Until recently, I’ve always believed that good graphics performance on the PC has everything to do with the graphics card and the rest of the hardware in your PC and little to do with your monitor. The monitor might allow you to enjoy a bigger picture, but can it goes as far as improving your PC’s graphics? We put the latest 17in FP71V+ monitor from BenQ to the test.
Unlike the BenQ FP785 we tested in February (reviewed here), the FP71V+’s design is simple and effective. The 17in screen fits snugly into the casing and there is little room for the bezel to get in the way or make the screen appear smaller than it really is.
Like other BenQ monitors in the range, the monitor comes complete with two 1W front stereo speakers and a 3.5mm headphones jack for the late night user. It’s clear, however, that these won’t perform as well as your powered speaker solution. To be fair, the fact that they’ve been placed below the bottom of the screen rather than bolted onto the side of the unit does help keep the size of the whole unit down to its bare minimum.
Finishing off the overall look and feel of the monitor is BenQ’s answer to Sony’s X-Black screen technology. The monitor features a highly polished screen, which offers great picture quality by making blacks properly black. All the relevant manual and automatic settings are here with the ability to change brightness, contrast and colour levels manually. For the lazy, BenQ has created four preset colour settings; standard, movie 1, movie 2 and photo. The first is for day-to-day desktop use and as you would expect, the middle two are for improving the quality of your movies. The third is the most interesting and dynamically views the images on your display, increasing either the red, green or blue elements to give you dramatically enhanced images - richer greens, darker blues and more vibrant reds. For the average user this instantly enriches your on screen images, but we have to question how much interference this would cause for photographers trying to colour match before printing.
The secret weapon however, is the inclusion of BenQ AMA technology. According to BenQ, the FP71V+ employs Advanced Motion Accelerator (AMA) technology that accelerates the twisting speed of liquid crystal by increasing the voltage, making it possible to shorten the grey-to-grey response time and keep images ghost-free. What this means to the punter, is that the monitor’s response time is exceptionally fast (It is the first 5ms grey-to-grey fast response time LCD monitor on the market). Put this into real terms and the picture quality is better than slower screens and the graphics surprisingly improve.
The monitor, while pitched at those who like to watch DVDs on their computer, just doesn’t cut it for us. Don’t get us wrong, the picture quality is superb, but the 4:3 ratio will drive you mad especially if you are a watching plenty of movies in a widescreen format. BenQ think otherwise, and this monitor is geared towards watching films with two preset colour settings to enhance the most out of the picture. It succeeds well with the enhancement, and the images displayed on the screen are crisp and vibrant. We tested the monitor with a series of different films from Shrek 2 to The Bourne Supremacy and apart from Pirates of the Caribbean, which it turns out isn’t the greatest quality DVD in picture terms to begin with, the picture quality was outstanding.
Where the BenQ FP71V+ stands out however, is when used as part of a gaming machine. Because the refresh rate is so quick, it can cope amazingly with the fast changing imagery of games such as Doom 3, Half Life 2 and Need For Speed Underground 2. In fact, to the naked eye, the graphics seemed to significantly improve just by changing over to this monitor without getting into anti-aliasing settings on whichever super-powered graphics card you own. Up until this point, the general concensus was that only upgrading your graphics card rather than your monitor would improve visual performance. It’s good to finally have the alternative choice - and have the equipment left for other uses when games overpower the main machine’s specification.
At under £300, this 17in TFT monitor with D-Sub (VGA) and DVI-D inputs and a high contrast ratio level of 500:1 certainly lives up to its promise. Its performance is dazzling both with fast moving images and desktop work alike. Our only criticism has to be that you can’t buy this in a widescreen model.
But for workaholics who like to play games when the sun goes down, this is the cream of the crop and finally begins to challenge Samsungs and Iiyama, who have been ruling the 17in flatpanel roost for a while - but at higher prices than £300.