I reviewed an Acer ultrawide monitor from 2015 that, while very good for productivity, was limited by the low refresh rate which ultimately made it unacceptable for gaming. In 2020, the ultrawide monitor landscape has completely changed. Now we have the best of both worlds: high resolutions and high refresh rates. As ultrawide aspect ratios become commonplace, and as prices for ultrawides continue to decrease, it’s safe to say we are moving towards a new standard for monitors.
The monitor that convinced me of the true potential of ultrawide is the Alienware AW3418DW. It’s a 34” IPS display with a resolution of 3440×1440. It features a native refresh rate of 100hz and can be overclocked to 120hz. This monitor launched in August 2017 for £1,100, but this year it has been on sale for as low as £600. I am convinced this is the best gaming monitor available in this price range.
One of the reasons I argued against ultrawide monitors three years ago was the lack of support in modern games. Nowadays native support for ultrawide aspect ratios is as common as support for frame rates above 60, which is ideal as these two features go hand in hand. Of all the major releases I bought last year, I can think of just two games (Devil May Cry 5 and Sekiro) that did not have native support for my monitor. Within one week of these games releasing, there was a fan-made mod to fix this problem.
Making the argument for gaming on an ultrawide monitor seems a bit strange because, well, you can clearly see why it’s good. Ultrawide aspect ratios give you an immersive experience that is unrivalled by anything else on the market, at least when compared to other PC monitors. Of course, this is down to personal preference, but I’d take any game in 21:9/120Hz over 4K/120Hz every day of the week.
PC monitors haven’t seen the same level of innovation as TV displays and mobile phones. You can buy TVs and phones with OLED panels and support for HDR, but in the monitor space, we simply do not have these features without paying thousands. 4K gaming monitors haven’t taken off in the way that many people were hoping for. If I had to guess why that is, I would blame two things: the price of a high refresh rate 4K display is insane, and it’s too difficult to push over 60FPS while outputting 4K for most games.
Don’t get me wrong, it takes a powerful machine to be able to play games at 3440x1440p (around 5 million pixels), but you’ll need even better hardware to play at 4K (around 8 million pixels). In my opinion, I don’t think we need to go beyond 1440P as the difference in visuals is not worth the drop in frame rate.
I mentioned earlier about these monitors being very good for productivity. If you’ve ever used dual monitors before, it’s easy to understand how useful an ultrawide monitor could be. When it comes to any of the work I do, working on an ultrawide monitor has made everything significantly easier. Writing reviews for games is great because I can split the monitor into three sections, giving me a place for my notes, the review itself and any gameplay. The best part of this monitor aside from all the games stuff is using Premiere Pro. I know that professional editors aren’t fans of the curve in the monitor, but for everyone else, it’s pretty damn good. You’ve got plenty of room to put everything you need on the screen so things don’t feel too close together – it is basically perfect.
The dream of ultrawide aspect ratios becoming supported by developers is finally happening. Unless you desperately need a 240hz monitor for competitive gaming, you need to at least consider picking up an ultrawide monitor as your next display.