When it comes to quality gaming monitors, you usually get what you pay for. Mainstream brands all sell similar speed levels and features for about the same cost. But if you’re willing to stray from the beaten path, there are some great choices out there.
We looked at such displays from smaller companies like Viotek and Pixio. Monoprice is also a big player in the budget monitor category. It’s gone from a few simple enterprise-level offerings to a healthy stable of gaming screens of every popular size and shape.
If high frame rates are your goal, you’ll want to shop at 240 Hz or higher. And that is considered the premium level if you buy from Asus or Acer. But the Monoprice Dark Matter series offers a lot of that same performance for a lot less money. Designed to compete with the best gaming monitors, the 27-inch 240 Hz model, product number 40778, delivers 1080p resolution in a fast IPS panel with adaptive sync, HDR and high brightness for under $300.
Monoprice Dark Matter Specifications
|Panel type and backlight||AHVA-IPS/W-LED, edge array|
|Screen size and aspect ratio||27 inches / 16:9|
|Maximum resolution and refresh||1920×1080 @ 240 Hz|
|FreeSync Premium: 48-240Hz|
|Original color depth and gamma||8-bit / sRGB|
|Response time (GTG)||1ms|
|Brightness (mfr)||500 nits|
|Video Inputs||1x DisplayPort 1.2″|
|1x HDMI 2.0|
|1x HDMI 1.4|
|audio||3.5mm headphone output|
|Energy consumption||22.5 W, brightness @ 200 nits|
|Panel dimensions WxHxD with foot||24.3 x 18.3 x 9.9 in (616 x 465 x 252 mm)|
|Panel thickness:||2.2 inches (57mm)|
|Border width||Top/sides: 0.3 inch (8 mm)|
|Bottom: 0.8 inch (20mm)|
|Weight||10.7 lb (4.9 kg)|
The Dark Matter 27 is a Fast IPS panel with 1920×1080 pixels. While that may deter some buyers, the ultimate draft resolution should be considered. 240 fps in FHD looks just as clear, if not more so, than Ultra HD at 120 Hz. Keeping details sharp during a twitch-fest shooting game relies more on frame rates than on the number of pixels.
The Dark Matter 27 relies on FreeSync as its own adaptive technology and is compatible with G-Sync, as confirmed by our testing (see our FreeSync vs G-Sync story). It is not certified by Nvidia. HDR10 signals are also supported with both technologies, which is once again confirmed by our tests. While the IPS panel doesn’t deliver life-changing contrast and there’s no dynamic option for HDR, it offers slightly more dynamic range than many of its more expensive competitors.
The main thing missing here is extensive color. Many HDR monitors today have a wide color gamut as part of their feature set, but the Monoprice outshines at sRGB. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s not uncommon in the budget monitor genre. You will have to decide how much that extra color is worth, as it will cost you a little more. It should also be noted that many monitors running at 240 Hz and above do not offer a wide gamut.
The Monoprice Dark Matter 27 also includes game options like target points, timers, and a blur reduction feature that works pretty well if you prefer that approach over adaptive sync. But at 240 Hz, a speed easily achievable with a mid-level video card, you don’t need much extra help to make the image smoother.
On paper, the Monoprice Dark Matter 27 looks attractive alongside some premium 27-inch screens. We will find out how it works in practice. Let’s see.
Mounting and accessories from Monoprice Dark Matter
The Monoprice Dark Matter 27 comes with its upright already attached to a lightweight panel. You will need a Phillips screwdriver to attach the solid metal base. The bolts are located in the main accessory bag, which also includes an HDMI cable. We wondered why there wasn’t a DisplayPort cable until we discovered that the monitor would run at 240Hz with adaptive sync and HDR via the HDMI 2.0 input. The only other item in the box is an external power supply.
Product 360 from Monoprice Dark Matter
The Monoprice Dark Matter 27 is simply styled with just a few molded lines on the back to indicate the gaming focus. From the front, the border is even and shows an 8mm frame around the top and sides of the image. The bezel at the bottom is 20mm wide and has a small Monoprice logo.
The base and upright are all metal and finished with a black crackle texture that does not reflect light. The only adjustment is the tilt that goes 20° backward and 5° forward. There is no height adjustment, so you will have to tilt the screen towards you or place it on a pedestal if you prefer a perfectly vertical panel. There is also no swivel adjustment.
At the back you can see some style features that are very similar to the Pixio PX279 Prime. We initially thought the Monoprice Dark Matter 27 was a rebadged display, but after running our series of benchmarks, there are some differences in the results. We’ll get to that later, but suffice it to say that the Monoprice and Pixio monitors are not the same product.
Other external features are minimal. There are no USB ports or built-in speakers. The input panel is well stocked with an HDMI 1.4, an HDMI 2.0, a DisplayPort 1.2 and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The USB port is for service and firmware upgrades only.
OSD Features of Monoprice Dark Matter
The OSD control of the Monoprice Dark Matter 27 is managed by a small joystick that opens three different shortcut menus for input selection, picture mode and game aids. Pressing it opens the full menu which is divided into six subsections with image calibration, gaming enhancements and everything else you need to optimize performance.
The Display menu has basic brightness settings and access to the seven picture modes. User is the default and best preset for all content. Black Equalize increases the black level to make shadow details more visible. The sharpness control adds significant edge enhancement at any level above 50, so we’d recommend leaving it alone. Ultra Vivid adds a lot of ringing and other artifacts in an attempt to sharpen the image. That too should be omitted.
The Color menu has a complete set of picture settings, including four gamma presets, four color temperatures, and sliders for hue and saturation. You also get a low blue light slider to reduce fatigue when reading text against a white background. A User Color Temperature provides three highly accurate RGB sliders that helped us achieve excellent grayscale tracking. Color is a bit oversaturated in general, but very close to the sRGB spec.
The Gaming Setup menu allows the user to toggle between adaptive sync, choose from three overdrive levels (Low is best), and toggle between HDR, dynamic contrast (SDR signals only) and MPRT, which is a blurry backlight. It has no pulse width adjustment, but it works well, albeit a little subtle, to reduce blur. It only reduces brightness by about 10%. It cannot be used in conjunction with adaptive sync.
Monoprice Dark Matter Calibration Settings
The Dark Matter 27 comes out of the box in user mode and doesn’t quite qualify for our calibration not required list. Grayscale is a bit cool, but not over the top. Color is slightly oversaturated, but this is also not objectionable. The default 2.2 gamma preset is accurate, so we just tweaked the RGB sliders to achieve excellent grayscale tracking. Below are our recommended settings.
To enable HDR mode, you must first apply the signal and then switch modes in the Gaming Setup menu. You must do the reverse when you return to SDR mode. HDR doesn’t offer much contrast enhancement because there’s no dynamic feature.
|Brightness 200 nits||34|
|Brightness 120 nits||17|
|Brightness 100 nits||13|
|Brightness 80 nits||9|
|Brightness 50 nits||3 (min. 37 nits)|
|User color temperature||Red 51, Green 51, Blue 49|
Gaming and hands-on with Monoprice Dark Matter
The Dark Matter 27 is a competent monitor for everyday tasks and an excellent gaming monitor. For things like spreadsheets and word processing, more resolution would be nice, but 82ppi is enough to get the job done. The touch of extra color saturation is certainly welcome when editing images or watching video. It comes close enough to spec to look natural, but packs a lot of power even though the gamut is sRGB.
This monitor has a little more contrast than the average IPS screen and it shows. Black is nice and deep and the image is of a good size. We tried the dynamic contrast option and while this had a positive effect on shadow detail, making it blacker and more realistic, the overall image was way too bright. The backlight can’t be adjusted when it’s on, so its use was limited to gaming during our testing.
When starting up Tomb Raider, we immediately saw an advantage of the dynamic contrast. It made black more truthful without washing out details. Highlights came out nicely without being too harsh. Occasional flashes of light looked harsh, but were only short-lived. We would play most SDR games with the option enabled. In both cases the color was well saturated and natural in tone.
The video processing was as expected from a 240 Hz FHD monitor. The frame rate stayed maxed out when playing in G-Sync mode on a GeForce RTX 3090. Our FreeSync platform maintained around 220 fps with a Radeon RX 5700 XT card. We briefly tried the backlit flash, but it didn’t affect image quality either positively or negatively. Adaptive sync is the better choice. The overdrive is very effective on the low setting. Other options caused visible ghosts and tracks behind moving objects.
Response was always quick and input lag seemed nonexistent. While any refresh rate above 60 Hz is an improvement, 240 Hz and above will spoil you. Once you’ve experienced it, even for a short time, it’s hard to go back. Therefore, a lower resolution is often the better choice. Frame rate is more important than pixel density. In the case of the Dark Matter 27, you get a lot of performance for under $300. We’ve played on plenty of high-end monitors and this Monoprice can go head-to-toe with most of them.