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.
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
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.