Acer S277HK 4K monitor review

Acer makes a 4K monitor with a futuristic design to match its razor-sharp screen

The Acer 277HK strikes a near-perfect compromise between style and quality.
The Acer 277HK strikes a near-perfect compromise between style and quality.
The Acer 277HK strikes a near-perfect compromise between style and quality.

Highs

  • Attractive, unusual design
  • Numerous quality controls
  • Excellent image at default settings

Lows

  • Limited adjustability
  • Not VESA compatible

Have you ever wanted a monitor that looks like it would fit in on a space station? Then Acer just might have the monitor for you. Its S277HK offers an unusual design that’s unlike anything else sold today. Looks aren’t its only claim to fame, though, as this 27-incher also offers a 4K panel.

There’s nothing wrong with a little flair, especially given the banality of a typical PC display, but monitors that prioritize aesthetics often take a step back in other important areas. Acer’s $699 set also faces intense competition from Dell’s P2715K, our current favorite. Let’s see if this slick Acer can battle its way past the champion.

Head-turner

Everyone at the Digital Trends office agrees the Acer S277HK is head-turner. While the display’s extremely thin bezels make headlines, they’re not the only reason it steals the spotlight. An unusual off-set stand protrudes from the back and leads down to a large, rectangular base. Around back a glossy white panel adds extra style and brings back memory of iMacs from last decade (in the best way possible). The design is at once futuristic and retro, as if discovered in storage of some unproduced 80’s sci-fi flick.

It’s good the monitor looks stellar, because functionality is an issue. The stand is a prime culprit. It’s weird, and cool, but it’s big, and offers no adjustment besides tilt. Worse, the stand’s default position is a bit too low, and the base is too wide to fit on some height-adjustable platforms. There’s also no VESA mount, so you’re stuck with it.

Problems continue in connectivity. Video inputs span the usual array of DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort and mini-DisplayPort, which is a decent selection. The HDMI port follows the 2.0 standard, so it can handle a 4K signal from an appropriate source. You’ll find no USB ports, and while a 3.5mm audio jack can be plugged in, its location near the middle of the panel’s back couldn’t be less convenient.

Out of control

A set of tactile buttons hidden along the bottom of the display are used to change the monitor’s settings. They’re not visible, but easy to find because they’re left of the power button, which protrudes slightly and is lit by an LED.

While contrast is mediocre, the display’s color accuracy is outstanding.

The on-screen controls are easy to navigate, though the location of the inputs causes inevitable miss-steps. The sheer number of them provides the first evidence that the S277HK is more than a pretty face. Quality controls include brightness, contrast, color temperature, gamma and color saturate for six hues. Optional modes include boosted sharpness, sRGB and a selection of four different presets designed for specific work environment.

This selection is extremely robust. In fact, it’s the best that we’ve seen in a 4K monitor under $600. It’s odd to see such a wide array of customization given the display’s lack of physical adjustment, but enthusiasts will appreciate the extra options.

Acer S277HK 4K Monitor

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

A pair of speakers are built into the S277HK. They provide modest sound quality; good enough for basic use, but lacking bass or effective audio staging, problems shared by almost all sound systems bundled in monitors. The speakers can be quite loud, but that proved a downside because the built-in volume controls weren’t effective – the speakers were loud even at their lowest output.

Pre-calibration

The Acer S277HK has a non-gloss, 27-inch, UltraHD panel that looks good at first glance, though not particularly brilliant. That’s backed up by our measured maximum brightness of 233 lux, which is lower than any other 4K monitor we’ve reviewed. Whether it matters is arguable, though, since there’s no gloss to overcome. In a bright sunlit room the display is always perfectly usable, even enjoyable.

If you buy this monitor, it’ll be for style. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Compared to the best 4K monitors, like the P2715Q and the Acer XB280HK, the contrast of the S277HK falls a bit behind, but its ratio of 510:1 at maximum brightness lands it a spot right in the middle of the pack. It doesn’t deliver the punch to bring real depth to scenes, but it’s good enough to separate itself from most other monitors on the market.

Mediocre contrast is forgiven by surprisingly excellent color accuracy and gamma. We measured an average color error of 1.01. Since a value of 1 or less is generally unnoticeable, this means the Acer’s S277HK’s colors are very, very accurate. Gamma comes in at a perfect preferred value of 2.2 as well. The entire sRGB color gamut can be handled by the display, along with 78 percent of AdobeRGB.

All of this comes together to provide out-of-the-box quality that’s well above average. Even the Dell P2715Q isn’t as accurate from the factory; the Samsung U32D970Q is the only 4K display that’s technically better, but its contrast is rather low, and so it doesn’t look as good in practice.

Acer S277HK 4K Monitor

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

To be clear, Dell’s 4K monitor does look better overall. But the difference is slim and all comes down to contrast ratio. The S277HK is easy on the eyes no matter what is displayed – Word documents, high-resolution images and games all look sharp, clear and vibrant.

Post-calibration

Given the Acer S277HK’s high level of accuracy out of the box, making it better through calibration was a tall order, but we did find some success. Most notably, we managed to increase the contrast ratio to 590:1 at a brightness level of 55 out of 100. The average color error was slightly lowered to .94, as well. Every color except for cyan, which is usually difficult for LED-backlit monitors, registered an error below one, indicating near-perfect representation.

Improving the contrast ratio did have a slight impact in games and movies with numerous dark scenes, but overall the display didn’t look much different after calibration. The color tone was a bit warmer, and more natural, but an observer would be hard pressed to tell without a back-to-back comparison between pre-calibration and post-calibration settings.

Limited improvement may sound like a problem, but it’s not when a display is this good right off the factory line. Most users will find the S277HK beautiful from the moment it arrives, and will have little reason to tweak its numerous image quality settings.

Warranty

Acer backs this monitor with a three-year limited warranty. That’s essentially the industry standard for products in its price range.

Conclusion

That is a problem for Acer. Dell’s monitor offers a far superior ergonomic stand, better on-screen controls, and slightly better overall image quality. All of this leads to an obvious conclusion; you should probably buy the Dell.

Still, Acer’s S277HK is a display worthy of your time. Though its contrast is inferior to the P2715Q, its color accuracy is better, and by extension is among the top three most accurate displays we’ve reviewed. Acer’s alternative also has superior on-screen controls.

Let’s be honest, though; if you buy this display, it’ll be for style. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Normally, stylish monitors make big image quality sacrifices, but this one looks as beautiful when it’s on as when it’s off.

Highs

  • Attractive, unusual design
  • Numerous quality controls
  • Excellent image at default settings

Lows

  • Limited adjustability
  • Not VESA compatible
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