By default, the XL2411 is set to its FPS1 image profile, and there's no beating around the bush here: image quality is pretty poor. The sRGB gamut coverage of 92 percent is unfortunate and so too is colour accuracy: An average delta E value of nearly 5 is worse than what we'd expect. Similarly, the gamma reading of 1.5 is way off the ideal 2.2 value. Uniformity readings aren't amazing either. Still it's not all bad news: The contrast ratio is at least decent enough for a TN panel, there's plenty of brightness, and while the image is a little cool with a 7,000K colour temperature this isn't too bad either.
The important thing to remember, however, is that the XL2411 isn't trying to be a monitor for photographers. Its sights are set firmly on gamers, as the use of the FPS1 profile for a default clearly shows. The key setting here is 'Black eQualiser', which deliberately lightens shadowy areas, and is set to a value of 12 out of a maximum 20. This clearly affects the gamma reading: The curve shows that the output brightness is far higher than you'd expect with a 2.2 gamma, and this will undoubtedly have an impact on colour accuracy.
As such, we tried a few other default settings. Setting the Black eQ setting to 0 resulted in an immediate improvement to the gamma reading, now 1.8, and a resultant improvement in colour depth and contrast. The sRGB profile, meanwhile, was very pleasing. We've included the gamma and colour accuracy results on the appropriate pages or this. Essentially, though, it's far closer to what we'd expect: sRGB gamut coverage reached 99 percent; the colour temperature was a near-ideal 6,400K; the contrast ratio was the best of the bunch; gamma hit 1.8, still not ideal but a big improvement; and the colour accuracy was vastly improved, with an average delta E of below 2 being great. In short, if you want decent performance in a general sense rather than a gaming-specific one, it's only a few buttons presses away. We also tried calibrating the monitor but didn't get any worthwhile improvement over the sRGB profile.
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Switching to a more subjective standpoint, we did notice a touch of blacklight bleed along the top edge, but it wasn't enough to be a distraction or even really noticeably on anything but a very dark scene. Viewing angles were pretty ropey, but this is one of the major sacrifices of opting for a TN panel. Most gamers will be looking at the screen head-on, so it's not a massive issue.
We can't say we're enamoured by the Black eQ setting, especially the degree to which it is used by default; there was a distinctly washed out feeling to most of our test images and videos that made general PC usage less enjoyable. We recognise that it may have tactical benefits in games, so we shan't be too critical as it's easy to disable. The impact was very clear in our greyscale test images, where the output range was clearly hindered. The FPS2 and RTS gaming profiles push the setting higher still, which we found very hard to tolerate.
The Movie and Photo presets have a cooler than usual tinge to them but otherwise weren't bad. Photo in particular seems to introduce more contrast and more vivid colours without going over the top. Eco is also worthy of note since its brightness of around 130cd/m2 is very close to the recommend level for long-term use.
There are definite benefits playing on a 144Hz screen compared to your average 60Hz affair. Even if your frame rate doesn't reach this high, enabling v-sync gets rid of tearing and there's much less stuttering as the result of the display being refreshed so quickly. Removing v-sync does reveal tearing, especially around moving objects, so it's a shame that FreeSync was not included in this refreshed version (this, too, would require a DisplayPort or at least a tweak to the HDMI standard used).
Other relevant settings include motion blur reduction, which is off by default. Turning it on dims the display and honestly we can't say we noticed a big difference with it enabled. Advanced Motion Acceleration (AMA) is the overdrive setting. It comes set to 'High' but can also be disabled or set to 'Premium'. The default setting was definitely the best, keeping ghosting to a minimum without many obvious overshoot effects.
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The first thing to note about this screen is that it's currently very difficult to track down in the UK. It's not end-of-life, but it appears that the latest shipment has yet to hit the shores, so most websites are listing it as out of stock or on for pre-order. The best price we've found for it, £250, is with Scan, where it is currently on pre-order without a current ETA. We've also seen pricing at £230 for the older model at Overclockers UK, which has confirmed it has a new order in place - whether this price remains is still uncertain.
Going by the best price, the XL2411 isn't a bad deal for a 1080p 144Hz monitor. It's exceptionally fast, not bad looking, easy to use and the range of adjustments is excellent. Performance out of the box is pretty poor but that's clearly a direct result of it targeting those more concerned about winning eSports battles than pure image quality. Its also easy to overlook since switching to sRGB profile results in improvements in nearly every area.
However, it's difficult not to compare this screen to the AOC G240PF, another 1080p panel with a 144Hz refresh rate. It's gone up in price since we looked at it, now hovering around £225 and thus on par with the best price you're likely to see for this Zowie screen. However, it also includes a better set of connections and AMD FreeSync. With BenQ/Zowie not having made this jump with the latest XL2411, not offering substantially better image quality or outstanding features, and not undercutting the AOC on price, it's tough to recommend in spite of its decent gaming credentials.