Some users are still asking why curved monitors exist and why they should spend the extra coin it takes to own one. Manufacturers seem undaunted by this as they continue to introduce new models. It also seems the 21:9 aspect ratio has caught on sufficiently to qualify as a category that's here to stay rather than just a fad.
We've positively reviewed several ultra-wide and curved screens since they appeared about a year ago. They're expensive for sure, but they are also flagship products employing the best panel parts and comprehensive feature lists. We haven't seen a bad example yet.
Though the first curved monitors were aimed at the business class, their design seems more suitable for gaming where the more you can see the better. Now that ultra-wide screens are available in 1440p, the addition of a little curve just brings the game's world closer to reality.
The first curved gaming monitor we looked at was BenQ's XR3501. It's a gorgeous AMVA (Advanced Multi-Domain Vertical Alignment) panel with high contrast and excellent color, but it only offers 1080p resolution and no frame-rate matching. It is capable of 144Hz refresh though.
Today we're looking at member of Acer's gaming lineup -- the XR341CK. With a 75Hz IPS panel, WQHD resolution and FreeSync, it might just appeal to users looking for a more immersive experience.
At this time, 34-inch curved parts come only from LG and Samsung. Acer uses an LG panel in the XR341CK, which turns out to be the same one we saw in Dell's U3415W monitor. Its 3800R curve is far more subtle than the 2000R radius we saw in the BenQ XR3501.
An early stumbling block in the acceptance of 21:9 screens was their low resolution. 1080p just doesn't quite cut it, especially in larger 34 and 35-inch sizes. Fortunately Acer is using a 1440p part so you can enjoy the same scaling and screen height as a 27-inch QHD display, which is fast becoming a new desktop standard.
The backlight is a white LED and it is flicker-free. No pulse-width modulation is used at any brightness level. Though most PWM screens don't bother us, some users are sensitive to strobing even when it's happening at 20,000 times per second. The XR341CK's constant-current backlight will bother no one.
Gaming features are here aplenty as well. FreeSync is included and works up to the 75Hz max refresh rate. The lower limit is 30Hz at which point users can opt to switch to V-Sync. Acer has also included two hardware features that we think are pretty cool. There are three different aiming reticules available, similar to Asus' GamePlus. And you can place an fps counter in the screen's upper right by setting an option in the OSD.
Obviously the XR341CK is a flagship product selling for a premium price, but will you get what you pay for? Let's take a look.