Now, with the 4K G-Sync monitor in hand from Acer, we can finally end the debate!
Here they come – the G-Sync monitors are finally arriving at our doors! A little over a month ago we got to review the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q, a 2560×1440 144 Hz monitor that was the first retail-ready display to bring NVIDIA's variable refresh technology to consumers. It was a great first option with a high refresh rate along with support for ULMB (ultra low motion blur) technology, giving users a shot at either option.
Today we are taking a look at our second G-Sync monitor that will hit streets sometime in mid-October with an identical $799 price point. The Acer XB280HK is a 28-in 4K monitor with a maximum refresh rate of 60 Hz and of course, support for NVIDIA G-Sync.
The Acer XB280HK, first announced at Computex in June, is the first 4K monitor on the market to be announced with support for variable refresh. It isn't that far behind the first low-cost 4K monitors to hit the market, period: the ASUS PB287Q and the Samsung U28D590D both shipped in May of 2014 with very similar feature sets, minus G-Sync. I discussed much of the general usability benefits (and issues) that arose when using a consumer 4K panel with Windows 8.1 in those reviews, so you'll want to be sure you read up on that in addition to the discussion of 4K + G-Sync we'll have today.
While we dive into the specifics on the Acer XB280HK monitor today, I will skip over most of the discussion about G-Sync, how it works and why we want it. In our ASUS PG278Q review I had a good, concise discussion on the technical background of NVIDIA G-Sync technology and how it improves gaming.
The idea of G-Sync is pretty easy to understand, though the implementation method can get a bit more hairy. G-Sync introduces a variable refresh rate to a monitor, allowing the display to refresh at wide range of rates rather than at fixed intervals. More importantly, rather than the monitor dictating what rate this refresh occurs at to the PC, the graphics now tells the monitor when to refresh in a properly configured G-Sync setup. This allows a monitor to match the refresh rate of the screen to the draw rate of the game being played (frames per second) and that simple change drastically improves the gaming experience for several reasons.
Acer XB280HK Technical Specifications
From a pure specifications point of view, the Acer XB280HK 4K 28-in monitor looks nearly identical to the ASUS PB287Q and the Samsung U28D590D.
The panel is a 28-in screen with a 3840×2160 resolution and a rated 1ms grey-to-grey response time. It is a TN panel which of course creates a certain mindset for some users that tend to be very particular about their displays. (We'll talk more on that a bit lower on this page.) The brightness is rated at up to 300 cd/m2 and the contrast ratio is 1000:1. These are all pretty standard specifications for this class of 4K monitor but obviously the stand out is the NVIDIA G-Sync technology support
The white LED backlight is side-lit and color reproduction is pretty good, though not as good as the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q based on our Spyder color analysis. We hit a 97% sRGB while the ASUS 2560×1440 was able to reach 100% – but you'd be hard pressed to see the difference in person.
A major concern for users critical of TN panels are color reproduction and color shift at wider viewing angles. This is the image of the screen taken with my Canon 7D at fixed aperture settings straight on.
Here is the viewing angle from the right side…
…and the left side. Both of these are pretty damn good for a TN panel.
The top viewing angle is a bit more blown out than we would like to see but this still falls on the acceptable side for us.
The bottom viewing angle…not so much. It didn't take a very wide angle to get near complete color inversion when looking up at the display. Now to be fair, this is about as unlikely of a scenario as you are ever going to have for the viewing angle of a desktop monitor, but it is important if you were planning to mount the Acer panel up on a wall or use it in a portrait configuration.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with the quality of the TN panel in the Acer XB280HK and even the more display-purist in our office had no issues gaming on it during our time with the screen.