Acer Nitro VG280K
Short Format Review
 

Simon Baker, 28 February 2021


 

 

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Key Specs and Features

  • 28" size, 16:9 aspect ratio

  • 3840 x 2160 (4K) resolution

  • IPS panel

  • 60Hz refresh rate

  • Adaptive-sync for AMD and NVIDIA system VRR support

  • Wide gamut backlight 90% DCI-P3

  • Tilt stand only

Approximate current price (check below):
330 GBP
$300 USD
 

 

Check Pricing and Buy

Amazon

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This is a shorter format review but we have tried to include as much of our normal testing as we can. We will of course still be carrying out our normal full, detailed reviews for the most interesting and newest screens, but using this short format helps us cover a few additional models in the meantime. An explanation of the results and figures discussed in this short format review can be found here.

The Nitro VG280K is a 28" sized display and offers a 3840 x 2160 Ultra HD ("4K") resolution IPS technology panel (Innolux M280DCA-E3B). It's marketed as a gaming monitor although it is somewhat limited in its gaming features as it only has a maximum 60Hz refresh rate. It's a lower cost screen and is focused on offering that higher 4K resolution as its key benefit, more suitable for slower paced strategy games, RPG's etc. High refresh rates with a 4K resolution are available but on significantly more expensive screens. The VG280K has a 4ms G2G response time spec and supports adaptive-sync for variable refresh rates. That will allow support for compatible AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-sync systems for occasions where frame rates drop below 60fps at least, and useful given the demands of running at 4K.

It has a 3-side borderless design and has thin borders measuring only 7.5mm around the sides and top (total bezel + panel border). The 4K resolution is too high to use at native scaling (100%) on a screen as small as this, so you will need to ensure you use operating system scaling (like at 150%) to ensure fonts and text are a sensible and readable size. This will give you the same desktop area as a 1440p display which is very comfortable. The extra pixel density of the 4K resolution will provide a very sharp and clear image though for office and general uses. Just make sure that your software and games support scaling effectively as it can sometimes be a bit difficult to get it right. The IPS technology panel offers the kind of solid all-round performance you'd expect from this technology with good colours, a stable image and wide viewing angles.

The stand is very limited on this model with only a basic tilt adjustment available. It offers a wide adjustment range but is stiff to move around, it feels quite flimsy and the screen sits quite low on the desk, making us miss a height adjustment. For connectivity there are 2x HDMI 2.0, 1x DisplayPort 1.2 and a headphone output connection available. There are no USB ports on this model, but it does feature some basic integrated 2x 4W stereo speakers. Oddly Acer provide an HDMI cable in the box but not a DisplayPort cable, even though for PC connectivity you are probably more likely to use DP.

The OSD menu has a decent range of options available including some gaming extras like a refresh rate counter, cross hair 'Aim point' feature, and 'Black Boost' setting for tweaking gamma in darker content. The OSD is controlled largely through a single joystick controller located on the back of the right hand edge of the screen and is intuitive to use. The navigation is slightly laggy but nothing major, and sometimes it's a little hard to press the joystick in to select an option, but on the whole it's decent enough.

Default setup of the screen is reasonably good with a fairly accurate gamma (6% deviance) and white point (3% deviance) which is just slightly too cool [detailed report]. There is moderate adjustment range from the backlight (93 to 391 cd/m2) which exceeds the max brightness spec of 300 cd/m2 quite significantly. The lower end adjustment is a little restrictive though if you work in darker ambient light conditions so keep that in mind.

The screen has a wide colour gamut backlight with a spec listed of 90% DCI-P3 and 100% sRGB coverage. We measured a very slight under-coverage of sRGB at 99.5% but nothing to worry about. It extends beyond that, relative to sRGB to about 120%. It also covers 94.3% of the DCI-P3 space which is very good and a little beyond the spec. You can see the monitors gamut plotted against sRGB in this CIE-1976 diagram. There is an sRGB mode listed in the OSD menu which we hoped would offer an emulation mode for sRGB but which didn't seem to do anything other than preset a different brightness level and other colour settings. The gamut was not restricted to anything below the native gamut which was a shame. This means you are stuck always with the full wide gamut mode - not a problem really for gaming and multimedia where you will probably like the additional saturation and vividness of the colours, but it makes it more difficult to use for standard gamut content outside of a colour managed environment.

Calibration proved a bit tricky, with it not being possible for some reason to fully corrected the gamma (2.1 average, 5% deviance remained). White point and brightness had been corrected nicely, but dE colour accuracy was not perfect at 1.1 average. Contrast ratio was decent for an IPS-type panel at 990:1 out of the box, improving marginally to 1009:1 after calibration to live up to its spec. Our calibrated settings are listed in the table above [also see the detailed report], and our calibrated ICC profile is available here if you want to try it.

We also tested the monitor colour spectrum using our new UPRtek spectroradiometer, a high end device which captures accurate colour data of a display. This showed a fairly typical spectrum in calibrated mode (at 6500k calibrated white point) with familiar high blue light peak. It is worth noting that the wavelength of this blue peak was shifted slightly away from the harmful common 450 nm peak and was at 458 nm instead. There are some low blue light filter modes available in the OSD menu as well. We measured the maximum blue light mode (a setting of 50%) which made the image a fair bit warmer at around 5098k and lowered the blue peak as you can see from this spectral graph. We did find an annoying issue with the blue light modes though. When you enable it, the screen changes away from your custom user settings to some other pre-defined settings for things like brightness. Annoyingly when you disable it again the screen does not return to where it was before - brightness for instance has been bumped back up to a level of 70. You can save your user settings to one of the 3 gaming preset modes, but it is annoying to have to switch preset mode again after disabling the blue light mode. This makes it a pain to use really.

When it comes to gaming one of the key reasons to buy would be the high 4K resolution. This can help provide a sharper and more detailed image for certain gaming situations relative to a lower resolution screen. This is attractive to strategy and RPG's and enhances the clarity and detail. We should say also that the screen seems to handle non-native resolutions pretty well too so 1440p and 1080p still look pretty good without too much blurring added, so it's also pretty capable of handling games consoles if needed (at 60Hz max though). If you're going to buy this screen though you're surely going to want to run it at 4K resolution anyway, and doing so is likely to be fairly easy given the low 60Hz refresh rate.

The VG280K supports adaptive-sync allowing for variable refresh rates from compatible NVIDIA G-sync and AMD FreeSync cards, and helping systems cope with the varying frame rates likely to occur when powering the screen at its native 4K resolution on some systems. Although on this screen there is no high refresh rate sadly, and so you are limited to 60Hz maximum. No matter what you do with response times, you are always going to be left with a slow screen by modern standards, limited by the refresh rate. There are significant benefits in motion clarity when going from 60Hz to 120Hz and above, and sadly that's lacking here. This means it isn't really very well suited to fast motion games, FPS and the likes - you'd be better looking for a high refresh rate screen 120Hz+. The VRR range supported is 40 - 60Hz over both DP and HDMI connections, and you have to enable the 'FreeSync' option in the OSD for this to operate. There are no specific FreeSync of G-sync certifications awarded to this screen so the support might be a little variable.

There are 3 overdrive settings available in the OSD menu. Some visual testing revealed that there was little difference between the overdrive 'off' and 'normal' modes to be honest. If you moved up to the highest 'extreme' mode there were noticeable overshoot artefacts introduced in the form of pale halos that were too distracting. The normal mode didn't show any noticeable overshoot so was the optimal setting. We measured the response times using our updated and more accurate gamma corrected method we recently wrote a detailed article about. This provides a more accurate reflection of the response times relative to how you would actually see and experience colour and brightness changes. You can see that the overall response times are not very good, with a 10.1ms average G2G measured. There is at least zero overshoot in this mode, but the overdrive impulse could probably have been turned up higher to drive the response times a bit better we felt. The response times reduce quite a lot down to around 6ms G2G average in 'extreme' mode but with very high levels of overshoot which make it worse to use.

The screen is only 60Hz so even with this relatively slow response time performance you get good refresh rate compliance with 97% of the transitions within that refresh rate window. To be honest it's a little hard to see why Acer market this as a gaming screen given the slow response times and very limited, by today's standards, 60Hz max refresh rate. The response times are less important here, the motion clarity is far more hampered by the low refresh rate than anything else.

Despite the Acer website listing a "1ms VRB" spec this screen doesn't appear to actually feature a VRB mode. VRB (Visual Response Boost) is Acer's motion blur reduction backlight, designed to strobe the backlight on and off and improve perceived motion clarity. It's not really surprising that it is not available since those are nearly always reserved for high refresh rate screens, and this is 60Hz max. It looks like it's an error (misleading) in the Acer spec page.

Conclusion - We find it a bit hard to get on board with its marketing position as a "gaming screen" given it's missing some key features and specs for what we would consider necessary for this market by today's standards. Yes, it has a nice high resolution and so if you're looking for a sharp and crisp image with plenty of detail then that's an obvious benefit and probably the main reason you might want to choose this model over the wide range of 1440p gaming displays in this approximate size range. However the refresh rate is low at 60Hz max, the response times are not exactly great and it's missing advanced features like blur reduction backlights too. The motion clarity is certainly nowhere near as good as a higher refresh rate gaming screen. The VG280K feels more to us like it's suitable for general office users who might do a bit of gaming on the side, but only if that gaming is slower paced strategy or RPG type gaming. It fits that kind of usage pretty well. We don't feel this screen would be a good option for anything fast-paced like FPS or racing games. The IPS panel does mean that it offers pretty solid all-round performance with decent colours, viewing angles and image quality. The wide colour gamut provides a bit of a boost in vividness for multimedia and games, although we were disappointed that there was no working sRGB emulation mode which would have been useful for working in the more common sRGB colour space. Connectivity was decent, but the stand was limited.

The VG280K is a lower cost option if you're looking specifically for a 4K resolution screen and are most interested in pushing resolution as opposed to refresh rate. It's available in the US at the time of writing for ~$300 and in the UK for ~330. You can check latest pricing and availability here at Amazon (affiliate link).

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Testing and Results Explained

We will test and measure a range of aspects of these displays. By way of a brief explanation of what some of the results mean we thought we'd include this short guide:

Setup and Measurements Section

  • Maximum and minimum brightness - the full range in which the backlight can be adjusted using the monitor's brightness control. At the upper end this can be important for gaming from a further distance, especially in brighter rooms and the daytime. At the lower end this can be important if you are using the screen up close for more general office-type work, especially in darker room conditions or at night.

  • Recommended brightness setting - to achieve approx 120 cd/m2, which is the recommended luminance for LCD monitors in normal lighting conditions

  • Flicker free - independently tested and confirmed whether the screen is flicker free or not and without PWM at all brightness settings

  • Default gamma - we aim for 2.2 which is the default for computer monitors, so will show the average achieved out of the box and the % deviance from our target

  • Default white point (colour temperature) - we aim for 6500k which is the temperature of daylight, so will measure the default setup out of the box and include the % deviance from this target

  • dE colour accuracy (relative to sRGB) - the default average dE measured out of the box. This is always compared with sRGB and so on wide gamut screens you would expect this to be less accurate given the wider colour space

  • Contrast ratio - the default measured contrast ratio of the screen out of the box before any calibration or corrections

  • sRGB emulation mode available - whether or not the screen features an sRGB emulation mode to reduce the colour gamut if needed. Only applicable if the screen is a wide gamut model, but some may not offer this feature leaving you limited to the full native gamut all the time

  • sRGB coverage - measured when using the sRGB emulation mode (if available and applicable)

  • dE colour accuracy - default colour accuracy measured when using the sRGB emulation mode

Calibrated Settings Section

  • Recommended OSD settings - our calibrated settings to reach an optimal hardware setup, aiming for 2.2 gamma, 6500k white point, 120 cd/m2 luminance and highest contrast ratio. You will find our calibrated ICC profile in the relevant section for each screen as well if you want to try it. We also re-measure the contrast ratio after calibration here.

  • Colour space - measured colour space (gamut) of the backlight relative to the sRGB (including any over-coverage), and the DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB reference colour spaces.

Gaming Performance Section

We first of all test the screen visually in each of its available overdrive modes and at a range of refresh rates from 60Hz, all the way up to the maximum supported. This allows us to identify what appears to be optimal setting for each refresh rate and we can then measure the response times across a range of grey to grey (G2G) transitions using our oscilloscope setup, including correcting for gamma to improve accuracy as we described in our detailed article. The table included shows then the average G2G response time measured at several refresh rates (where supported), along with the optimal overdrive setting we found. The overshoot level is then also rated in the table at each refresh rate. We will explain in the commentary if there are any considerations when using variable refresh rates (VRR) as well as talking about the overall performance our findings during all these tests.

At the maximum refresh rate of the screen we will also include our familiar more detailed response time measurements, which includes a wider range of transition measurements as well as some analysis of things like the refresh rate compliance. This identifies how many of the measured pixel transitions were fast enough to keep up with the frame rate of the screen. Ideally you'd want pixel response times to be consistently and reliably shorter than this refresh rate cycle, otherwise if they are slower it can lead to additional smearing and blurring on moving content.

In this section we will also include the measured input lag and look at any blur reduction backlight feature if it's available. The commentary in each section will provide more information if a blur reduction mode is available and how it operates.


 

 

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