We Evaluate Amazon’s Finest Promoting Monitor: the Acer SB220Q 21.5″ is simply $90

We went in search of the most popular monitor from Amazon and found that it was the IPS display SB220Q 1080p 75Hz from Acer. This monitor leads both the best-selling and the most requested monitor list, so this indicates that customers not only buy this monitor, but also want it in large numbers.

Another key indicator that caught our attention was user reviews. There are over 4,000 of them, which is a solid average of 4.6 stars. So we have to see how our tests work.

One of the reasons why the SB220Q is so popular is clearly in this price. $ 90 is very cheap for a monitor and it's hard to find many cheaper. Once you start hitting $ 70 or even $ 80, limit yourself to options under 1080p and a lot of outdated garbage. So if you've just built a PC and have nothing left in your budget, it seems like a lot of people are buying one of the cheapest 1080p displays on Amazon.

On paper, the specs also make this a tempting purchase under $ 100. We're seeing a 22-inch 1080p IPS panel with a refresh rate of 75 Hz. If you now follow our monitor reviews, this is not in the same range as the usual 1080p and 1440p-144 Hz content, that we look at. However, we believe Acer's offer is still impressive for the price.

This is an IPS panel, not a TN, and TNs are usually the cheapest monitor category. In addition, the refresh rate is slightly increased from 60 Hz to 75 Hz. A few small extras here and there can make a big contribution to making an entry-level monitor stand out from the crowd.

That means 22 inches or more precisely 21.5 inches are small for a monitor. Even 24- or 25-inch displays seem to improve the panel size considerably. A little 24.5 inches ends up almost 30% larger, so this is one of the more significant tradeoffs to lower the price. We just looked around just in case and you can't find a 24-inch IPS display for less than $ 100.

Nevertheless, the Acer SB220Q offers support for adaptive synchronization, but only has a single HDMI connection (in addition to VGA). This means that adaptive synchronization can only be used with AMD GPUs since the current generation of Nvidia products do not support adaptive synchronization via HDMI. The adaptive synchronization implementation is also not particularly good: with only a maximum update of 75 Hz and a minimum update of 48 Hz, there is no low frame rate compensation. As soon as your frame rate falls below 48 FPS, adaptive synchronization is deactivated and you will see cracks or stuttering depending on your Vsync settings.

It is not a great experience to sway inside and outside the adaptive synchronization window. It can be quite irritating. A graphics card with consistent gameplay of 1080p and 60 fps is therefore the key. Not everyone who buys a $ 90 monitor falls into this category. For example, if you have an RX 560, you may have problems. On the other hand, these problems with adaptive synchronization occur with almost all sub-100 Hz displays, so this is not a clear problem for the SB220Q.

Oh, and the SB220Q is the first monitor we've tested in a long time and only comes with a VGA cable. HDMI cable sold separately. Given the fact that graphics cards threw VGA overboard about a decade ago, is the goal of this cable choice those with old laptops or PCs?

As expected, the Acer SB220Q is simple in terms of build quality. The stand is made almost entirely of plastic, is surprisingly solid, and overall the display is very thin, but this is a cheap design and construction. Unspectacular plastic, average bezel size and very limited adjustability. The stand only supports the tilt adjustment and sits very low on your desk due to the small screen size without height adjustment. Most people have to lift this by a good 10 to 20 centimeters for ergonomic viewing, and this is not possible with a VESA arm because there is no bracket. We don't expect budget monitors to have a height-adjustable stand, but the lack of a VESA mount is a bit difficult and really limits the usability of this monitor.

There is no direction change to control the screen display, but we will be using face buttons. On a positive note, Acer has not shortened the OSD. There are many settings that match most other budget monitors. So we still get things like blue light filters and cheat crosshairs. Unlike some of the other budget monitors we've reviewed, which completely neglect functionality, there are also several overdrive settings.

Show performance

Response times / overdrive modes

Speaking of overdrive mode … let's look at the response time performance. There are three modes available: Normal is the default, there are Off and Extreme. Switching off is very slow. We have a gray to gray average of 16.24 ms, which is typical for entry-level 1080p IPS panels without overdrive. Ghosting is important in this mode because long smear marks follow moving objects. Only 27% of the transitions almost meet the long update window of 13.33 ms. Therefore, this mode is simply not fast enough and not particularly good at 60 Hz.

Normal works differently, now we have a gray-gray average of 6.40 ms, which is appropriate for an IPS monitor, and enables the SB220Q to achieve 100% conformity of the refresh rate. However, this is at the expense of overshoot and a significant amount of overshoot. An average error rate of 14.6% is high, and about half of all transitions show inverse ghosting. Many transitions are over 25% overshoot, which is noticeable.

The extreme mode is worse. The gray to gray average is raised to 3.77 ms, but the overshoot becomes overwhelming, which leads to huge bright halos around moving objects. This mode is unusable.

If you look at these three modes, unfortunately none is particularly good. In fact, we would call the overdrive modes "Off" and "Normal" "bad", and extremes are terrible. So we have a difficult situation: is it better to have 16 ms transitions without overshoot or 6 ms transitions with significant overshoot? Neither is ideal, but Acer presents us here.

If we look at the chase footage with Blur Buster's UFO test, which simulates how the human eye sees movement on this display, you can see this in action and see how neither Off nor Normal provide a great experience. Off is very slow with huge amounts of ghosting and smearing, with traces behind the moving UFO. In normal, however, these ghost paths are replaced by inverse ghosting, a light trail that, under certain circumstances, is more clearly recognizable than the blur trail.

We would probably prefer the normal mode with inverse ghosting. We think the clarity of movement is a little better, but we choose between two bad options.

The monitor is not better at 60 Hz – the performance is worse at 60 Hz than at 75 Hz with even more overshoot. Since it is a budget monitor, we can no longer expect it, but motion handling is definitely not one of the strengths of this monitor.

How is the SB220Q compared to other 1080p monitors we tested? In terms of the gray-to-gray average in normal overdrive mode, 6.40 ms is not bad for an IPS monitor. We achieve decent performance in the dark and beat some other cheap VA options like the Pixio PCX243. Maintaining the response time in this mode is also okay, as you would hope for an update rate of 75 Hz.

In terms of error rates, everything falls apart with the SB220Q. An average error of 14.6% is the highest we tested among 1080p monitors, most of which, with their optimal overdrive modes, tend to be in the 0 to 4% range. This gets worse when you look at inverse ghosting: 46% of the transitions where the problem occurs are far higher than most 1080p monitors to the point where inverse ghosting is more obvious than any other monitor on this list.

Let's go through a few options here. The Viotek GN24C is a VA panel that we have often recommended in the budget category with 1080p and 144 Hz. It provides a 5 ms gray-gray average with 5% inverse ghosting and similar performance in the dark. This is a much better movement handling than with the Acer SB220Q.

Another recent addition is the Pixio PXC243, which has almost no inverse ghosting, but suffers from a slower gray-gray average of 7.5 ms. In other words, it's about 1 ms slower than the SB220Q, but completely eliminates the inverse ghosting trails, all with a VA panel. It also has much better movement handling, and of course we can see other options from AOC, LG and others here as well.

Most of these other monitors are around the $ 150 mark, so it makes sense that they perform better. However, we are not sure whether the SB220Q offers great value for money with this type of performance.

The 60 Hz power is okay in terms of response times, but suffers from strong inverse ghosting.

The entry delay is typical for a budget monitor. We see a processing delay of 3.5 ms, a slow update rate and modest response times, so this does not result in a slight delay. Using a 144 Hz panel would make a big contribution to reducing the input delay, but is again more expensive.

The power consumption is low at around 16 W, but not much lower than some of the 24-inch monitors we tested. However, when it comes to heat dissipation, the SB220Q is golden in this area.

At this point, we noticed that the Acer SB220Q is not very suitable as a gaming monitor. How about a general office monitor or just surfing the internet? Color performance is much more important here. So let's dive right into …

Color performance

The ready-to-use calibration is decent, which is welcome news for buyers after a great color experience. Our device had almost perfect white values, and although it fell off slightly with a slight yellow tinge as it went through the rest of the grayscale, it was not so noticeable and far exceeded my expectations of a dirt cheap monitor. A grayscale delta of 2.45 is not exact, but very good in this price range.

Standard color performance

The saturation performance is similar with a DeltaE average of 2.48, which is mainly limited by some oddities with shades of red and green. The panel used here cannot quite achieve 100% sRGB coverage. We're closer to 93%, so there's a bit of clipping on greens, but the overall performance is solid, even though we get an average of 3.39 DeltaE in ColorChecker.

Calibrated color performance

There is not much that can be done to improve the use of the OSD controls, as the white point is already quite good. The next step is therefore a complete calibration. As usual, this fixes most of our display performance issues, so we get an average of less than 1.0 deltaE across the board. It is not perfect, here too there are cropping problems with green and cyan. Therefore, we would not recommend this display for color-critical work, but for a display under $ 100, this can provide excellent color performance.

The brightness of the SB220Q is mediocre at 240 nits after calibration, if not too far from most budget monitors. This is still bright enough for most use cases, but if you have a really bright viewing environment like a sunny room, this may not be enough.

The contrast ratio is mediocre. No wonder considering it's a cheap IPS panel, but 882: 1 gets it into the bottom rungs of our charts, and generally it's low for an IPS. If you want better black levels and a better contrast ratio, you have to choose a VA display. It's also worth noting that this is a native 6-bit panel that achieves 8-bit through FRC, so color streaks with gradients are a little clearer here than with a real 6-bit display.

The viewing angles are excellent and the coating handles reflections well. Although we don't have the most expressive blacks, the viewing experience here is for colors that we think are quite good. When you work in the office, watch some YouTube videos, etc., it is difficult to complain about the performance of the SB220Q.

The uniformity is also good. Not the best thing we've ever seen, but the central area is well under control. There was a little drop in the top left and bottom right of my sales unit, and there was also a small amount of IPS glow visible in darker viewing environments, but nothing too terrible.

Wrap up

By now, you should have a pretty good idea of ​​how the Acer SB220Q behaves as a monitor under $ 100. We haven't checked many monitors in this price range despite being so popular, but here are some final thoughts and comparisons based on what we would expect from an entry-level product.

In order to achieve this price, many compromises clearly had to be made. Outside of the panel performance, the small 21.5-inch size and the lack of a VESA bracket immediately stand out as compromises, along with the all-round boring design. However, these are areas where we expect costs to be reduced, and frankly this is not a big deal for many use cases.

In terms of actual panel performance, we believe the Acer SB220Q is perfect for basic display, office, productivity, video playback, and such tasks. We get a good factory calibration with a very solid white point. There is no obvious hue and that makes it ideal for document editing and web browsing, which is still dominated by sprawling white areas. Combine this with excellent viewing angles and acceptable uniformity. Yes, for a $ 90 monitor, we're impressed with the colors.

As expected, the SB220Q is not good for gaming. If you're fooled by the 75 Hz refresh rate and adaptive sync at a bargain price, unfortunately none of the overdrive modes is good, so we either have bad smudges or bad inverse ghosting. This is an extremely affordable low-end IPS panel with slow response times. And in his honor, it's probably not that different from other 60-75 Hz IPS monitors for the same price.

Given today's low prices for 144 Hz 1080p monitors, we don't believe that the SB220Q as a gaming display offers a lot of money. The Viotek GN24C, PXC243 and AOC C24G1 each cost $ 140 to $ 160. That's ~ 60% more expensive than the SB220Q, but what you get is at least twice as fast and twice as good in motion handling.

But of course, for many buyers, comparing $ 90 to $ 150 compares apple to oranges. For around $ 90, we don't see many better options than the SB220Q.

We believe that this situation is somewhat similar to low-end graphics cards. With the absolutely cheapest GPUs, the value isn't quite there, and you'd better go up one level to make significant improvements. These 144 Hz monitors are currently so valuable that our recommendation for entry-level gaming monitors will stay with them, but for easier web browsing, office productivity, YouTube, watching movies, you might want it as a second monitor, it is really not bad for $ 90.

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