Acer Predator XB270H A review: a solid 27″ 144Hz G-Sync gaming monitor

XB_sku_main

The Predator XB270H is one of Acer’s first gaming monitors to support G-Sync, a new Nvidia initiative that eliminates screen tearing without locking a monitor to 60Hz (or a multiple thereof). The monitor runs at 144Hz too, ensuring that if you’ve got enough grunt in your PC, you’ll get a very smooth experience – ideal for fast-paced games like shooters. The 27-inch frame is the standard ‘large’ size nowadays, and the 1080p resolution ensures that your PC doesn’t need to be too expensive to hit that 144 fps target. The XB270H looks like a promising gaming monitor, so let’s take a closer look at how it performs.

Specifications & Features

Display

  • 27-inch size, TN panel
  • 1920 x 1080 (Full HD)
  • LED backlight
  • 144Hz refresh rate (w/ G-Sync)
  • 300 cd/m2 brightness
  • 100M:1 contrast ratio
  • 1ms response time
  • 16.7M colours, 1.07B colour depth
  • 170° / 160° viewing angle

Dimensions

  • 640 x 408~558 x 245 mm

Connectivity

  • DisplayPort
  • USB 3.0 (x4)

Features

  • 2W speakers (x2)
  • +35° ~ -5° tilt
  • +60° / -60° swivel
  • 90° pivot
  • 150mm height adjustable
  • 100 x 100 VESA mount
  • 26.5W on / 0.0W standby

Design

The XB270H is a simple but attractive monitor, which uses glossy black for the bezel and base, with the rear and stand in a matte black. The monitor has minimal markings around the bezel – just an Acer logo at the bottom and the XB270H identifier in the upper right corner. Mine also came with G-Sync and 3D Vision stickers in the upper left, but these are easily removed. The buttons for the monitor are in the lower right corner, and are quite standard (if a bit slim).

71clKj25p1L._SL1500_

The monitor came become quite short when lowered all the way to touch the base, or raised by another 15 centimetres to sit high. You can also tilt the display towards you at a 45° angle, rotate it 90 degrees for portrait mode, and swivel it 60° to either the left or the right. The monitor uses a standard 100 x 100 VESA mount, so you can replace the stand with another one or use a floating / wall mount as desired.

81PKOxooEzL._SL1500_

The rear of the monitor is quite standard, with another subtle Acer logo in the upper right. Looking from behind, you have the power switch and input on the left, and a single input on the right – DisplayPort, which is necessary to use the monitor at 144Hz.

51WNJO3VZLL._SL1200_

The monitor also includes USB ports, with a pair on the left hand side (as the monitor faces you), and another pair next to the DisplayPort input. The USB passthrough port is also here, which connects to your computer to make the other USB ports work.

1

Overall, I’m impressed with the design of the XB270H. While the materials and build quality don’t quite live up to premium monitors, this is one of the best looking plastic monitors I’ve seen. The stand is surprisingly capable given the small circumference of its base, and the range of adjustability is commendable. It’s a bit annoying that there’s only one port available – HDMI would have been nice to use for console gaming, for instance – but for use with a PC as intended, it makes sense.

Benchmarks

Now we’ll look at the monitor’s quantitative performance through a series of benchmarks, using the Spyder4Elite.

First up we have an initial reading of the display’s colour gamut, which is 97% of sRGB, 75% of AdobeRGB, and 71% of NTSC. This is a pretty strong indication that you shouldn’t use this display for colour-sensitive work, as there are some colours within even the conservative sRGB standard that it cannot display. This is not a surprise for a TN-panel display, but it’s worth reiterating.

Screenshot 2015-07-18 23.25.54

Next we have the brightness, contrast and white point values. As you can see, the white point remains quite stable around 7500 throughout, with contrast in the region of 410:1 to 540:1. There are some issues with the Spyder4’s reporting in this area, so take these results with a grain of salt (particularly as other outlets have reported contrast in the region of 1000:1). It does seem that a brightness setting of 50% is ideal for maximum contrast.

Screenshot 2015-07-18 23.29.12

 

Now we have colour uniformity tests, which show how the colours in different quadrants of the screen are represented. The uniformity is quite good here for maximum brightness, but as brightness is reduced the upper-right quadrant is moderately off from the rest of the display, with a DeltaE of around 3.0.

Screenshot 2015-07-18 23.29.40_1

Luminance uniformity is also impressive. The centre is the brightest point of the screen, about 10% higher than its surroundings which is fairly reasonable.

Screenshot 2015-07-18 23.30.31_1

Next we have colour accuracy. We’re not expecting greatness from this twisted nematic panel, but the average deltaE value of 3.42 is decent.

Screenshot 2015-07-18 23.30.44

Finally we have the Spyder’s internal rating system, which awards the monitor decent marks. I’d agree with that – despite the issues with colour uniformity in the upper right quadrant, the colour accuracy is reasonable and there are no other glaring issues.

Screenshot 2015-07-18 23.30.46

Right – onto the qualitative side of things!

Impressions

In order to put the XB270H through its paces, I used it for a period of about three weeks. As well as testing it near-daily in competitive Counter-Strike, I also tried it with other games and even did a bit of work as well.

Counter-Strike is a fast-paced game that really demands the most out of your peripherals, and a monitor is no different. Running at 144Hz makes it feel like a different game, with very smooth movement that makes it easier to line up shots and feel in control. Going back to a 60Hz monitor is an unpleasant experience after getting used to 144Hz, and it’s easy to see why professional players and eSports tournaments all use 120 or 144Hz monitors.

The 1080p resolution is a little underwhelming, but it does ensure that your PC can output the stable 144+ frames per second that are needed to make full use of this monitor. The addition of G-Sync is impressive too, allowing games that you can’t run at full frame rate to still look good without screen tearing at a range of resolutions. You’ll need a Nvidia card to make use of this feature, but it’s definitely impressive and works well for games that run between 30 and 60 fps.

For work use, the XB270H is less impressive. The TN panel shows its unavoidable flaws with very poor viewing angles; you’ll definitely want to make sure that the monitor is facing you directly when watching videos or doing any kind of design work. Thankfully, the good adjustability of the monitor means that this isn’t an issue for single-user use. The monitor also has problems with colour accuracy; this is not a monitor to use when editing images or cutting together videos.

Still, outside of these creative tasks, the monitor works well enough for surfing the web, tweaking game settings and messing around on YouTube. The high frame rate is a lot of fun even on the Windows desktop, and definitely makes your PC feel like it’s running a bit faster and a bit more smoothly. As I said before, going back to 60Hz is definitely an unpleasant experience!

Conclusion

The Predator XB270H makes a damn strong case for G-Sync and for 144Hz monitors; gameplay feels fast and fluid, and I even feel it makes me a better competitive player. With an attractive design that includes both impressive adjustability and a handy USB hub, the monitor is quite practical too. While there are no additional inputs and the construction is overly plasticky, for the price point these seem like reasonable limitations. Of course, being a TN panel, the monitor is also not the best in terms of viewing angles or colour accuracy, but it makes up for it with good response times and contrast. Overall, the XB270H is a great gaming monitor that compares well to others at a similar price point.

Pros

  • The combination of 144Hz and Nvidia’s G-Sync produce silky smooth gameplay, which looks amazing and can even help you improve in competitive games
  • Solid and stylish (if plasticky) design
  • USB ports are a helpful inclusion
  • Good range of adjustability – tilt, swivel, rotate, raise

Cons

  • No additional inputs (for multiple devices / consoles)
  • A more daring design and metal materials could improve looks and build quality
  • TN panel produces inaccurate colours, poor viewing angles

Score

score8

Links

Aorus X3 Plus v3 review: the best things come in small packages

x3_02

The original Aorus X3 Plus was a beast when we reviewed it last year, with a 3K display, GTX 860M graphics card and i7 processor packed into a tiny 14-inch aluminium chassis. Today we’re back with the latest version, the v3, which promises even more power thanks to the latest Nvidia GTX 970M GPU and Core i7 CPU. Let’s see whether it delivers on that promise!

Specifications

Changes from original Aorus X3 Plus are written in orange. The CPU has been slightly downgraded compared to the original, but game performance should be significantly better thanks to a more recent and higher-end GPU (GTX 970M vs GTX 860M in the original). One USB 2.0 port has been converted to USB 3.0 and faster 1866 RAM is also available.

OS Windows 8.1 Pro
CPU 4th Generation Intel Core i7-4710HQ CPU (2.5-3.5GHz)
Display 13.9″ QHD+ 3200×1800 Wide Viewing Angle LCD
System Memory 16 GB DDRIIIL 1866 (2x 8 GB)
Chipset Mobile Intel HM87 Express Chipset
Video Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4600
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M w/ 6GB GDDR5 RAM
Storage 2x 240 GB mSATA SSD (in RAID0)
Keyboard Type Backlit scissor-switch w/ macro keys
Optical Drive N/A
I/O Port USB 3.0 x3, HDMI, mini Display Port, Ethernet
SD card reader, 3.5mm mic + headphone ports
Audio 2 Watt Speaker x2, Microphone
Communications Killer LAN Chip
Dual-band 802.11ac wireless
Bluetooth 4.0
Webcam HD Camera
Security Kensington Lock
Battery Li-Polymer 73.26 Wh
Dimensions 330(W) x 263.5(D) x 22.9(H) mm
Weight 1.87 kilograms

Note: Specifications are for the model given. For full specifications, please refer to your retailer and/or the Aorus X3 website.

Design

IMG_2601

The Aorus X3 Plus remains unchanged in terms of design, with the same slim anodised aluminium chassis in black that packs in a full-size keyboard (sans number pad), a fancy glass touchpad and a 3K 14-inch display.

IMG_2607

There’s a good complement of ports on the left and right sides, including 3 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and DisplayPort, headphone jacks and an SD card reader. The ethernet and power cables are on the back, where they won’t get in the way of your peripherals.

IMG_2602

The overall look is somewhere between ‘gamer’ and ‘professional’, with a few angular lines and the oversize exhaust ports on the back providing a few hints that this isn’t just a boring business laptop. For a full look at the Aorus X3 Plus, please check out the design section of the original review.

Hands-on Testing

In order to evaluate the Aorus X3 Plus v3, we used it for a period of about four weeks, testing it for both work and play. Here are some of the games we played:

  • Counter-Strike: GO
  • Far Cry 4
  • Company of Heroes 2
  • Total War: Rome 2
  • StarCraft II: LotV
  • Armored Warfare
  • Metro: Last Light
  • Valkyria Chronicles
  • Dying Light
  • Wolfenstein: Old Blood
  • BioShock: Infinite
  • Endless Legend

Games

The Aorus X3 Plus v3 is a hyper-efficient gaming monster, continually surprising you with the level of performance in can deliver in such a compact package. I didn’t find any games that the laptop couldn’t handle, including some of the most demanding titles of the current generation.

2015-06-13_00003

The laptop can handle less-demanding games like CS:GO or StarCraft II at the native 3200 x 1800 resolution and high settings, which is super impressive. More modern or intensive titles like Metro: Last Light generally require either a drop in resolution or graphical quality (or both), but this is true of pretty much all gaming laptops. As the display is very high resolution, it’s possible to run games in a “pixel-doubled” mode, i.e. at 1600 x 900 instead of 3200 x 1800. This produces a much easier performance target without resorting to a stretched display, and is a good first port of call if a game doesn’t run well on the X3 Plus v3 at the high native resolution.

resolution-comparison

Aside from the powerful processor and graphics card, the X3 Plus v3 also benefits from a quality storage solution, with two or three SSDs in a RAID0 configuration. This confers no advantage to redundancy compared to a standard single drive setup, but does markedly increase transfer speeds to make games and levels load rapidly. Of course, it also makes all those out-of-game tasks a little faster as well – installing drivers, downloading comms programs or clearing out space for a new title.

The laptop’s wired and wireless connections are also up to snuff, with a Killer gaming-grade network solution including gigabit ethernet and dual-band WiFi ac. It’s hard to tell how much the Killer software and hardware combo helped compared to a non-branded solution, but in any case lag was minimal whether we were wired up or using the wireless – just remember you’ll need a WiFi ac router and a fast internet connection to make full use of the laptop’s wireless speeds.

owls

Of course, gaming laptops are not just dependent on raw performance. Thermal and noise considerations are also important, and here the X3 Plus v3’s dominance is less clear cut. The laptop does get fairly noisy when operating at full tilt – sometimes enough to demand either high volumes from the (weedy internal speakers) or noise-cancelling headphones. In addition, you will notice some heat during extended gaming sessions. However, neither issue is sufficient enough to cause concern, particularly as you’ll likely be using it on a well-ventilated desk with headphones anyway.

Work & Media

Like many gaming laptops, the X3 Plus v3 also makes a capable work laptop. The keyboard is surprisingly good, with sufficient key travel and a comfortable layout. I hit 90 words per minute on the typing speed test without any issues, right on my average. You don’t get a number pad though, so spreadsheet warriors may want to look for a larger machine (or plug in a USB number pad). The trackpad is good enough to get work done, although for Photoshop or other tasks you’ll likely want to plug in a mouse or tablet anyway.

x3_03

There is one issue with the trackpad, which I presume is an issue with this unit only: the trackpad buttons seem fairly stiff, requiring higher-than-average force to actuate. Many times I thought my internet was slow, but it turned out that the trackpad just hadn’t registered my button press. This is a non-issue if you use tap-to-click (or plug in a mouse), but it was a bit annoying for me and hopefully isn’t prevalent in other units.

Otherwise, the performance that makes for a strong gaming laptop also makes this a very over-powered work machine, capable of handling even complex tasks like rendering video, performing large Photoshop operations and accessing very large files. The SSDs in RAID0 ensure programs and files open rapidly too. Despite the high performance components, battery life was reasonable for a gaming laptop too, clocking in between four and five hours depending on your activities.

Above: a gaming app poorly optimised for 3K

Above: a gaming app poorly optimised for 3K

Finally, the 3200 x 1800 display is great for surfing the web, reading and writing. Text is very sharp and high-resolution images look fantastic. There are still some scaling problems with some apps (e.g. Adobe’s Creative Cloud downloader), but overall the 3K display is very worthwhile. As well as being high resolution, the display also has good viewing angles and reasonably accurate colours, making it good for Photoshop and watching movies alike. The only issue with the display is its brightness, which even at maximum isn’t really enough to use in direct sunlight (so pick your train seats carefully!)

Synthetic Benchmarks

In these benchmarks, we’ll look to characterise the performance of the X3 Plus v3 compared to its predecessor and other top gaming laptops. Let’s get started.

3DMark

3DMark is a comprehensive benchmark, designed to offer a good simulation of an intensive 3D game. The most challenging standard benchmark, Fire Strike, is a good test of modern gaming laptops and PCs. As you can see in the chart below, the X3 Plus v3 manages a strong score of 6674, nearly the same as the GTX 980M-equipped P505 but still a bit behind the incredible P37X.

image001

Cinebench

Cinebench is a fairly standard benchmark, designed to test both graphics and processor in different tests. Looking at the OpenGL test first, we can see the X3 Plus comfortably in the middle of the pack with a score of 101.59; a little behind the original X3. This is largely down to the slower processor used in our v3 review unit. The CPU test goes differently, with the v3 putting together an impressive top 3 result somehow.

image003

 

Laptop Benchmarks_2631_image003

GeekBench

GeekBench is a processor and memory test, which uses a workload of common computing tasks. The v3 scores highly in the multi-core test with a score of 12438, coming in third place behind the P505 and the original X3 Plus.

image005

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark is a storage speed test. In the sequential read and sequential write results, we can see the X3 Plus v3 scores relatively well. The write test is particularly impressive, with the dual SSD RAID0 setup of the X3 Plus v3 resulting in sequential write speed that is second only to the triple SSD X7 v2 laptop.

image007

image009

Gaming Benchmarks

Now we move onto benchmarks of actual games, designed to offer a good insight into how this laptop performs in real-world situations.

Metro: Last Light

Metro is an intense game for both you and your computer, and the X3 Plus v3 puts in a reasonable showing at 1080p and high settings, with AF 4x filtering, normal motion blur and no SSAA, DirectX 11 tessellation or advanced PhysX. The v3 scores 46 fps, which is quite playable but a little below what we saw from larger laptops of the same generation like the P505, P37X v3 and X7 v2.

image013

BioShock: Infinite

BioShock Infinite uses the Unreal Engine, a common engine used in many titles. As such, it’s a good test of performance for these games, and the v3 looks good here. It gets a result that equals that of the P34W v3 and P505, a comfortable 115 fps.

image011

Company of Heroes 2

CoH 2 is another intensive game from the past few years, and it (almost uniquely) does not support Crossfire / SLI so dual-GPU laptops don’t run away with the show. Here the X3 Plus v3 and its single GTX 970 scores highly, with a perfectly playable 60 fps.

image015

Total War: Rome 2

Our latest game benchmark is Total War: Rome 2 using 1080p resolution and Ultra settings. The v3 gets a solid 72.2 frames per second in the demanding benchmark, suggesting that the game could be playable at 3K resolutions too.

image017

Conclusion

The Aorus X3 Plus v3 continues the legacy of its predecessors, providing absolutely insane performance in a very portable package. Aside from raw horsepower, the X3 Plus v3 also benefits from a solid keyboard, beautiful display and an impressive design that straddles the line between gamer and professional. While the laptop is top-notch, there’s still room for more substantive changes – the trackpad, hinge and thermal performance could all benefit from improvement. Hopefully we’ll see Aorus take these steps in later editions of the X3.

Pros

  • Excellent gaming performance for a 14-inch laptop
  • Good keyboard for gaming or writing, with sufficient travel

Cons

  • Trackpad buttons seem to require a lot of force
  • Hinge is fairly weak; on bumpy trains your display will bounce
  • Premium price point

Score

score9

Links

Intocircuit 15000mAh Power Bank & iClever 6-Port Desktop Charger reviews: Essential mobile chargers

Smartphones and tablets are brilliant, but they’re always limited by one thing: power. No matter how shiny your device is, after a day or two you’ll be reaching for the charger. Today, we’re looking at two gadgets to help you on that point: the Intocircuit 15000mAh Power Bank and the iClever 6-Port Fast USB Desktop Charger. These come courtesy of top Amazon seller Hisgadget.inc. Let’s get started.

Continue reading

NZXT Phantom 530 review: beauty and brains

 

phantom-530-case-system-build-angled-white-left-interior

It’s the classic geek love story. Geek meets PC case, geek shares many happy memories with PC case. One day, a new, shinier case comes along. Geek faces a decision – move onto the new model, or stick with the old love? Join me for the fateful conclusion, as we examine the Phantom 530 – NZXT’s £90 modern followup to the much-loved Phantom.

Continue reading

Acer Liquid Jade Z review: #AcerLiveBlog Dublin 2015, part 3

2015-06-20 18.16.10

This weekend we took to the streets of Dublin to try out the latest gadgets from Acer in the #AcerLiveBlog challenge. So far we’ve reviewed their Iconia One 8 tablet and Switch 10 E convertible – and now it’s time for the triumphant conclusion, as we take a look at the Liquid Jade Z smartphone!

Continue reading

Acer Switch 10 E review: #AcerLiveBlog Dublin 2015, part 2

2015-06-20 18.28.08

This weekend we took to the streets of Dublin to try out the latest gadgets from Acer in the #AcerLiveBlog challenge. First we reviewed their Iconia One 8 tablet, and now we’re looking at the Aspire Switch 10 E convertible in part two. Let’s get right into it!

Continue reading

Roccat Kave XTD 5.1 analog review: they’ve got us surrounded!

ROC-Kave_XTD_Analog_down+remote

Today we’re taking a look at the Roccat Kave XTD 5.1 Analog. As you might have guessed from the long-ass name, this headset offers 5.1 surround sound and an analogue connection to your PC. Roccat are promising a headset that is comfortable, convenient and sounds great for  less than £100, so let’s see how the Kave XTD 5.1 Analog performs.

Continue reading

Mionix Naos 7000 review: comfortable and accurate

NAOS_7000_pic4__76657.1405464265.1280.1280

Today we’re going to be looking at a high-end optical gaming mouse from Mionix, the Naos 7000. The Naos has a good range of features, including seven buttons, RGB LED lighting and powerful software. It’s also notable for including an optical rather than laser sensor, and not including mouse acceleration of any kind. That should make it a strong mouse for competitive gaming, so let’s take a look and see how it performs!

Continue reading

BenQ treVolo review: spread your wings and fly

378413-benq-trevolo

The BenQ treVolo is a high-end Bluetooth speaker, with a funky folding design that’s hinted at in its maker’s creative capitalisation. BenQ boast that it’s the first portable unit to use the same electrostatic panels as high-end living room speakers, providing the opportunity to reach “new heights of audio satisfaction” for only £230. The electrostatic panels have certainly influenced the avian look of the treVolo, but will it make for a radically better sound as well? Let’s find out!

Continue reading