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I’ve been spending my time as of late enjoying what is possibly the best gaming monitor I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying. The BenQ XR3501 is an undeniably impressive gaming monitor that any PC gamer will love. I would even go so far as to say there isn’t anything else quite like it on shelves today and while it isn’t perfect it is the sort of thing that manages to induce envy in all who see it.

The curve

This monitor has been designed to give PC gamers a more immersive gaming experience with a 2000R curvature and a snappy 144Hz refresh rate. Having all of that in a 35” curved gaming screen really helps to draw you in to the game and brings everything to life with high quality and large picture. The size of the screen manages to mostly fill y our field of vision and the curved screen helps you keep up with all the action at the periphery of your field of view, to eliminate distractions like glare and image degradation. The radius on the curve is nice and tight. While there are other curved monitors out there, not many can match this level of curvature which is tuned to look fantastic at just over arm’s reach. If you’re setting up any sort of cockpit or racing simulation rig then this is the perfect monitor for you to use.

Gallery_lcdm_xr3501_0005image.jpgThe size

This monitor features a generous 35” screen measured diagonally, which is already streets ahead of most monitors out there. Beyond the sheer size (and the curve of course) the monitor has a beautiful 21:9 ultra-wide aspect ratio for a glorious panoramic image. While ultra-wides are generally good for productivity, making it more useful to have multiple windows open at once, they really shine with movies and gaming. The XR3501 is no exception there. It is really at its best when you’re enjoying any sort of movie or gaming. The 2560×1080 pixel resolution further emphasizes this; while that resolution isn’t quite the most pixel density we’ve seen in a monitor and doesn’t compare favorably to a nice new 4K monitor, it still manages to look beautiful with movies and games. I know a lot of PC gamers always like to push their resolution to the max, but if this screen supported twice the pixel density, I’d be hard pressed to say the image would look twice as good when gaming. If resolution is super important to you, then you may be happier with a different gaming monitor but if instead you’re more interested in the overall experience then this unit definitely delivers and is worth consideration. While on paper, I would like to see a higher resolution supported, I never found myself pining for that while actually playing a game.

The performance

What helps this monitor shine beyond the size and curve is the level of performance BenQ has managed to pack in to it. The 144Hz refresh rate is nice and high, ensuring crisp and smooth motion with fluid transitions and no evident ghosting. This makes gameplay seem very smooth and lifelike even with fast motion on screen. As for picture quality, this screen provides twenty levels of colour vibrance setting so you have flexibility to set up the colour performance levels precisely how you like. Visibility is increased with BenQ’s Black eQualizer colour engine technology that helps to brighten dark scenes without over-exposing bright areas of the picture. It’s a subtle thing but can really help when you’re playing a game that transitions from light to dark environments. It manages to balance the picture without distorting it or washing it out at all. The tech performed better than I expected to give me improved visual clarity while preserving the atmosphere and overall experience. It certainly made it easier on my eyes. This was a feature that I was expecting to want to disable but found myself loving how it brought out the subtleties in the game imagery.

BenQ goes on to include a trio of ‘game modes’ which are effectively presets that optimize the monitor’s performance for certain game types. Game1 is a mode specific for racing games. Game2 is for CS:GO games, and Game3 is for Battlefield games. While there were differences evident when toggling game modes, I’m hard pressed to champion this feature over just having normal programmable presets. They’re a good starting point I suppose but preferences are a personal thing and vary a lot. They also have some other tech onboard to help keep things looking good, like their Gaming-comfort ZeroFlicker technology that tries to eliminate flickering at all brightness levels to help reduce eye fatigue by enhancing visual comfort. That means that even if you’re staring at intense action on the screen, your eyes won’t have to strain as much to keep up and everything will be fluid and crisp. On top of that, they’ve added Low blue light technology which reduces that blue glow that most monitors tend to emit so that when you have extended sessions at your screen your eyes stay comfortable. Many hardcore gamers enjoy yellow-tinted glasses to combat the typical blue glow but with this monitor those aren’t needed at all.

Gallery_lcdm_xr3501_0018image.jpgAs this is an ultra-wide monitor it also has another feature I really enjoy and have seen in a couple of other large screens; picture-by-picture functionality! BenQ goes a little further by giving you optional picture-in-picture functionality too. Basically these features let you take advantage of multiple I/O ports to let you display images from two different input sources on the same screen at once. This can really help if you have a gaming PC and a laptop, or a console or any other combination of inputs. This is an invaluable feature for any aspiring game streamers or anybody looking for maximum productivity. Multitasking is so much easier now when you can work off of multiple machines at once from the same screen. Topping it all off, BenQ has gone that extra mile with cable management. The recessed cable ports aren’t quite ideal if you have cables with long plugs but despite the tight fit, the monitor has built in cable management to discretely hide all the plugs and neatly route the cables through the cover and along the monitor’s sturdy base.

Over all BenQ has delivered a wonderful monitor that any PC gamer would love to enjoy. I had the pleasure of trying it out with a wide variety of games, from Starcraft II, to Counterstrike: Global Offensive, the Witcher 3 and GTA V.  The only real point of contention is the relatively low resolution but frankly once you see this monitor in action, and everything else it has to offer you will likely quickly forget your desire for a larger pixel count and be left with admiration for how immersive, fluid, and dynamic the picture quality is with this monitor, particularly for those extended gaming sessions.