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Philips Brilliance 298P4QJEB 29” UltraWide Monitor Review

AkG

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How wide is too wide for a monitor? That’s the question the new Philips Brilliance 298P4 dares you to ask. Like many IPS-based monitors it has been designed with professional consumers in mind but in this instance, does so with a unique, controversial design.

Usually monitors come in 16:9 or occasionally 16:10 aspect ratios which blend vertical with horizontal space for an optimal viewing experience. While these ratios work very well for a wide variety of scenarios and tasks, there’s a small but vocal segment that wants a huge amount of horizontal real estate. Previously, they needed to look at higher priced, 27” and 30” monitors which routinely sell for $700 and more. That’s not exactly an economical solution since it’s being hampered by the higher manufacturing costs associated with substrate loss when producing LCD / LED panels.

In order to optimize production while lowering prices and offering additional viewing space, Philips is jumping into the gap between 1080P and 1440P by introducing the 298P4 in a 21:9 aspect ratio.



In order to optimize production while lowering prices and offering additional viewing space, Philips is jumping into the gap between 1080P and 1440P by introducing the 298P4 in a 21:9 aspect ratio. This leads to a somewhat oddball resolution of 2560x1080 and a monitor with the width of a typical 27” 2560x1440 monitor but the height of a 1920x1080 panel.

This changing of the aspect ratio is not unheard of as 16:9 / 16:10 aspect ratios did replace the once popular 4:3 standard. Such changes only occur when consumers see the obvious benefits for it and never happen simply for the sake of change. Luckily for Philips, this new layout may be tailor made for both home users and professionals to some extent. For you and it, the 298P4 will require a lot less graphic processing power to hit its 60 frame per second specification, while at the same time offering a more cinematic friendly monitor as the vertical space is same as a typical movie: 1080P. Unfortunately, there are very few games that can take advantage of this format but 2.39:1 anamorphic films may be recreated in truer form than on “normal” monitors.

For professionals, the loss of a row of 360 pixels – or 25% of a typical 1440P monitor’s height – may not be appealing but Philips has priced the 298P4 at just $699 and value speaks volumes in this market. Plus, having the ability to open two ‘full screen’ windows on the same monitor is a force multiplier that should not be overlooked in the workplace environment.

This new blending of value, performance and efficiency is what Philips is counting on, allowing the 298P4 to change the buying public’s perception of what a large screen monitor should be. In addition, it should give the likes of Dell and their 27” UltraSharps real competition in the value end of the marketplace. But will this “new” aspect ratio turn potential customers off due to its lack of vertical space? We’re about to find out.

 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Philips 298P4

A Closer Look at the Philips 298P4



As with most professional orientated monitors, Philips has taken a very conservative approach to the 298P4’s overall design. If you are looking for a clear Lucite front fascia, red racing stripes or dimensions so narrow you’ll want to force feed it a sandwich – or conversely stick it on a diet of celery sticks- the 298P4 is clearly not for you.

Rather than opting for extremes Philips has instead taken a middle of the road approach to the overall aesthetics and thickness of this new monitor. The black and gray color combination has proven to be highly flexible and has allowed many monitors to blend seamlessly into a wide array of workplace environments. Philips has however added in a few minor embellishments to give it some personality.

Unlike most monitors – especially professional orientated ones – there are no well defined bezels. Much like the consumer orientated Dell S2740L, Philips has opted for edge to edge glass with the bezel hidden underneath it on three of the four sides. There is a slim 11.5mm bezel so we can’t exactly call this bezel-less.

Only the bottom edge has been spared this Jeune Ecole styling and in fact the silver bottom bezel sticks out and makes for a rather nice contrast. Taken as a whole this does give the Philips 298P4 a much needed boost in its looks and helps keep it from being just another blackish box.


While the 298P4 may not be the thinnest, thickest or even flashiest LED backlit monitor we have ever seen it is quite very distinctive and will stand out on most desks. Even with just a cursory glance no one will mistake the 298P4 for a ‘standard’ monitor. Simply put, the ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio requires a rather wide but squat form factor and it will induce double takes in most people who first see it.


To help reinforce the idea of this monitor being targeted towards the professional who is bent on getting serious work done, Philips has used an 8-bit AH-IPS panel with matte anti-glare coating. Matte screens can typically be used in a multitude of lighting environments without worries about screen glare but the AG coating on the 298P4 is a touch too aggressive and strongly reminds us of older generation Dell UltraSharps. Simply put, it does cut down glare very well but it tends to reduce image crispness and clarity.


Unfortunately, while we have reviewed some great AH-IPS panels in the past, the 298P4 does leave us with some major concerns. It uses a 14ms panel which easily makes this the slowest large screen AH-IPS based monitor we have reviewed in a long while.

Usually AH-IPS panels come in at the 6-8ms range yet the 298P4 is twice that and can only improve its specifications via over-drive. Such artificially ‘improved’ performance specifications are rarely grounded in reality and usually come with their own list of issues. In all likelihood this where the ‘professional’ designation comes from as no home user would be pleased with such a slow response rate.

On the positive side the AH-IPS technology should give this monitor excellent color fidelity and in static 2D environments – such as photo-editing – allow it to shine.


We are usually highly critical of stand choices since all too many manufacturers have chosen to focus on aesthetics rather than actual stability. Thankfully, Philips was able to do both and have included a fairly stable design which is also pleasing to look at.

While it is a touch unstable at its full extension, this base is above average as it offers 150mm of height adjustment, 25° of tilt (+5° to -20°), excellent swivel capabilities and also portrait mode. This is nearly everything you could want, but even with 150mm of height adjustment consumers will have to take care in transition to and from portrait mode. As with many similar designs, this panel will scrape along its bottom right corner unless you first tilt it all the way back and raise it to its full height extension before trying to change orientation.


The input options are rather pedestrian by modern standards but well suited to the professional workplace environment. There is a single DisplayPort, two HDMI ports, and a single DVI port. There is however an additional DisplayPort out port for daisy chaining, as well as audio-in port to feed audio to the two included 2watt speakers.


To help underscore its professional proclivities Philips has also included four USB 3.0 ports. Unfortunately, the thin design has necessitated that all four ports be positioned on the central rear electronics block and not on the side of the bezel – where they belong. This does somewhat limit their utility, but their inclusion is still welcome.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations



The 298P4’s onscreen display may not have the best design and layout we’ve seen, but it gets the job done. Unlike most OSDs Philips’ menu is in actually broken into two separate menus: the main OSD and a secondary area which covers SmartImage. Neither is accessed by the same button, and neither can be accessed via the other’s OSD.

SmartImage consists of five presets (six if you include our favorite: ‘off’ setting) which are similar to any other manufacturer’s ‘modes’. They cover a wide array of possible scenarios and make for rather quick, intuitive changes. However, the functionality very basic and having to exit the SmartImage OSD to access the separate main setting area is anything but intuitive. On the positive side, SmartImage settings do modify the overdrive defaults and ‘transforms’ this 14ms panel into a much faster 5ms unit…in theory.


When you press the menu button a small pop-up window displays with a submenu list containing all the options available. Each submenu must be selected to find out the full extent of its options, but each is labeled in a straightforward manner.

Of greater importance than the intuitive naming scheme was the fact that Philips has not hidden their settings in a byzantine manner. Everything is accessible with one or two clicks. Unfortunately, this ease of use has created a rather simplistic OSD with many advanced features simply not being available.

Some of the more basic ‘advanced’ features are not implemented to professional marketplace standards. For example, while the color temperature and gamma settings can be changed, there are no additional fine-tuning abilities. Rather, you are expected to choose from a list of rather basic options and hope for accuracy. Considering this is a professional orientated monitor such limitations may annoy the intended customer base. There isn’t even a 6-axis color adjustment capability or factory color calibration.


Getting back on track, RGB is individually adjustable and the setting is very easy to find. Unfortunately, selecting Red, Green or Blue brings you to a sub menu which has to be exited from before you can adjust the other two colors. By not being able to quickly change from R-G-B and back again, adjusting the panel away from its defaults will be a rather tedious process which is anything but ‘fast’.


Overall, this onscreen display feels a bit limited and outdated by modern standards. This monitor may be frugally priced for a ‘2560’ resolution product, but when even TN monitors that cost significantly less can be configured more intuitively, it signals that it’s past time to update the menu design.
 
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AkG

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Image Quality (Uniformity / Panel & Gamma Performance)

Image Quality (Uniformity / Panel & Gamma Performance)



Calibrated Settings

Please remember that the settings below have been calibrated for our specific environment and your viewing conditions may differ from ours.

Mode Used: SmartImage set to OFF + User Defined Mode selected
Brightness: 32%

Notes:
- All tests done at default settings at 120 cd/m2.
- Unless otherwise noted, the tests were carried out via DVI

The Philips 298P4 is first and foremost a frugally priced professional class monitor and its performance attributes reflect this. Like any IPS based monitor, once calibrated, the overall picture quality is quite good and the colour gamut is the equal of any 2560x1440P IPS panel we have tested.

However, this particular monitor's capabilities just aren't a match for those of any of the other large screen AH-IPS products we've tested. Simply put, it was a disappointment. At the very least Philips should have factory calibrated their panel before shipping it out.

Even early into testing it became rather obvious that Philips has designed it with static 2D image professionals in mind rather than video aficionados or PC gamers. This is a rather curious decision as height is just as important as width for these customers whereas multimedia professionals would have found this oddball ‘1080’ resolution much more compatible with their needs.

On the positive side, with a maximum output of 262.27 cd/m2, this monitor is capable of being bright while still providing adjustability down to a more precise 120cd/m2. This combination makes it adaptable for a wide range of lighting environments but this is still much less than the 300 cd/m2 its performance ratings would lead one to believe.


Panel Uniformity


In a perfect world a screen’s brightness output would be equal throughout the entire panel. This is not a perfect world, but the lower the variation the less chances you will notice overly bright or dark sections on the screen. For the consumer LCD marketplace a variance of 10% is our gold standard but anything below 15% can be considered excellent as we doubt anyone will notice a -7.5 to +7.5 variation. A variation above 15% but below 24% can be considered adequate, but anything above this does not meet our basic minimum standards.



These are rather mixed results for a number of reasons. On the one hand a panel variance of about 18% is acceptable for such a wide backlit LED monitor. Unfortunately, the majority of this unit's uniformity drop-off comes from two dark spots which become quite obvious in some situations.

It is also obvious that the LED backlight's output is concentrated in the lower center of the panel. This in turn creates a rather bright spot which also becomes apparent under certain conditions.


Panel Performance


In a perfect world a screen’s real world response rate would be so high that motion blur, ‘ghosting’ and ‘reverse-ghosting’ would be a thing of the past. No matter how fast the action on screen, all images would be represented in pristine condition similar in quality to a static image.

While the panel's response rate (ms) and and frame rate (Hz) can give a fairly rough idea of how much blurring to expect that's not the end of this equation.

To this end we have taken PRAD’s Pixel Persistence Analyser ‘Streaky Pictures’ program and, using a high speed camera, have captured exactly how much and what kind of motion blur you can expect from a given monitor.



Overdrive On


Over-Drive Off

With a performance rating of 60 frames per second and an official refresh rate of a rather unimpressive 14ms (pre SmartResposne) we weren't expecting miracles and none were forthcoming. While Philips does include SmartResponse -which is their term for overdrive- even with itenabled, the results were rather mixed.

When we were able to properly capture it, the amount of ghosting was only moderate. However, obtaining a clear shot was anything but simple in this case. Philips' panel is so slow and the overdrive so aggressive that our camera routinely capture triple images, with inverse-ghosting, perfection and ghosting.

The inverse or ‘pre’ ghosting is obviously the result of overly aggressive internal performance settings. In all honestly, Philips would have been better off leaving good enough alone. With the pre-ghosting taken out of the equation the results would have been tolerable since seeing streaky, triple images is rather jarring and left us extremely unimpressed. Is this actually visible in the real world? Not really but your brain will still process the experience as being slightly "off".


Gamma Performance


Gamma correction is one of the hardest terms to explain. However, for our purposes the gamma correction of any electronics device is how bright or dark an image will be displayed on a screen.

All PC devices now use 2.20 gamma as the default. Any variance from this will result in an image being either underexposed which will create black crush and underexposed shadow detail or washed out with too little black level detail (aka being over-exposed).

While 2.20 is the gold standard, a minor deviation of 0.10 will in all likelihood never be noticed by anyone other than professional photographers. Higher levels of deflection however will be noticed by just about everyone.



The 298P4 may not have a perfect factory gamma setting, but 2.15 is not terrible either. Most users won't notice any degradation of on-screen detail but we have to remember this monitor is aimed at professionals. Any professional – especially static 2D ‘photography’ folks – will notice this difference and will have to adjust it before the output can be deemed adequate for their needs.
 
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AkG

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Colour Saturation Levels / Default RGB Levels

Colour Saturation Levels


While there are numerous colors the human eye can’t “see”, the human color space confined to three primary colors and combinations thereof. To make things easier for manufactures (and not waste resources displaying colors we can’t see) a color space was mathematically described and while various models do exist, the CIE RGB color space is the de facto standard.

In the below image, the dark triangle which isn’t highlighted is the sRGB color space while the overall CIE color space is displayed as the background colors. Meanwhile, the white triangle with highlighted color represents the results of what a given monitor can display. No monitor can display the entire CIE color spectrum but a good monitor should be able to display the sRGB spectrum of possible colors as this is usually used as the standard for image encoding.

A monitor which uses the “wide color gamut” moniker can display more than the sRGB spectrum and is considered primarily for professional use. If a monitor cannot cover off the entire sRGB triangle, the resulting image will appear “off” to an observer. The end result is a picture displayed on the panel which won’t be as rich, vibrant or as correct as it should be.



The 298P4 doesn't have the absolute widest color gamut we have ever seen in a professional grade monitor, but results are indeed excellent. Unlike the Dell U2713HM, the Philips 298P4 is able to easily hit all three corners of the spectrum. While it obviously can’t boast the ultra-wide gamut of the U2713H’s of this world, its abilities are still more than adequate for all but the most demanding of professional consumers.


Default RGB Levels


An LCD or LCD LED backlit panel relies on accurately blending Red, Green and Blue pixel clusters to create an overall image so closer to each of these colours is to a “perfect” 100 output, the better and more accurate the default colors will be.

In this case, we have a low tolerance for anything less than perfection since any color shift can be noticeable even to untrained eyes and will require a color correction be applied at the software level to overcome a monitor’s stock output. We do however consider a minor variation of only a few points per color to be acceptable.



And just like that any positive impressions the just got ejected out the nearest airlock. The less than stellar gamma results were bad enough, but this a downright abhorrent default color profile which puts the final nail in the coffin of 298P4’s hopes at being taken seriously by professionals. In order to persuade the typical conservative professional on the merits of 21:9 Philips needed an excellent demonstrator model and that didn't happen.

Most other "professional" oriented panels have factory calibrated presets and the 298P4 does not, which kills its performance here.
 
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AkG

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Viewing Angles / Maximum Contrast Ratio / Power Consumption

Viewing Angles


Unlike CRT displays, the manner in which LCD panels create an image can result in one large weakness: the image can lose contrast when viewed off angle. While we do not recommend watching an LCD at anything besides perfectly straight on, the reality is this cannot always be done.

To help give you a glimpse of what a panel will look like when seen from either above the horizontal or vertical plane we have taken pictures at fairly extreme angles.



Due to its unique nature the 298P4 may not have the widest viewing angles we have ever seen from a 2560 monitor, but it still is very capable in this respect. In both the horizontal and vertical planes the image remained clear of noticeable contrast or color shifting until well beyond reasonable viewing angles.

Only at extreme angles was there a noticeable shift and even then the change was not terrible. At extremes we did notice that horizontal shifts had a tendency to show more loss of brightness and contrast whereas extreme vertical angles resulted in more color shifting. However, in every case, the difference was well within tolerances.


Maximum Contrast Ratio


While manufactures love to throw around “maximum” contrast ratios in the millions, the fact of the matter is that to get these high numbers they have to use "dynamic contrast" which—at best—results in overly optimistic specs. With DC turned off, the number of shades between purest white and blackest black a given monitor can display is usually in the low hundreds rather than the thousands.

The higher the contrast ratio, the better the monitor will display shades of dark and light. For IPS monitors, anything below 450:1 is unacceptable, with 500:1 or above considered optimal. For TN anything above 120:1 will be considered “good enough” for most consumers.



Once again the best we can call the 298P4’s results are middle of the pack. It does deliver acceptable contrast levels, but it lacks the abilities of other large screen AH-IPS monitors we have seen in the past.


Power Consumption


To obtain the maximum number we set the monitors brightness to 100% and the contrast to 100%. The Calibrated results are taken at 120 cd/m2 with the contrast set to the default level.


Power consumption may not be a huge selling point for anyone looking for a ‘professional’ grade monitor, but these results are still more than acceptable.
 
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AkG

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Gaming & Movie Performance

Gaming Performance



Non-Calibrated Results


Calibrated Results

If you take your PC gaming seriously, the very first thing you will want to do is correct this monitor’s incorrect gamma range and noticeably washed out colors. As you can see, the factory colors are ‘good enough’ for the home consumer marketplace but belie the professional nature of this monitor. On the positive side, some people may actually like the default colors as it does make for a cooler color pallet.


Once the colors were corrected the 298P4’s gaming results were a rather mixed bag. On the one hand, for anyone used to 1920x1080 gaming the increased field of view afford you by the 2560 pixel width will net tangible results. On the other side of that coin, anyone used to 2560x1440 will mourn the loss of 360 vertical pixels. While the obscene vertical angles will allow you to see enemies that were once out of sight range, trying to spot enemy movement on rooftops becomes a lesson in frustration.


One of the main issues we encountered with games was FOV. While some titles allow for fine-tuning field of view, many don’t and that causes a huge problem with oddly shaped screens like this one. As a result, in many cases, the image will look overly stretched while elements like the onscreen map will be placed in a less than optimal location.

The 298P4 certainly has merit and will be good for some consumers but it isn’t a shining example of Philips’ new design initiative. As we showed in earlier testing, this panel is anything but acceptable for a fast paced environment. If your gaming consists of anything quicker than solitaire, there will be noticeable motion blurring. Thankfully, triple images were not that common but ghosting was quite apparent and became rather annoying at times.


The issues we experienced in games are somewhat acceptable as Philips has marketed and designed the 298P4 with professionals in mind. However, many professional grade monitors we have reviewed are much more situationally adaptable and capable than the 298P4. Much like the out-dated OSD, consumers have come to expect more from IPS monitors, even ‘professional’ ones.


Movie Performance



Non-Calibrated Results


Calibrated Results

Unlike the gaming performance results, the 298P4’s movie performance was much better overall. The overly cold default color pallet does work much better in some movie environments than it does in gaming. Naturally, we still recommend correcting this issue as it is always best to watch a movie the way a director intended it to be viewed.


In either case, Philips 298P4 is quite well suited for movies, particularly those in anamorphic widescreen format. It provides a relatively large viewing area, deep blacks (once calibrated of course) and good viewing angles. Most importantly, the 1080P-esque nature of this monitor means that most movies will only be stretched to fill the 2560 width from its 1920 default. This results in a much better, cleaner, up-scaled image than what can be found on most 2560x1440 monitors. Unfortunately, that image stretching we mentioned previously can rear its ugly head here as well.


The dark and even light spots noticed in the synthetic uniformity tests weren’t overly noticeable in real world scenarios. The matte screen certainly helps in this regard as reflections and screen glare are minimized. Of course, the image degradation issue first experienced in gaming scenarios is obvious in any scenes with a lot of fast movement, but thanks to the rather slow nature of movies it is not nearly as prevalent.

The 298P4’s great color fidelity – once corrected– and ultra-wide nature does make up for the moderate ghosting which occurs. By the same token, it certainly can’t compete with other AH-IPS monitors we have reviewed in the past. However, for the price, there is a lot to like here.
 
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AkG

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Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results

Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results


In a perfect world either every monitor would come factory calibrated to perfection or every single consumer would own a decent colorimeter. We don’t live in such a world and as such most consumers simply use the old Mark 1 Mod 0 eyeball to fix any imperfections with the stock colors of their new monitor.

In order to gauge how easy this is to do for a given monitor we have included a new set of tests. These tests will be carried out before any of our standard tests and will consist of us using a combination of the free online LCD Monitor Test Images (found here LCD monitor test images) and then if necessary the free Hex2Bit Monitor Calibration Wizard (found here Hex2Bit - Software by Mike Walters). The goal of these tests is to not only gauge how easy it is to accurately calibrate a given monitor using only the onboard monitor tools, but to see how closely we can come to what a Spyder3 Elite can do.


To obtain these results we did the following
- used “user define” mode
- ensured dynamic contrast and SmartImage was off
- adjusted the brightness to 31 (which resulted in a 118.3 cd/m2)
- adjusted Red to 98
- lowered Green to 90
- lowered Blue to 94
- All other settings left to default levels




Getting a visually correct color profile for the Philips 298P4 took about 15 minutes which isn't all that bad considering the amount of time it takes to go back and forth through the antiquated menu system.

Once calibrated, the panel took on a much more natural feel, without the jarringly cool default color profile. While it is disappointing that Philips decided to forego the factory color calibration offered by its competitors, a tweaks will go a long way towards moving it towards a more accurate color space.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


With the Brilliance 298P4, Philips is trying to chart a new path towards more affordable high resolution monitors and they have our respect for that. However, trying to sell the merits of a 21:9 panel to professionals and home users alike is an uphill battle. While many appreciate the horizontal real estate afforded by larger panels, very few are willing to sacrifice vertical space to get there.

The ultra wide format may take some getting used to but we can certainly see the 298P4 appealing to professionals who want an efficient, relatively low cost panel that can enhance productivity. The ability to have two complete spreadsheets open in parallel without resorting to two monitors is invaluable. With that being said, the lack of factory color calibration and 6-axis color control may hurt Philips’ positioning in the eyes of digital artists and photographers regardless of the AH-IPS panel’s intrinsic capabilities.

In order to sell this unique format, Philips needed execute flawlessly but that didn’t quite happen. While the 298P4 is a perfectly capable monitor, it features far too many response time issues (even with overdrive enabled), an antiquated menu design and suffers from compatibility issues with applications that don’t support its native resolution. There are much better options in the 2560x1440 category which only cost slightly more, have better default color profiles and don’t sacrifice a ton of vertical viewing space. This isn't necessarily a final nail in the Brilliance's coffin but it will likely make some hesitate before taking the plunge into a new form factor.

Our best advice is to find somewhere to try the 298P4 before buying it. To some, the ultra wide aspect ratio will be a dream come true, with the benefits far outweighing the sacrifices. Others simply won't like change, or pick apart other aspects of its design. Indeed, Philips' target market for this product is quite specific.

Regardless of the minor issues, Philips has engineered a competent, well-rounded monitor but to convince their clientele of its merits, they needed a home run. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Brilliance 298P4 offers middle-of-the-pack performance and still costs about $700. The 21:9 format is certainly interesting but for now, we hope it remains safely within a niche rather than becoming the norm.
 
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