Acer Predator Z301CT Monitor Review

Premium gaming monitors with curved screens, adaptive-sync, high refresh rates, and slick styling are becoming almost commonplace. It’s a challenge for manufacturers to add features that set their products apart. Acer is making a solid attempt with the Predator Z301CT. It starts with a 30" ultra-wide panel with a tight, 1800mm radius curve. It sports G-Sync, 200Hz with overclock, and enthusiast-oriented styling. If that were the extent of it, we’d simply move on to the benchmarks and playing tests. But there is something here we haven’t seen before—Tobii Eye-Tracking. Is it enough to recommend it over other competitors? Let’s take a look.

The first thing that leaps out from the spec table is the Z301CT’s resolution. It’s 2560x1080 which equates to a pixel density of 93ppi. That’s below many other premium gaming displays that offer 109ppi or more and still deliver a fast refresh rate. Of course, 200Hz is something only seen in a few screens, so that’s a check on the plus side. The Predator also has an AMVA panel, which makes us instantly forget about resolution. That extra contrast is more welcome than a few extra pixels per inch. And like all good gaming monitors, there’s adaptive refresh—G-Sync in this case. While that adds a price premium, it ensures tear-free performance at framerates high and low.

The rest of the feature list is nothing earth-shattering: flicker-free backlight, DTS-tuned speakers, game specific picture modes, OSD joystick, low blue-light. These are things we’ve seen before. But Tobii Eye-Tracking is completely new for us.

Before now, Tobii provided eye-tracking in the form of a sensor bar attached to the bottom of a monitor. You can pick one up for around $150 direct from the manufacturer. The device uses infrared illuminators and a camera to literally track your eye and head movements, then translate them to on-screen interaction. In its simplest form, it acts as a visual mouse. In games however, it can guide the camera and your aiming point.

The Z301CT incorporates the hardware into a strip along the panel’s bottom bezel. To make it work, you connect to your computer via USB and load the drivers and software from Tobii. Then you’ll need compatible games. It’s not a universal controller, although it can perform some mouse-related functions in Windows. At this writing, Tobii lists 60 supported titles. We’ll cover our hands-on experience with it on page five of this review.

Before we get to that, we’ll run the Predator through our usual benchmark suite, because regardless of new technology, a premium gaming monitor still needs to perform well where it matters most: playing regular games with a mouse and keyboard.

Packaging, Physical Layout & Accessories

The Z301CT’s carton is quite large and includes a generous amount of packing foam and Tyvek wrap to protect your purchase. The metal and plastic base is the only part that must be assembled. It attaches to the upright with a captive bolt. The power supply is external and comes in the form of a medium-sized brick. Cables include HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB 3.0. You also get a snap-on cover for the input panel and a beefy metal bracket for the 100mm VESA mount should you wish to install the monitor on a wall or arm. You must download the user manual and drivers.

Since the eye-tracking hardware is built in, setup isn’t any different than a normal monitor, but you must connect the USB hub. Once this is done, download the drivers from Tobii’s support site. And of course, you’ll need compatible games. Mainstream titles include Ghost Recon, Wildlands, and multiple chapters of the Assassin’s Creed series.

Product 360

The Z301CT echoes the styling of other Predator monitors with a distinctive red-trimmed base made from cast aluminum and heavy plastic. It can easily double as the boomerang in a sci-fi film if you need a unique prop for your latest project. The upright includes tilt, swivel, and height adjustments and is very solidly-built. The panel has a narrow bezel around the top and sides that disappears when powered off. The sensor bar is nicely integrated into the bezel’s bottom edge and reminds us of the human sensors seen in some other displays. During operation, dim red lights appear to enable the tracking functions.

OSD controls are around back of the bottom right corner and feature a joystick along with three control keys and a power toggle. The screen has a 3H-hardness anti-glare layer which keeps image-damaging reflections at bay while providing excellent clarity that’s free of grain. Our sample has superb uniformity with no apparent hotspots or backlight bleed. Despite the seemingly-low resolution, you can’t see individual dots unless you sit uncomfortably close. 30 inches is a decent size for 2560x1080, providing ample screen real estate without image breakup.

Like any curved monitor, the side profile isn’t slim. Acer has provided a 100mm VESA mount that can be exposed by removing the stock upright. To attach the Z301CT to the wall or a monitor arm, use the included adapter bracket, which is made from heavy, stamped steel. Speaking of the curve, it’s 1800R, which is relatively tight but not to a point where the image is distorted. You get a decent wraparound effect, although it’s not as dramatic as a 35” or 38” screen.

The back features a large vent that runs from side to side. Since the power supply is external, the monitor runs cool. Speakers fire out of their own grills on the bottom. At 3W, they offer reasonable volume but little in the way of frequency response. DTS-tuning ups the quality level a bit, but good headphones will still sound better.

The Z301CT has the latest Nvidia G-Sync module, which adds an HDMI 1.4 input to the requisite DisplayPort. The down-facing panel also includes a headphone output. USB ports face rearward and offer an upstream port and three downstream ones. You must connect the hub to your PC to enable Tobii Eye-Tracking. The input panel can be hidden with a snap-on cover that completes the back’s taper and cleans up your cables.

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  • cknobman
    WTF, 1080 res and $800.

    Eye-tracking and G-Sync be danged, too expensive.
  • drwho1
    $853
    -$150 eye tracking
    -$200 g-sync
    =$503
    Still about $100 too expensive.
  • Kridian
    All I have to do is look at the fancy base legs on these to know they're overpriced.
  • lazymangaka
    2560x1080 is the perfect resolution for most people who aren't gaming on absolute top-end hardware. My GTX 1060 runs absolutely everything at it just fine, with some room even for supersampling. I would certainly imagine that higher ultrawide resolutions would require real compromises with mainstream hardware.
  • yyk71200
    Considering the price of the monitor, I would hardly consider it mainstream.
  • barryv88
    $200 Gsync tax. No thx :(
  • Larmo-Ct
    Approximately eight plus years ago. I bought a Gateway 30 inch monitor. In those days it was hard to find a popular brand that made monitors that large. In my opinion it has taken a number of years for more companies to add 30" monitors to their inventories. It has been comparatively easy to purchase 24" and 27" monitors for years. As those sizes have become more popular, the prices have dropped consistently.
    In the past month, I purchased a Dell UP3216Q, directly from Dell for $1399.00,
    ( down from $1700.00 ) before tax and shipping. That model is a 32" monitor with
    maximum resolution of 3840x2160 at 60hz. Aside from the Gateway 30", I have purchased a Dell 30" monitor, ( which died after about 4+ years ), and an HP 30" monitor ( which is along side my 32" as I write this ). I am certainly not wealthy, and don't play a lot of FPS games, ( I prefer real world simulations like Steel Beast Pro Armored vehicle/combined arms ). I have always enjoyed working, and playing, using my large monitors.
    Lastly, I have to wonder at the calculations folks have used in this forum. Regarding the price of monitors like the Acer Predator Z301C. They have mentioned things like base price, plus the estimated cost of including various features. That is all well and good, but I don't think they have factored in a couple of intangibles. Companies maximizing their profit margin on any item. Also, the consumer base for large monitors is still rather small. People like Day Traders that use monitors in their businesses, and gamers. Are at this time, the only people that are willing to purchase anything that costs more than the current offerings of 24" and 27" monitors. So.., the scarcer an item is, the more it's going to cost. This has always been true of niche products.
    Larmo-CT.
  • rantoc
    Stopped reading when 1080p showed up...
  • ddferrari
    Show me a curved 34" 3440x1440p, IPS, G-sync, 100 fps monitor that isn't plagued with defects like the Predator X34, or has cheesy styling like the Asus p348q, and I'll take it. Oh, And I want it for a $1000.
  • Randy_86
    So glad to see a manufacturer stepping away from the 4k fad. My friend and I couldn't tell a difference on a 32" monitor at normal gaming distance, so why make monitors with that level of resolution other than marketing? 4K stinks for gaming on any rig without $1200+ in graphics cards. 2560x1080 is GREAT. I only wish it were 2560 x 1200.
  • JackNaylorPE
    Price is reasonable for all of what's being provided tho as was pointed out in the article, when ya get fps high enough the value of ULMB can be somewhat diminished. 4k resolutions remains a non-option as a) No high refresh rate options exist at this time (and won't until the HDR IPS 144 Hz panels from AU Optronics drop later this month). and b) no GFX card exists that can drive it at the frame rates described here. As for the curve thing, I have yet to see a screen that doesn't look washed out compared tot he AU Optronics IPS panels.

    I really don't get discussions about "size" when not in context with resolution. If you have normal vision and sit at typical viewing distances, if you drop much below 96 ppi, the image will appear grainy.

    @ 1080p, 23" = 96 ppi OK
    @ 1080p, 24" = 92 ppi OK
    @ 1080p, 27" = 83 ppi NG

    @ 1440p, 27" = 109 ppi OK
    @ 1440p, 30" = 98 ppi OK
    @ 1440p, 33" = 89 ppi NG

    Unfortunately, if you want to drive 144Hz monitor at speeds that make it a sensible purchase, unless Vega turns out to deliver more than we've seen so far, you are left w/ only 1 GFX card vendor. AMD still doesn't have a horse in the race in this niche. In addition, Freesync has no Motion Blur Reduction. With reference to the G-Sync tax reference above, that tax covers the cost of the hardware module which provides ULMB that is not found in Freesync monitors. Now some monitor manufacturerss do offer their own MBR hardware modules which provide motion blur reduction technology but to call that a Freesync tax is simply wrong just as it is with nVidia cause the increase is primarily associated with the hardware module, not the sync technology in both cases.

    Would like to have learned more about the Tobii Eye-Tracking technology and how it compares in from and function to long established options like Track IR Pro ($170 w? headset attachment)

    $799 on amazon
    -$155 TrackIR pro
    -$150 MBR Reduction (ULMB) Hardware Module
    -$25 G-Sync
    -$125 AMVA Panel

    $344

    1440p IPS 144 Hz AU Optronics panels still provide the best image experience while gaming and still cost $700 so at $799 this isn't a big jump for those attracted by the curved screen. Later this month, the 4k option will finally become a alternative which provides an better gaming / image experience than is currently available when Asus and Acer drop their new HDR 144 Hz 4k screens. But I think it will take a year (possibly more) for the price to drop and and at this point in time, you need twin 1080 Tis to suitably drive them.
  • JakeWearingKhakis
    VIOTEK GN27C Is the monitor you need folks iif you're going to go the 1080p route. $250 for 144 hz curved VA freesync 1080p 27"

    And it has the Metal base that looks like a predator.