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BenQ XL2730Z 40-144Hz FreeSync Display V002 Firmware Tested - Overdrive Fixed

Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: BenQ

Overdrive initialized

We have been tracking the differences between AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-Sync for some time now. The launch of FreeSync-capable displays started out a bit shaky, as some features we took for granted went missing. The first round of FreeSync displays we reviewed came with non-functional overdrive when the display / GPU pipeline was operating in FreeSync mode.

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Comparison of overdrive response in first round FreeSync displays. Images should look like the ROG Swift (left), which was correctly applying overdrive.

While AMD apparently fixed a portion of this problem in a subsequent driver update, getting overdrive to function in these early displays would require a firmware update. Unlike what you may be used to with a motherboard or SSD firmware, displays are not typically end-user upgradeable. This meant that even if manufacturers produced a fix, owners would have to send in their display to be updated (and be without it for several weeks).

The only manufacturer to step forward and retroactively support overdrive in their first gen FreeSync panel was BenQ. In a statement issued via TFTCentral:

BenQ have confirmed that the FreeSync/AMA issue which affected their XL2730Z display has now been fixed. This issue caused the overdrive (AMA) feature to not function when the screen was connected to a FreeSync capable system. As a result, users could not make use of the AMA feature and benefit from the improved response times that the 'normal' AMA mode offered, as compared with AMA Off. See our review for more information.

A driver update from AMD is already available and should be downloaded from their website. In addition BenQ will be releasing a firmware update for the monitor itself to fix this issue. Current stocks in distribution are being recalled and updated with retailers so future purchases should already carry this new firmware. This is expected to apply for stock purchased AFTER 1st July, as V002 firmware screens should be shipped by BenQ to distributors in late June.

For those who already have an XL2730Z if you want to, you can return it to BenQ for them to carry out the firmware update for you. This only applies if the user is experiencing issues with the performance of the screen. There is no simple way for the end user to update the firmware themselves and it is not encouraged. Users should contact BenQ support through their relevant country website for more information on how to return their screen for the update.

The catch with the above is that the statement came from BenQ PR for Europe, and we nor TFTCentral have been able to confirm any equivalent upgrade process in place for the USA. We did note in various online reviews that those receiving their BenQ XL2730Z in the last week of June confirmed having the new V002 firmware.

If you have one of these panels, verifying your firmware is simple. Hold down the menu button while powering up the display (you will have to hold the power button for a few seconds before you hear a beep).

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The display will power up and appear as normal, except that now pressing the menu button again will bring up the above service menu. Those with the update will have “V002” as the starting text of the ‘F/W Version’ result.

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Overdrive functioning on the ASUS MG279Q IPS FreeSync display, showing an odd simultaneous ‘negative ghost’ outline of a slightly ghosted image.

We have been eager to retest the BenQ since hearing of this updated firmware revision. While we have seen overdrive functioning in the recent ASUS MG279Q, it was not a perfect implementation, and we were curious to know if BenQ’s implementation fared any better.

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Continue reading for the results of our testing!

We just recently got in a BenQ XL2730Z on the V002 firmware and did some quick tests. To clarify, while overdrive does reduce blur, that is *not* the function of the ‘Blur Reduction’ -  a BenQ specific feature that is incompatible with FreeSync. Enabling that option will kick the display chain out of FreeSync mode completely. As such, we do not recommend using that setting.

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The overdrive setting for the BenQ is actually called AMA, with settings of off, high (default), and premium. Here are the observed effects of those settings on the same demo used for previous comparisons:

AMA Off (45 FPS):

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This is identical to the result seen with any AMA setting on a display with V001 firmware.

AMA High (45 FPS):

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Here we see a very good overdrive implementation. This is actually the best we have seen a FreeSync display overdrive so far, as the ASUS IPS FreeSync panel showed the odd artifacts shown earlier.

AMA High (60 FPS):

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Another thing we tested was to see if the adaptive sync scalers are implementing overdrive in a variable manner. When switching to 60 FPS, we did note more of a negative ghost trailing the windmill blade.

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This difference between the 45 and 60 FPS results indicates that variable overdrive is not at play here. It’s not particularly bad, but not as refined as G-Sync.

AMA Premium (45 FPS):

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With AMA set to its high(est) value, we see negative ghosting even at 45 FPS. The default ‘high’ setting appears to be the sweet spot where BenQ optimally tuned their AMA settings.

So we can now say there are two FreeSync displays with confirmed functional overdrive – the BenQ XL2730Z and the ASUS MG279Q. It appears that BenQ has the more visually appealing solution at present, but remember that having better overdrive may not overcome the other advantages brought by the ASUS IPS display. It really just boils down to what feature the buyer is the most critical of. If you want perfect overdrive and no lower FPS limit, G-Sync is still the way to go (provided you have an Nvidia GPU). If you're on AMD, the BenQ XL2730Z and ASUS MG279Q displays offer their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, but the common bonus is the fact that FreeSync displays come in at $100-$200 cheaper than a similarly spec'd G-Sync display. We're just happy to see that overdrive part of the equation now functional in one more FreeSync display.

Ryan's Note: It is great to see a second monitor with FreeSync technology properly implement support for overdrive to improve the overall visual experience compared to NVIDIA's current crop of G-Sync monitors. I am disappointed that BenQ in the US is not being more proactive with information on RMAs, recalls or firmware updates for existing users, but hopefully gamers affected will be able to contact the company and get the necessary swap made. 

Pitting the BenQ XL2730Z against the ASUS MG279Q is now an interesting debate - one display combines a 90 Hz maximum variable refresh with an IPS screen while the other (BenQ) goes up to 144 Hz but uses a lower quality TN panel. Both are priced identically ($599 on Amazon.com today) and though my preference would lean towards the ASUS implementation, consumers should be glad to see more options popping up to make this market competitive. And I am damn sure that AMD is glad to see it.


July 23, 2015 | 05:18 PM - Posted by JohnGR

Freesync is only a few months old and there are already plenty of models. In 6-12 months adaptive sync will be everywhere.

July 23, 2015 | 05:54 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's the big advantage that Freesync/adaptive sync haa over Gsync in terms of making a real difference in the monitor market - it looks like gsync will continue to be limited to higher end gaming displays with limited appeal due to high prices, poor image quality, or both, while adaptive sync will end up on almost everything. To be honest, 144hz monitors don't really need VRR tech very much; tearing and stuttering are greatly mitigated by the high refresh rate, but on professional or otherwise image-quality-oriented displays that tend to be limited to 60hz, VRR is huge. Now if only we could see VRR on a plasma...

July 24, 2015 | 05:55 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Says the armchair expert.....

July 24, 2015 | 08:32 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Says common sense.

We already have press releases from many panel vendors that they are making them and that they are coming to market. It's an optional VESA standard. It already exists in eDP. It will be part of DP1.3. They have shown that it works even with HDMI. There is a wave of ASync devices building on the horizon.

I predict NVIDIA will have a driver update to enable compatibility within the next 12 months.

July 24, 2015 | 08:50 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yeah maybe in the next few years knowing how slow these panel makers are...you want it now get gsync

July 24, 2015 | 08:54 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Lol goodluck with that "common sense". Press releases don't mean shit, any company does that and doesnt always pan out to be true!

July 24, 2015 | 11:30 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So it's not common sense because one of the several points isn't 100% knowable? That in and of itself is the opposite of common sense. LOL

July 24, 2015 | 01:21 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Adaptive sync being everywhere is a good thing, but we'd like to see AMD implement some form of GPU-based frame multiplication (to get rid of the lower FPS limit). I would also like to see the panel / scaler makers implement a proper variable overdrive, as what we have seen so far (in the few panels where it functions) is not a complete solution and still lags behind G-Sync.

July 24, 2015 | 05:29 PM - Posted by Mac (not verified)

Unplayable fps is unplayable no matter how much you dress it up it's still unplayable.

July 25, 2015 | 01:04 AM - Posted by Ty (not verified)

Yes, apparently adaptive sync capability is starting to pop up in the 40" + 4k korean off brand displays.

http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1869589

the wasabi mango (don't ask) goes for around 800 dollars, and apparently a catleap 4k screen can get a firmware update to allow adaptive sync for around 700 dollars. It's crazy, and that is just the start. The real game changer is getting the korean off brand guys on the adaptive sync train, as that will lower the cost of the displays and tech so that it is FAR more widespread. I don't EVER expect to see a korean off brand panel maker implement a gsync display as nvidia wants a cut of the proceeds and that would go against their business model cutting the cost down to bargain basement levels. But freesync capable displays, the latter half of 2015 and all of 2016 is going to get REALLY interesting for the red team.

July 25, 2015 | 01:05 AM - Posted by Ty (not verified)

crossover NOT catleap (mind is stuck back to the original crop of 1440p korean off brand displays)

July 26, 2015 | 06:17 AM - Posted by JohnGR

At this point, I'd say that 30 FPS is a practical lower limit not just for G-Sync, but for game play in general. Anything less and you’re looking at major judder and an obvious reduction in responsiveness. Debates about what happens below 30 FPS in a G-Sync vs. FreeSync comparison are moot in my opinion because that’s where on-screen motion is simply too slow to provide a decent experience.

This is from the "Acer XB280HK 28-inch G-Sync Ultra HD Gaming Monitor Review" that Tom's Hardware posted today.
Page 19

As you can see, NOT ALL reviewers are hardcore Nvidia fanboys, to try to emphasize in a specific area of GSync vs Freesync performance and make it look like that is the most important thing in the world.

I see more and more and MORE reviews contradicting your fanboy conclusions. You can continue to show and advertise your absolute support for Nvidia's GSync for use on an ultra hi end system, for smooth gaming at 20 fps, but I don't think that this helps the site's reputation.

August 24, 2015 | 11:28 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

That would be a valid argument if most of the FreeSync panels had a lower limit of 30. They don't. There are also plenty of occasions where game engines stall or intermittently slow their frame rate as other processes are loading the CPU (in-line level loads, etc).

Also, let's take a look at the paragraph above the one you quoted:

"Upping the detail level to Ultra reduced the frame rate to around 35. The only difference was a tiny bit more judder, but no apparent rise in input lag. Tearing was still non-existent."

If you have a frame rate of 'around 35', there are plenty of occasions where an engine may dip below 30. Assuming you had a FreeSync panel with a bottom end of 30 (not all go this low), you *would* get tear or judder every time the engine dipped below that threshold. If the panel had a limit of 35, *half* of the frames drawn would be torn or juddered. That effect does not occur on GSync panels, regardless of the lower physical limit of the panel being used.

Lastly, you might reflect on your own bias prior to accusing the review site that runs ads *from both companies* of being fanboys. As tech reviewers / enthusiasts, we are naturally more enthusiastic of whoever has (in our opinion) the superior technology at that time. The pendulum shifts every so often. We change our opinions as different companies take the lead and impress us with their technology developments.

July 25, 2015 | 08:53 AM - Posted by annoyingmoose (not verified)

so what ? also generic 3D monitors are everywhere, while the pricier Nvidia 3D Vision tech still being the better solution overall.

its nothing new that cheap sh*t comes in high quantity.

July 23, 2015 | 05:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

G-sync could get cheaper once they make an ASIC rather than using an FPGA. FPGAs are not going to be price competitive with an ASIC for high volume production, but does allow for maximum reconfigurability while features are in flux. By the time they produce such an ASIC, other scaler makers may offer similar functionality. Given that these features are currently in flux and most people keep displays for quite a while, it seems like a good idea to offer user upgradeable firmware. It probably wouldn't be that expensive to include a USB port to allow upgrading the firmware.

Anyway, buying the bleeding edge cost more and doesn't always get you stable hardware. I tend to avoid version 1.0 of any new technology. If I was in the market right now, I would be looking for an IPS-type or MVA-type panel. Most TN panels look terrible to me. With the existence of high refresh rate IPS, I wouldn't bother with TN anymore.

July 23, 2015 | 06:18 PM - Posted by fkr

i bought a korean 1440p ips @110 Hz back when i was running CF 7950's. I can never buy into a product that is locked into a particular GPU vendor. I like to upgrade my GPU at least once a year and I will always go with the performance per dollar choice. I am currently running a 970 but may be going back to AMD once HBM2 comes out.

happy to see the kinks being worked out with this tech as I envision myself going to 4k for the next upgrade and having some VRR will probably be really important at that resolution.

July 23, 2015 | 08:14 PM - Posted by arbiter

Nvidia will be using HBM2 on their next gpu so have to see how that shakes up things.

July 23, 2015 | 09:33 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's if every other driver doesn't cause a TDR or BSOD

https://forums.geforce.com/default/topic/853781/geforce-drivers/announci...

July 24, 2015 | 01:20 AM - Posted by arbiter

Irony is, only times i really have TDR issues is playing AMD games.

July 24, 2015 | 05:58 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That has been fixed with the 2 previous driver version already fanboy, plus the majority doesnt have that issue.....

July 24, 2015 | 01:17 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

You would make a better argument if you chose issues that did not exist on both sides. Also, linking a page where Nvidia promptly fixed an issue probably doesn't make the point you are going for.

July 24, 2015 | 06:41 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Did you not read the thread. If it was fixed you wouldn't have people continuing to post about it. In there own forums and around the web in other tech forums.

July 25, 2015 | 05:16 AM - Posted by Dark_wizzie

AFAIK it finally got fixed with a stealthy patch. No crasherinos here and I'm glad.

July 24, 2015 | 01:24 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The high FPS panels do make VRR less necessary, but we won't see that at 4k any time soon, unfortunately.

July 23, 2015 | 05:58 PM - Posted by arbiter

Well really there is only 1 display to be fix'ed, as other one to avoid the issue is limited to 90hz max. IMO if you are buying a 144hz panel is pretty bad if you are limited to about 60-65% of what its capable of.

Ryan noticed you only show up to 60fps, is monitor limited like the Asus or is issue fixed and can DO 144hz?

July 24, 2015 | 06:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Waste of money if you ask me! Any enthusiast that is a hardcore gamer will get the better VRR monitor -> Gsync IPS 144HZ no compromises

I'm happy I went that route and my BF4 experience is way way better now compared to my previous TN 144Hz panel

July 24, 2015 | 11:56 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How's that screen uniformity, IPS glow, and 1000:1 (at best) contrast? "Compromise" is the name of the game with all LCDs.

July 24, 2015 | 12:37 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

It can do 144, but the windmill demo is limited to 45-60, presumably because AMD chose rates that fall within the available panels' limits.

July 24, 2015 | 12:58 PM - Posted by rl (not verified)

Hey Allyn, could you ask LG whether they have updated the firmware for their FreeSync monitors, too? It seems that way, since a lot of people claim that Overdrive works on new batches, though LG seems to have no upgrade/RMA process in place either.

July 24, 2015 | 01:19 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

I dug around on this for a while before writing this article. BenQ are currently the only ones offering any way to update first round panels.

July 23, 2015 | 05:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

From TFTCentral

144Hz Frame Skipping Bug from NVIDIA card?

We found that from our NVIDIA test system when running at the full 3440 x 1440 resolution and 75Hz refresh rate, that the screen seemed to drop some frames. We verified this via the tests at BlurBusters.com, but you could also see the issue with the naked eye on moving content like PixPerAn. In those tests the image skipped and jumped a bit. It only did this at the maximum 75Hz refresh rate, not at anything lower like 60Hz.

We found no such issue with the screen from our AMD system, either using a proper FreeSync end to end setup, or breaking the FreeSync chain and using the card with an older driver or without DisplayPort. Perhaps this is an issue with NVIDIA cards. We've reported it back to Acer for further checks.

July 24, 2015 | 06:03 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have a gtx980 ti & Acer Predator XB270HU and don't have that issue at all. Even on my previous gtx970 no issues with frame skipping.

July 23, 2015 | 06:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Unless something changed BenQ monitors can only be upgraded via an LCD burner such an an mStar unit. I purchased one for my XL2420Z for the original Blur Reduction bug. I have to give BenQ props though they are TN panels they look really good when calibrated with something like a Spyder.

July 24, 2015 | 06:05 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Sucks for the uninformed users who bought this crap TN panel. Do your research first before buying duh!

July 25, 2015 | 05:15 AM - Posted by Dark_wizzie

I wish we'd just have on standard for variable refresh rate. This Freesync vs Gsync stuff turns me off. If I buy one I'm stuck on one team.

In unrelated news, where are my glossy 144hz IPS Gsync monitors?!

July 27, 2015 | 03:11 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I got v001 does it matter if I'm not going to be using freesync? Don't wanna send it back unless I have to

November 25, 2016 | 02:10 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

hi, will this issue be in effect if i'm using the xl2730z with a NVidia card (1070)? thanks.

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