Acer Predator XB3 Evaluation | Digital Traits

"The Predator XB3 is a 4K 144 Hz gaming monitor that challenges your gaming PC."

  • Light, robust construction

  • G-Sync, HDR support

  • Extremely bright

  • High refresh rate and screen resolution

  • Vibrant, precise colors

  • Confusing menu and button setup

  • A lot of plastic, thick bezels

  • Chintzy speakers

4K games used to be a big dream. It is much more accessible nowadays. Many gaming laptops can even handle these higher resolutions.

This makes a 4K gaming monitor with a high refresh rate like Predator XB3 all the more tempting. At $ 1,300, the XB3 is expensive, especially because of its 27-inch screen size. But compared to other high-end gaming monitors, it's actually a few hundred dollars cheaper. The more we use the XB3, the more impressive the value becomes.

A real chunker

The Predator XB3 is not noticeable. That doesn't mean there isn't a nice LED strip to light up your desk space. It's just not as elegant or high quality as some other monitors, especially outside the gaming world. The XB3 is a standard layout made of plastic parts, chubby bezels and gamer chrome. Nevertheless, you will find countless Predator logos, supplemented by red stripes and a brushed metal finish.

I was disappointed with how thick the bezels were because the older Predator XB2 had set a precedent. Nowadays, the bezels on the XB3 are so bulky that they look dated. That's a shame. The frame is also thick, especially when compared to modern monitors like Dell's ultra-thin USB-C monitor.

Acer Predator XB3 gaming monitor review

Acer Predator XB3 gaming monitor review

Acer Predator XB3 gaming monitor review

Acer Predator XB3 gaming monitor review
Dan Baker / Digital Trends

What he lacks in Pazazz, he makes up for in quality. The XB3 is built like a stone. Despite the use of plastic, everything from the base to the stand to the back of the cabinet feels stable. While support for VESA mounting is included, the stand itself has been attached, making setup a breeze. Once in place, the ability to raise, pan, and tilt the screen came in handy. One setting is the rotation, which means that unlike the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ, you can't turn it 90 degrees to use it horizontally.

The angular base takes up more space on the desk than we'd like, although at 15.9 pounds (including the stand) it is light enough to easily reposition it on your desk.

All in all, the XB3 should allow you to have a tidy desk.

The XB3 is also supplied with a three-sided “shielding hood” that is removable. It is typically used by photo editing programs to ensure that no light is incident, which makes it a rare sight for a gaming monitor. It's a unique idea that is modeled on an old school arcade cabinet. However, we expect most people will remove it for a cleaner look.

Speakers are built in and line the bottom of the monitor. But don't bother turning them on. Not only are they thin, they are also strangely quiet. Most modern smartphones are louder. Do yourself a favor and buy a decent headset or set of speakers to match the XB3.

All ports except one

The ports face down and are located on the back. This has become an increasingly common place for monitor ports – and for good reason. Wall mounting. Just know that. It's not fun to go back there to feel the difference between HDMI and DisplayPort.

Acer Predator XB3 gaming monitor reviewDan Baker / Digital Trends

The display ports include HDMI and DisplayPort, both of which are hidden by a removable control panel. This keeps things tidy, but is a little difficult to remove. The HDMI connection can only process up to 60 Hz, while the DisplayPort delivers up to 120 Hz (overclockable to 144 Hz). That means you need a desktop with DisplayPort to take advantage of this high refresh rate. Attention laptop buyers.

On the left side you will find two downstream USB-A 3.0 ports for additional peripheral devices and for charging. That seems like a lot, although the XB3 lacks a port option. Many new monitors are beginning to implement a single-cable solution in the form of USB-C. Unfortunately, this trend has not yet made it to gaming displays. Instead, Acer included an additional USB-A 3.0 and USB-B port.

Cables can be routed through an opening in the stand and through a removable hatch at the top. All in all, the XB3 should allow you to have a tidy desk even without USB-C.

The menu is more difficult than it should be

Hiding buttons on the back of the case or under the screen isn't a bad idea. Most people don't want to see unsightly buttons that they rarely use anyway. But what Acer did with the controls here is just irritating. The 5-way joystick, the three selection buttons and the on / off switch are all on the back of the right side.

The problem? Well, the frame of the XB3 isn't exactly thin and the buttons are surprisingly far from the edge. This makes them both difficult to reach and to decipher.

Acer Predator XB3 gaming monitor reviewDan Baker / Digital Trends

Once you open the menu options, things don't get better. The XB3 doesn't give you quick access to volume and brightness, the two most common changes, but hides them in favor of switching color modes and presets. Controlling this monitor should be a lot easier.

An interesting option is what Acer calls "Dark Boost", which brightens up darker areas of the screen. It's not the best for black levels, of course, but it's a game-specific feature that lets you spot opponents in a corner.

We like controlling Alienware gaming monitors better – or even other Predator displays like the XB2. Just be grateful that digging into a monitor's settings is a rare task.

Fast gaming, trustworthy color rendering

While 4K is playable on most new devices in most games, increasing frame rates to over 100 is not that easy. However, this is not impossible. On new RTX-based laptops and desktops, we could easily increase these frame rates in games like Fortnite or Rocket League. The action is incredibly fluid, especially thanks to G-Sync. It's patented technology from Nvidia that snaps frames to your actual GPU to make sure no screen tears.

Acer Predator XB3 gaming monitor reviewDan Baker / Digital Trends

However, you cannot always take full advantage of the 4K 144Hz screen. In heavier games or even in an action-packed first-person shooter like Battlefield V, you have to choose between the higher resolution and the higher frame rates. This title still looks great, especially if you turn on HDR and enjoy the depth of blacks and richness of colors. You may still think that this feature is more suitable for watching movies, but in games that support it, HDR improves the vividness of the colors. You will notice the difference.

Game speed is not the only strength of the XB3. In terms of basic image quality, the XB3 is at the top of its class in every respect. In HDR mode, it is incredibly bright and reaches a maximum of 475 nits. This is especially great for a matte gaming monitor.

The colors are fantastic, have a super wide color gamut and very low color accuracy. It is comparable to productivity-oriented monitors like the BenQ EX3501R or the Samsung CF791. Colors are not oversaturated or irregular – they look natural and accurate.

The contrast ratio is the only area where the XB3 does not stand out from the competition. We see some monitors getting closer to the 1000: 1 range, such as the Samsung CHG90. But the rating of the XB3 of 770: 1 is no reason to sneeze.

That just means that the XB3 is a monitor that can serve as a display for content creators. If you want to edit photos and videos – and happen to want to play on them – the XB3 is for you.

Our opinion

Should you buy a 4K 144Hz monitor? Choosing a 1440p monitor is the more practical option. You get better frame rates and it costs you less. However, if you need the ultimate gaming display to match your overloaded rig, the XB3 is better than ever. 4K, HDR, G-Sync and 144 Hz may sound like a set of buzzwords, but here they are a complete PC gaming solution.

In addition, this is an investment in the future of your system and in the increasing potential of PC gaming performance.

Are there alternatives?

The most direct alternative is the ROG Swift PG27UQ from Asus, another 4K gaming monitor with a refresh rate of up to 144 Hz. Both monitors have popular game functions such as HDR and G-Sync. The big difference? The Asus option will cost you over $ 500 more.

If you're more interested in smooth gameplay than high resolution, options like the 34-inch Alienware Curved Gaming Monitor at 1440p are for you.

With the 1440p version of the Predator XB, you get G-Sync and 144 Hz at half the price of the XB3.

How long it will take?

The Predator XB3 should last for many, many years. Reaching 144 Hz at 4K is an investment in the future, even if only top systems can handle it now.

Acer offers a reasonable three-year warranty on its monitors, including mail-in parts and labor.

Should you buy it

Yes. It's not perfect, but right now it's the best 4K gaming monitor you can buy.

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