HP Z38c 38" Ultra-wide Curved Monitor Review: Expansive & Accurate

Why you can trust Tom's Hardware Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.


Following reader comments over the last two years shows us that curved ultra-wide monitors are now a fully-accepted genre in the world of computer displays. Even we wondered why at first, but as with many advances in technology, gamers have shown us the way. There is nothing quite like wrapping a jumbo-sized image around you, as owners of multiple monitors can attest to. We might all be wearing virtual reality headsets some day. But until then, large displays will amply fulfill the desire for maximum immersion.

HP clearly sees a need for such monitors in the workplace. It’s not unusual to see enterprise desktops with two or three panels installed. A quick search of the internet reveals photos of as many as six displays configured for one user. In the information age, there’s value in having all that data right in front of you. The more you can see, the more you can excel.

The Z38c sets the bar high for business-class displays, regardless of size or shape. It’s color-accurate, offers professional-level calibration ability, and is one of the most substantially constructed monitors we’ve ever seen. Many users define quality by the weight of a component. That's easy to see in the world of audio amplifiers, and there’s no mistaking it when lifting a 30-pound monitor from a carton the size of a small refrigerator. Between the 11-pound stand and a panel that feels as though it’s forged from solid billets, the HP Z38c is obviously designed for long and reliable service.

Factory calibration ensures a reasonably-accurate sRGB mode, and that preset will be more than fine for most users. But a calibration in the Custom RGB mode puts the Z38c in the ranks of professional displays. We’re glad to see that given its premium price tag. Our only wish is for more contrast. The comparison charts show what we’ve been saying for some time now: VA is king when it comes to dynamic range. And we maintain that this metric has a greater impact on image quality than all others. And a compromise in contrast is necessary when calibrating the Z38c to achieve perfect color. This is not necessarily HP’s fault. We observed similar results from the other two 38” IPS monitors we’ve reviewed.

That issue didn’t reduce our appreciation for this massive monitor. Working on it is a pleasure. It quickly becomes natural to keep three or four documents open at once with browser and email windows waiting at the sides for instant access. Large spreadsheets are super-easy to navigate since very little scrolling is required. And photo editing goes by in a flash when you can keep all your tool palettes open at once. Video editors will love the Z38c as well, for the same reason.

It's easy for us to give the HP Z38c a strong recommendation. It performs well, is beautifully built, and should provide years of reliable service. The price is high, but for a component that will easily outlive multiple computer upgrades, its value factor seems sound. Business users, your jumbo curved ultra-wide display has arrived.

MORE: Best Gaming Monitors

MORE: Best Professional Monitors

MORE: How We Test Monitors

MORE: How To Choose A Monitor

MORE: All Monitor Content

Christian Eberle
Contributing Editor

Christian Eberle is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He's a veteran reviewer of A/V equipment, specializing in monitors. Christian began his obsession with tech when he built his first PC in 1991, a 286 running DOS 3.0 at a blazing 12MHz. In 2006, he undertook training from the Imaging Science Foundation in video calibration and testing and thus started a passion for precise imaging that persists to this day. He is also a professional musician with a degree from the New England Conservatory as a classical bassoonist which he used to good effect as a performer with the West Point Army Band from 1987 to 2013. He enjoys watching movies and listening to high-end audio in his custom-built home theater and can be seen riding trails near his home on a race-ready ICE VTX recumbent trike. Christian enjoys the endless summer in Florida where he lives with his wife and Chihuahua and plays with orchestras around the state.

  • lhughey
    The horizontal resolution is wrong in the specs section.
  • tefowler3101
    ... nor does it except signals higherthan 60Hz
    ...(nor does it accept signals higher than 60Hz
  • Rushnerd
    Owned a 27" 1440p HP IPS since 2011, it's pretty decent for gaming, so it's sad to see this is $300+ more than the Acer XR382CQK (75hz!) and not nearly as good.

    Not a lot of 38" monitors, so looks like the choice here is still easy.