It probably comes as no surprise that I spend extended periods of time at my computer. A natural consequence of this is eyestrain, and lots of it. Sure, I have a pair of Gunnars, but hot damn they’re uncomfortable with a snug headset trying to force them into your brain via the sides of your skull, so they usually just decorate my desk. With that in mind, I’m absolutely sold on high refresh, low response, ultra-low blue light monitors after my experience with the XG2701. I’m blown away by how effectively it alleviates the problems of eyestrain. It may have taken me a couple days to notice the lack of fatigue, but upon switching back to my own monitor at the end of the test, it was immediately apparent.
It’s not the easiest monitor to set up; unlike big ASUS monitors, the base isn’t attached in the box, and while it uses a clever system for attaching it, it also requires three hands. The clever headset rack that extends out of the stand is a typical engineer’s afterthought as well. While it does hold up to 5lbs worth of kit, it also extends out of the back of the monitor, making it hopelessly impractical to reach around or over such a large monitor to hang your headset without it getting caught on something. I’ve never had a problem with sitting my headset on my desk though, and it’s not going to start bothering me now.
It also took me a while to realize that the bright brights and the dark darks were just how it’s supposed to be. It’s not too often I get a monitor that can so accurately recreate true white and true black—it was actually jarring at first. That being said, the natural contrast on the monitor is a bit too high, but nothing that some tweaking couldn’t fix. Again, though, returning to my personal monitor I realized just how much gray and blue is diluting my white.
Where this monitor really shines is the stellar 144hz refresh rate and 1ms response time. Them’s Counter-Strike words, and so that’s where I set about testing it first.
In that regard, the monitor performed beyond admirably, but that’s not really a surprise, if I’m honest. What was a surprise was just how much nicer everything else was above 100fps. High-motion games, such as War Thunder and Project Cars, become a very different experience with the fluidity that 100+fps brings. But what about at the other end? What about when your GPU struggles to make 144? Well that’s why the XG2701 boasts FreeSync support—and it works exactly how it’s supposed to. There’s not much to critique there, really; it either works or it doesn’t. While I had to dig up my old 280X to try it out, as obviously my current NVidia card scorns me when I even mention AMD technology around it, it does everything it says on the tin, eliminating frame stuttering and input lag when below the monitor’s native refresh rate.
I know I wasn’t crazy about the G-Sync in ASUS’ PG27A 4K monitor last year, but that has a different intended purpose entirely. No one is going to use a 4K, 60hz monitor for competition gaming, so turning down settings is always an option. Competitive players really do need 144hz monitors, so an errant stutter or delay in input response really does matter. Because it’s handled GPU side with the AMD tech, as opposed to monitor side for NVidia, you’re not paying out the wazoo for it, either. That’s what marketing sorts refer to as a “win win.”
Do I think the XG2701 is the best monitor in its class? No. Does it need to be? Also no. ViewSonic seems to really have their market sorted, if I’m honest. The 4K VX2475S was nowhere near the best 4K monitor at 24 inches—but it was nowhere near the price of the monitors that were, either. Likewise, ViewSonic knows exactly what competitive players both need and want from a 144hz monitor, and have focused on that. Response time, refresh rate, colour accuracy, size, ergonomics, etc. Everything else is what I would describe as “enough.” And you know what? Understanding what “enough” is can be a pretty damn important thing when it comes to designing cost-effective hardware—which is exactly what this monitor offers. When they’ve slipped in at two thirds the price of the competition, without sacrificing quality in any of the relevant areas, I’d be crazy to say that ViewSonic hadn’t done an amazing job by the new XG2701. Quite frankly, it’s excellent, and I really wish I didn’t have to give it back.