The Acer Predator XB271HU is one of a new breed of gaming monitors that not only features the high refresh rate you expect of a gaming display but has the great image quality you'd associate with an IPS panel too.
What’s more, it includes Nvidia’s G-Sync technology for eliminating image tear and stutter, sports a high-end design and a fully adjustable stand as well. Along with the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q, on paper it’s as good as you could possibly hope for from a gaming monitor right now. So does it justify it’s near-£600 asking price?
There’s no mistaking the XB271HU is a gaming-orientated unit. Featuring splashes of red on its feet, a Transformers-esque logo on the bezel and an angular stand design, it has all the hallmarks. Those red metal feet are a touch over the top for my liking, but otherwise, the finish is fairly muted with matte-black plastic used throughout.
The Acer Predator XB271HU is well-built too. Everything from the base to the back of the panel feels reassuringly sturdy, while the movements for the various ergonomic adjustments are smooth and effortless.
What’s more, there are none of the usual cost-cutting tricks evident: such as having the stand rotate simply by having a flimsy bit of plastic on the underside, which in turn makes the whole display rather wobbly. Instead, the Predator features a proper rotating joint between the stand and the base.
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Those adjustments consist of 120mm height adjustment, -5 to 35 degrees of tilt, 90 degrees of pivot (for portrait mode) and 60 degrees of rotation in the base. That’s plenty to ensure this monitor can be manoeuvred into a comfortable position for just about anyone. For those requiring a greater degree of versatility, there’s also a 100 x 100mm VESA mount on the rear so you can use a third-party monitor mount.
Another feather in this monitor’s cap is the inclusion of a borderless panel. This is where some of the already narrow bezel of the monitor sits below the front panel of plastic that makes up the display, with only a tiny 2mm bezel protecting the very edge.
The result is that when the monitor is turned off, it looks like there's an incredibly slim bezel, which in turn gives the whole unit a more sleek, compact look.
One area where the XB271HU falls behind, however, is connectivity. Thanks to the limitations of Nvidia’s G-Sync image processor, this display has only two inputs: one DisplayPort and one HDMI. The former supports fast refresh rates and G-Sync, while the latter will allow up to 2,560 x 1,440 resolution at 60Hz.
In contrast, similar monitors that use AMD’s rival FreeSync technology tend to have four or more inputs – although notably, none have more than one DisplayPort.
You do get a four-port USB 3.0 hub, with two ports on the rear and two on the left side. There’s also a headphone output and a pair of speakers that do a passable job.
The 27-inch panel packs in 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, which means this isn’t a super-high-pixel density display. However, at the monitor's size, that resolution does provide an ideal 110ppi, which in my opinion offers the perfect balance; it's high enough to not look pixellated, but low enough that everything isn’t too small.
Until manufacturers can offer exactly double the pixel count at this size, I wouldn’t be tempted to upgrade to a more densely packed panel.
Plus, of course, this is an IPS panel and so benefits from the superb viewing angles for which such panels are known. Normal TN-based gaming monitors tend to suffer poor viewing angles, which can be problematic for a number of reasons.
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First, if you move your head, colours and contrast can shift and change, which is distracting. Second, on large monitors there’s a significant difference in the angle between your eyes and the centre of the screen and the far corners; that can mean the whole panel looks slightly uneven. Third, poor viewing angles aren't ideal if you're gaming with friends and they want to watch too.
IPS panels solve all the above issues. They can be slightly lower contrast than some panel technologies, but are still great for everyday use.
Meanwhile, G-Sync is Nvidia’s technology for eliminating image tearing and stutter in games. I won’t go into details here but, suffice to say it, it's must-have tech for gamers. To read more about the tech, here’s an explanation of AMD’s FreeSync, which works in the same way. The key point to note is that G-Sync functions only if you have an Nvidia graphics card, and although AMD’s FreeSync tech is an open standard, the reality is that it’s available only with AMD graphics cards.
One of the worst aspects of this monitor is how awkward it is to attach the base to the stand. It uses a hex bolt to pull the two pieces together, and not only is that less convenient than the bolts that have a little flip-up handle with which to tighten them, it’s also tricky to locate the bolt in the threaded hole.
That aside, physical setup is easy thanks to the effortless ergonomic adjustments; the panel just clips into place on the stand.
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Rather more work is navigating the OSD, which uses a row of physical buttons on the bottom-right bezel. The unmarked buttons are physically fine, but the way they’re used with the menus is clunky; as far as which button does what, it never feels particularly intuitive.
It’s a far cry from the menu system on this monitor’s main rival, the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q, which uses a little joystick that’s absolutely effortless.
Thankfully, there isn’t too much cause to jump into the menus since the monitor arrives in a very good default setting, so aside from dropping the brightness down, you’re pretty much good to go.