Acer S273HL

For AU$599, it's hard to be too unkind to the S273HL. Still, for a little more you could get the far superior U2711 — it all depends on your wallet.


6.5
CNET Rating

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


Screens of 27-inches are the "acceptable" big monitor, slightly cutting down on the bulk brought by the giant 30-inch screen. Dell kicked things off with its 2707WFP, and lately the market has seen entries from Dell, ViewSonic and Apple in the fray.

While Dell and Apple push the envelope with native resolutions of 2560x1440, ViewSonic opted to stay at 1920x1080 — useful for those who find themselves often squinting at a monitor and thinking that the details are too small. Acer follows this methodology, with its incredibly thin, LED-backlit S273HL supplying the same resolution.

Acer S273HL front

Ah! The funky foot returns.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Specs at a glance

Size 27-inches
Resolution 1920x1080
Aspect ratio 16:9
Pixel pitch 0.311
Panel technology TN
Viewing angles
(10:1 contrast)
H: 170°
V: 160°
Response time 2ms G2G
Max vertical refresh 60Hz
Connections VGA, HDMI x2, 3.5mm line in
Accessories VGA, 3.5mm audio cables

Stand and ergonomics

Part of the S273HL's thinness is due to moving electronics about — the power supply has been broken out into its own brick, and the inputs have all been shunted down to the stand. While the S273HL looks thinner, thanks to the stand it probably takes up just as much space as any other monitor.

It also greatly limits flexibility, with the S273HL having one adjustment: tilt; and that's it. This is extremely poor for a monitor of this size. A blue light that can't be turned off is also on the stand, which may distract some.

Acer S273HL stand

A great amount of the electronics have been moved into the stand, making for some chunky support.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Connections

Acer S273HL inputs

HDMI x2, VGA, 3.5mm line in, power jack.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

It's here that we need to complain a bit — the 3.5mm jack will only accept sound when the VGA port is being used. Given that Acer hasn't supplied a DVI port, and that computers would likely be hooked up by a DVI > HDMI cable, wouldn't it make sense to enable the 3.5mm port for HDMI use, or at least allow the user to choose the audio input? Then again, we probably shouldn't care; the included speaker is rubbish.

We should also mention auto-input switching at this point, a technology that attempts to be useful, but is anything but. While it's meant to assist by finding what's plugged into the monitor and then activating that input, it has a horrible by-product: if you have a PC plugged in and it goes to sleep, the monitor auto-switches to whatever else is plugged in. This is bad in two ways: firstly, when you come back to your computer, you have to manually switch the monitor source back, and secondly, it's also a horrific waste of power to keep the screen active when it's meant to be sleeping.

Buttons and on-screen display (OSD)

Acer S273HL buttons

Hi. Monitor manufacturers, we need to talk. This "funky" button thing you're doing? It doesn't work.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Acer's found a new annoying place to put the buttons for the S273HL — under the monitor itself, on its stand. This makes it not only incredibly difficult to see what button you're pushing, but it also means that you have to contort your hand to make it fit under the screen's bezel. Looks great, but it's about as friendly as a spike in the face. There's no quick input-switching button — you'll have to go through the menu to change.

Acer S273HL OSD

Acer's OSD is incredibly simple, in both contexts of the word.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

The OSD is incredibly simple, although interestingly, for the first time we can remember, it has "colour" spelled correctly for the region. There are five presets: User, Eco, Standard, Graphics and Movie, although we recommend that you ignore them all and stick to User for the best colours. There's also colour temperature settings of Warm, Cool and User, and our above recommendation applies here, as well.

Scaling is a sad affair, only offering full-screen or aspect scaling, with no 1:1 — but it appears broken in implementation. Set your resolution to 1600x900, and there are black borders all the way around, regardless of the scaling mode. At 1680x1050, there are black borders on the left and the right, once again ignoring the scaling mode set. It manages to get 1440x900 right, but other resolutions freak it out. You'll really want to stick to native resolution for the S273HL, which may concern some gamers who have lower-end hardware.

Performance

Lagom.nl LCD tests
After calibrating to a target brightness of 140cd/m² with an X-Rite i1Display 2, Eye-One Match 3 and tweaking with HCFR, the S273HL was run through the Lagom.nl LCD tests.

The Acer turned out to be too sharp with no way to adjust this, and failed two of the inversion tests. The latter isn't so much of a problem — most monitors fail between two and four of these tests — but the first certainly is a concern.

Image tests
Contrast Sharpness Gamma Black level White saturation Gradient
Pass Too sharp Pass Pass Pass Pass
Inversion pixel walk tests
Test 1 Test 2a Test 2b Test 3 Test 4a Test 4b Test 5 Test 6a Test 6b Test 7a Test 7b
Pass Pass Slight flicker Pass Pass Flicker Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass

Input lag
Measured against a Samsung SyncMaster 975p CRT, and using a Canon 40D set to a shutter speed of 1/320, an average of over 60 photographs was taken using StoppUhr. The S273HL showed no measurable input lag over HDMI, meaning that it should be fine for PC gamers.

Colour accuracy
ΔE is the measurement of how far a measured colour deviates from its expected value, allowing us to determine the colour accuracy of a monitor. While a ΔE value of one is considered perceivable, as long as it's less than three, the shift shouldn't be too obvious. HCFR was used to determine ΔE for the monitor, in tandem with an X-Rite i1Display 2.

Measured levels
Contrast ratio 1228:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.26
White level (cd/m²) 319.16
Gamma 1.74
Greyscale ΔE
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
62.2 44.1 42.4 39.3 36.7 35.8 33.9 32.9 30.9 28.8 26.1
Colour ΔE (compared to sRGB)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
1.6 10.8 18.3 10.7 27.6 21.0

Acer S273HL CIE chart

Yowza! Those greys are absolutely horrendous.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

By default, the S273HL's greys are further out of whack than we can remember any other monitor being in recent history. This would manifest itself in uneven gradients from light to dark. We can at least attempt to correct these through the provided controls — but since the S273HL is a budget monitor, we'll just have to take whatever primaries and secondaries come as a result. Along the way, we'll see if we can fix the poor black level and resulting gamma.

Measured levels (Standard mode)
Contrast ratio 1015:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.14
White level (cd/m²) 142.15
Gamma 2.20
Greyscale ΔE
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
68.8 6.9 1.0 1.4 1.0 1.3 1.0 0.8 1.3 1.0 1.8
Colour ΔE (compared to sRGB)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
3.5 6.7 5.4 7.9 6.4 5.1

Acer S273HL CIE chart

Much, much better after some judicious tweaking.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

HDMI performance
While a monitor might have an HDMI port, there's no guarantee that it'll display images as expected. We hooked up a PlayStation 3 and checked for 24p capability as well as judder, and ran the HQV Blu-ray test to see how well it coped with an interlaced source and noise.

24p capable Understands YUV Mission Impossible III
Scene 11 judder test
Mission Impossible III
Scene 14 judder test
No Yes Slight judder Heavy judder
HQV noise
reduction
score
HQV video
resolution loss
score
HQV jaggies
score
HQV film
resolution loss
score
HQV film
resolution loss - stadium
score
Total score
out of 100
0 0 0 0 0 0

HDMI on the Acer performs poorly with video, as we'd expect for a budget monitor. Gaming on a console for the most part would likely be fine.

Viewing angles
Viewing angles were taken with a Canon 40D in spot-metering mode, with only shutter time adjusted to obtain a good exposure.

Acer S273HL viewing angles

Since the S273HL uses TN technology, viewing angles are quite poor compared to its IPS and VA challengers, especially on the verticals.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Backlight uniformity
Backlight uniformity was measured by placing HCFR into free measure mode, displaying a completely white image and recording the brightness along a 5x3 grid on the screen. This should be considered as being a guide only, as backlight uniformity is likely to change from unit to unit.

Acer S273HL backlight uniformity

This is pretty normal for a TN screen.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Light bleed
Our review sample suffered from a noticeable bleed of 3mm all around the screen. This is a rather poor showing from Acer.

It's important to note that the effects of light bleed will likely change from monitor to monitor, regardless of make.

Power consumption
We measured power consumption using a Jaycar mains digital power meter. It's important to note here that, due to limitations of the meter, measurements are limited to values of 1W and greater, and are reported in 1W increments.

All measurements, screen brightness and contrast were set to 100 per cent, and a test image displayed.

Juice Box
Maximum power draw 32W
Power-saving mode <1W
Off <1W

The S273HL sleeps properly, consuming very little power in this state. It's also quite frugal while on, impressive for a monitor of this size.

Warranty

Acer's warranty covers the S273HL for three years, although you'll have to return the monitor yourself. If you have a defective pixel within 7 days of purchase, Acer will replace the unit.

Funnily enough, Acer's ancient pixel policy brochure that came with the S273HL didn't cover monitors of 27 inches in size, or monitors containing the resolution of 1920x1080. Judging by the existing list, though, Acer's on the worse end of the pixel policy guarantee, requiring eight dark pixels before it replaces the screen. Thankfully, a single bright dot should get you a swap-out satisfaction guarantee, meaning that you can return the monitor without question 14 days from the date of receipt.

Conclusion

For AU$599, it's hard to be too unkind to the S273HL. It's slightly better in performance than ViewSonic's offering, even if it is missing a DVI port. But Dell's drastic price cutting now means that another AU$200 can get a U2711, which is massively better in every aspect except for power consumption and price. The choice here is down to your wallet.

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