We start today with our first monitor test of 2021, we take a look at the Alienware AW2721D, a hot topic. This is the first monitor we're reviewing with our updated testing method for 2021. If you've overlooked all of these details, it's well worth a watch.
The Alienware AW2721D is a new high-end 27-inch 1440p monitor that gives us a first look at the combination of 240 Hz refresh rate and IPS technology at this resolution. Alienware is promoting "true 1ms GTG response time" – we'll see – but we know the monitor uses the latest generation LG IPS panel so we expect performance to be similar to that of other LG IPS Products is similar.
Another important point on the datasheet is the support for G-Sync Ultimate, although this is the new watered-down G-Sync Ultimate, not the high standard the program once commanded.
G-Sync Ultimate used to be for the best HDR displays out there, but that's not the case in 2021 as the AW2721D somehow qualified despite only having DisplayHDR 600 certification and only edge-lit local dimming. It is HDR compatible and offers 98% DCI-P3 coverage. So we'll see how it works a little later.
With its 1440p 240Hz capabilities, this new Alienware display competes directly with the Samsung Odyssey G7, another 1440p 240Hz display that we looked at with a curved VA panel instead. The AW2721D does something different and is also more expensive, currently $ 825, when purchased direct from Dell or Amazon. The good news, however, is that it is actually available, which we can't say about every new piece of hardware we test these days.
The AW2721D is a big monitor for something that only has a 27-inch panel, and I'm not talking about bezels, but the entire monitor body. The stand is sturdy and attaches to a fairly thick display case. The whole thing is much heavier than I expected, although it makes it very robust.
And while most of the exterior materials are made of plastic, I find that with its mix of black and white soft surfaces, it looks pretty high quality. I'm not a fan of the big 27 that are printed on the back, but other than that, it's a pretty neat body with some nice curves.
Here you will find RGB lighting integrated into a light bar on the back of the stand, as well as the classic Alien Head logo. This isn't a big selling point for me, but it's something other people find useful. Behind the cover of the magnetic connection there is a DisplayPort and two HDMI connections as well as some USB connections. You will need to use DisplayPort to access the maximum refresh rate of 240 Hz as HDMI is limited to only 144 Hz at this resolution and this display does not support HDMI 2.1.
Alienware offers full adjustment options, including height, tilt, pan and swivel functions, so you can operate this monitor in portrait orientation if you want. The height adjustment is generous too, and I think it helped having such a large stand assembly – even if the stand legs don't take up much desk space.
The screen display can be controlled by a direction switch located behind the lower right corner of the monitor. You will find a modest range of features there. Color controls are a bit poor, but there are refresh rate and timer options for gamers, although there is no cheat crosshair. Stroboscopic backlighting is also not available as the LG IPS panel has a slow red fluorescent that interferes with strobing, as we've seen before.
Alienware only offers three response time settings. However, the monitor uses a native G-Sync module. Therefore, variable overdrive is a feature so we don't have to change the settings very often. Let's see how it works …
At 240 Hz in the lowest overdrive mode, Fast, it is clear that overdrive is indeed activated. The reason I'm bringing out this pretty obvious point is because you can't completely disable Overdrive mode on this display as Fast is the "lowest" mode. I'm not sure how many people actually want to do this, but as you can see there is an overshoot in the lowest mode, and without a lower setting this is the slightest overshoot you'll see.
Is this overshoot problematic? Not at all. Most of the transitions are not affected by any noticeable overshoot. Instead, it leaves an average response time of 4.47 ms between gray and gray, which is excellent. With our newer test method, which is gamma corrected and measures more of the response time curve, we see some slower transitions, especially fall times with longer trace. However, based on the displays I've tested so far, this is a bit common with IPS panels and anything but the worst example.
On the right you can see our new cumulative deviation results, which measure how close the response behavior is to the ideal "immediate" response. Given that many of you have not yet seen this metric, I'll provide a context where the 414 rating here is excellent and suggests a quick panel. Average score is 600. We also get 70% update compliance which with our new methodology is enough to call this a true 240Hz display which is a great sign of an IPS panel.
The overdrive settings via Fast are not recommended. Super Fast shortens the response times to an average of 3.57 ms, but this leads to a significant increase in overshoot. As a result, our cumulative discrepancy numbers increase, suggesting that we are further from an ideal answer than we were in the previous mode. Extreme mode is even worse, and to me this seems like a setting that is just used to market the monitor as "1 ms" – you can see that the best transitions are in the 1 ms range. I would much rather have Alienware put in a "Fast" mode with less overshoot than deal with this "Extreme" mode, which looks a lot worse.
In terms of performance across the refreshing range, buyers of the AW2721D should use the Fast mode which offers a single overdrive mode experience, exactly what I would expect from a premium display.
Sometimes the overshoot can be a little higher than I would like, especially at 200 Hz, but for the most part the overshoot is manageable and not as noticeable in practice. You can see variable overdrive here, especially below 100Hz where the monitor seems to switch to a slower mode to keep the overshoot at bay. This is fine for lower refresh rate games and I'm glad it was implemented this way to prevent users from having to change the overdrive settings based on the refresh rate they are playing at.
Compared to the AW2721D with other gaming monitors, the response time numbers are generally very solid considering the peak performance recorded at the display's maximum refresh rate.
An average result under 5 ms is Elite. This makes this display one of the fastest that I have tested. The overshoot numbers are not surprising compared to the Omen X 27, for example, but the performance is a step above the previous 144 and 165 Hz displays such as the LG 27GL850.
Average performance across the upgrade range is also very solid, and interestingly, performance is very similar between the AW2721D and Dell S2721DGF, which both use LG IPS panels. Earlier Nano IPS panels already had the response times for a 240Hz refresh rate. You just had to unlock that type of refresh rate, and it seems like that's basically what we're getting here.
If you look at the cumulative deviation and show how close the monitor is to ideal response, the AW2721D is in the midst of a large number of modern IPS monitors, all of which offer a similar experience, measured in this 500 to 600 point range about their refreshment area.
This Alienware monitor benefits from increased update area without affecting overall performance. Basically, this new 1440p 240Hz IPS panel from LG is not pushing the IPS in terms of responsiveness compared to what was already on the market. That's not a bad thing at all, but those who want an AW2721D specifically for better performance even at lower updates like 144Hz aren't really getting this. Again, the main benefit is simply an overall higher refresh rate.
And you'll see what I'm talking about when we look at the response times recorded at 120Hz. While the AW2721D offers excellent performance in this 5 ms range, it is not fundamentally different from other offerings. Therefore, buyers of this display should be primarily interested in games above 165 Hz, now or in the future.
Because of the way variable overdrive works on this monitor, the AW2721D is just a mid-range performer at 60Hz. With an LG 27GL850, you'll be better off playing games in this lower upgrade range. However, if you want faster response times and are okay with much higher overshoot, you can increase the Overdrive mode by one notch.
The input latency is excellent at 240Hz, with virtually no processing delay on the monitor side, leaving the only remaining latency due to update delay and response delay. Anything under 5ms is excellent and provides a very responsive experience.
In terms of best performance at 240Hz, the AW2721D isn't quite as good as the Odyssey, largely due to higher overshoot with a similar average response time. But these displays make trade hits and the Alienware monitor isn't far behind.
On average over the update range, the G7 has a clearer edge, resulting in less overshoot and an average 10 percent faster response. Samsung's latest VA technology without smudging the dark is extremely impressive and holds up a little better than IPS for these premium, high refresh rate displays.
The AW2721D is nothing unusual in terms of power consumption. It is a bit more efficient than the TN display in the HP Omen X 27 and even takes the RGB lighting into account.
Color space: Alienware AW2721D – D65-P3
The AW2721D is a display with a large color gamut that offers 96% coverage of the P3 color space. This is ideal for developers who want to use this display for their wide color gamut work.
One major disadvantage, however, is that the AW2721D does not have an sRGB mode. Therefore, there is no way to emulate this gamut or limit it to sRGB in order to display regular content. This leaves viewers a satiated experience in many cases, especially when they are watching YouTube videos (for example), which doesn't work well with ICC profiles. This is a huge oversight for a premium monitor.
On the positive side, the AW2721D offers excellent factory grayscale calibration. My device had near perfect adherence to the sRGB gamma curve and negligible deviation from the exact CCT curve.
This led to low DeltaEs ex works and practically no discoloration of the monitor worth mentioning. One thing that G-Sync Ultimate monitors are successful at is their grayscale calibration at the factory. This is no exception with this display.
Unfortunately, there will be some oversaturation when viewing sRGB content. All in all, this isn't the worst result I've seen on a wide gamut, and some people actually like this look, but it could be better.
Similar results at ColorChecker. The positive is that it doesn't significantly affect the skin tones. Therefore, you are unlikely to see "sunburn" even though you are still oversaturated.
Calibrated color performance
Since the grayscale performance is great out of the box and there is no sRGB mode, there is little that can be done in the OSD to improve performance other than a few small tweaks if things are slightly different.
The next step is a full calibration and as expected I got great results. A grayscale DeltaE ITP below 2.0 and a strong performance in other colorimetrics when measured against sRGB; No wonder, because this color space is 100% covered.
We generally see strong results with P3 work. However, since coverage is only 96% instead of 100%, you will lose poor accuracy at the high end of the saturation range. However, this is not significant enough to detract from overall performance and I would say the AW2721D is a great monitor for P3 when calibrated.
When comparing the factory grayscale calibration with other monitors I've tested, the Alienware AW2721D is one of the best and tops the charts as I like to see premium displays. The factory ColorChecker calibration isn't the worst either, although only sRGB monitors like the BenQ EX2510 offer a significantly better experience.
The maximum brightness is excellent in SDR mode and pushes 532 nits, which is more than sufficient for indoor use in almost all environments. Despite this high peak brightness, the AW2721D delivers an excellent minimum brightness even with a touch of less than 50 nits. Therefore there is a wide range of values to adjust the brightness according to your needs.
The contrast ratio of LG IPS panels has been discussed again and again, especially since monitors such as the 27GL850 were first introduced. Since that first release of Nano IPS displays, LG has been able to improve the contrast ratio with newer panels.
While the AW2721D doesn't have a fantastic contrast ratio that VA panels can easily surpass, I achieved a 1000: 1 result that is on par with a modern IPS monitor.
The viewing angles are excellent and LG panels are still some of the best on the market in this field. There is very little color shift when viewed from a different angle, giving you the flexibility to view this ad in a number of different ways.
I was also generally happy with the evenness, although there was some litter on the outside edges. The central zone was great, but my device showed some IPS glow in the lower right corners, although your mileage may vary and I suspect this will improve over time on my rehearsal.
To conclude our performance tests, let's take a look at HDR. The AW2721D is G-Sync Ultimate, but only a semi-HDR panel. Of the three pillars of HDR, this monitor lacks proper local dimming. We only get 32 edge-lighting zones, which is not enough to create bright highlights and deep blacks on the screen at the same time. This is a cornerstone of any HDR presentation. In practice, there are significant halos that extend from the edges of the monitor to bright objects. Depending on the content, this can be distracting and worse than no local dimming at all.
What the AW2721D does right is brightness. A sustained brightness of around 520 nits with an all white window is decent, and that increases to 750 nits for bright flashes, enough to be dazzling in indoor conditions. The display can also withstand over 700 nits for smaller window sizes, which adds up to a decent, but not overwhelming, collection of brightness numbers.
In the best case scenario, the AW2721D can effectively switch from dark to light in separate frames to achieve a dynamic contrast ratio of up to 63,000: 1. However, if you measure within a single frame, even in the best of cases, the AW2721D won't achieve the base target contrast ratio of 50,000: 1 for a flawless HDR experience. This is with a light and dark object far away on the screen.
And in our worst-case single-image contrast test, in which a light and a dark object are measured side by side, the AW2721D does not provide an HDR experience. This is because local dimming with edge lighting cannot dim the screen sufficiently for HDR content. Therefore, you can access the native contrast ratio of the display within each column zone. If a panel can't improve its SDR numbers in this test, it won't deliver a true HDR experience.
In terms of HDR accuracy, the display is a mixed bag too. This monitor doesn't let the brightness roll off well, so items that should be bright aren't as bright as they should be. For some reason, the RGB balance also gets a lot colder at higher brightness levels, while at lower brightness levels it is decent and fairly accurate.
In HDR mode, however, the AW2721D doesn't do the worst job of keeping the proper saturation performance within the limits of the display's capabilities. Especially when looking at P3 and Rec.709 sweeps in BT.2020, the results were better than expected, so that the saturation is kept rather well in this mode and this should provide a good color experience.
For whom is that?
The Alienware AW2721D is a great high-end gaming monitor that shows the promise of IPS technology for 1440p 240Hz applications. Thanks to the advances made in recent years, IPS is definitely fast enough for these kinds of refresh rates, and while this particular monitor doesn't break new performance records, it consistently topped our response time charts for buyers over $ 800 output to a new monitor, will search for it.
I was pretty impressed with the versatility of this display. With features like 96% P3 coverage, great factory grayscale calibration, and a nice flat panel display with great viewing angles, the AW2721D is also great for creative and general office work.
If you want a single monitor in your setup to accommodate both high-end gaming and productivity, then the AW2721D will set you up perfectly now and for years to come. After all, getting to 1440p at 240 FPS in today's games is quite a challenge.
There are a few other little bonuses that are scattered around here. Variable overdrive ensures solid performance across the update range and results in a coveted single overdrive mode. Entry lag is practically zero and the build quality was impressive and reasonably priced.
On the whole, this is a great illustration and I am very positive about the results, but there are some oversights. The lack of an sRGB emulation mode in such a high-end product is a notable omission. Using an LG IPS panel prevents the backlight from blinking for added movement clarity. And while it's a G-Sync Ultimate display, the HDR performance on offer is poor as we only get local dimming with edge lighting.
You can see how it stacks up here, in our performance summary table, which is new to this review and which we may use in the future. Some weaknesses are shown in red, but overall, many green results show that this monitor does above average compared to all other displays tested so far.
Alienware AW2721D Performance Summary
I'm sure a lot of people are wondering whether to buy the AW2721D or go for something like the Samsung Odyssey G7. Here is my simple breakdown since I've tested both of them.
If you're just looking for a gaming-only monitor, the Odyssey G7 is likely a better option. It is cheaper, especially at 27 ", and gives better results in response time. It also has the benefit of double contrast ratio and stroboscopic backlighting, a feature many people desire for its clarity of movement advantages.
However, the Odyssey G7 is just a gaming display. The AW2721D with its IPS panel is much more versatile and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to use their monitor for other purposes as well.
The Alienware's flat panel display is also much better at this size. You also get better viewing angles, better uniformity, a wider color gamut, and better factory calibration. All of these elements combined with response time numbers that are not too far off the Odyssey make for an excellent balance of functions.
There are a few other options at this price, such as: B. 4K 144Hz with a monitor like the LG 27GN950. But for today's game I would turn more to the AW2721D, especially since the 27GN950 lacks HDMI 2.1. High-end ultrawides can also be considered, although at this point we're basically talking about a different category of monitors.