Pros: Crisp and responsive display, Ultra-smooth 240Hz refresh rate, Relatively accurate colors for a TN panel, AMD FreeSync
Cons: Price, Difficult to recommend over a 144Hz monitor due to limited performance improvements
The old gaming standard used to be 60Hz, and then some manufacturers started to experiment with 75Hz. That clearly wasn't enough so then they started selling 120Hz and 144Hz monitors. And now here we are today; 144Hz still isn't enough. Behold, the Agon AG251FZ 240Hz Gaming Monitor from AOC. As of publishing, this is among the fastest monitors you can buy. How does it perform in gaming and can you even see the difference from 144Hz? There are some major considerations you need to be aware of when purchasing a monitor of this class so let's dive in and see what this panel is all about.
Inside the package we find the monitor, the stand, the baseplate, a VESA backplate with mounting screws, the external power brick and power cable, a USB 3.0 uplink cable, an HDMI cable, a DisplayPort cable, the external monitor control pad, and the user's manual. I've checked out monitors with no included VESA backpalte, no USB uplink cable, or very limited video connection options so it's great to see all of these included accessories.
Construction of the monitor is very simple as expected. There are four screws holding the stand to the monitor, and then the stand screws into the base. I really like the clean, angled design of the metal stand. It's extremely solid yet doesn't take up all that much desktop real estate. The stand also has a convenient carrying handle at the top for transporting the monitor. It's made out of the same piece of metal as the rest of the base which means it's very sturdy. The top of the handle is curved inward to alleviate some pressure on your hand when carrying it. While this is a very small feature, it's good that AOC took the time to add it.
The AG251FZ has all of the standard adjustments of a high end monitor. There is up to 13cm of height adjustment with a numbered guide so you can always game at the same setting. The monitor rotates a full 90 degrees allowing for both portrait and landscape operation. The panel tilts from -5 to +23 degrees which accommodates a seating position both above and slightly below the monitor. The last adjustment is a swivel from -20 to +20 degrees for left to right viewing. Clearly visible from the overall design is the numerous V shaped features. The stand is in the shape of a V, the base is a V, and the back of the monitor has a striking red V as well. I would put it right on the edge of gamer focused and being suitable for work. That being said, how many work applications really require a 240Hz display I guess. The monitor also comes with a headphone mounting arm off of the right side.
Before we turn the monitor on and start talking about the panel itself, the last thing I wanted to touch on was I/O. At the bottom, following the same V design aesthetic, we find two banks of ports. On the left (right side when viewing the monitor) we find some of the USB ports as well as the DC power input. For USB, there are two regular sized USB 3.0 ports as well as the uplink here. Moving to the other bank of ports, we find a DVI port, an HDMI 1.4 with MHL port, an HDMI 2.0 port, a DisplayPort input, a VGA input, headphone and microphone output, and a USB connector for the external keypad. The last collection of ports are on the right side directly below the headset mounting arm. Over here you get an additional microphone input, a full headset combo port, and two more USB 3.0 ports with one of them offering fast-charging. As you can tell, that's quite a lot of ports. There's no real downside to this though as it's always better to have more ports than to be missing one. The only criticism I have hear is that the power connector is at the opposite side of the monitor as the video inputs. I would have preferred them on the same side as that would have just made cable management a bit easier.
Here's the monitor fully assembled and powered up. The monitor measures 24.5" diagonally, weighs in at 14.3lbs, and uses about 28W of power under typical usage. The 1080p TN panel has a standard 16:9 aspect ratio. The monitor has a contrast ratio of 50M:1 and a response time of 1ms. The huge stated contrast ratios are really just marketing buzz since the relevant measurements are always much lower. That 1ms response time is good to see in a high end gaming monitor although it won't make much of a difference compared to 5ms displays unless you are an ultra-competitive player. The stated brightness of the display is 400 cd/m² (400 nits) but that is far too bright for normal use so I kept the display at around 200-250. The last and most important spec is the whopping 240Hz refresh rate. That equates to 497 million pixels per second and is more than a 1440p monitor running at 120Hz.
My overall first impressions were pretty solid although I did notice some rather considerable color shifting when viewing the monitor at an off angle. This is the nature of a TN panel, but on the other hand, is the same technology that allows for the massive refresh rate. Whites turn a bit yellow as you move away from the center and grays start to wash into the blacks. Nothing too major though as all of this is fine from a normal gaming perspective.
Now here's the big questions: can you see the difference between 144Hz and 240Hz? The answer, as expected, is yes, but not as much as the change from 60Hz to 144Hz. If you're paying attention though, there is definitely a discernible difference from 144 to 240Hz. It's evident when moving the cursor around and in fast paced gaming. For standard tasks like watching a movie or playing more cinematic games, you will never notice a difference. In a game like CSGO for example, the benefit of 240Hz comes from a more fluid display when moving around and in the ability to see enemies a fraction of a second sooner. The difference in gameplay is hard to quantify since it is so minute, but in this fast moving test below, you will notice that the entire image stays in frame. If I did this same test on a 60Hz or even 144Hz monitor, you may begin to see some tearing.
What's important though is that you are able to keep your frame rate consistently at or above 240Hz. If your GPU is only able to render the game at 120Hz, there is no point in buying a 240Hz monitor since you'll just be refreshing the same frame multiple times. That would be a waste of money. It's important to keep your frame rate that high since performance drops between scenes or in different areas of a map resulted in some stuttering on screen. The monitor has AMD FreeSync support from 48Hz - 240Hz which can help cut down on this though.
The last area of testing is on color accuracy. Out of the box I would say the AG251FZ is passable for normal use, but not acceptable for any color accurate work. Using my xrite i1Display Pro, I found an uncalibrated deltaE2000 value of 5.7 with blues being especially overpowered. An acceptable value for color accurate work is 1 or below so we are pretty far away from that. Grayscale is even worse at 5.83. Calibration and testing was done in CalMAN 5 using the Monitor Advanced workflow. Doing a proper calibration like this with a meter creates and stores an ICC profile on your computer but there are some things you can do at home without one. Here is a link to the profile I created for anyone that wants it.
The on screen menu allows for some basic calibration of RGB gains, brightness, contrast, and gamma profiles. The AG251FZ also includes an external keypad for saving profiles and easily changing settings although I never found a need for it. These are the settings I found to be most accurate for an sRGB calibration:
- Contrast - 50
- Brightness - 73
- Gamma - Gamma1
- Red - 50
- Green - 50
- Blue - 39
- Game Mode - Off
- Low Blue Light - Off
- Overdrive - Off
After calibration the AG251FZ has a 97.5% coverage of the sRGB gamut. Saturation sweeps and the colorspace check are good for a gaming monitor but nothing spectacular. Full colorspace average deltaE2000 is 2.1 with greyscale performance coming in at a very strong 0.4. Depending on which test are run, we're looking at an overall dE2000 for color accuracy of between 1-2. While not as good as an IPS panel, this is still a decent performance from a TN gaming monitor. The average color temperature is 6477 which means the monitor has a slight yellowish tint but is still very accurate. Finally, the measured contrast ratio is 1017.
At the time of writing, there are about half a dozen or so 240Hz monitors on the market. They are all 25" and all range from $400-600. They are likely using very similar if not the same physical panel so the main differences come down to price and additional features. AMD users in particular will benefit from the FreeSync that the AG251FZ offers. At $440, the AG251FZ is one of the cheapest 240Hz monitors you can buy, especially when compared to G-Sync compatible monitors. Colors out of the box are decent for a gaming monitor but nothing to write home about. If you have some calibration software and hardware, you can get the monitor looking pretty good though.
Overall, the Agon AG251FZ from AOC does nothing wrong and 240Hz is a wonder to play on. That being said, it's just hard to recommend this monitor for anyone but top level competitive players. It's double the price of a 144Hz monitor with the same specs and would only bring limited improvements. If you currently game on a 60Hz monitor and are looking for a more fluid gameplay experience, I would still recommend a 144Hz panel unless you have the budget for a $440 monitor. However, if you have a 144Hz monitor and are looking for even more performance and the extra edge that 240Hz will give you, the AG251FZ is a great option and I would definitely recommend picking one up.