Acer – S273HL review

top-end, 27-inch slim line display oriented towards video and gaming
Photo of Acer – S273HL
£399

Acer has enjoyed making a name for itself in the LCD display market in recent times, and not so long ago we saw it delving into the touchscreen arena with the effective, if inherently rather limited T231H.

Its latest update to the S3-series, the S273HL display on test, is hardly a token effort and offers 27-inch of real estate along with a hefty price tag of a jot under £400.

What’s initially disappointing about this high-end screen is that it only has a native resolution of 1920 x 1080, which, while more than suitable for video and gaming use, does feel a little “clunky” at the two or three feet distance you’d expect to view it from in a general use environment. It does have quite a bit going for it in other departments, however, and most immediately the stylish and entirely unconventional angular brushed-aluminium stand differentiates it from rivals from an aesthetics point of view.

There is a bit of a subjective judgement to be made on the appeal of the design, and since only tilt adjustment is provided, the stand doesn’t seem to have much use from a functional point of view. This is partly because the control buttons are integrated into the neck, the uppermost of which are obscured by the lower bezel, which means a bit of squinting and fishing about is required to access the on-screen menus.

The display’s “razor-thin” depth of 21mm isn’t exactly a figure you’d expect to see Gillette highlighting in a marketing campaign, but it’s an impressively lightweight and slimline screen nonetheless. Of course this typically brings with it the disadvantage of employing an exterior power-pack, which does add to clutter, but we’re more concerned about the lack of a DVI-D port to accompany twin-HDMI and VGA. While this connectivity, along with an audio input for the built in speakers, is tidily contained at the rear of the slim metallic stand for easy access, we’re struggling to think of a reason why Acer would omit the convenience of the most common form of digital input, particularly as there’s no HDMI cable nor an appropriate adaptor supplied in the box.

We were impressed by the software supplied with the S273HL, however, which includes preliminary configuration tools to optimise the display for initial use by offering test patterns to fine-tune resolution, brightness, contrast, focus and position. Colour temperature and calibration can also be performed here, with the supplied software providing an effective accompaniment to the on-screen display and it’s certainly a combination we’d like to see employed by rival manufacturers to make life easier.

The OSD itself is gracefully straightforward, particularly considering the aforementioned issues with finding the appropriate buttons to command the menus. Typical manual configuration of levels that would probably have been fine-tuned during the aforementioned software-based setup are available for further tweaking here, but Acer leaves it to its e-Display technology (which has a dedicated control for welcomed easy access) to switch between custom, text, standard, graphics and movie environments.

We were initially impressed by how well the configuration tools established a solid base image anyway, and have no real complaints about the generic tweaks provided for specific environments. A 2ms response time is evident during fast-moving scenes at full resolution during gaming and video playback, which seemed particularly clean and responsive, and colour levels are natural without appearing dull or overblown.

The Adaptive Contrast Management (ACM) feature, which claims to dynamically adjust the contrast ratio depending on environment, also seemed effective in that we noticed impressive attention to detail in terms of gradation in subtle shades. In fact the display really comes into its own in environments that promote these benefits, and if anything is simply held back during general Windows use due to its relatively low native resolution.

Finally, there are significant eco benefits to the design since the display claims up to 63 percent savings on power consumption over CFFL displays, as well as avoiding hazardous substances such as mercury or halogen gases in its design.

Acer’s S273HL relies on some effective aesthetics, helpful software, solid eco-credentials and tidy performance in key environments to sell itself at a relatively high price tag, but we can’t help but think that the company missed a trick by not adopting a higher native resolution and putting a bit more thought into the layout of the controls and choice of interfaces. These are key sacrifices that will need to be made to benefit from such a slimline screen that admittedly also brings environmental benefits to the table, but the high price tag will inevitably be a sticking point for many people.

Company: Acer

Contact: 0870 853 1005


Verdict
We're left to conclude that Acer's S273HL is targeting itself fairly clearly towards gaming and video use and in these environments it's very impressive, partly due to the sheer size of the display. “Casual” gamers or media viewers may loathe the lack of a higher resolution for general computer use, however, so this will need to be considered to justify the asking price.