The rectangles are out., and the curves are in. This trend is increasing everywhere you look. Smartphones are even seeking ways to use rounded edges or curved screens. New LED televisions are using a subtle arc to enhance the viewing experience. And now even monitors are in on the craze.
LG can hardly be accused of jumping on the bandwagon, however, because they practically built the bandwagon. The company has already explored the use of curves in televisions and phones. They’re also early pioneers of monitors with the 21:9 aspect ratio, an unusual innovation that’s perfect for viewing widescreen movies.
The new 34UC97 is the flagship of the company’s curved, ultra-wide monitor fleet. It offers an IPS panel with 3,440 x 1,440 resolution, a wealth of input options and sleek design, all of which comes at a flagship price of just under £800. That makes this LG one of the most expensive monitors to lack 4K. Is the price justifiable, or will early adopters be burned?
Pulling this monitor out of the box for the first time is an immensely satisfying experience (and quite easy, too). The 21:9 aspect ratio means the 34 diagonal inches translate to about 32 inches of horizontal screen space. That’s almost seven inches wider than your typical 28-inch 4K monitor. You might expect the vertical axis to shrink as a result, but in fact it’s almost identical.
No one is going to accuse this monitor of being subtle, but it probably shouldn’t be.
The panel’s size is impressive, and LG makes sure it looks good it with a smooth, elegant silver metal back, chrome trim and a chrome stand. This is a monitor purchased for style as much as for function.
That unfortunately means the 34UC97 lacks the ergonomics you might expect from a monitor that sells for more than a grand. Tilt is the only adjustment supported. The monitor is technically VESA compatible, but only through a special bracket that’s provided by LG on request. It was not included with our test unit.[divider]Various I/O[/divider]
LG puts the monitor’s massive size to work by serving up tons of input options. There’s two HDMI, one DisplayPort, two Thunderbolt, two USB 3.0 ports and an audio port to power the reasonably loud built-in speakers (HDMI and DisplayPort can drive them, as well). This is a strong selection of ports for any display.[divider]The Joystick[/divider]
Turning the 34UC97 on can be a trial if you’re not sure what to look for. There’s a switch around back and a joystick control hidden in the middle of the bottom edge. Turning the monitor on means hitting the switch first, then tapping the stick, which is also used for navigating the on-screen controls.
LG’s control arrangement is logically arranged and easy to understand, but the joystick takes getting used to. It can be pushed in any direction, but its input is translated to a simple left, right, up, and down signals. And, because of its location, up and down aren’t selected by actually pushing up or down, but instead by pushing back or pulling forward.
There are quite a few options to choose from. Image quality can be adjusted for brightness, contrast, sharpness, gamma, and color temperature. Primary color adjustments are joined by six-color options that include cyan and magenta, among others. Such precise calibration options make it clear LG is targeting the professional market with this monitor, even if the stand isn’t up to par.
The picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture modes are also worth mention. Remember this displays numerous inputs? Users can combine them with PbP mode to effectively turn the 34UC97 into two smaller monitors without a bezel between them. That’s an unusual but attractive option for users who for some reason must work with two separate computers simultaneously.[divider]Aspect Ratio[/divider]
In the right situation, with the proper content, the calibrated LG 34UC97 looks absolutely tremendous. Its pixel density is high enough to provide excellent sharpness to a user sitting about three feet away and its colour accuracy is spot-on. The 4K trailer of Transformers 4, for example, showed depth and vibrancy similar to a mid-range LED HDTV.
21:9 is a wonder for those dedicated to multi-tasking, but it’s not useful for everyone.
In the hands of an expert multi-tasker, there is value to be found in the wide screen. We found that up to five Word documents could be comfortably arranged across it. A photo editor could arrange three images 1,000 pixels wide and still have some room to play with. A huge number of browser windows can be viewed at once. Yet most people don’t have the skill or attention span to work effectively with so much visible at once, and as a result much of the theoretically useful screen space goes to waste.[divider]Warranty[/divider]
LG provides a one year parts and labor warranty for the 34UC97. That’s pretty standard among inexpensive monitors, but it’s short by the standards of expensive professional displays. The Dell P2715Q, for example, comes with a three-year warranty, and Dell promises to ship a new replacement display immediately if they can’t fix a problem over the phone.[divider]Overview[/divider]
LG’s 34UC97 is a technically solid monitor. High contrast, low colour accuracy and a wide colour gamma come together for excellent image quality. Technically. Ideally. In theory.
And yet, there are problems. Backlight bleed is obvious in all four corners of the screen. The 21:9 aspect ratio doesn’t always agree with movies and games. And there’s none of the ergonomic features professional users expect from a monitor.
Such flaws are difficult to accept given a near £1000 price tag. That’s £600 more than Dell’s P2715Q. LG’s ultra-wide display is good. But they have room for improvement.