Acer X35

Author: Adam Simmons
Date published: August 2nd 2019

 

Introduction

Gamers and indeed other users after an immersive experience may seek a monitor with an UltraWide aspect ratio and a high refresh rate. Another often desired features is a strong HDR performance. Very few monitors will tick all those boxes, however. The Acer X35 of the Predator series of gaming monitors certainly ticks the first two boxes and, on paper it least, ticks the last box as well. It also features Nvidia’s tearing and stuttering busting G-SYNC variable refresh rate technology. It is one of a currently slim number of ‘G-SYNC Ultimate’ monitors, promising not just the variable refresh rate benefits of G-SYNC but also VESA DisplayHDR 1000 support. We put this very interesting monitor through its paces to see whether it lives up to the hype and see how it performs in our usual suite of tests.

Specifications

The monitor employs an AMVA panel with a 3440 x 1440 (21:9 aspect ratio) resolution and support for a 200Hz refresh rate. 10-bit colour is supported (8-bit + FRC dithering) whilst a Nanosys QDEF (Quantum Dot Enhancement Film) backlight solution is used. A 2ms grey to grey response time is specified, but as usual don’t put too much weight on that figure. Some of the key ‘talking points’ of the specification have been highlighted in blue below.

Screen size: 35 inches

Panel: AU Optronics M350QVR01.7 AMVA (Advanced Multi-Domain Vertical Alignment) LCD

Native resolution: 3440 x 1440

Typical maximum brightness: 600 cd/m² (1000 cd/m² HDR)

Colour support: 1.07 billion (8-bits per subpixel plus dithering)

Response time (G2G): 2ms

Refresh rate: 200Hz (variable, with G-SYNC)

Weight: 12.5kg (excluding stand)

Contrast ratio: 2,500:1

Viewing angle: 178º horizontal, 178º vertical

Power consumption: 64.1W

Backlight: 512-zone local dimming QD LED (Quantum Dots + blue LED)

Typical price as reviewed: £2200 ($2500 USD)


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Acer X35


Features and aesthetics

The monitor has the signature straight-edged look shared with other monitors in the Predator series. The stand has a penguin-foot design with a looping central region (the two ‘feet’ don’t join directly). The stand base has a silver coloured powder-coated metal finish. The bezels adopt a dual-stage (‘3-sided borderless’) design at the top and sides, compromising a slim hard plastic outer component and fairly slender panel border that’s flush with the screen. This blends in seamlessly when the monitor is switched off. Including both components, the bezels at the top and sides are ~9mm (0.35 inches). The bottom bezel is thicker, matte black plastic without any significant visible panel border – ~25mm (0.98 inches). It has a central shiny silver ‘Predator’ logo. The most prominent feature from the front, though, is the 35” screen itself. A light matte anti-glare screen surface is used, as explored later. The screen also has a 1800R curve, which is also explored deeper into the review.

An UltraWide predator

Switched on

Top-down view of the curve

The OSD (On Screen Display) is controlled by a combination of pressable buttons and a joystick at the rear of the monitor, running vertically down the right side (as viewed from the front). A small blue rectangular power LED is found towards the bottom right of the bottom bezel. This glows amber when the monitor enters a low power state. The video below runs through this menu system also looks at the ‘Ambient Light’ RGB LED lighting feature of the monitor.



From the side the monitor has a fair bulk to it, as you might expect given the complex backlight solution and other internal gubbins – ~35mm (0.38 inches) at thinnest point, with more bulk centrally. This angle also shows off the solidly-built stand, which offers good ergonomic flexibility; tilt (-5° to 25°), height (130mm or 5.12 inches) and swivel adjustment (30° left and 30° right). At lowest screen height the bottom of the screen clears the desk by ~74mm (2.91 inches) with the top ~452mm (17.80 inches) above the desk surface. The total depth of the monitor including stand is ~310mm (12.20 inches) with the screen quite close to the front edges of the stand. The monitor therefore takes up a fair bit of desk space, making the experience very… Immersive… If you’ve got a smaller desk.

A side view

The rear of the monitor continues the Predator theme the angular appearance. It’s predominantly matte black plastic, with some glossy transparent shapes at either side. These include 4 edges that can be illuminated in various colours if you wish – the ‘Ambient Light’ feature that can be controlled (or disabled) via the OSD. There are also two prominent side-facing ventilation slats which slope diagonally either side of the stand attachment point. 2 x 4W ‘Acer TruHarmony’ rear-facing speakers are included, which offer sound output with reasonable volume and bass, but a somewhat muffled quality lacking clarity or crispness. The included stand attaches centrally and can be removed by taking off the plastic cover (a thin flat-head screw driver is recommended in the manual for this task) and unscrewing it. This reveals 100 x 100mm VESA holes for alternative mounting, in conjunction with the standoff adaptor bracket included in the box, to ensure adequate ventilation. The ports are down-firing, located centrally, and include; DC power input (external ‘power brick’), HDMI 2.0, DP 1.4, 3 USB 3.0 ports (plus upstream) and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The rear

DC power input

The ports

DisplayPort 1.4 must be used on a compatible Nvidia GPU to harness the full capabilities of the monitor, including 3440 x 1440 @ up to 200Hz, HDR and G-SYNC capability. HDMI 2.0 supports 3440 x 1440 @ up to 100Hz and like DP 1.4 offers HDR support. A power adaptor is included as standard, but additional cables vary by region and retailer – a DP cable is usually included but not always. The monitor offers active cooling and has a fan, with ventilation around the stand attachment point and around it. The fan was generally not heard in an obvious way above system fans. But it did frequently spool up for 10 seconds or so, at a somewhat higher pitch than our system fans. It isn’t distracting to us (subjective) but can be heard as a distinctly different tone from the system fans when spooled up. We’d liken the sound to a quiet hairdryer periodically firing up the distance. It didn’t become any more noticeable with the monitor at high brightness under HDR, perhaps helped by our system fans tending to spool up under load as well. With audio playing we didn’t really notice the noise and others in the room didn’t complain. If you’re sensitive to this sort of noise and like your entire system (plus monitor) to be as quiet as possible, this active cooling system could potentially cause annoyance. Also note that they have a spool-down time after the monitor switches off, so will remain running for a while as the monitor cools down.

Calibration

Subpixel layout and screen surface

The image below is a macro photograph taken on Notepad with ClearType disabled. The letters ‘PCM’ are typed out to help highlight any potential text rendering issues related to unusual subpixel structure, whilst the white space more clearly shows the actual subpixel layout alongside a rough indication of screen surface. A light matte anti-glare screen surface is employed, offering quite good glare handling whilst preserving clarity and vibrancy better than ‘stronger’ matte screen surfaces. The surface texture is quite smooth, keeping the image free from obvious graininess. There is only a very light and misty graininess visible when observing lighter shades, which most users won’t even notice.

Subpixel layout

As shown above, the monitor uses the standard RGB (Red, Green and Blue) stripe subpixel layout. This is the default layout for modern operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS. You needn’t worry about text fringing from non-standard subpixel layouts as a Mac user, whilst Windows users don’t need to run through the ClearType wizard. You may still wish to run through the ClearType wizard and adjust according to preferences, however. The subpixel layout and arrangement is normal and we had no subpixel-related concerns related to sharpness or text clarity on this model. Unlike the current high refresh rate 27” ‘4K’ models, you don’t need to use chroma subsampling (‘YCbCr422 4:2:2 Reduced Chroma’) to use the highest refresh rates supported. The maximum bit depth which can be selected for the monitor does vary depending on the refresh rate used, but a normal ‘Full Range RGB 0-255’ signal can be used even at 200Hz. The section of video below covers the colour signals selectable at various refresh rates under the native resolution.



Testing the presets

This monitor includes a range of presets which Acer refers to as ‘Modes’; ‘Action (G1)’, ‘Racing (G2), ‘Sports (G3), ‘User’, ‘Standard’, ‘ECO’, ‘Graphics’ and ‘Movie’. These presets simply change various settings in the OSD. And if you make manual adjustments to most settings (including but not limited to brightness, contrast or the colour channels) the monitor simply switches to the ‘User’ setting which is fully customisable. The first 3 presets (G1, G2 and G3 for short) are fully customisable and using these you can have 3 different sets of settings which can be easily recalled. Most settings can be fully customised in each of the ‘G’ presets, but a few apply universally. For example, you can’t have different ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ or ‘SDR Colors sRGB’ statuses. Many settings can be recalled and set differently for each ‘G’ preset, including brightness levels, contrast levels, colour channel and gamma adjustments plus ‘Low Blue Light’ levels. Given the behaviour of the presets, we will be focusing on various manual adjustments in the OSD for this table. The table below gives gamma readings taken using a DataColor Spyder5ELITE and white point measurements taken using a X-Rite i1Display Pro, alongside general observations.

Our test system uses an Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti hooked up using the supplied DisplayPort cable, with Windows 10 used as the operating system. No additional monitor drivers or ICC profiles were specifically loaded and the monitor was left to run for over 2 hours before readings were taken or observations were made. Aside from our ‘Test Settings’ where various adjustments are made, assume factory defaults were used. This includes ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ being set to ‘Off’. Unless stated otherwise assume the refresh rate was set to 200Hz in Windows, using the ‘Over Clock’ function of the monitor. This didn’t significantly affect the values or observations in this table compared to lower refresh rates, however. When viewing the figures in this table, note that for most PC users ‘6500K’ for white point and ‘2.2’ for gamma are good targets to aim for. Individual targets depend on individual uses, tastes and the lighting environment, however.

Preset Mode Gamma (central average) White point (kelvins) Notes
Standard Mode (Factory Defaults) 1.9 6591K The image appears quite vibrant in some respects and well balanced with respect to colour temperature. But it lacks saturation overall due to lower than ideal central gamma. Some additional saturation is lost towards the side edges and bottom of the screen due to perceived VA gamma shifts. Brightness set to a surprisingly comfortable level for an ‘out of the box’ setup.
SDR Colors sRGB = On 1.9 6585K This is an ‘sRGB emulation’ mode which significantly restricts the colour gamut. The image appears quite anaemic in many respects, with the highly restricted colour gamut and low central gamma really restricting saturation levels.
Relative Gamma = -0.6 1.4 6584K As factory defaults but gamma significantly lower. The image appears bleached. Measured gamma decrease of 0.5 doesn’t quite match stated offset.
Relative Gamma = -0.3 1.6 6584K As above but marginally more depth. Still a rather washed out appearance. Measured gamma decrease matches stated offset.
Relative Gamma = +0.3 2.2 6592K As factory defaults but a richer look and good saturation thanks to appropriate central gamma. A fairly vibrant and well-balanced look overall. Measured gamma increase matches stated offset.
Relative Gamma = +0.6 2.4 6597K As above but an increase in gamma and a bit more depth and saturation overall. Measured gamma increase of 0.5 doesn’t quite match stated offset.
Blue Light = 80% 1.9 5991K A moderately effective Low Blue Light (LBL) setting. The blue colour channel is reduced somewhat, reducing blue light output from the monitor by a moderate amount. The image appears noticeably warmer than factory defaults. A very mild green tint can be noticed initially.
Blue Light = 70% 1.9 5618K As above but slightly more effective. The image appears a bit warmer still and has a slightly stronger green tint. Default brightness also slightly lowered.
Blue Light = 60% 1.9 5305K As above, but image is warmer again and green tint slightly stronger. Default brightness lowered again.
Blue Light = 50% 1.9 5031K A highly effective LBL setting. The image is significantly warmer than default with a significant decrease in blue light output. The green tint is quite noticeable as the green channel is not lowered so remains relatively strong.
Test Settings (as below) 2.2 6495K Image is well-balanced with quite a vibrant and varied look overall.

Out of the box the monitor was set to a sensible brightness level and was quite vibrant in some respects, but lacked saturation in others. The white point was quite well-balanced, but gamma tracking was off. Fortunately, an OSD setting was included with an appropriate offset to correct gamma and puts things much more in-line with our preferred ‘2.2’ curve. Following the adjustments made to our ‘Test Settings’ (which included this gamma change), gamma tracking was close to the ‘2.2’ curve as shown below.

Gamma 'Test Settings'

Gamma 'Test Settings'

The monitor includes a factory calibration, complete with sRGB emulation mode. A calibration report is included with each unit to show adherence to certain targets and key attributes as shown below. Given the measured gamma and measured gamut with the sRGB emulation mode (explored later), we wouldn’t put too much weight on “accurate out of the box colour performance” within the sRGB colour space for this model, however. Following gamma changes through the OSD and sticking with the native gamut will be a more appealing choice for most users.

Factory calibration report

The monitor also offers a selection of ‘Blue Light’ LBL settings, with varying effectiveness from ‘50%’ (highest reduction) to ‘80%’ (weakest reduction). The strongest setting was particularly effective at reducing blue light output. Successively stronger settings also reduced the default brightness – brightness is fully controllable by the user in each setting and the most effective blue light reduction comes from decreasing brightness as well. We’d advise reducing this further than the default value, as long as you find it comfortable and practical to do so. Cutting blue light exposure in the hours leading up towards sleep is important due to the stimulating nature of blue light and its effect on sleep hormones. It can be more relaxing in general at other times of the day, too.

As is quite common with LBL settings, a strong green channel is maintained which minimises the impact on contrast from applying the LBL settings. It gives a somewhat green look to the image, although your eyes adapt to this to an extent over time and it becomes less noticeable. If you found this too bothersome you could replicate the colour channel adjustments made with the ‘Blue Light’ setting of your choice but also reduce the green colour channel manually. You can then save these colour channel adjustments to one of the numbered ‘G’ presets so you can easily recall them later. We used the strongest LBL setting (with reduced brightness and appropriate ‘+0.3’ relative gamma) for our own viewing comfort in the evening. Although not for specific testing beyond that involving the setting itself.

Test Settings

Our ‘Test Settings’ involved slight changes to brightness and colour channels, plus nudging ‘Relative Gamma’ up one notch. Assume any setting not mentioned, including ‘Contrast’, was left at default for the ‘Standard’ setting. Note that ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ was disabled for consistency in the review. This is explored separately in various sections of the review. Note that individual preferences and units of the same model vary, so these settings aren’t going to be optimal in all cases and are just a suggestion. We’ve also included the ‘Over Drive’ setting used, just for reference.

Aside from the HDR section, all of our testing was performed with applications and the monitor running in their normal SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) state. HDR has its own OSD settings associated with it. Note that the ‘Brightness’ setting becomes ‘Ref. white (nits)’ but is greyed out under HDR and can’t be adjusted. This is a hangover from the Acer X27, which uses a similar OSD and did allow this setting to be altered. We left everything as per our ‘Test Settings’ under HDR, meaning everything was as default except for the colour channel adjustments. The ‘Relative Gamma’ settings is greyed out under HDR, but gamma is set differently and is dynamically adjusted under HDR anyway.


Mode= ‘Standard’ (becomes ‘User’ after modified)

Brightness = 32 (according to preferences and lighting)

Relative Gamma = +0.3

Color Temp. = User

Red Color= 100

Green Color= 99

Blue Color= 98

Over Drive= Normal

Over Clock= On

Refresh rate (Windows setting)= 200Hz


Contrast and brightness

Contrast ratios

We used a an X-Rite i1Display Pro to measure white and black luminance levels, from which static contrast ratios could be calculated. The table below shows this data with a range of settings used, including those covered in the calibration section. Assume any setting not mentioned was left at default, except for the changes already covered in the calibration section. Black highlights indicate the highest white luminance and lowest black luminance recorded. Blue highlights show the results with HDR active and also under our ‘Test Settings’.


*HDR measurements were made using this YouTube HDR brightness test video, running full screen at ‘1440p HDR’ on Google Chrome. The maximum reading from the smallest patch size (measurement area) that comfortably covered the entire sensor area and colorimeter housing was used for the white luminance measurement, which was ‘4% of all pixels’ in this case. The black luminance was taken at the same point of the video with the colorimeter offset to the side of the white test patch, equidistant between the test patch and inner edge of the monitor bezel.

**Measurements for the ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ setting were made in the same way, but with the monitor and test running in SDR.

The average contrast ratio with only brightness adjusted was 2420:1, excluding ‘0’ brightness where the colorimeter was unable to read the low black luminance with sufficient precision. Very close to the specified 2500:1 and sufficient to give an inkier look to dark elements such as black text against lighter backgrounds compared to typical non-VA LCDs. Following adjustments made to our ‘Test Settings’, contrast ratio was recorded as bang on 2500:1. Relatively strong contrast (>2254:1) was maintained on all settings tested, with only a slight reduction (2254:1) with even the strongest Low Blue Light setting applied. The maximum white luminance recorded on the table (under SDR) was a bright 521 cd/m², whilst the minimum white luminance recorded was a good dim 18 cd/m². This gave an exceptional brightness adjustment range of 503 cd/m².

With ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ set to ‘On’, the monitor makes use of its 512 dimming zone FALD (Full Array Local Dimming) solution to enhance contrast. We recorded a similar white luminance to the respective brightness setting without this setting active. Whilst the black luminance, with colorimeter offset as described below the table, was enhanced significantly. This gave contrast ratios of 6567:1 (‘35’ brightness) and 7314:1 (‘100’ brightness) which is a significant boost. We explore the practical implications of this later in the review. Under HDR the fancy backlight array is put to full use and becomes very dynamic indeed. We measured a very bright peak white luminance of 1130 cd/m² with a very low accompanying black point (colorimeter offset as described). So low, in fact, that it was below the lowest level our colorimeter could measure. This gave an exceptional contrast ratio of 113,000:1 under HDR. You could see by eye that the white block was exceptionally bright, with a greyish black area directly surrounding it. A ‘halo’ effect, explored in more detail later on, due to some dimming zones sharing black and white content. But there was a fairly prompt transition to a very deep and inky-looking black. The colorimeter offset we use isn’t as forgiving as some methodologies which record the black point right in the corner of the screen. So it was good to see such strong black depth at the measurement site, whilst the monitor was pumping out extreme luminance centrally.

PWM (Pulse Width Modulation)

The X35 does not use PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) to regulate backlight brightness at any level and instead uses DC (Direct Current). The backlight is therefore considered ‘flicker-free’, which will come as welcome news to those worried about side-effects from PWM usage.

Luminance uniformity

Whilst observing a black screen in a dark room under our ‘Test Settings’, we observed some backlight bleed and clouding, particularly towards the bottom of the screen. Note that individual units vary when it comes to backlight bleed and clouding. The results on our unit are shown in the image below, taken a sufficient distance back to eliminate so-called ‘VA glow’. This is a silverish-purple glow that appears towards the bottom corners in particular from a normal viewing position. It was not a major feature on this model from a normal viewing position, but blooms out in a more noticeable way from sharper viewing angles, as demonstrated in the viewing angles video later on. The ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ was set to ‘Off’ for this image. With the setting enabled the backlight zones dim to exceptionally low levels for black screen fills like this. We explore this setting whilst viewing a range of content (including darker content) elsewhere in the review.

Monitor displaying black in a dark room

The Spyder5ELITE colorimeter was used to assess the uniformity of lighter shades, represented by 9 equidistant white quadrants running from the top left to bottom right of the screen. The table below shows the luminance recorded at each quadrant and the deviation between a given quadrant and the brightest quadrant.

Luminance uniformity table

Luminance uniformity table

The luminance uniformity of the screen was pleasing overall. The brightest point recorded was ‘quadrant 5’ in the centre of the screen (154.6 cd/m²). The average deviation between each quadrant and the brightest recorded point was 6.5%, which is decent. Remember that individual units vary when it comes to uniformity and that there may be further deviation beyond the points measured. The contour map below gives a graphical representation of this deviation. Here, darker greys represent lower luminance and hence greater deviation from the brightest point than lighter greys.

Luminance uniformity map

Luminance uniformity map

We also measured the colour temperature (white point) uniformity of the same 9 quadrants. Deviations here are assigned DeltaE values, with higher values showing greater deviation from the 6500K (D65) daylight white point target than lower values. A value below DeltaE 3 is considered deviation that most users wouldn’t readily notice by eye.

Colour temperature uniformity map

Colour temperature uniformity map

The results here were also pleasing, with no significant deviations recorded. The maximum deviation from 6500K was recorded as DeltaE 1.3, right of centre. Note again that individual units vary when it comes to uniformity and you can expect deviation beyond the measured points. On VA panels such as this it’s also important to be aware of perceived shifts in colour temperature and brightness which occur due to viewing angle weaknesses. These aren’t accounted for by colorimeter-based measurements such as this. In addition to the quantitative testing above, we performed a subjective assessment of the uniformity of a variety of ‘medium’ shades, including 50% grey. Some monitors exhibit uniformity issues such as splotches or striations when viewing screen fills of such shades, giving an inconsistent appearance that some users refer to as ‘DSE’ (‘Dirty Screen Effect’). VA models are particularly prone to this, but we did not observe any clear issues of this nature on our X35 sample. Minor patchiness in places, but no clear striations or obvious splotches of significantly different shade brightness.

Contrast in games and movies

Note that the observations below were made using our ‘Test Settings’ with ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ off. This feature is analysed separately in a later section of the review.

On Battlefield V the monitor provided a pleasing contrast performance. Darker elements such as dimly lit building interiors and shaded areas appeared with good depth, with brighter elements such as fire and muzzle flashes standing out very nicely against them. There was a degree of ‘black crush’, a typical VA characteristics whereby the region of the screen your eyes are directly in-line with appears with high perceived gamma. Dark shades blend into one another more readily as they appear darker than intended, masking some of the finer details. This was a minor factor on this model, though, about as low as we’ve seen on any VA model. Another factor affecting darker areas was ‘VA glow’, a slight lightening towards the sides of the screen and particularly the bottom. This was nowhere near as pronounced as ‘IPS glow’ nor as obvious as the ‘VA glow’ on some models, so it didn’t affect the atmosphere of dark scenes too much. Lighter elements appeared fairly smooth without obvious graininess from the screen surface – just a very light ‘misty’ graininess that most users won’t find bothersome or necessarily even noticeable.

We also observed the contrast performance on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The monitor provided an appropriate atmosphere on this title, with dimly lit caves and passageways appearing fairly dark. There was again a bit of masking of some subtle details here due to ‘black crush’, but this was not a major factor. The porous rock textures on some surfaces, which indicate it is a climbable surface, were always visible even if slightly more masked than intended. This contrasts with the top region of your typical TN model where they’d be very heavily masked due to perceived gamma. This strong atmosphere was maintained well peripherally, too, despite a bit of ‘VA glow’. This certainly had a reduced effect on the image compared to ‘IPS glow’ on the likes of the PG27UQ, which is already reduced compared to some IPS models. Brighter elements such as flames and bright patches of daylight stood out nicely against darker surroundings, with the fairly smooth screen surface keeping them free from obvious graininess.

We also observed the contrast performance on the film Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This movie has many high-contrast scenes containing bright elements such as light sabres, pulses of energy and explosions against dark backgrounds. The monitor provided an appropriate cinematic look to this film, with bright elements standing out nicely against dark surroundings. And the darker elements themselves appearing with respectable depth. We didn’t really find the minor ‘VA glow’ or ‘black crush’ detracted from the atmospheric look of this title and felt the monitor presented things nicely in terms of contrast.

Lagom contrast tests

The Lagom tests for contrast allow specific weaknesses in contrast performance to be identified. The following observations were made.

  • The contrast gradients were displayed well, with distinct brightness steps in most cases. The darkest blue block blended in a bit readily with the background.
  • Performance on the black level test was reasonable. There was a degree of ‘black crush’, as described in the subjective testing earlier. This affected the visibility of blocks on the first row in particular, making them blend into the background a bit too readily due to appearing somewhat darker and less distinct than intended. It’s normal for a monitor tracking the ‘2.2’ gamma curve to have the first few blocks appear blended, although the remaining blocks on the first row were not as distinct as they ideally would be. The blocks shift readily in tone and brightness if you move your head, something we liken to an ‘oil slick effect’. There was no obvious dithering.
  • Performance in the white saturation test was very good. The final checkerboard pattern blended in a bit more readily than it ideally would, but was faintly visible against the background. All other patterns were visible.
  • The greyscale gradient appeared smooth without obvious banding or dithering.

Colour reproduction

Colour gamut

The Acer X35’s colour gamut (red triangle) was compared to the sRGB (green triangle) and Adobe RGB (purple triangle) reference spaces, as shown in the first image below. The monitor fully covers sRGB (100%) with some extension beyond this (82% Adobe RGB). This model doesn’t specifically target the Adobe RGB coverage, rather Acer specifies 90% DCI-P3 coverage. DCI-P3 is the near-term target gamut for HDR content, so good coverage of this is desirable for HDR purposes. Our colorimeter software doesn’t allow comparison with the DCI-P3 space, unfortunately, but what from the diagram it appears to offer around the promised DCI-P3 coverage level. This allows the monitor to display all shades within the sRGB colour space, with a bit of extra vibrancy and saturation for your typical SDR content designed with the sRGB colour space in mind. It also allows good use of the HDR10 pipeline’s preferred DCI-P3 colour space for HDR content. The second image below shows the ASUS PG27UQ’s native colour gamut, for comparison. Note that it extends significantly further in all regions, particularly the green region of this diagram. 97% DCI-P3 coverage is specified that that model.

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut PG27UQ (for comparison)

Colour gamut PG27UQ (for comparison)


The monitor also offers an sRGB emulation mode (‘SDR Colors sRGB’ in the ‘Color’ section of the OSD). This cuts down the colour gamut massively to avoid over-coverage of sRGB, reducing saturation levels. Unfortunately, this setting provides significant under-coverage of the sRGB colour space (87% sRGB), so we’d advise users stick to using the native gamut instead. If calibrating and profiling the monitor and using a colour-managed workflow, the native gamut would act as a better base of calibration within the sRGB colour space than this emulation setting.

Colour gamut 'sRGB'

Colour gamut 'sRGB'


Colour in games and movies

The monitor presented colours in quite a vibrant and varied way on Battlefield V, which as with most content under SDR is designed with the sRGB colour space in mind. The generous but not extreme colour gamut provided some extra saturation, allowing vibrant licks of colour such as roaring orange flames and lush forest greens to stand out in a vivid but still natural-looking way. Earthy browns and woody tones had a slightly stronger than intended red hue, but this was subtle when compared to models with more extreme extension beyond sRGB. Colours certainly didn’t have the intense extra saturation you’d observe on the ASUS PG27UQ or Acer X27, for example. There were some losses of saturation towards the flanks and bottom of the screen related to perceived gamma shifts. Shades still looked rather vivid even at the extremities of the screen, from a normal viewing position (~65cm+, sitting fairly centrally). The shifts in saturation were about as low as we’ve seen on a VA model really. They were certainly not as noticeable as on some VA models, particularly large screen flat models such as the Philips 326M6VJRMB and 436M6VBPAB.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider was also presented in a vivid and varied way. Shades appeared with a bit of extra depth and saturation due to the colour gamut – just enough to make the game world appear vivid rather than unnatural. Lara’s skin appeared slightly more tanned than it should (when displayed in the central region of the screen) but not heavily tanned or sunburnt. Some reddish brown hues appeared only slightly too red overall, but still natural. A nice range of natural-looking greens was displayed for vegetation, too, with some appearing with slightly brighter yellow hues than intended but nothing extreme. Roaring orange and yellow flames, brightly painted red pottery and deep purple flowers were just some examples of very nicely presented vibrant-looking shades that stood out well on this model. With a somewhat more saturated look than intended by the developers, but nothing garish. There were some losses of saturation peripherally, as observed on Battlefield V, but only modest losses. The overall look remained quite vibrant and something many users will find appealing.

We also made observations on the film title Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder. With large areas of solid shade this is a brutally unforgiving test of colour consistency. Revealing weaknesses in a strikingly obvious way. Even with this, the monitor performed quite well for its panel type. There were certainly losses in saturation towards the side edges and bottom of the screen from a normal viewing position. But these shifts were far less pronounced than the vertical shifts on a TN model or indeed the shifts on some VA models. It affected different shades to different degrees. It caused some already subtle pastel shades to appear quite faded near the extreme edges and meant that some shades lost their identity and individuality. But the overall look was still largely appropriate, with a nice range of muted shades appearing appropriately muted next to a good range of vibrant neon shades and strong deep shades. In other words, the overall look of the film was quite appropriate with a nice variety of shades.

Viewing angles

Lagom’s tests for viewing angle help explore the idea of colour consistency and viewing angle performance. The following observations were made from a normal viewing position, eyes around 70cm from the screen.

  • The purple block appeared a bluish purple in a large central cone in the middle of the screen. Surrounding this it appeared more of a pinkish purple. The hues shifted readily alongside head movement.
  • The red block appeared quite a rich read throughout. It was slightly duller and less saturated towards the edges of the screen, but about as consistent as we’ve seen this shade displayed on a VA model of this sort of size.
  • The green block appeared a saturated chartreuse green for the most part. There was a bit of extra yellowing towards the bottom of the screen.
  • The blue block appeared deep blue throughout.
  • The Lagom text appeared blended grey with a very subtle green tint to the striping in a large central cone. Surrounding this the striping appeared with a red hue. This more blended cone shifted alongside head movement, appearing at the point of the screen directly in-line with your eyes. There were no bright shifts between highly saturated green, orange and red as you’d observe on a TN panel. This indicates a moderate viewing angle dependency to the gamma curve of the monitor, typical for a VA panel. The following photo gives a rough indication of how the Lagom text appeared.
Lagom Text Test

The following video shows the Lagom text test, a mixed desktop background and dark desktop background from various viewing angles. The final section of the video shows the dark desktop background with ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ feature enabled. For the mixed image you can see some shifts in colour and contrast, particularly at steeper angles. The image is free from ‘colour inversion’ as you’d see vertically on a TN model. The black background highlights ‘VA glow’ as it blooms out from more extreme angles. As noted elsewhere it’s quite a minor feature on this model really. With ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ enabled you can see a ‘halo’ effect around brighter elements such as the desktop icons and taskbar, becoming a lot more visible as the angle becomes more extreme.


Interlace pattern artifacts

On some monitors, particularly but not exclusively those with high refresh rates, interlace patterns can be seen during certain transitions. We refer to these as ‘interlace pattern artifacts’ but some users refer to them as ‘inversion artifacts’ and others as ‘scan lines’. They may appear as an interference pattern, mesh or interlaced lines which break up a given shade into a darker and lighter version of what is intended. They often catch the eye due to their dynamic nature, on models where they manifest themselves in this way. Alternatively, static interlace patterns may be seen with some shades appearing as faint horizontal or vertical bands of a slightly lighter and slightly darker version of the intended shade.

We observed static interlace patterns on rare occasions, when certain static images were displayed on the screen. One of the desktop backgrounds in our rotation, a mountain landscape, caused obvious static interlacing on the desktop background, taskbar and UI elements (vertical striping). The background itself is displayed on the monitor in the first image below, whilst the second image shows a zoomed-in section showing some icons and an area of background exhibiting the effect. It’s extremely difficult to capture on camera and this only gives a very rough idea of the vertical interlacing. This occurred regardless of the refresh rate selected. We observed the same sort of thing in Microsoft Word with 4 pages spread across the screen.

The offending mountain wallpaper

Zoomed in section

We noticed some slight dynamic interlace patterns in places as well, particularly under HDR, although for the most part these would be too faint for most users to notice or find bothersome. More noticeable was some obvious flickering and strong interlace pattern artifacts (thick ‘dancing lines’ with textures breaking up into a heavily interlaced pattern). This is likely an inversion artifact issue related to imperfect voltage regulation on the monitor. It occurred if the monitor was running beyond ~80Hz when certain textures were displayed. It wasn’t particularly widespread in general, although BFV seemed to have various scenes which caused the issue in a particularly obvious way. It was very rare on Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Mass Effect Andromeda, although there were some isolated instances on those titles. And there were some notable instances on Fallout 76, particularly during foggy weather. It is particularly noticeable if the refresh rate is fluctuating, so with G-SYNC active and the frame rate between 80 – 200fps. It doesn’t matter what static refresh rate is selected (except 60Hz, of course). Disabling ‘Over Drive’ rather than using ‘Normal’ or ‘Extreme’ fixes this issue, but obviously that’s an unattractive solution. This section of video highlights the issue and discusses the conditions under which it occurs.

As noted in the video we’ve been in communication with Acer regarding the obvious flickering and heavy interlace pattern artifact issue. Nvidia were also made aware of the issue. This issue has been resolved with new firmware.

Responsiveness

Input lag

A small utility called SMTT 2.0 was used alongside a sensitive camera to analyse the latency of the Acer X35, with over 30 repeat readings taken to maximise accuracy. Using this method, we calculated 4.91ms (~1 frame at 200Hz) of input lag. Note that this measurement reflects both the element of input lag you ‘see’ (pixel responsiveness) and the element you ‘feel’ (signal delay). It indicates a low signal delay which shouldn’t bother most users. Note that we do not have the means to accurately measure input lag in an HDR environment or with G-SYNC active in a variable refresh rate and frame rate environment.

Perceived blur (pursuit photography)

Our article on monitor responsiveness covers key concepts surrounding the topic. A key concept explored there is the notion of ‘perceived blur’. This is contributed to by both the movement of your eyes as you track motion on the screen and also the pixel responses of the monitor. The former is the key source of perceived blur on modern monitors, although the latter is also important. We also introduce a photography technique called ‘pursuit photography’, which uses a moving camera to capture motion on a monitor in a way that reflects both the pixel responsiveness and eye (camera) movement. Static photographs or videos, on the other hand, only represent the pixel response element of perceived blur.

The images below are pursuit photographs taken using the UFO Motion Test for ghosting, with the test running at its default speed of 960 pixels per second. This is a good practical speed for capturing such photographs and highlights both elements of perceived blur nicely. The UFOs move across the screen from left to right at a frame rate matching the refresh rate of the display. The monitor was tested at 60Hz (directly below), 144Hz and 200Hz using all three ‘Over Drive’ settings; ‘Off’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Extreme’. Note that the monitor can also be set to 100Hz, 120Hz and 180Hz with perceived blur being some way between the respective values we’ve tested. All rows of the UFO Motion Test were used, highlighting a range of pixel transitions between various shades. The two final columns show two reference screens for comparison, where possible. The Acer Z35, which is the original 200Hz VA model from the company. And the ViewSonic XG240R, which is a very fast TN model that shows how things look where pixel responses are very rapid and not really a limiting factor. Both reference screens are using what we consider to be their optimal pixel response time settings.

Perceived blur, 60Hz

At 60Hz, shown above, the UFOs appear relatively soft and unfocused without clear internal detailing. This reflects a moderate degree of perceived blur attributed to eye (camera) movement. There are also various amounts of trailing behind the UFOs due to weaknesses in pixel responsiveness. With ‘Over Drive’ set to ‘Off’ there is a fairly bold but short trail behind for the medium background (middle row), bolder and more extended for the dark background (bottom row). The light background (bottom row) shows no clear weaknesses in pixel responsiveness. The ‘Normal’ setting doesn’t really have much effect at 60Hz, for the transitions shown here, whereas the ‘Extreme’ setting introduces some overshoot (inverse ghosting). You can see some ‘dirty trailing’ (dark shadow-like trailing) behind the UFO for the dark background, with a bit of dirtying for the medium background. This occurred very mildly for the ‘Normal’ setting for the medium background as well, but in all cases this is subtle overshoot for this background. The Z35 reference shot shows more extensive ‘smeary’ trailing for the medium and dark backgrounds. Overall and considering a broader range of pixel transitions, we’d consider the ‘Normal’ setting optimal at 60Hz. The image below shows how things look with the refresh rate bumped up considerably to 144Hz.

Perceived blur, 144Hz

At 144Hz, above, the UFOs appear significantly narrower and more sharply focused, with better internal detailing. This reflects a significant reduction in perceived blur due to eye movement. There are again varying degrees of trailing behind the UFOs. The ‘Off’ setting provides similar trailing behaviour to the same setting at 60Hz, but the pixel response demands have increased and perceived blur due to eye movement decreased due to the increased refresh rate and frame rate. You’re therefore left with trailing that is bolder and extends further behind the object. The ‘Normal’ setting ramps up the pixel overdrive so it’s more effective at this increased refresh rate. Some ‘powdery’ trailing remains for the medium and dark background, extended more for the dark background – but it’s less bold and extensive than the ‘Off’ setting. It’s also significantly less bold, extensive and ‘smeary’ than the reference Z35 screen. There’s also a little overshoot introduced, with a bit of bright (‘halo’) trailing behind the legs for the medium background and some overshoot mixed in with the conventional trailing for both the dark and medium backgrounds (behind the UFO body). This is not as strong as on the Z35 reference. The ‘Extreme’ setting ramps up the pixel overdrive up considerably. Much of the conventional trailing is gone, but it is replaced with obvious overshoot – including colourful ‘halo’ trailing. It’s clear from this analysis that the ‘Normal’ setting is optimal. Below you can see how things look with the refresh rate boosted to 200Hz, using the internal ‘Over Clock’ feature of the monitor.

Perceived blur, 200Hz

The UFO is more sharply focused again, with some more distinct internal detailing including for the segmentation on the UFO’s body. This reflects a further reduction in perceived blur due to eye movement. There are again varying degrees of trailing behind the object. The respective ‘Over Drive’ settings work in much the same way as at 144Hz. The ‘Normal’ setting is again optimal. There are weaknesses, particularly for the dark and to a lesser extent medium background. Due to the increased refresh rate and increased pixel response requirements this carries with it, the trailing is a bit more pronounced than at 144Hz. But the weaknesses in pixel responsiveness aren’t as noticeable as on the Z35 reference. The ‘Extreme’ setting gives particularly bright and eye-catching overshoot now. On VA models in particular the pixel response speeds vary greatly depending on the shades (grey levels) involved in the transitions. This is reflected in this testing, but it’s important to look at a much broader range of transitions (grey levels) than shown here. And that’s something we’ll assess subjectively using in-game examples.

Responsiveness in games and movies

On Battlefield V the monitor provided a fluid experience, where the frame rate kept pace with the 200Hz refresh rate. Compared to a 60Hz monitor (or this monitor running at 60Hz), you’re getting ~3.33 times as much visual information every second. And compared to a 144Hz monitor, you’re getting ~1.39 as much visual information. This gives a strong ‘connected feel’, which describes the precision and fluidity that is felt when interacting with the game world. The low input lag also aided this feeling, but even with low input lag you can’t replicate this same ‘connected feel’ on a model with significantly lower refresh rate. The overall perceived blur is also greatly reduced, as demonstrated earlier using Test UFO. Compared to 144Hz, the step up to 200Hz isn’t dramatic – it’s more of a slight edge in both of these key areas. It certainly isn’t as noticeable as the step up from 60Hz to 144Hz and given how difficult it is to maintain ~200fps at 3440 x 1440 most users should see anything beyond low to mid triple digit frame rates as a bonus rather than essential.

Another key attribute which affects perceived blur is pixel responsiveness. We’ll set the scene using various high refresh rate VA monitors we’ve tested over the years. The worst performers are the likes of the old Acer Z35 (the original 2560 x 1080 @200Hz UltraWide model), with relatively obvious and widespread ‘smeary’ trailing. And, particularly at higher refresh rates, a large amount of ugly and eye-catching overshoot. The best high refresh rate VA models for pixel responsiveness would be the likes of the AOC C24G1 set to its ‘Strong’ overdrive setting, or the LG 32GK850G using the ‘Faster’ response time setting and with G-SYNC active in the graphics driver. The LG is a curious model in that G-SYNC’s activation state in the graphics driver affects pixel responsiveness quite markedly, something which some other reviewers didn’t do when assessing pixel response performance. These models have some weaknesses in terms of ‘powdery’ trailing, but there isn’t too much ‘smeary’ trailing to speak of. There’s relatively strong overshoot, although nothing as ugly as on the old Z35. Some way above that, there’s quite a spread of models such as the AOC AG273QCX, LG 32GK850F and a bit towards the faster side the Samsung C27HG70 all using appropriate optimal overdrive settings. There are some standout weaknesses there, although many pixel transitions are fairly fast – more so on the Samsung.

We’d put the Acer X35 some way between the best performers and the aforementioned Samsung, which is certainly nothing to be sniffed at. Most pixel transitions were performed very quickly, putting the 200Hz refresh rate to good use and delivering good low levels of perceived blur. There are weaknesses for some transitions, however. There’s a bit of ‘light powdery’ trailing in places, particularly where light objects are set against medium shades in the background. Examples of this are fairly isolated and this degree of trailing has a reasonably mild effect on perceived blur. There’s also some overshoot in the form of both slightly bright ‘halo’ trails and dark ‘shadowy’ trailing. Sensitivity to this varies, but we didn’t find it bothersome or particularly widespread – it was less noticeable than on those ‘fast VA’ examples we gave earlier. Even adding many darker shades into the mix only provided some ‘powdery’ trailing for the most part, but not the sort of widespread ‘smeary’ trailing of some VA models. There were some transitions that exhibited more distinct weaknesses, usually where a mixture of medium-dark and dark shades were involved in the transition. There were instances of ‘heavy powdery’ trailing with a ‘smeary’ quality in places. For example, moving against a dark post with twilight sky in the background. Or with very light shades (white or near-white) against significantly darker backgrounds – such as white in-game icons against dimly lit interiors. There was also a bit of ‘break-up’ trailing whereby some of the colours contained within very dark objects, such as blue, appeared to leach out with a slightly colourful trailing. Like wetting a page with water soluble ink on it. Even these more pronounced trailing examples didn’t have the sort of extensive smeary quality of some VA models, though, and the slowest pixel transitions which caused the most noticeable issues weren’t particularly widespread. The section of the video review below gives some examples of the trailing behaviour and highlights the strengths of the monitor’s responsiveness.



Whilst we don’t consider ourselves competitive gamers, we still like to do well on games like Battlefield V. We didn’t feel this model significantly hampered our gaming performance on titles like this or that we’d perform significantly better on a high refresh rate model with universally fast pixel responses. This contrasts with many high refresh rate VA models, where there are weaknesses which are obvious or widespread enough to really undermine competitive gameplay or cause general frustration. Examples of screens with such weaknesses were given earlier. Even the Samsung C27HG70, which is far from the slowest VA offering, gives us this feeling of being somewhat held back competitively in a way we don’t really on the X35. We wouldn’t say it’s just the pixel responsiveness that gave a good feeling to competitive gameplay for us. But the combination of high refresh rate, decent pixel responsiveness, low input lag and enhanced FOV from the 21:9 aspect ratio all came into play. This is all very subjective and personal sensitivities vary, of course.

Given the extensive analysis above, we don’t really have much to add from our experiences on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Naturally, this is a somewhat more laid-back adventure game where the competitive edge isn’t so important. Nonetheless, the high refresh rate and good overall pixel responsiveness gave a nice edge to our enjoyment on this title. High contrast scenes are naturally widespread on this title, so some of the weaknesses we observed on BFV applied here as well. A bit of overshoot in places and some clearly slower than optimal pixel transitions involving very dark shades. But these weaknesses were neither extreme nor particularly widespread in our view. Even when running about in dark caves, things looked distinctly unlike they do on most VA models. We also observed a range of movie and video content, of various frame rates, including ~24 – 30fps content and 50 – 60fps. There were no clear weaknesses for the lower frame rate content, whilst only some isolated weaknesses for the higher frame rate content. A bit of ‘powdery’ trailing and a very small amount of (rather faint) overshoot in places. We didn’t find these weaknesses distracting or even particularly easy to notice in general, not as ‘in your face’ as the weaknesses on some VA models. The frame rate was the main limit to fluidity for this content rather than there being clear and widespread weaknesses from the monitor’s pixel responses.

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Acer X35


G-SYNC – the technology and activating it

Nvidia G-SYNC is a variable refresh rate technology that can be activated when a compatible Nvidia GPU is connected to a compatible monitor (such as the Acer X35). Our article on the technology explores the principles behind the technology and its benefits, so we won’t be repeating too much of that. Essentially the technology allows the monitor to dynamically adjust its refresh rate to match, where possible, the frame rate outputted by the GPU. When the two are in sync it gets rid of the tearing (VSync off) and stuttering (VSync on) that occurs when the two are unsynchronised. An additional benefit for those who hate tearing and usually like to use VSync is a reduction in latency compared to ‘VSync on’ in the variable frame rate environment. As noted in the responsiveness section, though, we don’t have a way to accurately measure this.

This monitor supports G-SYNC via DP 1.4 (DisplayPort), once connected to a compatible Nvidia GPU such as the GTX 1080 Ti used in our test system. Once connected up, G-SYNC should be automatically configured and ready to use. There’s usually even a little notification icon in the system tray telling you that a G-SYNC compatible display is detected. To check everything is configured correctly, open Nvidia Control Panel and navigate to ‘Display – Set Up G-SYNC’. Ensure that the checkbox for ‘Enable G-SYNC’ is checked, then select your preferred operating mode. As the image below shows, this technology works in both ‘Full Screen’ and ‘Window’ modes, provided the correct option is selected for this. If the G-SYNC options seem to be missing from Nvidia Control Panel, this may be remedied by reconnecting the GPU or possibly connecting the monitor to a different DP output if there’s one available. If the options are still missing, reinstalling the GPU driver or updating this is recommended.

Enable G-SYNC

Enable G-SYNC

Next you should navigate to ‘Manage 3D settings’. Here there are a few settings of interest, the first of which is ‘Monitor Technology’. This should be set to ‘G-SYNC’ as shown below. Assuming this is all set up correctly, you should see ‘NVIDIA G-SYNC’ listed as ‘Mode’ in the ‘Information’ section of the OSD menu (press top menu button when in main menu). The refresh rate listed there just corresponds to the static refresh rate you’ve selected in Windows or your game (‘Max Refresh Rate’ as stated). You can also set ‘Refresh rate num’ to ‘On’ in the ‘OSD’ section of the OSD to display the current refresh rate. This will correspond to your content’s frame rate if G-SYNC is actively doing its thing.

Set Monitor Technology to G-SYNC

Set Monitor Technology to G-SYNC

The second setting of interest is VSync, which can be set to one of the following; ‘On’, ‘Use the 3D application setting’, ‘Off’ or ‘Fast’ (GPU dependent). The Acer supports a variable refresh rate range of 30 – 200Hz, with the maximum value (ceiling) corresponding to the refresh rate you’ve selected for the monitor in Windows or your game. That means that if the game is running between 30fps and 200fps, the monitor will adjust its refresh rate to match. When the frame rate rises above 200fps, the monitor will stay at 200Hz and the GPU will respect your VSync setting in the graphics driver. If you select ‘On’, VSync activates if the frame rate exceeds the static refresh rate that you’ve selected (e.g. 200Hz / 200fps) and the usual VSync latency penalty applies. If you select ‘Off’ then the frame rate is free to rise in an unrestricted way, but the monitor will only go as high as 200Hz – tearing and juddering will ensue if the frame rate rises above this. The ‘Use the 3D application setting’ largely works as you’d expect, but the general recommendation is to set VSync in the graphics driver if you wish to use it as in-game implementations can interfere with the smooth operation of G-SYNC. Some users prefer to leave VSync disabled and use a frame rate limiter set several frames below the maximum supported (e.g. 196fps) instead, avoiding any VSync latency penalty at frame rates near the ceiling of operation or tearing from frame rates rising above the refresh rate.

The ‘Fast’ option is available on some newer GPUs, such as the GTX 1080 Ti used in our test system. This enables a technology called ‘Fast Sync’, which only applies above the refresh rate and frame rate ceiling (>200Hz / 200fps). Below this G-SYNC operates as normal, whereas above this a special version of VSync called ‘Fast Sync’ is activated. This is a GPU rather than monitor feature so isn’t something we will explain in detail, but it is designed to reduce tearing at frame rates well above the refresh rate of the monitor. If you’re interested in this technology, which may be the case if you play older or less graphically demanding games at very high frame rates, you should watch this section of a video by Tom Petersen.

Set VSync according to preferences

Set VSync according to preferences

If the frame rate drops below the lowest refresh rate supported by the monitor (i.e. the G-SYNC floor of 30Hz / 30fps) then the monitor sets its refresh rate to a multiple of the frame rate. This occurs regardless of VSync setting. If for example the game ran at 18fps, the monitor would set itself to 36Hz. This keeps stuttering and tearing from non-even divisions of frame rate and refresh rate at bay. As we explore shortly, though, low frame rates are low frame rates regardless of the technology. So whilst it is always beneficial to have stuttering and tearing removed, it’s also beneficial to have an elevated frame rate where possible. It’s also worth remembering that G-SYNC can’t eliminate stuttering caused by other issues on the system or game environment such as insufficient RAM or network latency. Some game engines will also show stuttering (or ‘hitching’) for various other reasons which won’t be eliminated by the technology. Finally, note that G-SYNC can be used at the same time as HDR.

G-SYNC – the experience

We tested a range of game titles on this monitor using G-SYNC, with the technology working in much the same way across all titles. We’ll therefore be focusing on just one title in this section; Battlefield V. Achieving 200fps is no easy task on titles like this at 3440 x 1440, even with a fairly powerful GPU such as the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti at the helm. There were frequent drops below this, which would ordinarily cause a frame rate and refresh rate mismatch where a variable refresh rate technology like G-SYNC is absent. Enabling VSync would give obvious (to us – sensitivity varies) stuttering whilst disabling VSync would give obvious (to us) tearing and a juddering effect, in such scenarios. With G-SYNC enabled there are no such mismatches and the refresh rate is dynamically adjusted to match the frame rate. This keeps things ticking over nicely, without such interruptions to the flow.

Even with G-SYNC active, reduced frame rates can be felt due to the decreased ‘connected feel’ and increase in perceived blur than ensues. The drops down to 144fps, as an example, reduce the ‘connected feel’ a little and slightly increase overall perceived blur. But the comparison with 200fps is not exactly dramatic. With graphics settings ramped up or more intense scenes, it’s common to see further drops, into the double digits. At the upper end of this (~100fps) the drop off in ‘connected feel’ and increase in perceived blur is significant compared to ~200fps – but the game is still quite playable. As things drop further, the drop-off in both areas becomes something of a nuisance. Much less of a nuisance than when it is coupled with tearing or stuttering from refresh rate mismatches, however. G-SYNC again did its thing to rid the experience of such unpleasantries.

In extreme situations, with absurdly high graphics settings (including hugely increased rendering resolution), dips below 30fps were observed. Although the monitor can’t refresh at below 30Hz, G-SYNC ensures that the monitor’s refresh rate sticks to an exact multiple of the frame rate. This did its thing to keep tearing and stuttering at bay and there was no obvious transition when it happened. However; the ‘connected feel’ and extreme level of ‘perceived blur’ makes playing at such frame rates very unpleasant anyway. An additional distraction that’s common to FreeSync monitors (those using Adaptive-Sync rather than a dedicated G-SYNC board) is ever-increasing overshoot levels as frame rate reduces. As a G-SYNC model, variable overdrive is used to slacken off the pixel overdrive impulse as appropriate as refresh rate reduces. This keeps overshoot levels in check, ensuring they don’t suddenly become burdensome just because your in-game frame rate has dropped.

SDR Variable Backlight

As explored in the contrast section earlier, the monitor has a 512-zone FALD (Full Array Local Dimming) backlight. This is active under HDR, but can also be used under SDR by setting ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ to ‘On’ in the ‘Picture’ section of the OSD. Without this setting active, the backlight is controlled as a single unit. With it active, the backlight is split into 512 independently controlled zones. This greatly enhances contrast, as demonstrated numerically earlier, allowing the monitor to display good bright light shades and good deep dark shades simultaneously. It also reduces ‘VA glow’ as backlight zones covering darker content can be dimmed very effectively. Whilst 512 dimming zones is certainly a decent number, it’s worth putting it into perspective. It’s still a very small number compared to the number of pixels on the monitor – nearly 5 million of them. Many scenes are an intricate mixture of light and dark, so a single dimming zone will need to display both very light and very dark shades at the same time. Because this isn’t possible, it will compromise by considering the average brightness of the content in that zone but often weighting things more towards the bright content. In effect some of the darker elements are lifted up and appear brighter than they should. If there is lots of dark content surrounding this, covering adjacent dimming zones, you’ll notice that this dark content appears significantly deeper than the dark content for the more brightly illuminated dimming zones. This creates a ‘halo’ effect near the bright content.

We found this ‘halo’ effect most noticeable when on the desktop and observing large areas of solid colour. The white mouse cursor moving around the screen could lift up the brightness of a dimming zone considerably as it passed over it, brightening up all shades contained there considerably compared to surrounding content. The reactivity was excellent using the ‘Gaming’ setting for ‘Backlight Response’, though. There wasn’t a slow fade of the dimming zone back to its darker state. Further good news is that the halo effect was much less readily observed when playing a game or watching movie content. It was certainly there in menu systems and suchlike with small bright elements or a light mouse cursor moving against darker solid backgrounds. But far more noticeable was the overall enhanced contrast that was evident with ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ enabled. There were much nicer distinctions for predominantly dark content, whilst brighter shade stood out very nicely. For extreme and sudden changes in luminance, such as a bright candle surrounded by darkness from a cave, a ‘halo’ was certainly visible. Although it was more subtle than the ‘halo’ effect observed on the 384-zone FALD ‘4K’ HDR models we’ve tested like the ASUS PG27UQ. And if it occurred near the periphery of the screen, you didn’t have to worry about ‘IPS glow’ being invited at the same time. The exception to this was when viewing the screen from a sharper angle – the ‘halo’ effect then become extremely pronounced. But from a normal viewing position, using ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ was very much a no-brainer for us when gaming or watching video content. This section of video shows this feature in action and runs through the pros and cons.

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

On an ideal monitor, HDR (High Dynamic Range) describes the ability to distinctly display very deep dark shades whilst simultaneously displaying very bright light shades. Plus an excellent array of shades between those extremes – including some highly saturated shades and much more muted shades. The monitor would ideally have individual illumination of each pixel or failing that a very large number of dimming zones. The use of a large number of dimming zones is referred to as FALD (Full Array Local Dimming) capability. With a great number of dimming zones, illumination can be controlled with excellent precision. Allowing some areas of the image to be very dim, with deep dark shades. Whilst other areas remain exceptionally bright, with strong luminance output and brilliant light shades. In addition to these strong contrast credentials, being able to display a huge range of colours is ideal. The ultimate goal with this in mind is coverage of a massive colour gamut known as Rec. 2020. A more achievable near-term aim is for a monitor to offer 90% DCI-P3 (a Digital Cinema Initiatives standard colour space). Finally, HDR makes use of 10-bit+ precision per channel, so it’s desirable for the monitor to support (at least) 10-bits per subpixel.

It is specifically the HDR10 pipeline which is currently used on monitors and the common standard supported most widely in games and other applications. For most games and other full screen applications that support HDR, the Acer X35 will automatically switch into its HDR operating mode. As of the latest Windows 10 update, relevant HDR settings in Windows are found in ‘Windows HD Color settings’ which can be accessed via ‘Display settings’ (right click the desktop). Most game titles will activate HDR correctly when the appropriate in-game setting is selected. A minority of game titles that support HDR will only run in HDR if the setting is active in Windows as well. Specifically, the toggle which says ‘Play HDR games and apps’. If you want to view HDR movies on a compatible web browser, for example, you’d also need to activate the ‘Stream HDR Video’ setting. These settings are shown below. Also note that there’s a slider that allows you to adjust the overall balance of SDR content if HDR is active in Windows. In this case it simply acts as a digital brightness slider, so you lose but never gain contrast by adjusting it. Most users will find the image too bright for normal viewing when leaving this at the neutral position (‘50’), which also offers optimal contrast. The colours and overall image did at least look better balanced than many screens when you activate HDR and view SDR content. It appeared some way between SDR using the native gamut and with ‘SDR Colors sRGB’ active. Due to the brightness restrictions and inability to adjust that without loss of contrast, this won’t be a setting that you’ll want to use routinely when viewing SDR content. We’d recommend only activating HDR in Windows if you’re about to specifically use an HDR application that requires it, and have it deactivated when viewing normal SDR content on the monitor.

Windows HD Color settings

As a G-SYNC Ultimate monitor, the Acer X35 is VESA DisplayHDR 1000 certified. In many respects this is the highest level that VESA currently certifies for and it requires support for a number of attractive features for HDR. The monitor has a specified 90% DCI-P3 colour gamut, which matches the criteria for VESA DisplayHDR 1000 certification. From our measurements we have no reason to doubt this claim. Although our testing is focused on HDR PC gaming, our observations apply more broadly to HDR movie consumption and running HDR on compatible games consoles. The experience is shaped largely by the capabilities and limitations of the screen itself. We tested various game titles and observed a range of video content under HDR, but will focus our observations for this section on two titles; Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. We’ve tested these and similar titles (such as BF1) on a range of HDR-capable monitors, so we have a good range of references to compare with and know these titles offer good HDR implementations which separate weak and strong HDR monitors.

The monitors ~90% DCI-P3 colour gamut was put to good use on these titles, where developers target DCI-P3 rather than sRGB. Although we did not observe extreme oversaturation under SDR, there were some instances of slightly higher than intended saturation. Skin tones and woody tones showing too much red, for example. And some green hues appearing with yellow hues that were a bit stronger than intended, or simply appearing a bit too bright and vivid. Under HDR and the gamut being targeted appropriately, such elements appeared suitably muted and natural with these stronger than intended tints toned down. The game developers are also able to make shades that are intended to look vibrant look suitably eye-catching. A good example of this is licks of vivid oranges and yellows from flames, with saturation levels comfortably beyond the boundaries of sRGB. And some beautiful lively-looking deep purples, reds and golds of flowers and painted objects. The saturation levels weren’t as high here as on, for example, the ASUS PG27UQ. The colour gamut there covers more of the DCI-P3 colour space and colours are also a bit more consistent due to the panel type. But the overall representation of the shades here was pleasing under HDR. As a reminder, the colour gamut of the monitor (red triangle, below) offers good extension beyond sRGB (green triangle, below) and reaches fairly close to the DCI-P3 colour space targeted by game developers for HDR content.

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

As well as putting the colour gamut to good use, the monitor supports 10-bit colour reproduction via 8-bit + 2-bit dithering. The 2-bit dithering stage will either be handled by the monitor (up to 144Hz) or GPU (180Hz or 200Hz). We carefully observed a range of content, including fine gradients and other minor details. We’re confident in saying that it makes very little difference to the output either way. We wouldn’t be put off using higher refresh rates just because extra dithering is offloaded to the GPU, but on the flip side you may as well use a lower refresh rate if your frame rate will rarely if ever be able to exceed it. This enhanced precision was evident in both titles we tested. The nuanced variety of dark shades gave shadowed regions a much more believable look, whilst at the higher end a subtle variety of bright shades helped bring new life to blooms of light and reflections. Smoke effects, weather effects and other fine gradients also benefited significantly. The image below shows a typical scene in Battlefield V. It is really just there to set the scene and to help illustrate some points, it in no way reflects what the monitor actually looked like in person.

BFV HDR example

In addition to 10-bit precision being put to good use in this scene, the 512 dimming zones of the FALD backlight solution also came into play. In a much more dynamic way than under SDR, too. This gave the overall look of the scene a much brighter and more natural daylight look, with a nice gradient of bright to very bright shades giving the sky a beautiful natural glow. Complete with very natural-looking silver lining to the clouds where the sunlight strikes. This isn’t something you can appreciate in the image, where the brightest areas of sky look like a giant white blob. The glint of light reflecting off the wet ground to the bottom right of the image and the brilliant glowing fire also had an intensity to them far beyond what can be displayed under SDR. And again showed an excellent variety of distinct bright shades. The more shaded areas, such as the rocks to the right of the character and his hands showed strong depth. The whole image didn’t simply appear flooded as it would under high brightness without effective local dimming. To give a more extreme example of the monitor’s strong contrast performance under HDR, we’ve included a scene from Shadow of the Tomb Raider (below) in a lava-filled cave that really highlights the capabilities well. Once again this image is purely for illustrative purposes.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider HDR example

In this scene, there are some exceptionally bright bursts of light. The fire just towards the right of the central region of the screen, the glowing skull to the left of that and the glowing creature towards the top of the screen. Again, the monitor not only provided incredible life and intensity to the brightest shades here, it displayed a nice array of slightly dimmer (but still bright) shades alongside. Something not captured at all in this image. The dark areas towards the peripheral regions of the screen displayed pleasing depth, giving the overall scene a nice atmospheric look. With 512 dimming zones, though, there are intricate mixtures of shades shown here that aren’t handled perfectly. Much like we observed under SDR with the ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ feature active, there is something of a ‘halo’ effect around the bright content. Because the brightness levels are more extreme under HDR, the ‘halo’ effect can be more pronounced. Some of the dark shades near the bright skull, for example, aren’t as deep as they ideally would be. They don’t share quite the same depth as the darker shades further out. Nonetheless; even whilst viewing in a dark room, this ‘halo’ effect was not something our eyes were really drawn to (unless viewing the screen off-angle). We didn’t find it particularly striking or bothersome during normal gameplay. Even in HDR video demos where there is the extreme contrast of exceptionally bright content immediately surrounded by absolute darkness, we consider this ‘halo’ effect to be a minor issue. It can be a bit more noticeable towards the bottom of the screen, due to some viewing angle related shifts and drawing out a bit of ‘VA’ glow’. But we found it significantly more subdued under these sorts of scenarios compared to the ‘halo’ effect plus ‘IPS glow’ on other FALD models we’ve tested, including the ASUS PG27UQ. It’s also worth noting that we found the reactivity of the dimming zones excellent using the ‘Gaming’ setting for ‘Backlight Response’. The ‘halos’ didn’t appear to trail around the screen or appear where you wouldn’t expect them during rapid movement.

Overall, we very much enjoyed the HDR experience on this monitor. Whilst it would’ve been nice to have a much greater number of dimming zones (or ideally per-pixel illumination) and perhaps even more extreme bursts of brightness (debatable), the X35 still delivered what we’d consider the best HDR experience we’ve had on a monitor. And we’ve tested quite a few models now of various pricing and claimed capability. The combination of strong native contrast from the VA panel, powerful backlight and 512 dimming zones really delivered something special here. The section of the video review below focuses on the HDR performance of the monitor, reinforcing a lot of what we’ve explored here and giving some further examples.



The 35″ 3440 x 1440 curved ‘UltraWide’ experience

We’ve got a dedicated article on the 3440 x 1440 resolution and 21:9 UltraWide experience, highlighting the sort of experience it provides on the desktop, when playing games and watching movies. This monitor offers a 35” screen with 3440 x 1440 resolution, so similar to the 34” model featured in the article and with a decent pixel density of 106.55 PPI (Pixels Per Inch). This is a similar pixel density to a 27” 16:9 model with 2560 x 1440 (WQHD) resolution and the physical height of the screen is just marginally higher than such a model. The considerable extra horizontal real-estate (extra physical space and extra pixels) is useful for general desktop usage. The Acer also features a 1800R curve, which is a moderate curve but one which appears exaggerated in most photos and videos of the monitor. It gives a slight extra feeling of depth and draws you into the image a bit, but it is a fairly subtle change really which most users will readily adapt to. The screen then feels very natural and going back to a non-curved monitor (especially one of this sort of size) feels quite unnatural in comparison. You can adjust either way, however. Some studies and manufacturer claims also focus on the idea of improved viewing comfort from the curved screen. And we did find this screen comfortable to use, but everybody’s eyes are different and it’s quite subjective. On a relatively wide VA model like this a curve also reduces perceived gamma shifts from a normal viewing position – the X35 was relatively strong in this area. We could certainly see how some users, such as graphic designers, would prefer the geometry of a flat screen – but most other users should embrace rather than fear the curve. The image below are for illustrative purposes, showing the monitor in action and demonstrating some of the real-estate advantages. They also exaggerate the curve, making it more obvious than it is when sitting in front of the monitor and using it in person.

The desktop

Some multi-tasking

The extra sense of depth and immersion naturally carries over to gaming (and indeed movie watching), and it’s something that works quite well we feel on UltraWide screens in particular. The combination of physical screen size and curvature is certainly sufficient to give that extra feeling of depth, without providing an unnatural or alien experience. There is also a FOV (Field pf View) advantage to the 21:9 aspect ratio in most titles, as explored in our article linked to previously. This applies to video content as well, provided the software or browser (including addons) are correctly set up and the right sort of video content is being viewed. For games, it’s also worth noting that the 3440 x 1440 resolution provides a decent pixel density and therefore brings a good degree of detail and clarity potential to game titles – again, similar to a 27” WQHD model. And a significant improvement over 2560 x 1080 UltraWides such as the older Acer Z35. The images below are again for illustrative purposes and exaggerate the curve, but show the monitor in action on various game titles to help fire up the imagination.

Fallout 76

Mass Effect Andromeda

Battlefield V

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Interpolation and upscaling

Users may want to run the monitor at a lower resolution, such as 1920 x 1080, due to their system or the game title not supporting the native 3440 x 1440 resolution of the monitor. As usual for G-SYNC displays, the monitor doesn’t provide any sort of scaling support using DisplayPort. PC users can leverage GPU scaling through the GPU driver instead. Scaling capability is provided via HDMI, though, which would be appropriate for some devices such as games consoles. As a PC user, if you would want to ensure that the GPU is handling this scaling rather than the GPU, via HDMI, you need to configure the graphics driver correctly. For those rare AMD GPU users who opted for this model, it’s automatically handled by the monitor when gaming, by default. Nvidia users should open the Nvidia Control Panel and navigate to ‘Display – Adjust desktop size and position’. They should ensure that ‘No Scaling’ is selected and ‘Perform scaling on:’ is set to ‘Display’ as shown below.

Nvidia scaling options

As noted, the monitor only supports scaling via HDMI – so the below only applies when using HDMI, not DisplayPort. In the ‘System’ section of the OSD, the monitor offers two ‘Wide Mode’ scaling options; ‘Aspect’ and ‘1:1’. The former will maintain an appropriate aspect ratio based on the source resolution selected but use interpolation to fill up as much of the screen space as possible. For the 1920 x 1080 resolution (up to 120Hz), for example, it uses 2560 x 1440 pixels and a 27” diagonal screen space with black borders either side. Interpolation is therefore used both horizontally and vertically. The ‘1:1’ mode is a pixel mapping feature that only uses the pixels called for in the source resolution. So 1920 x 1080 is displayed without any interpolation or distortion, but there would be a large black border around the image at all sides. The image itself covers 20.5” diagonal of screen space as shown below.

Full HD, 1:1 pixel mapping

The 2560 x 1440 (WQHD) resolution is displayed without any interpolation and appears identical in both modes, as a 27” diagonal screen space with black borders at the sides. When using DisplayPort the GPU is able to mimic this behaviour as well, to present 2560 x 1440 pixels without softening or distortion. This is shown below.

WQHD resolution

The interpolation process at 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) is very effective and provides significantly less softening than using GPU scaling or indeed the interpolation process on many monitors. There is a degree of definition lost around the edges of objects in particular (a bit like free anti-aliasing, of sorts). But a good degree of detail is maintained overall and an effective sharpening filter is used. Whilst things don’t quite look like a native 27” Full HD display, the monitor certainly makes the resolution usable. You can also set a custom resolution of 2560 x 1080 (up to 100Hz via HDMI, 200Hz via DP) if you wish to use the entire screen space whilst maintaining the 21:9 aspect ratio. The monitor will run at 3440 x 1440 and the GPU will handle the scaling there. There’s therefore a greater degree of softening compared to the monitor’s own interpolation at 1920 x 1080. But it’s usable in a pinch.

As usual, if you’re running the monitor at 3440 x 1440 and viewing 1920 x 1080 content (for example a video over the internet or a Blu-ray, using movie software) then it is the GPU and software that handles the upscaling. That’s got nothing to do with the monitor itself – there is a little bit of softening to the image compared to viewing such content on a native Full HD monitor, but it’s not extreme and shouldn’t bother most users.

Video review

The video below summarises some of the key points raised in this written review and shows the monitor in action. The video review is designed to complement the written piece and is not nearly as comprehensive.




Timestamps:
Features & Aesthetics
Contrast
Colour reproduction
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
Responsiveness

Conclusion

Given the features on offer, the Acer X35 has been one of the most hotly anticipated monitors we’ve tested. The curved 35” screen with 3440 x 1440 (21:9 aspect ratio) delivered a good amount of desktop real-estate and a pleasant pixel density, whilst offering an enhanced FOV for games and video content which support the format. The overall aesthetics of the monitor were in-keeping with other products in the ‘Predator’ lineup. With sharp edges, powder-coated metal used extensively on the stand and a solid look and feel overall. The overall size and weight of the monitor certainly reinforced this perception. The OSD offered good flexibility, particularly for a G-SYNC model, although the RGB LED lighting feature was quite gimmicky and something of a missed opportunity. We quite like such features if they’re sufficiently bright to give a bit of a glow behind the monitor, but sadly this feature just lights up a few patterns in a way that can only be seen from behind.

The contrast performance was impressive, with the VA panel providing a strong native performance and giving a depth to dark shades and ‘pop’ to brighter shades that isn’t captured by your typical non-VA panel. The ‘SDR Variable Backlight’ feature worked very nicely indeed, at least for games and movies. When observing solid shades on the desktop, ‘halos’ could be observed quite readily. But in-game with more intricate mixtures of shades and more movement things worked nicely. The reactivity of the 512 dimming zones was pleasing and the enhancement it provided to the contrast was easy to appreciate. The monitor was not set up particularly well ‘out of the box’ with respect to gamma, but the OSD offered appropriate flexibility to correct this. Following this and a few other minor corrections, the image produced had respectable vibrancy and variety. The screen surface helped keep brighter shades appearing quite smooth and didn’t eat away at vibrancy in the way some matte surfaces do, whilst the generous colour gamut aided vibrancy overall. There were some saturation losses peripherally, some ‘black crush’ and ‘VA glow’ – but nothing extreme in any of these respects.

The monitor really shone (literally) under HDR, supporting VESA DisplayHDR 1000 and putting its 512 dimming zones and colour gamut to excellent use. The depth of darker shades, simultaneous brightness of bright content and nuanced shade variety displayed was exceptional. The extra atmosphere and depth this provided to the gameplay experience can’t be understated, especially when coupled with the ~90% DCI-P3 colour gamut. There was a ‘halo’ effects in places where dimming zones contained a mixture of bright and dark content and surrounding content was much darker, but this was less pronounced than on the 27” ‘4K’ G-SYNC HDR models. And it did little to upset the overall atmosphere in our opinion, nor did it prevent this screen from offering what we would confidently call the best HDR experience we’ve had on a monitor. This complex backlight solution and other high-performance attributes of the monitor requires a fair bit of power and generates quite a bit of heat. Not everybody will be a fan (pun intended) of the required active cooling solution built into their monitor. Whilst we noticed this one from time to time we didn’t find it annoying, but as with anything that’s subjective.

This screen also offered a nice experience in terms of responsiveness, overall. G-SYNC worked exactly as it should, the 200Hz refresh rate was put to good use with many rapid pixel responses, whilst input lag was low. As usual for a VA model, there were some weaknesses in pixel responsiveness. Where some darker shades were involved in the transition, there was some ‘smeary’ trailing in places. This was not as widespread or as noticeable as on many high refresh rate VA models. There was also a bit of overshoot, but nothing too noticeable in our opinion and a worthy replacement for the more widespread ‘smeary’ trailing you’d otherwise get. Personal sensitivities and preferences will vary, of course, but it didn’t impede our personal enjoyment of games or our ability to ‘do well’ in games. This is a monitor with many strengths and one which provides a very enjoyable experience under both SDR and HDR. Such a monitor doesn’t come cheap, though. Whilst we can recommend the experience it provides, whether it’s worth paying the premium for (~$2500 at time of review) will be a personal decision.

The bottom line; a monitor which provides a very enjoyable experience in SDR and the most accomplished HDR experience we’ve seen on a monitor (so far), but it doesn’t come cheap

Positives Negatives
A vibrant and varied look overall, following some OSD tweaking, with generous extension beyond sRGB
Poor sRGB emulation mode, some viewing angle related weaknesses in colour consistency and DCI-P3 coverage is good but not complete (~90%)
Strong static contrast and very effective local dimming for both SDR and HDR – the best HDR experience we’ve had on a monitor to date, with exceptional bright elements, inky deep shades and excellent variety in between Some ‘VA glow’ and ‘black crush’, plus the local dimming creates a slight ‘halo’ effect’ – 512 dimming zones vs. ~5 million pixels
A decent 200Hz performance overall, with rapid pixel responses and low input lag. Fewer pixel response time weaknesses than typical for the panel type, whilst G-SYNC worked as intended to help prevent frame rate and refresh rate mismatches
Some weaknesses in pixel responsiveness for some transitions, with some ‘powdery’ and ‘smeary’ trailing plus a bit of overshoot in places
A sturdily built product with an immersive screen size and a resolution and aspect ratio that delivers a nice experience for both work and play
Some users will dislike the active cooling solution, whilst the RGB LED lighting feature was admired only by the wall behind the monitor


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Acer X35

 
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