Review: BenQ ZOWIE ZONE
To unveil the launch of a new product, BenQ ZOWIE invited me to their resident city,Taipei. The product released was truly unique: the ZOWIE ZONE. The company calls it “a complete esports experience” and it fits the bill. The ZONE is essentially an easily adjustable mechanical table seamlessly integrated with a top quality PC and monitor, meaning all you need are peripherals and a mousemat to game at the highest level.
As far as I’m aware, there are no systems like this on the market elsewhere. The table/PC/monitor system all operates through the same simple interface, with only a single button to turn the system on. From there, well-designed adjustment buttons allow you to shift the table precisely to the most comfortable height - anywhere from 759mm to 1409mm. This means that it can easily be used as a standing desk and changes within seconds, gliding smoothly and without noise.
The high-quality PC is attached at the back, well out of the way for even those with long legs, while the 240Hz monitor is positioned on a highly flexible arm allowing full movement.
ZOWIE has not released the specifications for the PC as they instead want the focus to be on the personal experiences of players who use it, but for those who love to look up specs, the monitor is their BenQ ZOWIE XL2540 240Hz. I got an opportunity to test the whole system at the product launch and, after playing with the table at various heights, tested the PC in Overwatch and CS:GO.
The PC, aided by the 240Hz monitor, provided an incredible smooth experience. I have a good PC at home capable of streaming and playing the game at reasonable framerates; this was the best setup I’ve tried in terms of being stutter- or jitter-free. It maxed out Overwatch at 300fps in most fights, with CS:GO running between 200-300 fps but feeling completely fluid throughout.
It was running Windows 7, optimized to prioritize the active game to avoid lag, with custom ZOWIE software including a custom-built hardware UI. The hardware user interface can be brought up by tapping a button at the front right and pops up inside the game you’re playing - for our test, in CS:GO. It allows you to change monitor settings like contrast, gamma, black equalisers, etc. without craning your head around and tapping on some monitor buttons repeatedly. It pops up directly inside CS:GO and works with keyboard and mouse input, letting you type exact numbers in and set your system up exactly as you like it. At the product launch this in-game UI did not function in Overwatch, but ZOWIE claims this will be rolled out to further titles including Overwatch in the future.
I must profess, I’m a fan of ZOWIE products in general. They frequently combine a simple, functional design with high quality products that are easy to use. The ZOWIE ZONE felt like a ZOWIE product in that sense; the design was incredibly simple and therefore intuitive, the build quality seemed very solid, and the player experience felt excellent.
In addition to the main components, the table itself has buttons and inputs at each corner. At the front right are the buttons to move the table up and down, next to the overall system power button and the button for the in-game UI. At the front left are inputs for a headset, volume controls, and buttons to swap between headphone sound and speaker sound - using the same system as ZOWIE’s external VITAL audio.
At the back left are two power outlets and four USB ports, while in the back right there are three more inputs designed for a speaker, keyboard, and mouse.
Near the back left there is also a cup holder that's very difficult to knock over, even for a clumsy oaf like myself, providing a bit more security for your esports station. In front, a phone stand has been placed within reach of the charging area to keep the desk clear and let you view your phone at a good angle whilst playing.
This setup was very customisable and ergonomic, adapting to any position I wanted to sit or stand in. I tried leaning all the way back and bringing the monitor with me in a low position, sitting all the way hunched forward over my mousemat with the monitor anywhere from up my nose to at the back of the table, standing up to play - it all felt comfortable and quick to move with this system.
It has not been announced yet when the ZOWIE ZONE will be released or what the exact asking price will be, though this will not be a cheap product. You also won’t be taking it around with you easily, as it weighs 85kg and measures 1218x734mm, sold all attached together - the monitor is the only piece you can buy separately.
The system is designed for LAN cafes, events, and tournaments where players need very smooth and customisable stations in order to perform at maximum capacity. As a former competitor this would have been a perfect desk/PC/monitor hybrid to play on, no question of that, but for tournament organisers getting 12 of these on a stage and having players all at different heights with ZOWIE-only hardware may pose a challenge.
My main take-away from testing out this product and hearing the ZOWIE staff talk about their philosophy is that it was very well designed and easy to use, allowed for a huge range of customisation in a way that no other setup can offer, and was the best PC and monitor I’ve ever used. While it may be a hugely expensive purchase for a gaming cafe or LAN centre, it’s about the only setup I’ve tried that I preferred over my home PC for playing and would therefore pay for.
Check out the official release video below for an idea of how it looks in action: