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Alienware AW3821DW Review: Smooth, Curved, Slick Ultrawide

Top-of-the-line 38-inch ultrawide

Alienware AW3821DW
(Image: © Dell)

To read about our monitor tests in-depth, check out Display Testing Explained: How We Test PC Monitors. We cover brightness and contrast testing on page two.

Uncalibrated – Maximum Backlight Level

The AW3821DW is the second 38-inch monitor we’ve reviewed, the first being the aforementioned Acer Predator X38. Also included in the group are four 34-inch screens: the Cooler Master GM34-CW, Gigabyte G34WQC, MSI MPG Artymis 343CQR and Viotek GNV34DBE.

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Alienware AW3821DW

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Alienware AW3821DW

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Alienware AW3821DW

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

For our initial round of measurements, we made sure the Variable Backlight and the room light sensor were turned off to check the AW3821DW’s native performance. There is plenty of brightness available, 527.2 nits, a good bit more than its 450-nit rating.

Black levels are higher (worse) than each of the comparison monitors. VA panels generally have a distinct advantage, but even next to the IPS-based X38, the Alienware is more gray than black. Resulting contrast is just 875.6:1.

Before moving on to the calibration, we checked the numbers again using Variable Backlight. The increase in dynamic range was significant – over 48,000:1 in modes 0 and 1, and just over 8,000:1 in mode 2.

After Calibration to 200 nits

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Alienware AW3821DW

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Alienware AW3821DW

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Alienware AW3821DW

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Our calibration to 200 nits brightness (see our recommended calibration settings on page 1) doesn’t help contrast but doesn’t really hurt it either. But a 846.2:1 contrast ratio is below average among most other IPS monitors we’ve tested. It looks like the Variable Backlight feature is a must if one is to get decent image depth from the AW3821DW.

ANSI contrast is exactly the same as the static number, which indicates a good build and good quality control. Our AW3821DW showed nearly perfect screen uniformity, which helps this score. Variable Backlight doesn’t affect the ANSI test, but in practice, it made the picture visibly better.

  • coloradoblah
    About 600 too expensive still
    Reply
  • Metteec
    Overall, thank you for a well-detailed review. I think another important point to mention is the warranty. The Alienware includes Dell's 3-year advanced replacement, meaning Dell will send you a replacement before receiving your broken screen. With so many comparisons to the Acer X38p, having a 2-year standard warranty, I think that Tom's should mention the support differential. Another important factor not evaluated is the noise. The AW3821DW is whisper quiet. The X38p has a noticeable fan noise that I can hear with headphones on if no sound is playing. The sound was driving me crazy.

    I have owned the X38p (returned) and now I own the AW3821DW and can confirm the AW3821DW's HDR is mostly trash, but the color accuracy, screen size, g-sync, brightness, and responsiveness make it one of the best monitors I have used. I was able to purchase for around $1,300 in the US with a 10% off coupon and their sale. I would not be surprised if you saw the monitor get to $1000 in six months.
    Reply
  • helper800
    coloradoblah said:
    About 600 too expensive still
    At this price range you mind as well grab a 48 inch LG CX when they inevitably go on sale. I just recently got the 55 inch LG CX at Costco for 1350. I wall mounted it and have it at a -16 degree angle above my other 2 monitors. I have not used it for any PC gaming yet as I am setting up a new desk as well but it looks great about 5.5 feet away and all I have to do is look up about +40 degrees or lean back in my chair. It primary purpose is not PC gaming, however, its for the consoles and watching content from my bed about 10 feet away.

    TLDR; why get this monitor for nearly the price of something so much better?
    Reply
  • coloradoblah
    helper800 said:
    At this price range you mind as well grab a 48 inch LG CX when they inevitably go on sale. I just recently got the 55 inch LG CX at Costco for 1350. I wall mounted it and have it at a -16 degree angle above my other 2 monitors. I have not used it for any PC gaming yet as I am setting up a new desk as well but it looks great about 5.5 feet away and all I have to do is look up about +40 degrees or lean back in my chair. It primary purpose is not PC gaming, however, its for the consoles and watching content from my bed about 10 feet away.

    TLDR; why get this monitor for nearly the price of something so much better?
    Yeah, im not a fan of non matte screens but the sheer size and contrast alone its a better buy
    Reply
  • helper800
    coloradoblah said:
    Yeah, im not a fan of non matte screens but the sheer size and contrast alone its a better buy
    It has a glossy finish but its bright enough to get rid of about 80% of glare. It was a big concern of mine but I am happy with the finish in the end. I have had some monitors with matte finishes that end up making the picture overall grainy looking which, in my opinion, is worse than glare.
    Reply