To read about our monitor tests in-depth, check out Display Testing Explained: How We Test Monitors and TVs. We cover brightness and contrast testing on page two.
Uncalibrated – Maximum Backlight Level
Comparisons to the AW5520QF, the first real OLED gaming monitor, are difficult. Our entire database consists of LCD monitors. So to put the Alienware’s performance into perspective, we selected the best HDR screens we’ve reviewed. Fellow BFGD HP Omen X 65 Emperium is an obvious choice. Then we have the more diminutive 27-inchers,Acer’s Predator X27 and Asus’ ROG Swift PG27UQ. All three of the aforementioned monitors have a 384-zone full-array local-dimming (FALD) backlight. Finally, we have Asus’ ProArt PA32UCX, a 32-inch professional mini-LED monitor with a 1,152-zone FALD backlight. That last monitor isn’t really intended for gaming, but its image quality is incredible and offers some insight into what the very best displays available can do.
Alienware rates the AW5520QF as hitting up to 130 nits brightness in SDR mode with 400 nits possible in HDR. Our sample just about met that number. That doesn’t sound like a lot of light, but a large screen can look good with less output. While we prefer 200 nits for desktop computer monitors in normal use, a large panel works equally well at around 150 nits. That being said, we recommend a dark(ish) room for the AW5520QF. You’ll want to fully appreciate its image quality without distracting light coming from above and around you.
Black levels proved impossibly low for us to measure. Try as we might, we could not get our meter to register any light at zero-signal levels. There is no dynamic contrast in play here that artificially shuts down the panel; this is the panel’s native state. OLEDs can turn pixels off frame-by-frame, something no LCD can do.
Resulting contrast (3rd chart) is theoretically infinite. The next best panel here is the VA-based HP, which sports a best-in-class 4,463.6:1 static ratio without zone dimming engaged. There is no question that OLED is the king of contrast. Nothing else comes close.
After Calibration to 200 nits
Calibration with our recommended settings (see page 2) cost us a few nits of brightness (112.7 nits versus 127 nits), but it’s worth that small sacrifice for supreme color accuracy. No dynamic contrast or zone dimming was engaged for this test.
When measuring the intra-image contrast of FALD panels, the numbers are no different with zone dimming on or off. After our recommended calibration settings, the AW5520QF still showed a black level that was so low it was immeasurable. This is unmatched performance.
MORE: Best Gaming Monitors
MORE: How We Test Monitors
MORE: All Monitor Content