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BenQ EX3203R Review – Resolution in Motion

Pros –

Strong max brightness and contrast, Pleasing white balance and gamma out of the box, Height adjust

Cons –

Only decent colour accuracy from factory, 8-bit colour and limited wide gamut support might hamper professional use, Limited HDR implementation

Verdict –

The EX3203R is highly competent for productivity, impressive for video viewing and delivers impeccable performance for gaming at a competitive price.


Introduction –

Taiwanese manufacturer BenQ have a long-standing reputation for their well-priced yet well-performing monitors and projectors. They may not have the same marketing presence in the West as some brands, however, they use this to their advantage to provide stronger value than competors. The  EX3203R continues this trend, their latest multi-media orientated monitor sporting a 31.5″ panel, a 2K resolution and 144Hz refresh rate all for $799 AUD.

The EX3203R adopts a contrasty VA panel in addition to a stuble curve and standard 16:9 aspect ratio. It offers a strong max brightness and HDR400 certification. This makes it an excellent choice for the general user looking for a fast gaming monitor that also functions as an immersive multi-purpose monitor with ample real estate for multi-tasking, flim viewing and editing. You can read more about the EX3203R here and treat yourself to one here.

 

Design –

The EX3203R sports a very similar design to the larger EX3501R, satisfying both professional and domestic settings. Colour choice is innocuous, a combination of grey and black with a chrome silver stand. Meanwhile, tactile textures, especially around interfaces, imbue a quality feel and augment all-around solid build quality. Slim bezels flank the panel, heightening immersion. The EX3203R is, overall, a cleanly designed monitor that strikes as modern but not ostentatious.

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As with BenQ’s other models, the BI+ sensor bar can be found facing the user. This enables brightness and colour balance adjustments based on ambient conditions. The included stand is stable and supports both vertical tilt and height adjust, a great feature to maintain comfortable viewing posture during prolonged use. Of note, the monitor does not support VESA wall mount out of the box, requiring an aftermarket adapter. The EX3203R has an 1800R curve that is nicely encompassing without excessively distorting the image.

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Controls will be familiar to those coming from prior BenQ models, with 6 physical buttons hidden underneath the right-hand side of the panel. The power button is larger and illuminated to denote power status. The other buttons are clicky and well-delineated, correlating with the on-screen display. Going through the menus reveals extensive customization options.

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Meanwhile, inputs can be found on the rear and cables can be routed neatly through a cutout in the stand. Of note is one DisplayPort v1.4, 2x HDMI 2.0, USB-C and 2x USB-A ports in addition to a 3.5mm audio jack (the monitor has no inbuilt speakers). This makes the monitor a great choice for both multi-media and gaming, especially in addition to Freesync 2 support and theoretically G-sync support on the Nvidia cards running the latest drivers.

 

Image Quality –

The photos below are provided for reference only. They do not holistically or accurately represent the image quality of the monitor in real-world use.

 

OSD –

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Brightness & Distribution –

The EX3203R has a higher maximum brightness than most of their other similarly expansive entertainment models at a quoted 400nits. Utilising a VA panel, it also achieves a high 3000:1 contrast ratio that is noticeably punchier than the more typical 1000:1 offered by most IPS panels. However, take note that this comes at the cost of viewing angles, with the monitor experiencing some washout off-angle (but thankfully no colour shift). A very subtle washout is visible at the extremities of the display due to its curved nature, but it’s only evident under scrutiny and doesn’t bother in daily usage.

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A high contrast ratio combined with a higher maximum brightness produces an image with great pop and vibrancy with peak brightness, in particular, heightening the immediacy of the image on screen. In addition, brightness distribution is very respectable, visibly brighter in the centre but not obtrusive even during photo editing. This monitor is perfectly viewable in well-lit rooms, avoiding washout even on brighter days. This is aided by its matte finish that resists glare and reflections.

 

Colour & Gamma Accuracy –

Colour performance is respectable too. Though not quite as extensive as the EW3270U, the EX3203R offers 90% DCI-P3 coverage and 8-bit colour. This affects colour gradients, for instance, 10-bit panels provide smoother gradients, especially noticeable on animated content and when editing images. Still, this is perfectly sufficient for the vast majority of users and enthusiasts. In my independent measurements, the monitor achieves 100% coverage of sRGB, AdobeRGB and NTSC colour spaces. It also tracks a healthy gamma. Out of the box, white balance is almost spot on in terms of temperature if erring slightly on the cooler side. This provides the impression of higher brightness in most instances at the cost of accuracy.

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Calibrating the display using my Spyder 5 immediately revealed increased saturation of reds in addition to a slightly warmer colour balance and slightly hue shifted blues. Otherwise, the display is perfectly usable out of the box and accurate enough for recreational use. With calibration or slight tweaking in the menus, the display is easily adequate for amateur photo and video editing. The Gamma is spot on out of the box too, requiring no further adjustment from the initial setting. The image has punchy contrast without clipping blacks and shadow details are easily discerned. The EX3203R is clearly not a professionally orientated display, but it does offer a strong colour performance once calibrated and pleasing white balance and gamma contribute to a healthy image for those without access to such equipment.

 

Word Processing & Multimedia –

The monitors large real-estate makes it a prime choice for productivity, enabling users to make the most of multi-window desktops. However, its 2K resolution stretched over a substantial 31.5” results in a lower 91ppi. This translates to text that isn’t quite as crisp as on higher resolution monitors but adequate to remain legible even when running 4 concurrent windows.

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Source: Mortal Engines (2018)

When viewing films, the monitor’s slight curvature and encompassing dimensions greatly aid immersion, with strong contrast, brightness and HDR400 certification producing a bold and immediate image. With a standard 16:9 aspect ratio, the compatibility issues that ultrawide users have to contend with are a non-issue. When viewing films, the monitor provides an excellent experience besides black bars on the majority of content. The visually spectacular “Mortal Engines” was flattered by the monitors high contrast ratio, retrieving fine details within its generally darker and more muted visual style.

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Source: Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse

Meanwhile, the animated “Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse” was similarly flattered with sharp, bold edges and punchy colours. The EX3203R is a fine monitor for multi-media and it certainly has the ability to wow with its immersive rendition of video content, though its medium resolution and higher refresh rate make it best suited towards gaming.

 

Gaming –

Undoubtedly the prime objective of this monitor, the EX3203R is a superb gaming monitor on behalf of a 2K resolution that is fairly easy to drive to its 144Hz refresh rate, even by midrange hardware. It is noticeably smoother than 60 and even 100Hz panels, aiding motion resolution and decision making during fast-paced action. AMD Freesync 2 support translates towards a smooth experience at intermediate framerates on supported gear.

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Theoretically, the monitor will be compatible with G-sync able GPU’s on Nvidia’s latest drivers, however, I was unable to test this on my particular setup. Nonetheless, the experience here is sensational. Fast-paced racing and action games look fluid and punchy. Strong contrast aids edge detection and aiming while low input lag aids decisiveness. BenQ’s overdrive AMA makes a return, effectively preventing ghosting. The size of the display aids fine movements when aiming and aids the noticeability of small details.

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Booting up Metro Exodus revealed impeccable contrast, discerning shadows without blowing out the game’s bold highlights. Moreover, Bioshock Infinite, though not as impactful in terms of lighting, was colourful and immersive. The EX3203R is a fine choice for frequent gamers looking for a competitive edge, or simply a more immersive experience.

 

Verdict –

The EX3203R is another monitor from BenQ that offers a well-rounded experience. It performs faithfully to its spec sheet and excels in both white balance and gamma tracking in independent testing. The addition of height adjust and a USB hub are both very welcome additions that enhance usability during daily use. Meanwhile, a high peak brightness enhances versatility and viewing in well-lit spaces. Slim bezels and a large screen real estate ensure a highly immersive viewing experience, especially in culmination with the monitor’s tasteful curve and excellent image quality.

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Ultimately, the combination of a fairly high resolution, fast refresh rate and large size compel during mixed usage if not to the same extent as BenQ’s higher resolution monitors. It remains that the EX3203R is best suited towards gaming and its less accurate colours out of the box supports this claim. Still, when calibrated, the monitor remains perfectly suitable for amateur editing work and this is little to pay for a low input lag, fast refresh and native resolution that is crisp while drivable by a wide range of hardware. The EX3203R is highly competent for productivity, impressive for video viewing and delivers impeccable performance for gaming at a competitive price.

The EX3203R is available from Amazon (International) for $538 USD at the time of writing. Please see my affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations.

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