ULTRA-WIDE MONITORS

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For gaming and movie-watching

ultra-wide-monitors

Q&A

What panel type should I get?

IPS, TN and VA are the usual LCD types, but you don’t tend to get TN at this panel size. Instead your choice is between the better color accuracy and viewing angles of IPS or the high contrast of VA.

Can I get a actual gaming monitor at this panel size?

Yes. You can now get fast refreshing IPS and VA screens for gaming. TN panels are still the most responsive, but fast IPS panels in particular are still fine for all but the most competitive gamer.

What is ultra-wide, anyway?

Ultra-wide generally means a monitor with a 21:9 aspect ratio rather than the more conventional 16:9. An ultra-wide monitor will eliminate those pesky black bars above and below widescreen films and can give you a wider, more natural view in some games.

What about 4K?

For most gamers, 4K is still either a pipedream or just unnecessary. It takes an enormous amount of graphical processing power to animate that many pixels. Working at that resolution on your desktop can also cause issues.

What resolution can I get?

Most ultra-wides are one of two resolutions: 3440×1440 or 2560×1080. If you’re only concerned with gaming and video then the latter is fine, but for general desktop work you’ll want the higher resolution.

Dictionary

Freesync/G-Sync—technologies that sync the refresh rate of the monitor to the graphics card framerate. Eliminates tearing and stutter.

IPS/TN/VA—IPS and VA have better viewing angles, TN is best for gaming.

What good is all that graphics processing power if those pixels don’t end up on a high quality screen?

A new ultra-wide monitor might be just what you need.

An ultra-wide display stretches the usual 16:9 aspect ratio to 21:9, which is the difference between a normal widescreen TV and a true widescreen movie. As well as making movies look”‘ great—no more black bars—the extra width can get you a wider view in games, and it’s handy for work too.

Typically ultra-wides come in either 29″ or 34″ sizes, but I’ve stuck to the big guns—monitors have to be 32″ or larger for this roundup.

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ACER XR342CK

On paper, the Acer XR342CK shouldn’t be the top gaming monitor. It’s the little brother to the Acer Predator X34A, with a lower, 75Hz refresh rate, and the less popular Freesync rather than G-Sync. However, it is in every other way superior.

This is the updated version of the XR341CK that launched alongside the X34A early in the year, and while an updated X34A is due, it hasn’t arrived yet, giving this cheaper model the upper hand.

Even against an updated X34A, the XR342CK would still make a fine choice. Like the X34A, it sports a curved, 34″ IPS panel with a resolution of 3440×1440, providing an ideal pixel density that won’t need any resolution adjustment in Windows.

It produces identically brilliant image quality to its big brother too, right out of the box. For desktop, video or gaming, it looks superb. For games, the combination of Freesync and the 75Hz refresh makes for a smooth, responsive experience, even if it can’t compete with 100Hz+ displays for sheer zip.

New to this updated version is a slicker design that’s moved from glossy plastic on the rear to matt, and there’s a far better onscreen menu control system too. For AMD users or Nvidia users who don’t mind forgoing G-Sync, the X342CK is an absolute bargain.

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ASUS ROG SWIFT PG348Q

The PG348Q has been the flagbearer for truly massive gaming monitors since its debut at the start of 2016. With a 100Hz refresh rate, G-Sync, a 34” curved IPS panel and 3440×1440 resolution, it has everything you could ask for.

One area where it doesn’t immediately impress is design. While the PG348Q feels sturdily well built, its styling is an acquired taste, featuring strange silver patterns all over the back and odd copper highlights on the stand. It’s more coherent than its big rival, the X34A, but it won’t be for everyone.

The PG348Q also has one of the most ridiculous gaudy extras I’ve seen on a monitor. A light on underside of the stand projects a red Asus ROG logo onto your desk, like some sort of tiny Batman signal gone wrong. I immediately turned it off.

Where the PG348Q pulls things back is its excellent onscreen menu and the joystick controls for it. They combine to make setting up and tweaking very easy. Then there’s image quality, which is just that tiny bit better out of the box than the X34A. Fire up some games or a widescreen movie and it’s a delight. Fantastic colors, contrast and viewing angles join that 100Hz refresh rate and G-Sync for smooth, responsive, immersive gaming.

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ACER PREDATOR X34A

So to the X34A itself, still the current pinnacle of Acer’s vast gaming monitor lineup. Like the two previous devices, it’s a curved 34” IPS, 3440×1440 resolution display, and like the PG348Q it stretches to 100Hz and comes with G-Sync.

This makes it superb for gaming, where the ultra-wide screen and slightly wraparound curve add a surprising amount to gaming immersion. This is only enhanced by the G-Sync smoothness and noticeably quicker response from the 100Hz refresh rate. The image quality is fantastic too, although the color temperature is a little off out the box.

Also impressive is the striking, angular metal stand that balances on tiptoes. In some ways it’s not the most practical design but it sure looks good, and it still offers height, rotation and tilt adjustment, plus the option of a VESA mount.

However, we still have the glossy black plastic that also afflicted the X342CK’s predecessor. The entire back is finished in the stuff and it does slightly let down an otherwise a fantastic looking device.

A row of nine LEDs shine down onto your desk and you can choose from several colors and brightness levels. It’s superfluous but quite a nice effect—a bit like that Philips Ambilight technology on TVs.

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PHILIPS BDM3470UP

Philips’ ultra-wide eschews the fancy extras of the other monitors on this roundup, but it provides value for money where it counts, making it a good option for those most concerned about overall image quality.

Sporting a 34″ IPS panel and a resolution of 3440x 1440 pixels, the BDM3470UP has all the size and pixel density of more expensive options, but here you’ve got a flat panel.

It’s a super-slim bezeled panel too, mounted on a smart-looking stand that offers height, pivot, rotation and tilt adjustment. You also get DVI and VGA inputs along with DisplayPort and HDMI, so those with older hardware can still get in on the act.

It does, however, have the worst onscreen menu I have ever seen on a monitor. It’s got everything you need but looks appalling and is a pain to navigate. Thankfully it arrives calibrated—unlike most others on test—so aside from dropping the brightness a bit, you shouldn’t need to adjust anything else.

Once you’ve done that you get a superb quality image. Good viewing angles, accurate colors, deep contrast. Desktop work, gaming and video is a joy. However, at 60Hz and with an average input lag of 42ms, this isn’t such a great choice for competitive gamers.

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ASUS PA329Q

OK, so I cheated a little here. The Asus PA329Q isn’t technically an ultra-wide, it’s a conventional 16:9 aspect. However, it is a massive 32 inches across, sports a 4K resolution and is fully AdobeRGB capable for professional graphics use.

These all combine to make this the ultimate choice for those who need perfectly accurate colors at all times—think photo and video editing.

Given those professional credentials and the very high asking price it’s no surprise you get high build quality. The sheer weight of the panel gives away how well put together it is, and it’s backed up by a sturdy stand, with smooth adjustments for height, tilt, pivot and rotation. The impressively slim bezel also ensures that despite being a professional device it doesn’t look too utilitarian.

You get 100% sRGB and AdobeRGB coverage combined with excellent contrast and a huge 3840x 2160 resolution. However, that contrast is also modest, at just 724:1, and the resolution is so high you’ll have to use Windows’ scaling to increase the size of text and icons. This can occasionally result in some apps appearing too small as well as a few other visual artifacts that can be distracting. Unfortunately, that’s just the price you pay for 4K right now.

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SAMSUNG S34E790C

Samsung may be the king of OLED phones but when it makes monitors it chooses VA panels. That makes this 34” curved specimen potentially ideal for video watching thanks to the high contrast VA provides.

This is also a great-looking monitor from any angle, thanks to one of the most elegant stand designs in its class. You don’t get a super-slim bezel but it’s still svelte-looking, and I love that the stand curves to match the display. It’s also a reasonably practical stand with height and tilt adjustment.

The connectivity is good, with two HDMI joining the DisplayPort, and like all the monitors on test, you get a USB hub too—here it’s four USB 3.0s.

The S34E790C has a little joystick control on its rear for navigating the onscreen menu, just like on the Asus PG348Q. This makes it really easy to move around to change settings or switch inputs.

As for image quality, that VA panel delivers just the sort of deep blacks, and thus high contrast, that you’d hope for. This makes movies and games pop, creating a much deeper looking image.

Technically, it isn’t the most accurate monitor, so photographers should look elsewhere, and for gaming its nothing special, with no extras and just a 60Hz refresh rate.

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A0C C3583FQ

The C3583FQ is the cheapest monitor on test here, yet it’s also the largest. A whopping 35” from corner to corner, it’s also curved, runs at up to 160Hz and has Freesync. However, there are a couple of problems.

The first is the resolution, which is just 2560×1080. On a screen this big that makes for a very blocky, over-sized image that isn’t great for productivity as so little information can be squeezed on screen, compared to other 30″-plus screens.

Then there’s the issue of ghosting. The VA panel used here can refresh quickly but leaves behind a smudgy trail that’s noticeable even when moving around the desktop. For a fast-paced game there’s nowhere near the level of snap that you expect of a high refresh rate monitor. I’d go so far as to say the ghosting nullifies any competitive advantage the fast refresh would otherwise provide.

Still, there is one area this display does well, which is watching video. Thanks to the inherently high contrast of VA panels, there’s a richness and depth to movies, and colour accuracy is decent too. Plus it helps that the screen Is massive.

I can’t give this monitor a free pass, but its mix of features could suit some and its price is competitive.

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