A gaming monitor with good HDR: it remains a difficult story. If you go to the Pricewatch now, you will find exactly 300 available screens with some form of HDR support , with the cheapest option only costing 159 euros. Unfortunately, support for such affordable models is often limited to understanding the signal. If you want to make an LCD monitor that can properly show the high contrasts of an HDR image, you need a full array local dimming backlight, or false backlight, that can make parts of the image brighter or darker where necessary.
The first LCD monitors with HDR and Fald backlight date from 2018. These were 27″ models based on a 4K panel, with 384 separate LEDs behind them. MiniLEDs enable more efficient production and even finer local dimming. At CES The first monitor with mini LED backlight was already presented in 2019, which slowly trickled into the shops in the following years.In 2021, for example, we discussed the ASUS ROG Swift PG32UQX and the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 .
Finally not extremely expensive
As more and more mini LED screens reach the market, there are also a few that are not as extremely expensive as the previous screens from ASUS and Samsung. For example, while the PG32UQX had to pay no less than 3499 euros, the Pricewatch already has more than 10 miniLED screens below the 2000 peak, with more models on the way. In this article, we take a look at two of the cheapest mini-LED monitors out right now, which should even cost less than $1,000: the AOC Agon Pro AG274QXM and the Cooler Master Tempest GP27U. This makes them cheaper than the OLED monitors for gaming that were announced by various manufacturers at CES and they could also be interesting if you are looking for a monitor with excellent HDR reproduction.
The Tempest GP27U appeared at the end of November last year for exactly 999 euros, although it now seems to be sold out. For that you get a 27″ 4k monitor (3840×2160) with a 160Hz refresh rate and the expected HDMI 2.1 connections for your console. These specifications resemble the quartet we reviewed earlier, but behind the IPS panel of the Cooler Master screen is a mini LED backlight with 576 zones, which should be able to deliver a brightness of around 1000cd/m².
AOC’s screen was already announced in the fall of 2021 and has been on the market for about a year now. The starting price was 1049 euros, but it is now available for only 678 euros at the cheapest provider. It competes with the Cooler Master Tempest GP27Q, the sister model of the GP27U that we look at in this article. The AG274QXM and GP27Q have a 27″ wqhd panel (2560×1440), which in any case produces a somewhat less sharp display than with the GP27U, but many of the other specifications are the same. The AG274QXM also has an IPS panel with local dimming with 576 zones and a brightness of 1000cd/m², with the refresh rate at 170Hz being slightly higher.
Considering the differences in resolution and price, the AG274QXM and GP27U are not directly comparable, but on paper you get an advanced monitor for a relatively competitive price. To assess whether these ‘miniled screens for less’ are also a good buy in practice, they go through our extensive test course.
Feature set and practice
The AOC Agon Pro AG274QXM has the angular design that AOC introduced a few years ago for its Agon series. Like many other gaming screens, the panel rests on a tripod. The legs at the front protrude quite far, while the small leg at the back has a hole through which you can route cables. The vertical upright has a rectangular design, with the attachment point between the screen and the leg having a bright red colour. The handy carrying handle at the top of the leg is also finished in the accent colour. There are stripes on both sides of the panel with integrated RGB LED lighting, which can clash quite a bit with the pronounced red-black color scheme of the screen.The panel is clearly thicker than with a normal monitor, with ventilation slots around the side that also prove necessary in practice:
The Cooler Master Tempest GP27U does not get as hot when used and has a much smarter design. You wouldn’t say there are 576 LEDs behind the panel instead of thinner edgelit backlight lighting, as with most screens. On the back of the panel are wing-shaped ventilation slots with RGB LED lighting above. The GP27U also has a ring of LED lighting around the base attachment point, similar to what Samsung does with its Odyssey displays. The panel rests on a base that is also not very large: a round leg with a base in the shape of the hexagonal Cooler Master logo. Both parts are made of dark gray metal, with a plastic clip that can be attached to the leg to route cables. As with the AOC screen, the leg is clicked onto the screen without screws.
The build quality of both screens feels fine. The AG274QXM is even more stable on the desk thanks to the wide front legs. Adjustment options are endless. The AOC screen offers 120mm of height adjustment and Cooler Master’s monitor can be raised and lowered by 110mm. In addition, both the AG274QXM and the GP27U can pan, tilt and rotate to portrait orientation.
Apart from RGB, the GP27U has no special features on the housing, but the AG274QXM does have many extras. For example, AOC supplies a wired hockey puck-shaped remote control with its screen to operate the OSD. There is an extendable headphone hook on the left side of the monitor, and there is a built-in projector in the leg with which you can project a logo of your choice on your desk. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a totally unnecessary feature, and besides, the projector is in an inconvenient place, if you like it. The lens in the middle between the front legs is easily blocked by cables if you use the recess in the base for cable management. Also striking about the AG274QXM is the included lens hood.That is mainly something you see with screens for graphic artists, although miniLED monitors sometimes have it more often.
Both the AOC AG274QXM and the Cooler Master GP27U have a large number of four video connections: two HDMI, one DisplayPort and one USB-C, whereby the screen receives an image via DisplayPort Alternate Mode. Similar to a business docking monitor , both screens provide full power delivery . The AOC AG274QXM can return up to 65W to a connected laptop and the GP27U even offers 90W. The latter will also not be enough for a powerful gaming laptop, but it is sufficient for most ‘normal’ laptops.
Cooler Master’s display also features a two-port USB hub, while the AG274QXM has four USB ports. With both screens they are in a hard-to-reach place behind the screen. In addition to USB-C, both displays have a USB-B upstream port to connect the hub to a second PC. Both screens have some form of kvm functionality on board. Connected peripherals are automatically assigned to the USB-C port when that source is in view, and switched to the USB-B port when one of the other video inputs is selected. It does not seem possible to automatically reassign the USB-C port to a different video connection, for example if you want to connect two desktop PCs that both do not support video output over USB-C.
The HDMI 2.1 ports on the Cooler Master GP27U support the full bandwidth of 48Gbit/s, which allows the screen to operate at full 4k resolution and 160Hz refresh rate via all connections. The AG274QXM still has HDMI 2.0 ports with a lower bandwidth of 18Gbit/s, which is not so bad in this case because the screen does not have a 4k resolution. It does mean that 144Hz over HDMI is the maximum. As with the GP27U, Adaptive Sync , in both cases from 48Hz, also works over HDMI.
AOC and Cooler Master have simple speakers built into their screens, with the Cooler Master GP27U having a 3.5mm headphone port on the connection panel, while the AG274QXM has separate headphone and microphone connections. Both screens have an external power supply. Not ideal as far as I’m concerned, certainly not with the AG274QXM, where the separate power block is an extremely unwieldy colossus.
For operating the OSD, the AG274QXM and GP27U both have a five-way joystick on the right behind the panel, with the AOC screen, as mentioned, a wired remote control as a second option.
The OSD of the AG274QXM is designed vertically. The division of options over categories could have been more convenient in my opinion. For example, the setting for local dimming is not in the ‘luminance’ menu, image modes for hdr and sdr can be found in other sections of the menu and the setting to limit the color range to sRGB is under ‘color temperature’. The AG274QXM has a remarkable number of settings for the sound. There is an equalizer with five bands and various presets, such as Rock or Classic. There are also detailed options in the OSD for adjusting the color and effects of the RGB lighting, although it is better to use the updated G-Menu application for this. It also allows you to synchronize the lighting with other AOC peripherals,
The GP27U has a more traditionally styled three column display menu. Confusingly, the third column sometimes shows an overview of currently selected options and sometimes a submenu of available options. They are more detailed with Cooler Master than with AOC, at least when it comes to the image. For example, the intensity of the local dimming can be adjusted in multiple levels, there are options to adjust hue and saturation for both primary and secondary colors, and the color range can not only be adjusted to sRGB, but also DCI-P3 or AdobeRGB . The settings for the overdrive are also very extensive. As with AOC, you can optionally put a reticle or fps counter over the image. The settings for the RGB on the back are very minimalistic: ‘on’ or ‘off’,
Test method and test field
For this review, as usual, we took an extensive series of measurements. We measure brightness, contrast and color rendering using a Spectracal C6 colorimeter, which we profile using a JETI Spectraval 1501 Hires spectroradiometer. Measurements are performed using Portrait Displays Calman Color Calibration software. We recently updated the testing procedure, which you can read more about in this .plan. Here we measure the screen as it comes out of the box, adjusting the brightness for color measurements to a value that is as close as possible to 150cd/m². In addition, we set the screen for color spaces such as sRGB and, if relevant, Display P3 and AdobeRGB. We also make adjustments to the gamma and color temperature if necessary.
We measure response times with a photo sensor and the LeCroy Waverunner 6100 oscilloscope. We ran more extensive response time tests for this article, measuring 20 transitions. We determine the input lag with a Leo Bodnar tester, sending 1080p-60Hz signals to the screen in addition to 1080p-60Hz. To determine viewing angles, we measure residual brightness and color change at a 45-degree angle from a perpendicular measurement. For the uniformity measurement, we look at the ratio between the brightness at fifteen measuring points, measured on a completely white and a completely black screen. We also determine the relative color differences along the edges in relation to the center. Finally, we measure the energy consumption of the monitor,
We compare the AOC Agon Pro AG274QXM and Cooler Master Tempest GP27U to a range of other high-end gaming monitors. Some of them have a wqhd resolution, such as the AG274QXM, others have a 4k panel, such as the GP27U. The 4k screens can be recognized by a light blue bar in the graphs. These screens are often cheaper than the AG274QXM and GP27U, but they do not have a mini LED backlight, fine-grained local dimming or very high brightness for HDR display.
The overview also includes two OLED monitors and LG’s 65C24LA OLED television. They have a different diagonal than the screens in this article and also cost much more. They are among the best HDR screens we’ve tested to date, along with the miniLED screens in our test file, such as the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 (LS49AG950NUXEN), ASUS ROG Swift PG32UQX and ASUS ProArt PA32UCX-PK. These monitors are also reflected in the charts, and are or were much more expensive than the duo from this article.
|Brand and product range||AOC Agon Pro||Cool Master|
|Price and appreciation|
|Price||€689 (17 stores)||Unknown (2 stores)|
|First price listing||Tuesday, November 9, 2021||Wednesday, November 30, 2022|
|Valuation||Rating: 0||Rating: 2|
|Resolution||2560×1440 (Quad HD)||3840×2160 (4K)|
|Panel and backlight|
|Type of panel||lcd||lcd|
|LCD panel||Ips||Ahva ips|
|dimming||Full-array local dimming (miniled)||Full-array local dimming (miniled)|
|G sync support||G-Sync Compatible (Certified)||G-Sync Compatible|
|FreeSync support||FreeSync Premium Pro||FreeSync|
|FreeSync minimum refresh rate||48Hz||48Hz|
|FreeSync max refresh rate||170Hz||160Hz|
|Contrast ratio (static)||1,000:1||1,000:1|
|Color depth||10bit (1.074 billion)||10bit (8bit + FRC) (1.074 billion)|
|Video in||DisplayPort, 2x HDMI, USB 3.2 (Gen1, 5Gb/s) type-C||DisplayPort, 2x HDMI, USB 3.2 (Gen1, 5Gb/s) type-C|
|Total video inputs||4x||4x|
|Highest HDMI version||HDMI 2.0||HDMI 2.1|
|Highest DisplayPort version||Display Port 1.4||Display Port 1.4|
|USB hub (downstream)||4x USB 3.2 (Gen1, 5Gb/s)||2x USB 3.2 (Gen1, 5Gb/s)|
|USB Power Delivery||Yes||Yes|
|USB Power Delivery max||65W||90W|
|Number of speakers||2.0||2.0|
|Total speaker power (RMS)||5W||4W|
|Ergonomics||Rotatable on foot, Height adjustable, Vertically tiltable, 90° horizontally rotatable (Pivot)||Rotatable on foot, Height adjustable, Vertically tiltable, 90° horizontally rotatable (Pivot)|
|Bracket mounting||Vesa 100mm||Vesa 100mm|
|Height (without foot)||368.2mm||364.2mm|
|Depth (without foot)||73mm||64.8mm|
|Weight and color|
|Warranty and details|
|Manufacturer’s warranty||3 years carry-in||2 year carry-in|
Response time and input lag
As described on the Test method page , we usually perform a response time test on gaming monitors with twenty transitions, where we also measured transitions between different shades of gray and from black to dark gray. We were able to perform this test without any problems on the Cooler Master Tempest GP27U. You can see the results below. With the AOC Agon Pro AG274QXM, we were unable to measure the response times properly, so the screen is missing from the graphs. This has to do with the control of the backlight.
Nowadays, the backlight is controlled flicker-free in almost all LCD monitors. The lights are on continuously, even if you lower the brightness control. That makes viewing the screen more comfortable; some people are sensitive to low-flicker PWM dimming, which was common a decade or so ago with the first generation of LED-backlit LCD monitors. Manufacturers then not only applied pwm dimming because it was cheaper to implement, but also because LED lights can suffer from color shift if you adjust the brightness by reducing the voltage. Perhaps that is the reason that pwm dimming is used again in the screens in this article. Controlling 576 lights is already complex enough,
With the Cooler Master GP27U, the lights are constantly on as long as you don’t use the local dimming feature, a well thought-out function for those who want to use the screen for both gaming and office work. If you enable local dimming, pwm dimming is applied. The AOC AG274QXM never uses flicker-free dimming, even if local dimming is off. We also see a strange pattern of brightness fluctuations with this screen: it is not simply ‘on off, on off’, as with the GP27U and OLED screens. That also makes it difficult to measure the response times of the panel manually, which we do for OLED screens, for example. The automated functions of our oscilloscope for measuring rise and fall times, for example, only work well with a screen with a continuously burning backlight.
A review of gaming monitors minus the response times section doesn’t make much sense, but thankfully there’s an alternative to our regular measurements. The website Blurbusters has developed a test method to visualize what moving images look like on different screens, using a special test pattern that must be followed with a moving camera at exactly the same speed. Below you can see the result. We have set each screen to the maximum refresh rate. The first photo shows the overdrive off, the second photo shows the maximum overdrive setting and the third photo shows the overdrive setting, which we believe provides the best balance between fast response times and little overshoot.