This week, our friends at NVidia sent us an exciting new piece of hardware: The Acer Predator XB252Q, a Full HD, G-Sync enabled monitor capable of a stunning 240Hz refresh rate. It’s a display targeted at eSports enthusiasts, when motion blur can make the difference between making that skill shot and losing the round for your team. We’ve used high refresh rate monitors before but never this fast. Read on to see what we thought.
The Acer Predator XB2 released in January of this year and finds itself in an interesting place. The display industry is at a crossroads. With the GTX 10 Series, Nvidia has finally put 2K and 4K resolutions within the reach of the average gamer. As a result, 1440p and 4K monitors are becoming ever more common, but monitor types are also exploding. Ultrawide displays, curved panels, and High Dynamic Range (HDR) are all making their way to the masses. If you’re going to be 1080p, you had better be cost effective or have some unique features to earn that sale.
Premium Specs, Attention to Detail
The Predator XB2 opts for the latter. Not only does it feature an incredibly fast 240Hz refresh rate, but it also features G-Sync variable refresh rate technology to create an incredibly smooth gameplay experience. Another highlight is its strikingly thin bezel (only a half centimeter including the black border around the image). It’s bright and supremely customizable within its picture settings, and even supports NVidia 3D Vision. The XB2 also comes with a three year warranty for that extra degree of security, which is welcome given the $529.99 price tag on the 25” version we’re reviewing.
Under the hood, the XB2 features a TN panel with a 1ms grey-to-grey response time, so you’ll have no issues with ghosting. It features a 1000:1 contrast ratio for some nice blacks, and includes adaptive contrast to improve the capabilities of the panel. It can be quite bright at its highest settings (400cd/m2), but also features eye protection features, such as flicker reduction and an optional blue light filter. There is the usual suite of picture options in the easy to navigate OSD - brightness, contrast, saturation, etc - but also a handful of presets for different types of content, though I typically eschew these to set my own. Also welcome is an overdrive mode for supreme responsiveness and three different reticles.
On the rear is are your two inputs, HDMI and Displayport. You also have two USB 3.0 ports, the USB connection allowing the monitor to act as a hub, and a headphone jack you’ll want to use over the built in speakers - they’re not the best, but it’s nice they’re there. On the left side are two more USB ports bringing you to a total of four.
I was also happy to see the inclusion of an sRGB mode for content creation, though you shouldn’t expect IPS levels of fidelity here. For gaming, perfect color reproduction isn’t a concern and we were still impressed at how well the Predator presented here.
The XB2 includes a very nice, aggressive looking stand. There is no assembly required on the stand itself and connecting it to the monitor is as simple as slotting four tabs and snapping it into place. Four feet create a blade-like X out of the base, and though they’re molded plastic on top, they’re fitting to a steel frame. There is some wobble if you physically shake the table, but otherwise it’s very solid. The stand allows for a great range of movement too, with wide left and rights, a nice upward tilt, and the ability to rotate it a full 90 degrees for surround setups. The display uses a standard VESA mount if you’d prefer to set it on a wall or different arm.
G-Sync and 240Hz = Shockingly Crisp Gameplay
The $529.99 price tag might seem expensive (and it is) but consider that G-Sync routinely adds $200-300 onto the price of any monitor that features it. Having never used G-Sync before, investigating whether it was “worth it” was one of my first goals. G-Sync, fittingly for an NVidia technology, uses the GPU to sync the monitor’s refresh rate with the framerate of the game. This virtually eliminates screen tearing leading to a much smoother experience. On the Predator XB2, G-Sync functions between 60-240Hz. This might seem like a high range - 40 - 60 is a noticeable tear zone - but if you’re buying a 240Hz monitor, you’re probably passing 60FPS in anything you’re playing anyhow.
I was startled at just how much smoother G-Sync, especially when making turns. Have a look at the video above to see for yourself.
Whether or not it’s worth the additional cost is subjective, but like so many other users I can say that, after having it, going back to gaming without it makes the minute tearing you may not have noticed before very apparent. It’s truly a case where once you see it, you can never unsee it, which makes G-Sync a very appealing feature.
But how about 240Hz? I came to the XB2 from a standard 60Hz monitor and immediately after setting the Predator to 240Hz, I noticed the improvement. Mouse movement is much, much smoother. Before this year, I had used 120Hz monitor and while that didn’t seem like a big leap, 240Hz absolutely does. In games, your results are going to vary.
Throughout the testing period, I tried numerous games on 60, 120, 144, and 240Hz. There is a noticeable improvement jumping from 60Hz to any of those higher refresh rates, but jumping from, say 144 to 240Hz is much less noticeable. The biggest benefit, in fact, is only when you’re turning the camera very fast. Where quick turns on a traditional 60Hz monitor result in unintentional motion blur as it struggles to keep pace with your movement, the XB2 creates four times as many images easily allowing the picture to stay crisp even during rapid spins. It’s a subtle improvement, but it’s there and becomes all the more noticeable when you try to go back to a standard 60Hz monitor.
The bigger issue here is whether or not your computer is even capable of running games at 240 FPS. G-Sync will kick in on anything over 60 and keep it buttery smooth, but if you’re not packing the graphical power to run games at the maximum refresh rate, you’ll achieve the full benefit of a 240Hz monitor. Our test machine features two 1080Ti’s in SLI, an i7-7700k, and 64GB of high speed RAM. To get modern AAA games even close to 240, we had to turn everything to low and sometimes even that wasn’t enough. That is a tough benchmark to achieve outside of the eSports arena.
Is It Worth The Price?
So when asked whether you should pick up the Predator XB2, the question really comes down to two things: what type of games you’re playing and whether you think G-Sync is worth the price premium. The monitor itself is nothing short of fantastic, that Zero bezel is gorgeous, its color reproduction and viewing angles are good, and it has a excellent 1ms GTG response time that kills all ghosts. If you’re a CS:GO competitor, the XB2 will definitely give you an edge. If you’re a normal gamer and looking for massive upgrade in AAA games? The improvements offered by 240Hz over, say, 144Hz aren’t going to mean as much to you.
There’s a reason Acer has marketed this monitor for eSports, and that’s because outside of that arena and into the AAA, you’re going to need an incredible machine to achieve or drastically lower settings to achieve those framerates. But, here’s the thing: what is it worth to raise the ceiling on how good your games can look, even if it’s not 240? Even if you’re not pushing the monitor to its limit, you can push your hardware to the edge and the Predator XB2 will keep pace and look like silk the whole time thanks to G-Sync.
The product discussed in this article was provided by public relations for the purpose of review.