Acer Predator Z35 35" Gaming Monitor Review
The Predator series of gaming monitors has been expanding at the speed of light as Acer attempts to cover every single possibility and price point with extremely capable and specifically targeted options. We already seen what they can accomplish with the G-SYNC equipped X34 and XR341CK, an awesome option for folks who need FreeSync. Both of those massive 34” IPS panels had an impressive yet challenging-to-drive resolution of 3440x1440 and refresh rates of 100Hz alongside suitably high price tags. The new Predator Z35 on the other hand has a much more uses a more reasonable 35” 2560x1080 A-MVA panel, an insane refresh rate of 200Hz and a price just north of $1000. Think of this as a more budget friendly option but one that’s extremely capable of delivering a superlative gaming experience.
With most gaming orientated monitors consumers can expect to get anywhere from 80Hz to 144Hz refresh rates via a TN or IPS panel, G-SYNC or FreeSync abilities, and usually a few other small accoutrements to separate one model from the next. This seems to be the formula upon which all manufactures – including Acer- have built their gaming monitors. It worked extremely well but there really wasn’t much in the way of distinction.
However, what if an engineer decided to break this mold and start with a truly fresh slate? What kind of design would they come up with? Obviously this is a question that Acer asked themselves. However unlike most who just laugh at daring to change an award winning design, Acer actually moved the yardsticks forward in a big way. The end result is the Z35 which is certainly a unique monitor and represents a different way of thinking about what gamers want in their next large screen monitor.
In many ways, the Acer Predator Z35 carries on in the same footsteps of the BenQ XR3501 we reviewed a few weeks ago. It actually uses the exact same 144Hz A-MVA panel but overdrives it to an impressive 200Hz (achievable from within the OSD) and adds in some additional features which go a long way towards justifying its premium.
When we talk about the limits of today’s monitors, certain realties had to be taken into account in terms of form-factor and bandwidth limitations. While a 3440x1440 monitor with an ultra high 144Hz refresh rate would be everyone’s dream, even the latest DisplayPort 1.2 standard doesn’t have the necessary bandwidth to push that torrent of data towards a monitor. DP 1.3 will solve that limitation but it will only be present on AMD’s Polaris and NVIDIA’s Pascal GPUs. Even if it was possible, current large format IPS technology hasn’t quite progressed past the 120MHz mark yet.
Due to all of these factors, Acer’s design team needed to optimize output while still remaining within the constraints of today’s technology. As a result they looked towards an Advanced MVA panel which has color rendering characteristics very close to what IPS can achieve but can also be driven at substantially higher refresh rates without the need for overdrive. Meanwhile, panel speeds were boosted to a stunning 200Hz while remaining within the aforementioned bandwidth constraints by using a lower resolution of 2560x1080.
Naturally, there are pros and cons to the 21:9 form factor but when combined with a 2000R curvature and massive real-estate, an enveloping experience is certainly achievable. Is it unique? No, but when all of these features are combined, the Z35 is a unique beast.
Many people like saying there’s such thing as a free lunch and that fact certainly remains in place with the Z35. While that 200Hz refresh rate sounds amazing, actually driving the panel to that 144 to 200 frames per second “zone” within today’s AAA games will be challenging for all but the most expensive GPU setup. Granted detail levels can easily be lowered but that begs the question: what’s more important to you, graphics quality or a high framerate.
Another concern is of course the dot pitch level of this monitor. A resolution of 3440x1440 stretched across a massive 34” screen provided an impressively clear viewing experience on the Predator X34 but now we’re seeing 2560x1440 on a 35” screen. Some eagle-eyed viewers may very well see this as a huge limitation depending on their viewing distance.
Further helping to impress gaming enthusiasts is this monitor also takes full advantage of NVIDIA’s Ultra Low Motion Blur technology. It is this combination of 200 frames per second, full G-SYNC capabilities, and ULMB that makes the Z35 truly unique and is what Acer is counting on to help the Z35 stand out in an increasingly crowded market.
OK, enough about the underlying technology since there are also the exterior looks to take into account. Like all other Predator series products –be they gaming notebooks, peripherals (more on this soon!) or monitors- the Z35 has a distinctive and aggressive design but not one that’s overly gaudy. It all works extremely well.
The stand which the Z35 uses has been changed from the X34, and looks much more aggressive. Unfortunately, some may find its angular lines and red powder coating tips to be too “loud”. However, it may look different but beneath the surface this stand offers some well rounded capabilities. This means that while it may lack portrait mode (you wouldn’t use this on a curved monitor anyways) or even swivel capabilities, it does offer 130mm of height adjustment and 30 degrees of tilt (-5° to 25°). More importantly it provides a stable foundation that is rock solid. Just as with the X34, you can accidentally bump into the Z35 monitor and not have worry about it tipping over which is great considering the whole thing looks like a fat chicken perched on a narrow clothesline.
The overall looks of the Z35 seem to have matured when compared to the very similar X34. While the X34 was monochromatic, and very classical in its styling, the Z35 has more sharp angles and blood red highlights which blend seamlessly together.
Just like the X34 the Z35 includes down-firing LEDs that allow the bottom edge to ‘glow’ in one of many different colors – all customizable via the OSD. This feature actually plays a crucial role as much like the X34 you can have it glow one color when G-SYNC is enabled and another when the feature is disabled.
Beyond these changes the Z35 makes use of a very similar hardware to that of other Acer 21:9 models. For example, the physical interface is basically the same as the Acer X34 and allows for relatively easy navigation of the on screen menu system. The OSD is also pretty much the same as that of the other Acer Predator monitors. But like the physical buttons, we have no issues with this rehash. It works and is easy to navigate.
Overall the Z35 certainly has numerous features to make it extremely enticing to gamers, but reality has been known to disagree with theory from time to time.
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