Group-buy website Massdrop announced a drop for its Vast 35” curved gaming monitor (opens in new tab). It supports AMD FreeSync technology and runs at 100 Hz. It also features a high-contrast VA panel with 3440x1440 resolution and a 1800R curve in the 21:9 aspect ratio. We don't have a full review at this time, but we did acquire a pre-production sample for some testing.
The panel part is from AU Optronics and offers a high contrast ratio--higher than any IPS or TN monitor is capable of. The manufacturer claims 2500:1, with a max brightness of 300cd/m2. Response time is 2ms with a FreeSync operating range of 49-100 Hz. That means you’ll need a relatively stout video card to keep frame rates above 49 FPS, since LFC is not supported.
The chassis is a combination of high-quality plastic and aluminum, with the panel framed in a thin bezel. The stand offers 4.3” of height adjustment along with -5°/15° tilt and a portrait mode, which we haven't before seen in a curved monitor. Also unusual is the lack of a swivel function. There are no built-in speakers, but the power supply is internal, eliminating the need for a brick. The well-protected package includes an IEC cord and a DisplayPort cable. There are three HDMI inputs along with a single DisplayPort. You also get a 3.5mm audio output for headphones or powered speakers.
Controls consist entirely of a single joystick that runs everything. Ordinarily, we would be happy about this, but the Vast’s implementation is not up to the standards set by LG or BenQ. Pressing the stick toggles the power--a fact you’ll quickly learn when you’ve turned off the monitor by mistake a half-dozen times, as we did. To open the OSD, click up. To move up and down through the choices, click left and right. To make a selection, click up. To back out of the menu, click down. (See what we mean?)
The OSD is complete with multiple image modes and calibration controls that include RGB sliders, gamma presets, and hue/saturation adjustments. We’ll give you a little more detail on picture tweaks below. Overdrive is either on or off and produces some visible ghosting in the Blurbusters UFO test. Users looking for a blur-free experience might want to investigate monitors with higher refresh rates. But, as you know, that’ll cost.
In our short time with the Vast, we were able to run a set of measurements and perform a calibration. Here are the out-of-box numbers for brightness, black level and contrast.
Max White – 278.9774cd/m2 Max Black - .0872cd/m2 Max Contrast – 3198.1:1 Min White – 73.3317cd/m2 Min Black - .0236cd/m2 Min Contrast – 3109.2:1
Clearly, the Vast’s VA panel is as good or better than any mainstream-branded competitors. It’s not the brightest monitor out there, but it provides enough output for most environments. Black levels are as low as any VA screen we’ve tested, which is to say, they're excellent. Dynamic range is among the best we’ve seen; not every VA monitor can top 3000:1 like this one. If you’re wondering about post-calibration results, we managed to keep the contrast ratio at an excellent 3037.4:1 even after lowering the contrast slider to improve grayscale tracking.
We also measured the Vast’s grayscale, gamma, and color accuracy. Here are the charts showing the default Standard picture mode.
You can see that the white point is quite blue, even though the color temp setting says it's 6500K. There are no warmer presets available, so if you want a more accurate image, calibration is a must. Gamma runs a tad light at an average value of 2.06. You can use the 2.4 preset to make things a bit darker if you wish. The color gamut clearly overshoots Rec.709 targets. We can see that it's actually pretty close to DCI-P3. This is great if you plan to watch Ultra HD Blu-rays, but it will be oversaturated for gaming purposes.
We were able to get the error down to a reasonable 1.07dE by making the following changes.
Brightness 200cd/m2 – 55 Contrast – 44 Color Temp User – Red 62, Green 62, Blue 38
If you’re planning to purchase a Vast, we strongly suggest making these changes. Image depth and color accuracy are significantly improved. In addition to the 1.07dE average grayscale error, calibrated gamma stays about the same at 2.04, and the average color error drops to a respectable 2.72dE.
We’ve been covering curved monitors steadily since they appeared some four years ago. During that time, prices haven’t changed much. A decent 35” curved gaming monitor with fast refresh, adaptive sync, and high resolution will cost at least $800. Massdrop’s Vast breaks that precedent with its $550 price tag. Although it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of mainstream brands, it does, as they say, have it where it counts. FreeSync and 100 Hz may not be the stuff hardcore gamers are looking for, but most players will be satisfied with the Vast’s video processing performance.
Out-of-box color accuracy is on par with other non-mainstream brands, which is to say, it's only fair, but a calibration will set things right. Our settings will make a visible improvement should you decide to add one of these to your rig.
Curved screens have taken firm hold in the market and are no longer considered oddities. The Vast provides decent gaming cred with its generous 35” size, 3440x1440-pixel resolution, FreeSync, and 100 Hz refresh rate. Further, at $550, it is (for now) in a class by itself.