There are plenty of enthusiasts looking to make the jump to an Ultra HD display. But it’s important for gamers to consider their entire system when considering this upgrade. We’ve managed to test quite a few 3840x2160 displays over the past two years and many of them look fantastic but are not necessarily the best choice for your weekly fragfest.
Besides the obvious need for graphics speed, adaptive refresh is fast becoming a must-have when choosing a gaming display. Until G-Sync and FreeSync came along, tearing (or the extra input lag that comes with V-Sync) was just something that was accepted. Higher refresh rates mitigated the problem somewhat but didn’t solve it entirely.
Thanks to adaptive refresh monitors, we now have a way to ensure smooth motion in games where the framerate is constantly changing. G-Sync was the first technology to appear and it’s still going strong despite a roughly $200 price premium due to its proprietary licensing requirements.
So gamers who have the budget for a GeForce GTX Titan X or AMD Radeon Fury X can put an Ultra HD monitor on their short list. We’ve looked at one G-Sync example previously, Acer’s XB280HK. But that screen is based on a TN panel, not everyone’s favorite tech. So Acer has answered with a 27-inch AHVA (IPS-type) display, namely the Predator XB271HK.
A few years ago, gaming monitors began distancing themselves from workaday screens with features like high refresh rates, backlight strobing and adaptive refresh. Users’ wishlists were then reduced to a single desire, an IPS panel. TN has long been favored for its low cost and high speed but the image quality suffers a bit off-axis, especially as screen sizes go up.
At 27 inches and larger, you’re best served by an IPS or AMVA panel with its superior viewing angles. The XB271HK checks that box with a superb AHVA part made by AU Optronics. You’ll recall from a few past reviews that AHVA is not the same as AMVA. AHVA stands for Advanced Hyper Viewing Angle and it delivers on that promise. You’ll see in our photos on page seven that very little quality is lost even at 45 degrees off-center. Otherwise, it shares every other IPS attribute.
The backlight uses constant current at all brightness levels to achieve flicker-free performance without pulse-width modulation. The panel also features a true native 10-bit color depth. Of course you’ll need a 10-bit signal to take full advantage of this, but even with an 8-bit video source, banding should be a non-issue unless the content is significantly compressed.
And of course there’s the G-Sync module, which in this case is a new version that adds an HDMI input. That doesn’t mean you can use G-Sync over HDMI though; DisplayPort is still the interface of choice. But you can feed the XB271HK a 3840x2160 signal through HDMI at speeds up to 30Hz.
On paper it seems like a significant upgrade to its TN-based predecessor. We’re anxious to delve deeper, so let’s take a look.