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Acer Predator X27 review: A 4K gaming monitor that delivers a stunning HDR experience

Edward Chester
4 Dec 2018
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
2,200
inc VAT

This 27in 4K monitor boasts an exceptional HDR panel with a 144Hz refresh rate – but you'll pay a big price for it

Pros 
Sumptuous HDR colour
Fantastic contrast
Decent gaming performance
Cons 
Incredibly expensive
4K feels cramped on a 27in monitor
Fan noise
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The Acer X27 is a 27-inch gaming monitor with a 4K native resolution, a 144Hz refresh rate and peerless HDR support, thanks to a 384-zone backlight system that enables it to render the brightest colours right next to the very darkest.

The only other desktop monitor we’ve seen that features this technology is the Asus PG27UQ, which also matches the X27’s resolution and refresh rate. The X27 isn’t entirely unique, therefore, but it’s certainly an exceptional screen.

Acer Predator X27 review: What you need to know

Even though it costs far more than many 32-inch and larger monitors, the Predator X27 is a 27-inch monitor. Clearly, the focus is on quality, not size.

And it does feel like a high-end product. Inside there’s Nvidia’s G-Sync technology for eliminating stuttering and tearing; outside you get a quality adjustable stand, some useful side-mounted USB ports and even detachable side shutters to help reduce reflections and distractions. Multiple RGB lighting zones also allow you to add a bit of pizzazz to your desk.

The LCD panel itself is an IPS unit, ensuring that everything looks as good as it possibly can. It does mean a slightly slower 4ms response time, versus the 1ms response time of TN-based gaming screens, but that’s perfectly fast enough for casual competitive gaming.

READ NEXT: The best PC monitors for 1080p, 1440p, 4K, HDR and 144Hz gaming

Acer Predator X27 review: Price and competition

The X27 only has one competitor at the moment, namely the Asus PG27UQ, which also partners AU Optronics’ new 144Hz, 4K LCD panel with a 384-zone backlight. We expect other manufacturers will start offering their own 4K, 144Hz displays soon enough, but that advanced backlight technology probably won’t reach the mainstream in the near future.

The good news is that the Acer X27 is around £100 cheaper than the Asus. With the money you save you could, for example, buy a colorimeter, and calibrate your new display to provide the best possible colour accuracy.

Even so, it’s very expensive. You can get a 34-inch, 100Hz gaming display such as the Acer X34P for less than half the price; or, if competitive gaming is your main focus, there are also plenty of faster displays out there.

If you’re after the ultimate HDR image quality, though, this monitor and the Asus really stand in a class of their own.

Acer Predator X27 review: Design and features

There’s no mistaking that this is a gaming display. Acer’s Predator logo on the bottom bezel and the aggressive angular stand make that clear. It’s chunky too, thanks to the backlight technology: it’s noticeably thicker than most 27-inch gaming displays, and its bezels are far bigger.

Yet the overall look is still quite classy. The base is elegantly made from a single piece of solid metal, and round the back there’s a tasteful combination of brushed and speckled plastic finishes. It’s definitely a step up from the more in-your-face styling of the PG27UQ.

The lighting is more restrained too. While the PG27UQ is festooned with all sorts of weird and wacky lights, the X27 has a more modest selection. On the underside, a row of 12 RGB LEDs cast a dull glow down onto the desk below; this may sound like a gimmick, but if you like to game in the dark, that little bit of illumination on your desk can be helpful. You can adjust the colour and brightness of the lights, or choose from a number of effects, including one that matches the colours to what’s on the screen.

There’s also a row of lights hidden in the ventilation grille on the back, although these are rather less practical. They aren’t bright enough to project visibly onto the wall behind the monitor, so you’ll only really notice them when you’re looking directly at the back of the display. They look quite funky, though.

The stand meanwhile offers height, rotation and tilt adjustment, so it’s easy to get the display positioned just as you like, and it’s removable for easy wall-mounting. It also has a convenient carry handle at the top. The only thing that’s missing is a 90° pivot option – which would have been useful, if only for plugging in cables. Indeed, the rotation function only moves 20° left and right, while most monitors provide 30° or more.

A light sensor embedded in the top bezel can be used to provide an automatic brightness setting for the display – a potentially useful extra if the lighting in your room changes dramatically throughout the day.

Finally, all those hundreds of LEDs in the backlight necessitate a fan at the back of the display, just above where the stand connects to the casing. It’s audible in a quiet office, but even a mid-range PC next to it will drown it out. From directly in front of the display we measured a volume level of 33dB – essentially ambient indoor noise. This rose to 35dB just past the top edge of the screen and 38dB directly above the fan intake. This again is very similar to the Asus PG27UQ.

Acer Predator X27 review: Connectivity

The X27 uses Nvidia’s G-Sync technology to prevent image tearing and stuttering. This is great; the catch is that G-Sync currently only supports one DisplayPort 1.4 input and one HDMI 2 socket. If you want to share a single display across multiple sources – perhaps gaming consoles or a set top box – then you might be better off choosing a display without G-Sync.

You also get a useful USB 3 hub with two ports on the back and two on the left edge, where they’re easy to reach. A nice mini-joystick makes it easy to navigate the OSD controls, along with three control buttons at the rear right of the display. They’re easy to reach, and the interface is well laid out and responsive.

Acer Predator X27 review: Image quality

The Acer X27, like its Asus rival, is a complicated thing to assess, as it operates in three main modes. You can use it like a regular monitor with a static backlight, enable dynamic backlighting to enhance the contrast, or switch up to full HDR mode.

In its normal monitor mode, with uniform backlighting and a standard sRGB colour palette, the X27 looks just as you’d expect from a high-end IPS LCD monitor. Viewing angles are great, colours look natural, brightness is reasonably even across the whole expanse of the screen and there’s a decent level of contrast.

That said, the overall colour balance isn’t as good as it should be considering the price of this display. We measured a default temperature of 7026K (versus an ideal of 6500K), giving the X27 a slightly cold, blueish look. You can improve things a lot by tweaking the RGB values in the OSD: changing the values from 50x50x50 to 50x47x41 got our screen looking as it should, but you’d need a colorimeter to make this adjustment with confidence. By contrast, our Asus PG27UQ arrived with near perfect colour balance out of the box.

In variable backlight mode, the X27’s 384 backlight zones individually get brighter or darker to match what’s on screen, increasing the overall effective contrast of the display. This isn’t as effective as you might imagine, though: in our first test, our contrast ratio went up from 1,025:1 to just 2,527:1, which is no better than many monitors that use VA type LCDs and conventional backlights. With the brightness level set to its maximum 500cd/m2, and the largest test area selected in our DisplayMate testing software, our ratio went up to 4,572:1, but that’s still some way behind the striking 6,424:1 that we got from the Asus.

In short, if you want a variable-backlight monitor to add a bit of extra dynamism to your movies and games, the Asus PG27UQ will make a much more visible difference, thanks to its more aggressive backlight control.

Acer Predator X27 review: HDR image quality

It’s in HDR mode that the Predator X27 really shows what it’s capable of. At peak brightness, we measured white pixels shining out at 956cd/m2, while just a few inches away black levels plunged to just 0.03cd/m2. That’s an incredible contrast ratio of more than 30,000:1.

At the same time, colour performance is also dramatically enhanced. In SDR mode the display conforms strictly to the standard sRGB colour space, with coverage of 97.2% (69.4% DCI-P3) and volume of 98%. In HDR mode the volume shoots up to 162% (91.7% DCI-P3), covering not only the whole sRGB colour space but a huge richness of colours beyond that.

The result is truly dazzling. HDR-enabled games burst into life, and high-quality HDR video is mesmerising. We’ve tried to illustrate the effect in our images, but your own laptop or phone screen almost certainly won’t be able to convey the full wonder of the Predator X27. It’s something you really have to experience in the flesh.

Before we get too carried away, there are a few things to note. First, HDR has its greatest impact when the image contains extreme colours and differences in brightness; in more subdued scenes you might barely notice it at all. Still, if you’re watching a widescreen movie with black bars above and below the image, those bars will be truly black rather than a distracting grey.

It’s also worth remembering that there’s still only a very limited range of HDR media and games to enjoy. The situation is improving, but we’re a couple of years away from genuinely widespread support.

Finally, while implementing 384 separate backlighting zones is an impressive bit of engineering, that’s still a much lower number than the 8,284,400 pixels they have to illuminate. When there’s a bright spot on a dark background – think stars or fireworks against a night sky – the backlight has to be turned up for that whole area, resulting in a grey patch around those pixels (an effect known as haloing). This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, and it’s a bit distracting.

Still, overall the HDR experience is something rather special, and it goes a long way towards justifying the price of this display. The only thing we really found ourselves wishing for was a larger viewing area, so we could really appreciate the full spectacle of it all.

Acer Predator X27 review: Resolution

The X27’s 4K resolution has its own pros and cons. On the plus side, its 3,840 x 2,160 pixels give you a pin-sharp image. Good-quality cinematography or computer graphics look truly amazing. It also gives you a lot of desktop space for productivity jobs like photo and video editing.

For general desktop use it’s a mixed blessing, though. You’ll want to scale up Windows’ display settings so that icons and text aren’t fiddly and hard to read. Every now and then, though, a program won’t play ball, and will appear really small or badly stretched. Some older games can also have issues: Quake Live, for instance, is unplayable as it simply doesn’t support the image settings, and the scaling process can result in distracting fringing.

If your priority is gaming, you’ll also want to bear in mind that only the very priciest graphics cards will be able to deliver satisfactory frame rates at 4K. Yes, if you can achieve that then it looks amazing, especially with G-Sync keeping everything smooth. For competitive gaming though, you’ll likely want to drop the resolution down a bit to ensure a fast, consistent frame rate. And while the 4ms response time didn’t bother us, hardcore gamers will probably want to stick to a cheaper TN-based screen with a 1ms response time.

On that note, those side shutters feel like a misguided addition. They make sense in competition-level gaming scenarios, or when you’re working on something that requires the utmost in image quality – but this doesn’t feel like a screen that’s truly designed for either of those roles.

READ NEXT: The best budget, 5K, 4K, WQHD and 1080p monitors

Acer Predator X27 review: Verdict

The Acer Predator X27 provides fantastic image quality and a great 144Hz gaming experience, not to mention a stylish design, a nice stand and a few useful extras like a USB hub. Of course it’s far from cheap, but at the time of writing it retails for around £100 less than the Asus PG27UQ - and it's better looking to boot.

There are some aspects of it that we’re not so keen on. A physically larger panel would have made for a more immersive experience, and helped justify the cost: as we said in our review of the Asus PG27UQ, a 34-inch ultrawide display with multi-zone backlighting would have been very hard to resist. We were also a little disappointed by performance in variable-backlight mode – and there’s no excuse for shipping a monitor this expensive with such conspicuously skewed colour balance.

Nonetheless, the X27 very much does what it sets out to do, blowing us away with its stunning 4K HDR visuals. If you want to experience the full glory of true HDR on a computer screen, this is without a doubt the best way to do it.

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