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Monitors

Can LG's Curved Ultrawide 34-inch monitor deliver one screen to rule them all? (hands-on)

LG's 34UC97 is a unique blend of form and features that sets it apart, with a price tag that could make it simply too unique for most.

We've been sold a lot of hype around curved televisions, but after my initial eyes-on with LG's new curved 21:9 Ultrawide monitor, we're starting to think it's in that up close and personal category that curved could make a real splash.

Specifications

LG's 34UC97 boasts a 34-inch diagonal, but given the extra wide 21:9 screen ratio (versus the typical widescreen 16:9) the screen is not really taller than many 24-inch monitors you'll have seen before.

The 34UC97 monitor uses an IPS LED backlit panel, delivering 99 percent sRGB colour reproduction. This looks great for typical consumer use, but actually falls behind colour reproduction from serious high-end monitors which reach out beyond 100 percent sRGB and into the wider Adobe RGB colour range. This is only going to impact professional users, but at a price of $1,299 (AU$1,799, £989) the 34UC97 is competing in that competitive environment, against such professional-class monitors as the 30-inch Dell U3014 and the HP Z30i.

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The screen really shines when delivering the ultrawide experience in games like Grid Autosport. Dave Cheng/CNET

Features

Where the 34UC97 really shines is in its feature package. This is the One Ring of monitors, offering not only computing inputs but also HDMI, plus speakers to make it a complete monitor/TV combination screen.

The wealth of source and accessory inputs makes the 34UC97 the Swiss Army knife of monitors. Dave Cheng/CNET

You'll find 2 HDMI, 2 Thunderbolt 2 and 1 DisplayPort 1.2 inputs. It also includes 3 USB 3.0 ports and an audio input, with the USB feeding to your computer over Thunderbolt. A headphone jack is also included as well as a pair of 7W stereo speakers.

Software included with the monitor, for both Mac and Windows, lets you section the monitor in a variety of configurations to display content from multiple sources at the same time, or create a virtual multiple monitor arrangement if that suits your needs. This versatility gives great power to all those ports listed above, allowing for a video source in one section while computing in others.

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A wealth of screen configurations can be selected to use your screen as a bank of virtual monitors. Dave Cheng/CNET

Performance

Leaving the curve aside for now, this extra wide experience makes for a lot of extra real estate for spreading browser windows, documents and other windows around. With a resolution of 3,440x1,440 (that's four times the resolution of a 720p HD display, with extra width as a bonus) I found it very comfortable to fit three columns of application windows, with room enough to throw in an extra narrow window for Twitter or instant messaging.

The width also made for a gorgeous experience in PC gaming, particularly suited to racing games. I found support for the wide resolution was pretty easy to find across many recent PC games in my Steam account.

Add to all this the curved screen and you really do get a pleasant yet subtle immersion effect. Up close, it feels like this wide monitor is entirely focused on you and only you at the centre of your desk. The desktop is made for one person alone, which suits a curve so well. Contrast that with curved TVs where you always need to consider the view of multiple people in the room.

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When viewed in darkness the backlight bleed becomes very prominent. Dave Cheng/CNET

The screen itself is impressive in action, but on close inspection there is a lot of light bleed at the edges of screen. Some shifting of the head also showed some colour inconsistency as angles change, suggesting the curve is in some ways reducing the purity of the reproduction. Again, in typical consumer work and entertainment this screen looks great, but reproduction purists may be disappointed.

The menu system is also a little annoying, with finger joystick system under the frame used to navigate the menus. It was just a little fussy but once you have the screen set to your needs this isn't something you'll be using very often, unless you need to change volume settings a lot on the screen directly when using different video or computer sources.

Conclusion

This is not a perfect reproduction monitor for those seeking the purest of images, which many buyers at this price range could be demanding. But the feature set is excellent and the curve works well in this close up, personal wide monitor context.

The form and features on the LG 34UC97 are quite a unique proposition. On one level that might make it too specific in its offering to attract many buyers, but for those with the cash and the desire for one sweeping curve of screen to rule them all, the LG 34UC97 is going to be well worth consideration.

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