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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
Good refresh rate and response time
No option for VESA mount
If you’re a gamer who’s on a tight budget, the Acer SB220Q bi offers a ton of performance for an insanely low price.
Sourcing a decent, affordable gaming monitor can be a difficult task these days. Sure, there are tons of ultra gamer-esque RGB monitors packing high refresh rates, low response times, and beefy resolutions, but what if you’re on a tight budget? Enter Acer’s SB220Q bi 21.5-inch Full HD IPS Monitor—a display packed with handy features for gamers all for under $100. While there are some nice elements of the SB220Q, it isn’t without some cost-cutting measures either, so read our full review below before you jump the gun.
Right out of the box, the SB220Q is an insanely thin monitor. Coming in a just under a quarter-inch of thickness, this display is one of the thinnest we’ve ever seen. The whole unit is incredibly lightweight as well (5.5 pounds), so that’s also great if you plan to move it around a lot.
The bezels around the screen feature what Acer calls “Zero Frame” design, meaning they are exceptionally thin. While not quite zero, the bezel is probably only as thick as a few sheets of paper. It makes for a pretty good-looking screen when in use, creating a near edge-to-edge display.
At the back, there’s a small bump-out alongside the ports for HDMI, VGA and power cables. The controls are found under the bottom right of the screen in their typical location, utilizing the basic multi-button layout for shuffling through the settings menu. While not as intuitive as a joystick, they get the job done just fine. The base of the monitor is a sturdy circular plate with the same glossy black finish found on most of the display.
While not quite zero, the bezel is probably only as thick as a few sheets of paper. It makes for a good-looking screen when in use, creating a near edge-to-edge display.
Now there are some downsides we should point out. Most of these criticisms have to do with a lack of features included, most likely because this is a budget monitor, but also probably because Acer needed to save space to make the SB220Q so thin and light.
One major point of concern is that this display doesn’t include a DisplayPort option for connectivity. While the HDMI may get the job done for most, we prefer to use DP for most gaming applications when possible. However, because this is only 1080p (Full HD) and 75Hz max, the HDMI should do just fine (just ensure you have the option to use HDMI with your graphics card). Also, in order to cut the bulk on the monitor, the power supply uses a brick instead of being internal.
Another thorn in the side of this monitor is the complete lack of ergonomics. While some plan to plop the display right down in front of them and never look back, if you want to adjust height, swivel or orientation, forget it. The SB220Q only allows some minor tilt adjustment and it also lacks VESA mounts, so you’re stuck with the stock base and stand.
Setting up the SB220Q is as simple as any other monitor these days. Though your specific setup will vary, we’ll cover how to hook it up properly for either PC or console use. There are some settings you’ll want to ensure are enabled, so read on before you dive into using the display.
First, go ahead and remove everything from the box, peel off those protective films, and plug in the power brick. Next you’ll need to either choose the VGA or HDMI for input (we recommend HDMI plugged directly into your graphics card). Once you’re all hooked up and ready to go, power on the monitor and your computer.
The display should automatically receive the input from your computer, and from here you’ll want to tweak the settings to ensure you’re getting the full use of your new monitor. Since the SB220Q features both FreeSync and a refresh rate of 75Hz, you want to make sure both of these are operating properly.
While some plan to plop the display right down in front of them and never look back, if you want to adjust height, swivel or orientation, forget it.
Once you’ve got the monitor up and your PC is showing your desktop, either right-click and hit “Display Settings” or find this under the settings in the Start menu. Next, you’ll want to scroll down to “Advanced Display Settings” and on this page, you should see that both the resolution and refresh rate are correct (1920x1080 and 75Hz for reference).
Lastly, you’ll want to enable FreeSync, provided your GPU supports this. This option is found under the display’s settings menu. Look for the “Gaming” tab and tick FreeSync on if it isn’t already.
If you’d like to use this monitor for console gaming, you’ll need to use the HDMI port, but the setup is mostly the same. Plug it all in, power it up, and head to your console’s settings under display and sounds. Under this menu, you want to double-check that the resolution and refresh rate are correct. Most modern consoles should automatically do this, but it doesn’t hurt to check. This particular monitor does not support HDR, so that feature needs to remain off. Your console should recognize this if you run a test, but confirm that the resolution is 1920x1080 and the refresh is at 75Hz (don’t forget to enable FreeSync in the display’s settings).
The image quality here is fairly impressive for the price. The IPS display definitely looks better than a TN panel, and if you are upgrading from a TN, the vibrancy will be the first thing you’ll notice. The SB220Q provides the standard 16.7 million colors you’d expect from this type of panel. Also because it’s IPS, the viewing angles are solid compared to a TN panel, which is a good thing seeing as how there is pretty much no ergonomic adjusting on the stand. This means you don’t necessarily need to be sitting directly in front of the monitor.
Unfortunately, IPS panels of all shapes and sizes suffer from backlight bleed issues, and our SB220Q also faced this problem. While not horrible, there’s some noticeable bleed along the edges of the screen. If yours is exceptionally bad, you can always RMA it.
The overall brightness on the panel isn’t amazing, but pretty typical of the price range. Packing 250cd/m2, it’ll get the job done for most, but may suffer in especially bright environments.
Thanks to the smaller size of this display, the 1080p FHD display actually looks sharp. This is due to the ppi (pixels per inch). If you’re sitting near the monitor at the proper distance (about 2 to 3 feet), it’ll look great to most users who aren’t display fanatics, even if it won’t match 2K and 4K options.
The overall brightness on the panel isn’t amazing, but pretty typical of the price range. Packing 250cd/m2, it’ll get the job done for most, but may suffer in especially bright environments. The contrast ratio is also nothing crazy, but at 1000:1, it’s normal for the range.
A quick note on color accuracy—it’s acceptable for a budget monitor, but don’t plan on using this professionally. You can tweak things a bit in the menu, but we recommend looking around online for a preset profile to help boost things a bit.
We tested out the monitor with console and PC gaming, watching movies, and just doing some casual work. Specifically, we tested the monitor with a host of games on PC and console, such as For Honor, God of War, and Battlefield V. Now, our rig was a bit overkill for this display, but if you’ve got a more budget-friendly PC, the results should be solid since you’re only looking at a max of FHD at 75Hz.
With FreeSync enabled, frames while playing on PC held at a steady 60-75fps (frames per second) with no noticeable screen tearing. Disabling this feature results in some screen tearing, but FreeSync is there for a reason. On console, the display also performed well, keeping the fps within the FreeSync range of 48-75. Colors look bright and vibrant thanks to the IPS panel, but it wasn’t anywhere close to 2K or 4K.
The response time is decent for the SB220Q, at 4ms, but won’t be enough if you’re planning on doing some super competitive gaming. For most though, this is just fine and you should have no issues even for first-person shooters. Consuming some light entertainment looks great too, but the 75Hz rating here won’t have an impact as most content like Netflix or YouTube can’t use the higher refresh rate. Nonetheless, content is clear and crisp with minimal ghosting.
This being a lower-end budget display, there aren’t a whole lot of extra software features on the SB220Q, but there are a few we should point out. Under the monitor’s settings, you can adjust typical things like brightness and contrast via the on-screen display, but there’s also some hidden settings that can give you an edge in gaming.
While there are some nice elements of the SB220Q, it isn’t without some cost-cutting measures either.
Dubbed “Aim Point,” this option allows you to place a reticule overlay on your screen that supposedly helps your accuracy in shooters. We briefly tested this out and found it to be somewhat gimmicky, but it’s there if you want it.
While some monitors with similar specs can cost around $200-300 or more, Acer’s cost-cutting strategy with the SB220Q really does bring this panel down to an impressive price point. Searching around online, you can get the display for $80 to $90 typically (it likely goes for even less if you can snag it on sale). This makes it perhaps the best low-end gaming monitor for those looking to pinch their pennies. While you definitely lose out on some handy things like VESA compatibility or DisplayPort inputs, the SB220Q might be perfect for you if the specs match your needs.
Another thing to note is that because these displays are so cheap, they also make a solid option for running multiple displays (but keep in mind you’ll have to use the stock stand and need multiple VGA or HDMI ports).
The closest display to Acer’s SB220Q is from Sceptre with their E225W-19203R. They’re priced around the same level at $90 for the Acer and $80 for the Sceptre (on Amazon). Both of these monitors are roughly the same display size, top out at 75Hz, feature FHD, and have comparable brightness and response times.
The Acer gets a slight edge, however, with 300 versus 250 cd/m2 on the Sceptre. It also has a slightly better response time at 4ms compared to 5ms. That said, the Sceptre has some nice additional features the Acer lacks, like VESA compatibility, built-in speakers and an extra HDMI port.
Because they’re so close performance-wise, you’ll need to decide which options are more important to you based on your needs, but both of them are decent for the range.
The ultimate budget gaming monitor.
All in all, the Acer SB220Q bi is a great 1080p gaming display for a competitive cost. If you don’t want to jump up to 2K or 4K resolutions and you don’t want more than 75Hz, it may just be the best option around for a low-end budget gaming monitor.