The market for high end gaming displays is filled with a huge variety of different panels made by different vendors, all the way from budget 1080p panels all the way to ultra high refresh rate, low response time 2K and 4K panels with 99% sRGB coverage. But which of these features do really cater to what a gamer needs and wants in a gaming monitor?
We’ll be answering the above questions and others in today’s review of the ViewSonic XG2703-GS 165Hz 2K IPS gaming monitor. Viewsonic has been pioneering in display technologies since the company’s inception in 1987, specializing in LCDs, high resolution displays, projectors et cetera. The XG2703-GS is the modern rendition of Viewsonic’s historic excellence in making monitors and so, let’s start the review and we’ll see how it stacks up.
This review will mostly focus on the experience of actually using the monitor rather than discussing the many technical aspects of the hardware used, though we have done some testing in that regard as well.
The monitor was graciously sent in for review by Shing Distribution Systems.
The XG2703-GS 165Hz 2K IPS monitor is, by every sense of the word, extreme. It’s a high end, premium tier product that is directly catered to gamers who want a no compromise display to give them the absolute edge over their competition in every regard possible. It has a very high refresh rate, an excellent panel with great viewing angles and colours, a relatively low response and a 2K resolution at a screen size that makes sense and requires no Windows scaling of the text to be legible (unless you are myopic). And as the cherry on top, you have support for G- Sync, Nvidia’s proprietary screen tear reduction technology.
- Item: ViewSonic XG2703-GS
- Price: $649.99 (87,500 PKR) at the time of the review
The complete specifications list is as follows:
Screen size: 27 inches
Panel type: AU Optronics M270DAN02.3 AHVA (Advanced Hyper Viewing Angle) LCD
Native resolution: 2560 x 1440
Typical maximum brightness: 350 cd/m²
Colour support: 16.7 million (8-bits per subpixel without dithering)
Response time (G2G): 4ms
Refresh rate: 165Hz (variable, with G-SYNC)
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1
Viewing angle: 178º horizontal, 178º vertical
Power consumption: 48W
Backlight: WLED (White Light Emitting Diode)
Typical RRP as reviewed: $649.99 USD
All of this sounds like a very compelling recipe, and to be frank, it truly is. But all of this mouth watering tech has a price, and you need a fairly beefy system to use this monitor to its full potential and to get the most out of it. So cost is also a deciding factor.
The XG2703 comes in a large generic, but fairly sturdy, cardboard box. Mine arrived in pretty much pristine condition except for a few dinks.
The front and back of the box show the ViewSonic company logo and the model number, with a QR code that links to the Chinese language version of the monitor’s page on ViewSonic’s official website.
The right side lists the specs list in 6 languages and some additional info about ViewSonic.
The left side is mostly bare except for some labels and logos.
Opening the box up, we are greeted with 2 large hard styrofoam pieces that house the monitor itself. There are 2 gaps on one side that hold all of the accessories on one side and the documentation in the other. Let’s look at each one separately.
We get a power adapter.
A power cable.
A USB 3.0 cable.
And a DisplayPort cable.
We also get quick-start guides, one in Chinese and the other is multi-lingual.
Here is a picture of all the accessories together.
Now lets move onto the main event. The monitor itself comes sandwiched between the 2 large Styrofoam pieces and wrapped in a Styrofoam sheet to protect the screen. The base and other shiny surfaces are covered with a plastic sheet to protect from scratches and scuffs. Overall, the monitor arrived completely unhurt, so kudos to ViewSonic for top notch packaging.
Before we dive into the details, join us in the glorious experience of peeling the plastic off from the display.
The monitor itself looks like a typical modern gaming panel, albeit slightly understated compared to the more flashy options on the market, which is a good thing. The XG2703 doesn’t have a in your face design; its toned down looks aren’t ugly and completely mute, yet you wouldn’t group it with the other edgy and more ‘gamery’ looking models. ViewSonic gets plus points in this regard.
The base is a large, stable rectangle with the supporting column rising from the back. This may turn off some buyers because it covers quite a lot of desk space, so make sure you have a fairly large surface on which to place the monitor (mine is smaller than average and the monitor took up almost all the space but I digress).
Looking a bit closer, the various design cues present all over the monitor, reinforce the rest of its look: understated but classy design that doesn’t look too shouty. The column has a the XG logo under a clear plastic cover that looks very nice. Just above it is a customizable power LED (I’ll elaborate on this further). Above that we have a hexagonal cut out, light green, which can be used for cable management. The column is attached to a 100X100mm VESA mount, so if you prefer, you can have it mounted on a custom stand and completely do away with the base. Maybe end up saving space.
The back of the column has a flip out headset stand, which is handy. The stand may prove to be a bit far to reach, but that is subjective.
On the back of the monitor itself, you can spot 2 2W speakers. Another green XG logo can be spotted at the top of the monitor, just above the column and another one on the left side.
Coming back to the front, let’s take a look at the panel itself. The screen itself has a matte finish, so you don’t have to worry about glare and reflections. The surrounding bezels are not the thinnest, but will certainly not distract from the beautiful display. The ViewSonic logo is visible on the bottom bezel right in the center.
Both the top and bottom surfaces have small vents and elevated plastic parts with a green colored interior surface. The one on the top may interfere with a monitor mounted webcam and not sit properly unless set directly in the middle. This is an admittedly minor issue and most people may never encounter this, but it’s still something to be mentioned.
You get 2 USB 2.0 ports on the right side of the monitor, just above the mid level. These can be used as charging ports for mobile phones or other mobile devices.
Just under these USB slots, we have the input buttons for the monitor’s OSD and power button. There are 6 in total, with top one being preprogrammed to change between the various display modes, the next 4 being used to control and change settings and the bottom one for power. The buttons themselves
Looking at the main I/O on the underside, it’s divided into left and right portions. The right portion has 2 USB 3.0 type A ports, 1 upstream USB 3.0 type B port and the power plug. The left portion has 1 DisplayPort 1.2 port, 1 HDMI 2.0 port and a headphone jack. Pretty standard, nothing excessive.
The 2 USB 3.0 ports can be used to connect flash drives or similar devices without having to reach behind your PC. Mostly likely the single DisplayPort can be used as the input from your PC with the supplied cable and the HDMI can be used to connect a console as a secondary input. The headphone jack can prove useful if yours has a small cable.
Overall, I like the design and looks and am very pleased with the structure of the monitor but there are a few small, somewhat nitpicky, complains.
The green trim on the chin and top bezel and in the hexagonal cutout detract from the remaining very clean and neutral color scheme of the monitor, to the point that it may stand out in your desk setup. It would’ve been much better if ViewSonic implemented programmable lighting to customize the external look of the monitor, as they’ve done with power LED, or just leave it all black.
The headset stand could be relocated to a more reachable part as its a bit difficult to reach behind the monitor, but this isn’t a big issue.
Not much else to complain about, so let’s jump into what the monitor is actually like to use.
Performance and Features
I’ve already listed all the technical specs of the monitor and the type of panel used. But you have to actually use the monitor to truly appreciate the outstanding colors and the experience of using it at a high refresh rate.
I tested the monitor using all the preloaded modes, FPS1, FPS2, RTS, MOBA and off. FPS2 seemed to set the best balance between brightness and contrast. FPS1 has low contrast and overblown brightness to make the dark areas in competitive games more visible. Colors appear very washed out and not appealing at all. RTS was more of the same. MOBA seemed to lie somewhere in between RTS and FPS2 with colors appearing less washed out, but the white balance is still out of whack.
The contrast was set at 50 and brightness was at 100, which amounts to about 350 nits, which is quite high, but not to the point of burning your eyes out, though it may result in discomfort if you use it in a dark room for extended periods of time.
Hardcore competitive gamers may appreciate the high brightness in games like CS:GO to illuminate dark corners and help spot enemies better, theoretically giving them an edge over the competition.
Let’s go over the OSD first.
The OSD can be accessed pressing any of the power side buttons, apart from the power and Game Mode buttons.
You’ll be greeted by 5 options corresponding to each button, Game Mode, contrast and brightness, input select, menu and exit. Game mode has several preloaded profiles and and 2 user definable profiles that can be configured and saved to be accessed later. They’re labeled Gamer1 and Gamer2
Contrast and brightness are pretty self-explanatory, you get 1 slider for each and you can adjust them in increments of 1 level per press or increased levels for holding the button down.
Just below, it we input select. Simple enough, you can choose between DisplayPort and HDMI inputs on the fly.
The second last option is the menu. This brings up the other more advanced settings for the monitor. As you enter it, you’re greeted by 6 more sub menus, input, select, audio adjust, view mode, color adjust, manual image adjust and setup menu, in that order.
Input select is the same as the outside menu.
Audio adjust allows you to control the volume level or mute the on board speakers completely. This option may have made more sense if it was on the outside menu.
Audio adjust allows you to control the volume or outright mute the speakers.
View mode is where things get interesting. You are greeted by 4 additional options in this submenu, standard, game, movie and web. The Game sub menu contains the same options as the game mode button in the outside menu. Web and movie are 2 more picture profiles that adjust the monitor’s color and brightness settings.
The standard menu is where you can make the most of your monitors. You get ULMB (ultra low motion blur), ULMB Pulse Width, Dark Boost, adaptive contrast, blue light filter, response time and recall.
ULMB is an NVIDIA exclusive technology that aims to reduce motion blur in a monitor by use of a strobing backlight. It only works at 85Hz, 100Hz and 120Hz and G-Sync has to be disabled.
ULMB Pulse Width allows you to adjust the level of motion blur reduction when using ULMB.
Dark Boost allows you to choose the level of preset contrast. It has 3 levels of intensity and off. This gives you a similar look to the FPS, but here you can adjust the level of exposure. As with the preloaded profile, the colors become washed out and contrast is lowered, but it offers better visibility in dark environments while gaming.
Adaptive contrast, as the name suggests, makes it so the monitor can adjust the contrast level based on what sort of image background you’re looking at currently. The change is very subtle and you may not even notice it but its there.
The blue light filter allows you set the warmth of the monitor and counteract the effects of harsh blue light. By default at 0 and FPS2 profile, the monitor appears to be very neutral, maybe slightly warm. Which is great for long periods of use. But if you primarily work with blue backgrounds and such, this setting may prove helpful. At the max settings, the whites on the monitor appear to be very yellow, almost brown in color. I kept this at 0.
Response time is pretty self explanatory. You get 3 settings, standard, advanced and Ultra Fast. The average user will not be able to distinguish between 5ms and 1ms of response time. While hardcore competitive gamers may feel the difference in certain use cases, it is highly doubtful. I tested all 3 settings while gaming and may have felt a difference between standard and advanced, but not between advanced and Ultra Fast.
Recall resets all changes to default. Now lets move onto the next sub menu.
In the color adjust menu, you again get the options for contrast and brightness (this is the 3rd location so far). In addition, you can adjust saturation, 6 axis color, color temperature, input range and gamma.
Next up is the manual image adjust sub menu. In this, you can overclock your monitor to the maximum 165Hz and choose what sort of scaling you want. Overclocking is very straightforward. The default refresh rate is 60hz and the overclock gets you 165Hz, which as mentioned before, you have to have G-Sync enabled and have a G-Sync capable GPU to reach the 165Hz as advertised. Otherwise the refresh rate will be at 144Hz, which is nothing to scoff at.
The final sub menu is the setup menu, which handles all the other various aspects of the menu, such as language, sleep time and mode, USB charging mode, ECO mode, sleep mode et cetera.
Color Gamut, Color Accuracy and Monitor Rating
The ViewSonic XG2703-GS panel covers 100 percent standard sRGB color gamut and this means that the monitor provide extremely good vibrancy and accuracy out of the box. But the panel only achieves 78% of the AdobeRGB.
The ViewSonic XG2703-GS panel color accuracy is looking good from the above chart. Let me tell you that you only need to look at the Delta-E of two or less. The accuracy goes awry in Blue color, but after screen calibration the color reproduction should be good for movies, photos and gaming.
From the above chart you can see the ratings of the panel. The low ratings like Tone response, Luminance uniformity and white points can be fixed via manual or Datacolor Spyder5ELITE calibration.
Speaking on the topic of backlight bleed, my particular unit did have some bleed, mainly localized to the bottom left corner and some near the top right corner. It isn’t that severe and you won’t notice it unless you’re in a completely unlit room and there is no image on screen. Also, your mileage may vary with the panel you purchase.
After checking all the various menus and options and checking what changes they make and how I set it up, what is it like to actually use?
Once you’ve enabled the overclocked refresh rate of the monitor, you will forgot everything you’ve used before. If you think motion at 60fps looks amazing, you’ll be completely blown away when you experience 165Hz for the first time.
Switching from 60Hz to 165Hz is very noticeable if you have perfect vision. Something as small as moving the mouse cursor will be completely different than before. Virtually no motion blur or mouse trails will be observed. Even navigating through your OS and switching through various applications and windows will feel that much more fluid and smooth.
But what about games, you ask? Well, let me tell you…
If you play games that benefit from high refresh rates and rapid response times, this is the monitor for you (provided you have the horsepower to drive it). Shooters such as CS:GO, Battlefield 1, Overwatch and Quake Champions will feel more responsive and involved because they require split second reactions and decisions, which are easier to perform when you’re running at higher frame rates on a monitor that can actually show all those frames. The large real estate can help you spot small changes or movements more easily. Dark boost and other contrast options and profiles further augment your experience and give you the competitive edge in the game.
Enable G-Sync and you have a very fluid and buttery smooth gaming experience. What G-Sync does is essentially match the refresh rate of your monitor with that of the output from your GPU. What this mean is that you get no stuttering and no screen tearing during rapid motion in games. You do require a DisplayPort cable (which you get in the box) and a G-Sync capable GPU. Also, G-Sync works within a certain range of refresh rate outside of which you will experience tearing so this is something that should be kept in mind.
All this paired with the beautiful and accurate AHVA IPS panel, visuals appear stunningly gorgeous on the large AHVA IPS panel. While blacks may not appear as deep as an LED, you get pretty close. Photos, videos and games will all appear vibrant and bright without looking over saturated. Movies will also benefit with the extraordinary colors, feeling much more immersive.
The matte coating on the panel also serves to give you the best experience possible. No glare or reflections can be seen even under direct lighting.
The vibrant colors and smooth motion were particularly noticeable while playing The Division. The falling snowflakes, the moving winds and large explosions all looked glorious and silky. Every single strand of thread on clothes and the smallest details in the environment could be clearly made, which made the experience using this that much more immerse and joyful.
Overall, the experience of using such a beastly display is amazing and the effect won’t wear off any time soon.
So, based on testing and personal usage, how can we grade the monitor? The packing is very well done and the monitor is properly protected, so the chances of being damaged in transit are extremely low. The accessories are to the point and leave nothing to be desired. The monitor itself is very nicely designed, not too over the top, but stands out just enough to make a good impact but the green accenting could’ve been changed to something more neutral or just outright removed, maybe in a future update to the model? In either case, a deduction will have to be made in this regard.
The panel produces vibrant colors and images. Using it for games is utterly mesmerizing and a completely immersive experience, with the high refresh rate, low response time and support for G-Sync. The difference is very real and coming from a 60Hz panel, it will feel like a massive upgrade. You will see the images change quicker and therefore, allow you to respond quicker (provided you have the MLG reflexes to do so). Very minimal blur, if any, will be seen which produces sharp and defined still pictures and more realistic perception of motion in all media consumption. It also does pretty well in terms of productivity with its 99% coverage of the sRGB spectrum and color accuracy thanks to the IPS tech.
So overall, this is a pretty hot display and with such a high price, it better be. But then the question remains, should YOU buy it? Well, that depends. If you’re a more casual user who doesn’t play competitively and doesn’t use their PC for workstation purposes, you shouldn’t. Wouldn’t make sense to have a monitor that costs as much as your entire system. But what if you’re a power user, who take competitively play seriously and wants all the FPS you can get, then this is for you. The AHVA IPS display with 99% sRGB coverage will also prove useful in video and photo editing to produce accurate colors. This panel will leave nothing to be desired, but only if you have the hardware to do so. Keeping all of the above in mind, I can say that the XG2703-GS is definitely deserving of T4G’s Editor’s Choice award.
This review was done with a sample provided by Shing Distribution Systems.