There is no question that ultra-wide displays have become a de facto standard for gaming enthusiasts. What began a few years ago as a novelty--an answer to an unasked question--has evolved into a desirable piece of hardware for gamers seeking full immersion. While the best VR headsets still provide a greater sense of sensory deprivation, a curved 21:9 screen manages to capture much of that feeling without a bulky apparatus on your head.
The AOC CU34G2X is a great example of the genre and the evolution of gaming monitors in general. It takes the staple features of fast refresh and Adaptive-Sync and adds image-enhancing elements: extended color, HDR and QHD resolution, which still represents the sweet spot between pixel density and frame rate performance. To that, it adds blur-reduction that works up to 144 Hz, a rare thing since most backlight strobes only go up to 120 Hz and some top out at 100 Hz.
However, the monitor misses its claimed 300 nits brightness and doesn’t provide any extra light in HDR mode. Though the VA panel delivers around 2,400:1 contrast, it doesn’t offer any extra dynamic range for HDR material. We saw good black levels, but there are a few HDR monitors that do more with their HDR modes.
If you’re looking for solid video processing, the CU34G2X has it. FreeSync and G-Sync (unofficially) both worked with HDR, and overall input lag kept with other 144 Hz screens we’ve tested. Panel response was fast enough to keep motion blur low, and blur reduction wasn’t necessary as long as frame rates stayed over 80 fps. At QHD resolution, that won’t require an expensive graphics card to achieve.
The CU34G2X sells at a near-premium price point but doesn’t cost much more than other 34-inch ultra-wide displays. Better HDR performance, more brightness and a larger color gamut can be had but at a higher price. However, this monitor delivers excellent performance for the money.
MORE: Best Gaming Monitors
MORE: How We Test Monitors
MORE: All Monitor Content