Gigabyte Aorus KD25F – Design and Features
I’ll say this right off the bat: the KD25F is an impressive monitor. The physical design is extremely well-done and one-ups the competition in multiple ways. It’s clear that they’ve paid attention to the rest of the industry and stepped their game up.
Take, for example, the stand. A monitor stand is a simple thing. It needs to support the display, obviously, but a good stand should offer enough adjustability to position the monitor at a comfortable height and viewing angle. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even well-made to accomplish these goals. Many monitors I’ve reviewed, like the MSI Optix MAG321CQR, offer decent stands that look nice, but don’t do much more than these basics.
The Aorus KD25F, on the other hand, is extremely well made. It’s constructed of heavy metal and comes together in two pieces with a handle on top for easy transport. Once it’s in place, you can make adjustments without fear of accidentally sliding the monitor along your desk because of its weight. You can turn the display 90-degrees if you’d like to use it vertically, 20-degrees of swivel to quickly share your screen, and -5 to 21 degrees of tilt to make it usable while standing. It also has 130mm of height adjustment to place it at the perfect eye level regardless of your size. If you’d rather wall mount it, it’s fully VESA compatible.
Those smart upgrades also extend to the monitor itself. Looking at the rear panel of the unit, we can see two HDMI 2.0 ports and a single DisplayPort 1.2. To the right, we find two USB 3.0 ports outfitted with 1.5A charging ability to quickly charge up your smartphone or tablet while you play. To the left of the inputs are audio jacks for your headphone and mic, which supports one of the monitor’s most unique features: active noise cancelling for your comms. Further left we find a Kensington lock to keep it safe when used in public, and the power connection. In the front is a joystick controller which makes navigating the OSD much easier than the standard 4-5 buttons you usually find on the bottom edge of older monitors.
The TN panel itself is quite nice, coming in at 24.5 inches and sporting a 1,920 x 1,080 (1080p, FHD) resolution. The real selling point is the refresh rate which runs at an incredible 240Hz – four times the speed of a normal 60Hz monitor. With Aim Stabilizer enabled, it’s able to hit a stunning 0.5ms response time, making this one of the fastest, most responsive monitors you can buy.
The KD25F continues the “bezel-less” design with an extremely thin physical frame. Gigabyte is hardly alone in this design but they’ve definitely improved upon it by trimming down the black border surrounding the screen to the thinnest I’ve ever seen. It’s roughly half the width of monitors like the AOC AGON 3 or Pixio PX275H, and definitely helps the screen feel “edge-to-edge” even if we’re not completely there yet.
To achieve that rapid response time, Gigabyte has equipped the Aours KD25F with a TN panel, which are is common for gaming thanks to its responsiveness, but that speed comes with sacrifices. Color reproduction isn’t the best and contrast falls short of similarly priced VA panels. While the colors and contrast are both perfectly adequate for gaming, it’s the viewing angles that leave something to be desired. The KD25F has a nasty yellow color shift when viewed at anything more than a slight angle. In a normal gaming situation where you’re looking straight at the monitor and won’t notice anything unusual but if you’re watching a friend from the side you definitely will.
Another sacrifice is the lack of HDR, which I really would have liked to see at least as an option at this price point. I understand that current bandwidth limitations would prevent high dynamic range from functioning at 240Hz but for less fast-paced games, it would have been nice to choose whether to drop it down and opt for a better picture instead. Not that it’s bad; for a TN panel, it’s actually quite good and features 100% sRGB coverage for hobbyist creative work, but with 400-nits peak brightness and HDR support popping up even on much cheaper monitors, it’s absence is noteworthy.
On the plus side, the monitor supports AMD FreeSync and is one of the few displays currently certified as G-Sync Compatible by Nvidia. I currently run an RTX 2080 in the test system I used for this review and found G-Sync to work perfectly across all of my test games in both fullscreen and windowed modes.
Making adjustments to the picture is fast and easy thanks to the intuitively designed OSD. It’s broken into five sub-categories of settings, which allow you to select gaming functions, choose picture presets or customize your own images or input options, enable Picture-in-Picture/Picture-by-Picture to monitor two video inputs at once, or change system settings like the headphone volume or OSD language. All of this can also be controlled via software, which is a game-changing feature that we’ll get to soon.
Finally, we have RGB. I find the rear of the monitor very stylish, though like all rear panel lighting, you’ll probably forget about it once it’s in place. I’ve yet to encounter rear RGB that’s bright enough to color the wall behind the display and the KD25F is no different. Still, it looks fantastic and can be customized through a handful of presets in the OSD or through Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion app.
Gigabyte AORUS KD25F – Gaming Enhancements
The AORUS KD25F is hardly the first 240Hz gaming monitor for Esports I’ve seen, but it’s easily the most full-featured. Gigabyte has equipped the monitor with a set of gaming features and enhancements that are actually meaningful to gameplay and could even make you a better gamer.
In the gaming menu, the options seem limited at first. We have the Black Equalizer, which is great for instantly raising the brightness to illuminate shadows, and Super Resolution for upscaling low-res games, but not much else. Instead, you’ll need to use a shortcut to access the Gaming Dashboard and GameAssist menus to see the full gamut of options.
Inside the GameAssist menu, you can pin functional tools to parts of your screen. The Gaming Timer and Counter can keep track of elapsed time and your kill count (or anything else you need to tally up). The Refresh Rate shows your current refresh rate. GameAssist also includes a tool to help you align multiple monitors, which I found to be quite a bit easier than using the finicky alignment tool in the Nvidia Control Panel.
The Gaming Dashboard is where things really get interesting. If you like to monitor your system stats, you’ve probably figured out that some games, like Destiny 2, block you from using any kind of overlay. The KD25F adds this functionality to the monitor itself, allowing you to display system stats like CPU and GPU temps directly from hardware making it impossible for games to block them. Having run into this exact issue many times while monitoring temps and optimizing my system, I found this to be an outstanding feature that completely takes the place of software overlays.
After Gigabyte’s own Aorus AD27QD, the KD25F seems to be the second-ever monitor to feature active noise cancelling. You read that right, but it doesn’t cancel out the noise that you hear, it cancels what your teammates hear. Two microphones are built in to actively monitor the ambient noise in your environment. Then, it uses scene analysis and other audio processing to cancel out that noise from your mic transmissions. That means that your teammates should have no trouble hearing you in a noisy tournament environment or even while someone vacuums the carpet behind you.
I was a little dismayed to find this didn’t work for everything; my gaming keyboard clacking still came through loud and clear, for example, but it did a good job of blocking out the white noise of the fan in my room and other droning sounds that might have made me hard to hear.
Pairing with the 240Hz refresh rate (which I’ll talk more on soon), is the Aim Stabilizer mode. The goal of this mode is to reduce motion blur and enhance your aim while in motion or fighting recoil. To achieve this, the KD25F modulates its backlight, which is also how it achieves its remarkable 0.5ms response time. With this mode on, there is indeed less motion blur and, more importantly, actions feel instantaneous. The problem here is that, in motion, the reduction in motion blur takes a trained eye to perceive. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you might miss it entirely.
What’s especially interesting is that all of this can be controlled with software and that’s quite the game changer for competitive gaming. Using Gigabyte’s OSD Sidekick software, nearly every setting can be adjusted without having to fiddle around in the actual on-screen display. More importantly, you can map hotkeys to individual settings. Getting sniped at from a far window? Press a button to turn on black equalizer and see exactly where that shot came from. Pick up a gun without ADS? Press another key to turn on the on-screen reticle (which you can also customize in another screen). Waiting on the cooldown for your hero’s Ult? Trigger the timer and know to the second when it’s ready without taking your eyes off the battlefield.
The ability to tie these functions to shortcut keys absolutely skyrockets their usefulness. The biggest game changer for me was the Black Equalizer. This feature isn’t unique to Gigabyte or the AORUS line, but I’ve never used it because it’s always hidden in a menu I can’t fiddle with mid-match. Being able to turn it on and off with a key press gives you a real competitive advantage by instantly changing your brightness settings.
Gigabyte Aorus KD25F – Testing
It’s not just buzzword-marketing either. A test of the monitor’s response time and ghosting on Lagom’s LCD Test Pages showed as perfect a set of results as I’ve ever seen on a gaming monitor. On the response time test, there was no visible color shifting in any of the patterns, which means the KD25F offers remarkably fast transitions from lights to darks and vice versa.
The ghosting test showed exactly the same. The pictures above show dark to light (top) and light to dark transitions (bottom). By taking a picture of the patterns inside the large black rectangles at a high shutter speed (1/500 of a second in this case), you can often “catch” the monitor mid-transition to find out where it lags. The more off-color vertical rectangles you find, the slower your monitor’s transition time and the more likely you are to experience ghosting. As you can see, the AORUS KD25F passed with flying colors.
The monitor also did very well throughout the rest of Lagom’s test suite. I was able to make out all of the patterns in the Black Level test and all but the two brightest patterns in the White Saturation test. This is a testament to the monitor’s contrast and means that you’ll only lose detail in the very brightest scenes, such as immediately after a flash bang in a FPS when the point is to wash out those details. The gamma levels were also spot on and there was no banding whatsoever, so color and monochromatic transitions should be consistently smooth.
Gigabyte AORUS KD25F – Gaming
If you’re considering a 240Hz monitor, the biggest question on your mind is probably whether the jump in refresh rate is worth paying extra for, especially when you can get a nice 1440p, 144Hz monitor like the AORUS AD27QD for the same price. To answer that question, I loaded up three shooters: Counter Strike: GO, Apex: Legends, and Battlefield V. Usually, I would throw in a game from another genre or two but in the case of the KD25F, and indeed all 240Hz monitors available today, they’re purpose driven tools designed for competitive shooters.
Before getting into the results, allow me to explain that point a bit. A monitor’s refresh rate is a rating of how many pictures it can display in a second. A 60Hz monitor is capable of displaying fluid 60 fps gameplay. When we quadruple that, we extend past normal high refresh rate monitors (120Hz and 144Hz) and into ultra-high refresh rate territory.
This has two key benefits. The first is to increase the clarity of images in motion. When you turn around quickly at 60Hz, you’ll see motion blur as the display struggles to present the rapidly changing picture. At 240Hz, the monitor can easily keep up with even very fast turns, so the blur you see is the result of actual motion and not image degradation. This is enhanced by the KD25F’s Aim Stabilizer and low response time, which helps it to stay more crisp and detailed while moving. The second purpose is to allow pros to use that extra clarity to make accurate shots when most of us would still be struggling to get our bearings after the movement.
At this point, I would usually break down my experiences with each one of these games, but since they’re all shooters and we’re speaking more broadly to the impact of the KD25F’s refresh rate, I’ll speak to the larger experience to give you a better picture.
The KD25F is a phenomenal 1080p monitor. There’s no doubt about that. In every game I tested it with, the picture was very good, the response time was outstanding, and I never felt disadvantaged in any way. In fact, because of Black Equalizer and the OSD Dashboard allowing me to control it with a hotkey, I feel like I had a significant advantage. Likewise, even with the noise of my three kids in the background, my teammates were able to hear me clearly thanks to the ANC feature.
As a non-professional gamer, though, I didn’t find 240Hz really made that big of a difference at all. If you are a pro, I suspect you would find it much more important thanks to your improved reaction time versus mere mortals like myself. My normal monitor is a 144Hz, 1440p from Viotek. The jump from 144Hz to 240Hz is palpable, and you can feel it and see it in your mouse movements, but it’s much more subtle than jumping from 60Hz to 100+. The fluidity of motion is also only a subtle improvement. Whether I played a “slower” paced round of Battlefield V or CS:GO, the feel of gameplay was only slightly different from what I was already used to.
That said, I tested it side by side with my 60Hz 4K monitor and that jump feels absolutely massive. The point here is that if you’re already running a high refresh rate monitor, the added Hz aren’t likely to feel nearly as different as you may be expecting. If you’re skipping the middle and going straight from 60Hz to 240Hz, you’re in for a treat.
When it comes to the added clarity, which is more likely to make a difference, but only if you have the reaction time and skill to make the most of it. Playing Apex: Legends, I felt more adept at scanning my environment and checking my six. It was the same in Battlefield V where those fast 360s can be the difference between landing the killing shot first or finding yourself waiting for rescue. This was especially true in Counter Strike where things get really competitive.
Despite my feeling more adept, I can’t say it actually made me a better player. The fact is, even though there’s slightly less blur, you’re still picking out details in a rapidly moving picture which I continued to find very hard to do (less so when just fighting weapon recoil). If you’re not already playing at a high level, 240Hz won’t be the major advantage you may be hoping it is. That said, if you are a skilled player or want to raise the ceiling on your skill level with a tool fit for professional Esports, the KD25F is definitely up to the task.
The AORUS KD25F Tactical Gaming Monitor has an MSRP of $499 and it’s the same price online.
Gigabyte AORUS KD25F Tactical Gaming Monitor
This article was originally published by IGN.COM