Acer’s gaming monitors run the gamut: whether you’re on a budget or simply need the best the market has to offer, there’s a good chance the company has an option for you to consider. The XFA240 is one of the former, retailing for $199 but offering a full HD 24-inch TN panel clocked to run at 144 Hz and with a 1 ms response time. On paper, it sounds like a great bang for the buck, but we’ve gone hands-on to see it performs under pressure.
Should the Acer XFA240 be the next display on your shopping list? Let’s dig in and find out.
Design and Features
The Acer XFA240 is simply designed. You won’t find the usual gamer flair found on displays twice its cost – the name of the game appears to be minimizing the extras that add little to your gaming experience and instead bringing gaming-grade, high refresh rate performance to the masses. As such, there’s no RGB or stylized etching; what you’ll see in the pictures is from separate backlights, not the monitor itself.
What you get instead is a straightforward display that’s easy to set up and get gaming with. The stand has a red ring around the base as the lone splash of color, and attaches to the arm with a single thumb screw. From there, the monitor clicks into place on the mounting plate and you’re ready to connect cables. I like how simple and quick it is. The stand is also quite good, offering nearly six inches of height adjustment, plentiful tilt to use the display while standing, and even the ability to pivot it 90-degrees for portrait orientation. The only downside is that it doesn’t rotate, though the base isn’t too heavy to manually turn when the need arises. The display is also VESA compatible for aftermarket mounts.
The bezels are fairly thick compared to many gaming monitors at about a half-inch per side. This is roughly double what you’ll find on more expensive “frameless” monitors, but for the price, it’s hard to be too critical. It does tend to make the 24-inches feel a bit more cramped than I would like, however. This design also allowed Acer to keep the controls right on the face of the monitor, which is eminently better than having to grope blindly along the back.
Coming from a larger display, I found the size of the XFA240 to be “just enough” for a good gameplay experience. The size allowed me to make out details clearly when the brightness or calibration wasn’t getting in the way – and it sometimes did, even after a good 20 minutes calibrating it.
Out of the box, the colors were very washed out – the blacks for example were closer to dark gray. TN panels are known for having worse colors and blacks than either VA or IPS displays but even compared against other TNs I’ve reviewed, this out-of-box picture was one of the worst I’ve encountered. The OSD features six-color hue and saturation adjustments (CMYRGB), so I was able to improve the image but never completely got it to where I was happy. Even though it’s capable of 350-nits of brightness, tuning the colors and blacks forces you to turn that down. It’s a Catch-22 – do you want a bright screen with bad colors and blacks or a dimmer screen with an improved picture?
The brightness also feels slightly uneven. In the picture above, taken in the lobby of The Blackout Club, you can clearly see how dark areas can appear to swallow details. This seems to be related to viewing angle because when I looked at this same scene from a downward angle, I could make out some of what was previously missing. This was also true on the Black Level test in Lagom’s LCD Test Pages, where the blacks in the darkest three boxes appeared crushed until I looked downward at the screen. As a result, I found myself fidgeting with the height of the display more than any other monitor I’ve used.
That isn’t to say gaming on the monitor was bad. At 1080p, my RTX 2080 was able to stay locked at 144 FPS in most games. If you’ve never used a high refresh rate monitor before, you’re in for a treat. Not only is everything smoother but your inputs feel almost instantaneous, which is also supported by the display’s 1 ms response time. This is the biggest benefit of a TN panel and why they’re so popular in esports.
True to what I experienced, the Response Time and Ghosting tests in Lagom’s test suite provided some of the best results I’ve seen. In the Response Time test, the flickering boxes had nearly imperceptible color shifting and the Ghosting Test revealed no ghosts whatsoever. In shifts from light to dark and vice versa, the XFA240 is outstanding.
The display also supports AMD FreeSync and is compatible with Nvidia G-Sync between 48 and 144 FPS. It worked well with G-Sync and my RTX card, the sole exception being Apex Legends, which became very hitchy with G-Sync enabled. The monitor also supports Low Framerate Compensation, so if your framerate drops outside of the FreeSync range, the monitor will automatically increase its refresh rate to provide a smoother gaming experience.
Other gaming features include a Black Level adjustment, an AimPoint on-screen reticle, and FlickerFree technology to ward off eye strain. The first feature is practically useful if you also find it difficult to see into dark areas. The only thing I wish is that it had a keyboard shortcut or controller to quickly make adjustments on the fly. The reticle is also a boon for shooters that don’t offer one, giving you a one-up on accuracy when hip-firing.
The display has built-in speakers, as well as input/output jacks for routing PC audio to your headset. The speakers are only 2-watts each and lack both bass and volume. They’re good for watching the occasional YouTube video but with a normal box fan running in my room, I had trouble hearing in-game details, so you’ll want to find a better option long-term.
Finally, for connectivity we have a single HDMI, DisplayPort, and DVI-D connection. The DVI-D port is going the way of the Dodo on many displays but it’s fitting to find it on a more budget oriented option like this. Both HDMI and DisplayPort are capable of carrying audio to route to the headphone jack, but if you’re using DVI-D, you’ll also need to connect the included auxiliary cord to your motherboard.
I played a handful of games on the XFA240 over my week of testing and it performed very well. Full HD is an easier resolution than ever to run, so keeping games in triple-digit frame rates is an option even for gamers on hardware that’s a couple years old. With my RTX 2080, it remained virtually pegged in most games I tried.
Gaming at this refresh rate in a shooter is ideal. In PUBG, that smoothness better allowed me to smoothly track enemies and pull off shots without any perceptible lag. I turned up the Black Level a touch, which let me keep the monitor at a comfortable eye level but also washed out the colors a bit more, which isn’t good when you’re trying to pick out far away enemies. Again, that Catch-22.
In Apex and Overwatch, the XFA240 performed remarkably well. The smoothness was easily on par with my more-than-twice-as-expensive 144 Hz monitor from Pixio. Using the on-screen reticle gave a definite advantage in Overwatch but I quickly turned this off because it felt unfair. I was also able to play both games for a couple hours each without ever feeling eye strain.
The Blackout Club gave me a harder time. There are simply too many deep darks and the brightness issues made the game feel more claustrophobic than it should; like I couldn’t see everything I was meant to. I tried adjusting the monitor to a lower position which helped, but it was frankly frustrating to have to play with my monitor lower than where I wanted it to be. I settled for turning up the Black Level adjustment but precisely because so much of the game is dark, everything again looked washed out. It was unsatisfying.
The Acer XFA240 gaming monitor is available on Amazon with an MSRP of $199.
This article was originally published by IGN.COM