Acer XB280HK: Introduction, Design and Specs

When it comes to gaming, 4K displays present a conundrum (beyond 4K being used incorrectly, but I’ll still use it). On the one hand, all the extra pixels allow for far more detail. On the other, that is a lot of pixels to push for a GPU. Even with the best GPUs out there, you might – okay, will – have to disable certain features and start to introduce aliasing and other artifacts. A solution to this might be G-SYNC to enable gaming that looks smooth even when running below 60 FPS, and that's what we're looking at today.

G-SYNC, only available on video cards from NVIDIA, allows frame rates below the normal optimal speed of 60FPS to still look very smooth. The Acer XB280HK is the first G-SYNC display to also feature a 3840x2160 resolution. Unlike some other G-SYNC displays the Acer only runs at 60Hz and below, though I don’t believe running faster than 60Hz at 4K resolutions will be much of an issue right now. Anand previously reviewed G-SYNC and described the details of how it works.

Like all currently shipping G-SYNC displays (with the exception of the IPS Acer display announced at CES 2015), the Acer uses a TN-panel. For 120Hz or 144Hz G-SYNC panels you often need to use TN, but 60Hz would allow for IPS. The likely culprit here is cost, as the Acer currently sells for under $800. Other 4K 28” IPS displays cost at least as much and lack G-SYNC, making them a much worse choice for gaming than the Acer. Since I am not a gamer myself, all the gaming comments for this review will be done by Jarred Walton. Aside from some WiiU or Magic Online, my gaming days are well behind me (or ahead of me).

Like most G-SYNC displays, the Acer has but a single DisplayPort input. G-SYNC only works with DisplayPort, and if you didn’t care about G-SYNC you would have bought a different monitor. It also has a USB 3.0 hub with two ports on the rear-bottom and two on the side. There are no headphone connections or speakers, so it is fairly bare-bones as far as connections and extra features go.

The included stand is very good overall. Built-in adjustments for height, tilt, swivel and pivot make it a very flexible option, and though running a TN panel in portrait mode can be problematic at best, the ability to pivot does provide for easier access to the bottom ports when connecting peripherals. It also has 100mm VESA mounting holes if you desire to use another stand or even wall mount it. The outer bezel is a shiny plastic, which is not my favorite as it shows fingerprints and smudges very easily. Though an $800 monitor should have a nice stand, many displays choose form over function but Acer does it correctly here. I really see no reason to replace the stand they provide.

The OSD works well, with a row of buttons on the bottom of the screen and icons directly above them indicating what they do. There's no guessing which is correct, and no touch-sensitive buttons that don’t work well. Acer provides basic, simple, effective controls that everyone should be happy with. There are a decent number of controls available, including gamma and color temperature. There is also an optional frame rate indicator that you can see on the left side of the screen. This gives you a quick indication of what your actual frame rate is, since G-SYNC should remain smooth even when it drops below 60Hz.

From a user interface perspective, the Acer XB280HK hits all the right notes. The stand is very adjustable while the controls are easy to use. The only real thing I would change is to make the bezel a matte finish instead of glossy to avoid fingerprints, and because I think it just looks better.

Looking just at the specs and the exterior design, the Acer XB280HK has a lot going for it. The big questions are how well will it perform when gaming at 4K with G-Sync, and how does the monitor perform on our objective bench tests?

Acer XB280HK G-Sync
Video Inputs 1x DisplayPort 1.2
Panel Type TN
Pixel Pitch 0.1614mm
Colors 16.7 Million
Brightness 300 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio 1000:1
Response Time 1ms GtG
Viewable Size 28"
Resolution 3840x2160
Viewing Angle (H/V) 170 / 160
Backlight LED
Power Consumption (operation) 42.5W
Power Consumption (standby) 0.5W
Screen Treatment Anti-Glare
Height-Adjustable Yes
Tilt Yes, -5 to 35 degrees
Pivot Yes
Swivel Yes, 45 Degrees
VESA Wall Mounting Yes, 100mm
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 25.9" x 22" x 9.6"
Weight 17.2 lbs.
Additional Features 4x USB 3.0, G-Sync
Limited Warranty 3 Years
Accessories DisplayPort Cable, USB 3.0 Cable
Online Price $785
G-SYNC Gaming Experience at 4Kp60
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  • NotLupus - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    Get a high-speed camera and test input lag then.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    Yeah. The input activation could be tied to an LED, like caps lock already has, or if a mouse was modified. The camera measures the LED vs on-screen change.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    This Acer is so much fail!
    -TN at 28" is bad. Angles are inherently a problem.
    -4K is too many pixels for today's GPUs.
    -They capped framerate to 60Hz. This monitor would be far more interesting if it at least went up to 75Hz, and displayport 1.2 has the bandwidth.
    -70% gamut is poor for games.

    Older screen tech with Gsync added and a faster tcon would have been better, even if it was simply:
    -30" 2560x1600 >90% gamut with Gsync at up to 100Hz.
  • yefi - Sunday, February 1, 2015 - link

    I'd really like to see 30" 1600p monitors with g-sync. Unfortunately today, everything seems to be 1440p or 28" 4k. Whatever happened to vertical height?
  • tsk2k - Friday, January 30, 2015 - link

    The real question is where are the god damn oled monitors!?!?!?! LG????
  • anubis44 - Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - link

    Another issue for GTX970 users, of course, is that 4K will usually require more than 3.5GB of graphics card memory, which will put their frame rates in the toilet, so paying extra for a 4K G-Sync monitor for these users is adding insult to injury.
  • perpetualdark - Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - link

    This article left out the other Acer g-sync option, the $599 XB270H. The downside over the ASUS ROG is it is only 1080, but then I never run anything higher than that in games anyway as it is more than enough resolution for my eyes. Plus you still need a pretty powerful graphics card to run at 1440 reliably. It is $200 less than the swift or the acer 4k. Yes, it is TN, but frankly it is the best looking TN panel I have ever seen, and unless I am trying to game from 10 feet off of center (why on earth would anyone??) it looks perfectly fine. Color is fantastic once I dialed it in a little, and the difference in games is spectacular. runs up to 144hz. Like the ROG swift, you can also choose to run in lightboost mode which makes your LCD look more like a CRT, although G-sync doesn't support lightboost at the same time as g-sync (changing strobe rates to match everything else would be a nightmare). The downside is you have to play a g-sync enabled game. Of course, if it isn't g-sync capable, just turn on lightboost and/or run at 120 or 144hz and you still get far better gaming performance over other monitors.

    I use an older 660 gtx card, and so far every game I have played pretty much runs liquid smooth at the highest settings. Lately I have been playing World of Tanks, and cranked all the way up, I can spin, zoom, pan, scroll, etc as fast as I want and I have yet to see a hitch or a tear, and I have tried to force it. I can go into the garage and with all those details on, spin my view back and forth as fast as I can whip the mouse back and forth, and no tearing at all. It is fantastic, and to me worth every penny.

    I am sure some people will say things like 1080 is way too low of a resolution, or that TN sucks, or that $599 is still too high for a 27", but until something better is out, it is the best 27" gaming monitor you can get for less than $600. Sure, I could have gotten the Swift, but frankly I didn't need 1440 and that extra $200 got me a shiny new Samsung 850 pro ssd, and I am quite happy with it.
  • looncraz - Thursday, February 5, 2015 - link

    "AMD GPUs don’t properly scale the resolution to fill the whole screen"

    This is a setting, pure and simple.

    CCC->My Digital Flat Panels->Properties->Select the proper monitor->Scale image to full panel size

    The latest AMD drivers also have "virtual super resolution" which allows you to run any game (or your desktop) at higher resolution than your monitor supports.

    I play Battlefield 4 @ 3200x1800 @ 60 FPS - I disabled anti-aliasing and couldn't tell a difference at this scaling (when I could clearly see it - and be annoyed by it - at 1080p).

    I will be doing this with every game that supports it now, super awesomeness.
  • Clorex - Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - link

    What is pixel decay?

    From page 2 of the article:
    "while G-SYNC can refresh the panel at rates as low as 30Hz, I find that anything below 40Hz will start to see the pixels on the screen decay, resulting in a slight flicker; hence, the desire to stay above 40 FPS"

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