My First Curved Ultrawide Gaming Monitor
Today I’m going to be reviewing my very first curved gaming monitor, and I’m actually really excited about it because I haven’t experienced curved gaming in a really, really long time. I do remember seeing a few monitors at show floors like CES and Computex, but I have never lived with one for an extended period of time.
This is the AOC CU34G2X 34-inch curved gaming monitor, another display with an alphabet soup model name that I will never remember, but let’s unbox this thing and set it up. I am going to use it for a while so that I can really experience what a curved ultrawide 21:9 display has to offer.
All right, I have now had this monitor for 3 weeks and I need to be transparent here for a second. I have never really been a fan of curved ultrawide monitors because as a creator I prefer taller monitors that give you more vertical screen real estate. I also prefer something that is more colour accurate because that is what matters as a creator when I’m producing videos or when I’m editing videos. Before this experience I have never really even thought about switching to an ultrawide monitor, but now that I have spent a good amount of time with this curved gaming monitor from AOC I definitely have a firm grasp on what the experience is like.
For you to understand my point-of-view on this monitor, you probably need to see what I have been using these past couple of years, and that is the
BenQ PD3200U. It has been my primary display since I have reviewed it more than two years ago. It was a dream monitor for me because it is 4K, it spans across 32-inches, and it has a true 10-bit panel that is factory calibrated with excellent colour accuracy. I have no plans to replace this monitor just yet, but as I slowly started thinking about it I realized that for people who are upgrading from a 24-inch 1080P display or a 27-inch 1440P display the upgrade to a 34-inch ultrawide monitor can make sense. There is a good argument to made for getting that extra horizontals screen real estate for gaming and content consumption. I have spent a good amount of time playing around with this AOC monitor so let me walk you through my experience using it.
The AOC CU34G2X is one of the best selling curved gaming monitors on the market right now, according to Amazon. It also goes to show how far the larger format curved monitor market has come in terms of both pricing and screen quality. Why? Well you are getting a 34-inch display with a curved 21:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 3440 x 1440. It also has a VA panel with a refresh rate of 144Hz and a 1ms claimed response time. It’s also FreeSync Premium certified, so it’s great for AMD users who want LFC or low frame rate compensation. It is also G-Sync compatible through the DisplayPort Adaptive Sync protocol. Then there is AOC’s new 3-year dead pixel warranty that also covers accidental damage in the first year. The price for all of this $450 USD. Now unfortunately at the time of this review a lot of retailers have jacked up the prices on this monitor, which is kind of unfortunate, but if you can find it for $450 that is awesome.
Build Quality & Features
Now just to quickly go with the physical aspects of this monitor, I’m actually really surprised by the build quality that you are getting for the price. The stand is nice and rigid, this really did surprise me a lot. This monitor also is VESA compatible, so if you are looking into mounting this on a third-party monitor arm you can certainly do so. The I/O is also very respectable, you are getting two DisplayPort 1.4, two HDMI, and a couple more USB 3.0 ports, which is nice. And finally, there are a lot of colour profiles built into the OSD that you can play around with. I prefer setting it to the Standard mode as it was the most pleasing to my eyes.
I’m going to kick things off with my gaming experience using this monitor, because it is targeted towards the gaming market. I have to say I absolutely loved it. The 144Hz refresh rate along with that 1ms response time was absolutely amazing. I think the first thing that comes to my mind is that wider field of view, because it can help expand horizontal awareness in FPS titles. There is also more horizontal viewing in racing games and strategy games can benefit from this as well. However, not all games support the 21:9 format natively. Unfortunately, a lot of the games that I play don’t have native support for this aspect ratio like Need for Speed Payback and Need for Speed Heat. These are some of the titles that I’m really invested in and unfortunately it is just does not work. That vertical crop really ruins the whole gaming experience. Now while a lot of the games that I play are older, don’t expect this to just be an issue with older titles because newer games also suffer from this compatibility issue.
There are workarounds to this though, you can simply go into the config files, change a few things to make it work on your ultrawide monitor, but that does involve a lot of researching, and it’s just not a quick and easy step to make it work on a 21:9 display. Now I will leave a link to a site called wsgf.org down below. It is a fantastic forum that walks you through the most optimal settings to take advantage of your 21:9 ultrawide monitor. Unfortunately, some games can’t be fixed either, like Overwatch and some other titles apply a vertical crop. Some have said that this could be due to giving anyone a competitive advantage, but it’s still just darn annoying. I highly recommend that you research the games that you want to play, and just not assume that it’s just going to work automatically on a 21:9 display. On the plus side, when it works it looks amazing. It is an absolutely amazing experience, but when they don’t you almost feel like all that money that you have invested in the monitor is being wasted.
The next factor that I want to talk about is the curve on the monitor, because it takes your immersion to a whole new level. If you are playing racing games or flight simulations or FPS titles that curve sort of gives you this wraparound feel. It’s difficult to describe it in words you really have to experience it in person. I think another way of putting it is that it sort of tightens up your field of view, but you are still not losing your sight or your peripheral vision. Everything is still in your peripheral vision, I think that’s the best way to put it. While this is a 1500R curved display, I didn’t really find it too aggressive. It was just perfect.
While I had a blast in games, unfortunately that curve comes at a disadvantage when it comes to productivity. I spend the majority of my day creating content, and if I’m working on a thumbnail in Photoshop my lines look warped, the composition just looks totally off. I can’t really make the call as to what it’s going to look like when someone views it on a smartphone display that’s for the most part flat. If my lines are straight on a curved monitor, or if I make it straight on a curved monitor, it may look warped on some other display that is flat. Again, it just throws me off, it throws my composition, I did not like having that warped image as I’m working in Photoshop or even in Davinci Resolve.
The other thing that bothered me was the size. The AOC curved monitor is slightly wider compared to the BenQ. You are getting roughly 3 inches more with the ultrawide, which is a bonus. On the other hand, the height favors the BenQ monitor because it has a 16:9 aspect ratio and its higher resolution gives it more vertical space. When measuring I did include the bezels as well, just to keep it simple. To be honest with you, this 34-inch ultrawide monitor looked smaller to me compared to my 32-inch BenQ monitor. I think that it has to do with the height of the monitor rather than the width, because with the 4K BenQ monitor you are getting more vertical pixels than the 34-inch ultrawide, so you get more vertical screen real estate when you are working with different applications.
I will give you a perfect example. People generally think that when you are using an editing software the ultrawide aspect ratio gives you a broader perspective of your timeline, but I added videos in chunks, meaning I zoom into the timeline and then edit 10 to 15 seconds of the video, perfect the cuts, make sure that the transitions are smooth, and then move on to the next portion. The ultrawide didn’t really make a huge difference to my workflow. However, what did bother me the most was the program monitor was significantly smaller compared to my BenQ monitor. There was just so much wasted space around that. Now keep in mind, this is a layout that I like to work with, yours may be completely different. If I switch over to the 32-inch BenQ monitor, you can clearly see that I can take advantage of all of that extra vertical screen real estate to make it bigger, and I can have a really nice view of the timeline as well. It’s just perfect. If I were to compare this 34-inch ultrawide to a 27-inch 1440P display, the ultrawide is the clear winner because you obviously get more space to work around horizontally. I think by now you have a clear idea that I have been spoiled by higher resolution displays.
The next bit is watching videos on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other platforms, because most content being produced these days come in a 16:9 format that can take advantage of all possible screen real estate. On the BenQ monitor, when you hit the fullscreen button, the whole space fills up without any black bars. It’s a pleasing experience overall. Switching over to the ultrawide and you will immediately start to notice vertical black bars, which might not be a deal breaker for a lot of ultrawide users, but I just can’t deal with that. However, when you find content being shot in that ultrawide aspect ratio, it’s an amazing experience.
Content Creation & Productivity
On the positive side, multitasking typically favors the ultrawide because Windows management is efficient. If you prefer having two different apps in split-screen mode you will benefit from the extra field of view, meaning you can see more things within each window. I think this would be a great upgrade for those coming from a 27-inch 1440P display, because you are getting more horizontal pixels without sacrificing vertical pixels. There are some tools like FancyZones Windows manager that makes the non-gaming experience on these ultrawide monitors so much more usable. It is a super efficient way to snap multiple windows in different layouts. I will leave a link down below, it’s truly amazing.
However, truthfully I don’t see myself getting into that situation. When I’m right in front of a display, editing a video or writing out a script, or researching a topic for a video, I’m more focused on the center part of the display rather than the sides. I typically position like browser tabs at the center instead of going fullscreen. Also, when I’m making thumbnails using Photoshop the content is right at the center, and I like to sort of frame things right in that area because it just helps me stay in focus and be more productive. I like to get things done step-by-step, but I’m by no means a multitasking guru and for the type of work that I do I just prefer having a single window right in the center. Now I’m also aware that a lot of ultrawide users love having two, three, or four windows at the same time, which fits their workflow, and that’s totally fine too.
As I mentioned earlier, I was skeptical about trying out a curved ultrawide gaming monitor, but I think the biggest takeaway after spending a good amount of time with this thing is that it really gives you an immersive experience when you are gaming on it. The wider field of view in games that properly support that aspect ratio is just a fantastic experience. But would I switch to it permanently? Absolutely not. I just cannot sacrifice that vertical screen real estate, 4K is just perfect for my needs. I mean this would be a perfect complimentary monitor to my 32-inch, but I wouldn’t switch to this as my primary display.
Having said all of that, this AOC monitor strikes a good balance between performance and affordability, because for $450 USD it is just a steal in my opinion. If you are someone who is coming from a non-4K display or a large format display, for instance a 24-inch 1080P monitor or a 27-inch 1440P monitor, you should probably consider trying out a 34-inch ultrawide because you are really not losing a lot in terms of size and most importantly screen resolution.
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