Acer Predator XB3 Gaming Monitor Review – Into the looking glass
The Acer Predator XB3 is the best damn gaming monitor I’ve ever used. Anybody who does content creation and loves to game would be in heaven with it. If you can afford the bonkers $2,000 that it costs, go out right now and buy it. Totally worth it. End of review. Seriously though, there’s a lot that’s really, really good here. And at that price, it should be.
Out of the box, you get a 27-inch 4K monitor with some of that fangled new quantum dot technology. You also get HDR, G-Sync Ultimate and a ridiculous 144Hz maximum refresh rate. This monitor literally ticks all the boxes for gaming and productivity.
So, is it the holy grail? Almost, but not quite.
Acer Predator XB3 Review
Ok, I’ve waxed poetic enough. Let’s look at the key specs of this monitor.
- Predator XB273K
- 27 Inch IPS(In-plane switching) with quantum dots
- 4K UHD (3860 x 2160 pixels) HDR
- 120Hz refresh with 144Hz overdrive
- 4ms response time
- LED backlight with 600 nits brightness
- Ports: 1x DisplayPort(1.4), 1x HDMI-in(2.0), HDMI, 4x USB 3.0, Headphone jack
- G-Sync Ultimate
So on paper, it looks perfect, right? We all know that not all that glitters is gold but with the Predator XB3, what you see pretty much what you get.
The XB3 is an imposing monitor. It is 27-inches of ultrawide goodness shrouded by the signature Predator Shields. When my wife saw it, she immediately commented: “This one’s a beast!”
For context, the XB3 easily ate up half of our six-seater dining table so be sure that you have enough room for this monitor.
That said, the stand you do get is certainly a fine one. It’s both strong and beautiful. The thick trunk splits into two angled metal tapered-arms that hold the XB3 firmly in-place. Which is good because the XB3’s has a combined weight of 27 pounds. But you won’t find any wobble or shake thanks to the solid build.
The stand also allows for up to 5-inch height adjustments and slides effortlessly for easy movement. The screen can also be tilted forwards or back and swivelled 20 degrees left or right. For you code or discord chat warriors, it does not rotate 90 degrees but it wasn’t built for that.
Cable management is easy thanks to a slot in the stand and of course, there is LED lighting to bathe your desk with a variety of colours. One challenge with the XB3’s stand is its rather deep footprint which doesn’t leave much room for your keyboard. You’ll need a deep desk to hold this monitor and still have good room for your peripherals.
The Predator Shields block any unwanted light bleed or distracting reflections but are entirely optional for anyone other than professional content creators. Attaching them is a breeze. Each side panel has two star-head screws while the top panel simply sits on top of the two. Once attached though, they certainly give the XB3 its unmistakable presence.
Great connectivity. Annoying nipple
The XB3 is a monitor for professionals and gamers alike and so it has a wealth of connection points. These are hidden at the back of the cabinet in a downward-facing strip. It does require a bit of contorting to access while the monitor is standing. You have a DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0, 4 USB, Audio out and Power port. To get the most out of the XB3’s high refresh rate, you will need to stick to DisplayPort as it’s the only capable of the bandwidth.
The lower bezel of the cabinet houses the two 4w speakers which sound ok; they are nothing you will want to use for serious gaming or content consumption. Better to plug in a good pair of headphones or speakers. Power is supplied through an adapter that is similar in size to most laptop bricks. I didn’t like the short length of the lead which forced me to keep the brick on my desk near the monitor. A longer lead would be nice.
Also located at the back are the XB3’s controls. 4 flat buttons give access to the monitors OSD(on-screen display). The OSD lets you adjust the different settings around the picture, colour, lighting, input, profiles and so on. These preset screen profiles are calibrated for movies, desktop work, gaming, and graphic design. The differences are subtle but obvious.
The OSD is about the only real weakness I could find with the XB3. Acer chose to use a uni-directional ‘nipple’ button to navigate in between submenus while pressing confirms choices. I found the nipple to be infuriating with a ton of miss presses and finicky movement.
This is a problem because you have to use it to navigate several menus to change something as mundane as brightness. Given the poor ergonomics, it’s a painful exercise that I always dreaded. Besides that annoying nipple button, the controls are pretty straightforward.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of us all?
The XB3’s 27-inch IPS panel with quantum dot technology is a beauty to behold. It’s factory calibrated and tested to ensure best-in-class colour accuracy. There’s even a certificate in the box to prove it. The XB3 is rated at 100% sRGB coverage and 90% DCI-P3.
This simply means that the XB3 displays a wide gamut of colours (1.07 billion to be exact) and reproduces them accurately.
Although I don’t have a fancy colourimeter, to my trained eye I found these claims to be spot on. From watching HDR content to ray-traced gaming to browsing the web for iPhone 11 Pro photo comparisons, everything just looks superb. Colours pop with vibrancy and everything is razor-sharp.
The XB3 is HDR ready and its 600nits peak brightness are certainly enough to produce some stunning pictures. It’s so bright in fact that for normal desktop use, I always had to drop brightness to low percentages to stop my eyeballs being seared by the white backgrounds of web pages and apps.
And, unlike my old Samsung HDR TV, the XB3 has local dimming; over 300 zones. This allows the panel to selectively darken parts of the screen while keeping others bright. Now because LCD panels can’t individually turn on and off their pixels the way OLED’s can, the local dimming is essential for a great HDR experience.
In real life, this works rather well but it’s not perfect. When watching some 4K HDR demos on YouTube, I noticed the blacks washing out especially around corners of the screen. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker as this is expected of an LCD panel. However, I never found this to be an issue when gaming or watching movies.
If you are a content creator or productivity nerd, the 27-inches of UltraHD real estate will thrill. I simply couldn’t get enough of how many windows I could have opened simultaneously without having to strain to view my content. 3840 x 2160 pixels in 16:9 ratio work wonderfully here. The native 120Hz refresh means everything moves fluidly and smoothly. You can scroll webpages all day and never get tired of it. Oh, and it has a superb viewing angles of up to 178 degrees which makes this great for multiple viewers. Lovely.
Ultra HD. Ultra Hz
But the XB3 is far more than just a productivity machine. It’s also an extremely capable gaming monitor thanks to that fast refresh rate. The native 120Hz is overclockable to 144Hz via the OSD. Realistically, there isn’t any GPU capable of driving AAA games in 4K at 144FPS. Nonetheless, the XB3 is ready and capable of handling anything you can throw at it.
XB3 is also G-Sync Ultimate certified; which is Nvidia’s unique take on variable refresh rate for HDR monitors. You will nary experience any screen tearing or stuttering unless it’s your PC choking. I tested a range of games using an Acer Predator Orion 3000 equipped with a Core i7-8700 and a GeForce RTX 2070 – plenty of power on tap.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a gorgeous game and one of the most demanding AAA titles thanks to it’s ray-tracing and HDR implementation. It looked and played amazing on the XB3. Highlights were detailed and the colours were so vibrant that you could just stare all day.
Metro Exodus is amazing in 4K with an incredibly realized post-apocalyptic world and especially on Artyom and his gear. Sadly I found the HDR was inconsistent; with colours often looking less vibrant and darks crushed. The game looked much better with HDR off.
Gears 5, the latest hit from Microsoft’s Coalition Studios is an exceptional game and a paragon for 4K gaming on PC and console. It’s so well optimised and easily runs at 4K Ultra settings on a lot of hardware and looks stunning. Icey whites contrast excellently against dark shadows while bright red blood splatters from exploding Swarm heads.
However, to see how the XB3 handles 144Hz gaming, I turned to the less demanding title, Counter-Strike: GO. I was able to reach ridiculous 280FPS in 4K ultra settings. While this was way above the XB3’s refresh rate, G-Sync did an amazing job of keeping everything running smoothly and I didn’t experience any ghosting or screen tear.
I do have to note that HDR gaming on Windows is a finicky business. Some games like Metro Exodus looked worse with HDR on while others like Gears 5 looked amazing. I tried to even the playing ground by connecting my Xbox One X to the XB3 to try out HDR gaming.
Unfortunately, for reasons I couldn’t decipher, the Xbox refused to recognize the XB3 as an HDR-capable monitor. That said, everything I played on console still looked amazing and vibrant.
Should you buy? Of course!
I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the Predator XB3 as I have. As a professional designer, gamer, YouTube junkie; this monitor handles everything I could possibly need with flying colours(no pun intended). It’s excellent for work, play, and media consumption. There’s literally nothing this monitor won’t handle with aplomb.
If I had to complain, it would be about that atrocious nipple and OSD controls but that would be it. HDR implementation in Windows 10 gaming is still hit and miss but that doesn’t detract from this monitors excellent image quality. The fact that I can plug in my console, PC and laptop are huge plusses.
Admittedly, the asking price of $2000 is entirely unrealistic for many a gamer and indeed, the monitor itself would be overkill. 4K gaming, while possible, is still out of reach for most gamers due to the powerful(and expensive) hardware required to drive it.
In saying that, if you can afford it, buy it! The Predator XB3 is a fantastic piece of kit that will serve you very well for a very long time to come.
The Acer Predator XB3 monitor was provided to PowerUp! by Acer Australia for the purpose of this review.
Product Name: Acer Predator XB3
Product Description: 4K UHD monitor
Excellent build and light shields make me feel like a total pro
Exceptional picture quality and colors for days
Games run like butter, no matter what you throw at it
Plenty of ports and compatibility for your devices
Horrible on-screen menu controls