Desktop monitors are undergoing a renaissance.
For pixel hounds there are 5K-resolution monitors from the likes of Apple and Dell in addition to a plethora of 4K Ultra-HD monitors. For productivity and creative professionals there are 21:9 ultra-wide monitors which allow you to pack more applications on-screen than ever before while also providing more immersive movie watching and gaming experiences.
Gamers are spoilt for choice with a number of monitors offering high refresh rates, some of which take advantage of adaptive refresh technologies from graphics card makers AMD (FreeSync) and Nvidia (G-SYNC) that minimise screen tearing and eliminate stutter.
Cue Acer’s latest flagship, the Predator X34 - the first desktop monitor on the market to offer an ultra-wide 21:9 curved display. The 34-inch IPS panel boasts a 3,440 x 1,440 pixel resolution that can be refreshed at 100Hz and also supports Nvidia’s G-SYNC. Unlike some other gaming-focused monitors, the X34 supports 100 percent of the sRGB colour gamut, making it an option for design professionals as well.
On paper then, the X34 ticks every box but does it deliver the goods?
Design and features
There are a number of gamer-friendly design touches on the X34 such as nine LED lights at the bottom of the curved display which can be colour-customised or turned off completely.
While most of the monitor is of plastic construction, there’s a beefy aluminium v-shaped stand that pushes the weight of the monitor to a tick under 10KG. It is one of the largest stands we have ever seen on a monitor, with the rear stand leg stretching out 10-inches from the rear of the monitor, so be prepared to give up some desk space.
The stand does provide a generous ergonomic tilt of 40 degrees (5 degrees forward, 35 degrees backward) and a height adjustment of five inches. There are also the standard VESA mounting holes should you want to wall-mount or arm-mount the monitor.
Acer touts a ‘zero frame bezel’ which is a bit misleading. While the bezels are super-thin, there’s still a 10mm border on all sides. The monitor also houses DTS-optimised 14W stereo speakers, which by desktop monitor standards produce decent audio with a generous helping of bass response.
We would have preferred a matte finish to match the front but since the back casing is usually out of sight, it’s not something you’re going to notice day-to-day.
There are just two video inputs - DisplayPort 1.2 or HDMI 1.4 - the former allowing for up to 100Hz while the latter is restricted to 60Hz. There’s also a five-port USB hub in addition to the Kensington lock slot and headphone jack.
The control buttons are tucked away out of sight underneath the bottom right corner which makes navigating the on-screen controls a clunky and often-frustrating experience. It’s hard to tell which button you’re pressing but what’s worse is that the menu button is located right next to the power button so you’ll likely power down the monitor or change inputs instead of bringing up the menu on occasion.
The X34 also features an adjustable blue-light filter designed to reduce eye strain when enabled.
The process to overclock the refresh rate on the monitor from the default 60Hz to 100Hz is fairly straightforward with a quick tweak of the settings and a reboot of the monitor being all that’s required. From there, Nvidia’s G-SYNC mode will automatically be enabled allowing you to get straight to gaming and this is where the monitor truly delivers.
The fast refresh rate coupled with the visual clarity of a 3,440 x 1,440 resolution IPS screen and minimal input lag (rated at 10ms) equals gaming nirvana. What’s more, viewing angles are wide with no colour shifting or loss of brightness and the subtle curve on a large ultra-wide display provided a sense of increased peripheral vision while playing first-person shooter titles like Crysis 3.
With G-Sync turned on, we experienced no screen tearing or stuttering in most of the games we tested. We did notice flicker with some titles like Tomb Raider and Grid AutoSport, which continued when we exited to the Windows 10 desktop, however, dropping down the refresh rate to 80Hz resolved the issue. Unfortunately, not all game titles support the 21:9 format but you can use programs like Flawless Widescreen as a workaround.
Of course driving all those pixels at a 100Hz refresh rate will require a high-end rig with at least a Nvidia GTX 970 desktop GPU or above.
We used Asus’ latest gaming laptop - the G752 - which is equipped with a beefy GTX 980M to drive the monitor and despite having one of the most powerful notebook GPUs on-board, we struggled to hit 100Hz on 2-3 year old AAA titles like Bioshock Infinite and Hitman Absolution. It wasn’t until we toned down some of the image quality settings that we were able to achieve a consistent 100 frames per second at the X34’s native resolution of 3,440 x 1,440.
The X34 is one of the best gaming monitors on the market, but it doesn’t come cheap. The sticker price of $1,999 is in new-TV-land and a steep investment for a desktop monitor. It’s also worth remembering that competitors like Asus will be coming out with similarly spec’d monitors in the coming months and competition will drive down prices. Acer does have an option for those who might be running AMD cards in the Freesync-based XR341CK, which can be had for $500 less but the refresh rate tops out at 75Hz.
Frustrating on-screen controls and high price tag aside, Acer’s X34 is the gaming monitor to beat.