The AW3821DW ships in its Standard picture preset with Eco mode turned on. This works with a room light sensor to vary brightness according to ambient light and limits output to conserve power. We disabled the sensor and the Eco mode for all testing, since it alters the results unpredictably.
Grayscale & Gamma Tracking
The AW3821DW’s initial grayscale measurement run isn’t too bad, but you will see a slight blue tint at 60% brightness and higher. The error is more visible as the picture becomes brighter. For most content, this is just within the realm of acceptability, but a premium monitor like this should come out of the box a little more neutral in tone.
Gamma is also a bit off the mark with a light spot at the 10% step and slightly dark highlight areas between 70 and 90%.
Our calibration resulted in near-perfect grayscale tracking with all errors less than 1 Delta E (dE). Gamma also improved slightly after calibrating, too but we’d prefer to see a flatter luminance trace. It’s a minor issue but one that shouldn’t be present in a premium display.
Though the AW3821DW acquits itself well among the other monitors here, its out-of-box performance is a little behind the Acer. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth paying ~$300 more for the X38 to get a little better grayscale and gamma performance. But in the bigger picture, the Alienware performs well. Calibrated grayscale is at the top, and gamma isn’t too far off the mark with a 1.36% deviation from the 2.2 ideal.
Color Gamut Accuracy
The AW3821DW’s out-of-box color gamut results are quite good. With an average error of just 2.47dE, there are no visible issues here. Red, magenta and cyan hues are slightly off, but this was almost impossible to spot in actual content. The DCI-P3 gamut is covered well with only slight undersaturation in green.
After our grayscale calibration, the chart looks even better with every point on target except green, which is still slightly undersaturated. But this is typical of extended color monitors. Only a tiny handful of displays can fully cover a DCI-P3 green primary.
With a default color gamut error of 2.47dE average, the AW3821DW could make our Calibration Not Required list -- if its grayscale were a little better. But most will be satisfied with the default image in Standard mode. We recommend using our settings in Custom Color mode for the best possible picture. At 1.5dE, the final color error level is very low and only eclipsed by the Acer X38.
The X38’s extra cost will also buy you a bit more DCI-P3 gamut coverage, but that extra color will be very hard to spot in a side-by-side comparison. The Alienware’s 90.44% result is a very good number for any extended color display and definitely higher than average. You can also see that the X38 has an sRGB mode that affords it more accurate coverage of that smaller color space.