If you’re tired of dealing with the clutter of multiple monitors and their associated cables and power bricks, the time is right to trade up to an ultra-wide monitor such as the Acer B296CL. This 29-inch IPS monitor delivers rich color quality and good grayscale accuracy, has a 2,560-by-1,080 resolution, and is equipped with all sorts of video ports, a USB 3.0 hub, and an ergonomic stand. The picture appears a little darker when viewed from a side angle, but colors remain true and the image detail remains sharp. Solid performance, a strong feature set, and a reasonable price tag put the B296CL at the head of its class and earns it our Editors’ Choice for ultra-wide monitors.
Design and Features
The B296CL uses a 29-inch IPS panel with an aspect ratio of 21:9 and maximum resolution of 2,560-by-1,080 pixels. The matte panel measures 27.1 inches wide by 11.5 inches high and is housed in a relatively thick 2.3-inch black cabinet. As with the Dell UltraSharp U2913WM, the B296CL uses a bezel-free design on the top and sides. The bottom bezel is less than an inch high and sports an Acer logo in the center and six buttons (including the power switch) on the right.
The cabinet is supported by an ergonomic stand that offers a variety of adjustments. The mounting arm has a slider hinge that gives you 5.9 inches of height mobility and 40 degrees of tilt. It also allows you to pivot the panel 90 degrees for portrait mode viewing, but unlike the Samsung S27C750P, it doesn’t have an auto-rotation option so you’ll have to flip the image orientation in your graphics control panel. The panel also has a 120-degree swivel range. The stand offers plenty of room to stash small gadgets but part of it is magnetized, so be careful with your USB drives. The B296CL comes with a pair of speakers that are moderately loud but sound a bit tinny.
The B296CL is loaded with I/O connections. At the rear of the cabinet are two HDMI ports, a DVI input, an audio input, a DisplayPort input, an upstream USB 3.0 port, and two downstream USB 3.0 ports. There’s also a DisplayPort output that allows you to daisy chain multiple monitors. Two additional USB 3.0 downstream ports are mounted on the left side of the cabinet, making it easy to plug in phones and other rechargeable devices (the USB ports will charge your devices without having to power up the monitor).
Pressing any of the aforementioned buttons launches on-screen labels for each function button. The Acer empowering Technology key brings up the picture mode menu with five choices (user, Eco, Standard, Graphics, Movie), and there’s a PIP (picture in picture) hotkey that cycles through five PIP position choices. Picture settings include brightness, contrast, color temperature, and 6-axis hue and saturation adjustments.
Acer includes HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, and upstream USB cables in the box along with an audio input cable. The monitor comes with a three-year warranty covering parts, labor, and backlight.
The B296CL performed admirably. It had no trouble reproducing every shade of gray on the DisplayMate 64-Step Grayscale test and provided good highlight and shadow detail on my test photos. Color accuracy was also quite good; on the CIE chart below, the ideal coordinates for RGB colors is represented by the box in each color zone. The dot represents the monitor’s measured color accuracy. Red and blue are right where they should be and green is only off by a hair. IPS panels are known for their deep color characteristics, and the B296CL’s panel does not disappoint; each swatch on the DisplayMate Color Scales test was well saturated and transitioned evenly from dark to light.
Viewing angle performance was a mixed bag. Angles on the horizontal plane were wide with no color shifting or loss of luminance, but the view from the bottom and top (vertical) was slightly dim. We saw this with the AOC Q2963PM and the Dell UltraSharp U2913WM, both of which are also 29-inch ultra-wide monitors. While not terrible, the vertical angles are just not as sharp as they should be.
The B296CL used 45 watts of power during testing while set to standard mode. The Eco mode setting brings that down to 32 watts without appearing overly dim. By way of comparison, the AOC Q2963PM used 33 watts and the Dell U2913WM used 36 watts.
For users requiring a dual-monitor setup, the Acer B296CL offers a space saving alternative that won’t break the bank. Its 29-inch ultra-wide IPS screen delivers rich, accurate colors and solid grayscale performance, and it provides all the connectivity and flexibility you’ll need. It’s a bit more expensive than the AOC Q2963PM, but it offers quite a few more features, including a 4-port USB 3.0 hub and numerous adjustment options. Its vertical viewing angle performance could be better but it’s not a deal breaker and does not prevent the B296CL from snagging our Editors’ Choice for ultra-wide monitors.
|Native Resolution||2560 x 1080|
|Supported Video Formats||1080p|
|PC Interfaces||Digital (DVI-D), HDMI|
|Video Inputs||DVI, HDMI|
|Diagonal Screen Size||29 inches|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc