LG 34UC98 Monitor Review — Good Things Don’t Come Cheap

Introduction

When curved 21:9 monitors were first released, we thought it was going to be a fad. But our experience with the LG 34UC98 made us go from asking “Who needs a display like that?” to “I need a display like that!” The curvature, especially on an enormous 34” screen makes for an unbelievably immersive experience, be it for gaming or watching movies. The extra width is also really useful for multi-tasking and video editing. I dare say that it makes video editing fun.

Video Editing
Yes, I said pulling all-nighters trying to make sense of hundreds of hours of raw video footage is fun, when working on this screen.

And unlike its biggest rivals, the Samsung S34E790C and Dell UltraSharp U3415W, the colour accuracy is spot-on. Gaming, multimedia, colour-critical work…you name it. This monitor has got you covered; it’s the ultimate monitor. But here’s the caveat – it’s not cheap by any standards.

Design and features

She's a beauty
She’s a beauty

A 34-inch curved ultrawide monitor sporting a narrow bezel and brushed metal stand. This monitor has the looks. Apart from the 3mm thick metallic rim which runs the perimeter of the display, the front holds nothing but the expansive display and a small LG logo below. No buttons, no fat bezels. Just edge-to-edge semi-matte glass.

The 1800R curvature is more aggressive than the competition (3000R for the Samsung and 3800R for the Dell, where a smaller value means greater curvature), but it still feels completely natural.

However, the back doesn’t look as sleek, being fashioned out of white plastic. It doesn’t look bad (in fact it, achieves a somewhat minimalist look), but it is a little disappointing, after all the effort LG put into the front (and everything else, as you will soon find out). Then again, it’s the front of the screen that you look at, no one ever looks at the back.

Connections, connections, connections…

Connections-wise, the back is an entirely different story. USB 3.0, two HDMIs, a Diplay Port and dual Thunderbolt 2.0 ports are all included. Even Quick Charge is supported on one of the USB slots. The only critique we had was that a single Thunderbolt 3.0 port could have been provided, instead of the two (older) Thunderbolt 2.0 connectors. Perhaps they could have included an SD Card reader too.

The back.
The back and all its connections.

 

On The Menu

By now, you must be wondering where the power button and controls are. There is a small 4-way illuminated joystick underneath the screen, located just below the LG logo which works as a power button as well as a controller for the menus.

The neat joystick, tucked away under the screen
The neat joystick, tucked away under the screen

We’ve never seen a screen with controls like these, but we like it. It’s intuitive to use, and within minutes you would be flying through the menus. Except…

…except the menus aren’t easily understood. Although the menu is spacious (occupying around a third of the display), the options are poorly named. While settings like “Brightness” are self-explanatory, you’ll have to do some research to find out what options like “PBP” and “DFC” mean. (In case you’re curious, the former lets you view 2 sources at once, and the latter is for dynamic contrast.) Other options just don’t make sense, like “Gamma off” and “Response Time>Off”.

Confusing Menus
So is the screen supposed to stop responding?

But if you have to patience to dig into the perplexing menus, you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of options, especially for configuring the display properties. While most monitors offer 3 sliders, one for each primary colour, this one lets you adjust hue and saturation for 6 colours, not three. And there’s an option to reset your tweaking for when you realise you’ve messed up. This will reset the colour to the factory default. Honestly, though, you wouldn’t need to play around with the colour, because the display is factory calibrated to very high standards.

Display quality

Professional colour

Display quality was clearly quite a high priority when designing this monitor. Colour accuracy out of the box is near perfect; with our Spyder4 Express we only had to tweak the hues slightly. Even then, the difference was only noticeable under close scrutiny. This is a major plus point when comparing against its biggest rivals, the Samsung S34E790C and Dell UltraSharp U3415W, whose factory calibrations leave much to be desired. To further its reputation for professional-grade colour, it can display 10-bit colour like the Dell, instead of the usual 8-bit found on most other screens, including the Samsung. Also, like the Samsung and Dell, it covers over 99% of the sRGB spectrum.

Unfortunately, however, it does not have very good contrast ratios, maxing out at 450:1, which is far from the 700+:1 ratio that the Samsung and Dell models achieve. Another issue, one that plagues all curved displays, is back light bleed. Although our unit didn’t suffer from this, some have reported slight back light bleed on theirs. Despite these pitfalls, though, the LG still has top-class image quality on the whole.

For all you gamers out there

And although LG put in so much for image quality, they didn’t sacrifice speed. In fact, this display is marketed as a gaming display. It has a 5ms response time, which can be modified in the on screen menu to balance quality and speed. While that isn’t much, you must bear in mind that this is a professional-colour IPS display.

But the key feature for gamers is the inclusion of AMD’s FreeSync, where the refresh rate is set by the GPU, which eliminates frame tearing and reduces stutter in games (the GPU must be a Radeon R7 or R9, however, so if you’re an NVIDIA gamer, then you have nothing to gain). There are only a select few FreeSync-enabled monitors out there right now, and this is one of them.

Price

Here’s where this monitor will break your heart. It retails for a staggering $1599. That is the price of an average computer. The Samsung retails for around just $1200, while the Dell can be found online for a similar price too (it isn’t released in Singapore). While these two aren’t cheap either, they’re a whole $400 cheaper than the LG. On the other hand, neither of these offer colour accuracy on par with the LG.

The Samsung panel is an all-out gaming panel, employing VA technology instead of IPS (VA, or Vertical Alignment technology gives faster response times at the expense of colour accuracy compared to In-Plane Switching, IPS). True enough, it does support a faster response time – 4ms instead of 5, but has generally poorer colour reproduction. Despite being a gaming monitor, the Samsung misses out AMD FreeSync, which would be a big plus to AMD gamers.

Conversely, the Dell is targeted at professionals, as it is part of their UltraSharp lineup. These monitors generally boast better colour accuracy than the competition. But the funny thing is, the LG beats the Dell in colour accuracy, and has all the other features of a professional monitor – 99% sRGB coverage, 10-bit colour, extensive colour adjustment despite being marketed as a gaming monitor.

So maybe that $1599 is the price to pay for a monitor that can do everything, but it sure is a hefty one.

Conclusion

So is it worth the $1599? It all depends on how much you value your viewing experience. If you see a screen as just an output from a computer, you’d be better off spending your hard earned money elsewhere. This monitor is clearly designed for media enthusiasts – gamers, designers and movie junkies. If you yearn for amazing clarity and colour packed in a huge, immersive display, then we’d say; go for the LG. You’d be more than repaid for your investment.

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