Aimed at hard-core gamers, and especially racing fans, BenQ's $999 XR3501 curved gaming monitor offers a massive, 35-inch, 2560 x 1080 display for getting lost in the action. The monitor's high refresh rate of 144Hz makes your games look as smooth as they can be, while the device's picture-in-picture functionality is ideal for streaming, pulling up game tips or (gasp) getting some work done. The XR3501's immersive curvature makes it ideal for racing and flight nuts, though the monitor's somewhat lackluster color and lack of G-Sync support mean that checking out the competition first is worth your while.
There's nothing too flashy about the BenQ's black-and-silver design, but that won't stop you from gawking at the monitor's massive, elegantly curved, 35-inch display. BenQ's supersized monitor is held up by a shiny, two-legged aluminum stand, which features a hole in the back for neatly passing cables through.
The XR3501 isn't very adjustable, presumably since it'll take up a good chunk of your peripheral vision no matter where you're looking at it from. You can tilt the display 15 degrees back or 5 degrees forward, but that's about it. There's no option to slide the screen up and down like you can on Acer's curved Predator X34 monitor, so you'll want to make sure you're sitting at a good height before you start gaming.
Ports and Interface
The XR3501's generous port selection includes two HDMI inputs, a DisplayPort and a Mini DisplayPort, making it easy to switch among whichever PCs and media machines you have hooked up to the monitor (as well as to use picture in picture, but more on that later).
On the audio front, BenQ's monitor packs a headphone jack as well as line-in and line-out ports. Each connection is clearly labeled on the monitor's rear, and there are even small hooks underneath each port to keep your cables from becoming a tangled mess. If you'd rather do without the cable hooks, you can remove them with a screwdriver.
There is one thing missing from the XR3501's port selection, however: USB connectivity. While competitors such as the Predator X34 allow you to attach accessories directly to the monitor, in order to game on BenQ's model, you'll have to connect your gear directly to your PC.
I had no problem navigating the XR3501's interface, which consists of five navigation buttons, an input switch and a power button that, fortunately, is larger and further away from the rest of the keys. Tapping any of the nav buttons opens an intuitive on-screen menu that lets you change picture modes, adjust brightness, utilize the black equalizer and fine-tune specific color settings with a few quick presses.
Gaming on the XR3501 is one of the most immersive experiences I've had, short of wearing a VR headset. The monitor's 35-inch, 2560 x 1080, curved display made me feel like I was actually in an X-wing cockpit while playing Star Wars Battlefront; I caught myself tilting my head while pursuing some virtual TIE fighters.
The blues and oranges of the game's Beggar's Canyon level looked fairly accurate on BenQ's display, though I noticed some pixelation when looking at the finer details of each rocky wall. When I took a break from flying aircraft and shot some Stormtroopers as Han Solo, I was treated to fast response times and a wide field of view that made it easy to spot enemies.
I felt equally immersed while playing racing games such as Grid 2, as I found myself physically bracing for impact whenever I was about to crash into a wall. I also enjoyed having a ton of screen space to gaze at the trees, buildings, sunsets and fireworks that I drove by on each track.
When I switched to Batman: Arkham Knight, however, it became clear that the XR3501 is best used for controlling virtual vehicles. While the monitor made it easy to take in the vast skylines of Gotham City as my character soared around, I found myself yearning for the richer, more cinematic colors I experienced when playing the game on the Acer Predator.
A 4K trailer for Elysium looked suitably immersive on BenQ's display, filling just about my entire line of vision with the film's lush futuristic gardens and sweaty Matt Damon close-ups. I certainly wouldn't mind using the XR3501 for movie night, but I noticed more detail and slightly more vibrant hues on the Predator.
I also enjoyed some fairly impressive built-in audio on the Predator, which is why I was a little bummed to find out that the XR3501 lacks speakers. The monitor's headphone, line-in and line-out ports make it easy to attach to your existing audio setup, but at this price range, I'd expect some integrated audio.
Brightness, Color and Latency
The BenQ XR3501 turned in mixed results for brightness and color. On the plus side, it's one of the most luminous displays we've tested, registering a whopping 304 nits on our light meter and topping both the Acer Predator (261 nits) and our 229.7-nit average.
The BenQ wasn't quite as consistent for color, though. The monitor's Delta E color-accuracy rating of 4.55 is slightly better than our 4.8 average (0 is best), but not nearly as accurate as the Predator's score of 1.77. That may explain some of the weak-looking colors I noticed while playing Arkham Knight. The XR3501 did, however, reproduce 115 percent of the sRGB color gamut, beating out the Predator (98.9 percent) and our 103-percent average.
On our lag tester, the BenQ registered an unusually high latency of 23.3 milliseconds, which is slower than both the Predator (9.7ms) and our 15ms average. For what it's worth, though, I never experienced any significant input lag when playing games on the BenQ.
Modes and Features
The monitor's Picture-in-Picture and Picture-by-Picture modes are two of its best features, letting you view two video sources at once for easy multitasking. With both my PC and Xbox One hooked up to the XR3501, I was able to sneak in a few rounds of Killer Instinct on the top corner of the screen once I took a break from doing some work on my computer. PIP and PBP give BenQ's monitor plenty of extra utility, whether you want to watch walk-through videos on a media device while you play a game or view your Twitch chat while you stream.
Even if you're just using your PC on it, the XR3501 is an excellent multitasking display. After composing a Google Doc on the left side of the screen while watching a YouTube video on the right, I found myself not wanting to go back to the dual 1280 x 1024 monitors at my desk.
Multitasking benefits aside, the XR3501 comes packed with BenQ's typical suite of features. Black eQualizer lets you light up dark in-game areas without blowing the screen out, while the monitor's Low Blue Light filter lets you reduce the level of blue light in order to prevent eye fatigue during long training sessions.
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The display packs a handful of presets for different viewing scenarios, including Standard, Movie, Photo and sRGB (ideal for graphic design work). There are also three Gamer modes (the first optimized for racers, the second two for shooters), as well as two custom slots that you can configure however you like.
One of the XR3501's closest competitors is Acer's Predator X34, which offers a sharper, 3440 x 1440 display and Nvidia G-Sync functionality in exchange for a heftier $1,299 price tag. BenQ's $999 monitor benefits from a larger, 35-inch display and a more dramatic curve (a radius of 2,000R versus the Predator's 3,800R), making BenQ's offering the go-to display if you're hard-core about racing and flying sims. The XR3501 also has a faster refresh rate (144 Hz versus the Predator's overclocked 100 Hz), but I noticed similar smoothness on both monitors.
Aside from G-Sync, some of the Predator's key benefits include built-in 7-watt speakers, better latency and color accuracy (according to our tests), and a generally cooler-looking design with customizable LED lights, if that kind of thing matters to you.
The BenQ XR3501 is a highly impressive curved gaming monitor, largely thanks to its striking 35-inch, 2560 x 1080 screen; a smooth, 144Hz refresh rate; and useful picture-in-picture functionality. Its curved display is one of the most immersive we've tested, making it the monitor to get if most of the games you play take place from a cockpit or driver's seat.
If you're looking for the best color and picture quality available, though, we suggest splurging on the $1,299 Acer Predator X34, which also offers built-in speakers and G-Sync capability for smoother visuals. Still, if you'd rather save a couple hundred bucks or are simply a hard-core racing- or flight-game enthusiast, the XR3501 is one of the best curved options out there.