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High-end for the past few years, high-end televisions and gaming monitors have been at odds. The television industry has prioritised the best-looking picture, whereas monitors have prioritised the fastest display technology. With Alienware’s latest curved gaming monitor, which incorporates a QD-OLED screen, the collision that brings the two worlds together may have finally occurred. It’s the first device (of several expected in 2022) to demonstrate the capabilities of Samsung’s new QD-OLED display technology — exclusively for PC users.
The AW3423DW, as it’s officially (and stupidly) known, is now available for $1,299.99, a price that puts it ahead of Samsung and Sony’s next QD-OLED TVs. While this QD-OLED is officially available, the earliest delivery date for new buyers is presently late June. So, by the time consumers get their hands on this monitor, those TVs may have found their way into a lot of households.
However, those will still be televisions, while this is a monitor. While the AW3423DW isn’t the first OLED monitor aimed at PC gamers, it is the type of display I’ve been waiting for for years. Even if it’s one of the “smaller” 42-inch LG C2 OLED TVs that will be released this spring, I don’t want a towering TV on my desk. With its immersive 1800R curve & 21:9 ultrawide (3440 x 1440) design, the AW3423DW looks like a gaming monitor. And, thanks to QD-OLED, it boasts significantly greater picture quality — and brightness — than one, with an display capable of 175Hz refresh rate. With a price tag of $1,299, Alienware appears to be on the money, costing less than next gen TVs with many (but not all) of the same features.
The Alienware AW3423DW is the subject of our review.
Verge receives an 8 out of 10 rating.
This is fantastic.
- Pricing for a QD-OLED that is aggressive
- HDR enhances the great appeal of games.
- Excellent, vibrant picture quality
- For some non-gaming jobs, the default picture settings aren’t suitable.
- For consoles and some PC games and movies, the 21:9 aspect ratio isn’t great.
- The on-screen display and joystick do not provide an elegant user experience.
Specifications for the Alienware AW3423DW
- Type of display: QD-OLED
- Curved display of 34 inches
- Dimensions: 32.1 x 12 x 16.4 inches (with stand)
- Weight: 15.26 pounds (6.92 kilogrammes)
- 21:9 aspect ratio
- 3440 x 1400 native resolution
- Refresh rate (at native resolution): DisplayPort up to 175Hz, HDMI up to 100Hz
- Nvidia G-Sync Ultimate adaptive sync support
- Ports: two HDMI 2.0 ports, 1 DisplayPort 1.4 port, one USB 3.2 Gen 1 upstream port, four USB 3.2 Gen 1 downstream ports, audio line-out, and a headphone jack
- Height, swivel, tilt, and slant are all aspects of the stand.
- A three-year warranty against burn-in is included.
Given that Samsung Display claims QD-OLED panels offer certain important advantages over normal OLED, there’s a lot riding on them. They offer a brighter image while keeping the superior brightness control that OLED displays are known for. What does this imply in practise? QD-OLEDS can theoretically create colours more accurately than standard OLED displays due to its ability to be more precise with brightness. Nature’s reds and greens, which may appear muted on other displays, will appear bright and lifelike on a QD-OLED. It all boils down to the quantum dot layer (thus the “QD” in the name), which turns blue light into red and green light as needed without the usage of colour filters like those found in traditional OLED screens. In some instances, colour filters tend to diffuse or dim the picture, especially when viewed at an angle. This isn’t an issue in this case.
With a bright picture (like, give-you-a-headache bright), astonishingly good viewing angles, and brilliant colours, the AW3423DW delivers on the promises of QD-OLED. On Shadow of the Tomb Raider, jumping into the lush, verdant trees looked incredible. The initial taste of what the technology can do is delectable, and I enjoy it even more because it’s in a smaller, PC-capable design.
I was also frequently impressed by the HDR performance as a gamer. In brighter places, OLEDs may struggle with HDR performance. On an OLED display, the plume of an explosion will be less detailed than on an LED display in HDR. Despite this, games on the AW3423DW look fantastic when connected to a powerful PC rig. There were explosions. All of the games I believed would look great here, such as Destiny 2, No Man’s Sky, Deathloop, and Cyberpunk 2077, were tested. Because of the 1800R curve, practically any game that immerses the player in a large-scale world looks fantastic — especially since I’m staring at the AW3423DW from just a foot away. I’ve used curved gaming monitors previously, but the mix of curvature and vividness on this QD-OLED screen were the missing elements that drew me further into my games. It may seem cliche, but I get the impression that I’m seeing games the way their creators intended.
However, not every game benefits from the 21:9 aspect ratio. Unfortunately for me, Elden Ring is presently one of them, since it records the native 3440 x 1440 resolution in its settings but nevertheless slaps black bars across the screen to keep it at 16:9. Although there is a downloaded application called “Flawless Ultrawide” that can force ultrawide, utilising it appears to put you at danger of being caught by Elden Ring’s anti-cheat system.
Elden Ring, on the other hand, looks amazing on the AW3423DW. When I initially got the monitor for testing, I was in the Academy of Raya Lucaria area of the game, and I was blown away by how impressed the effect of utilising glintstone sorcery appeared on the QD-OLED. The same effect appears muted and significantly less chilly on my IPS panel at home. Glintstone sorcery is supposed to look intimidating and unwieldy, and it does on this display.
If you’re only using the device for gaming, you may not need to change the colour profile, but the default contrast and brightness settings were insufficient for simpler cases like utilising productivity apps like Gmail, Slack, or Google Docs. The off-whites and greys didn’t have the colour distinction that they should have outside of games and in the world of text. It was as if everything was blending together. I had to design a different calibration profile for simple productivity tasks because the out-of-the-box pre-calibrated settings were great for games. Switching between calibration profiles based on the work is an inconvenient extra step, but it was well worth it when playing games.
HDTVtest offers an interesting video regarding another potential disadvantage of QD-OLED for productivity tasks (or at least this one). It causes a colour fringing effect that can be seen while typing in a word processor or doing a comparable operation, according to their findings. During my testing, however, that problem was barely noticeable.
Returning to the matter of screen settings, I was underwhelmed with the AW3423DW’s on-screen UI and its bottom-mounted joystick for navigating the interface. It’s difficult to navigate in general, and it looks out of place on a high-end monitor. My biggest disappointments with this monitor came when I tried to outsmart the interface, which frequently makes simple modifications more difficult than required.
The AW3423DW isn’t the only OLED with excellent picture quality, vibrant colours, and deep blacks. An OLED TV can still be used as a gaming monitor. And, if you watch a lot of movies and TV shows and enjoy console gaming, LG’s 42-inch C2 might be the better choice. This is due to its 16:9 aspect ratio, which allows modern gaming devices such as PCs, Switches, Xbox Series X, and PS5 to fully fill the screen, as well as HDMI 2.1 and 4K 120Hz supports for consoles and PCs. Furthermore, LG boasts that their latest OLEDs are brighter than ever, but we haven’t had the opportunity to test them yet.
Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PS5 consoles are limited to 16:9 on the AW3423DW (hello, big black verticals bars on the sides of the picture). And, while the Xbox One can at least render at QHD (2560 x 1440) quality at 120Hz, the PS5 can only manage 1080p at 120Hz on this $1,300 screen. (First, go into the PS5’s game preset settings and choose Performance Mode.) It goes without saying thats such games are not particularly enjoyable.
While this monitor was designed to take use of all of Windows’ bells and whistles, it can also display a nice-looking picture on macOS systems. It is, however, a “results may vary” type of experience. The AW3423DW displayed at native resolution with my 2019 Intel-based MacBook Pro attached (through a Thunderbolt 3 dock via DisplayPort), with the option to enhance the refresh rate up to 120Hz (175Hz wasn’t an option). When the Alienware was in its HDR Peak-1000 mode, High Dynamic Range was accessible as an option at 60Hz and 100Hz, but the picture wasn’t dramatically enhanced.
When I connected a newer 2021 MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip, everything changed – and not always for the better. With this laptop attached, the AW3423DW could go up to 175Hz and enable variable refresh rate (1Hz-175Hz), but HDR was never an option. Overall, the results may vary if you use a Thunderbolt 4 dock or a USB-C to DisplayPort cable to connect directly to the monitor. However, I was unable to fully utilise the AW3223DW’s functionality in macOS throughout my testing.
When it comes to brightness, the AW3423DW has a slight advantage. Because of a Automatic Static Brightness Limiter, a feature in place to protect pixels from overheating, standard OLED TVs, such as the LG C1 we reviewed last year, might occasionally appear dim. Sean Hollister remarked in our review that the OLED panel became so dim during his non-gaming use that it created eyestrain. After utilising this QD-OLED, I can confidently state that this is not an issue. That isn’t to say that auto-dimming techniques don’t exist; they just aren’t as noticeable.
This monitor can display an small white window that is near to or directly on Alienware’s claimed peak brightness of 1,000 nits. However, as is typical of OLEDs, expanding it to encompass more of the screen would cause it to dim. This is seen in both HDR modes on the AW3423DW: HDR Peak 1000 and DisplayHDR 400-True Black (though True Black generally look less bright at defaults settings with less of an dramatic shift in tone as you scale content ups and down in size). This dimming effect is most noticeable if you have two dark windows next to each other and switch one to white, causing the entire panel to dim noticeably.
Check out the technicals analysis from the YouTube channels HDTVtest, which shows the AW3423DW sinking to a low of roughly 280 nits with white taking up the entire screen. In review, the LG C1 was reviewed by RTINGS and measured 125 nits of peak brightness in a similar test. The benefits of the QD-OLED are minimal, but they’re a step in the right direction if you’re playing games with a lot of snow or highlights.
In a dimly light area, you might notice higher contrast and darker blacks with the AW3423DW (and possibly other QD-OLEDs if they’re manufactured the same way) according to HDTVtest. Because the monitor’s screen coating lacks a light-reflecting polarizer, deep blacks can seem grey in a well-lit environment. At The Verge’s offices, I didn’t observe a significant difference in day-to-day usage. In a well-lit room, blacks still looked inky and deep, but watching the display in the dark made everything look much better.
You might be thinking about Alienware’s QD-OLED monitor in addition to other curved monitors. Samsung’s 49-inch Odyssey G9 and newer Odyssey Neo G9 curved gaming monitors are among the most popular versions. The AW3423DW is an obvious winner for a number of reasons, the most compelling of which is its price, which is only a few hundred dollars more than the $1,000 Odyssey G9.
For all of its enhancements, including the extremely bright Mini LED backlighting, the Odyssey Neo G9 costs $2,000. If it weren’t for a few show-stopping flaws that we experienced during our reviews, it would be a wonderful option for consumers who want a lot more screen real estate (along with an eye-searing 2,000 nits of peak brightness).
If you’re a gamer, the 32:9 aspect ratio employed by Samsung on the Odyssey G9 and Odyssey Neo G9 may be a deal breaker. We noted that even in games with ultrawide compatibility, there was usually stretching around the edges of these monitors. That’s not so much a criticism of Samsung as it is of the ultra-ultrawide screen’s limited cases. Then there are the more serious concerns to consider. We noticed off-colored shadows in games and instances when the monitor displays horizontal lines when the colours darken in our Neo G9 review. That may not be the case with every device, but it won’t be an issue with the AW3423DW.
OLEDs are more susceptible to long-term use than LEDs, therefore there are a few measures incorporated into this monitor to protect the screen and extend its lifespan. The first is an automatic pixel-shifting mechanism that occurs every few minutes. It moves all of the pixels on the screen in one direction, but it’s barely noticeable. Then there’s the “pixel refresh,” which takes around seven minutes to finish. If the monitors has been on for more than four hours, it will prompt you to perform it. If you reject, the feature will be activated automatically the next time the monitor enters standby mode, if you use it for more than four hours. Finally, to thoroughly refresh every pixel in the QD-OLED, the “panel refresh” feature can be manually initiated (it will happen automatically after 1,500 hours of use). Running through the process is said to take an hour.
Despite the fact that it is a first-generation product, the AW3423DW does not have the feel of one. Although $1,300 may seem like a lot of money for an ultrawide QHD monitor — and it is — Alienware got the price right here. Furthermore, it is less expensive and has a higher image quality than many 4K monitors I’ve seen. It also delivers a brighter picture than we’ve seen before in OLED TVs, proving Samsung Display’s claims.
However, it is not the ideal monitor for everyone. Its on-screen display and joystick controls are significantly less straightforward than they should be, and tweaking the display’s settings to suit your non-gaming needs may take some time. It also lacks high-end HDMI 2.1 connectors, which would allow for faster refresh rates over HDMI, and its 21:9 aspect ratio means that contemporary consoles will not fill the entire screen. Those are, admittedly, minor quibbles if you know what you’re getting yourself into.