Ultrawide displays are a luxury, not a necessity, but once you’re hooked it’s hard to go back to traditionally shaped screens.
I first saw an ultrawide display, an early LG model that I now own, a couple of years ago at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The absurdly elongated screen stood out even in the middle of the sensory overload of the showroom floor, and it’s one of the few times I’ve agreed with branding jargon — “ultrawide” seemed spot on.
Most televisions and computer screens purchased today are traditional widescreen displays, featuring a 16:9 aspect ratio. An ultrawide screen, however, extends that even further to 21:9, matching the ratio you’ll see in most cinemas. It can all be a bit confusing, but the easiest way to think of it is this: Ever watch a movie and see black bars at the bottom? That’s because whatever you’re watching was filmed to match the aspect ratio of movie theatre screens, not TV screens. Now imagine a display that chops off those black bars, perfectly fitted around perfectly onto your screen.
Welcome to the world of ultrawide displays.
Throw in a curved display like LG’s 34UC98-W, and you have a multitasking powerhouse with enough screen real estate to give your email, internet tabs, spreadsheets, and social media feeds plenty of room to breathe. LG makes one of the best computer screens you could ask for, an unrivalled control center where everything is within view — if you’re willing to drop over a thousand dollars.
Movies: A true cinema display, right on your desk
Unless you’re looking to hop on the 4K train, there’s no better way to watch movies at your desk than with an ultrawide screen like the LG 34UC98-W. The 34-inch display is truly massive, and the subtle curve is perfect for immersion, striking the right balance so things don’t feel warped.
Since this is a computer monitor and not a TV, it’s important to note that viewing distance is important here: I wouldn’t recommend a curved TV, for instance, since the viewing distance for a TV is far greater than a computer display, so the effect of the screen’s curve is largely lost from the sofa. But when you’re sitting at a desk, just a couple of feet from the screen, the monitor’s sheer size and curve ups the immersion levels quite a bit, with the added benefit of the curve gently bringing the edges of the screen closer to view.
When you find a movie that’s available in this ultrawide format (it can be pretty hit or miss, but iTunes and Amazon Video have plenty), the lack of black bars is refreshing. For scenic movies like “The Lord of the Rings” or “Interstellar,” the effect is visually arresting.
Unfortunately, as traditional widescreen displays in the 16:9 format are the most common, sources like Netflix won’t extend to the edges of the screen, which results in a set of vertical black bars on each side. I find it a lot easier to ignore the black bars on the screen versus at the top and bottom, but it’s still not ideal, and it’s certainly something to factor in when considering dropping this amount of money.
Another thing to keep in mind is that movies and TV shows are increasingly available in 4K resolution, or 3880 by 2560 pixels, which favours the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio over 21:9. The LG
34UC98-W that I’ve been testing for the past few months features a 3880 by 1440 resolution, for example, so it’s missing some of the vertical resolution of traditional 4K displays. There’s still not a ton of movies and TV shows available at that resolution, however, and streaming a high resolution like that requires paying extra for Netflix, and, if you want uninterrupted playback, oftentimes a faster internet connection too.
But for those who have built up a library of movies on iTunes, or those willing to use some third-party software to get Blu-Rays to fill up the entire width of the screen, the most cinematic experience is still an ultrawide display.
Productivity: A multitasker’s dream
I mostly tested LG’s
34UC98-W monitor at work, using it as my daily driver to keep an eye on the news, communicate with the team on Slack, edit articles, and manage the appearance of the tech section. Usually, that would mean a lot of tabs and awkwardly re-sized windows if I want to split things up, but with an ultrawide display, you can enjoy multiple tabs open simultaneously at full-width.
This also eliminates the need for a multiple monitor setup, which I’ve always avoided due to my distaste for bezels and splitting my attention across two different screens, and there’s no “mouse jump” where your cursor gets momentarily lost as you scroll across displays.
Instead, it’s just one central strip of real estate, and one that can be re-arranged to whatever task you’re doing.
If you choose to go fullscreen though, you’ll test the responsive design of whatever app or program you’re using, and it usually means there’s a lot of empty spaces.
Creative professionals who work in video and photo editing will also be pleased to know the LG 34UC98-W is an IPS display offering a sRGB colour gambut of over 99%, along with a contrast ratio of 5 million to 1. In normal terms, that means highly accurate colours and an incredibly high level of detail.
Gaming: An unparalleled window into virtual worlds
Another area where the LG 34UC98-W shines is in gaming, where your field of view is expanded horizontally to give a seriously wide window into the game world. Combine that with the extra immersion of the curved display, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better experience without making the jump into the game with a virtual reality headset.
When I purchased LG’s older ultrawide model for at home, gaming wasn’t a key factor in my decision, as I mostly use my Oculus Rift. But when testing out the LG 34UC98-W, I played everything from “Overwatch” to “Grand Theft Auto V,” and it’s truly stunning. It’s easy to ignore the screen’s boarders with a screen this size, and with the high-resolution WQHD display, games look incredibly sharp.
Aside from the added immersion levels of the ultrawide aspect ratio, the expanded field of view can often give you a bit of competitive advantage depending on the game, as you can see when people are creeping up on you from the sides. Not all games allow this, but most modern games do, you’ll just need to make sure you have a beefy enough computer to power the pixel-dense screen.
A luxury that’s tough to forget
Nobody needs an ultrawide display like the LG 34UC98-W, but once you try one, you’ll want to keep it. Sure, you can flip between tabs or use multiple monitors to increase your screen real estate, but after getting used to having everything readily available at a glance, it’s tough to return to a traditional widescreen. You get spoiled by the advantages it offers, and the disadvantages of other screens become more readily apparent.
The LG 34UC98-W retails for an eyebrow-raising $1199, which easily puts it into the luxury and professional power-user category. From the curved design to the pixel-rich screen, you’re paying for some of the most cutting-edge display tech out there, which comes at a hefty premium.
If you’re looking to splurge, however, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better computer screen. This thing is truly gorgeous, and I’m not looking forward to working without it.
You can take a deeper dive into the features and specs of the LG 34UC98-W, including where to buy it, right here.
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