A highly responsive gaming monitor for enthusiasts with decent image quality as well
- Highly responsive
- FreeSync and G-Sync compatible
- Great build quality
- Middling colour accuracy
- No HDR support
Gamers have always known that a good monitor can make the difference between life and death, and especially those who indulge in competitive online gaming. It’s these folk that the Alienware 25 AW2521HF is primarily aimed at, but it’s also good for a bit of sneaky work on the side – which, given the recent move towards home working, is a definite bonus.
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Alienware 25 AW2521HF review: What you get for your money
Despite the name, the Alienware 25 AW2521HF’s panel actually measures 24.5in across the diagonal and it has a fairly standard resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. It’s an IPS panel so viewing angles are great (178-degrees horizontally and vertically) and it has a matte, anti-glare coating that almost completely suppresses glare from nearby lights and windows.
There are plenty of other monitors with those features, though, and at a price of £350, the Alienware 25 looks quite pricey for a small-ish display.
However, when you consider the gaming features that this display includes, it doesn’t look all that bad. A refresh rate of 240Hz, response time of 1ms GTG (grey to grey), RGB lighting and – via Adaptive-Sync tech – native support for AMD FreeSync Premium and compatibility with Nvidia G-Sync mean this monitor should appeal to all types of gamers.
The only minor issue is that there’s no support for HDR. This is not yet a must-have feature for gaming monitors but it will be soon and it’s something to bear in mind if you’re considering spending this much on a 24.5in screen.
Alienware 25 AW2521HF review: What’s build quality and connectivity like?
In terms of design and build, the Alienware 25 is unmistakably a gaming monitor, with its dramatically splayed legs, customisable RGB lighting and Alienware logo at the rear. You can even change the colour of the power button on the bottom right edge if you wish.
It’s not as ostentatiously flashy or garish as gaming models from other manufacturers, though, and it’s fantastically well put together. The chunky stand offers 130mm of height adjustment, plus the ability to tilt by -5 and 21 degrees, swivel by 40-degrees left and right, and pivot all the way around into portrait view.
Should you want to dispense with the stand and use your own (or wall mount it) that’s possible, too, since the screen has VESA standard 100mm mounting points but it would be a shame to miss out on such a stylish stand.
As for video inputs, there’s a single DisplayPort 1.2a and two HDMI 2.0 ports situated behind the bottom edge of the monitor facing down, plus two USB 2 ports, a pair of USB 3 ports and a 3.5mm headset jack. All this is covered by a removable plastic panel to keep things neat. The only thing missing is USB-C but since this is primarily a gaming monitor, that’s not a huge loss. There’s also no headset hook but again this is a nice-to-have feature rather than an essential accessory.
Alienware 25 AW2521HF review: What’s image quality like?
With a gaming monitor there are two key strands to image quality. Overall picture quality, which takes into account such elements as colour accuracy, contrast ratio, brightness and so on; and responsiveness, which is the chief concern of gamers.
Often, picture quality comes second to responsiveness in gaming monitors but I’m happy to report that on that count the Alienware does pretty well. The panel’s native colour gamut is slightly larger than sRGB with the volume of colours produced reaching up to 112% in Standard mode, which equates to around 77.1% of Adobe RGB and 79.2% of DCI-P3.
Peak brightness reaches an impressive 424cd/m², too, which when coupled with the anti-glare coating means this is a prime candidate for use in brighter rooms. Colour accuracy is fine within sRGB although nothing particularly special. In Standard mode, I measured an average colour difference Delta E of 2.67 and contrast ratio at an acceptable, if not exceptional 999:1. That’s a little on the low side for a modern IPS monitor but on the money for what Dell is claiming for the screen.
With a 240Hz refresh rate, however, crisp, virtually blur-free visuals and low input lag, not to mention native support for AMD FreeSync and compatibility with Nvidia G-Sync, the Alienware AW2521HF is a brilliant monitor for gamers.
I loaded up the Blurbusters UFO Test page and scanning across the screen with my eyes following the little spaceship from left to right across the screen and the graphic looked sharp with plenty of detail. Bumping up the response time from the default Fast to Fastest or Extreme doesn’t seem to have much effect other than to introduce a tiny amount of inverse ghosting, so it’s probably best to stick to the default setting.
It’s a joy to play games on, too. Firing up Doom Eternal for a quick blast, I was impressed with how fluid and clear everything looked onscreen. It’s at least as good as the pricier (albeit larger) Samsung Odyssey G7 I reviewed recently. I much prefer Samsung’s more vibrant colour representation, however.
Alienware AW2521HF: Should you buy one?
Before buying one, you need to consider if you really need a 240Hz monitor – and indeed whether your GPU is up to the task of feeding it with those kinds of extreme framerates.
In truth, there isn’t much visual difference between 240Hz and 144Hz for most people and decent 144Hz 1080p monitors at this size can be had for much less than the Alienware AW2521HF. The smaller 24in version of the 27in Samsung CFG70 we reviewed, for example, is an awesome 144Hz gaming monitor, supports HDR and costs nearly £100 less.
All that being said, if gaming is where your priorities lie, then the AW2521HF is a great choice. It’s fast and responsive, and is compatible with both AMD FreeSync Premium and Nvidia’s G-Sync technologies for tear-free gaming, which is a sensible move if you own a card from one manufacturer and think you might switch allegiance sometime in the future.
It’s also an exceptionally well-made screen with plenty of adjustment potential and decent connectivity. Colour accuracy isn’t great but it’s not terrible either – all told, the Alienware AW2521HF is just a crosshair’s breadth from greatness.