How to Choose the Right Monitor
Over the past few years, curved monitors have gone from being rarities to familiar, if not commonplace, sights. They include panels for gaming, productivity,
and professional (design and content creation) use, as well as general-purpose home and business
monitors. And they’re stylish, but their appeal goes beyond mere appearance.
experience of using a curved display is often described as “immersive.” It draws you into the scene, lending a feeling of dimensionality, which you don’t get with a flat panel.
Many recent ultrawide monitors, including all of the 49-inch gaming and business
monitors we have reviewed, are sharply curved, which gives the user a wider
field of view with a minimum of distortion at the edges.
Eye-Catching Curves: An Anecdote
A few years back, when I needed to upgrade my old VGA monitor
to one that supported HDMI, I stopped by a local Staples and looked at the
dozen or so general-purpose and productivity monitors on display. Among
them, one stood out: The HP 27 Curved Display had a screen whose ends seemed to
flex toward the viewer in a gentle concave arc, while the other displays all
had flat screens. I examined them all—they each showed the same image, like in any typical showroom—and ended up buying the HP. I am viewing the words that you see here on
it as I type.
The image quality of the panel I bought seemed fine, but something else was
also at work. The display had a not-so-secret weapon: Call it sex appeal,
snazziness, or pizzazz. With the glut of more
recent curved monitors, it no longer stands out, but it has served me well.
I relate that experience to say, it’s a good idea to take a look at one of these panels, if you can, in person. Ideally, view it alongside a selection of like-sized flat panels to see if a curved model is what you are after. You may well find that it grabs you in the same intangible way that it struck me, and in a way that a mere description on a web site can’t.
Understanding Degree of Curvature
Not all curved monitors are curved the same amount. My HP 27 model, for one, is gently curved—as are most
similar, general-purpose arc displays—while gaming and ultrawide productivity
monitors tend to be more tightly curved.
Among curved monitors, the degree of curvature is a measurable
stat. Those highly curved monitors often have what is dubbed “1800R” curvature. This means that if
you were to place enough of these monitors side by side to form a circle, its
radius would be 1,800mm—that’s 1.8 meters, or 5.9 feet. And if you were positioned that far from
the screen, the center, the right edge, and the left edge all would be equidistant from your eyes.
Few viewers would normally be that far from the screen,
except perhaps when watching movies in a group. When you do move closer, especially with
a large ultrawide monitor, the curve makes for a panoramic, immersive
experience as the screen’s edges almost seem to wrap partway around you. This
creates a three-dimensional effect (which a flat panel can’t provide) and is often
said to reduce eyestrain.
Commonalities and Differences Among Curved Monitors
Curved monitors tend to be large. My 27-inch HP is the smallest
such display I have encountered. Most have 30-inch or larger screens (measured
diagonally), with clusters at 34 inches, 35 inches, and 49 inches.
Often, curved monitors are also ultrawide panels, defined by having 21:9 or 32:9 aspect ratios. The former tend to have WQHD
(3,440-by-1,440-pixel) native resolution, while the 32:9 monitors—which include all
the 49-inchers we have reviewed—have native resolutions of either 5,120 by 1,440 pixels or 3,840 by 1,080
As for ergonomics, height and tilt adjustment are common, swivel
control less so (it’s seldom seen on the really wide monitors), and pivot
control—allowing you to rotate the monitor from landscape to portrait
orientation and back—is basically nonexistent. For obvious reasons, the curvature doesn’t make sense in a vertical orientation.
Ports on these displays tend to face downward in back, which is less than
ideal considering that most of these are large, heavy, and unwieldy monitors. It’s a
good idea to connect any cables you might ever want to use during the initial setup process.
Whether they are gaming, productivity, or professional monitors, curved
displays commonly have a DisplayPort connector and at least one HDMI port; an upstream USB port (for connection to your computer) and several downstream USB ports (for flash drives and other peripherals); and an audio-out jack to connect to a headset or external speakers. Some have built-in
speakers, but they can vary widely in quality.
The controls to navigate the onscreen display (OSD) on general-purpose curved monitors tend to consist of
small buttons, while those on gaming and some professional monitors are often
four-way mini-joystick controllers, which are easier to use than buttons. (See
how we test monitors.)
Factors for Artists, Gamers, and Multitaskers
If you look beyond general-purpose use, you can lump curved monitors into three categories: for multitasking (productivity work with several apps or windows at once), for professional use, and for gaming.
With a curved, large-screen productivity monitor, you can have several
documents (or one gigantic spreadsheet) open in full-size windows at once, and
view them with a minimum of eyestrain. A few monitor makers provide software to
let you easily size, tile, and configure windows. You could even take this
multitasking to another level by adding a second identical monitor for a
That said, you’ll want to look with care at the size of the bezels and the degree of curvature if you are considering pairing up more than one curved panel in a multipanel display. You’ll need a big, wide desk with adequate front-to-back clearance to allow for the natural curve to align across two of these panels. Also, thick side bezels could mean a big black bar in the center of your sightline with two panels.
As for graphic designers, photographers, and other creative professionals, they could have several illustrations or photos open side-by-side on a curved
monitor. This would provide more natural viewing angles than on a flat monitor,
so that the artist could examine, say, three images at once without the outside
ones appearing stretched.
Gamers get a more three-dimensional view with a curved
monitor than with a flat panel. Curved gaming displays are particularly good
for racing games and flight simulators, and other games (particularly
non-shooters) that provide panoramic views. One thing to note, though, is that some older AAA games don’t support the ultrawide aspect ratios typical of curved gaming panels.
So, Which Curved Monitor Should I Buy?
Curved monitors aren’t for everyone. They are a mixed bag for gamers, and they don’t provide practical advantages at small sizes, which is why you seldom see them in panel sizes smaller than 30 inches. Apart from their aesthetic appeal, what sets curved displays
apart from other computer monitors is that the edges of the screen face you, which isn’t the case with a flat panel. This provides a more
panoramic view with less distortion, which can be a boon to gamers, graphic
artists, and multitaskers alike.
Now that you know the basics of curved displays, you’re ready to dig into the details of some of our best-reviewed models. You can also find more information in our roundups of the best ultrawide monitors, gaming monitors, and 4K monitors we’ve tested.
Acer Predator X35
Pros: Unmatched gaming performance.
Fastest refresh rate on an ultrawide monitor.
Cons: Color reproduction could be stronger.
Far from cheap.
Some local dimming trails or ghosting.
Bottom Line: The ultrawide, ultra-bright, ultra-fast Acer Predator X35 is a dream come true among gaming monitors, even if its price will make it just a dream for most gamers.
Asus ProArt PA34VC Professional Curved Monitor
Pros: Excellent color accuracy.
Software calibration tools.
Ultra-wide screen with 100Hz refresh rate, 1900R curvature, and HDR support.
Cons: Does not cover the full Adobe RGB color space.
Bottom Line: The curved, ultra-wide Asus ProArt PA34VC is a good choice as a monitor for creative professionals.
It also touts gaming features such as a 100Hz refresh rate and support for AMD’s FreeSync adaptive-sync technology.
Dell UltraSharp 34 Curved USB-C Monitor (U3419W)
Pros: Ultra-wide IPS panel. Very good color accuracy. Covers 100 percent of the sRGB color spectrum. USB-C port. Virtual KVM switch.
Cons: Lacks support for HDR. Tiny control buttons.
Bottom Line: Dell’s UltraSharp 34 Curved USB-C Monitor (U3419W) is an ultra-wide business display with great color accuracy and a host of connectivity choices. It’s a solid alternative to a multi-monitor array.
Pros: Spacious 49-inch screen. USB-C port can charge devices, including laptops. Good color accuracy. Can handle HDR content. Powerful speakers.
Cons: Skimpy one-year warranty. On the pricey side.
Bottom Line: The LG 49WL95C-W, a business-centered 49-inch monitor, is a multitasker’s dream panel, letting you manage and view several full-size windows on your screen at once.
MSI Optix MPG341CQR
Pros: Innovative design and wide gamer feature set. Decent color results. Very low input lag. Aggressively priced for its class.
Cons: Overall HDR and movie quality is so-so. Contrast ratio tested lower than advertised. Built-in webcam is nifty but works only for facial recognition feature.
Bottom Line: MSI’s 34-inch ultrawide Optix MPG341CQR combines solid gaming performance with a raft of exclusive features, adding up to an ultra-quick curved panel that excels across nearly every metric that matters to gamers.
Philips Brilliance 499P9H
Pros: Immense ultra-wide screen with 5K horizontal resolution. Bright image. Good color fidelity. Supports HDR. USB-C power delivery. Built-in KVM switch.
Cons: On the pricey side. Buttons, instead of joystick, for OSD control.
Bottom Line: The Philips Brilliance 499P9H offers a winning combination of a gigantic, ultra-wide curved screen—shining with a bright, vivid image—and extras like a Windows Hello-compatible webcam and a built-in KVM switch.
Samsung CHG90 49-Inch Curved Ultrawide Monitor
Pros: Ultra-wide screen provides for an immersive gaming experience.
Good HDR performance.
Blistering native refresh rate over a DisplayPort conection.
AMD FreeSync 2.
Wide, sturdy mount.
Cons: May be tricky to find room for this display in tight quarters.
Screen dimensions less than ideal for viewing videos.
Relatively low pixel density compromises its ability to render fine detail.
No built-in speakers.
Bottom Line: The stunning 49-inch screen of Samsung’s CHG90 packs wow factor, providing an immersive experience for gamers, and it lets productivity-minded users keep several windows open side by side.
Pros: Extra-wide curved screen. Trim bezels. Pleasing, accurate color. Pre-calibrated for a variety of color spaces. 100Hz refresh rate with AMD FreeSync. Height, tilt, and swivel adjustment.
Cons: Button-based OSD controls. Luminance and contrast ratio didn’t meet ratings in our tests.
Bottom Line: ViewSonic’s VP3481 is an ultra-wide 34-inch professional monitor with solid color accuracy and features that will tempt game designers and graphic artists alike.
HP 34f 34-Inch Curved Display
Pros: Ultra-wide, curved screen. Good for multitasking or a multi-monitor setup. Renders both photos and video well. Spot-on color for sRGB.
Cons: Meager one-year warranty. Lacks height or swivel adjustment. No built-in speakers. Lacks HDR support.
Bottom Line: The HP 34f 34-Inch Curved Display is a spacious, ultra-wide monitor that’s best for video watching, processing photos for the web, and multitasking.
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