Alienware 34 QD-OLED (AW3423DW) gaming monitor review
Is this where it all starts? Is the new Alienware 34 AW3423DW QD-OLED gaming monitor set to revolutionize PC OLED? The one we’ve been waiting for for years? Please, please, let it be.
As you will see, this monitor is not perfect. But it’s significantly better than any LCD monitor in several critical gaming metrics. And it’s an absolute pleasure to use. Of course, this is getting ahead of itself. First, we need to hide the basics.
In many ways, this is not exactly a radical display. 34-inch 21:9 aspect ratios, a gentle 1800R curve, and a native resolution of 3440 by 1440 are all relatively commonplace in today’s gaming monitor market. The same with a 175Hz refresh rate. It’s no minor deal, this new OLED panel, but there are LCD screens with much higher refresh rates available for much less money.
Ah yes, the dirty question of money. The AW3423DW weighs $1,299 in the US (UK pricing not yet available). Depending on how you cut it, it’s either a ton of money for a gaming monitor or a surprisingly reasonable price for something at the forefront of new technology. After all, this is the first actual OLED PC gaming pad.
And not just some old OLED kit. Many OLED TVs, including the LG TVs that have become so popular with gamers, use the WRGB sub-pixel substructure to increase brightness at the expense of color saturation. WRGB can also be problematic for PC applications that rely on a sub-pixel RGB structure for precise rendering control, including fonts. This problem is not very relevant for games. But the bottom line is that WRGB OLED panels have their drawbacks.
That’s why this new Alienware is doubly interesting. It’s not just OLED, but Samsung’s latest QD-LED technology combines perfect RGB sub-pixel structure with quantum dot technology to deliver superior color saturation and an even brighter panel. Net result? Alienware claims an impressive 99.3 percent coverage of the demanding DCI-P3 color space and total brightness of 1000 nits. However, this level of intelligence can only be achieved on a small portion of the panel rather than the entire screen.
Specifications Alienware 34 AW3423DW
Screen size: 34 inch
Permission: 3440 x 1440
Brightness: Peak brightness 1000 nits HDR
Response time: 0.1 ms
Update frequency: 175 Hz
Viewing Angle: 178° horizontal and vertical
Functions: QD OLED panel, 99.3% DCI-P3, Nvidia G-Sync Ultimate, 1x DisplayPort 1.4, 2x HDMI 2.0, USB hub, AlienFX lighting
Price: $1299 | £ to be confirmed
All OLED technologies are two crucial advantages over an LCD panel, namely contrast and response. Simply put, each pixel on an OLED panel is a separate light source that it can completely turn off, essentially providing “true” black levels and more or less infinite contrast. There is no need for any complicated, troublesome local dimming to prevent light from leaking through the LCD panel. OLED is the real deal with HDR.
OLED is also much faster than LCD. How much depends on how you measure things. The fastest modern IPS monitors have a gray-to-gray response time of about 1ms. But this is only part of the transition between colors. A complete change takes much longer. For comparison, Alienware specifies a time of 0.1ms for this OLED panel. And that’s probably for a complete transition. At least an order of magnitude faster.
Anyway, if this is a brief reminder of why this thing is supposed to be so good, what does it look like? First impressions are disappointing. In SDR mode, the Alienware 34 AW3423DW QD-OLED looks a bit dull and dull. What happened to the 1000 nit claim? In addition, there is a mediocre pixel density, which is a consequence of the combination of a 34-inch diagonal and a native resolution of 3440 by 1440 pixels. Oh shit, what the hell is this?
Do not panic. Unlike LCD monitors that claim to be HDR capable, this OLED screen must work in HDR mode. And this applies to SDR content as well. Alienware offers two HDR modes: HDR 400 True Black and HDR Peak 1000. The latter delivers peak performance of 1000 nits in small areas of the screen but looks less bright and sharp most of the time.
There is no need to switch modes for SDR and HDR content. Instead, HDR 400 True Black method usually produces the best results. This includes SDR content. To make SDR content look its best, you need to go into the Windows display settings menu and increase the brightness of the SDR, after which it will become much brighter. This is handy because it means that once the AW3423DW is set up correctly, you’re done.
But back to games. Boy, this is a special show. In terms of response, this is incredible. No matter how furiously you yank your mouse across the mat, everything on the screen stays so crisp, clear, and crisp. This fantastic in-game response is backed up by test animations such as TestUFO. We’ve never seen a tiny alien spacecraft look like this without blur.
In terms of colors and contrast, this panel is a bomb. Thanks to pixel-by-pixel lighting, the game image has depth, saturation, and clarity. Suddenly, every LCD seems like you’re looking through a filter like they’re all a bit watery and translucent.
Do you want examples? With many panels supposedly HDR-capable, Cyberpunk 2077 looks best in SDR mode. Not with this Alienware. In HDR mode, the sun’s rays stand out brightly in outdoor scenes, while deep, inky blacks contrast sharply with neon lights indoors. It is something special.
Heck, even typically unimpressive titles – from a visual standpoint – like Call of Duty: Warzone look great thanks to quantum dot saturation and fast response times. There is simply no slight softening of the image that you have to put up with on almost any LCD panel when flying over maps in online shooters and other fast-paced games.
If this sounds a bit exaggerated, it doesn’t mean that all LCD monitors are terrible these days. Latency has traditionally been a weak point for OLEDs. When it comes to refreshing rates and therefore lag, LCD monitors with a refresh rate of 360Hz and above are faster. While we didn’t experience any emotional issues with this 175Hz monitor, there’s no doubt that if your gaming enjoyment and success depend on the lowest latency possible, faster screens are available.
Of course, latency isn’t the only problem with OLEDs. Burnout is a big fear, and it leads to several quirks. First, you will sometimes notice that the entire image is shifted by one or two pixels. The panel has an excess of about 20 pixels on both axes, allowing for more leeway. This is like SSD over-allocation and allows Alienware to prevent static elements from “burning” into the display over time. Another measure to protect against burn-in is the ABL (Automatic Brightness Limiter) system. Look closely, and you will see that the overall brightness of the panel changes slightly depending on what is happening on the screen. For example, a large bright object will cause the board to darken slightly to control overall power consumption and protect the panel. It’s not very intrusive, but it’s something to be aware of. Alienware guarantees three years of OLED burn-in coverage.
If time tells if this proves to be a significant issue, then we can safely say that there are better general-purpose panels at this price point with superior pixel density, higher resolution, and more desktop screen real estate. The lack of a USB-C connection is also a limitation for broader use. If you want a huge display, a 120Hz OLED TV for the money is also clearly better.
What’s more, it’s worth noting that you can achieve the full 175Hz with just one DisplayPort input. The two HDMI connectors are limited to 100Hz. This is just one of the reasons why this thing is not the best choice for pairing with the latest game consoles. It’s only optimized for PC use. But for most types of games on this same platform, it’s just as good as it is now. Simply put, the Alienware 34 AW3423DW sets new standards for contrast, HDR performance, and response.