setting deactivated. This is true even if you’re using a higher refresh rate with the setting disabled. The segments of the UFO are distinct, with well-defined black lines separating them – these black lines appear somewhat clearer by eye than in the images. Separate white notches can also be seen on each segment, though these are not as crisp and countable as on the S2417DG reference, with the photo fairly representing how they appear by eye. This could be due to some pixel response time weaknesses. There are some repetitions of the object which can broadly be termed ‘strobe crosstalk’ – not extreme in these examples by any means. You can see this both in front and behind for the dark background and only behind for the medium and light backgrounds, but it’s not extreme strobe crosstalk shown here by any means. This is less bold than the strobe crosstalk for the C24G1. There is also some overshoot visible, with this largely replacing the strobe crosstalk when using ‘AMA = 2’. Both the strobe crosstalk and overshoot appears fragmented due to the strobe nature of the backlight. The preferred setting really comes down to preferences here, just like with ‘Blur Reduction’ disabled. The images below show the monitor running at 120Hz, with ‘Blur Reduction’ enabled.

Perceived blur, 120Hz 'Blur Reduction'

With ‘Blur Reduction’ active at 120Hz, above, the UFO is slightly narrower with segmentation somewhat better defined. The black lines are again sharper than in the image – the notches are again more distinct than with the setting deactivated, though not as distinct as on the S2417DG. The strobe crosstalk and overshoot is broadly similar to at 100Hz, though the fragments are narrower and sit closer to the object due to the increased refresh rate. The preferred AMA setting again comes down to personal preference. The images below show the monitor running with ‘Blur Reduction’ at 144Hz. The AOC AG251FG is used as the ULMB reference here as the S2417DG can’t strobe at 144Hz.

Perceived blur, 144Hz 'Blur Reduction'

With ‘Blur Reduction’ active at 144Hz, above, things don’t look dramatically different to at 120Hz. The UFO segmentation is very slightly more distinct by eye than at 120Hz – and in both cases somewhat more distinct than it appears in the images. The white notches are again not as distinct as they are for the ULMB reference, but don’t just blur together completely like they do with ‘Blur Reduction’ disabled. The strobe crosstalk is a touch stronger for the dark background due to the increased pixel response requirements here. Overshoot is reduced slightly and again the choice between ‘AMA = 1’ and ‘AMA = 2’ comes down to overshoot tolerance – we preferred ‘AMA = 2’ in practice and used that for our subjective testing.

It’s important to note that strobe crosstalk varies at different areas of the screen. Not all areas refresh simultaneously, so its appearance can differ depending on how high up or low down on the screen movement is being observed. The image below is a pursuit photo with the UFO shown at various positions of the screen, from top to bottom, at a refresh rate of 144Hz with ‘AMA = 2’. Strobe crosstalk positioning was similar at decreased refresh rates. Overshoot was just slightly stronger as refresh rate was reduced, but the differences in that and strobe crosstalk were not dramatic. The ‘- Middle -‘ marker denotes the central region of the screen. Note that this image does not accurately show the clarity of the object itself, but allows analysis of strobe crosstalk and other imperfections such as overshoot.

Strobe Crosstalk, 144Hz 'Blur Reduction'

You can see varying levels of strobe crosstalk depending on how far up or down the screen you’re observing. Higher up the screen there is quite strong strobe crosstalk in front of the object and lower down behind the object. But it’s the central bands of the screen where your eyes will spend most of their time focusing on competitive titles – those which see most benefit from the setting. And here, the strobe crosstalk levels were low, whilst there wasn’t strong overshoot either. Strobe crosstalk and overshoot levels can vary depending on the transitions performed, so we also provide broader subjective analysis a little later on.

Responsiveness in games and movies

On various Battlefield titles, with the frame rate keeping up with the 144Hz refresh rate, the monitor provided a fluid experience. The monitor outputs up to 2.4 times as much visual information per second as a 60Hz monitor, or this monitor running at 60Hz (or 60fps). This significantly enhances the ‘connected feel’, which describes the precision and fluidity felt when interacting with the game. This was also aided by the low input lag of the monitor – and more specifically the very low signal delay. The high frame and high refresh rate combination also reduces perceived blur due to eye movement, something demonstrated using Test UFO earlier on. This provides a competitive edge by making it easier to track and engage enemies, whilst some will find the gaming experience or simply general usage of the monitor more comfortable. It complements the high pixel density well, too, with details better preserved during motion than at 60Hz.

The other important part of the perceived blur equation is pixel responsiveness. As highlighted earlier with the pursuit photographs, the monitor did have some weaknesses in that respect. Using our preferred ‘AMA = 2’ setting, there was a fair bit of overshoot. This was particularly visible as ‘halo’ trailing that’s quite a bit brighter than the background shade. Mainly, but not exclusively, where medium to light backgrounds (e.g. daylight sky, smoke etc.) are present. Sometimes ‘dirty trailing’ was visible, which is darker than the background or object shade – but this was relatively faint and not deep and inky by any means. The overshoot is toned down using ‘AMA =1’, but it’s replaced by ‘powdery trailing’ – which is more widespread and extensive than that observed using ‘AMA = 2’. It adds an additional mask of perceived blur which is more significant than that experienced using ‘AMA = 2’. There are still some transitions using ‘AMA = 2’ that provide more extended or bolder ‘powdery’ trailing, more significant than what was shown by the pursuit photos. Mainly where very bright or very dark shades are involved. It isn’t ‘smeary’ in appearance and is very different to what your typical VA model would show, but these pixel responses are certainly slower than on faster IPS models like the Gigabyte M32U.

Similar observations were made on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. There are plenty of very dark and very bright shades combining on this title, presenting those ‘high contrast’ transitions this model struggles a bit with. And there’s again widespread and in places potentially eye-catching overshoot – sensitivity to this varies and again turning down the ‘AMA’ setting is an option. The lack of the sort of ‘smeary’ trailing you’d see on most VA models and a lack of extreme overshoot was certainly good to see, even if a natively faster panel which requires less aggressive pixel overdrive would naturally perform better. We also observed video content at a range of refresh rates, including ~24 – 30fps content on platforms such as Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video as well as 60fps content on YouTube. Aside from a touch of overshoot in places (faint and short-lived – less noticeable than for higher frame rate gaming content) there were no real weaknesses from the pixel responses of the monitor. Some may prefer ‘AMA = 1’ to cut down on the overshoot, with performance still good for these sorts of frame rates using that setting. The main barrier to fluidity was the frame rate of the content itself rather than weaknesses related to the pixel responses of the monitor.

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BenQ EX3210U


Blur Reduction

Earlier in the review we covered ‘Blur Reduction’, including its principles of operation and how it performs using specific tests. When using a strobe backlight feature it’s very important that your frame rate matches the refresh rate precisely, otherwise you’re left with particularly obvious stuttering or juddering. It stands out so clearly as there’s very little perceived blur due to eye movement to mask it. Blur Reduction on this monitor can be used alongside VRR technology (Adaptive-Sync or HDMI 2.1 VRR), which avoids such issues within its range of operation. Below ~77 – 93Hz Blur Reduction deactivated and the monitor returned to its normal operation. The point of deactivation seemed to vary in different scenarios and wasn’t a well-defined and precise point. You can’t activate HDR with ‘Blur Reduction’ active, but most other features in the OSD remain accessible including ‘AMA’, colour channel controls, brightness and even ‘B.I.+’. We tested this feature using various Battlefield titles which we’ll use as reference for this section.

Overall, the technology worked well, achieving its stated goal of blur reduction. Or more specifically, reducing perceived blur due to eye movement. It also worked well with VRR active at the same time, without unexpected behaviour. The greatest benefits in terms of ‘connected feel’ and minimal perceived blur still come at higher refresh rates, but it certainly makes dips in frame rate more palatable when they aren’t accompanied by extremely obvious stuttering or tearing and juddering. As covered earlier there was some strobe crosstalk in places, though this was generally at reasonable levels centrally which is the main area your eyes focus during competitive play. And that’s really what this mode is designed for. It was higher for some transitions, particularly involving very dark shades or very bright shades against contrasting backgrounds. These are the same transitions the monitor struggles a bit with when the technology is not used. The overshoot demonstrated with pursuit photographs earlier was also a feature – not extreme overshoot by any means, particularly at triple digit refresh rates. Some may prefer the balance of ‘AMA = 1’, as noted earlier, though this increases strobe crosstalk somewhat as well.

Overall, we didn’t generally find the strobe crosstalk or overshoot strong enough to detract from the obvious perceived blur reduction offered by this mode. Because the monitor uses a QD LED backlight rather than relying on KSF phosphors to achieve its wide native gamut, you don’t have issues with red or magenta fringing or related colourful flashes. We find such issues rather distracting and some others would as well, so it’s nice not having to worry about that here. There is still flickering due to the nature of how the strobe backlight mode works and this does become more noticeable at decreased refresh rates. Sensitivity to this varies and it simply comes with the territory with such modes. Overall, considering the performance provided here, VRR support on top and the flexibility you maintain in the OSD with the setting active we found this to be one of the better strobe backlight implementations we’ve come across. And easily the best we’ve experienced or are aware of on a ‘4K’ UHD model.

VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) technology

FreeSync – the technology and activating it

AMD FreeSync is a variable refresh rate technology, an AMD-specific alternative to Nvidia G-SYNC. Where possible, the monitor dynamically adjusts its refresh rate so that it matches the frame rate being outputted by the GPU. Both our responsiveness article and the G-SYNC article linked to explore the importance of these two elements being synchronised. At a basic level, a mismatch between the frame rate and refresh rate can cause stuttering (VSync on) or tearing and juddering (VSync off). FreeSync also boasts reduced latency compared to running with VSync enabled, in the variable frame rate environment in which it operates.

FreeSync requires a compatible AMD GPU such as the Radeon RX 580 used in our test system. The monitor itself must support ‘VESA Adaptive-Sync’ for at least one of its display connectors, as this is the protocol that FreeSync uses. The EX3210U supports FreeSync Premium Pro via DP and HDMI on compatible GPUs and systems. Note that HDR can be activated at the same time as FreeSync. There isn’t a setting to activate or deactivate the technology in the OSD, that’s handled automatically. On the GPU driver side recent AMD drivers make activation of the technology very simple. You should ensure the GPU driver is setup correctly to use FreeSync, so open ‘AMD Software’, click ‘Settings’ (cog icon towards top right) and click on ‘Display’. You should then ensure that the first slider is set to ‘Enabled’ as shown below. The top image shows the monitor connected by DP and the bottom image by HDMI. The setting is referred to as ‘AMD FreeSync Premium Pro’ in both cases, although the exact wording may depend on the driver version you’re using.

Enable FreeSync (DP)

Enable FreeSync (HDMI)

The BenQ supports a variable refresh rate range of 48 – 144Hz (48 – 120Hz via HDMI). That means that if the game is running between 48fps and 144fps, the monitor will adjust its refresh rate to match. When the frame rate rises above 144fps, the monitor will stay at 144Hz and the GPU will respect your selection of ‘VSync on’ or ‘VSync off’ in the graphics driver. With ‘VSync on’ the frame rate will not be allowed to rise above 144fps, at which point VSync activates and imposes the usual associated latency penalty. With ‘VSync off’ the frame rate is free to climb as high as the GPU will output (potentially >144fps). AMD LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) is also supported by this model, which means that the refresh rate will stick to multiples of the frame rate where it falls below the 48Hz (48fps) floor of operation for FreeSync. If a game ran at 38fps, for example, the refresh rate would be 76Hz to help keep tearing and stuttering at bay. This feature is used regardless of VSync setting, so it’s only above the ceiling of operation where the VSync setting makes a difference.

To configure VSync, open ‘AMD Software’. Click ‘Settings’ (cog icon towards top right) and click ‘Graphics’. The setting is listed as ‘Wait for Vertical Refresh’. This configures it globally, but if you wish to configure it for individual games click ‘Game Graphics’ towards the top right. The default is ‘Off, unless application specifies’ which means that VSync will only be active if you enable it within the game itself, if there is such an option. Such an option does usually exist – it may be called ‘sync every frame’ or something along those lines rather than simply ‘VSync’. Most users will probably wish to enable VSync when using FreeSync to ensure that they don’t get any tearing. You’d therefore select either the third or fourth option in the list, shown in the image below. Above this dropdown list there’s a toggle for ‘Radeon Enhanced Sync’. This is an alternative to VSync which allows the frame rate to rise above the refresh rate (no VSync latency penalty) whilst potentially keeping the experience free from tearing or juddering. This requires that the frame rate comfortably exceeds the refresh rate, not just peaks slightly above it. We won’t be going into this in detail as it’s a GPU feature rather than a monitor feature.

VSync options

Some users prefer to leave VSync enabled but use a frame rate limiter set a few frames below the maximum supported (e.g. 141fps) instead, avoiding any VSync latency penalty at frame rates near the ceiling of operation or tearing from frame rates rising above the refresh rate. The monitor does not include a ‘frame counter’ (refresh rate display) feature and the refresh rate shown in the OSD only reflects the refresh rate you’ve selected for the monitor. So there is no clear indication that VRR is doing its thing – aside from the lack of tearing and stuttering due to mismatches. If the setting is configured correctly in the graphics driver, as described earlier, the monitor should display ‘FreeSync Premium’ (SDR) or ‘FreeSync Premium Pro’ (HDR) in the OSD rather than ‘FreeSync OFF’.

Finally, it’s worth noting that FreeSync only removes stuttering or juddering related to mismatches between frame rate and refresh rate. It can’t compensate for other interruptions to smooth game play, for example network latency or insufficient system memory. Some game engines will also show stuttering (or ‘hitching’) for various other reasons which won’t be eliminated by the technology.

FreeSync – the experience

As usual, we tested various game titles using AMD FreeSync, with the experience very similar in all cases. Issues affecting one title but not others would suggest a problem with the game or GPU driver rather than the monitor. For the sake of simplicity we’ll just focus on Battlefield titles here. They offer a good range of graphics settings, allowing the full VRR range to be analysed on our Radeon RX 580. This isn’t the most powerful GPU on the market by a long way, so it was common to see dips below 144fps even with greatly reduced graphics settings. Without the technology active tearing (VSync off) or stuttering (VSync on) can be observed due to the frame and refresh rate being out of sync. FreeSync ensured synchronisation between the two, getting rid of such issues – very welcome if you’re sensitive to tearing or stuttering. Drops in frame rate still reduce the ‘connected feel’ and increase perceived blur due to eye movement, however.

The monitor doesn’t use tightly tuned variable overdrive which would carefully re-tune the pixel overdrive and significantly slacken off acceleration levels as refresh rate drops. Using our preferred setting of ‘AMA = 2’, there was moderate overshoot at high refresh rates. This increased slightly as refresh rate dipped, although didn’t become as extreme as you might expect. So at least some degree of variable overdrive did appear to be in use even if it wasn’t tightly tuned or highly effective variable overdrive. Sensitivity to overshoot varies, but we found it became rather strong for some transitions by low triple digit and certainly into double digit refresh rates. To give a broad recommendation, you may wish to switch over to ‘AMA = 1’ if you’re frequently dipping into double-digit refresh rates. But different settings will work for different people. The technology worked down to the floor of operation of 48Hz (48fps), below which LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) kicked in. LFC keeps the refresh rate at a multiple of the frame rate to keep tearing and stuttering at bay. There was a subtle momentary stuttering when LFC activated or deactivated, something we always observe and not specific to this model. It was much less noticeable than traditional stuttering from frame and refresh rate mismatches, but if you’re sensitive to it and frequently passing the boundary it could be annoying.

Nvidia Adaptive-Sync (‘G-SYNC Compatible’)

As noted earlier, AMD FreeSync makes use of Adaptive-Sync technology on a compatible monitor. As of driver version 417.71, users with Nvidia GPUs (GTX 10 series and newer) and Windows 10 or later can also make use of this Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) technology. When a monitor is used in this way, it is something which Nvidia refers to as ‘G-SYNC Compatible’. Some models are validated as G-SYNC compatible, which means they have been specifically tested by Nvidia and pass certain quality checks. With the EX3210U you can connect the monitor up via either DisplayPort 1.4 or HDMI 2.1 to use ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’, with the latter technically making use of HDMI 2.1’s integrated VRR functionality rather than Adaptive-Sync. There’s no OSD setting for Adaptive-Sync on the monitor, that’s handled automatically. When you open up Nvidia Control Panel, you should then see ‘Set up G-SYNC’ listed in the ‘Display’ section. Ensure the ‘Enable G-SYNC, G-SYNC Compatible’ checkbox and ‘Enable settings for the selected display model’ is checked as shown below and press ‘OK’. If you’ve enabled ‘G-SYNC Compatible’ and it was previously disabled, the monitor should re-establish its connection with the system and the technology should now be active.

G-SYNC Compatible settings

You will also see in the image above that it states: “Selected Display is not validated as G-SYNC Compatible.” This means Nvidia hasn’t specifically tested and validated the display, not that it won’t work. On our RTX 3090 the experience was very similar to what we described with FreeSync. With the technology getting rid of tearing and stuttering from what would otherwise be frame and refresh rate mismatches, within the VRR range. An LFC-like frame to refresh multiplication technology was employed below that to keep tearing and stuttering from frame and refresh rate mismatches at bay. There was again a subtle momentary stuttering as the boundary was crossed, as we observed with our AMD GPU as well. Our suggestions regarding use of VSync also apply, but you’re using Nvidia Control Panel rather than AMD Software to control this. The setting is found in ‘Manage 3D settings’ under ‘Vertical sync’, where the final option (‘Fast’) is equivalent to AMD’s ‘Enhanced Sync’ setting. You’ll also notice ‘G-SYNC Compatible’ listed under ‘Monitor Technology’ in this section, as shown below. Make sure this is selected (it should be if you’ve set everything up correctly in ‘Set up G-SYNC’).

G-SYNC Compatible settings

Note again that the monitor does not include a ‘frame counter’ (refresh rate display) feature and the refresh rate shown in the OSD only reflects the refresh rate you’ve selected for the monitor. So there is no clear indication that VRR is doing its thing – aside from the lack of tearing and stuttering due to mismatches. If the setting is configured correctly in the graphics driver, as described earlier, the monitor should display ‘FreeSync Premium’ in the OSD rather than ‘FreeSync OFF’. This should also be displayed in the if using ‘G-SYNC Compatible’ via HDMI 2.1 VRR. And as with the AMD FreeSync Premium Pro, HDR can be used at the same time as ‘G-SYNC Compatible’.

HDMI 2.1 VRR

HDMI 2.1 includes Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) support as part of the specification. This is an integrated technology, which unlike FreeSync does not rely on VESA Adaptive-Sync to function. As such it be used by devices such as the PS5 that don’t support Adaptive-Sync. It can also be leveraged via ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’ on compatible Nvidia GPUs. Based on our testing of ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’ using HDMI 2.1 VRR, the experience was very similar to the Adaptive-Sync experience under SDR and HDR. ‘Blur Reduction’ is also available to use with HDMI 2.1 VRR, if you wish.

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

HDR (High Dynamic Range) on an ideal monitor involves very deep dark shades and brilliantly bright light shades being simultaneously displayed. In addition to a broad range of shades between these extremes, including muted pastel shades alongside very vibrant saturated shades. Ideally, per-pixel illumination would be provided (e.g. self-emissive displays such as OLED), or for LCDs a very large number of precisely controlled dimming zones used. A solution such as FALD (Full Array Local Dimming) with a generous number of dimming zones, for example. Such a solution would allow some areas of the screen to remain very dim whilst others show brilliantly high brightness. Colour reproduction is also an important part of HDR, with the ultimate goal being support for a huge colour gamut, Rec. 2020. A more achievable near-term goal is support for at least 90% DCI-P3 (Digital Cinema Initiatives standard colour space) coverage. Finally, HDR makes use of at least 10-bit precision per colour channel, so its desirable that the monitor supports at least 10-bits per subpixel. HDR10 is the most widely supported standard used in HDR games and movies and what is supported here.

For games and other full screen applications that support HDR, the BenQ EX3210U automatically switches to its HDR operating mode if an HDR signal is provided. Some game titles will activate HDR correctly when the appropriate in-game setting is selected. Others that support HDR will only run in HDR if ‘Use HDR’ is turned on in Windows, too. Related Windows HDR settings are found in the ‘Windows HD Color settings’ (Windows 10) or ‘HDR’ (Windows 11) section of ‘Display settings’ (right click the desktop). If you want to view HDR movie content, ensure ‘Stream HDR Video’ (Windows 10) or ‘Play streaming HDR video’ (Windows 11) is active. Also note that there’s an ‘HDR/SDR brightness balance’ (Windows 10) or ‘SDR content brightness’ (Windows 11) slider that allows you to adjust the overall balance of SDR content if HDR is active in Windows. This is really just a digital brightness slider that only makes changes for SDR content, and you lose contrast by adjusting it. The settings in the OSD are greatly restricted under HDR and the gamma and general balance to the image is off when viewing SDR content, so we’d only recommend activating HDR in Windows if you’re about to use an HDR application that specifically requires it.

Windows 10 HDR settings

Windows 11 HDR settings

For simplicity we’ll just focus on Shadow of the Tomb Raider here. This is a title we’ve tested on a broad variety of monitors under HDR and we know it has a good HDR implementation which highlights the strengths and weaknesses of a screen’s HDR capability well. Although our testing focuses on HDR PC gaming with an RTX 3090 hooked up via DP, similar observations were made when viewing HDR video content on the Netflix app. There are some additional points to bear in mind if you wish to view such content. We also made similar observations using HDMI, which would be used when viewing HDR content on an HDR compatible games console for example. Testing on both our Nvidia and AMD GPUs provided a similar experience in both cases via DP, but via HDMI our AMD GPU gave an unusually dull and muted representation under HDR. We’re not sure if this is related to the older HDMI hardware used on this GPU – it doesn’t support HDMI 2.1 so perhaps that was causing some issues here.

The monitor includes three ‘HDR Mode’ settings; ‘Game HDRi’, ‘Cinema HDRi’ and ‘Display HDR’. As noted earlier, these settings act as so-called ‘emulation modes’ under SDR but act as distinct HDR settings when an HDR signal is detected. ‘Game HDRi’ and ‘Cinema HDRi’ incorporate the light sensor, as used for ‘Brightness Intelligence +’ (B.I. +) under SDR. This adjusts the image based on the content being displayed as well as ambient lighting. As we covered earlier, it was very gentle with its brightness adjustments and tended to just stay moderately bright in any lighting conditions. Further adjustments are made to colour temperature, gamma and other elements as well. The HDR10 pipeline has a rather specific set of parameters which a monitor would ideally follow closely. The HDRi modes make various changes to the image (with the ‘Cinema HDR’ mode giving an overly deep look as if gamma is generally too high) and limit the brightness levels, going against the intended look. There is a ‘Backlight Control’ option available with the ‘DisplayHDR’ setting that will enable local dimming – if this is disabled, the backlight will simply stay at it a moderately bright level regardless of content. For these reasons we strongly preferred the ‘Display HDR’ setting with ‘Backlight Control’ enabled and will focus on that for the rest of this section. Subjectively, some may like the look the ‘HDRi’ modes give to the image so should feel free to use them if so. Many settings are locked off under HDR, as usual – including brightness, gamma, ‘Blur Reduction’ and colour channels. You can adjust settings such as ‘Sharpness’ and ‘AMA’ according to taste.

The BenQ EX3210U is VESA DisplayHDR 600 certified, which means it gives a slightly enhanced HDR experience compared to many models – that isn’t really saying much. In terms of colour gamut, 90% DCI-P3 coverage is the minimum required for this HDR certification level. The monitor comfortably exceeded this, with a measured 96% DCI-P3. This is shown in the representation below, where the red triangle shows the monitor’s colour gamut, the blue triangle DCI-P3 and green triangle sRGB. This strong DCI-P3 coverage plus some extension beyond for the green to blue edge of the gamut provides a good level of vibrancy under HDR. Elements that the developers intend to be vibrant are, such as roaring orange flames, deep orange and red lava, lush forest vegetation and brightly painted artifacts. Even more generous Rec. 2020 coverage (more extension beyond DCI-P3) could invite even more vibrancy in places and extra dimming precision could help improve the depth of some medium and darker shades, but vibrancy was still at a good level nonetheless. Because developers target wider colour spaces than sRGB under HDR, the oversaturation observed under SDR wasn’t present. Lara Croft’s skin tone and that of various other characters on the game was appropriately rich without looking too sun-kissed or overdone, earthy browns showed good neutrality rather than having a red push and vegetation appeared appropriate without overdone yellowish greens or an inappropriate slightly neon look.

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'


The HDR10 pipeline uses 10-bits per colour channel, which this monitor also supports via 8-bit + FRC. This enhanced precision aids the nuanced shade variety for darker and brighter shades, whilst allowing the monitor to use its generous colour gamut with appropriate precision. This provides a natural-looking uplift of detail in darker regions, due to the variety of subtly different dark shades provided. This is different to a gamma enhancement that could be applied under SDR, which would artificially raise detail by lightening shades rather than increasing the variety of shades. At the high end the enhanced nuanced variety of bright shades help smooth out gradients and provide more natural shade progressions for various particle effects, weather effects, smoke and suchlike. To really help accentuate this, you’d need a much higher luminance precision than is provided by the backlight here. Under HDR there should be a tight link between the shades outputted and luminance output of the monitor and that’s not possible in this case. The image below shows one of our favourite scenes from Shadow of the Tomb Raider for HDR. Remember that the photo is purely for illustrative purposes and in no way represents how the monitor appeared running HDR in person.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider HDR

This scene highlighted the aforementioned advantages of the 10-bit precision nicely, with a good mixture of shade depths and plenty of subtle variations. The VESA DisplayHDR 600 level requires local dimming and as covered earlier in the contrast and brightness section, that’s provided here if with 16 dimming zones running as vertical bands from the left to right side of the screen. Compared to the ~8.3 million pixels of the screen, this is a small number of dimming zones and therefore precision is very limited. It still provides a situational boost to contrast in some scenes and the zones were certainly reactive rather than ‘laggy’ in their response to changes in the scene. Using the scene above as an example, the brighter shades near the waterfall can be boosted whilst the darker to medium shades for the shaded areas to the left can remain relatively dim. There is of course an intricate mixture of shade depths which isn’t accounted for here and depth is nowhere near as good as it could be for darker and even some medium shades. But there’s still an improvement compared to universal backlight control for scenes like this. For some scenes where there are more intricate mixtures of light and dark the monitor can only do so much with its 16 dimming zones. The dimming algorithm proved quite reactive, but as explored earlier tended to bias towards darker shades where mixtures of bright and dark covered a dimming zone. And didn’t dim to extremely low levels even for very dark content. Overall, we felt it struck a reasonable balance between a situational contrast enhancement and ensuring the zones weren’t abruptly dimming and brightening all the time in a very obvious fashion, particularly where dark shades dominated.

The peak luminance we recorded (506 cd/m²) was decent but not exceptional by HDR standards – it also fell some way short of the specified 600 cd/m² which is the minimum requirement for the VESA DisplayHDR 600 level. We tested various white patch sizes as documented earlier and also took some in-game measurements but couldn’t ever attain a higher brightness than ~506 cd/m². And often it was a fair bit lower, as explained earlier with the limited number of dimming zones and the tendency of the screen to dark-bias for mixed content. This was repeated with our AMD GPU and results were similar. Still, this helped bright elements such as the glint of light on the water stand out with reasonable but not truly brilliant ‘pop’. And with the monitor able to sustain decent brightness levels where bright shades dominated it gave a somewhat more natural look to large areas of daylight. This was certainly not apparent to the extent we’ve seen on some models of the same DisplayHDR tier (such as the Acer XB323U GP) or higher, however. The section of video review below runs through the HDR experience using various scenes from Battlefield V, for a bit of variety. Another game we’ve used extensively on monitors under HDR and know has a good HDR implementation.



The ‘4K’ UHD experience

Our 3840 x 2160 ‘4K’ UHD experience article takes a look at what the resolution brings to the table on a 28” screen, with pixel density of 157.35 PPI (Pixels Per Inch). The 32” screen of the BenQ provides a slightly lower pixel density of 137.68 PPI – so still high for a monitor. This provides a certain ‘UHD’ crispness to text and suitably high resolution content, similar to what’s described in the article. The larger screen size is also more accommodating with this resolution, when it comes to viewing without as much scaling or application-specific zoom. We were happy to use the monitor without any scaling, which offered an excellent level of ‘desktop real-estate’ and multi-tasking potential with strong text clarity. Scaling levels come down to personal preference, however. And as pointed out in the ‘4K UHD Experience’ article, the high pixel density remains regardless of this and provided the text scales ‘cleanly’ (which it does in most cases, on modern versions of Windows) you benefit from the full clarity and crispness of this. The images below show the screen in action on the desktop and doing some multi-tasking natively (100% scaling – no scaling) and with a small amount of scaling applied (125%).

Note that these images are just for illustrative purposes and don’t accurately reflect how the monitor appears in person. Any banding and patchiness on solid backgrounds are artifacts in the image, not observed in person.

The UHD desktop, 100% scaling

The UHD desktop, 125% scaling

Some multi-tasking, 100% scaling

Some multi-tasking, 125% scaling

The 32” screen also provided an enjoyable ‘4K’ UHD gaming experience, with the large size inviting a good level of immersion – but not feeling overbearing from our preferred viewing distance. A screen of this size would also be more practical if you wish to move it back a bit further, too. The strong pixel density provided strong definition and clarity that’s similar to what is described in the article – something which screens of a significantly lower pixel density (e.g. 27” WQHD screens) simply don’t offer. The high refresh rate of the screen, with accompanying high frame rates, also helped preserve this to a greater extent during movement than with significantly lower refresh rates. And it was nice having this spread out across quite a large screen, in our view. The visuals were most impressive for games with high resolution textures, detailed particle effects and suchlike. But even for graphically much simpler titles there’s a defined look to objects and their edges even as you look into the distance on the game, which isn’t seen on models with significantly lower pixel density. The images below show the monitor running various game titles at the native resolution. These are purely for illustrative purposes and in no way indicate how the monitor appears in person.

Battlefield 2042 in UHD

Cyberpunk 2077 in UHD

Shadow of the Tomb Raider in UHD

Interpolation and upscaling

The 3840 x 2160 (‘4K’ UHD) resolution is graphically demanding and not all systems can run it, so it may be desirable or necessary to run at a lower resolution. The monitor is able to use interpolation (scaling) to display lower resolutions such as 1920 x 1080 (‘1080p’ or Full HD) using all 3840 x 2160 pixels of the display. To ensure the monitor rather than GPU is handling the scaling process, as a PC user, you need to ensure the GPU driver is correctly configured so that the GPU doesn’t take over the scaling process. For AMD GPU users the monitor will handle the scaling by default, when gaming at non-native resolutions. Nvidia users should open the Nvidia Control Panel and navigate to ‘Display – Adjust desktop size and position’. They should ensure that ‘No Scaling’ is selected and ‘Perform scaling on:’ is set to ‘Display’ as shown below.

The monitor supports interpolation at various refresh rates including 60Hz, 120Hz and 144Hz. When running 1920 x 1080 @144Hz the monitor reports 2560 x 1440 @144Hz in the OSD. This didn’t appear significantly different in terms of the interpolated image compared to running 1920 x 1080 @120Hz etc. where 1920 x 1080 is reported in the OSD.

Nvidia scaling options

The monitor includes various ‘Display Mode’ settings in the ‘System’ – ‘Display’ section of the OSD when the monitor is running at a non-native resolution. The setting is shown briefly in this section of the OSD video. The default ‘Full’ setting uses interpolation to map the source resolution onto all 3840 x 2160 pixels of the display. There’s also ‘Aspect’, which will use as much screen space as possible without changing the aspect ratio, avoiding any stretching or distortion for non-16:9 resolutions. And finally, ‘1:1’ which is a pixel mapping feature that will only use the pixels called for in the source resolution and fill out the remaining pixels as black space around the image.

When running the monitor at the either 1920 x 1080 (Full HD or 1080p) or 2560 x 1440 (WQHD or 1440p), there was moderate softening. This wasn’t as extreme as on some models and you can access the ‘Sharpness’ control if you prefer to offset some of the softening. Our preference was to set this to ‘7’, but everyone will have their own preferences. The interpolation process worked quite well overall – the WQHD resolution was presented particularly well and didn’t appear dramatically softer than viewing that resolution natively on a screen of this size. Nor did it appear excessively over-sharpened, with the sharpness control again something you can adjust according to preferences. The Full HD resolution appeared a touch soft in a way that can’t be counteracted with the sharpness control (and excessive sharpness can be introduced if that is raised too high). Though even natively, clarity is not really a strong point of any ~32” screen with Full HD resolution. So overall the interpolation process used by the monitor was well-balanced and flexible.

As usual, if you’re running the monitor at 3840 x 2160 and viewing 1920 x 1080 content (for example a video over the internet or a Blu-ray, using movie software) then it is the GPU and software that handles the upscaling. That’s got nothing to do with the monitor itself – there is a very small amount of softening to the image compared to viewing such content on a native Full HD monitor, but it’s slight and shouldn’t bother most users.

Video review

The video below shows the monitor in action. The camera, processing done and your own screen all affect the output – so it doesn’t accurately represent what you’d see when viewing the monitor in person. It still provides useful visual demonstrations and explanations which help reinforce some of the key points raised in the written piece.




Timestamps:
Features & Aesthetics
Contrast
Colour reproduction
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
Responsiveness (General)
Responsiveness (VRR)

Conclusion

The combination of 32” screen size and ‘4K’ UHD resolution is one we often praise, providing a strong pixel density which gives text and suitably high resolution image content a well-defined look. And which facilitates viewing without scaling or with lower levels than for smaller screens with the resolution. The relatively large screen provides ‘desktop real estate’ advantages, whilst also providing an immersive experience for entertainment usage. The monitor makes some fairly bold aesthetic choices, with an orange or coral red coloured striping visible for the long legs of the stand base. The silver plastic which tops this base doesn’t really emit ‘premium’ vibes either, but it does the job. The monitor is otherwise decently solid in its build, with good weight and good ergonomics to go with it – though height adjustment is more limited than some options and there’s no pivot into portrait. We found the integrated speakers and subwoofer performed well – certainly above average for a monitor – and the OSD remote was a useful addition. HDMI 2.1 is also present and correct at full bandwidth, providing a 120Hz ‘4K’ UHD signal for the PS5 and Xbox Series X, alongside integrated VRR support.

The IPS-type panel offered the usual strengths in colour consistency, which was combined with a generous colour gamut covering most of DCI-P3 and all of Adobe RGB. This offers good flexibility for content creators, whilst for content consumption it provides a strong level of vibrancy. The gamma tracking was a bit wonky, though could be improved to a degree with appropriate OSD tweaking – full calibration (including profile) would improve that further. Contrast was in-line with expectations, a touch below the specified 1000:1 for static contrast and a moderate but expected level of ‘IPS glow’. Brightness was somewhat limited under SDR, given the panel capabilities, though provided suitable brightness for most users. Under HDR brightness was improved and 16-zone local dimming was facilitated. However; even under a range of test conditions, we were unable to record much above 500 cd/m² which is unexpectedly low for a VESA DisplayHDR 600 certified display. The local dimming provided a situational edge in contrast, but was still very limited compared to solutions with a larger number of zones (Mini LED and OLED etc.). The colour gamut was put to good use under HDR, though, delivering a good but appropriate level of saturation and vibrancy. As long as the gimmicky ‘HDRi’ settings were avoided, that is.

In terms of responsiveness the monitor doesn’t use the fastest panel of its type, but it put it to relatively good use. There were some weaknesses in terms of ‘powdery trailing’ and overshoot, with the user able to find a balance between the two with the flexible and relatively well-tuned ‘AMA’ settings. Input lag was nice and low and VRR worked as expected via both DP and HDMI, with both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia’s ‘G-SYNC Compatible’ offering a similar experience. It could also be used with ‘Blur Reduction’, which was a pretty decent strobe backlight implementation and probably the best we’ve come across on a ’4K’ model. On our forum in posts such as this one and in this thread we draw various comparisons, including to the Gigabyte M32U which is a cheaper option (~$700 vs. ~$1000 USD) with better pixel responsiveness, USB-C support and a narrower colour gamut. And the MSI MPG321UR-QD based on the same panel as the BenQ. This has an arguably less ‘fussy’ design, offers higher SDR and HDR brightness, includes USB-C and has emulation modes for not just sRGB but also DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB. But the pixel response tuning isn’t quite as good as on the BenQ, the strobe backlight implementation is inferior and it lacks the same capable sound system or OSD remote. Overall, we feel the EX3210U could appeal to some who find the feature set attractive and want a vibrant experience with decent responsiveness on top. Even more so if the ‘BenQ specific’ additions appeal.

Positives Negatives
Strong vibrancy and colour consistency from the IPS-type panel with generous gamut. sRGB emulation mode with adjustable brightness, good sRGB coverage and ‘2.2’ gamma tracking
Gamma tracking wonky ‘out the box’, improved to an extent with OSD tweaking. sRGB emulation setting lacks colour adjustment and was too cool and slightly green tinted on our unit
Reasonable static contrast (middling for panel type) and a light to very light matte screen surface which minimises layering in front of image Moderate ‘IPS glow’, brightness somewhat limited under SDR and below specifications for HDR – 16-zone local dimming offers limited HDR contrast enhancement
Panel tuned well in terms of pixel responsiveness, putting 144Hz refresh rate to pretty good use. Very low input lag, VRR working as expected and good ‘Blur Reduction’ implementation Some weaknesses in terms of ‘powdery trailing’ and overshoot, with the chosen ‘AMA’ setting shifting things more towards one or the other
Good screen size and resolution combination delivers strong detail, clarity and ‘desktop real estate’. Decent ergonomic flexibility, good sound system for a monitor and useful OSD remote plus full bandwidth HDMI 2.1 Stand base feels rather plasticky with quite ‘bold’ styling, stand lacks pivot and height adjustment somewhat limited, a bit more expensive than some competing models
The bottom line; a feature-rich and vibrant ‘4K’ UHD monitor with decent responsiveness and moderately high price tag, which falls short of HDR brightness claims.PC Monitors

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BenQ EX3210U

 
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