At some point in every gamer’s life (in game, that is) they encounter a technology that transforms how they play their games. For some it’s a new console or bit of PC hardware, showing a visual leap versus the gaming experiences before. For other, it’s a gameplay mechanic or experience. For me, however, that moment happens the first time I used a GSync monitor. Variable refresh rate is something that is catching on with many PC gamers (and now console gamers with Xbox One X supporting FreeSync), and it’s easy to see why. Acer has always been at the forefront of this technology, providing a multitude of displays over the years. The Acer Predator XB241YU GSYNC Monitor is easy to love, even easier to set up - however it’s not without its drawbacks.
Some specs before we start in earnest:
- Screen Size: 23.8"
- Maximum Resolution: 2560 x 1440
- Refresh Rate: 144 Hz (Standard), 180 Hz (Overclock)
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Response Time: 1ms
- Panel: TN
- Display Colors: 16.7 Million
- Brightness: 350 cd/m2
Connectivity: x1 HDMI, x1 DisplayPort, x1 USB 2.0
- Power Consumption: Operating Power Consumption (Energy Star): 28 W
- Tilt Angle: -5 to 35 degree
- Swivel Angle: 30 degree
- Maximum Adjustable Height: 5.91"
- Built-in Speakers: Yes
- Dimensions (H x W x D) 13.20" x 22.30" x 2.40" w/o stand, 21.34" x 22.32" x 10.55" w/ stand
- Weight: 14.55 lbs. w/ stand
The first thing to mention about this monitor is how easy it is to set up. From the box to your computer desk the Acer monitor can be used within minutes. Additionally, the monitor is VESA enabled, for those who use monitor mounts in their set ups. I started the review using the monitor mounted on my VESA mounts, then tested the XB241YU on its own stand, and either way you use it it’s easy to adjust to your liking.
The screen, which is arguably the most important part of the monitor since this is what displays everything you’ll experience, is a bit lackluster compared to some other screens on the market. It’s not bad by any stretch. However, the TN panel when compared with my BenQ IPS panel (which I had right next to it during the review process) lacks the color depth and clarity of the latter screen. Additionally, while the monitor bills itself as having a thin bezel, it’s not 100% accurate.
When firing up the XB241YU for the first time, I was taken aback by the presence of two vertical black lines running up the sides of the panel, and one at the top running horizontally. At first I thought the screen hadn’t been calibrated. After searching thoroughly in the users manual as well as calibration guides online, I reached out to Acer to ask about these black bars. Turns out they are built in bezels and meant to be there. It’s a shame because it never feels as though you are fully using the full panel at your disposal.
For a TN Panel, it is one of the better examples of the panel I’ve seen for quite some time. While as I stated before it lacks the clarity when directly compared to a great quality IPS display, you really have to work at forcing the TN washout by sitting at odd and oblique angles to bring it on.
The real draw of the XB241YU monitor, however, is the GSYNC functionality. Normally, GSYNC displays run you quite a lot of money, and the Acer XB241YU isn’t cheap by normal standards. However, it is one of the more affordable GSYNC displays, especially at 1440p. What makes this work beautifully as well is the high refresh rate. GSYNC on a 60hz display is nice, but once you hit above 60 you start to experience tearing. For some this is fine, but for others it’s incredibly distracting. The XB241YU sports a whopping 180hz refresh when using the game mode (144hz normally) - meaning you’d need an incredibly beefy graphics card to start to see tearing appear on the screen.
In the games I tested, GSYNC coupled with the high refresh rate of the monitor was a completely transformative experience. I’d used a GSYNC monitor before at a friend's house, or at E3 demos and so on, however, gaming exclusively on an enabled panel for a month really solidified how much variable refresh rate should be an investment every gamer makes. Games felt incredibly smooth. Grand Theft Auto 5 Online felt like a whole new experience, and games like The Elder Scrolls Online and Total War: Shogun 2 were buttery smooth.
One misconception people might have about getting into a GSYNC monitor is down to the fact that players are going to expect that there are no stutters or issues with the framerate on screen. And while the XB241YU does smooth out sub-60fps games making them more playable, it doesn’t do anything with frame pacing or stutters in an MMO from a netcode issue. Games like The Lord of the Rings Online felt smooth at first in Mordor, but going to Minas Tirith still presents a lot of micro-stutter, rendering the benefits of GSYNC almost useless. Additionally, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, while smoother in motion, still suffers from inconsistent frame pacing that introduces micro stutter into the experience. That is an issue on the engine and development side and no amount of monitor power is going to clear those issues up. So if you’re looking at GSYNC to do so, be warned it won’t help alleviate these issues since they are engine-side.
Additionally, as someone who mainly uses an Nvidia graphics card, the GSYNC monitor is perfect - but it is more expensive that the Freesync counterpart. Additionally, Freesync is available to more than just PC users, with the Xbox One X now allowing Freesync displays. For instance - the 27” version of the Predator Freesync display is less than the 24” GSYNC XB241YU. The GSYNC tax is real, and it’s something to keep in mind. Keep in mind that in order to take full advantage of this monitor you’ll need a Nvidia graphics card (though conversely to use Freesync you’ll need an AMD card, or an Xbox One X). It’s just a shame that this monitor, through no fault of Acer’s really, can’t be used in more than one application fully. I would love to see this monitor used on a console, especially with so many games providing a “performance mode” and not quite hitting 60fps. Having variable refresh in those moments can greatly improve the experience. While not a knock on Acer’s Predator monitor, something to keep in mind when shopping around.
Going from the GSYNC display back to a regular monitor was eye opening. While my BenQ BL Series monitor looks fantastic with its IPS panel, the difference in game fluidity wasn’t something I expected such a massive drop off with. It’s night and day different. The framerate dropping below 60 feels sluggish again, the microstutters, while apparent on the XB241YU display, feel more pronounced now. However, the most impactful for me is screen tearing being reintroduced into my gaming. Since the Acer Predator had such a high refresh rate, and I’m playing pretty much every game maxed out on the GTX 1080, there wasn’t a moment where I came close to the 180hz cap on the Predator. However, without the variable refresh, I find myself locking in VSync again, simply to get rid of tearing above 60. I was amazed at how much the Acer spoiled me - so much so that I contemplated buying the monitor itself.
At the end of the day, while I didn’t personally purchase the monitor (I had only just recently purchased the BenQ so couldn’t justify the amount as a result), this is a monitor that if you’re running a GeForce GPU, I’d wholeheartedly recommend if you’re looking for a mid-range GSYNC panel. This is especially more apparent with the fact that 4K HDR monitors are still so absurdly expensive - as well as 4K HDR GSYNC displays. And while the Acer Predator doesn’t support HDR itself, at $413 (at the time of this review), it’s not a bad price overall. Though, it should be noted that if you’re able to push 4K, the TN panel version of the Acer Predator with GSYNC is only about $180 more currently.
The Acer Predator XB241YU monitor is an impressive package. While it is disappointing to see the panel be a TN display versus a better IPS panel, it makes up for it being one of the better TN panels I’ve seen to date. Additionally, with a base refresh of 144hz, many gamers will never see a spot of screen tearing - and for those who really want to push the hardware, the monitor does support refresh rates up to 180hz. GSYNC is the key component of this monitor, and the variable refresh technology on display is transformative. Games feel more fluid, sub-60fps performance is more manageable thanks to the refresh rate matching the frame-rate, and overall the experience in game is just simply made better. However, being GSYNC, this means the monitor is not compatible with console players looking to try the technology on their Xbox One X consoles, a comparable FreeSync monitor will need to be secured for that. As a result, the use case of the XB241YU is for PC gaming only, especially if you want to get the most out of your investment. And while it’s a shame that GSYNC isn’t compatible with non-Nvidia GPUs, that’s not really the fault of the Acer brand as a whole, but moreso Nvidia’s locked down mentality. As one of the more affordable monitors at this spec, the Acer is a great addition to any gamer looking to get the most bang for their buck, as well as one of the best gameplay experiences you can have on PC.
- GSYNC is simply transformative
- Easy to set up and use
- Gaming Mode allows you to do more with your investment than an average monitor
- TN Panel instead of a better IPS display
- GSYNC is wasted if using an AMD card or console