Ultrawide Monitors – Are They Worth It?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All thoughts below are my own with no financial incentives.

My Old Set Up

As a follow-up disclaimer, I wouldn’t say that I’m a PC gamer even though my graphics card and processor are really strong (Zotac Geforce 1080 and i7-6700K, respectively). 

I really only play Madden and 2k on my desktop. As with most sports game series, it’s more comfortable playing with a controller vs mouse + keyboard. 

For the last three years, I’ve used a very solid 27” IPS monitor. I’ve often been curious about the world of widescreen displays. The bonus real estate on my work screen is great when nerding out in Excel spreadsheets! 

Naturally, I was curious as to whether the additional pixels could enhance my video game world back home.

My old setup with the 27″ LG monitor

As Black Friday 2k18 approached, I began building my list of ‘wants’ leading up to the day of deals. Near the bottom of the list, below socks and a Bluetooth headset, sat the words “gaming monitor”. 

On one hand, I wasn’t completely sure that I even really wanted one. On the other hand, I was positive that November would be the month to save the most on a high-quality display. 

After hours of interwebz research, I decided to pull the trigger. Here’s how I made my decision and my experience with my new toy over the first few months.

Comparing my Options

The number one thing I was looking for was Nvidia G-sync technology. Having already spent a fortune on my graphics card, it only made sense that I would purchase a monitor with the horse power to unlock the GPU’s full potential. 

At a high level, G-sync eliminates screen tearing and minimizes input lag by synchronizing display refresh rates. This feature will generally add $100-$200 to the pricetag depending on the monitor size.

Next on my must-haves was a low response rate. This is a common spec among gaming monitors. The top end of the spectrum runs at 1 ms response time. It’s difficult for the human eye to pick up the difference between 1 ms and 5 ms, but anything would be a huge step up from my 10-ms RCA tv. 

It was large and cheap…don’t judge me.

The big screen with the worst input lag…

Last on my list was that the monitor needed to be compatible with both my PS4 and PC. I’ve got a PS4 Pro so there would be bonus points for being able to capitalize on the higher framerate vs the standard PS4.

With these three priorities in order, I ventured over to PCPartPicker to pick my PC part. There were a handful of viable options and I narrowed it down to the highest rated monitors.

Dell S2716DG

PROS: 1 ms response time, ideal monitor size, reasonable price, good refresh rate

CONS: TN panel, I’m not a fan of Dell based on prior purchases

Acer Predator X34

PROS: High resolution, IPS panel


CONS: Crazy expensive, moderate refresh rate

Acer XB271HU bmiprz

PROS: Great refresh rate, IPS panel, ideal monitor size


CONS: Some people reported the black colors on-screen aren’t dark enough

After comparing the major specifications (panel type explanation here), I began wondering if the 21:9 aspect ratio of the ultrawide was actually a selling point. With video games on my mind, I checked online to see what games had compatible graphics settings for ultrawides.

It turned out that some of my favorite games were on the lists:

Unfortunately, the PS4 doesn’t benefit from the additional real estate on an ultrawide monitor. I’m not sure if this will change in the future with firmware updates and/or new games, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

The Decision

I quickly realized that there have been only a handful of times in my gaming life where I decided to splurge on a product. I generally get a couples hundred hours of enjoyment out of $60 game so my expectations for dollars per hour are incredibly high.

Looking at my desk, the monitor would be something that I used for at least the next 1k hours of screen time. I decided to treat myself and go with the  Predator monitor given how much time I’d be sitting in my SecretLab chair.

http://gph.is/1Dhnz9y

Beyond having the best resolution, the X34 has some bells and whistles that add to the overall experience. There are lights under the monitor which can be fully customized to your color preferences. Additionally, you get 4 extra USB ports to plug in your peripherals.

The Verdict

In the last few months, I’ve been very pleased with the monitor’s performance. I immediately noticed the improvement in graphics quality vs my old LG. 

To be honest though, I don’t think I’ve seen what G-sync does for my gaming experience. Things may be a little smoother in Madden, but I attribute at least part of that to knowing how much I spent on the monitor ($750 on slickdeals — I’ve seen it come down to this price a couple more times in the last three months).

It’s possible that the games I’m playing aren’t graphically taxing enough to get the full boost of G-sync technology. Here’s some late-game footage of a recent game in Madden 19 that shows the extra real estate and animation footage.

https://youtu.be/En2kBC8dD_I

I’ll need to run some test with The Witcher 3 to see how my gaming rig stacks up to the benchmarks that people report online.

I’m not bothered at all by the black bars on either side of the screen when I’m playing a PS4 game on the X34. This may annoy some but it’s a necessary evil given PS4 games have a native 16:9 aspect ratio. It’d be cool to have customization of that blank space by allowing gamers to put wallpapers or different colors in this filler.

Side by Side view of the old monitor and the new

The aesthetic of the monitor is very sleek and looks great on my desk. Having such a large based means that the screen isn’t as close to the wall, but I’ve adjusted by sitting slightly further away.

 

If I had continued my run on League of Legends, this monitor grants a huge boost to the on-screen info that a player can use to improve positioning. I played about as well as I have in the past but also see good potential for ultrawides in MOBA play.

https://youtu.be/3jLqn-zRNgw

From a non-gaming perspective, it’s been awesome to work from home on this thing. I like having the space to put two chrome windows side by side or have a Twitch stream up while I’m responding to e-mails.

Overall, I’m happy with the purchase but could see myself being just as happy with one of the cheaper options on my list. I’ll give it some more time before deciding if G-sync is a necessity. For me, the X34 is a solid choice of you’re looking to upgrade to the ultrawide world of gaming and don’t mind paying a premium.

7.5 / 10

What About You?

Are you planning on upgrading your monitor? Do you already have an ultrawide? We’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations below!

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