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Alienware 34-inch QD-OLED Monitor Review: It Brings the Pretty

This widescreen 1440p gaming monitor shows off the new panel technology by making your games look great.

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Alienware

Samsung mixed the broad color gamut generated by its Quantum Dot technology with the precisely emitted light, deep blacks and fast pixel response of OLED. Alienware took that QD-OLED panel and turned it into an excellent gaming monitor, which the company announced at CES 2022. The 34-inch Alienware 34 Curved Gaming Display (AW3423DW) has a significantly updated design over its last-generation widescreen linemates; it highlights the thin profile of the screen, changes up the back lighting and stand, and tweaks the layout of the controls and connections. It will go on sale here by the end of March for a not-terribly-affordable but not overpriced $1,299.

Though you may want to use it with a console like an Xbox Series X/S or PS5/PS4, thanks to its TV-like screen, it's not a great fit, not least because of the aspect ratio. If you do want it because you just have one place on your desk to fit a display for both PC and console and would like a widescreen model, get ready for some ugly pillar-boxing with the console.

8.2

Alienware 34 QD-OLED (AW3423DW)

Like

  • Great gaming performance and quality
  • Excellent color and tonal accuracy, notably in the dark shadow areas
  • Nice set of controls
  • Three-year warranty against burn-in

Don't Like

  • Radiates some heat through the screen
  • Annoying connector arrangement and cable management

Give it to me in 16:9 4K and I'm there. But that would require HDMI 2.1. Sure, I'm disappointed that this monitor doesn't support HDMI 2.1, and given that Alienware explains at length why that is in its reviewer materials, I'm guessing it's a common criticism. The company's bottom line about that: There's no way to take advantage of any HDMI 2.1-specific capabilities, so it's not necessary. 

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung QD Display combines OLED and quantum dots
2:47

That's absolutely true -- for now. It might remain true in the future, but I'd rather not find out in two years that the monitor I paid $1,300 for can't support a new feature that's just been enabled by some driver or device. If you like buying a new monitor every two years, go for it.

Alienware 34 Curved Gaming Display (AW3423DW)

Price $1,299
Size (diagonal) 34.2 in. (87cm)
Panel and backlight Quantum Dot with blue OLED
Flat or curved Curved
Resolution and pixel density 3,440 x 1,440; 110ppi
Aspect ratio 21:9
Maximum gamut 99.3% DCI-P3
Brightness (nits, peak/typical) 1,000/250
HDR DisplayHDR 400 True Black
Adaptive sync G-Sync Ultimate
Max vertical refresh rate 175Hz (DisplayPort), 100Hz (HDMI)
Gray/gray response time (milliseconds) 0.1
Connections 2 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x DP 1.4, 4 x USB-A 5Gbps
Audio Headphone jack, line out
VESA mountable Yes, 100 x 100 mm
Panel warranty 3 years; 1 bright pixel and burn-in protection
Release date March 2022

How's that screen?

The monitor is DisplayHDR 400 True Black certified and can hit 1,000 nits peak brightness, though those are through two different modes. Though it would be nice to not have to switch back and forth, you can see why when you compare them. In 1,000-nits mode, Windows crushes the lesser values -- the ones it uses -- into a smaller space, resulting in the flat, dark look that people don't like. 

OLED is notable for its ability to render bright highlights without losing a lot of detail, but while everyone else sees highlights I see shadows -- yes, it's probably a metaphor for my life -- and I've always hated the way OLED sacrifices detail and displays noticeable color shift in the darkest shadow areas. The color shift isn't a big deal unless you're editing photos or videos, but the clipping in the blacks, which many people don't even notice, makes me nuts. Boosting it via gamma adjustments just looks ugly. 

Color measurements


Gamut (% of P3) White point Gamma Brightness Accuracy (DE2K average/max)
sRGB 96.40% 6450K 2.2* 47.5 nits 0.91/1.86
DCI-P3 97.80% 6400K 2.6 47.4 nits 2.2/5.6
Native 98.30% 6500K 2.2 242 nits 3.9/7.0

Better rendering of the shadows plus the improved accuracy come thanks to the Quantum Dot technology plus the use of a blue OLED backlight (rather than white). The extra shadow detail really boosted the creep factor when tromping through the darkest areas of Resident Evil Village. 

The typical full-screen brightness at the default 75% setting is about 240 to 250 nits. That's typical for OLED, and its black blacks usually result in contrast that makes that dimness more acceptable than it is on an IPS screen. Still, there were times when I found myself boosting that a bit.

DHDR mode preserves the colors and brightness that make the interface look normal. So you can leave DHDR mode on all the time; for 1,000 nits, you'll want to turn Windows' HDR on and off as needed. It may require more power, which the monitor incessantly reminds you when you increase the brightness (in SDR) beyond its default 75%. 

HDR mode measurements


Gamut White point Brightness 5% window Brightness 10% window Full screen
DisplayHDR 400 True Black 99% DCI P3 6400K n/a 450 nits 291 nits
1,000 nits 99% DCI P3 6300K 941 nits 605 nits 279 nits

Plus, the brightness in 1,000-nits mode only reaches that high in up to a 5% window (about a 4.5-by-4.5-inch square), while DHDR peaks at 605 nits in a 10% window; depending upon what you're playing or viewing, the slightly less-bright option may be better. Deathloop's granular HDR settings let you make the most of the difference, such as in the opening resurrection cut scene rendering of sunlight on the water. In general, the game looks great on this display.

There are a handful of game-specific profiles which noticeably vary combinations of white point, gamma and brightness. There are no HDR game profiles, though.

Game mode measurements


White point Gamma Brightness
FPS 5350K 1.8 174 nits
MOBA/RTS 6450K 2.2 202 nits
RPG 6400K 2.2 175 nits
Sports 6450K 2.4 244 nits

Like most OLED panels, it covers the entire P3 gamut. It's also factory calibrated, and you can switch between P3 and sRGB profiles via the onscreen menus in a specific Creator mode, which also lets you change the gamma settings, from 2.0 to 2.6, independently. 

Both drop brightness down to 15% in keeping with standard conventions and sRGB limits the color space to that gamut rather than than the entire native space; you don't find that much in gaming monitors, but it can be essential for color work. The P3 preset is close, but the red primary extends beyond the boundaries of the color space, which throws its accuracy measurements off (and affects skin tones). These can both be tweaked with software calibration. 

Updated design

I've no complaints about the image quality, though it remains to be seen how this new panel technology will age. OLED brightness may decay unequally (it's still an unknown) over time, which could result in uniformity issues, and if you game for long hours with a stationary HUD, image retention or burn-in might be an issue. Dell does warranty it for burn-in for three years. 

As for the design, it's updated to look a bit sleeker looking than previous similar models. The thin OLED screen is attached to a notably thicker, vented section that houses the electronics and cooling. I still found it got a bit warm sitting in front of it, though not nearly as bad as some of the 1,000-plus nit screens I've used.

alienware-34-curved-qd-oled-aw3423dw-back-angle

The slim screen is attached to a separate, thicker section that houses the electronics and has vents all around to help cool the display. It still radiates some heat through the front, though.

Alienware

The cable management system has you feed the cables up through the gap at the base of the stand and out through a hole on the other side; then you route them through a single channel to the ports. It's pretty awkward, especially for thicker, stiffer cables. Like many widescreen monitors, the AW34 doesn't rotate, which makes accessing the connectors difficult.

The connectors are not only in a hard-to-access recess, there's a small ridge in front of them. In order to see what you're doing, you pretty much have to lay the screen down. Or grope blindly for 20 minutes, as I am prone to doing. Even then, with stiffer cables it can be a tight fit.

Alienware

The design issues aren't a deal-breaker, although if you're constantly swapping cables it can be a pain. Though two of the USB-A ports are in the awkward-to-access section in the back, there are two others that are easily accessed underneath the screen, along with the headphone jack.

And if you're looking for something that serves as your day-to-day monitor, the sharpness makes it easy on the eyes, but it's not great for perching a webcam atop.

Certainly the excellent screen makes up for a lot of these quibbles, but it's also tempting to wait to see what others do with the technology, especially for a friendlier console experience. I don't know when these magic products are destined to appear, though.

How we test monitors

All measurements are performed using Portrait Display's Calman 2021 software using a Calibrite ColorChecker Display Plus (formerly X-Rite i1Display Pro Plus) and a Murideo Six-G signal generator for HDR testing. How extensive our testing is depends on the capabilities of the monitor, the screen and backlight technology used, and the judgment of the reviewer.

On the most basic models we may stick with just brightness, contrast and color gamut, while on more capable displays we may run tests of most user-selectable modes for gaming or color-critical usage, uniformity and so on. For the color work, we may also run tests to verify how white point accuracy varies with brightness.

Color accuracy results reported in units of Delta E 2000 are based on Calman's standard Pantone patch set, plus the grayscale and skin tone patches. White points results are based on both the actual white value plus the correlated color temperature for the entire gray scale (21 patches, 0 to 100%) rounded down to the nearest 50K as long as there are no big variations. We also use Blur Busters' motion tests to judge motion artifacts (such as ghosting) or refresh rate-related problems that can affect gaming.