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Dell Alienware AW3423DW Review (QD-OLED 175Hz Ultrawide)

After existing in the TV market for several years now, OLED panels are finally transitioning to the gaming monitor market. The Dell Alienware AW3423DW is at the forefront of this movement, using a QD-OLED panel from Samsung, offering a 3440×1440 ultrawide resolution coupled with a 175Hz refresh rate. After putting it through its paces for the last couple of weeks, it's clear to why so many are optimistic about this technology for PC gaming.

The near instant response times are one of the biggest selling points. OLED has an inherent advantage over LCD displays here and it was clear to see during our tests, with the AW3423DW averaging sub-1ms grey-to-grey response times. Our next-best result from an LCD monitor is about four times slower.

HDR is also an area to get excited about. Too many LCDs have weak edge-lit local dimming solutions, but with the AW3423DW you get proper per-pixel dimming and effectively infinite contrast. Couple that with a peak brightness of 1000 nits, and a sustained full-screen brightness that's a still very usable 240 nits, and this has to be the best HDR gaming monitor I have ever used – far exceeding any other HDR monitor at this price-point.

There are a few quirks though, as we perhaps should have expected from the industry's first real OLED gaming monitor. Two I have to say I am not bothered about – being the built-in fan and the semi-glossy coating. The fan I really struggled to hear in normal use, and certainly not while gaming with a headset or speakers. The semi-glossy coating can also reduce the appearance of blacks on-screen, but this is very much dependent on your environment and lighting setup, and you'll still get better contrast and black-levels with this than an LCD anyway.

Much has also been written about the colour fringing around text, due to the irregular sub-pixel layout, but again I can't say this bothered me on a daily basis. The fringing is noticeable if I look at text closely, but from a regular viewing distance I'm not sure it's something I would have spotted were it not for already knowing about it.

I would have liked to see HDMI 2.1 however. Right now, the use of a hardware G-Sync module means the screen is limited to HDMI 2.0, while it only has a single DisplayPort 1.4 connector as well. This does mean that to operate at the maximum 175Hz refresh rate when using HDR, the screen can't use the full 10-bit colour depth and instead switches to 8-bit plus dithering. I don't see that as a big issue, but it is frustrating to have only a single port on the monitor that can actually use the display at its maximum refresh rate – HDMI 2.0 will limit you to 120Hz at the native 3440×1440 resolution.

We also have to mention burn-in. Alienware is keen to emphasise its 3-year warranty which does cover burn-in, but it's really too hard to say how much of an issue this will be. PC usage would generally throw up more static elements than a TV, so enabling a screensaver or using a dark wallpaper and auto-hiding the task bar would seem sensible. Right now it is still too early to say how much, or if at all, this is a problem for this monitor.

Nonetheless, for those looking for a high-end PC gaming monitor, the Dell Alienware AW3423DW is a terrific choice. There are a few things to be aware of as we've just mentioned, but for me they don't even come close to out-weighing the positives here, including the near-instant response times and proper HDR.

The final thing to say is the £1099 asking price certainly isn't cheap, but it is surprisingly reasonable considering this monitor is the first of its kind, certainly when the likes of the ASUS ROG PG32UQX hit the market at about three grand.

You can buy the AW3423DW directly from Dell for £1099 HERE.

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Pros

  • Near-instant response times.
  • Real HDR with per-pixel dimming and good peak brightness.
  • Essentially infinite contrast ratio.
  • Punchy colours.
  • Easy to use OSD system.
  • 34″ ultrawide is a popular form-factor.

Cons

  • Lack of HDMI 2.1.
  • Ambient lighting can reduce appearance of black levels due to the semi-glossy coating.
  • Colour fringing around text may be noticeable for some.

KitGuru says: The Alienware AW3423DW is a next-level display with numerous advantages over LCD panels. It has a few quirks, but for the PC enthusiast I think this is the best gaming monitor on the market right now.

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Rating: 9.0.

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