If you haven’t yet noticed, gaming equipment has been on the rise lately, and even the likes of us, South Africans, are joining in on the fun, despite the really poor Rand in recent months. But let’s repress those negative thoughts for now, and focus on Acer’s beauty, the Predator Z35 Curved Screen. As the name suggests, it is a fairly large 35″ gaming display, which has a few features that pair well with certain gaming rigs, just as certain wines go well with certain foods.
Buying a monitor, not so long ago, was a mere comparison of size and cost. Long gone are those days. With a multitude of technology to choose from, picking a monitor is even more difficult than picking your next phone. Refresh rate, FHD or UHD, 2K or 4K, input interfaces, USB charging, audio out, brightness and contrast, curved or flat? These are just a few questions you may have to ask yourself before even getting to the size and cost of the monitor. And then there’s a simple matter of which graphics card you’re currently using.
Which brings me a small disclaimer. Before I get further into the review, AMD graphics users may want to look away, as a lot of the additional features and increased performances are geared towards NVidia cards. While the monitor is perfectly capable of working with any graphics card, stretching your wallet this far, in addition to losing out on extra performance gains, isn’t worth it.
One a side note, the image of Sheldon exclaiming to Leonard that “she’s not for you” goes well with the above-mentioned.
Build and Design
Let’s not kid ourselves here, the Predator Z35 is a huge device. And the box it comes in, is even larger. While there is a ‘convenient’ carry handle in the middle, there’s no way the average man on the street is carrying this unit in one hand, much less me. What’s in the box, though, is the 35″ beast, a few cables (USB 3.0, DisplayPort and HDMI) along with a quick start guide, if you need some guidance in erecting the unit, which is a rather simple process for a unit of this size. Simply slide the neck into the support, and fasten the single screw at the bottom. Once that’s done, you can connect the cables and power on your new monitor. Mind you, the power cable has a bulky, external power supply, along with an angled connector, making it rather awkward to plug in on the bottom rear.
The front face of the monitor is curved, while the rear is more of a V-shape. The curved face has a 2,000R curvature radius, that is a 2m radius if enough Z35s were bought to complete the circle (not to be confused with diameter). So the curve is sufficient to be useful, but not overly so to be extremely noticeable or annoying when in use. The display panel has a tilt of -5° to 25°, which is ideal if your device is resting slightly higher or lower than your seating position. The unit also has a 13cm adjustable height, which is of better use than having to tilt the screen. There is no swivel capability on the monitor, but I wouldn’t take points off for that here.
The build quality is very good, with the red coloured parts on the stand indicating anodized aluminium, while all other black areas are hard plastic, with an overall metal core beneath. The large ventilation openings on the rear double up as audio grills to accommodate the 9W DTS-enabled speakers. There are two main inputs, x1 full Display Port and x1 HDMI. Given the lack of inputs, there’ll no surprise that the unit doesn’t feature any multi-picture capabilities. There are also x5 USB3.0 ports on the rear, x4 downstream and x1 upstream, as well as a 3.5mm audio jack. The only negative aspect in reference to the build and design are the 6 downward facing control buttons on the bottom right of the unit. It doesn’t help that there are no labels, and you’ll have to use trial and error to eventually get to the OSD menu of choice.
Display and Performance
The 35″ screen has a 2560x1080px resolution with a 21:9 aspect ratio. For a monitor of this size, the resolution isn’t the greatest. No 4K here. Instead, you have the equivalent of x2 1080p monitors, which isn’t bad in itself. The Z35 has a VA panel, which has good brightness, with very deep blacks and vibrant colours, but, however, falls short when it comes to reproduction of greys. Running a colour calibration test reveals that darker greys appear black, while lighter greys are much better represented. This makes for a few rather interesting shadow detail, but isn’t that easily picked up when not isolated. While the colours are bright, they don’t quite match up in terms of the colour gamut, with only blues hitting the mark, while the other colours a slightly off.
For NVidia users, there are added bonuses with features such as G-Sync and ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blue), but do also require a compatible, DP-enabled graphics card. If you’re a keen gamer, you’re already familiar with these two concepts, the first syncs the frame rate of the game with the refresh rate of the monitor, directly from the GPU, while ULMB deals with motion blur of drawn images, rending much clearer images, although at the expense of brightness and colour reproduction. Unfortunately, both . While the use of both these technologies aren’t typically noticeable at regular refresh rates below 100Hz, revving up the settings to higher refresh and frame rates require slightly more complicated settings.
The Z35 is capable of pushing the refresh rate up to 200Hz, which caused a few issues, such as ghosting, as well as the above-mentioned motion blur. The trouble here is that while the while the frame rate and refresh rates have increased, the response times aren’t able to keep up, causing a trail on a moving image in the form of ghosting or motion blur. There is an Overdrive setting on the Z35, which has 3 settings (off, normal and extreme), which tie in with the higher frequency. Results, however, show that normal OD has the best gains in reproducing clearer images, but still aren’t good enough for anything higher than 144Hz. It’s best then to settle for an average 144Hz on the Z35. In all honesty, using the increased settings didn’t generate a significant enough improvement to warrant overclocking, and for the most part, ended up using the default settings.
The Acer Predator Z35 Curved Monitor is a great device for both conventional and gaming purposes. Given the two weeks of additional real estate, I spent a lot more time gaming and watching movies as I’m used to, but I’ll chalk that down to ‘testing.’ The RRP for the unit is set between R20,000 and R25,000 (dependant on the Rand/Dollar exchange at the time of import), which makes things a lot more difficult to decide.
If you have the cash around, the unit is a great buy, but, at the same time, you do have a lot of options to choose from. At that price, the Predator Z35 has no room for errors, of which it has a few, including the resolution, number of inputs, lack of multi-picture support, and slightly off colour (grey) representation, not to mention all the confusion as a result of refresh rates and response times. There’s also a small matter of the other Acer Predator monitors in its line-up, the 34″ Acer Predator X34, which has a much better resolution (3440×1440) on an IPS panel that should produce better colours as well.