Acer’s Predator lineup includes some of the best gaming monitors around, so we’re excited to test drive one of the newest additions: the Z1. We’re testing the 30-inch version of this curved gaming monitor, which supports up to a 200Hz refresh rate, 2560 x 1080 resolution and Tobii eye tracking. Let’s get right into it!
Before we start testing out the Z1, let’s take a look at its design which remains the same throughout the three sizes available — 27 inches, 30 inches and 31.5 inches. The 30-inch model is the only one with the 21:9 ultrawide aspect ratio; the other two are more pedestrian 16:9 affairs. No matter which model you’re looking at, you’ll see the same design notes as other Predator models, with moderately thin bezels, a rugged metal stand and a textured back.
Look to the side of the monitor, and you’ll gain a better perspective of the stand’s adjustability options. You can raise and lower 120 millimetres, tilt from -5º to +25º and swivel from -30º to +30º. That’s quite respectable for a monitor of this size, although you do pay the price with a wide stand that takes up a considerable amount of desk space.
Each Z1 uses an AMVA panel with 1800R curvature, as you can see from the ‘aerial’ photo below. Curved displays are better aligned to human vision, and should mean that you don’t have to turn your head as much to take in details on the edges of the monitor. Curving a monitor is an extra expense, but the more immersive, cinematic experience you get can be worth it.
What does 1800R mean? It’s a measure of curvature, stating that if you used a bunch of screens together to make a complete circle, your circle would have a radius of 1800 millimetres (about six feet). Therefore, lower R values correspond to more tightly curved screens. 1800R is quite standard for modern curved monitors, and is noticeably more curved than the 3200R monitors we saw a few years ago.
The back of the monitor has a large Acer logo in the upper left corner and controls — buttons and a joystick — to control the on-screen display (OSD) in the bottom left. The bottom right includes a USB input and three USB 3.0 outputs; curiously the photo below shows an extra USB 3.0 output that our review unit does not have.
That brings our tour of the monitor’s design to a close, so let’s move onto the fun part: testing, including benchmarks and impressions!
We tested the Acer Predator Z1 for a two week period, as is standard for all monitor reviews on XSR. While most of our time was spent gaming, we also surfed the web, booted up Photoshop for some image editing and watched a few episodes of Bojack Horseman on Netflix. Let’s get into our impressions first, before we take a look at the benchmark results.
The Z1 is intended for gaming, so let’s start there. We expected the 200Hz refresh rate to be an obvious asset for fast-paced gaming, and the Z1 delivered in spades. Competitive games with relatively low system requirements like Counter-Strike and League of Legends will see the biggest benefits from this specification, as you’ll be able to hit 200 frames per second or higher consistently with a mid-range or better gaming PC.
The 2560 x 1080 resolution splits the difference between 1080p and more challenging 1440p, and is nowhere near as challenging as 4K. However, we noticed a downgrade in sharpness compared to our usual 27-inch 1440p display, and the VA panel used here doesn’t provide as vibrant or colour-accurate an image as the IPS displays available in some other models (including Acer’s own XB271HU).
The monitor also offers G-Sync, which is handy for situations where you’re playing a particularly challenging game in which you can’t stay above 60 frames per second. However, it also makes an already expensive specification (30-inch, curved, high refresh rate) even costlier, so hopefully you’ll be able to make use of it and justify that extra expense. In addition, G-Sync does introduce a small bit of delay into some games, which we didn’t notice consciously in our testing — but we definitely performed better in CS:GO when it was disabled.
As usual, the ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio isn’t fully supported by all games. However, developers seem to be catching on and most games offer at least partial support these days. Here’s what we tested it with:
- CS:GO: some non-essential interface elements are off-screen
- PUBG: fully supported (although you don’t gain field of view beyond the maximum allowed in first person)
- CIV VI: fully supported
- Company of Heroes 2: black bars in the main menu, but 21:9 in game — although the maximum refresh rate is only 120Hz
- Pillars of Eternity: fully supported and looks gorgeous
- Prey: the game launched quite distorted, but after some juggling you can achieve 21:9 resolutions and increase the field-of-view to match
The ultra-wide perspective and curved screen combine well in games that support it, delivering a uniquely cinematic experience.
Finally, the monitor includes Tobii eye-tracking, which promises to let you control the camera or activate objects in games that support it — and some CS:GO leagues are even using it to track how pros look at the screen in competitive matches, which is neat.
There are plenty of interesting things you can do here, but we didn’t find it particularly helpful — relatively few games support it directly, and doing things like aiming with your eyes feels less accurate than using a mouse. However, we could see this being useful in racing or flight sims to look over your shoulder — and there are an increasing number of games that support the Tobii in some way, including some major releases like Agents of Mayhem, For Honor, Assassin’s Creed Origins and Ghost Recon Wildlands.
Media & image editing performance
We found the 2560 x 1080 resolution of the Predator Z1 was surprisingly good for getting work done, as you can fit two 1280 x 1080 windows on screen at once. This resolution feels much less cramped than 1080p does, even if 1440p goes further by offering more vertical real estate. However, the monitor’s relatively low pixel density and VA panel doesn’t reproduce images as well as the IPS 1440p monitor we use day-to-day, and we opted to switch back to this monitor for most Photoshop work.
Films and television are more of a draw, but ultra-wide videos are hard to find online, particularly if you’re limited to services like YouTube, Amazon and Netflix. All three sources do offer ultrawide content, but you may need to find you need to install brower plugins or download specially modified apps in order to unlock full 21:9 support — kind of a pain. Hopefully 21:9 will become better supported in the future, as watching videos with black bars doesn’t really feel like the future!
Design & usability
The Z1 continues Acer’s tradition of having excellent stands on its Predator line of monitors. While it does take up a lot of space, the partly metal, partly plastic stand has a wide stance that gives the monitor a lot of stability. We had no issues with the monitor shaking or toppling while adjusting its position or plugging in cables, which can sometimes be a factor on large panels like this.
The monitor is easy to set up too; all you need to do is use a ring-screw to attach the stand to its base. From here, you can adjust the height, tilt and swivel, although rotation for portrait orientation gaming isn’t possible (as you might expect from a curved monitor).
The OSD is also one of the best we’ve seen, with plenty of options that are easy to access thanks to the joystick on the back of the monitor. This is way easier to use than a series of buttons, so kudos to Acer for including it.
In order to give a good quantitative evaluation of the Predator Z1, we calibrated it using a colourimeter and then tested its contrast, colour, uniformity and more.
We calibrated the monitor to 120 nits brightness, which corresponded to a brightness setting of 21, contrast of 50 and Gamma 2.2. sRGB mode, Blue Light, Dark Boost and Adaptive Contrast were all turned off.
You can download the .ICC (.ICM) colour profile below — it may be a bit better than the default calibration, although doing your own is always the best choice!
The monitor was calibrated using the Spyder4Elite colourimeter, which has some flaws but is the most advanced testing equipment we have at present — an upgrade to a X-Rite i1Display Pro is planned.
Initial calibration results
The initial calibration is better than expected, reaching 0.13 nits for black and 121.9 nits for white (so not too far from our 120 nit target). The white point is dead on at 0.329, and Delta-E values for white point and 50% grey look great too, at 0.5 and 0.2, respectively. Gamma is also good, at just 0.04 over our target of 2.20. Let’s move onto the gamut charts…
The Z1 scores its promises 100% of the sRGB space, plus 77% and 81% of the lesser-used NTSC and AdobeRGB gamuts. These are pretty good results for a gaming monitor; if everything else is okay, you could probably use the Z1 for image editing without issues.
Brightness and contrast at different brightness settings
The Z1 shows impressive contrast throughout its range, although this is unfortunately underread by the Spyder4Elite. Based on past results, I’m happy to state that the monitor is more than capable of reaching its promised contrast ratio of 3000:1.
Gamma, tone response and grey ramp
Despite being set to a gamma curve of 2.2 in its OSD, the monitor appears to actually be using to something close to 1.9 according to the Spyder. The curve is accurate enough to this standard, and the grey ramp is pleasingly sane as well.
Here’s a big one — colour accuracy. The Z1 does excellent here, outperforming the AOC AG272FCX we reviewed before despite having a similar VA panel. The average Delta-E value is 1.09, one of the best results we’ve seen from a non-IPS panel.
The display’s colour uniformity is unfortunately not great, with pretty severe colour deviation in the upper centre quadrant. Elsewhere though, things were pretty good, with more reasonable Delta-E values under 3.0.
Luminance uniformity was nowhere near as good, unfortunately. The panel seems to be noticeably dimmer on the left and right sides, creating a kind of T shape of brightness. Deviations of about 25% on each side are not ideal, and you can certainly notice this in-game if you look for it hard enough.
We conclude with the Spyder’s Monitor Rating card, which is usually a fair indication of how the benchmarks went. We can see gamut, contrast, colour uniformity and colour accuracy were all rated highly, but the monitor lost points for luminance uniformity and tone response — fair enough. All in all, this is a pretty good gaming monitor, but the luminance uniformity issues may distract you during image editing (or darker in-game scenes).
The Acer Predator Z301CT is a fun monitor to use. In many ways, it feels like the future — if we don’t all start strapping VR headsets to our faces each day, we’re definitely going to be staring at curved ultra-wide screens with high refresh rates that track our eyes. But in that future, I’d also expect our hypothetical perfect monitors to come with better colour reproduction, higher resolutions and perhaps cost a little less too.
Still, it’s unfair to judge the Z1 against that standard… right now, you can go to your favourite digital marketplace and get a pretty futuristic monitor for $700 — and for anyone that wants an immersive experience and doesn’t need a super high resolution, the Predator Z1 is a solid choice.