We now believe that enough time has passed, and enough products have been introduced, that we can say curved ultra-wide monitors are not a passing fad. Although most of these monitors command high prices, gamers have embraced the enhanced sense of immersion and solid image quality.
There are two main categories of curved ultra-wide monitors. If you want the highest possible contrast and refresh rate, and are willing to accept 2560x1080 resolution, there are a couple of AMVA displays to consider. AOC’s C3583FQ and Acer’s Predator Z35 both run at super high speeds and easily exceed 2000:1 contrast. Plus they offer adaptive refresh and a tighter 2000R curvature.
At the high end of the resolution equation, we have several products with 3440x1440 pixels that offer either G-Sync or FreeSync as well as refresh rates from 75-100Hz. The monitor in our lab today fits into that second category. It’s the Asus ROG Swift PG348Q.
The PG348Q offers up some high-end hardware with an AH-IPS panel made by LG Display. It also has the latest generation Nvidia G-Sync module that includes a convenient HDMI input. You’ll still need to connect to the DisplayPort for adaptive refresh and that 100Hz overclock however. HDMI supports 3440x1440 signals up to 50Hz.
Absent in this ROG monitor is any sort of backlight strobe/blur reduction feature. Other products in the line include ULMB with adjustable pulse width so you can strike a balance between motion resolution and brightness. It works as advertised, but you have to give up G-Sync in the process. In our view, that's only feasible when you can keep framerates solidly over 100fps. Since the PG348Q maxes at that level, ULMB doesn’t make much sense. Frankly, we’ve never used it on any of our previously-reviewed G-Sync screens, so no loss there.
The big feature is, of course, the curve and the ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio. We’re long past asking why these monitors exist when gamers are obviously into the concept. After playing on a variety of them, we are too. There’s nothing quite as immersive as an ultra-wide and even though it can’t substitute for three screens, the unbroken image is always compelling.
The PG348Q is a premium-priced product for sure, but does it deliver premium performance? Let’s take a look.
Packaging, Physical Layout, And Accessories
The PG348Q’s carton is oversized and more than up to the task of protecting a large display. All the metal and polished bits are well-protected by either plastic wrap or foam sheets. The upright is already attached for you so all that needs doing is to bolt on the base. That’s accomplished with two wingnuts which are inserted in the sides where the legs attach. It’s a bit tricky but no tools are needed.
The power supply is a large external brick with some styling cues of its own in the form of polished Asus logos. You also get HDMI, DisplayPort and USB 3.0 cables. The manual and supporting software are bundled on a CD.
There is no attempt at subtle style here. The chassis looks like something you might find on the side of an Imperial Star Destroyer. The only straight lines are those that frame the screen. Every other surface has some sort of curve or taper. The panel is a dark gray while the base sports copper-colored accents. It reminds me a little of the windings seen in toroidal transformers.
From the front, the design appears bezel-free, but when the image is present, a thin border appears around it. The anti-glare layer is flush-mounted and extremely hard. Even when we pressed on it, the picture did not distort. Clarity is top-notch, and there is no sign of grain.
The controls are found by reaching around the back of the lower right corner, and consist of four buttons and a joystick. They operate with a strong click, and OSD navigation is quick and easy.
The base can emit a pattern of light that has three brightness settings in the OSD. It will move as you swivel the panel which also has tilt and height adjustments. It’s a neat effect but we’re surprised it only comes in red. The long legs are cast aluminum with a nice textured finish; very high-end.
The panel is nearly 3" thick thanks to the heavily-styled back piece. The spaceship theme is completely obvious here with molded in shapes and textures that suggest the hull of something traveling at warp speed. A small vent at the top and two speaker grills at the bottom are the only visible openings. The speakers sound decent, although they are not very loud. Frequency response is firmly in the mid-range and reasonably well-balanced. Thanks to the external power supply, heat is not a problem. The upright can be removed to reveal a 100mm VESA mount.
The input panel is difficult to reach and cables must be plugged in by feel. It’s recessed quite a bit, but after some fiddling we were able to make our HDMI and DisplayPort connections. There is one of each input along with USB 3.0 upstream (one) and downstream (four) ports. You also get a headphone output. To help tidy up your cable bundle, Asus provides a snap-on panel cover.