4K monitors are the way forward according to vendors, who are squeezing out an increasing number of monitors toting resolutions above Full-HD (WQHD, UWQHD) for a price premium compared to conventional 1080p panels.
However, competition means that prices have started to fall down to the point that we're now seeing more pixel-packed monitors selling for less than £400 (around US$256, or AUS$841). The cheapest of them is the Acer CB280HK, currently selling at £269 (around US$420, or AUS$566) at Ebuyer, which provided us with the monitor.
Most of the first generation 4K monitors - such as the Viewsonic VX2880ML - were not suitable for gaming because their refresh rate was limited to 30Hz – which might explain why costs are coming down.
The newer generation of displays use either MST (Multi Stream Transport) or SST (Single Stream transport) to double that refresh rates to 60Hz when used with DisplayPort. The CB280HK is one such monitor, suitable for gamers thanks to its 60Hz refresh rate and super fast 1ms response time.
The CB280HK came in a big box; it's a 28-inch display after all. Assembling the monitor stand and getting the display in working order took a couple of minutes; the stand base uses a single screw mechanism to link with the pillar and the latter uses a simple 4-point click mechanism to support the panel.
It's far simpler to put together than the VX2880ML, and Acer's offering one you to change the monitor height, pivot, swivel and tilt, making it far more flexible than its aforementioned competitor. Oh and there's even a VESA mount if you fancy placing it on a wall or on a custom stand.
Speaking of the panel, it is an LED-backlit, TN-model with a 4K2K resolution; that's 3840 x 2160 pixels or just under 8.3 million pixels.
Other specifications include a 1000:1 static contrast ratio and a 1ms grey-to-grey response time. Connectivity incudes a HDMI 1.4 port, a DisplayPort 1.2, a Mini DisplayPort 1.2 and even a DVI one. The CB280HK also comes with two speakers and an audio in but they're best used as last resort options.
There's no USB hub though which is a shame given how useful these are for Ultrabook users that often lack those. The monitor came with a manual and a set of cables (but no HDMI ones). If you plan to use those with a laptop, I recommend getting a mini DisplayPort or a mini-HDMI cable.
Performance and verdict
The Acer produced good viewing angles and better image quality out-of-the-box than you might expect for a 4K panel well under £300, but it won't suit professionals demanding near perfect colour accuracy.
Acer says that it can cover only 72% of the NTSC colour space with a maximum theoretical colour gamut of 1.07 billion colours. Our colourometer found that it couldn't even reach that, reaching 69%. it fared better on our sRGB test, colovering 95% of that colour spectrum.
Screen uniformity was unimpressive, which is to be expected on a 4K monitor of this cost. The biggest deviation in brightness came from the top-left hand side of the CB280HK that was found to be 21% darker than the panel's center. It's not a problem during every day use but won't suit professionals' higher demands.
Topping out at 282 cd/m2 (or nits), just short of Acer's quoted 300cd/m2, the CB280HK's brightness levels were just about right, displaying the screen's contents clearly without blinding your vision. Colours are impressive out of the box, producing deep blacks and rich tones that "pop".
Colour tones can be tweaked using two "six-axis" hue and saturation menus, but such was the CB280HK's picture quality ouf-of-the-box that adjusting them was not necessary.
Overall, the Acer CB280HK is an impressive 4K monitor for the money. Unsurprisingly there's plenty of room for improvement when it comes to colour accuracy, but its sufficient brightness, clear and vibrant picture, good viewing angles and flexible stand mean that compromises are for the most part few and far between.