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Introduction

The ultrawide monitor market has really gained a lot of traction in the last few years, and we remember testing the LG 34UM95 back in September 2014 when the 34" sized displays started to appear. At the time they were aimed at general all-round uses, with a massive screen size and resolution being offered from IPS technology panels to deliver a decent overall performance. Since then, the market has shifted somewhat with many gamer-orientated options emerging in the last couple of years. The ultrawide aspect ratio creates an interesting option for an immersive gaming experience, delivering a very wide field of view. Models in 34" and 35" sizes are now pretty common, with options available based on IPS and VA panel technologies. Manufacturers have switched to a curved screen format for more comfortable viewing, pushed up the refresh rate in many cases to improved frame rates and motion clarity, and added all kinds of extra features designed to enhance the gaming experience overall.

In the IPS space, the two most popular ultrawide gaming models are 34" in size, those being the Acer Predator X34 (and also slightly updated X34a model) and Asus ROG Swift PG348Q. We have reviewed them both in the past at the time of release. These displays are built around a fairly old 60Hz refresh rate IPS panel from LG.Display which has been used in a fair few screens in the past, but which has now been overclocked to support up to 100Hz. This has been made possible by the addition of an NVIDIA G-sync module, which also delivers the benefits of a variable refresh rate. The response times are also strong from these models, and (again thanks to the G-sync module) input lag is very low making them very suitable to ultrawide gaming. The screens have a fancy, futuristic design and come with some additional features like lighting systems to separate them from the crowd. Those two 34" models have been very popular since their release in early 2016.

Dell have now recently entered this segment of the market with a model in their 'Alienware' gaming range to go alongside their PC systems, mice and keyboards. They don't tend to release many Alienware branded displays to be honest, but when they do they tend to attract a lot of interest. Dell are well known in the monitor market, carrying a good reputation that spans back over 10 years for making very good screens and offering a great support service and warranty. The new Alienware AW3418DW offers something a little new as well, compared with the Acer and Asus models which have been the standard for 34" ultrawide IPS gaming for a while. Rather than being based on a 60Hz refresh rate panel which needs overclocking up to 100Hz, Dell have made use of a new 100Hz native refresh rate IPS panel. In turn they have then boosted this up to 120Hz through an overclocking feature. The screen supports NVIDIA G-sync and has a fancy "AlienFX" lighting system to rival the competitors. We will take a look at all these features during this review and provide comparisons against the Acer/Asus models as we go.

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Specifications and Features

The following table gives detailed information about the specs of the screen as advertised:

Monitor Specifications

Size

34"WS ultrawide, 1900R curve

Panel Coating

Light AG coating

Aspect Ratio

21:9

Interfaces

1x DisplayPort 1.2, 1x HDMI 1.4

Resolution

3440 x 1440

Pixel Pitch

0.233 mm, 109 PPI

Design colour

Matt black bezel, silver rear, black and silver metal stand

Response Time

4ms G2G

Ergonomics

Tilt, 130mm height, swivel

Static Contrast Ratio

1000:1

Dynamic Contrast Ratio

n/a

VESA Compatible

Yes 100mm

Brightness

300 cd/m2

Accessories

Power, DisplayPort, DP > Mini DP, USB cables.

Viewing Angles

178 / 178

Panel Technology

LG.Display IPS

Weight

with stand: 11.86 Kg

Backlight Technology

W-LED

Physical Dimensions

(WxHxD)
813.45 x 442.44 x 319.09 mm

Colour Depth

16.7m (8-bit)

Refresh Rate

100Hz native recommended
120Hz maximum overclocked
30 - 120Hz G-sync range

Special Features

4x USB 3.0 ports (1 with fast charging), audio line-in, headphone out, NVIDIA G-sync, AlienFX lighting system

Colour Gamut

Standard gamut, 99% sRGB

The AW3418DW offers a limited range of connectivity options with 1x DisplayPort 1.2 and 1x HDMI 1.4  connections offered. This is a current limitation of NVIDIA G-sync modules, with only two connections being available. Still, this should be enough for PC connection and an external device if you want to. The digital interfaces are HDCP certified for encrypted content and the video cables are provided in the box for DisplayPort and a DP > Mini DP version only.

The screen has an internal power supply and comes packaged with the power cable you need. There are also 4x USB 3.0 ports, 2 located on the back of the screen with the video connections and 2 on the bottom edge. One of the ports on the bottom edge offers fast charging support. A headphone-out, and audio line-in connection are also provided if you need them.

Below is a summary of the features and connections of the screen:

Feature

Yes / No

Feature

Yes / No

Tilt adjust

DVI

Height adjust

HDMI

Swivel adjust

D-sub

Rotate adjust

DisplayPort

VESA compliant

Component

USB 2.0 Ports

Audio connection

USB 3.0 Ports

HDCP Support

Card Reader

MHL Support

Ambient Light Sensor

Integrated Speakers

Human Motion Sensor

PiP / PbP

Touch Screen

Blur Reduction Mode

Factory calibration

G-Sync

Hardware calibration

FreeSync

Uniformity correction

Wireless charging



Design and Ergonomics

  

The Dell Alienware AW3418DW comes in a black and dark grey design. From the front view, matte black plastics are used for the bezel which is a frameless design around the sides and top. Here it measures only 1.5mm thick as a plastic edge, although there is then an additional 8.5mm black panel edge before the image starts. So around the sides and top there is a total border size of 10mm. along the bottom edge is a total border of ~12.5mm thickness, made up of 1.5mm black panel border and 11mm plastic bezel. The bottom edge of the screen then slopes away from you at a slight angle. You can't see this bottom edge from a normal viewing position, but it does allow the OSD buttons to stick out slightly along the bottom right hand area making them visible just about. There is a matte silver coloured "Alienware" logo in the middle of the bottom bezel but no other writing or model designations on the front of the screen.


Above: front views of the screen and stand. Click for larger versions

The stand is a very sturdy, and heavy aluminium design. The foot of the stand provides a wide base for the ultrawide format screen, which remains very stable on the desk and doesn't wobble at all. The stand is quite deep at 319mm so you need a fairly deep desk to be able to push the screen far enough back for it to be a comfortable viewing distance.


 
Above: rear views of the screen and stand. Click for larger versions

The back of the screen is encased in a dark silver matte plastic as shown above. The back of the stand matches in colour although that is a dark silver aluminium. You can see there is a cable tidy hole through the bottom of the stand which is useful. This stand is big and chunky, and very heavy, but it does provide a really solid foundation for the screen.


   
Above: full tilt range shown. Click for larger versions

There is a good set of ergonomic adjustments offered from this screen. Tilt is smooth but fairly stiff to operate, and offers a good range of adjustments as shown above.

 
Above: full height adjustment range shown. Click for larger versions

Height adjustment is a little stiff too but offers smooth movements, with a total adjustment range of 130mm measured, as advertised. At the lowest setting the bottom edge of the screen is ~60mm from the edge of the desk, and at maximum extension is is ~190mm.

Side to side swivel is also provided and is easier to re-position than the tilt and height. It provides smooth movement as well. Overall the stand remains very stable on the desk with no real wobble at all when you re-position it. It's heavy and quite chunky, but it does a very good job. There is VESA 100 support as well if you would rather wall or arm mount the screen.

A summary of the ergonomic adjustments are shown below:

Function

Range

Smoothness

Ease of Use

Tilt

Yes

Smooth

Fairly stiff

Height

130mm

Smooth

Fairly stiff

Swivel

Yes

Smooth

Easy

Rotate

No

-

-

Overall

Good set of adjustments. A little stiff to move some, although the screen is very stable and sturdy

The materials were of a very good standard and the build quality felt good and robust There was no audible noise from the screen, even when conducting specific tests which can often identify buzzing issues. The whole screen remained cool even during prolonged use as well which was pleasing.

 
Above: connection options on the back of the screen

The back of the screen features the connections. There are the only DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4 connections offered, along with an audio in (to the left), USB upstream and 2x USB 3.0 downstream ports.


Above: USB and headphone connections on the bottom edge of the screen

A further 2x USB downstream ports (1 with fast charging) and the headphone port are located on the bottom edge of the screen for easy access. We haven't see ports positioned here before actually, as they are often on the right or left hand side of the screen if provided, but it seemed to make more sense here in terms of keeping cables and connections hidden and tucked out of the way. You will note the AlienFX lighting strip on the bottom edge as well in the photo above.

 


OSD Menu

 
Above: OSD control buttons on the bottom edge of the screen

The OSD menu is controlled through a series of 6 pressable buttons located on the bottom right hand edge of the screen. To the right of these (not shown above) is a power button as well. Pressing any of the 6 OSD buttons pops up the quick launch menu shown above, providing easy access to the preset modes, overclocked refresh rate, dark stabilizer, brightness/contrast and then the main menu. These quick launch options can be changed if you want via the main menu as well which is handy.

When you press any of the buttons you are also presented with a summary of some of your key gaming settings at the top of the screen as shown above. This gives you a quick confirmation of some settings in case you wanted to check them briefly.

The preset mode quick launch menu is shown above, giving you direct access to switch between the various modes if you want. There are 3 user configurable game modes as well which is useful, and there are several preset options for FPS, RTS and RPG gaming.

The quick access menu for brightness and contrast is shown above.

The main OSD menu is split in to 8 sections shown down the left hand side, with the options available in each section then shown on the right. The 'game' section has various useful options including the overclocking feature, response time and dark stabilizer control.

Most of the other sections are self explanatory for input selection, lighting system (which we will look at later on), audio and options for the OSD menu itself. The 'personalize' menu shown above allows you to tweak the quick access options if you want to.

All in all the menu navigation was quick and easy, and felt pretty intuitive. There was a reasonable range of options to play with and the software looked modern. No issues here.

  


Power Consumption

In terms of power consumption the manufacturer lists typical usage of 60.0W, and 0.5W in standby. We carried out our normal tests to establish its power consumption ourselves.

State and Brightness Setting

Manufacturer Spec (W)

Measured Power Usage (W)

Default (75%)

60.0

54.3

Calibrated (37%)

-

39.8

Maximum Brightness (100%)

-

63.4

Minimum Brightness (0%)

-

26.0

Standby

0.5

0.8

Out of the box the screen used 54.3W at the default 75% brightness setting. Once calibrated the screen reached 39.8W consumption, and in standby it used only 0.8W. We have plotted these results below compared with other screens we have tested. The consumption is comparable to most of the other 34" - 35" sized screens we have tested as you might expect, with some of the smaller 25 - 27" screens drawing slightly less power (comparing the calibrated states).



Panel and Backlighting

Panel Manufacturer

LG.Display

Colour Palette

16.77 million

Panel Technology

IPS

Colour Depth

8-bit

Panel Module

LM340UW4-SSA1

Colour space

Standard Gamut

Backlighting Type

W-LED

Colour space coverage (%)

Quoted 99% sRGB

Panel Part and Colour Depth

The Dell Alienware AW3418DW features an LG.Display LM340UW4-SSA1 IPS technology panel which is capable of producing 16.77 million colours. This is achieved through a native 8-bit colour depth.

This is a new panel from LG.Display, different to the LM340UW2 which was used in the Acer Predator X34/X34a and Asus ROG Swift PG348Q displays. That older panel was a native 60Hz refresh rate, which was then overclocked to 100Hz maximum. This new LM340UW4 panel is a native 100Hz refresh rate which means that the 100Hz should be stable on every system. That gives it an edge compared with the older models which relied on an overclock to reach that high, and didn't always achieve the full 100Hz. For instance we saw some issues with the response time behaviour above 95Hz on the Asus model, and some users had trouble achieving the maximum refresh rate on their graphics card and system. With the Dell, since it is a native 100Hz panel this should not be a problem. Dell have then also enabled an overclock, allowing you to boost the refresh rate up to 120Hz maximum. We will test this later on in the review.

Screen Coating

The screen coating is a light anti-glare (AG) like other modern IPS panels. It retains its anti-glare properties to avoid too many unwanted reflections of a full glossy coating, but does not produce an too grainy or dirty an image that some thicker AG coatings can, including much older IPS panels. There are some faintly visible cross-hatching patterns but nothing you should notice during normal use unless you go looking for them very close to the screen.


Backlight Type and Colour Gamut

The screen uses a White-LED (W-LED) backlight unit which is standard in today's market. This helps reduce power consumption compared with older CCFL backlight units and brings about some environmental benefits as well. The W-LED unit offers a standard colour gamut which is approximately equal to the sRGB colour space. Dell quote 99% sRGB coverage. Anyone wanting to work with wider colour spaces would need to consider wide gamut backlight screens or those which feature technologies such as Quantum Dot for extending the colour space. If you want to read more about colour spaces and gamut then please have a read of our detailed article. Note that the Acer and Asus 34" models were also standard sRGB gamut screens.


Backlight Dimming and Flicker

We tested the screen to establish the methods used to control backlight dimming. Our in depth article talks in more details about a previously very common method used for this which is called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM). This in itself gives cause for concern to some users who have experienced eye strain, headaches and other symptoms as a result of the flickering backlight caused by this technology. We use a photosensor + oscilloscope system to measure backlight dimming control with a high level of accuracy and ease. These tests allow us to establish

1) Whether PWM is being used to control the backlight
2) The frequency and other characteristics at which this operates, if it is used
3) Whether a flicker may be introduced or potentially noticeable at certain settings

If PWM is used for backlight dimming, the higher the frequency, the less likely you are to see artefacts and flicker. The duty cycle (the time for which the backlight is on) is also important and the shorter the duty cycle, the more potential there is that you may see flicker. The other factor which can influence flicker is the amplitude of the PWM, measuring the difference in brightness output between the 'on' and 'off' states. Please remember that not every user would notice a flicker from a backlight using PWM, but it is something to be wary of. It is also a hard thing to quantify as it is very subjective when talking about whether a user may or may not experience the side effects.


100%                                                     50%                                                     0%

 

Above scale = 1 horizontal grid = 5ms

At all brightness settings a constant Direct Current (DC) voltage seems to be applied to the backlight, and the screen is free from the obvious off/on switching of any PWM dimming method. The screen is flicker free as advertised.

Pulse Width Modulation Used

No

Cycling Frequency

n/a

Possible Flicker at

 

100% Brightness

No

50% Brightness

No

0% Brightness

No

 


Contrast Stability and Brightness

We wanted to see how much variance there was in the screens contrast as we adjusted the monitor setting for brightness. In theory, brightness and contrast are two independent parameters, and good contrast is a requirement regardless of the brightness adjustment. Unfortunately, such is not always the case in practice. We recorded the screens luminance and black depth at various OSD brightness settings, and calculated the contrast ratio from there. Graphics card settings were left at default with no ICC profile or calibration active. Tests were made using an X-rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter. It should be noted that we used the BasICColor calibration software here to record these, and so luminance at default settings may vary a little from the LaCie Blue Eye Pro report.

OSD Brightness

Luminance
(cd/m2)

Black Point (cd/m2)

Contrast Ratio
( x:1)

100

255.51

0.29

881

90

235.64

0.27

873

80

216.02

0.24

900

70

194.03

0.22

882

60

171.61

0.19

903

50

148.83

0.17

875

40

123.21

0.14

880

30

99.71

0.11

906

20

73.20

0.08

915

10

48.60

0.06

810

0

23.74

0.03

791

 

Total Luminance Adjustment Range (cd/m2)

231.77

Brightness OSD setting controls backlight?

Total Black Point Adjustment Range (cd/m2)

0.26

Average Static Contrast Ratio

874:1

PWM Free? 

Recommended OSD setting for 120 cd/m2

39

The brightness control gave us a good range of adjustment. At the top end the maximum luminance reached 256 cd/m2 which was a bit short of the specified maximum brightness of 300 cd/m2 from the manufacturer. This was in the default 'standard' preset mode and it was possible to achieve slightly higher than this when switching to the 'Custom Color' preset for example. There was a very good 232 cd/m2 adjustment range in total, and so at the minimum setting you could reach down to a low luminance of 24 cd/m2. This should be adequate for those wanting to work in darkened room conditions with low ambient light. A setting of 39 in the OSD menu should return you a luminance of around 120 cd/m2 at default settings. It should be noted that the brightness regulation is controlled without the need for Pulse Width Modulation for all brightness settings so the screen is flicker free.

    

We have plotted the luminance trend on the graph above. The screen behaves as it should in this regard, with a reduction in the luminance output of the screen controlled by the reduction in the OSD brightness setting. This is basically a linear relationship as you can see.

The average contrast ratio of the screen was good (for an IPS panel) at 874:1 but this left it a little shy of the specified 1000:1. It remained mostly stable across the brightness adjustment range, although dropped a little at the lowest settings below 20%.



Testing Methodology

An important thing to consider for most users is how a screen will perform out of the box and with some basic manual adjustments. Since most users won't have access to hardware colorimeter tools, it is important to understand how the screen is going to perform in terms of colour accuracy for the average user.

We restored our graphics card to default settings and disabled any previously active ICC profiles and gamma corrections. The screen was tested at default factory settings using our new X-rite i1 Pro 2 Spectrophotometer combined with LaCie's Blue Eye Pro software suite. An X-rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter was also used to verify the black point and contrast ratio since the i1 Pro 2 spectrophotometer is less reliable at the darker end.

Targets for these tests are as follows:

  • CIE Diagram - validates the colour space covered by the monitors backlighting in a 2D view, with the black triangle representing the displays gamut, and other reference colour spaces shown for comparison

  • Gamma - we aim for 2.2 which is the default for computer monitors

  • Colour temperature / white point - we aim for 6500k which is the temperature of daylight

  • Luminance - we aim for 120 cd/m2, which is the recommended luminance for LCD monitors in normal lighting conditions

  • Black depth - we aim for as low as possible to maximise shadow detail and to offer us the best contrast ratio

  • Contrast ratio - we aim for as high as possible. Any dynamic contrast ratio controls are turned off here if present

  • dE average / maximum - as low as possible. If DeltaE >3, the color displayed is significantly different from the theoretical one, meaning that the difference will be perceptible to the viewer. If DeltaE <2, LaCie considers the calibration a success; there remains a slight difference, but it is barely undetectable. If DeltaE < 1, the color fidelity is excellent.



Default Performance and Setup

Default settings of the screen were as follows:

Dell Alienware AW3418DW
Default Settings


   

 



Monitor OSD Default Settings

 

Preset Mode

Standard

Brightness

75

Contrast

75

RGB

n/a

Luminance Measurements

 

luminance (cd/m2)

210

Black Point (cd/m2)

0.23

Contrast Ratio

896:1

Colour Space Measurements

 

sRGB coverage

108.9%

DCI-P3 coverage

80.3%

Rec.2020 coverage

57.6%

Initially out of the box the screen was set with a high 75% brightness and so was a bit too bright and a bit uncomfortable to use, so you will definitely need to turn that down. The colours felt bright and well balanced and you could tell the screen was using a standard gamut backlight with a typical sRGB colour space produced.

We went ahead and measured the default state with the i1 Pro 2. The CIE diagram on the left of the image confirms that the monitors colour gamut (black triangle) extends a little beyond the sRGB colour space (orange triangle). There is some minor over-coverage in most shades, but nothing significant. We measured using ChromaPure software a 108.9% sRGB gamut coverage so that met the spec of 99% nicely, and extended slightly beyond that even. This measured colour space coverage corresponds to 80.3% of the DCI-P3 reference and 57.6% of the Rec.2020 reference.

Default gamma was recorded at a high 2.6 average, leaving it with a large 17% deviance from the target which was potentially a bit of an issue. The gamma was most off in light grey shades, and with no access to gamma controls in the OSD menu you will need to rely on a calibration device if you want to correct that gamma curve to bring it closer to a 2.2 target. White point was measured at a very good 6597k which left it only 1% out from the 6500k we'd ideally want for desktop use. There are a range of other colour temp presets available in the menu along with a user configurable 'Custom Color' mode where you have access to the individual RGB channels for the calibration process.

Luminance was recorded at a fairly bright 210 cd/m2 which is too high for prolonged general use, you will likely need to turn that down. The screen was set at a default 75% brightness in the OSD menu but that is easy to change of course to reach a more comfortable setting without impacting any other aspect of the setup. The black depth was 0.23 cd/m2 at this default maximum brightness setting, giving us a fairly good (for an IPS panel) static contrast ratio of 896:1 which was a little lower than the specified 1000:1 figure. Colour accuracy was moderate out of the box with an average dE of 3.3, but a max of 5.4. Testing the screen with colour gradients showed smooth gradients with only minor gradation evident in darker tones. There was no sign of any colour banding which was good news.



Calibration

We used the X-rite i1 Pro 2 Spectrophotometer combined with the LaCie Blue Eye Pro software package to achieve these results and reports. An X-rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter was used to validate the black depth and contrast ratios due to lower end limitations of the i1 Pro device.

Dell Alienware AW3418DW
Calibrated Settings


   

 



Monitor OSD Calibrated Settings

Preset Mode

Custom Color

Brightness

37

Contrast

75

RGB

93, 93, 100

Luminance Measurements

 

luminance (cd/m2)

121

Black Point (cd/m2)

0.14

Contrast Ratio

840:1

Colour Space Measurements

 

sRGB coverage

108.8%

DCI-P3 coverage

80.2%

Rec.2020 coverage

57.6%

We first of all switched to the 'Custom Color' preset mode which gives you access to adjust the RGB channels individually. When you first switch to this mode the screen is quite noticeably warmer than the 'Standard' preset, so we know we will need to bring down the red channel at least. We adjusted the RGB channels and brightness setting as shown in the table above as part of the guided calibration process. These OSD changes allowed us to obtain an optimal hardware starting point and setup before software level changes would be made at the graphics card level. We left the  LaCie software to calibrate to "max" brightness which would just retain the luminance of whatever brightness we'd set the screen to, and would not in any way try and alter the luminance at the graphics card level, which can reduce contrast ratio. These adjustments before profiling the screen would help preserve tonal values and limit banding issues. After this we let the software carry out the LUT adjustments and create an ICC profile.

Average gamma was corrected now nicely to 2.2 average which fixed the large 17% deviance we'd seen out of the box. The minor 1% white point deviance had now been corrected bringing the measured white point to 6526k. Luminance had been improved thanks to the adjustment to the brightness control and was now being measured at a more comfortable 121 cd/m2. This left us a black depth of 0.14 cd/m2 and a static contrast ratio of 840:1. This was slightly lower than default (896:1) as we had made adjustments to the gamma curve at the graphics card level to correct that deviance. Colour accuracy of the resulting profile was excellent, with dE average of 0.3 and maximum of 1.0. LaCie would consider colour fidelity to be excellent. Testing the screen with various colour gradients showed mostly smooth transitions with only some minor gradation in darker tones. There was a little added banding in medium dark shades which was caused by adjustments to the graphics card LUT from the profiling of the screen to correct the gamma curve. You can use our settings and try our calibrated ICC profile if you wish, which are available in our ICC profile database. Keep in mind that results will vary from one screen to another and from one computer / graphics card to another.



Calibration Performance Comparisons

The comparisons made in this section try to give you a better view of how each screen performs, particularly out of the box which is what is going to matter to most consumers. We have divided the table up by panel technology as well to make it easier to compare similar models. When comparing the default factory settings for each monitor it is important to take into account several measurement areas - gamma, white point and colour accuracy. There's no point having a low dE colour accuracy figure if the gamma curve is way off for instance. A good factory calibration requires all 3 to be well set up. We have deliberately not included luminance in this comparison since this is normally far too high by default on every screen. However, that is very easily controlled through the brightness setting (on most screens) and should not impact the other areas being measured anyway. It is easy enough to obtain a suitable luminance for your working conditions and individual preferences, but a reliable factory setup in gamma, white point and colour accuracy is important and some (gamma especially) are not as easy to change accurately without a calibration tool.

From these comparisons we can also compare the calibrated colour accuracy, black depth and contrast ratio. After a calibration the gamma, white point and luminance should all be at their desired targets.

Default setup of the screen out of the box was moderate. The gamma was the main issue with a 17% deviance, and a 2.6 average curve. That will need adjustment through calibration and screen profiling to bring more in line with the 2.2 target, in the absence of any other gamma modes in the OSD menu. The white point was much closer to the target and dE was moderate.

If we compare the AW3418DW to the popular Acer and Asus models we can see some slight variation. The Acer and Asus models had a more accurate default gamma setup closer to the 2.2 target. Although they did have a slightly warmer white point and showed a small 5 - 6% deviance from the 6500k target. We would probably say that the default setup of those models was a bit better because of the gamma curve to be honest.

The display was a little weak when it came to contrast ratio reaching only 840:1 after calibration. This wasn't bad per se, it just wasn't as good as the typical 1000:1 range we would expect to see from a modern IPS panel. The Acer Predator X34 reached 1033:1 while the Asus ROG Swift PG348Q reached 1090:1 so they performed a little better here when it came to contrast ratio. The contrast ratio of the AW3418DW was more on par with the TN Film technology models shown here. None of the IPS or TN Film models can live up to the high contrast ratios of VA technology of course.



Viewing Angles


Above: Viewing angles shown from front and side, and  from above and below. Click for larger image

Viewing angles of the screen were very good as you would expect from an IPS panel. Horizontally there was very little colour tone shift until wide angles past about 45. A slight darkening of the image occurred horizontally from wider angles as you can see above as the contrast shifted slighting. Contrast shifts were slightly more noticeable in the vertical field but overall they were very good. The screen offered the wide viewing angles of IPS technology and was free from the restrictive fields of view of TN Film panels, especially in the vertical plane. It was also free of the off-centre contrast shift you see from VA panels and a lot of the quite obvious gamma and colour tone shift you see from some of the modern VA panel type offerings. All as expected really from a modern IPS panel. For a gaming screen, this is one of the big positives of using IPS panel technology as opposed to the common TN Film matrices which are often adopted in gaming displays.


Above: View of an all black screen from the side. Click for larger version

On a black image there is a characteristic white glow when viewed from an angle, commonly referred to as "IPS-glow". This is common on most modern IPS-type panels and can be distracting to some users. If you view dark content from a normal head-on viewing position, you can actually see this glow as your eyes look towards the edges of the screen. Because of the sheer horizontal size of this 34" panel, the glow towards the edges is more obvious than on small screens, where there isn't such a long distance from your central position to the edges. Some people may find this problematic if they are working with a lot of dark content or solid colour patterns. In normal day to day uses, office work, movies and games you couldn't really notice this unless you were viewing darker content. If you move your viewing position back, which is probably likely for movies and games, the effect reduces as you do not have such an extreme angle from your eye position to the screen edges. The glow effect was a little less than on flat 34" ultra-wide screens as the curved nature created a smaller angle between your eyes and the edges of the screen. It was comparable to the Acer and Asus models incidentally.



Panel Uniformity

We wanted to test here how uniform the brightness was across the screen, as well as identify any leakage from the backlight in dark lighting conditions. Measurements of the luminance were taken at 35 points across the panel on a pure white background. The measurements for luminance were taken using BasICColor's calibration software package, combined with an X-rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter with a central point on the screen calibrated to 120 cd/m2. The below uniformity diagram shows the difference, as a percentage, between the measurement recorded at each point on the screen, as compared with the central reference point.

It is worth noting that panel uniformity can vary from one screen to another, and can depend on manufacturing lines, screen transport and other local factors. This is only a guide of the uniformity of the sample screen we have for review.


Uniformity of Luminance

Uniformity of the screen was moderate. The upper area of the screen and the left/right hand sides were darker than the central and lower regions, which luminance dropped down to a minimum of 102 cd/m2 ( -17.65% deviance). Around 60% of the screen was within a 10% variance from the centrally calibrated 120 cd/m2 point which was average. This variance might be problematic for colour critical work, but remember this is a gaming orientated screen and you shouldn't really see any issues in practice with the luminance variation.


Backlight Leakage


Above: All black screen in a darkened room. Click for larger version

We also tested the screen with an all black image and in a darkened room. A camera was used to capture the result. The camera showed there was some slight clouding in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. Elsewhere the uniformity seemed to be good with no major leakage or bleeding. It would be difficult to spot this during any normal uses really, unless you're viewing a lot of dark content.

Note: if you want to test your own screen for backlight bleed and uniformity problems at any point you need to ensure you have suitable testing conditions. Set the monitor to a sensible day to day brightness level, preferably as close to 120 cd/m2 as you can get it (our tests are once the screen is calibrated to this luminance). Don't just take a photo at the default brightness which is almost always far too high and not a realistic usage condition. You need to take the photo from about 1.5 - 2m back to avoid capturing viewing angle characteristics, especially on IPS-type panels where off-angle glow can come in to play easily. Photos should be taken in a darkened room at a shutter speed which captures what you see reliably and doesn't over-expose the image. A shutter speed of 1/8 second will probably be suitable for this.



General and Office Applications

One of the key selling points of ultra-wide screens like the this is it's high resolution and large screen size. The 3440 x 1440 display offers a sharp but comfortable picture. Its pixel area is about 1.8 times larger than an Ultra-Wide Full HD 21:9 monitor, and about 2.4 times larger than a Full HD 16:9 monitor. It provides an efficient environment in using Microsoft Office programs showing 47 columns and 63 rows in excel. Thankfully the high resolution is of a very comfortable size on the 34" panel, with a 0.2325mm pixel pitch is is very comparable to a 27" 2560 x 1440 monitor (0.2331mm). This means you are basically getting a wider desktop to work with, with a similar font size to a 27" model, and maintaining the same vertical resolution as well. If you're coming from a lower resolution / larger pixel pitch you may still find the fonts look quite small to start with, but like the 27" 1440p models out there you soon get used to it. Side by side multi-tasking on this screen is excellent and you really do have a nice wide area to work with. We liked the curved format of the display actually for day to day office work. It just felt a bit more comfortable than a flat screen on a model as wide as this, bringing the corners a bit nearer to you. You didn't really notice the curve in normal use but we liked the feel. Probably down to user taste, so if in doubt try and see one in person.

The light AG coating of the IPS panel doesn't produce any graininess to the image like some aggressive AG solutions can and so white office backgrounds look clean and clear. The wide viewing angles of the IPS panel technology provide stable images from different angles, meaning you can use the screen if you want for colour critical work, photos etc. It might be orientated at gamers, but it's IPS panel can deliver strong performance in other areas as well making it a good all-rounder. This panel technology still offers the widest viewing angles and so is well-suited to colour work. Some contrast shifts and IPS-glow may be evident because of the very wide size of the display, as you glance towards the edges from a centrally aligned position. That's hard to avoid on such a large desktop monitor from close up, even with IPS technology. The default setup of the screen was not ideal for general work since the gamma curve was quite a long way off, but white point was at least accurate. The contrast ratio was not amazing, but still pretty good for an IPS panel.

The brightness range of the screen was also very good, with the ability to offer a luminance between 256 and 24 cd/m2. This should mean the screen is perfectly useable in a wide variety of ambient light conditions, including darkened rooms. A setting of ~39 in the OSD brightness control should return you a luminance close to 120 cd/m2 out of the box. On another positive note, the brightness regulation is controlled without the need for the use of the now infamous Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM), and so those who suffer from eye fatigue or headaches associated with flickering backlights need not worry.

There was no audible noise from the screen, even when conducting specific tests which can sometimes cause issues. The screen also remains cool even during prolonged use. There is a specific 'ComfortView' preset mode for office work or reading if you want which by default makes the image far more yellow. Still, you might be able to set it to your liking for more reading.

The screen offers 4x USB 3.0 ports which can be useful and it was nice to keep this up to date with the modern version. Two are located handily on the bottom edge of the screen and one also offers fast charging support. There are no integrated speakers but there is an audio input and headphone output if you want. There are no further extras like ambient light sensors or card readers which can be useful in office environments. Remember, this is aimed at gamers really. There was a good range of ergonomic adjustments available from the stand allowing you to obtain a comfortable position for a wide variety of angles. They were mostly easy to use and it was nice to see side to side swivel included as that often seems to be left off ultrawide screens like this. The VESA mounting support may also be useful to some people as well for more flexibility.


Above: photo of text at 3440 x 1440 (top) and 2560 x 1080 (bottom)

The screen is designed to run at its native resolution of 3440 x 1440 and at a 100Hz native refresh rate. However, if you want you are able to run the screen outside of this resolution. We tested the screen at a lower 2560 x 1080 resolution to see how the screen handles the interpolation of the resolution, while maintaining the same aspect ratio of 21:9. At native resolution the text was sharp and clear. When running at a the lower  resolution the text becomes noticeably more blurry. You do lose a lot of screen real-estate as well of course but it might be a more manageable resolution for some gaming if you want to push frame rates up to the upper end of the 100Hz support.

 

 
Responsiveness and Gaming

Panel Manufacturer and Technology

LG.Display IPS

Panel Part

LM340UW4-SSA1

Quoted G2G Response Time

4ms G2G

Quoted ISO Response Time

n/a

Overdrive Used

Yes

Overdrive Control Available Via OSD Setting

Response Time

Overdrive OSD Settings

Normal, Fast, Super Fast

Maximum Refresh Rate

100Hz (native)
120Hz (with overclock)

Variable Refresh Rate technology

G-sync

Variable Refresh Rate Range

30 - 120Hz

The Alienware AW3418DW is rated by Dell as having a 4ms G2G response time. The screen uses overdrive / response time compensation (RTC) technology to boost pixel transitions across grey to grey changes as with nearly all modern displays. There is a user control in the OSD menu for the overdrive under the 'Response Time' setting with 3 options available - Normal, Fast and Super Fast as shown below.

The part being used is the LG.Display LM340UW4-SSA1 IPS technology panel. This is a new 100Hz native refresh rate panel, different to the LM340UW2 which was used in models like the Acer Predator X34/X34a and Asus ROG Swift PG348Q (60Hz native). Have a read about response time in our specs section if you need additional information about this measurement.

We use an ETC M526 oscilloscope for these measurements along with a custom photosensor device. Have a read of our response time measurement article for a full explanation of the testing methodology and reported data.
 


Response Time
s

60Hz Refresh Rate



First of all we tested the screen at a 60Hz refresh rate in each of the response time settings. In the 'normal' mode the average G2G response time of 9.2ms was moderate, leaving it a small amount behind the best 60Hz IPS panel measurements we have seen. In the best cases a 60Hz IPS panel seems to be able to reach down to around 8.5ms G2G without any noticeable overshoot becoming a problem. There was a small amount of overshoot here in the 'normal' mode, but nothing major, and the 9.2ms G2G was only a little behind those best example measurements.

If you push the response time settings up further to the 'Fast' mode you can see a nice drop in the response times down to 7.8ms G2G. However, some fairly significant overshoot starts to appear on the rise times, giving rise to pale haloes and overshoot on moving content. In practice it's not overly obvious and you may find you prefer the small improvement in motion clarity from the faster response times. The pale overshoot does gets worse if you push up to the highest 'Super Fast' response time mode, and the artefacts become more noticeable. For 60Hz content including games consoles and external devices we would recommend the 'Normal' setting to avoid any noticeable overshoot, or you may also want to experiment with the 'Fast' setting perhaps as long as the pale overshoot doesn't start to become too noticeable. See our pursuit camera pictures in a moment for some visual indication of the response times.

100Hz Refresh Rate



The AW3418DW has a native 100Hz IPS panel and so we went ahead and measured the response times at this refresh rate as well. In the normal mode, the response times had improved a little, down to 8.5ms G2G and also removing the slight overshoot we'd seen at 60Hz. The 'Fast' mode was down to 6.4ms G2G and again some of the overshoot had been reduced, meaning it was more useable than at 60Hz. However, the pale halos and overshoot were still noticeable on moving content and we would therefore probably recommend sticking with the 'Normal' mode again. The 'Super Fast' mode produced too much overshoot still, leading to noticeable trails and obvious pale halos on moving content. The response times even in the lowest 'normal' mode were fast enough to keep up with the frame rate demands of a 100Hz refresh rate, where a new frame is sent to the screen every 10ms. If response times are regularly slower than the frame rate, it can lead to additional smearing and blurring on moving content. Thankfully that wasn't an issue here. See our pursuit camera pictures in a moment for some visual indication of the response times.

The screen supports NVIDIA G-sync as well for dynamic refresh rates. This controls a refresh range between 30 and 100Hz in normal operation, or up to 120Hz if you enable the overclocking feature (more below). We would recommend sticking with a 'normal' response time setting if you are using G-sync as this seemed to be optimal for pixel response times across the full range of refresh rates, and avoided the pale overshoot that appeared in the 'Fast' mode, particularly at the higher end of the refresh rate range.

 


Overclocked Refresh Rate


Some of the older 34" ultrawide IPS gaming screens like the Acer Predator X34 and Asus ROG Swift PG348Q operated with a 60Hz native refresh rate panel, offering an overclock up to 100Hz. Here, the Dell Alienware AW3418DW has a 100Hz native refresh rate panel from LG.Display, but is capable of offering an overclock up to 120Hz maximum.

This feature can be quickly and easily enabled via the OSD menu (top image above), and once activated you can select the overclock limit as 105, 110, 115 or 120Hz. There is also a quick launch access option available (bottom image above) if you wanted to quickly change the overclocked refresh rate, although we suspect that once you've settled on a stable option that works for you, it's unlikely you'd want to change it again. This accounts for variations in systems as the overclock is not guaranteed and there is a chance of some flicker occurring in some cases according to the user manual. Performance may vary from one graphics card to another and from one system to another. We found that even the maximum 120Hz overclock produced a stable image, with no artefacts or flicker, and most importantly no frames being dropped in our tests which was great news.



We measured the response times at a couple of the overclocked refresh rates as well. Above we have provided a comparison in the 'Normal' response time mode at the native 100Hz maximum, and then at 110Hz and 120Hz overclocked levels. The higher response time settings of 'Fast' and 'Super Fast' produced too much overshoot we felt at these refresh rates, and so it is best to stick with the 'Normal' mode here again.

At 110Hz refresh rate the response times had been improved quite nicely, offering a decent bump from 100Hz and down to 6.9ms G2G now. There was no noticeable overshoot either which was great news. At 120Hz there was another small improvement down to 6.6ms G2G, and any small overshoot from before had also been eliminated. The response times in the overclocked refresh rates were again fast enough to keep up with the frame rate demands, meaning there was no additional blurring or smearing introduced thankfully. For instance at 120Hz a new frame is sent to the screen every 8.33ms, and so with response times of 6.9ms G2G they were perfectly fine.

 

Pursuit Camera Tests - Motion Clarity

We've already tested above the actual pixel response times and other aspects of the screen's gaming performance. We wanted to carry out some pursuit camera tests as well to give an even more complete idea of the performance of this screen.

Pursuit cameras are used to capture motion blur as a user might experience it on a display. They are simply cameras which follow the on-screen motion and are extremely accurate at measuring motion blur, ghosting and overdrive artefacts of moving images. Since they simulate the eye tracking motion of moving eyes, they can be useful in giving an idea of how a moving image appears to the end user. It is the blurring caused by eye tracking on continuously-displayed refreshes (sample-and-hold) that we are keen to analyse with this new approach. This is not pixel persistence caused by response times; but a different cause of display motion blur which cannot be captured using static camera tests. Low response times do have a positive impact on motion blur, and higher refresh rates also help reduce blurring to a degree. It does not matter how low response times are, or how high refresh rates are, you will still see motion blur from LCD displays under normal operation to some extent and that is what this section is designed to measure. Further technologies specifically designed to reduce perceived motion blur are required to eliminate the blur seen on these type of sample-and-hold displays which we will also look at.

We used the Blurbusters.com Ghosting Motion Test which is designed to be used with pursuit camera setups. The pursuit camera method is explained at BlurBusters as well as covered in this research paper. We carried out the tests at a range of refresh rates, in each of the 'response time' settings. These UFO objects were moving horizontally at 960 pixels per second, at a frame rate matching refresh rate of the monitor.

We saw some noticeable improvements in motion clarity as you increase the refresh rate which was easy to spot with the naked eye, and captured quite nicely with the pursuit camera photos above. It is probably sensible to stick with the 'normal' response time mode which avoided any noticeable overshoot, certainly as you reached the higher refresh rates where it had been eliminated almost entirely. The moving UFO image became sharper and easier to track as you increased the refresh rate as you might expect. There was actually quite a nice improvement as you increased from 100Hz to 120Hz, thanks to the additional frame rate, but also as a result of the improved response times, where they had dropped form 8.5ms to 6.9ms G2G. It's a little hard to pick out with the pursuit camera, but you could spot improvements in actual use more clearly. The jump is not as significant as the change from 60 to 100Hz but we felt it still offered some benefit. It will also support higher frame rates up to 120fps of course which is important to some gamers.

The 'Fast' response time mode might be useful to some people although we felt that the pale halos were a bit too noticeable, certainly at the higher refresh rates where the reduction in blurring made the overshoot more visible to the naked eye. The 'Super Fast' mode was definitely too aggressive, and the pale halos were very obvious as you can see above, especially again at the higher refresh rates.

There is no blur reduction backlight system offered sadly on this screen, despite the higher refresh rate support. So you cannot get any additional motion clarity benefits from a strobed backlight. It should be noted that other 34" ultrawide models like the Acer Predator X34 and Asus ROG Swift PG348Q also do not offer any blur reduction backlight.

Scanlines? updated 10/11/17 - we had a few questions about this since publishing the review so took the chance to go back and do some further testing. On some G-sync screens, including the Acer and Asus 34" models we've talked about a lot in this review, some users complained of a so-called "scanlines" issue when using the G-sync feature. The reports are that when you enable G-sync, some very faint horizontal lines appear on the background, and some users have found this distracting. It seems that the typical "test" for scanlines is to use the NVIDIA G-sync pendulum demo, and look at the grey background while toggling between G-sync on and off settings. This can help you identify and find the scanlines, although it's not really clear whether it's really a major concern in normal uses and gaming. It's all very well specifically looking for it with something like the pendulum demo, but you do need to consider whether it will affect you for actual uses. It seems some reports are that the issue becomes worse at higher refresh rates and with overclocks, although information is a little patchy. A reported official response from Acer on the matter suggests that it is caused by the dynamic refresh rates and changing frame rates which would seem a logical explanation as to why something like this might appear, and only when G-sync is being used.

It's not something we noticed during our testing of the Acer and Asus models at the time. Nevertheless, we had the opportunity to specifically search for it here with the AW3418DW. We ran the pendulum demo and switched between G-sync on and off. If you look very closely at the grey background you can see some slight differences. A very faint horizontal pattern appears and you see some slight shimmering of the image on some colours. It is very, very slight, and you can only really detect it if you look very closely at the screen from a short distance. Moving back a typical viewing position makes it very hard, or almost impossible to spot in our opinion. Using the screen without G-sync removes any sign of these slight artefacts. It seemed to be the same faint pattern at all refresh rates, with the 120Hz overclock not making it any different.

We are not sure whether it is any more or less apparent than on the Acer and Asus models since we didn't specifically look for the issue at the time. Our advice would be that if you are super-sensitive, previously had issues with other similar G-sync screens or really found it a major problem for your uses in the past, perhaps it might be a problem for you again here. However, we would say that most users really do no not need to worry about it, it's so subtle that we feel it would be very hard to detect in normal uses, from a normal viewing position and without specifically searching for it. It's probably one of those situations where it's better to not go searching for defects and just enjoy the new screen.

 


Detailed Response Time Measurements


Having taken a small number of measurements above to test the response times at each refresh rate, we extended the range of transitions measured here. We took these measurements at the maximum 120Hz overclocked refresh rate, as that was stable on our system with no frames being dropped and delivered the fastest response times - and best motion clarity also. The 'response time' setting was left at 'Normal' as we felt that the overshoot and pale halos on the other modes become too distracting.

Response Time = Normal
Refresh Rate = 120Hz

The average G2G response time was more accurately measured at 6.9ms now. There was one anomalous measurement where the response time was slightly slower at 13.5ms, but on the whole the average rise and fall times were very similar. The response times were fast enough to keep up with the 120Hz frame rate demands as well, which require a new frame to be sent to the screen every 8.33ms.

There is no noticeable overshoot on any transition in this 'normal' response time mode at 120Hz, so there was no added trailing or artefacts from an overly aggressive overdrive impulse. This was a great result for an IPS panel.



Gaming Comparisons

The above comparison table and graph shows you the lowest, average and highest G2G response time measurement for each screen we have tested with our oscilloscope system. There is also a colour coded mark next to each screen in the table to indicate the RTC overshoot error, as the response time figure alone doesn't tell the whole story.

These comparisons show a very good result for the Dell Alienware AW3418DW. With a 120Hz maximum overclocked refresh rate, it offers a 20% boost in supported frame rate compared with competing models like the Acer Predator X34/X34a and Asus ROG Swift PG348Q (100Hz maximum). This brings about some improvements in motion clarity in practice thanks to the higher refresh rate. It also leads to faster response times which is positive news as well. The AW3418DW has an average 6.9ms G2G, and freedom from any overshoot. This was a little faster than the Acer Predator X34 (7.9ms G2G) and Asus ROG Swift PG348Q (7.8ms G2G) which was great news.

High refresh rate 27" IPS models can reach a little faster, with response times down to around 5ms G2G from models like the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q and Acer Predator XB270HU. Those 27" screens have a higher native 144Hz refresh rate, and a panel from AU Optronics which seems to be able to offer faster response times than these equivalent 34" ultrawide panels from LG.Display. Still, in the ultrawide market this was the fastest model we have seen so far both from a response time and refresh rate point of view (assuming the same 3440 x 1440 resolution). Other competing screens with VA panels could not quite keep up, with most also suffering from some slow rise times and resulting in some dark smearing on moving content. TN Film models are the fastest still when it comes to pixel response times, and some screens will also offer refresh rates up to 240Hz native now. So if you want the absolute fastest screen for gaming with very quick response times, and the highest refresh rate possible then those TN Film screens are probably your best bet. In the ultrawide gaming market, the Alienware AW3418DW is now our benchmark for response times and refresh rate.



Additional Gaming Features

  • AlienFX lighting system - the Dell documentation explains this system as follows: "a fully customizable RGB lighting system designed to bring you closer to the worlds you play in with dynamic lighting effects tied directly to the in-game action. Four customized lighting zones let you personalize your keyboard, monitor and mouse with different colours and effects to reflect your style. Create and download unique themes effortlessly for over 145 different games."

    On the screen there is a whole menu dedicated to this lighting system as shown above. There are 4 zones that you can control individually, setting different colours for strips on the back of the screen, back of the stand, bottom edge of the display and the small power button LED. You can have these colours cycle as well if you want. There's also a small Alien logo on the back of the screen as pictured above which syncs with the colour you set for the back strips. It was a very nice lighting system we felt, although a lot of the lights are on the back of the screen so depending on how you position the display, you may not really see them ever. The bottom edge lighting casts a nice glow, and there was a really wide range of colour options to choose from.


Above: AlienFX lighting locations on the back (1), stand (2), Alien face in top right (1), underside (3) and power LED (4).
 

  • Aspect Ratio Control - the screen doesn't offer any hardware level aspect ratio control options, probably related to the use of a G-sync module in place of any internal scaler. This is not really a problem for PC gaming as you should be able to control the aspect ratio via your graphics card if you need to, although quite a lot of modern games support this ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratio format now too. When connecting external devices it may create a problem if the source is in a different aspect ratio like 16:9.

  • Preset Modes - There are 6 gaming preset modes available in the menu. There are options for FPS, RTS and RPGmodes. You can also set up 3 user configurable modes and save them if you want which is good. There's lots of flexibility here to set up specific modes for different gaming needs.

  • Black Stabilizer - There is a setting available in the 'game' section of the OSD menu and via the quick launch menu as pictured above which allows you to adjust the brightness of the dark areas of games. We've seen this kind of feature on other screens before and it can be handy where you are in a lot of dark environments to bring out some shadow detail.
     

  • Timer, Frame Rate, Display Alignment - There are a few additional settings within the 'game' section of the menu. This includes a stopwatch timer function, a counter for your active frame rate and a feature to align the video content of multiple displays. The frame rate counter is particularly useful if you're keeping an eye on your frame rate and performance, as well as fluctuations using G-sync.



Lag

We have written an in depth article about input lag and the various measurement techniques which are used to evaluate this aspect of a display. It's important to first of all understand the different methods available and also what this lag means to you as an end-user.

Input Lag vs. Display Lag vs. Signal Processing

To avoid confusion with different terminology we will refer to this section of our reviews as just "lag" from now on, as there are a few different aspects to consider, and different interpretations of the term "input lag". We will consider the following points here as much as possible. The overall "display lag" is the first, that being the delay between the image being shown on the TFT display and that being shown on a CRT. This is what many people will know as input lag and originally was the measure made to explain why the image is a little behind when using a CRT. The older stopwatch based methods were the common way to measure this in the past, but through advanced studies have been shown to be quite inaccurate. As a result, more advanced tools like SMTT provide a method to measure that delay between a TFT and CRT while removing the inaccuracies of older stopwatch methods.

In reality that lag / delay is caused by a combination of two things - the signal processing delay caused by the TFT electronics / scaler, and the response time of the pixels themselves. Most "input lag" measurements over the years have always been based on the overall display lag (signal processing + response time) and indeed the SMTT tool is based on this visual difference between a CRT and TFT and so measures the overall display lag. In practice the signal processing is the element which gives the feel of lag to the user, and the response time of course can impact blurring, and overall image quality in moving scenes. As people become more aware of lag as a possible issue, we are of course keen to try and understand the split between the two as much as possible to give a complete picture.

The signal processing element within that is quite hard to identify without extremely high end equipment and very complicated methods. In fact the studies by Thomas Thiemann which really kicked this whole thing off were based on equipment worth >100,1000 Euro, requiring extremely high bandwidths and very complicated methods to trigger the correct behaviour and accurately measure the signal processing on its own. Other techniques which are being used since are not conducted by Thomas (he is a freelance writer) or based on this equipment or technique, and may also be subject to other errors or inaccuracies based on our conversations with him since. It's very hard as a result to produce a technique which will measure just the signal processing on its own unfortunately. Many measurement techniques are also not explained and so it is important to try and get a picture from various sources if possible to make an informed judgement about a display overall.

For our tests we will continue to use the SMTT tool to measure the overall "display lag". From there we can use our oscilloscope system to measure the response time across a wide range of grey to grey (G2G) transitions as recorded in our response time tests. Since SMTT will not include the full response time within its measurements, after speaking with Thomas further about the situation we will subtract half of the average G2G response time from the total display lag. This should allow us to give a good estimation of how much of the overall lag is attributable to the signal processing element on its own.

Lag Classification


To help in this section we will also introduce a broader classification system for these results to help categorise each screen as one of the following levels:

  • Class 1) Less than 6.94ms / 1 frame lag at 144Hz - should be fine for gamers, even at high levels

  • Class 2) A lag of 6.94 - 13.88ms / One to two frames at 144Hz - moderate lag but should be fine for many gamers. Caution advised for serious gaming

  • Class 3) A lag of more than 13.88ms / more than 2 frames at 144Hz - Some noticeable lag in daily usage, not suitable for high end gaming


For the full reviews of the models compared here and the dates they were written (and when screens were approximately released to the market), please see our full reviews index.

(Measurements in ms)

 

Total Display Lag (SMTT 2)

3.80

Pixel Response Time Element

3.45

Estimated Signal Processing Lag

0.35

Lag Classification

1


 Class 1

We have provided a comparison above against other models we have tested to give an indication between screens. The screens tested are split into two measurements which are based on our overall display lag tests (using SMTT) and half the average G2G response time, as measured by the oscilloscope. The response time is split from the overall display lag and shown on the graph as the green bar. From there, the signal processing (red bar) can be provided as a good estimation.

We measured a total display lag of only 3.80ms, which was applicable at various refresh rates (including the maximum overclocked 120Hz). With approximately 3.45ms of that accounted for by pixel response times we had an estimated signal processing of only 0.35ms; basically nothing. This was an excellent performance making the screen fully suitable for fast gaming needs. You will note that all of the G-sync screens have next to no lag at all, typically 0 - 5ms maximum which is nothing to worry about. This is a benefit of the G-sync module, and also the lack of an added scaler to the screen. The Acer Predator X34 and Asus ROG Swift PG348Q were slightly higher at 5.25 - 5.30ms signal processing lag. Obviously nothing really at all to worry about, for the ultra-sensitive the Dell surpasses those screens here.

You can see that other models such as the Philips 349X7FJEW and LG 38UC99 for instance have a higher signal processing lag which is a result of the scaler added to the screen. Those are FreeSync models and it's not always easy to keep the lag down on FreeSync screens. The Samsung C32HG70 with FreeSync support offers a low input lag mode though to bypass some of those internal electronics so it is possible, it just needs additional measures to be put in place.



Movies and Video

The following summarises the screens performance in video applications:

  • 34" screen size makes it a good option for an all-in-one multimedia screen, but being quite a bit smaller than most modern LCD TV's of course even at this massive size.

  • 21:9 aspect ratio is more well suited to videos, more so than the wide range of 16:9 format screens around, leaving smaller borders on DVD's and wide screen content at the top and bottom.

  • 3440 x 1440 resolution can support full 1080 HD resolution content

  • Digital interfaces support HDCP for any encrypted and protected content

  • Fairly limited range of connectivity options provided with only 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI 1.4 offered. A restriction of G-sync at the moment.

  • Cables provided in the box for DisplayPort connections only.

  • Light AG coating providing clean and clear images, without the unwanted reflections of a glossy solution.

  • Wide brightness range adjustment possible from the display, including a maximum luminance of ~256 cd/m2 and a fairly decent minimum luminance of 24 cd/m2. This should afford you good control for different lighting conditions. Brightness regulation is controlled without the need for PWM and so is flicker free for all brightness settings.

  • Black depth and contrast ratio are ok, but not brilliant at 840:1 after calibration. Detail in darker scenes should still not be lost although it can't offer the contrast ratio of some competing IPS models which can reach nearer to 1100:1, and certainly VA panels which are often 2000:1 - 3000:1.

  • There are no specific preset modes for movies or cinema on this model although you could easily set up one of the user game modes if you wanted something different.

  • Very good pixel responsiveness which should be able to handle fast moving scenes in movies without issue. Best to stick with the 'normal' response time mode which we found was optimal. This is particularly true for 60Hz refresh rates when connecting external devices like consoles and Blu-ray players.

  • Wide viewing angles from IPS panel technology meaning several people could view the screen at once comfortable and from a whole host of different angles. White IPS glow from an angle may be an issue for some darker content.

  • No real backlight bleeding or leakage which is good, as this can be particularly problematic for movies where black borders are present.

  • Good tilt, height and swivel adjustment range available from the stand making it pretty easy to re-position the screen for movie viewing from a distance, or with other people.

  • No integrated speakers available on this model, although there is a headphone output if you want. The Acer Predator X34 and Asus ROG Swift PG348Q did feature some speakers if that is important to you, although they are only really suitable for the odd YouTube video or mp3.

  • No hardware aspect ratio control options available. Not a problem for PC movie viewing but external devices may be an issue given differing aspect ratios.

  • Picture By Picture (PbP) and Picture In Picture (PiP) are not available on this model.

  • HDR is not supported on this display.



Conclusion

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The AW3418DW was an impressive new option in the 34" ultrawide IPS gaming market. It's definitely a preference to have a full 3440 x 1440 resolution on these models we think, as this provides a much sharper image, more desktop real estate and is better for all-round uses. The fact that Dell have made use of a new 100Hz native refresh rate panel from LG.Display here sets it apart from the competition at the moment, which rely on 60Hz panels that can be overclocked to 100Hz, or a little less than that in some cases. Here, the 100Hz should be stable for everyone, and then there's also an additional 120Hz overclock offered which we found worked really well. It was stable on our system with no frame drops, and resulted in improved motion clarity due to the 20% increase in frame rates as well as helping to improve response times to as low as we've seen on a 34" IPS screen. This monitor is now the benchmark for ultrawide gaming response times and refresh rates. The input lag was also non-existent, and there was a nice range of additional features like the AlienFX lighting and Black Stabilizer for instance which added to the premium feel.

The large resolution and screen size make it a good option as well for all-round uses, not just for the intended gaming applications. The default setup wasn't perfect, as the gamma was a bit off and contrast ratio was not quite as good as we'd seen from some other modern IPS panels. Still, the IPS panel offered the wide viewing angles, stable image, sRGB gamut and nice image quality that we're used from this technology. The flicker free backlight was a positive, and the very good stand provided a sturdy support for the screen with all the necessary adjustments available including the sometimes missing swivel.

The default setup and the contrast ratio might not be quite as good as the popular Acer and Asus 34" IPS models, but we felt the Alienware AW3418DW was a better screen. The gaming performance is what is of most importance here, and with the faster response times, native 100Hz, increased 120Hz overclock and zero lag we feel this is currently the best 34" gaming option that we have tested.
 

Pros

Cons

120Hz overclocked refresh rate works very well, with no frame drops and improved motion clarity

Default gamma setup was a little off for general uses

Response times as low as we have seen from any ultrawide screen to date

Contrast ratio not quite as high as other modern IPS panels

Zero lag, and nice additional gaming features

Would love to see an ultrawide IPS with a blur reduction backlight option as well


 

TFT Central Awards Explained

We have two award classifications as part of our reviews. There's the top 'Recommended' award, where a monitor is excellent and highly recommended by us. There is also an 'Approved' award for a very good screen which may not be perfect, but is still a very good display. These awards won't be given out every time, but look out for the logo at the bottom of the conclusion. A list of monitors which have won our awards is available here.

 

 

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