Reviewing a monitor like the BenQ EL2870U represents a huge time commitment. You have to request it from the company, get it benchmarked, wait for it to arrive, unpack it, set it up, test it with a variety of games, explore every menu option — and that’s before you ever put pen to paper. As such, you can imagine my surprise when I finished testing the BenQ EL2870U and discovered that my colleague Brian Westover had already written an excellent review of the machine back in 2018.
Perhaps if I could bring a radically different viewpoint to the table, it’d be worth writing an updated review, but no: Brian had covered every point I wanted to make. I agreed that the BenQ EL2870U has a sharp 4K screen with welcome HDR support. I agreed that the colors and blacks could have been more vibrant. I agreed that the price was fair, that the design was a little convoluted, and that overall, it was an imperfect-but-darn-good 4K monitor at a size that won’t consume your entire desktop.
And then it hit me: You can still buy the BenQ EL2870U. And it’s now $200 cheaper than when Brian first reviewed it.
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Tom’s Guide reviews a lot of new gadgets. That won’t come as a surprise to anyone who reads the site regularly, but it’s worth thinking about. Even just considering the gaming space, each year brings dozens of new PCs, monitors, mice, keyboards and headsets, and we do our best to review them all. You could be forgiven for thinking that every tech product on the market now sprang into existence within the last 12 months.
However, major hardware manufacturers usually have dozens, or even hundreds, of products in their back catalog, and they don’t immediately stop selling them just because something new came out. Especially when it comes to long-lasting accessories like gaming peripherals, it’s not at all uncommon for a product to remain available for two years, or more.
Since new products are continually coming out, the older ones usually decrease in price over time, too. The BenQ EL2870U debuted at $500; it now costs $300. This isn’t because its functionality is any worse now than in 2018; it’s just because newer monitors have come out, and consumers perceive older ones as less desirable.
The question, then, is not whether a gadget is new or old — it’s whether a gadget holds up. The answer varies considerably depending on the device in question. Buying a two-year-old smartphone, even if it’s brand-new in the box, isn’t a great idea, because you’ll miss out on vital security and OS updates. Buying a two-year-old gaming monitor, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have many inherent drawbacks.
Everything old is new again
Let’s use the EL2870U as a case study. As Brian pointed out in his review, the EL2870U is a 28-inch gaming monitor with a 4K, 60 Hz screen. It supports two HDMI connections, one DisplayPort connection and a 3.5 mm audio connection. It has a built-in menu system with a variety of presets, including modes that highlight HDR, gaming, productivity and blue light levels. It has a mediocre set of speakers, and a somewhat convoluted display stand.
In other words: It’s almost exactly like dozens of other gaming monitors on the market today.
The EL2870U arguably has a few drawbacks, however. These days, it’s common to have USB passthrough, which is handy. Certain monitors offer convenient USB-C connections, which unify display and software options. A refresh rate of 60 Hz is a little low, as modern PCs are generally powerful enough to run games at frame rates of 100-plus frames per second.
However, these inconveniences are hardly dealbreakers. USB passthrough has always been something of a luxury, particularly if your PC is already rich in USB ports. There’s no difference in video quality between DisplayPort and USB-C connections. And while you can indeed exceed 60 frames per second at full and quad HD resolutions, 4K resolution at 60 fps is still the gold standard, and only the most powerful PCs can routinely surpass that by a wide margin.
The only major difference between the EL2870U of 2018 and the EL2870U of today is its price — and it’s now a better price.
Buying older tech
Granted, the EL2870U still isn’t the perfect accessory for every gamer, and I encourage potential buyers to check out Brian’s review to see if it’s right for their setups. The point, however, isn’t that the EL28070U is some kind of hidden gem, lost to the sands of time — it’s that buying older accessories can be a wise investment, at least if you’re sure that it fits your needs.
My colleague Louis Ramirez wrote an excellent piece entitled “How to Spot a Good Deal on Prime Day,” which is exactly what it sounds like. But in addition to helping readers find good Amazon Prime Day deals, Louis also gave some perennially useful advice:
“One of the easiest ways to save money on electronics is by purchasing older gadgets,” he explained. “Whether it's a previous-gen laptop or smartphone you can expect to save upwards of $100 when you opt for older tech. Naturally, you'll want to avoid tech that's too old, but going one generation behind is usually a safe bet.”
This information is even more salient for gaming peripherals, in which the technology doesn’t change that much from one generation to the next. Newer gear may have RGB lighting, or wireless charging, or additional shortcut buttons, but the underlying technology, connectivity and functionality is almost always the same.
If you’re in the market for a 28-inch 4K gaming monitor and don’t need the absolute latest model, I’m pleased to report that the BenQ EL2870U is still a good choice. And if that doesn’t work for your setup, visit a hardware manufacturer’s website and see what’s available beyond the first page of hot new gadgets. You might just save a few hundred dollars.