Equipped with G-Sync Ultimate
Occasional ABL dimming
Not every game supports ultra-wide dimensions
Gaming monitors may have had the speed, low latency, and variable refresh rates to stay competitive, but gamers wanting to add quality HDR into the mix generally had to settle for a little extra brightness and color or pay out big bucks for a just-OK local dimming experience. But this 34-inch, curved, ultra-wide gaming monitor leaves little to be desired.
About the Alienware AW3423DW gaming monitor
Here are the specs of the monitor we tested:
- Display size: 34.1 inches
- Curvature: 1800R
- Resolution: 3440 x 1440 pixels
- Refresh rate: 175Hz
- Peak brightness: 250 nits (typical), 1,000 nits (peak)
- HDR support: HDR10, VESA DisplayHDR True Black 400, HDR Peak 1000
- Color depth: 10-bit
- Contrast ratio: 1M:1 (rated), 17,000:1 (tested)
- Pixel response time (GtG): 0.1ms
- Ports: 2 x HDMI 2.0 (120Hz max), 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 4 x USB 3.0
- VRR Support: Yes, Nvidia G-Sync Ultimate
- Other features: VESA mount, adjustable stand, RGB lighting
The Alienware AW3423DW has a respectable balance of specifications for the price. It pushes toward the higher resolutions of 4K monitors (which still sell for a considerable premium) and delivers that alongside a faster 175Hz refresh rate. Pair that with G-Sync Ultimate certification for a wide variable refresh rate alongside high HDR capabilities, and it’s easy to see how the $1,299 price fits in with the rest of the market.
The monitor doesn’t do much beyond its visual delivery, though. There are no onboard speakers and the power it needs to provide such high performance can speed up the fans inside. We’re not used to hearing fan noises from gaming monitors, but it’s something that high-end monitors with G-Sync sometimes need to keep their components cool.
What we like
The Alienware AW3423DW is putting its new visual technology on full display. In our testing, it provides some of the most impressive scores we’ve seen from a gaming monitor.
It’s not an overly bright monitor, sitting around 240 nits, but it can sear when displaying HDR highlights, which we measured close to 1000 nits. Thanks to its nature as an OLED display, the lack of backlighting means it can display those 1000-nit pixels at the same time as deep blacks elsewhere on the screen, providing a contrast ratio that blows the competition from VA and LCD panels out of the water. This lets the monitor be as luscious in dark scenes as it is fiery in bright ones—and that’s just the lighting.
Color is another feather in this monitor’s cap. It completely saturates the sRGB color space with exceptional color accuracy, making it a viable option for web creators who need an accurate display.
But it goes even further with 95% coverage of the AdobeRGB color space and 99% of the cinematic DCI-P3 space. HDR video and games are stunning, putting all the display’s capabilities together for rich color, dazzling brightness, and tons of depth.
Ghosting has gone out the window
With VA and LCD panels, it takes a little time for a pixel to transition from one color or shade to the next, and this transition can show up as ghosting behind moving objects on the screen. The QD-OLED panel on the Alienware AW3423DW sees each pixel transition so quickly that the ghosting effect is imperceptible.
When it comes to pixel response time, a measurement of the time it takes a pixel to shift between two different shades of gray and a general metric for how quickly a monitor can respond to changing visuals, Dell rates the AW3423DW at 0.1 ms—and we believe it.
We can’t spot even the faintest bit of ghosting. Even on 360Hz gaming monitors, we’ve noticed some artifacts, but the Alienware AW3423DW had none. This is a boon for fast-paced gaming, as the smearing trails left behind by ghosting can make it harder to keep up with the action.
Great for games and general entertainment
The combination of dazzling HDR performance, sharp visuals, and a fast refresh rate with no ghosting makes this a monitor that’s just as capable of serving as a showcase for films and TV as it is for playing the latest games. Being able to compete in both arenas without compromise helps increase the value the Alienware AW3423DW is able to offer at its price.
What we don’t like
HDR and OLED can still be fussy
The technology Dell is offering with the Alienware AW3423DW is undeniably impressive, but it still comes with some distracting flaws. HDR continues to be a pain point for gaming monitors. The Alienware AW3423DW paints a pretty picture while using HDR, but enabling HDR in Windows hurts color accuracy and coverage.
Even though this display has a new type of OLED technology, this particular Alienware monitor still faces some of the older issues. Notably, it uses an automatic brightness limiter (ABL), which dims the display as more of the screen is filled with bright content. This is part of why the 1000-nit peak brightness shows only for one small portion of the screen at a time–the display doesn’t have enough power to light up every pixel at 1000 nits simultaneously.
While it’s not distracting in games or movies, the ABL can rear its head when using the monitor for browsing and work. Popping open a window with a lot of white space can shift that bright spot all around the screen, which can be more than a little distracting. The display’s pixel-shifting (a trick that intermittently moves everything on the screen slightly to avoid pixel burn-in) is subtle but not imperceptible.
Still suffers from some of the ultra-wide woes
In theory, ultra-wides should be awesome. They give a bunch of extra screen space, they can readily fit standard 16:9 content, and they’re a perfect fit for cinematic content that leans toward 21:9. But a lot of things, not just games and movies, are still built around a 16:9 aspect ratio, and that can lead to underwhelming scenarios on the Alienware AW3423DW.
Plenty of games still don’t support 21:9, like Elden Ring. This can force you to play with large black bars on either side of the screen, in the case of Elden Ring or lead to some weird stretching of the image if the game’s and monitor’s aspect ratio and resolution don’t match. Even ultra-wide videos from major streaming platforms won’t always take advantage of the display space.
Amazon Prime Video’s recent Outer Range has an extra-wide aspect ratio option, but the video player puts letterboxing on all four sides of the image instead of stretching it to fill the entire screen. Some video players behave better, but it just goes to show that even an excellent display can be held back by its sources.
Fortunately, it’s a problem that’s gradually diminishing. More and more games are adding ultra-wide support, making it easier to enjoy them without dealing with letterboxing. And not every video streamer is bad about ultra-wides—Netflix and HBO Max took advantage of the extra space available in my testing. Some Chrome extensions can also help stretch video to fill the space properly.
Should you buy the Alienware AW3423DW gaming monitor?
Yes, if you demand the best and can look past the quirks
The Alienware AW3423DW is an exceptional monitor that few others can hold a candle to. With its stunning peak brightness coming alongside OLEDs’ unbeatable black levels and equally brilliant color performance, you won’t find another gaming monitor that looks this good.
But that all comes at a cost. The $1,299 price tag isn’t as steep as it likely could be, but it’s still considerably more expensive than something like the Samsung Odyssey G7 and leaps and bounds above the Dark Matter 34. Each is a respectable monitor with plenty to offer, such as speed for the Samsung and affordability for the Dark Matter. That said, if your heart is set on the Alienware AW3423DW, you can rest assured you’re getting a quality monitor.
The main question you’ll have to ask is whether you can live with some of the unique foibles that come with the display. The ABL isn’t always distracting, but it can be if you’re often browsing the web, and the 21:9 aspect ratio issue has some workarounds here and there. If you don’t mind the occasional fuss, the Alienware AW3423DW will certainly reward your efforts.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Mark Knapp has covered tech for most of the past decade, keeping readers up to speed on the latest developments and going hands-on with everything from phones and computers to e-bikes and drones to separate the marketing from the reality. Catch him on Twitter at @Techn0Mark or on Reviewed, IGN, TechRadar, T3, PCMag, and Business Insider.
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