Acer XF270HU review: 1440p IPS at 144Hz without breaking the bank
Right now, there’s one choice for gamers with high-end PCs to make: do you want a 4K monitor at 60Hz or a 1440p monitor at 144Hz? If it’s the latter, then you should take a look at the XF270HU. As well as hitting that desirable 1440p and 144Hz spec, the XF also comes with an IPS display for better viewing angles and colour accuracy over the usual TN panels. Best of all, it’s available for around £470. Let’s put it to the test.
Summary and score
The Acer XB270HU delivers the ultimate gaming monitor trifecta — IPS, 1440p, 144Hz — while keeping the price low through the use of Freesync over G-Sync. That’ll suit AMD users (and owners of powerful PCs) well. Aside from a fairly boring design, there’s little bad to recount against this excellent gaming monitor.
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Features & specifications
- 27-inch IPS monitor (100% sRGB)
- 2560 x 1440 resolution
- 144Hz refresh rate
- AMD Freesync support
- 4ms GtG response time
- 100M:1 contrast ratio, 350 cd/m²
- DVI-DL, HDMI 2.0, HDMI + MHL, DP
- 4x USB 3.0 ports, 3.5mm
- EyeProtect blue light filter
- Stand with tilt (40°), swivel (60°), rotation (~90°)
Explaining Acer’s (confusing) model names
The XF270HU is a variant of the popular XB270HUbprz, offering the same 1440p IPS display at a rapid 144Hz refresh rate. The difference denoted by the first two characters is the choice of anti-screen-tearing technology; the XF comes with Freesync (for AMD cards) and the XB has G-Sync (for Nvidia cards).
G-Sync requires a special hardware module in the monitor to operate, which adds a fair bit of cost to the XB, while the XF uses AMD’s card-based Freesync tech. The XB costs £740 on Amazon at the time of writing, while the XF costs only £470, a massive £270 difference.
The XB270HU has since been superceded by the XB271HU, which boasts a fancier ‘zero frame’ design and a higher 165Hz refresh rate. It’s currently available at £630, so it’s both cheaper and better than the XB270HU if you want a G-Sync display. However, there hasn’t been a more recent XF model released.
The XF270HU has a simple but not unattractive design, with a thin matte black plastic bezel on each side of the display and the Acer wordmark at the bottom centre. There are buttons along the bottom right of the screen for controlling the on-screen display, and these work well for making adjustments.
The monitor sits on a circular base about nine inches in diameter, giving it a fairly sizeable footprint. The only real ornamentation is a red ring running around the stand. The stand is capable of tilt, swivel and pivot, allowing for vertical use if desired. It also has a hole for cable routing, although no ‘gaming’ features like a headphone hook.
On the right side, there are a pair of USB 3.0 ports. There are two further USB 3.0 ports on the underside of the monitor, alongside an upstream USB 3.0 port. For video inputs, we have DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, HDMI with MHL and DVI-DL.
Overall, the XF270HU’s design is sensible if not inspired. There’s a good selection of ports, a capable and stable stand and a professional design. This monitor doesn’t have the gamer cachet of the more expensive XB271HU, but that’s OK — you should be able to count on the expansive 27-inch IPS panel to draw the eye.
As usual, we’re using a Spyder4Elite colourimeter to provide a synthetic test of this monitor’s capabilities. This unit is known to report inaccurate contrast readings, but is otherwise a good judge of colour accuracy, variance and other important stats. Let’s get right into it!
First off, we have the initial readings before and after calibration. With the sRGB mode enabled, the monitor easily hits the full gamut. The initial DeltaE values are both low too, at 0.2 for 50% gray and 0.3 for white point.
Next up is the tone response. We can see that the curve matches the gamma 2.2 curve pretty closely, although there is a little variance throughout. The gray ramp is respectable at well; no issues here.
Moving onto colour accuracy, we see extremely good results across the board, with most results having a Delta-E value of below 1.00. That’s brilliant, and the average of 1.42 is the result of only two shades being out of whack. Overall, a strong result that’s consistent with the IPS-style panel used here.
As noted before, the Spyder4Elite generally under-reads contrast levels, so take these numbers with a pinch of salt.
Colour uniformity is also quite good, with the highest values of around 2.0 in the centre of the screen. This isn’t perfect, but shouldn’t be noticeable if you don’t look for it, particularly if you keep the brightness at more sensible levels.
Luminance uniformity is okay, with results generally within 10% of the maximum. The upper centre quadrant was the worst performer here, being around 15% dimmer than the maximum. This is a bit disappointing compared to our other results, but not a dealbreaker.
Here we see the Spyder’s rating of the monitor, which includes praise for pretty much everything except the luminance uniformity. I’d agree with that assessment; the benchmark identifies few other weaknesses for this XF270HU unit.
After gaming on a 60Hz display for months, moving back to 144Hz is a dream come true. Especially in fast-paced games like Counter-Strike and (occasionally) Overwatch, you can instantly tell the difference and getting kills seems far easier. It’s certainly possible to play well and even dominate on a 60Hz screen, but it will always be less of a struggle on a monitor with a higher refresh rate (as long as your PC is capable of outputting enough frames per second).
High refresh rates are awesome enough, but the XF270HU offers other advantages too. For example, compard to the 144Hz Viewsonic XG2401, it offers a higher resolution (2560 x 1440 versus 1920 x 1080) and it uses an IPS panel for better colours and a overall better-looking image. The new resolution is more demanding than 1080p, but not quite so ridiculous as 4K. You can put together a PC with the GTX 1070 or 1080 and a middling processor, and you should be capable of pretty solid performance at 1440p without spending a great deal.
IPS is a more subjective improvement for gaming, but most people should notice a difference in colour accuracy and viewing angles even without two otherwise identical monitors side-by-side. Scenes look more vibrant and true to life, and there are few noticeable drawbacks in terms of contrast or latency. I think IPS as a technology is now mature enough that the only real argument against it is cost, even for gamers.
Of course, IPS does have potential bugbears, like so-called ‘IPS glow’. The backlight these monitors used can’t be completely blocked, so in dark scenes you may notice a (distracting) glow effect that is altered when you shift your head. This is intrinsic to how IPS monitors operate, and can’t be entirely eliminated.
Another related effect is backlight bleeding, where certain areas of the screen, often the corners, appear much lighter than others. This effect doesn’t change when you move your head, but does differ from unit to unit so a replacement may be better.
I didn’t have issues with either glow or bleeding with our review unit, but your mileage may vary.
The monitor also features FreeSync. I don’t currently have an AMD card to test this with, but reports indicate that it’s a nice addition for AMD users that fulfils the same promise as Nvidia’s G-Sync: elimination of screen tearing without hampering performance.
The monitor also features an ‘aim point’ setting, which superimposes a crosshair in the centre of the screen. This is on shaky ethical ground — if used in a game that normally removes the crosshair for the sake of difficulty — but could also be used if the in-game crosshair is bad and/or not configurable. The designs on offer aren’t brilliant, but it’s a nice option to have.
While games look better on an IPS screen than a TN one, moving to the more expensive screen technology also makes a monitor better suited for professional use. I spend a lot of time editing photos and watching videos, and these tasks are certainly improved by an IPS display like the XF270HU.
One side effect of this switch is that viewing angles become much more generous, making looking at a monitor dead-on less important — handy for showing off a new photo or web design to people standing behind you. Colour accuracy is also vastly improved compared to the average TN panel monitor, which is essential when you’re colour-grading video or editing photos. Just consuming content is also easier with a good IPS monitor, whether you’re watching YouTube clips or a feature film. The 27-inch diagonal isn’t quite as immersive as a 32-inch 16:9 monitor or a 35-inch 21:9 titan, but it’s still perfectly adequate for one or two people watching a video.
While its 1440p display can’t rival the clarity of a 4K monitor (even of a larger size), it’s better suited for using Windows or Mac without UI scaling. 1440p at 27 inches diagonal hits a good balance between providing a lot of screen real estate without text and small UI elements appearing too tiny.
Even 144Hz was appreciated too; it’s nice to flip rapidly between windows and tabs with minimal delay. Even mousing around on the desktop feels more responsive than on a 60Hz screen.
Having a couple of easily accessible USB ports was also appreciated. I often find myself plugging in a specialised peripheral for a few hours then swapping it out for something else, and having two USB 3.0 ports on the side of the monitor meant I didn’t have to go digging for a free port around the back side of the PC.
The XB270HU is an outstanding monitor for getting work done and watching videos, something that the TN panels of the BenQ XL2730Z, Asus PG278Q and Acer XG270HU can’t match (despite their best efforts).
The combination of IPS, a 2560 x 1440 resolution and 144Hz is just fantastic, and Acer have done well to get the extras right too. Adjustability, the OSD and the overall look of the monitor are all on point, even if the design is a little bland compared to more overtly gaming fare (including Acer’s own Predator line).
The Acer XF270HU is a brilliant choice for anyone that wants a good-looking gaming monitor, and doesn’t care to spend extra for 4K or G-Sync. Whether you have an AMD graphics card or your computer is strong enough to not need G-Sync, saving a few hundred bucks by going with this Freesync equivalent is definitely worth considering.
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The chief alternative to the XF270HU is the Asus MG279Q, the Freesync equivalent of the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q. It boasts a similar IPS panel, 1440p resolution and 144Hz refresh rate, and costs a similar amount. The chief difference is in styling and in cost; it’s best to check the latest prices if you don’t mind coming down on either side of the Asus / Acer war.
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Another IPS 1440p 144Hz monitor to look out for is the upcoming AOC AG271QG. This monitor is a counterpart of the Asus PG279Q and the Acer XB271HU, with a fancy design and support for a 165Hz refresh rate and G-Sync. It should arrive in July or early August in the UK, for around £640. It’s arguably the best-looking of the three, so it could be worth waiting for.
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