Beauty or speed? A first-world problem if ever there was and one that applies acutely to gaming panels like the new Monoprice Dark Matter 27-inch Gaming Monitor.
Of course, the choice between panel pace and image quality is nothing new. It was ever thus with gaming monitors. Except in the past, the conundrum involved the choice between a fast but ugly TN screen and a slow but beautiful IPS display. Now you can enjoy an uber-quick 1ms pixel response from a sweetly color-accurate IPS panel.
Panel size: 27-inch
Panel technology: IPS
Native resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Refresh rate: 240Hz
Response time: 1ms
HDR: VESA DIsplayHDR 400
Brightness: 500 cd/m2
Video Inputs: DisplayPort 1.2 x1, HDMI 2.0 x1, HDMI 1.4 x1
Other: AMD FreeSync Premium, VESA DisplayHDR 400
So, what’s the problem? What you can’t have is the beauty of a really high resolution like 4K or even the moderate aesthetic appeal of 1440p at the same time as really high refresh rates. Well, not without paying for it handsomely. And even then, there are limitations.
With that in mind, this is the new Monoprice Dark Matter 27-inch Gaming Monitor with a bump from 165Hz on the existing model (which is still available) to fully 240Hz and 1ms from an IPS (or more specifically AHVA, which is panel supplier AU Optronics take on the IPS panel technology invented by LG) panel. Yes, you can get 240Hz 1440p panels. But they’re getting on for twice the price. And you can’t get a 4K panel running this fast, period.
The catch, of course, is that the Dark Matter is a 1080p panel. That’s how Monoprice can deliver 240Hz worth of 1ms IPS goodness at this price point. It has fewer pixels. As it happens, that actually makes a lot of sense when it comes to matching the price of this monitor with your overall system configuration.
If you can’t stretch to a 1440p 240Hz panel, then you probably can’t afford the megabucks graphics card you’ll need to drive it. Meanwhile, this cheaper panel option doesn’t make quite the same lofty demands on your graphics subsystem. So, you’ve got half a chance of hitting frame rates high enough to make the most of all those Hz without the need to subprime your mortgage and beat the person ahead of you in the queue to death to acquire an RTX 3080 or RX 6800 graphics card.
High refresh and fast response, however, isn’t all this monitor has going for it. It’s also VESA DisplayHDR 400 certified, so it’s got basic HDR chops. It looks pretty slick from a design perspective, too. The base of the stand is proper cast metal, feels great, and looks super sharp. Factor in slim bezels on three sides of the panel and some subtle red accents on the rear and you’ve got a really modern, premium-looking panel that’s gamer-centric without being adolescent.
The overall package, then, looks promising. The only problem is just how much of an issue that 1080p native resolution will prove when stretched over a fairly generous 27-inch panel. 1080p on a 24 or 25-inch monitor may be tolerable. But on a 27 incher? Hold that thought.
On first fire up, the Monoprice Dark Matter 27-inch Gaming Monitor is a touch underwhelming. This thing is rated at 500 nits and has a 1,000:1 contrast ratio and it doesn’t feel nearly that punchy. However, by default, it’s in SDR mode. To enable HDR mode, you need to flick the switch both in Windows and the Dark Matter’s OSD menu. Then the full 500 nits are unleashed.
Intriguingly, SDR content looks great in HDR mode, too. So, it’s entirely practical to just leave this monitor running in HDR mode all the time. Which is great. Jumping between SDR and HDR because a monitor has poor SDR performance in HDR mode is a complete pain.
Anyway, this is not a true HDR panel. It lacks local dimming. But it is a very bright, bold, and vibrant display with punchy colors. And yes, HDR content does look slightly better than SDR content. Play something like Cyberpunk 2077 back to back in SDR and HDR modes and the latter does look more dynamic and immersive, albeit the difference isn’t all that dramatic.
But what of the minor matter of speed? Monoprice includes three levels of user-configurable overdrive in the OSD menu (plus a full ‘off’ setting). The medium and fastest settings have a little overshoot. But they’re actually usable in that regard, rather than ridiculous. Even with the fastest setting, you have to know what you’re looking for in-game to spot the overshoot.
It’s a bit more of an issue in Windows when, say, scrolling text in a browser. But it’s fully configurable so you can choose your pain level. More to the point, this is a really fast display with great response, even with minimal overdrive applied. The 240Hz refresh also means there’s pretty much zero subjective latency. Move mouse, get instant response. It’s that simple. Dancing around the opposition in the likes of Apex Legends or Fortnite is what this monitor does best. You’d have to be some kind of international esports champ to need anything quicker.
But you wouldn’t have to be terribly demanding to take issue with the level of detail on offer. There’s simply no getting around it. 1080p at this panel size makes for big, fat pixels and soft, smudgy-looking overall image quality. A 1440p 27-inch monitor will blow it away for sheer detail, let alone the myriad 4K options out there.
Overall, we’d find it hard to live with 1080p at this panel size. For most people, most of the time, 144Hz and 1440p is a better overall compromise than 1080p and 240Hz and one that Monoprice itself can supply for less money. For sure we love the speed and if that’s by far your number one priority, stick this panel on your shortlist, it has loads going for it along with that speed. Just be clear about the compromises involved.