BenQ EL2870 front display. Note HDR button in the lower right
As the years have passed we have gone from small cathode ray tubes to larger ones. Along the way, LCDs folded in and were mainly used for laptops at first, but as time went on and costs improved for consumers, technology has now been dominant in the market.
But as the market has moved away from desktop computers, we are back to small primary monitors for our computers. Fortunately, it is easy to have a large LCD screen at home for a fraction of the space and weight it used to take.
Screen buyers are met by a wide range of prices and specifications. Apple's 6K Pro Display XDR retails for $ 4999. LG's UltraFine 5K retails for $ 1
BenQ has been turning off screens for many years. And with Thunderbolt 3, it's easy to use one of its screens on a modern Mac. The BenQ EL2870 is no exception.
With the numbers
Before we start talking about real performance, talking about the specifications is a better picture of what we're looking at.
BenQ EL2870 uses a 28-inch TN panel capable of 10-bit natural color depth. The taillight is the W-LED edge system. It's technically an HDR-10 display with a button on the front to turn it on and off – but more on that in a bit.
The resolution is up to 3840×2160 and can be run at up to 60Hz, with explicit 24Hz support. This gives the screen a pixel density of 157ppi – not the same as the 15-inch MacBook Pro of 220.
The screen has a built-in contrast ratio of 1000: 1, and a brightness of 300 nits compared to 500 nitrates that the 15-inch MacBook Pro can boast. The speakers are adequate for system beeps, but at 2W per speaker and no air chamber to speak of, you won't use them for anything beyond system sounds, and maybe not even then.
Connection is provided by a pair of HDMI 2.0 ports, a single full-size DisplayPort 1.4 port and a headphone jack for external speakers.
BenQ EL2870U Display Connection Options
The display has standard frames for this price range, about 3/4 inch on the sides, and a full inch on the bottom.
Unlike others in the class of Samsung and similar manufacturers, it makes holes for a 100 mm VESA mount. It has a very small pitch on the screen mount, up to about 5 degrees forward, and about 10 degrees backwards. There is no height adjustment capability.
The power supply is internal, so no bricks here.
The HDR Tilt Button
The BenQ EL2870 will notify you with an on-screen pop-up screen if it has an HDR signal. You press one dedicated HDR mode button and you're good to go – in theory.
There is an HDR specification. In televisions, the UHD alliance required LCD to produce more than 1,000 rivets of peak brightness, and it is not. But this is also not a television seen from six feet away or more.
However, there is not much to do here. In our tests we went from a brightness of approx. 281 nit in non-HDR mode, to about 335 with HDR mode switched.
In the interest of testing, we saw a series of HDR-10 videos from Apple TV, and a Blu-Ray player. HDR-10 titles seen on both delivery platforms include "Bad Times at the El Royale," "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "The Shape of Water."
Blu-Ray HDR-10 content included "Planet Earth II" – which Apple TV version is not even in 4K.
There is a barely noticeable difference in the overall video quality between Apple TV content and Blu-Ray presumably due to bitrate differences, amplified because we are watching about two feet away from the screen. For HDR-10 or not, you can only see the difference between the two on the screen. Although there are not many differences between HDR and not, it is there – and if you work or play on this screen in a dim or dark room, the difference is more noticeable.
But in an office with standard lighting or sunlight, it doesn't make much of a difference.
Blue light and environmental sensing
Changing the color balance of a blue light protection screen is a polarizing theme. If you need colorlessness, don't use it.
The BenQ EL2870U has Brightness Intelligence Plus and Eye Care features. The former uses a small sensor to evaluate the room's lighting and will adjust the color temperature. The Eye Care feature uses a similar system to reduce the blue light coming out of the screen.
As a general rule, it is difficult to recommend one of the features if you are creating graphic content, but at least use the Eye Care feature if you are consuming. Either way, both functions can be easily switched with the on-screen buttons at the bottom right corner.
This is not a USB-C display, it does not provide power to the connected MacBook Pro or iPad Pro without a little help – but it is easy to connect. We recommend a $ 18 USB-C to DisplayPort cable if you don't need charging and another $ 26 cable if you do, for no other reason than to leave the HDMI ports for other devices, such as an Xbox One, a gaming device, PC or similar.
About Xbox One or connecting to a PC with AMD cards – but not important for Mac users, the screen supports AMD FreeSync. What this convenient means is that the screen is not stuck on a 60Hz update. If your computer dips below 60Hz in a graphically intense scenario, the monitor will adjust as you fly, preventing vertical synchronization or other objects.
And when it comes to gaming, BenQ announces a response time of 1 millisecond. This is good, but it is not the same as the input delay induced by a combination of screen response time and connection to a host device. Curiously, we borrowed a tester and found that the average input delay across a few platforms directly connected to the screen was around 7 milliseconds – which is good for 4K, and excellent for a display in this price range.
This is not a replacement for the Pro Display XDR, or a high-end reference screen, nor is it meant to be. Also, it may not quite stand up to the new version of LG's UltraFine 4K on features or specifications, but for the price of one of these you can have two of these. It doesn't have the same pixel density as the MacBook Pro Retina screen – but the difference it makes varies greatly from user to user. For this and a few other reasons, for Mac users, the BenQ EL2870U gets a 3 out of 5 rating, and a little higher if you're Windows-centric with an AMD video card.
What it is is a cheap 4K input port, and a toe-dip in HDR display. The BenQ EL2870U is a lot of the monitor's properties, at a captivating price, with decent color rendering. And it has ports that other Mac-centric displays don't need to make it easier to bar when working time is done.
Apple is adding 4K HDR movie playback to macOS with Catalina in the fall, which has been missing to this point. The BenQ EL2870U is a great way to see if you want to spend a lot more money in the future on not only HDR content, but advanced equipment at some point as well.
The BenQ EL2870U has a price tag of $ 349, but is usually found on sale at Amazon for around $ 300. And from a value perspective, this makes a big difference when it comes to our overall package thinking.
Points: 4 out of 5.
While we have already used the monitor for about four months, we will continue to evaluate the BenQ EL2870U going forward, to see how well it stands up to daily use.