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Acer Predator XB321HK 32" 4K G-SYNC Monitor Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
A few months ago, we took a long hard look at the Acer XB271HK and walked away very impressed with what it had to offer. However, as we noted in that review, the ultra-high pixel count combined with the relatively small screen size ended being a double-edged sword. While the ultra-crisp nature of the UHD panel did make for a very immersive experience and made for better legibility, it also caused a number of installation issues. Specifically, even Windows 10 does not handle scaling all that well at 4K resolution on a monitor that is smaller than 30 inches.


Unlike the XB271HK, the Acer Predator XB1 XB321HK that we are reviewing today has the potential to neatly sidestep most of these installation issues since it stretches those same 8.3 megapixels across thirty-two diagonal inches worth of screen real estate. This increase in panel size does decrease the dots per inch (DPI) down to 137.7, but this is a lot more manageable and closer to what Windows has been designed to handle.

While the DPI may indeed be lower than that of the XB271HK, the dot-pitch is still an impressive 0.1845mm. To put that into perspective, compared to say the Acer Predator X34 (3440 x 1440) which clocks in at 0.2316mm, the XB321HK’s panel is downright pixel dense. Another positive aspect of this new model is that despite featuring an IPS panel and is still manages a low 4ms gray-to-gray response time. The panel also features the same anti-glare coating found on the XB271HK, so at least on paper this monitor has a lot going for it.

Unlike the aforementioned Acer Predator X34, which features an ultra-wide design, the XB321HK is a 16:9 monitor. For some, 21:9 is simply too wide to provide a comfortable viewing angle, there are also compatibility issues with older games, and many people just don't have the desk space for a monitor that is almost three feet wide.


Regrettably, due to the exact same bandwidth limitations found on XB271HK, the new Acer Predator XB321HK is limited to 60Hz. This is unfortunate, as consumers will have to carefully consider which aspect they consider more important: refresh rate or resolution. This is because with an asking price of $1225, or a whopping $400 more than the smaller XB271HK, buyers will be giving up forty frames per second over the similarly priced Predator X34, which supports a high 100Hz refresh rate but at lower resolution.

On the plus side, the XB321HK is G-Sync enabled, and by utilizing NVIDIA's adaptive refresh rate technology gamers can expect smooth gameplay free of stuttering and tearing.


Much like its smaller sibling, the XB321HK’s overall aesthetics are bold, some might even say overly aggressive. This ‘Predator’ aesthetic means the same all-black styling with red accents, aggressive angles and generally killer looks that consumers will either instantly love or instantly hate.

The XB321HK has both HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2 input connectivity, but in order to get sixty frames per second users will need to utilize the DisplayPort option, as HDMI is currently only capable of 24Hz at 4K resolution. This is perhaps a missed opportunity because if this monitor featured DisplayPort 1.3, Acer could have included overclocking abilities… even if no one could currently takes advantage of it. In either case, 60 frames per second at 4K is still very decent and is exactly what the XB271HK offered.

The real physical input buttons and on screen display (OSD) are impressive, and once again are basically the same as what come with the XB271HK and the Predator X34.


One area that is not a direct copy from the XB271HK is the stand. It may look similar, and have the wide footprint and great stability, but this new model's stand is actually a little bit less capable than its predecessor. To be precise, instead of 40° of tilt and a whopping 5.91 inches of height adjustment, the new XB321HK only has 30° (+5° to -25°) and only 4.72 inches of height adjustment. This minor variance certainly shouldn't change many buyers minds, nor should it make it particularly difficult to adjust this monitor to ones needs. For comparison sake, the XB321HK is also at a slight disadvantage compared to the Predator X34, which has 40° of tilt and 5.11 inches of height adjustment.


Overall, the Acer Predator XB321HK makes use of a gorgeous panel that offers incredible color fidelity, 1.08 billion colors, excellent viewing angles, and generally amazing dot-pitch. On paper, this combination of excellent panel, good enough refresh rate, and G-Sync technology makes the XB321HK potentially the stiffest competition that we have seen to date for Acer’s own Predator X34, especially among those who aren't too keen on having a curved display. However, this monitor will not only be competing against the X34, but also the noticeably cheaper XB271HK. Let's find out how it fares.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations


<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/XB321HK/menu1.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Much like the physical layout and design, the On Screen Display (OSD) which accompanies this monitor a near clone of the XB271HK, albeit sized-up. Considering the XB321HK’s OSD is a near ringer for the X34 , this certainly makes the entire Predator line very cohesive on the OSD front. What this means is if you are familiar with the OSD that accompanies other Acer Predator model’s you will <i>also</i> be familiar with this monitor’s OSD.

We have almost zero issues using one OSD template for the entire Predator lineup as it is one of the best Acer has created to date. With that said, the On Screen Display the XB321HK uses is pretty much the barebones version of the Predator OSD. As such, some consumers may find it a touch lacking in comparison to the X34, particularly as certain overclocking-related features have been removed. Considering this model comes with an asking price that is very similar to the X34 <i>any</i> reduction in features has to be considered a negative.

The reason for this reduction is pretty simple, Acer has opted for DisplayPort 1.2 components and have not built in any future-proofing into this model. While yes there is basically no DP1.3 capable video cards available <i>right now</i>, that is going to change in the near future. As such, Acer could have easily included a customized version of X34’s panel overclocking abilities and given consumers a good reason to upgrade their video card as well as their monitor. This lack of future-proofing is extremely shortsighted and smacks of planned obsolesce. After all, all Acer would have to do is slap this feature on to the XB321HK’s chassis and call it a new and improved XB32<b>2</b>HK and expect consumers to spend $1300 again.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/XB321HK/menu2.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Counteracting this extremely jaded view of what Acer has – or has not – done is the fact that this would have made Acer further bin these already expensive panels, and only use the ones capable of being overclocked to say 75Hz. This would have made an already expensive monitor that much more expensive for a feature no one can use right now, and arguably few will use in the future. In either case, users will find zero surprises with OSD, and all the features that have been included are top-notch and are well executed. Now let’s take a quick spin through this OSD for those not familiar with it.

As with many gaming-oriented monitors, the Acer XB321HK comes with end-user adjustable ‘overdrive’ (OD) settings. What OD does is basically push more voltage to the liquid crystals – the ‘L’ and ‘C’ in LCD – which forces them to change from one state to another faster. In theory, panel overdrive is a great idea as it reduces the panel’s response time. The downside is that inverse ghosting (pre-images in front of the actual image) and degradation of color quality are very much apparent when this feature is abused.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/XB321HK/menu3.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Just as with the XB271HK, the default overdrive (not to be confused with Acer’s “Over Clock”) setting for this model is Normal, and in testing it was able to boost performance without too many issues at the native refresh rate of 60Hz. The ‘Extreme’ setting is just that, and can cause noticeable colour shifting. Interestingly enough, unlike the XB271HK, most consumers will want to change the default setting from Normal to Off as this <i>may</i> produce slightly better image fidelity. If you do need to delve deeper into the XB321HK's settings, the shortcut menu also includes the standard option of entering the full OSD - or what Acer calls the 'Function Menu'.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/XB321HK/osd1.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

There are five main sections here that run the gamut from dealing with colour and picture customization, to configuring the panel itself, to even modifying the OSD. The topmost one is called 'Picture', and as the name suggests it deals with adjusting the picture displayed on the monitor. Here you will find the usual suspects such as brightness, contrast settings, and selecting from the factory created profiles. There’s also the ability to control black levels, blue light, and even change the adaptive contrast settings.

The Black Level ‘Dark Boost’ setting is fairly self-evident, it changes the black depth within the panel’s contrast range. Blue light modifies how much blue is output by the monitor's LEDs, and it is best to not mess with unless you have a very specific need for boosting or decrease blue levels.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/XB321HK/osd2.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

The next area is the 'Color' section which deals with actually adjusting the colour profile of this monitor. Here you will find basic gamma correction, colour temperature, as well as the sRGB mode which basically cuts the wide color gamut down to sRGB levels. Also included is 6-axis hue and saturation adjustment abilities that make fine tuning the colour pallet a lot easier than it would normally be. That is because in addition to the typical red, green, and blue you can also individually adjust the yellow, magenta, and cyan levels. Since our panel came with an out-of-the-box colour profile that was nearly perfect this was not truly needed, but it was still a welcome addition nonetheless.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/XB321HK/osd3.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

The third section allows for modification of the OSD, and can be used to adjust the language, timeout setting, and transparency level. In addition to these standard fares, you can also select one of three game oriented factory profiles, and even turn on Aim Point, which puts a crosshair on your screen similar to what the ASUS RoG monitors offer.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/XB321HK/osd4.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

The fourth section deals with monitor hardware settings that do not really fit into one of the other categories. Basically, if you want to adjust the latency mode, turn on/off DTS, or other highly specific tasks, this is the section for you. The last is the Information section and it tells you the mode, resolution, and serial number of your particular XB321HK. For the most part, this section can be safely ignored.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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Panel Uniformity / Panel Performance

Calibrated Settings

Please remember that the settings below have been calibrated for our specific environment and your viewing conditions may differ from ours.

Mode Used: "User Mode"
Notes:
- All tests done at default settings at 120 cd/m2.
- Unless otherwise noted, the tests were carried out via DisplayPort


Panel Uniformity


<i>In a perfect world, a screen’s brightness output should be equal throughout the entire panel. Regrettably, this is not a perfect world, but the lower the variation the less chances you will notice overly bright or dark sections on the screen. For the consumer LCD marketplace, a variance of 10% is our gold standard, but anything below 15% can be considered excellent as we doubt anyone will notice a -7.5 to +7.5 variation. A variation above 15% - but below 24% - can be considered adequate, but anything above this does not meet our basic minimum standards. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/XB321HK/uniform.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

For such a large monitor, a panel brightness variance of 16% is fairly decent, it's not great but not it's terrible either. On the positive side, while this certainly is not the most uniform large monitor we have ever seen, it is actually a tiny bit better than the smaller XB271HK, which has a variation of 17%.



Panel Performance


<i>Ideally, a screen’s real world response rate would be so fast that motion blur, ‘ghosting’, ‘reverse-ghosting’ would be a thing of the past. No matter how fast the action displayed all images would be represented in pristine condition similar in quality to a static image. This is not a perfect world, but the less amount of blurring that occurs, the less chances you will notice the issue in real world scenarios. While the panel's response rate (ms) <i>and</i> frame rate (Hz) can give a fairly rough idea of how much blurring to expect, it is not the be-all and end-all. </I>

To this end, we have taken PRAD’s Pixel Persistence Analyzer ‘Streaky Pictures’ program and - using a high speed camera - captured exactly how much and what kind of motion blur you can expect from a given monitor.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/XB321HK/blurr_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Acer is really hitting it out of the park lately, and 60Hz or not, the amount of blurring is very good bordering on excellent. Obviously, this panel does not ‘need’ 120Hz or 144Hz to provide (near) crystal clear images. This was somewhat expected as this is exactly what we said about the XB271HK as well. Having said that, Acer has left a <i>lot</i> of potential unrealized as we are quite positive the panel could do more than just 60Hz. It is really a shame that they did not push the boundaries and were not forward thinking enough when they made this model, as DP 1.3 capabilities would have made this one hell of a contender now and in the future.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/XB321HK/blurr2.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Interestingly enough, unlike the XB271HK, this monitor really should not have OverDrive enabled. Even at the default 'Normal' setting there is some pre-Ghosting happening, and this ghosting not only gets worse when the panel is set to ‘Extreme’ but color fidelity also suffers. Needless to say you will have to be a pixel peeper to notice it – as these pixels are tiny and they are hard to see with the naked eye – but as with most of the Acer Predator lineup we would strongly advise turning off OverDrive and relying solely on G-Sync to provide as clear an image as this monitor is capable of producing.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,857
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Montreal
Panel Backlight Bleed

Panel Backlight Bleed


An LCD or LCD LED-based monitor relies upon either one or multiple sources of light to illuminate the liquid crystals so as to create a visible image. In a perfect world, all the light would either go through the open crystals or be reflected back into the interior of the display via the closed crystals. Due to the manufacturing process, most monitors exhibit light leakage around the edges of the monitor. This issue is called 'backlight bleed' and can drastically lower the contrast near these affected areas. This causes colors to have a washed out appearance, with blacks appearing to be more gray that black. Ideally, a monitor should have zero bleeding, but if the amount is judged to be fairly minor we will consider it to be adequate.

To determine the amount of backlight bleed a given sample exhibits, we have placed the monitor in a completely dark room and have taken a series of pictures of the monitor using a Nikon D810 with a 24-70 F2.8E VR lens. In between each shot the ISO is raised by one stop until a picture is captured that shows the amount of backlight bleed occurring.



We must admit to being impressed with the amount of backlight bleed our XB321Hk sample exhibited. Basically, the left side shows a small amount of bleeding along the edge and a minor amount in the bottom left corner. On the other hand, the top, bottom and right side basically had zero backlight bleed. To put this amount of bleed in perspective, we had to go all the way to ISO 4,800 before we were able to obtain an image that was anything other than black. Very impressive!


Gamma Performance


Gamma correction is one of the hardest terms to explain. However, for our purposes, the gamma correction of any electronics device is how bright or dark an image will be displayed on a screen.

All PC devices now use 2.20 gamma as the default. Any variance from this will result in an image being either underexposed - which will create black crush and reduced shadow detail - or washed out with overexposed highlights level detail.

While 2.20 is the gold standard, a minor deviation of 0.10 will in all likelihood never be noticed by anyone other than professional photographers. Higher levels of deflection however will be noticed by just about everyone.



Even though 2.21 is technically not perfection, it is pretty damn close. So close that it does fall within the margin of error of our testing equipment. Brilliant stuff and better than every other Acer monitor that we have tested, except the equally competent XB270HU.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Colour Saturation Levels / Default RGB Levels

Colour Saturation Levels


There are numerous colours that the human eye can’t see because the human colour space is confined to three primary colours and combinations thereof. In order to not waste manufacturing resources displaying colours that we can't see, a colour space known as CIE RGB was mathematically derived and turned into the de facto standard by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE).

In the image below, the dark triangle that isn’t highlighted is the sRGB colour space, while the overall CIE colour space is displayed as the background colours. Meanwhile, the white triangle with highlighted colour represents the results of what a given monitor can display. No monitor can display the entire CIE colour spectrum, but a good monitor should be able to display the sRGB spectrum of possible colours as it is usually used as the standard for image encoding.

A monitor that features the “wide colour gamut” moniker can display more than the sRGB spectrum, and is considered primarily for professional use. If a monitor cannot cover off the entire sRGB triangle, the resulting image will appear “off” to an observer. The end result is a displayed picture that won’t be as rich, vibrant or as correct as it should be.



Colour reproduction is one area that Acer’s Predator series has excelled at in the past, and the new XB321HK is no exception. Quite honestly, all but the most persnickety of consumers will find this colour range to be more than acceptable, and most will consider it to be downright fantastic.


Default RGB Levels


An LCD or LCD LED backlit panel relies on accurately blending Red, Green and Blue pixel clusters to create an overall image. Therefore, the closer each of these colours is to a perfect 100 output, the better and more accurate the default colours will be.

In this case, we have a low tolerance for anything less than perfection since any colour shift can be noticeable even to untrained eyes, and will require a colour correction at the software level to overcome a monitor’s stock output. We do however consider a minor variation of only a few points per colour to be acceptable.



While not precisely perfect 99/100/100 is within the error ratio of our testing equipment. As such, this panel can be considered by most to be flawless. Of course if your job depends on perfectly accurate colour representation you may wish to check your panel to ensure that it is indeed faithfully reproducing all the RGB colours.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,857
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Montreal
Viewing Angles / Contrast Ratio / Power Consumption

Viewing Angles


Unlike CRT displays, the manner in which LCD panels create an image can result in one large weakness: the image can lose contrast when viewed off angle. While we do not recommend viewing an LCD at anything besides perfectly straight on, the reality is this cannot always be done.

To help give you a glimpse of what a panel will look like when seen from either above the horizontal or vertical plane we have taken pictures at fairly extreme angles.



Superior viewing angles has always been one of the biggest selling points for IPS panels. It really just comes down to how In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels are created that allows them to be viewed at rather extreme angles without a lot of degradation in colour or contrast fidelity. The viewing angles on the XB271HK were great, and if anything the XB321HK is better than that model. Some of this improvement is simply because the panel is larger and thus the pixels are bigger, but it's mostly because this is a more expensive model and as such it has been subjected to tighter quality control testing. In either case, this monitor can be viewed at nearly all angles without much loss of image quality. By the same token, viewers will still want to sit as close to as perfectly square to the XB321HK as possible in order to capture the full impact of its Ultra-High Definition glory.


Maximum Contrast Ratio


While manufacturers love to throw around maximum contrast ratios in the millions, the fact of the matter is that to get these high numbers they have to use "dynamic contrast" which - at best - results in overblown specs. With DC turned off, the number of shades between the purest white and the blackest black that a given monitor can display is usually in the low hundreds rather than in the thousands.

The higher the contrast ratio, the better the monitor will display shades of dark and light. For IPS monitors, anything below 450:1 is unacceptable, with 500:1 or above considered optimal. For TN panels, anything above 120:1 will be considered “good enough” for most consumers.



While the XB321HK is better than the XB271HK, consumers will have a hard time justifying the higher price tag based solely on these results. Basically, this is a gorgeous monitor with a great contrast ratio, but the same can be said of the XB271HK. These results just underscore how great of a time it is to be a consumer looking for a high quality monitor.


Power Consumption


To obtain the maximum power consumption number, we set the monitors brightness to 100% and the contrast to 100%. The calibrated results are taken at 120 cd/m2, with the contrast set to the default level.


Yes, it is big, and yes, it is power hungry… but really is anyone surprised by these numbers? Though to be fair, these figures are still very reasonable and not that long ago would have been down right astonishing. It is just that we all have come to expect modern monitors to be veritable power misers. Put another way, this level of power usage is more than acceptable given the size and specs of this display, but it is easy to get sidetracked by the increasing arrival of ultra-low power consumption monitors.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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Gaming Performance

Gaming Performance





After using the 27-inch XB271HK for countless hours of gaming enjoyment, and then using this larger monitor, a few things quickly came into focus. First and foremost is that the XB321HK is basically a bigger and better version of its smaller cousin. While this monitor may have a slightly larger dot-pitch than the XB271HK, the pixels are still small and there is a bloody lot of them. Combine that with a near perfect out of the box colour pallet, flawless gamma, fantastic viewing angles, and the end result is amazing. Having said that, this is still a 60 frames per second monitor.





In our opinion, the sixty frames per second issue is not that problematic since gaming on a 32-inch monitor at 4K resolution is an incredible experience. Not only will gamers quickly be sucked into the gameplay faster than ever before, but little details that they might have missed on lower resolution monitors will come to light. These minor details add a level of immersion that – if the game engine is good enough – makes for a wholly enjoyable and new experience. Even games that have been completed numerous times will seem fresh and revitalized. Also, thanks to NVIDIA's G-Sync technology, concerns about having enough video card horsepower are not as big a deal as they once were. You however may obviously feel differently though.





To be honest, if anyone is trying to choose between the XB271HK (or any 27-inch 4K monitor) and the XB321HK, there really is no hard choice to be made...this is the monitor that everyone really wants. Yes, you will be paying a lot more for the XB321HK than smaller displays, but as the old saying goes ‘buy once, cry once’. Put another way, the extra expense of opting for this monitor is more than made up for in increased gaming enjoyment. This goes double for those who prefer older games whose UI may not scale all that well at 4K, where the extra couple of inches can make the difference between being able to read the small text and wondering what the hell the blurry line worth of pixels is supposed to say.





Now with all that said, we recognize that this monitor is certainly not going to be right for all gaming enthusiasts. While our personal preference is for resolution over frame rate, some will consider the exact opposite to be true. This is where the Acer XB321HK stumbles, and it is why comparing this monitor to the Acer Predator X34 is rather difficult. There is no hard and fast rule, potential buyers will have to decide for themselves what they prize most: speed or clarity.

Even though both are G-Sync enabled monitors, and this does reduce the need for video card horsepower, refresh rate can still play a critical role in gaming enjoyment. In this area, the Acer X34 is still The King. Thanks to its lower resolution, actually hitting 60 frames per second is a lot easier than it is with this XB321HK 4K monitor, and even at 100FPS the X34 requires slightly less video card horsepower to drive: 495 million pixels per second vs. 497 million. This makes the X34 a much better choice for those who favour first-person shooter games, or even just prefer the fluid gameplay that comes with running at 100Hz.





It is hard to ignore the added clarity that the incredibly pixel density of the XB321HK brings to the table. Even with anti-aliasing turned down, the XB321HK routinely produces images that are far superior to the X34. Furthermore, not every game can even work in 21:9 format, whereas basically every game supports the 16:9 image ratio. This combination will make the XB321HK damn near perfect for gamers more interested in static clarity over motion clarity. This is why buyers will need to seriously consider what their personal preference truly is. However, no matter which way they decide to go, owners of either monitor will not be disappointed as both are fantastic for gaming.




Before we move on though, there is one issue we need to discuss. Basically, the fact that this monitor is not be right for everyone and every scenario is a bit disappointing. The XB321HK could easily have been the dominant Predator model if only Acer had not been so short sighted. All Acer had to do to make this monitor much more future proof than it is add DisplayPort 1.3 compliance and include a panel overclocking section. DP 1.3 compatible video cards are right on the horizon, and if Acer had been more forward thinking this monitor would have had the potential to be the best option for all consumers. They did not, and therefore the choice is not as clear cut as it should have been. However, the XB321HK is still an excellent monitor and has reaffirmed our love of 4K monitors.
 

SKYMTL

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Messages
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Multimedia and Real World Performance

Multimedia and Real World Performance



When it comes to multimedia scenarios, most users will likely enjoy what the Acer XB321HK has to offer, but the overall experience will vary greatly from person to person and even video to video. Because the XB321HK is basically a XB271HK on steroids, all of the strengths and weaknesses of that smaller Acer monitor are accentuated and blown up to larger than life size. On paper, this monitor seemingly should be a match made in videophile heaven: accurate and vivid colours, razor sharp details, and a 16:9 movie-friendly format. Sadly, there is one major catch that keeps this section of the review from being one paragraph long.


The catch is something that will leave users a tad frustrated from time to time, and it is that native 4K content is still very rare so there is a lack of opportunity to be able to fully experience the XB321HK’s abilities. As much as the XB321HK can create jaw-dropping visuals that are impossible to look away from, due to the widespread availability of poor quality content it also has the potential to create downright ugly images that will leave you wondering precisely why you just spent $1300.


Basically, the old term "Garbage In, Garbage Out" is highly applicable to this monitor, and we strongly recommend using software interpolation to upscale media rather than relying upon the monitor’s algorithms. Even then, this monitor's high resolution will still highlight and even accentuate every single flaw in the original content. Worse yet, as it is a large 32-inch monitor, it is much easier to actually see flaws that could have otherwise gone unnoticed. Thankfully, with high bitrate 1080P content this is nearly a non-issue, but as soon as consumers step down to 720P image quality starts to suffer. Needless to say that at 480P even the best encoded content looks rather abhorrent. So feed it a steady diet of high quality content and you and your XB321HK will be happy campers.


To be honest though, this is pretty much par for the course for all good 4K monitors, and as such the above results were fully expected. What did catch us off guard was how good this monitor is in more mundane scenarios and tasks. First and foremost, even just setting up this monitor is eons easier than the XB271HK. While we did still increase the DPI scaling to 150% in Windows, the out of the box settings were still easily useable. So much so that many may not even feel the need to increase the size of icons and text. We have older eyes, so we did do some adjustments, but we did not feel the urgent need to rush to the Control Panel to change settings ASAP either.


Next, unlike with smaller displays, 32-inches is roomy enough to comfortably have two windows opened in side-by-side mode. While each window is going to smaller and more cramped than if they are displayed on the ultra-wide X34, owners will find that using half screen mode is a rather straight forward affair. This alone makes the 4K resolution a lot more usable than it is on the XB271HK. It is also worth noting some people may actually prefer this monitor to the X34 for day-to-day tasks, as it is taller than the X34 and if your daily tasks require as much vertical real-estate as possible the loss of some horizontal space is more than worth it. We suspect that anyone currently using a 30-inch 1600P monitor they will simply fall in love with the XB321HK. The old school 30-inch 2560x1600 monitors were great, but this Acer 4K model does everything they can do, but it does it much better!

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,857
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Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results

Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results


In a perfect world, either every monitor would come factory calibrated to perfection or every single consumer would own a decent colorimeter. We don’t live in such a world, and as such most consumers simply use their untrained eyeballs to fix any imperfections with the stock colours of their new monitor.

In order to gauge how easy this is to do for a given monitor, we have included a new set of tests. These tests will be carried out before any of our standard tests and will consist of us using a combination of the free online LCD Monitor Test Images (found here LCD monitor test images), and then if necessary the free Hex2Bit Monitor Calibration Wizard (found here Hex2Bit - Software by Mike Walters). The goal of these tests is to not only gauge how easy it is to accurately calibrate a given monitor using only the monitor's built-in tools, but to see how closely we can come to what a Spyder3 Elite can do.


To obtain these results we did the following:

used “User” mode
adjusted the brightness to 27% (which resulted in a 119.7 cd/m2)
All other settings left to default levels





As with nearly every Acer Predator monitor tested to date, there is very little owners will need to adjust during the setup and installation phase. In this regard, the XB321HK is actually superior to the XB271HK, as the only major issue that needs correcting is the brightness setting. Since this monitor is freaking huge, and at its default brightness levels the effect is pretty much like looking into a spotlight.

As such, unless you like looking into a white hot sun, owners will want to squint and immediately pull up the On Screen Display (OSD) and adjust the brightness setting ASAP. Thankfully, also like every Acer in recent memory, doing so takes mere moments to accomplish. The combination of an excellent – if somewhat limited – OSD with competent physical buttons is a winning one.

Once this simple, but crucial, task is complete it really will comes down to personal preferences. While the XB271HK’s gamma and color profile were arguably ‘good enough’, we honestly doubt many will find the XB321HK’s output anything but excellent. The only users who should really worry about a Gamma of 2.21 instead of 2.20 and 99/100/100 default color profile are professionals whose jobs demand perfection. Those professionals will most likely already own a colorimeter, but if they do not the physical buttons combined with the very good OSD packed with 6-color axis correction is a winning one for perfecting the colour profile. Once again though, most will be more than happy with the default settings.

Unfortunately, users will have to opt for off-screen correction to obtain a perfect image as the built-in gamma correction is best described as lacking. Having said that, 2.21 is so close that only professionals will be concerned with this minor shortcoming. All-in-all, we would easily classify the manual adjustment of this monitor to be the equal of the X34. This is not an inexpensive monitor and it should come with plug-and-play ease, which it largely does.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Conclusion

Conclusion


It is no secret that we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Acer XB271HK that previously reviewed. Its combination of G-Sync, a gorgeous panel, an easy-to-use OSD, and phenomenal resolution simply ‘worked’ for us. After extensively testing, retesting, and even more testing, we can say with the utmost confidence that the Acer Predator XB321HK is even better. Five additional inches on the diagonal may not sound like all that big of a difference, but it really does turn a very good monitor into a great one. Those mere five inches expand the viewing area enough to all but eliminate installation and usability issues, such as trying to read miniscule text and tiny icons. It also allows users the luxury of halving the screen, running two programs side-by-side and never feeling like either window is cramped.

If you have narrowed your search down to these two Acer 4K monitors, it will be really difficult to <i>not</i> opt for this model – higher price be damned. The only ones who might feel differently are those whose work environment simply cannot accommodate the larger XB321HK’s footprint. We suspect that those who are now using older 1600P 30-inch monitors and looking to upgrade, will simply fall in love with this new Predator model. Honestly, with the release of the Acer Predator XB321HK, there is almost zero reasons to even consider purchasing a 30-inch 1600P monitor.

Now, with that taken care of, one important question needs to be answered: which is better, this monitor or the Predator X34? Here things are not as black and white, and it will come down to what <i>you</i> consider to be more important: fantastic resolution that makes for a highly immersive experience, or a high refresh rate that creates an equally amazing gaming experience. Some gamers will simply not find 60 frames per second fast enough for silky smooth gameplay, and this issue will be a deal-breaker for them. This is especially true of first-person shooter aficionados, and while the Predator XB321HK still excels thanks to G-Sync, the Predator X34 is simply best-in-class thanks to its 100Hz refresh rate.

On the other hand, if you consider ultra-crisp, ultra-high fidelity images to be the gold standard upon which <i>you</i> judge all monitors then the Acer Predator XB321HK simply eats the Predator X34’s lunch. WQHD resolution might be nice, but UHD is almost always better. Once you as a consumer understand whether you prefer resolution or refresh rate, the answer regarding which model is ‘better’ will become obvious, but either monitor would be an excellent choice.

It is unfortunate that 4K monitors are still not capable of dominating all scenarios all the time. Until DisplayPort 1.3 is readily available, all monitor manufacturers will be hitting the same bandwidth limitation that prevents high resolution 4K monitors from also boasting refresh rates. Nevertheless, in the end, if the XB271HK was on your short-list, but the usability and installation issues kept you from choosing it, or you are thinking about just buying a 30-inch 1600P monitor, then the Predator XB321HK is the best choice for you. If on the other hand you were on also considering the Predator X34, this will only provide an alternative choice and not make your final decision any easier.

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