AOC U28G2XU full review

In 2021, we’ve all arrived at a strange place where many PC gamers are confronted with some brutal economics about the hardware they need to enjoy their pastime. Higher resolutions and frame rates are where gamers want to go, but relatively few can afford the hardware to achieve these.

What makes the GPU shortage even more frustrating is that not long ago, the video card cost to have playable 4K titles was dwarfed by that of the display needed to experience it.

And now, with screens like the AOC U28G2XU, the monitor end of that economic equation is the lesser expense.

If you are lucky enough to have a GPU powerful enough to drive it, the AOC U28G2XU looks like precisely the specification of monitor you might want to exploit that investment. And, even if you don’t have that dream GPU now, eventually, video card prices will come back to earth, probably with a bump.

Out of the box

With screens greater than 24-inches, getting them out of the packaging and on the table isn’t always easy. But the packaging and relatively low weight of the AOC U28G2XU makes deployment reasonably straightforward.

The panel is sandwiched between two expanded foam layers, and once slid out of the box, the top portion can be lifted away will the support foot, cables and documentation on it. Once the support foot is assembled by the application of a single thumb-tightened screw, it can be slotted to the panel and used to lift that out of the protective foam without putting undue stress on the screen.

The connection between the screen and support uses a button to release, and inside the mating cavity are VESA 100 holes for those with alternative support hardware.

At a little over 6kg, lifting it out and positioning it on a desk is relatively simple for most people, and the support arm can rotate the screen to a vertical portrait position which, if nothing else, helps massively with plugging cables in.

Along with the screen, the packaging contains a paper manual, support CD, HDMI and DisplayPort cables, plus power cables. This design has the PSU integrated into the screen so there is no external power supply.

What was missing from our review box was a USB downlink cable, but we suspect that, depending on the region, the screen should come with one.

Design & Features

As products aimed at gamers go, the AOC U28G2XU is decidedly reserved. It has a black and dark red motif, doesn’t include any LED lighting and is almost devoid of gratuitous graphics or embellishments. It’s so ordinary looking that this wouldn’t look out of place in an office.

As the model number suggests, the display is 28in in size.

The first feature I noticed that impressed me was the stand design, as it avoids the obvious flaws of providing good stability by sacrificing the desk area. Most of the stability is generated in front of the screen, but the two projections don’t extend far in front. And, equally, the smaller rear feet allow the monitor to get reasonably close to a wall due to a kink in the vertical support structure.

Cable management might only be a hole in the support arm, but the amount of movement in the support is excellent. A vertical translation of 130mm is available and a necessity for the 90-degree twist into portrait mode.

The U28G2XU can be tilted forward by 5 degrees and back by 23, and the foot allows for some twisting adjustment without picking up and moving the display.

All the video inputs are on the central part of the panel, the USB hub is situated to the viewer's right and power is on the left. There isn’t any cover for the inputs, so everything remains very accessible.

This design has one of the better USB hubs I’ve seen with a single USB-B uplink line and four USB-A downstream ports. These are all USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports providing a maximum of 5Gbit of bandwidth (shared), and one of them is coloured yellow to indicate that it is for charging connected devices.

I expected a joystick-controlled OSD on this design, but it comes with the five buttons on the front right underside that I’ll talk about later.

For those that like thin frames, the U28G2XU has 7mm bezels on the sides and top but 16mm along the bottom. That thicker lower strip might provide a useful place to but the AOC branding, but it doesn’t help those using multiple screens in portrait mode, making the borders uneven.

From a technical standpoint, the critical features of this design are that it has a natural resolution of 4K (3840 x 2160), a maximum refresh of 144Hz with variable sync. The quoted response time is low and it can handle four video inputs and supports HDR 400.

But, as with many things, the devil is in the details.

In use

The first feature that irked me was the five menu control buttons, or technically, four and a power button.

How anyone is meant to read the tiny logos for what each does that are embossed on black plastic is a mystery. The menu that these buttons operate appears elsewhere on the screen, and there is little that is intuitive about connecting the actions on one to the other.

Luckily, AOC has created not one but two software menus for changing the settings on the U28G2XU, and I highly recommend installing one of them to make these changes instead of attempting to use those buttons, other than power.

That said, there are some features that aren’t on the software menu system, including the PiP (picture-in-picture), HDR functionality and six special game settings, among others.

AOC needs to update and combine the two apps, providing a complete replacement for the OSD. Or, ideally, have a simple software gadget that allows the mouse and keyboard to operate the full OSD from a computer or mobile device.

The second questionable choice AOC made is that the HDMI ports are 2.0 specification, and the DisplayPort is standard 1.4. Why is that a problem?

HDMI 2.0 has an upper limit of 4K of 60Hz, and DisplayPort 1.4 can only offer 120Hz at this resolution due to bandwidth limits. For PC connected users, these limits can be circumvented to a degree by using DisplayPort DSC (display stream compression) to get 144Hz at 4K with the same bandwidth.

For PC users who will have DisplayPort with any modern video card, this isn’t an issue, but for those connecting from a Sony PS5 or similar console, the lack of HDMI 2.1 and its supports for 4K at 120Hz, the experience will be capped at 60Hz when using 4K.

Performance

The performance war between VA and IPS display technology has been good for customers, as the screen makers have pushed each methodology to its very limits. As a textbook example of what can be done with IPS, the AOC U28G2XU demonstrates all the strengths of that technology and cleverly disguises most of its weaknesses.

My testing revealed an excellent colour gamut that encompasses 100% of sRGB, 82% of AdobeRGB and 88% of the P3 definition. That’s not at the exacting level for professional colour work, but it’s not rubbish either. At 100% brightness, it hits its quoted contrast ratio almost exactly, and its default Gamma 2.2 profile is ideally where it should be.

Colours are vibrant without becoming excessively saturated, and the contrast available makes dark environments more detailed and immersive.

There is only one aspect of this design and its representation that I’d change, and that’s the backlighting solution. Because the worst scores came in the luminance uniformity, were irrespective of brightness, regions of the display were up to 15% darker than the brightest parts.

The brightest region is in the center, and the darkest are those along the top and the right. With a more evenly distributed backlight, this monitor would have been unbeatable in its price range.

With a quoted brightness of only 370 nits, this is never destined to be the best HDR experience, and I wouldn’t recommend buying it only to watch HDR content.

Price

The UK price for the AOC U28G2XU is £589.99 from Amazon, and it can be found throughout Europe. It won’t be released in the USA, sadly.

To access if that’s a reasonable price would require other products have a very similar specification. But I found it difficult to find anything that exactly fits this price point, screen size, resolution and refresh range.

Gigabyte has a similar M28U design, but it isn’t easy to source and costs over £800/US$800. The Samsung Odyssey G7 S28AG700 is another comparable design that is equally hard to find. It costs US$799.99 from Newegg, if they have stock.

One advantage the Samsung offers is that the HDMI ports are 2.1, making it a better choice for console owners. In searching out these alternatives, it is apparent that component shortages are impacting monitor makers across the board, pushing prices higher and impacting available stock levels.

Check our best gaming monitor chart for more options.

Verdict

The problem with this 4K screen, and any other made for gaming, is that getting a powerful enough video card to drive is likely to prove a greater challenge and substantially more costly than buying the AOC U28G2XU.

That’s not something that AOC can control, but those wanting to upgrade to 4K gaming need to accept that without a high-end GPU, turning down all the settings to achieve playable frame rates negates the advantage of this enhanced resolution.

These comments are title-dependent since some games run fine at 4K on relatively modest GPUs, where others struggle on even the most powerful video card with all the settings at max.

A cheaper option for gamers would be to buy a console, but the HDMI 2.0 ports provide an extra caveat to using it for that purpose. Again, it depends on what types of games you play and how crucial high frame rates are.

Given the minimal selection of 28in 4K screens available and the prices of those few that are, the AOC U28G2XU looks like a solid choice for those wanting to exceed 1440p resolutions. This design offers good performance, a versatile stand and a useful USB hub.

I only wish it was more widely available and that AOC had given it HDMI 2.1 ports.

Specs

AOC U28G2XU: Specs

  • Panel Size: 28in (71.1cm)
  • Display Technology: IPS
  • Resolution: 3840 × 2160
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Response Time: 1ms (MPRT), 3ms (GTG)
  • Viewing Angle: 178°(H)/178°(V)
  • Maximum Refresh: 144Hz
  • Static Contrast Ratio: 1000:1
  • Maximum Brightness: 370 Nits
  • HDR Support: HDR 400
  • Video Ports: 2x HDMI 2.0, 2x DisplayPort 1.4
  • USB ports: 4× USB 3.2 (Gen1) Type-A connectors, 1 x USB-B(upstream), USB Fast Charge
  • Other Ports: 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack for Headphones
  • Speakers: 2 x 3w
  • Variable Sync: AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync
  • Weight: 6.13kg (with stand)

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