Today we're checking out LG's latest curved gaming monitor: the 34UC98. It's an IPS screen with 3440x1440 pixels, FreeSync, a 75Hz max refresh rate and MaxxAudio-tuned speakers.
Despite many reader comments wondering why curved monitors exist, manufacturers have not stopped introducing new models. Even though they've stayed at the premium price level, people are obviously buying them in sufficient quantities to fuel improvements to the technology. What began as a single business-class product two years ago has bloomed into a wide array of choices for both general use and entertainment.
Curved screens are particularly well-suited to gaming where the user seeks greater immersion in the environment. Filling one's peripheral vision with an image goes a long way towards suspension of disbelief and a more involving experience. Newer screens enhance this with a smaller radius curve that brings the monitor's sides in even more.
LG was the first company to show a curved ultra-wide when it introduced the 34UC97 in 2014. We covered it in January of 2015, then went on to review several other similar products, most of which are aimed at gaming and entertainment. LG has now updated that display by adding FreeSync, 75Hz and HDMI 2.0. Today we're looking at the 34UC98.
The 34UC98 is a completely new panel part sporting 10-bit color (courtesy of frame-rate conversion), a higher 75Hz refresh rate and AMD FreeSync. The HDMI inputs have been updated to version 2.0 allowing for greater bandwidth and the acceptance of full-resolution 3440x1440 signals. FreeSync however only works over the single DisplayPort 1.2 input.
The main comparison point between FreeSync monitors has become operating range; more specifically, the range of refresh rates within which FreeSync is active. The higher number isn't that important as all the displays we've reviewed provide adaptive-refresh up to their maximums. What potential purchasers want to know is the lower value; the point where frame-tears can occur unless the monitor is equipped with Low Framerate Compensation (LFC).
LFC was implemented in AMD's Crimson driver late last year and it brings relief from frame tears to users who drop below their monitor's FreeSync minimum value; but there's a catch. The monitor must have a sufficiently wide range to take advantage of the feature. The requirement is that the maximum be at least two-and-a-half times the minimum; meaning a 75Hz display needs to support adaptive-refresh down to 30Hz. The 34UC98 only goes to 55Hz and therefore won't allow for LFC.
Of course as always, we'll be taking a look at real-world gaming performance during this review. Is the 55Hz lower limit going to be a problem? Our R9-285 system will tell us. Otherwise, the 34UC98 has some decent cred. Accuracy is obviously a priority given that LG has included a factory calibration with data sheet to match. Its gaming specs may not be earth-shattering but in the accuracy department, we're expecting some good things. But enough talk, let's take a look at the 34UC98.