The Acer Predator XB3 ($ 1,299.99) is an ultra-fast, high-refresh G-Sync HDR gaming monitor that attempts to split the difference between two of the company’s other 144Hz 4K models, the premium Predator X27 and the lower-end Nitro XV3. It’s a far better performer than the XV3, and almost matches the screen quality of the much-more-expensive X27. If you’re on the hunt for the Goldilocks of 4K 144Hz HDR gaming monitors, the XB273K should be just the right fit, making it our Editors’ Choice.
We’ve Been Here Before
If you’ve read our reviews of the Predator X27 or the Nitro XV3, much of the design of the IPS LED Predator XB3 should be familiar to you. In fact, we struggled to find any differences (at least physically) between these three monitors. They have the same brushed-plastic backing (indicative of any monitors in the Predator line), the same 20-degree swiveling base (perfect for untraditional keyboard positioning), the same lack of vertical display modes…and the list goes on.
The 27-inch monitor measures 24.8 inches wide, 3.4 inches deep, and 21.3 inches tall (at max height with the stand installed), and weighs just less than 16 pounds (also with the stand installed). The monitor also comes with three shade structures that screw onto each side of the unit, though, as we found out during our luminance testing below, you likely won’t need to use them unless you’re gaming in the harshest of ambient lighting conditions.
Underneath the front bar of the monitor there’s a strip of lights that can pulsate, move side-to-side, breathe, or remain solid in six different colors—a staple feature in the Predator monitor brand. On the back are two 4-watt speakers that are, like most gaming monitor speakers, painfully treble-heavy. Have a pair of headphones ready.
More Ports, Please
The number of ports available on the Acer XB3 is a bit limited compared with other gaming monitors we’ve reviewed, but is still serviceable enough. The selection includes one DisplayPort 1.4b, one HDMI 2.0 port, one 3.5mm headphone jack, and two USB 3.0 downstream ports.
The OSD on the display is controlled through a five-way joystick, and contains many of the same features we’ve seen on the Predator monitors mentioned above. These include the option to enable a hardware-based crosshair (good for hardcore game modes that remove the crosshair to increase the difficulty curve), use five different levels of blue-light filter, enable a Dark Boost mode (which lightens blacks for increased visibility in dark gaming scenarios), or tune the RGB sliders to your liking or use one of the eight included presets.
Unlike the Nitro XV3, the OSD of the XB3 is quick, snappy, and responsive, and no settings switches took more than half a second or so to complete.
Great Color (With a Catch)
Though the Predator XB3 scored exceptionally well for a gaming monitor across all our tests, there is one small catch. The primary difference between the Acer Predator XB3 and the Predator X27 is the scaling of HDR down from HDR 1000 in the latter to HDR 400 in the former (a reference to the level of brightness, expressed in “nits,” that the monitor is capable of displaying). While this might be a deal-breaker for some, to us the visual distinction between the two is only noticeable if you’re really looking for it. Plus, given the HDR downgrade is the only specification gap between these two displays (and the main justification for their $ 700 price difference), we’re okay watching HDR content that’s only about 1/3 dimmer while saving a wad of cash in the process.
As far as general color accuracy, in our tests the Predator XB3 hit 99.9 percent of the sRGB color space and 90.1 percent of DCI-P3, while the Predator X27 only hit roughly 80 percent of DCI-P3 in external testing. (At the time of the Predator X27 review, the PC Labs testing process did not test for DCI-P3; the external testing is an average figure based on several other outlets’ testing.)
Further down the list, the XB3’s AdobeRGB results weren’t anything to write home about at 84.9 percent coverage, which removes it from creative/professional monitor contention. That said, it’s still a pretty common number to hit in gaming displays, so we’re not going to mark a loss for the monitor here.
Luminance numbers were above what we expected for an HDR 400 display, achieving 382 nits in SDR mode and 468 nits when switched over to HDR. Black levels could have been a bit better, however, matching up with the Dell U3219Q almost exactly at 2.24 (normally we like to see that number as close to 0.1 as possible).
As expected, overall gaming performance was stellar, with an input lag figure of 5.4ms (gathered using the HDFury 4K Diva). The inclusion of a G-Sync module prevented any sort of screen tears during single-player title testing at lower frame rates, and even held up while we were gaming at well more than the 144Hz refresh rate in Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
Let’s Talk Light Bleed
When we reviewed the Acer Nitro XV3, the most glaring problem we found with it (no pun intended) was its severe backlight bleed issues. As both displays are based on IPS LED backlight technology, a moderate amount of light bleed is always expected, but it was blindingly bad on the Nitro XV3. Dark scenes in games or movies with horizontal black bars were nearly unplayable/unwatchable due to the flood of yellow backlight that was pouring in from every corner, making it readily apparent how Acer had managed to chop the price of their X27 monitor down by more than half while still retaining the key 4K 144Hz capability.
So you can imagine my trepidation, then, when I first booted up the XB3 in a dark room. To my pleasant surprise, while there was still some light bleed, it maxed out at around 10 percent of what we saw with the XV3. As was the case with the XV3, the light bleed that we did see was most noticeable on the left side of the screen.
An Improvement in Every Way
Looking at the Acer XB3 and all its stellar specs, it’s a wonder why the X27 or the XV3 even exist. Its $ 1,299 MSRP (currently retailing for $ 999 on Amazon) is a sweet spot for this high-end monitor category. It comes close to matching the performance of the much-costlier X27 ($ 1,999.99), but offers perks that make it much more of a value compared with the far-less-superior XV3 ($ 899.99). The XB3 shows that with a little refinement in construction quality and one minor HDR sacrifice, the days of affordable high-performance 4K 144Hz monitors are finally here, and earns our Editors’ Choice.