Acer monitor brings 4K UHD performance to the desktop
By Jim Bray
There might not be a lot of commercial Ultra High Definition material on the market to make purchasing a 4K TV feasible fiscally, yet, but Acer is making a compelling argument that it's already time to embrace the technology when it comes to your computer.
Well, once again that would only be if you need it – or if you just want a really big, really cool monitor.
I've been trying their new, $1100 B326HK display for the past month or so and while a 32 inch monitor on my home office desk is more than a little intimidating, I'm sure hooked on it. And that's without spending a lot of time watching actual 4K UHD content on it! I just love it as a monitor, and the 4K resolution makes for a great desktop!
UHD, a.k.a. 4K, is the next high definition TV standard to be offered in the consumer market, a big step up from the 1080p we've come to know and love over the past several years. It ups the pixel ante from 1080p's 1920 x 1080 to a whopping 3840 x 2160. That's four times the pixels as 1080p. Hence the 4K, though perhaps if it's "four times" the pixels they should call it 4X.
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Anyway, when it comes to smaller TV screens and monitors, 4K may not make that much difference to your enjoyment, but the bigger the screen the more compelling the difference becomes. And while 32 inches would qualify, to me, as a small screen if it were being used as a TV, it's a darn big computer monitor when it sits two feet away from you, and the 4K difference is definitely noticeable.
The Acer's big size and extreme resolution can be very handy – not so much for watching videos (though the 4K material I've tried looks great) but just for your day to day work: I can have multiple windows open on the screen at one time and see what's on every one of them. I like being able to see emails come in while working on a word processor document, for example, and moving files around is easier when you can drag and drop into various windows without having to scroll through them or change windows via the taskbar (I'm running Windows).
It isn't a huge deal, but it's a nice feature that, if nothing else, saves a few keystrokes when you're busy. It makes for a busy desktop, but that's okay and, if you can afford the cost and the footprint, it's extremely convenient.
Acer says the monitor is meant for use in office environments, libraries and computer labs, so perhaps my home office use isn't what's really on their horizon – though I'm sure they'd be happy to take your money regardless (wouldn't you be?).
The monitor itself is about as handsome as such a beast can be. It doesn't sport the narrowest bezel I've seen, but it's pretty good regardless, and it has enough input capabilities to choke the proverbial horse, including DVI, HDMI with MHL charging, DisplayPort, Mini DP and there's even a USB 3.0 hub. So basically, as long as your other equipment is relatively state of the art, you should be able to connect to this monitor.
It also has good off-axis performance, which doesn't really matter when I'm sitting in my office, using it, but which does come in handy when someone's watching what I'm doing. Instead of having to peek over my shoulder, thereby invading my precious space, they can stand off to the side, where they should be. The unit's stand lets you adjust for height and angle, though not side-to-side, so that good off axis performance could be even more important to you if your location is prone to rubberneckers – for example if you're using the monitor for 4K video editing and have the director and other poohbahs looking on.
Naturally, photographers could also find the generous real estate and high resolution handy, as would people who do a lot of work with graphics. I messed around with some CorelDraw creation and loved how closely I could get to the action without having to squint. And, once again, if you're working on multiple documents it's really handy.
Sometimes I have to squint at emails, but that seems to be more an issue with my email program than the monitor, since everything else looks fine. Well, not quite everything. When using some Adobe software, such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver, the various tabs and menus are so small I do have to squint at them and the tiny size also means I have to aim the mouse pointer carefully lest I click on something I didn't want to. I also noticed this with Corel PhotoPaint.
If nothing else, it gave me a chance to practice mouse discipline!
The monitor is terrific if you're gaming, too, though of course the games need to have high resolution as well. I don't have any 4K games, so couldn't check out that aspect of the Acer, but I enjoyed playing my less sophisticated games, even ones that are technically obsolete when it comes to their resolution – stuff like old Sims and real time strategy games.
Acer says the B326HK offers "100 percent sRGB coverage and 6-axis color adjustment," which they say means it meets the highest standards for colour accuracy. And something they call Acer ComfyView non-glare protection "provides a polarizer material to reduce lighting reflection for clearer, more comfortable viewing." I had no issues with glare at all, though to be fair I don't usually in my office anyway.
Acer also says the display has a 100,000,000:1 maximum contrast ratio and a 6ms response time, which are good stats.
I don't have a Blu-ray drive on my PC so I couldn't check its video settings with my favorite calibration disc, but the videos I watched (DVD's or digital downloads for the most part) looked great anyway.
A monitor such as this Acer obviously isn't for everyone. But if 4K performance is important to you, this is a good place to start your due diligence.
Copyright 2015 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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