The soaring popularity of PC gaming has been accelerated by global lockdowns and has positioned gamer-centric hardware as a priority for many manufacturers. UK system integrator AWD already has a solid track record in producing gaming rigs of all shapes and sizes and is now turning things up a notch with the introduction of a dedicated gaming sub-brand dubbed X=.
We're not enamoured by the name, which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but we're informed that X represents Experience, and the entire product line is intended to bring "high-performance gaming equipment to the majority of gamers at competitive prices." Sounds promising and our first review product, the XRGB27WQ gaming monitor, appears to fit the bill.
Why would gamers choose a monitor from a relative unknown? Value is going to be the key driver, and AWD's £270 price tag is certainly enticing. For that amount you're getting a 27in IPS panel with slim bezels, a 2,560x1,440 QHD resolution and adaptive framerate synchronisation (AMD FreeSync or G-Sync compatible) at up to 165Hz.
27in, QHD and 165Hz is right in line with our interpretation of the PC gaming sweet spot, and it's interesting to note that the XRGB27WQ employs a mature Innolux M270KCJ-K7B panel that has previously featured in considerably dearer products. Indeed, the very same underlying panel was found in the well-received Aorus AD27QD back in early 2019, then at a much loftier £535 price point.
AWD is attempting to offer a lot of that same goodness for practically half the price, but things do move quickly in this industry and there are now a range of other competitors. A £270 price tag for the XRGB27WQ looks favourable alongside the ageing Aorus, but regular readers will know that well-established brands now offer comparable characteristics for not too dissimilar sums. The recently reviewed iiyama G-Master GB2770QSU, for example, tackles 27in QHD gaming at 165Hz for £300.
Still, the XRGB27WQ represents an affordable route to smooth, high-framerate gameplay, and the Innolux panel continues to offer plenty of admirable traits. Adaptive sync in the 48-to-165Hz range helps eliminate tearing, QHD is a fine fit at 27in, out-the-box colour coverage and accuracy is better than you might imagine, and the 5ms grey-to-grey response time is decent enough for an IPS solution. Peak brightness of 350 nits can also be deemed sufficient for the target audience, viewing angles are excellent at up to 178° in all directions, however a contrast ratio of 1,000:1 reveals shortcomings when it comes to blacks and HDR performance.
SDR games ultimately look and play fabulously at the native resolution - we'd recommend the high overdrive setting as the best bet for minimising ghosting at 165Hz - but the XRGB27WQ does present some shortcomings in terms of overall implementation. The forked stand is arguably our biggest gripe as it offers only a small amount of tilt and no height adjustment. There is a 100mm VESA mount if you happen to have your own stand or bracket, but by default the bottom of the display sits just 10cm above the desk; much too low for someone as tall as yours truly to use comfortably.
Those who appreciate RGB lighting may enjoy the light bar across the back, as well as the projected X= logo, but such novelties do nothing for us, and it's a shame the light bar can't be used independently of the logo; it's all or nothing. Overall construction feels reasonably robust, yet our sample sadly suffered from noticeable IPS glow in the corners, as well as a dreaded stuck pixel that hasn't corrected itself as yet. The monitor is sold exclusively through AWD and thus backed by a three-year warranty as standard, but the acceptable number of stuck/dead pixels isn't clear and we've reached out for clarification. [Update] AWD has confirmed to HEXUS that it would be happy to "get the monitor back under warranty even with the one stuck pixel," and full warranty terms have been added at the end of this review.
There's nothing out of the ordinary in the ports department, where you'll find a USB port (presumably for servicing only), HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, an audio passthrough and a connector for the power cable. There aren't any integrated speakers, but we appreciate the fact that the power supply is internal, and a joystick positioned around back along the bottom-right edge makes light work of customising settings via the on-screen GUI.
At this price point users shouldn't expect a dedicated Windows app to adjust settings on the fly, nor advanced gamer-specific features such as timer overlays or hardware stats, yet there is an option to enable a basic on-screen crosshair should you wish to do so. With so few frills it us up to the panel itself to deliver on the XRGB27WQ's value proposition. Let's run the tests and see how it all pans out.