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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  • inighthawki - Friday, January 30, 2015 - link

    In what way is it incorrect?
  • perpetualdark - Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - link

    Hertz refers to cycles per second, and with G-Sync the display matches the number of cycles per second to the framer per second the graphics card is able to send to the display, so in actuality, Hertz is indeed the correct term and it is being used correctly. At 45fps, the monitor is also at 45hz refresh rate.
  • edzieba - Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - link

    "We are still using DisplayPort 1.2 which means utilizing MST for 60Hz refresh rates." Huh-what? DP1.2 has the bandwidth to carry 4k60 with a single stream. Previous display controllers could not do so unless paired, but that was a problem at the sink end. There are several 4k60 SST monitors available now (e.g. P2415Q)..
  • TallestJon96 - Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - link

    Sync is a great way to make 4k more stable and usable. However, this is proprietary, costs more, and 4k scaling is just ok. Any one interested in this is better off waiting for a better, cheaper solution that isn't stuck with NVIDIA.
    As mentioned before, the SWIFT is simply a better option, better performance at 1440p, better UI scaling, higher maximum FPS. Only downside is lower Res, but 1440p certainly isn't bad.
    A very niche product with a premium, but all that being said I bet Crisis at 4k with G-Sync is amazing.
  • Tunnah - Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - link

    "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. "

    But you leave out the fact that 4K 28" TN panels are a helluva lot cheaper. Gamers typically look for TN panels anyway because of refresh issues, so the comparison should be to other TN panels, not to IPS, and that comparison is G-SYNC is extremely expensive. It's a neat feature and all, but I would argue it's much better to spend the extra on competent graphics cards that could sustain 60fps rather than a monitor that handles the framerate drop better.
  • Tunnah - Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - link

    Response time issues even
  • Midwayman - Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - link

    If it ran 1080 @ 144hz as well as 4k@ 60hz this would be a winning combo. Getting stuck with 60hz really sucks for FPS games. I wouldn't mind playing my RPGs at 40-60fps with gsync though.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - link

    "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."

    Running a second or third cable and hitting the switch input button on your monitor if you occasionally need to put a real screen on a second box is a lot easier than swapping the cable behind the monitor and a lot cheaper than a non-VGA KVM (and the only 4k capable options on the market are crazy expensive).

    The real reason is probably that nVidia was trying to limit the price premium from getting any higher than it already is, and avoiding a second input helped simplify the chip design. (In addition to the time element for a bigger design, big FPGAs aren't cheap.)
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - link

    Well, you're not going to do 60Hz at 4K with dual-link DVI, and HDMI 2.0 wasn't available when this was being developed. A second input might have been nice, but that's just an added expense and not likely to be used a lot IMO. You're right on keeping the cost down, though -- $800 is already a lot to ask, and if you had to charge $900 to get additional inputs I don't think most people would bite.
  • Mustalainen - Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - link

    I was waiting for the DELL P2715Q but decided to get this monitor instead(about 2 weeks ago). Before I got this I borrowed a ASUS ROG SWIFT PG278Q that I used for a couple of weeks. The SWIFT was probably the best monitor that I had used until that point in time. But to be completely honest, I like the XB280HK better. The colors, viewing angles (and so on) are pretty much the same(in my opinion) as I did my "noob" comparison. My monitor has some minor blb in the bottom, barely notable while the SWIFT seems "flawless". The SWIFT felt as is was built better and has better materials. Still, the 4k was a deal breaker for me. The picture just looks so much better compared to 1440p. The difference between 1440p and 4k? Well after using the XB280HK I started to think that my old 24" 1200p was broken. It just looked as it had these huge pixels. This never happened with the SWIFT. And the hertz? Well I'm not a gamer. I play some RPGs now and then but most of the time my screen is filled with text and code. The 60hz seems to be sufficient in these cases. I got the XB280HK for 599 euro and compared to other monitors in that price range it felt as a good option. I'm very happy with it and dare to recommend this to anyone thinking about getting a 4k monitor. If IPS is your thing, wait for the DELL. This is probably the only regret I have(not having patience to wait for the DELL).

    I would also like to point out that the hype of running a 4k monitor seems to be exaggerated. I manage to run my games at medium settings with a single 660 gtx. Considering I run 3 monitors with different resolutions and still have playable fps just shows that you don't need a 980 or 295 to power one of these things(maybe if the settings are maxed out and you want max fps).

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