Dell Alienware AW3423DW QD-OLED

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Introduction

Ever since this monitor was announced for the annual CES event in January 2022 there has been a lot of excitement and hype surrounding it. When it went on sale it sold out quickly in most regions, with many early buyers still waiting for their delivery now. Even today in May 2022 if you visit Dell’s UK site it lists an expected shipment date of August! We finally had chance to see the screen, test it and review it courtesy of PC Centric recently, big thanks goes out to Marcus for helping to make that happen.

So why all the hype? The AW3423DQ is Dell’s latest gaming monitor in their Alienware line-up, but it’s not just any monitor, this is their first OLED monitor. It uses a new OLED panel technology developed by Samsung which is called “QD-OLED”, combining Quantum Dot technology with an OLED panel. Dell say in their press material that “Quantum Dot Display Technology enables a slim panel design and delivers a superior color performance with a higher peak luminance and greater color gamut range vs WOLED (White OLED) by taking the impressive qualities of OLED (such as true blacks & infinite contrast ratio) and enhances color performance by directly converting blue light into the primary colors of red and green through a Quantum Dot pixel layer. This results in higher color uniformity, wider color coverage and increased brightness”. If you want to know more about QD-OLED then check out our article here.

The screen is 34″ in size with an ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratio and a 3440 x 1440 resolution. This is one of the few OLED panels launched in the monitor market which already makes it exciting, but unlike the LG UltraFine 32EP950 OLED Pro that we reviewed in May 2021, this new OLED screen also offers a high refresh rate and is aimed at the gaming market instead of the professional market. In fact it has a 175Hz refresh rate which puts it beyond all high refresh rate OLED TV’s, and is combined with NVIDIA’s Native G-sync hardware module to support variable refresh rates (VRR), being certified under their ‘G-sync Ultimate’ scheme too. Thanks to the OLED panel technology there is a 0.1ms G2G response time spec and with OLED being well known for its near-instant response times this shouldn’t be unrealistic. The OLED panel also provides a basically infinite contrast ratio (1 million:1 quoted) with true blacks, and a potentially excellent HDR experience thanks to its per-pixel dimming. This helps avoids halos and blooming in HDR content. Dell have also had the screen certified under the ‘VESA DisplayHDR 400 True Black‘ scheme (not to be confused with the normal HDR 400 level), while also offering an additional mode which boasts a peak brightness of 1000 nits which is impressive for an OLED panel. Finally a wide colour gamut is promoted with 99.3% DCI-P3 coverage and 149% sRGB, boosted thanks to the Quantum Dot coating.

We will test all of this and more throughout the review and share our thoughts on the new QD-OLED technology, how it performs and whether or not this is the ultimate gaming monitor as it’s been hyped to be!

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Key Specs and Features

image courtesy of Dell
  • 34″ ultrawide with 21:9 aspect ratio
  • 1800R screen curve
  • 3440 x 1440 resolution
  • QD-OLED panel from Samsung
  • 175Hz refresh rate
  • 0.1ms G2G response time spec
  • Native NVIDIA G-sync hardware module and ‘G-sync Ultimate’ certification
  • Wide colour gamut with 99.3% DCI-P3 and 149% sRGB quoted
  • 10-bit colour depth support
  • VESA DisplayHDR 400 True Black certification
  • Peak brightness for HDR of 1000 nits
  • 1 million:1 contrast ratio spec
  • Stand with tilt, height and swivel adjustments
  • 1x DisplayPort 1.4 and 2x HDMI 2.0 connections
  • 4x USB .2 ports, audio out and headphone jack
  • Alienware features including RGB lighting

Other specs and details can be found on the Dell product page

Design and Ergonomics

Front view of the screen, image courtesy of Dell

The AW3423DW comes in a familiar design to other recent Alienware monitors. It has a thin border around the sides (~9.5mm total border) and top (~6.5mm) and a thicker lower bezel (~16mm) as you can see from the pictures above. The stand provides a chunky but sturdy base for the pretty large screen and has a two pronged foot. There is an “Alienware” branding on the bottom bezel in the centre.

Rear side view of the screen, image courtesy of Dell

The rear of the screen and stand is encased in a matte white plastic with Alienware logos and branding in various places. It looks smart from the rear as well and pretty unique in today’s market of mostly black monitor enclosures.

Rear view of the screen, image courtesy of Dell

Customisable ‘Alien FX’ RGB lighting is also included with 4 distinct zones provided. A downlight bar just in front of the joystick has touch activation and deactivation and projects a subtle and fairly limited glow down below the monitor. On the back of the screen is an Alien logo and also the brighter LED ring around the stand that you can see in the pictures above. The final of the four zones is a small LED ring around the power button which is located on the bottom right hand edge of the screen.

OSD menu for controlling the AlienFX RGB lighting options
FunctionRangeSmoothnessEase of Use
TiltYesSmoothStiff
Height110mmSmoothFairly easy
SwivelYesSmoothA bit stiff
RotateNon/an/a

The stand provides tilt, height and side to side swivel adjustments. Tilt is smooth but stiff to operate, height is a bit easier and again smooth. Swivel is a bit stiff again but offers smooth movement. Overall the stand functionality was good. There is no rotation provided given the curved screen format. The screen remains very stable thanks to the sturdy and well built stand, with very little wobble at all.

OSD menu

The On Screen Display (OSD) is controlled via a single joystick in the middle of the bottom edge of the screen. This provides quick and intuitive access to the menu and settings. This worked nicely and it was simple to make changes. There is a reasonable range of options to play with in the 8 sections of the menu although it felt a bit more limited than some other screens we’ve tested.

OSD smart menu confirming several gaming options active

There is also quick access to several sections via the joystick before you go in to the main menu, and a smart menu graphic that loads at the top of the screen as shown above to confirm several gaming related settings for you whenever you access the menu.

View of the connections on the screen, image courtesy of Dell

Active cooling fans – are they a problem?

The AW3423DW actually has two small cooling fans within the display to aid heat dissipation. One seems to run constantly to cool the NVIDIAI G-sync module as with other screens that feature this chip in recent times, while the other only kicks in when the screen is being pushed with something like particularly bright HDR content. If you listen closely to the screen you can hear them, but unless you have a completely silent PC and room we think it’s unlikely to cause much concern. If the second fan kicks in during usage, chances are your system fans will also be more active and you’ll probably be immersed in your game or movie anyway to even hear them. We didn’t find them an issue in our use of the screen or even really audible unless we pressed our head up close to the back of the screen. If you’re sensitive to this kind of thing and an obsessive silent PC user then keep them in mind though.

OLED Image Retention Measures

We will not go too much in to potential concerns around lifespan of the OLED panel, colour shift, dark spots or image retention/burn-in here. You can read our OLED Displays and the Monitor Market article for more information about those potential issues. As a desktop monitor if you are going to use the screen for many hours per day, some of these things might become an issue in time. There’s a lot of claims from Samsung about how QD-OLED will be less susceptible to burn-in and image retention than traditional OLED panels but that really remains to be proven as it’s a very new technology only now starting to appear in monitors and TV’s. We would advise the usual caution with using this kind of self-emitting technology for lots of static content. The screen is really aimed at gaming and multimedia, and so if your primary uses are going to be for that kind of dynamic content you probably don’t need to worry too much. If you’re using your monitor more for static office, desktop type content then maybe there are more suitable LCD options on the market for you.

image courtesy of Dell

Dell want to provide you some reassurance around this situation though and offer “a 3-year Advanced Exchange Service so that if a replacement becomes necessary, it will be shipped to you the next business day during your 3-year Limited Hardware Warranty. (Includes OLED-burn in.)” This is good news, although of course that quick replacement is only useful if they actually have stock of the screen, and at the moment there are people who have had to replace their screen for other reasons who are now stuck in a long lead time waiting for their new sample. Anyway, longer term this should give you some reassurance over a 3 year period at least.

If you are using the screen a lot as a desktop monitor and working with a lot of static content you will possibly want to consider things like auto-hiding your taskbar, setting a screensaver to run etc. If you’re working with a lot of stationary windows for office work, internet browsing, photos etc then the risk of burn-in increases and to be honest that’s a bit of an annoyance with an OLED screen like this. These are things you don’t need to worry about with a typical desktop monitor but it’s always in the back of your mind when using an OLED screen.

Dell include a couple of built-in image retention mitigation features to try and help protect the screen over time:

Pixel shifter

The first is a pixel shifter which moves the screen a few pixels, a few times an hour. This might be familiar to those with OLED TV’s. You cannot turn this feature off on the AW3423DW which is a pain. You won’t notice it in dynamic content, but we spotted it quite easily during static desktop use and found it a bit annoying to be honest. As a feature it feels a bit unnecessary too, moving a few pixels is not going to make a massive difference to most static images anyway. We would at least like this to be something you can turn off if you wanted to.

OLED pixel refresh

After every 4 hours of cumulative use the screen will want to run its pixel refresh cycle. The first time this message appears you will ideally want to click ‘proceed and do not not show this message again’ which will immediately run the refresh cycle – a bit annoying if you are in the middle of something, but you could always press cancel and do it later on when it prompts you next. The screen turns off and the power LED flashes green during this process which takes around 7 – 8 minutes. After that first run it will then do this pixel refresh after a further 4 hours of cumulative usage, but only when the screen is turned off or goes in to standby so that it is unobtrusive.

If the monitor has been used for 20 hours continuously without going into standby or being turned off, it will also display the message to prompt you to run it manually or you can also run it by selecting it in the OSD under ‘Others’ – ‘OLED Panel Maintenance’ section.

OLED Panel Refresh

A more thorough cleaning cycle (this is starting to sound more like a washing machine than a monitor!) is run after every 1500 hours of cumulative usage and is called “panel refresh”. You can run this manually in the OSD menu as well, although we’d advise against that as it’s probably the kind of thing that could impact lifespan if you run it too often. After 1500 hours of usage you will get a pop up asking you to run this feature which takes around an hour to complete, during which time the power LED will flash red and and a coloured line will move around the screen. We have seen some user reports about this kicking in more frequently, and given it takes so long to complete that could be a pain. These pixel and panel refresh cycles are useful though for image retention mitigation.

Brightness and Contrast

In SDR mode the luminance range of the screen is pretty decent, although it won’t get as high as many desktop monitors (commonly 350 – 450 cd/m2 nowadays) if that is a particular requirement you have. There should be a decent enough range here though for most users. At the top end the screen reached ~240 nits which was a little shy of the specified 250 nits from Dell but pretty close. It can also reach as low as ~27 nits at the minimum adjustment which is decent. The brightness setting in the OSD controls a linear relationship in terms of actual luminance output. We have provided a few recommended settings to achieve common 200, 150 and 120 nit brightness levels in the table as well.

Obviously one of the key benefits of this OLED panel is the fact it can generate true blacks. Each pixel can be fully turned off individually, resulting in basically an infinite contrast ratio. There’s no need for backlight local dimming here like there is on LCD’s and the black depth and contrast ratio surpass all LCD panel technologies including VA panels by a long way. Blacks look inky and deep (subject to your ambient light conditions discussed more below), and you get excellent local contrast between different areas of an image. This is further accentuated by the semi-glossy screen coating which helps the blacks look deep but may be impacted by your room lighting conditions as discussed below.

Horizontal scale 5ms

Like most OLED screens there is a minor fluctuation of the brightness, and in this case it is in sync with the refresh rate of the screen. You can see on the graph above that the 0V would be an “off” state, so the amplitude of this fluctuation is very minor, and does not produce any visible flickering or anything like that in practice. It’s not the same as PWM on some LCD monitors (not many nowadays thankfully) where the backlight is rapidly switched fully off and on when trying to dim the brightness level. Obviously being an OLED panel there is no backlight here anyway, and this minor fluctuation didn’t cause us any problems in real use, and the screen would be considered flicker free as advertised.

Automatic Brightness Limiter (ABL) in SDR mode?

Somewhat of an oddity the brightness did seem to vary a little depending on the overall screen image and the APL (Average Picture Level). We saw some fluctuations during our testing depending on what else was on the screen, and depending on how large the test area was that our i1 Display Pro Plus was measuring. It wasn’t really about what we would normally call an ABL feature, that is needed in the HDR mode that we will discuss later to control screen brightness due to power limitations. In SDR mode the screen is capable of displaying pretty much the max brightness even at 100% white APL (i.e. a full white screen) and so for normal desktop uses and all SDR content you don’t get any obvious changes in screen brightness as scenes change or as your areas of bright and dark content change. There were some minor fluctuations in our measurements shown above but only within a range of maybe 20 cd/m2 total. We don’t expect this to be noticeable or problematic in normal uses at all.

Useful reading – OLED Dimming Confusion – APL, ABL, ASBL, TPC and GSR Explained

ABSL / TPC dimming not needed

Unlike OLED TV’s like the LG 42C2 OLED there is no additional dimming function like ABSL / TPC used here thankfully. Those are featured on most OLED TV’s as an additional image retention mitigation which detects static content and dims the screen a fair bit until you change the image again. It’s there really on TV’s when it thinks you’ve paused it and left it alone. That can be distracting and annoying when you want to use a screen like that as a desktop monitor though where the average picture level (APL) doesn’t change that often, and something we commented on when we reviewed the LG C2 recently. Because the AW3432DW is a desktop monitor, Dell have excluded this kind of feature thankfully which is good news.

Semi-glossy coating and it’s impact on contrast

Much has been made of the screen’s coating in early reviews and user reports, so we wanted to share our experience with the screen and thoughts on this topic. Unlike OLED TV’s the AW3423DW does not feature a fully glossy screen coating, instead it’s what we would call semi-glossy and has some anti-reflective (AR) properties to it. When a screen is fully glossy it can make it pretty problematic for typical office and desktop environments where you can get obvious mirror-like reflections, especially from windows and lights. Dell have instead combined an anti-reflective coating with the panel and the result is a semi-glossy appearance. In practice this seems to do a very good job of reducing reflections we found, and the screen is noticeably less mirror-like than something like the LG C2 OLED TV which we had chance to set up side by side in fact. Reflections were reduced well and you avoid those problems with lighting and windows that you would get on fully glossy screens. That’s great news we think.

However, this does mean that in some conditions the blacks do not look as deep or inky visually. With this being an OLED panel, famous for its true blacks and amazing contrast ratio this could be considered a problem. In certain conditions blacks look a little more dark grey as the anti-reflective coating reflects some of the surrounding light back at you and it “dulls” the contrast a bit. The Anti-reflective component of the coating means the image is not as clear and clean as a fully glossy coating. You don’t get this same effect if the coating is fully glossy as there’s no AR layer as such, but what you do get instead is more reflections.

This impact to the black depth and contrast really varies though depending on your ambient lighting. If you were using the screen in a darker room and were careful about the positioning of your light sources, then blacks look very good and as you would hope for from an OLED screen. In a fully dark room they look excellent. In daytime viewing or with light sources in certain places though the blacks do get impacted a bit and you lose some of that contrast visually. Some people assume then that the screen is flawed or that this ruins the experience. But think about the full context here and the alternative for a moment…

OLED screens have never been ideal for brighter room conditions anyway, they excel in darker rooms and at night especially for HDR content. The alternative to using this semi-glossy coating featured on the AW3423DW would be to use a fully glossy coating like OLED TV’s. This would help retain that true black appearance and avoid the dulling of the contrast caused by the AR element in theory, but if we consider that this only really impacts the AW3423DW in lighter room conditions that means that had it been fully glossy, we would have instead had to contend with far more reflections. We’d argue that reflections are likely to be far more problematic to most people than a small impact to the contrast ratio for a desktop monitor.

Secondly for typical desktop monitor usage and SDR content you’re not really going to notice any problems with the black depth or contrast ratio in daytime usage anyway. They still look noticeably better than most LCD panels and contrast is still excellent, and as we’ve said above the AR element of the semi-glossy coating helps you avoid all those unwanted reflections. This will vary depending on the light levels and positioning of the lights too but don’t forget that other monitors with their TN Film, IPS and VA panels also nearly all have anti-glare coating and also suffer from similar visual impacts to contrast depending on the light levels. Brighter conditions on those kind of LCD screens can often make the image look more hazy and reduce perceived contrast.

If you were playing HDR games or watching HDR movies then you may see the impact of this contrast reduction a bit more visually as that kind of content is all about contrast; but then again you’d probably want to be viewing HDR in a darker room anyway at which point this becomes largely irrelevant.

We didn’t feel this was a major issue to be honest when you consider likely usage scenarios and what the alternative would have been. We liked the semi-glossy coating, helping provide a nice balance and importantly helping drastically reduce reflections that would be problematic to many people on a screen designed for desktop usage. If you want to make the most of HDR content, viewing in a darker room is advised and preferable, but that’s the same for any OLED really.


Testing Methodology Explained

Performance is measured and evaluated with a high degree of accuracy using a range of testing devices and software. The results are carefully selected to provide the most useful and relevant information that can help evaluate the display while filtering out the wide range of information and figures that will be unnecessary. For measurement, we use a UPRtek MK550T spectroradiometer which is particularly accurate for colour gamut and colour spectrum measurements. We also use an X-rite i1 Pro 2 Spectrophotometer and a X-rite i1 Display Pro Plus colorimeter for various measurements. Several other software packages are incorporated including Portrait Displays’ Calman color calibration software – available from Portrait.com.

We measure the screen at default settings (with all ICC profiles deactivated and factory settings used), and any other modes that are of interest such as sRGB emulation presets. We then calibrate and profile the screen before re-measuring the calibrated state.

The results presented can be interpreted as follows:

  • Greyscale dE – this graph tracks the accuracy of each greyscale shade measured from 0 (black) to 100 (white). The accuracy of each grey shade will be impacted by the colour temperature and gamma of the display. The lower the dE the better, with differences of <1 being imperceptible (marked by the green line on the graph), and differences between 1 and 3 being small (below the yellow line). Anything over dE 3 needs correcting and causes more obvious differences in appearance relative to what should be shown. In the table beneath the graph we provide the average dE across all grey shades, as well as the white point dE (important when considering using the screen for lots of white background and office content), and the max greyscale dE as well.

  • RGB Balance and colour temperature – the RGB balance graph shows the relative balance between red, green and blue primaries at each grey shade, from 0 (black) to 100 (white). Ideally all 3 lines should be flat at the 100% level which would represent a balanced 6500k average colour temperature for all grey shades. This is the target colour temperature for desktop monitors, popular colour spaces like sRGB and ‘Display DCI-P3’ and is also the temperature of daylight. It is the most common colour temperature for displays, also sometimes referred to as D65. Where the RGB lines deviate from this 100% flat level the image may become too warm or cool. Beneath this RGB balance graph we provide the average correlated colour temperature for all grey shades measured, along with its percentage deviance from the 6500k target. We also provide the white point colour temperature and its deviance from 6500k, as this is particularly important when viewing lots of white background and office content.

  • Gamma – we aim for 2.2 gamma which is the default for computer monitors in SDR mode. Testing of some modes might be based on a different gamma but we will state that in the commentary if applicable. A graph is provided tracking the 2.2 gamma across different grey shades and ideally the grey line representing the monitor measurements should be horizontal and flat at the 2.2 level. Depending on where the gamma is too low or too high, it can have an impact on the image in certain ways. You can see our gamma explanation graph to help understand that more. Beneath the gamma graph we include the average overall gamma achieved along with the average for dark shades (0 black to 50 grey) and for lighter shades (50 grey to 100 white).

  • Luminance, black depth and contrast ratio (static) – measuring the brightness, black depth and resulting contrast ratio of the mode being tested, whether that is at default settings or later after calibration and profiling. We aim for 120 cd/m2 luminance which is the recommended luminance for LCD monitors in normal lighting conditions. Black depth should be as low as possible, and contrast ratio should be as high as possible.

  • Gamut coverage – we provide measurements of the screens colour gamut relative to various reference spaces including sRGB, DCI-P3, Adobe RGB and Rec.2020. Coverage is shown in absolute numbers as well as relative, which helps identify where the coverage extends beyond a given reference space. A CIE-1976 chromaticity diagram (which provides improved accuracy compared with older CIE-1931 methods) is included which provides a visual representation of the monitors colour gamut coverage triangle as compared with sRGB, and if appropriate also relative to a wide gamut reference space such as DCI-P3. The reference triangle will be marked on the CIE diagram as well.

  • dE colour accuracy – a wide range of colours are tested and the colour accuracy dE measured. We compare these produced colours to the sRGB reference space, and if applicable when measuring a wide gamut screen we also provide the accuracy relative to a specific wide gamut reference such as DCI-P3. An average dE and maximum dE is provided along with an overall screen rating. The lower the dE the better, with differences of <1 being imperceptible (marked by the green area on the graph), and differences between 1 and 3 being small (yellow areas). Anything over dE 3 needs correcting and causes more obvious differences in appearance relative to what should be shown. dE 2000 is used for improved accuracy and providing a better representation of what you would see as a user, compared with older dE methods like dE 1994, as it takes into account the human eye’s perceptual sensitivity to different colours. 

Default Setup

The screen comes out of the box in the ‘standard’ preset mode and you will notice straight away the wide colour gamut and the saturated and colourful image this produces. The screen is also pretty bright but not excessively so.

The only things we turned off were the ECO mode and ambient light sensor in the “others” menu to ensure they didn’t impact the measurements.

The default mode was pretty well set up overall. The gamma tracking was a bit odd, being too low in darker tones, and too high in brighter tones based on our measurements. This can lead to some loss of shadow detail and also bright grey detail. On the other hand the RGB balance and colour temperature across the grey scale range was very good, with an average colour temp of 6547k measured (1% deviance), and a white point at 6456k being very close to our target of 6500k (also 1% deviance). The greyscale accuracy was good overall with an average dE of 1.4.

With the default brightness control set at 75% in the OSD menu, the luminance was measured at a reasonable 169 cd/m2, and with the pixels being able to turn fully off when they show black we had a basically infinite contrast ratio. Take note of our earlier comments in the brightness and contrast section of the review about perceived contrast based on your ambient lighting conditions.

From a colour point of view you can see from the top left CIE diagram that the colour space of the display extended a long way beyond the standard sRGB reference colour space. We measured a 138% relative coverage with large over-extension in green and red shades particularly. This made these colours look very saturated and neon in normal use and would certainly be a problem if you were trying to work with standard gamut / SDR content accurately. Note that the 138% relative coverage of sRGB we measured is using the more modern and accurate CIE 1976 reference, whereas Dell have decided to push the higher number of 149% coverage from the older CIE 1931 reference in their spec.

With a very wide gamut in operation, sRGB colours measured in the top right hand graph are not accurate at all, with a dE average of 4.1 and a max of 7.5 the accuracy is poor. The colours are over-saturated as is the norm for wide gamut screens. The absolute coverage of sRGB is 99.8% which shows that the monitor can cover basically all of that reference space which is good, so if you can profile the screen using a calibration device you can map the wide native gamut back to sRGB nicely. We will also look at the screens built-in sRGB emulation mode in a moment.

The colour gamut also covers 99.1% of the DCI-P3 space (very close to the 99.3% Dell spec), again extending a little beyond this as you can see from the bottom left CIE diagram. There is a bit of over-coverage in greens and reds still which results in a 110% relative coverage measurement. However, now that the colour space of the screen is much closer to the target colour space of DCI-P3 the colour accuracy of those colours is much better, with a dE average of 2.1 which was good. If you were wanting to work with DCI-P3 content specifically then there is decent coverage and colour accuracy here.

There is also good coverage of the Adobe RGB reference space, commonly used in the professional and photography sector. We measured 97.6% coverage capability, although the native gamut extends quite a way beyond this with 118.3% relative coverage measured. The red shades stretch quite a long way beyond the desired colour space. There’s the potential to use this screen for Adobe RGB colour space content, but you’d need to be able to profile and calibrate the screen to map the native gamut back more closely to Adobe RGB to improve accuracy.

Overall the default ‘standard’ mode was pretty good overall. The colour temp was excellent, brightness wasn’t too high and you get bright, vivid colours for gaming and movies. You wouldn’t want to really use this native mode for SDR content or general work as the colour gamut is too large, but for the intended use-cases it’s a good start.

sRGB Emulation Mode and Factory Calibration

OSD menu showing the sRGB emulation option in the ‘Creator’ preset mode

The AW3423DW comes factory calibrated as well in the ‘Creator’ preset mode with pre-tuned sRGB and DCI-P3 modes available within that selection. This is the only way to access the sRGB emulation feature from the display itself by the way which is designed to restrict or clamp the gamut back to this more common colour space. It does this pretty well as we will talk about below. We did also measure the DCI-P3 mode within this ‘Creator’ preset but that did NOT restrict the native colour space of the panel back to more accurately match the DCI-P3 reference sadly, so you are left with ~110% DCI-P3 relative coverage. It might have also been nice to have an Adobe RGB emulation option here for those who might want to work in that colour space for professional or photography uses. If you want to do that, you’ll need your own calibration tool.

Within the ‘Creator’ mode you also have access to change the gamma setting if you want, with options of 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.4 and 2.6 available.

A factory calibration report is provided in the box suggesting a dE <2, a gamma of 2.2 (sRGB) or 2.6 (DCI-P3), a colour temp of 6500k and also a reliable screen uniformity for brightness and colour.

When switching to the Creator > sRGB mode you will immediately notice that the screen is darker, as the brightness setting defaults to 15%. Thankfully Dell have allowed access to this setting in the OSD menu so you can change this to suit your preference and ambient light conditions. This is a bit of an odd setting to be honest as it leaves you with a luminance of ~44 nits which is much lower than the target luminance for sRGB which is 80 nits. Anyway, you can change this to whatever you like via the brightness control.

We found the gamma tracking to be a bit better than the ‘standard’ mode here, being closer to 2.2 in the lighter shades, but still being lower than desired in the darker grey shades. An average 2.10 was measured overall. Colour temp was again good here, being slightly too cool by 2% at 6635k across the grey scale, but with a minor 1% deviance for the white point at 6541k. Greyscale accuracy was good overall with an average dE of 1.5

The other thing you will immediately notice when switching to the Creator > sRGB mode is that the colours look more muted and far less vivid. This is a result of the pretty decent clamping of the panels native wide gamut colour space back to sRGB, which you can see on the CIE diagram on the left. Actually it is a bit too aggressive, clamping back a bit far in green and red shades and resulting in a 95.2% coverage of the sRGB colour space. This was a bit of a shame, as we know the panel could theoretically cover 99.8% of the space, so it had gone a bit far here. Nothing too major, and this mode should be fine really for most casual users wanting to work more accurately with SDR/sRGB content, but it does lead to a few inaccuracies. Calibrating and profiling the screen to sRGB while in the native gamut mode of the screen is an option of course if you have the necessary device and software.

The accuracy of sRGB colours is now much better than in the default ‘standard’ mode where the full gamut of the panel was operating. We had an average dE of 1.5 now which was very good, although some of the shades were a bit less accurate due to that slight under-coverage of the sRGB space. Overall the image looked very good though.

Calibration

We carried out a calibration of the monitors OSD menu along with a software profiling of the screen using our calibration device and software. The OSD adjustments should help you reach a better brightness close to 120 nits but actually there is not much else you can change to improve the already pretty decent factory setup. The gamma will need correcting through the profiling process. The Custom Color preset mode is the only one that gives you access to the individual RGB controls, so we used that for the calibration, although in the end they were set optimally at 100,100,100 anyway for the correct colour temp balance.

With the screen set in its native gamut mode in the Custom Color preset however, you need the ability to profile the screen using a calibration device and software in order to take the screen’s native wide gamut and map it back to the sRGB colour space as we have done here. This profile can be used by colour-aware applications (e.g. Photoshop) to accurately map the wide gamut colours back to the common sRGB colour space and that is what results in the improved colour accuracy for sRGB colours. Also in this profiling process the gamma and greyscale are further corrected. We have only calibrated here based on sRGB, you would need your own calibration device if you want to profile relative to other colour spaces like Adobe RGB.

Calibration and profiling can produce excellent results if you have a suitable calibration device and software. This was profiled to 2.2 gamma, 6500k colour temp and to the sRGB colour space. You can see the recommended OSD settings above, and then further corrections and mapping of the native wide gamut back to sRGB are taken care of at the profile level. If you want you can also try our calibrated ICC profile out. Gamma was corrected nicely here to 2.2 average, improving the default mode nicely and correcting the deviations we’d seen out of the box. The profile then also produced some excellent colour accuracy for displaying sRGB colours within a colour aware environment or application.

Office and General Use

Image courtesy of Dell

Text clarity and sub-pixel layout

The 3440 x 1440 resolution is a comfortable size on a 34″ ultrawide screen like this and provided a sharp image and comfortable text size without the need to use any operating system scaling (0.23mm pixel pitch, 110 PPI). It’s far better than the 2560 x 1080 resolution options you sometimes see in this widescreen space, giving you a large screen area to work with and a decent real estate for split screen multi-tasking. There is a fairly subtle 1800R screen curvature which personally we like on an ultrawide like this, it makes it a bit more comfortable and brings the edges a little closer to your field of view.

Macro photo of unusual RGB sub-pixel layout

A topic often discussed with the AW3423DW is the RGB sub-pixel layout. OLED TV’s based on LG.Display panels feature an additional white sub-pixel and have an unusual WRGB layout and that can sometimes cause issues with text clarity for desktop use, as Windows expects an RGB layout – we commented on this recently in our LG C2 review as in some situations there was some issues with text clarity and fringing. Having an RGB pixel structure is expected to be better on the AW3423DW, but actually if you look at a close up macro photo of the pixel structure like the one we took above, you can see that the sub-pixels are arranged in an unusual triangle shape, with the green pixel above the red and blue.

In practice there have been reports that this leads to text clarity issues and noticeable fringing. We found during our testing that actually this was hard to see during normal use, and if you’re sat a comfortable distance away and you weren’t specifically looking for it, it never seemed to cause any real problem we felt. The text looks sharper and clearer than the LG 42C2 we had set up next to it, probably also aided by the increased pixel density of the Dell. The text isn’t 100% perfect and some people may still see issues with it depending on their usage, eye sight, susceptibility. It’s not as crisp and clear as a screen with a normal RGB layout. However, we didn’t find it to be any significant issue during our usage personally. It’s certainly far less of a problem during gaming and multimedia which is the screens intended usage too.

Viewing angles

Viewing angles of the AW3423DW were excellent as is common with OLED panels. These are wider than you get from any LCD panel technology, and you also avoid any issues like pale ‘IPS glow’ you get from that common LCD panel type. The viewing angles help provide a stable image quality even from a range of different viewing positions.

Brightness and Blue Light

In SDR mode there is a decent brightness adjustment range with a max of 240 nits and a minimum of 27 measured in our testing. Note that this might fluctuate a little depending on your APL (Average Picture Level) which was a bit of an oddity but this shouldn’t be noticeable during normal use. It was good to see a decent minimum brightness adjustment for those who like to work in a darker room or for when using the screen at night.

In SDR mode the screen can handle the max brightness of ~240 nits at all APL’s, including a full white screen so you don’t need to worry about major fluctuations in brightness during normal desktop usage at all simply because the screen is OLED. This is around the max brightness by the way before ABL has to be used, which is probably why Dell set that as the maximum SDR brightness capability. For typical luminance levels of ~120 nits for a desktop monitor this works totally fine. Thankfully unlike OLED TV’s there is no ABSL / TPC dimming feature so you don’t have to put up with the screen randomly dimming when it detects static images – that’s a bit of a nightmare when you’re trying to use these screens as a monitor. We were glad to see Dell left that kind of feature off. We did however find the pixel shifter OLED protection measure a bit annoying, spotting this in desktop usage several times an hour. We wish you could turn that off to be honest.

Spectral output at calibrated 6500k, blue light peak at 453 nm wavelength

The screen has a blue peak at 453 nm, and it is not part of the Eyesafe certified range of products as a result, which would require a shift of the blue peak outside of their reported “harmful” range of 415 – 455nm. According to Dell’s spec page the screen is “TÜV Rheinland certified – Low Blue Light Hardware Solution” because of the more even distribution of blue, green and red light we believe, which you typically don’t see from a desktop monitor. Usually the blue peak can be much higher than the green and red peaks. There are no low blue light settings in the OSD menu on this screen which is quite rare nowadays, although you could always use the warm preset mode or something to make the screen a bit more comfortable at night or in darker room conditions if you want. We measured that at around 5585k white point.

Connections and Extras

Because of the use of NVIDIA’s G-sync module the AW3423DW is somewhat limited in its connection options. For video there are 1x DisplayPort 1.4 and 2x HDMI 2.0 provided. Unlike many modern screens there is no USB type-C offered here, so you miss that single cable connectivity option if you had a laptop which supports it. There are 4x USB 3.2 data ports provided at least, and 2 are on the bottom front edge of the screen for easy access, one of them includes fast charging capabilities too. There’s also an audio output on the rear of the screen and headphone output on the bottom edge for easy access.

There is an ambient light sensor option in the OSD menu on this screen too which might be helpful to some people to control the screen brightness at different times of the day. There are no PiP or PbP modes available though sadly, again limited by the Native G-sync module but that could have been useful on a larger ultrawide display like this. The screen also lacks things like a KVM switch which has become increasingly common on modern gaming screens recently. Hardly a deal-breaker, but something to keep in mind if you were after that kind of function. The stand provides a decent and smooth range of tilt, height and swivel adjustments which is useful, the screen is certainly far more flexible than common OLED TV options in that area.

Colour Bit depth

10-bit colour depth available up to 144Hz max
At 175Hz you have to switch to 8-bit colour depth (with dithering)

We will touch on the colour depth briefly here too. Since the DisplayPort 1.4 interface does not support Display Stream Compression (DSC) on this model, you can only select 10-bit colour depth for refresh rates up to 144Hz maximum due to bandwidth limitations. For the full 175Hz refresh rate you have to drop down to 8-bit colour depth in the NVIDIA control panel as shown above, although an additional dithering stage is added to compensate from the graphics card. To be honest, this is almost impossible to tell apart for normal use and certainly for gaming and movies. If you’re working with CAD/CAM or highly detailed professional applications than maybe you might want to drop to 144Hz to benefit from the 10-bit support, but for most normal users it’s a non-issue.

Gaming

Image courtesy of Dell

The AW3423DW offers an ultrawide format which some people really like for gaming. Support for this 21:9 aspect ratio is generally very good from modern games, and if it’s not then you can always play with black borders down the sides and in 16:9 instead. The resolution is decent for a screen this size providing a sharp and crisp image. Keep in mind of course the system and graphics card demands of trying to power this resolution and refresh rate combination. We mentioned earlier about how the screen only support 10-bit colour depth for resolutions up to 144Hz. Beyond that you have to drop to 8-bit with a dithering stage then added by the graphics card. This is a real non-issue for gaming and multimedia, you should never spot any real difference anyway. There is absolutely no reason not to run the screen at 175Hz for gaming, including HDR games.

The screen uses an OLED panel which is well-known for its near-instant response times. As a result it does not need to use overdrive technology in the same way as a desktop LCD panel would, or there at least aren’t any controls for the response time or overdrive in the OSD menu here. Dell quote a 0.1ms G2G response time in their spec, which actually should be achievable from this kind of technology.

Refresh Rate
Maximum Refresh Rate DisplayPort175Hz
Maximum Refresh Rate HDMI100Hz (at native res)
120Hz for 1440p and 1080p inputs
VRR range1 – 175Hz over DisplayPort
24 – 120Hz over HDMI

The screen has a native 175Hz refresh rate which makes it far more suited to gaming than common 60Hz OLED TV’s, and a bit faster than the higher end 120Hz models too. We will provide comparisons on motion clarity shortly. 175Hz is very good for an OLED screen although this is a fair bit slower than some gaming monitors nowadays which can often do 240 or even 360Hz nowadays. There’s even plans to launch 480Hz panels soon! You will not be able to push the same frame rates as a high end gaming monitor here, although the combination of near-instant response times and 175Hz on the AW3423DW should produce excellent motion clarity, and in fact this can look far better than an equivalent 175Hz LCD screen thanks to the OLED response times.

VRR capabilities and Certification
AMD FreeSync Premium certification
(but FreeSync is supported still)
Native NVIDIA G-sync module
NVIDIA ‘G-sync Compatible’ certified
G-Sync Ultimate Certification
HDMI-VRR (consoles via HDMI 2.1)
HDMI 2.0 connections only

To help support the 3440 x 1440 @ 175Hz the AW3423DW features a Native NVIDIA hardware G-sync module. This is an additional chip added to the screen in place of a normal scaler, and provides VRR support from compatible NVIDIA graphics cards. This actually allows for a very wide range from 1 – 175Hz for VRR over DisplayPort and should offer excellent VRR experience in gaming. This module actually also supports AMD FreeSync graphics cards over DisplayPort as well, so even though it’s not promoted under any FreeSync Certification, and even though it’s using NVIDIA’s G-sync module, it will still support VRR from your AMD system if you need. That’s great news. The screen will also operate G-sync over HDMI from an NVIDIA card if you want, although your refresh rate would be limited so DP would be the better option. AMD FreeSync does not seem to work over HDMI though, so definitely stick to DisplayPort there.

Our thanks to NVIDIA for hooking us up with the RTX3090 for our testing.

NVIDIA RTX30 Series Check Pricing and Buy – Affiliate Links

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QD-OLED panel benefits for gaming

The QD-OLED panel provides super-deep blacks and infinite contrast ratio which is of course excellent for gaming too. This helps ensure great shadow detail and true blacks. You may find optimal appearance in a darkened room though. The semi-glossy screen coating helps ensure the colours pop and blacks look deep and pure in those kind of lighting conditions, and reflections are minimised compared with OLED TV’s that have fully glossy coating because of the anti-reflective properties on this coating. In lighter room conditions you do lose some of the black depth appearance because of this coating.

The wide viewing angles of this technology are excellent and make the screen suitable for viewing from many different positions if you need. These wide viewing angles importantly include the freedom from things like the pale/white “IPS glow” that you get on darker content on that common LCD technology. There’s none of that here on the OLED panel.

Response Times

Important note: Before we get in to the measurements we wanted to highlight that we are in the process of switching all our response time measurements in these sections over to an improved ‘gamma corrected’ method. You may want to read through our article from Feb 2021 about Response Time Testing – Pitfalls, Improvements and Updating Our Methodology which talks about this a lot more. Basically this is an improved method for capturing G2G response times and overshoot, providing figures in these tables that are more reflective of real-world visual results. The measurements take in to account actual RGB changes and are closer to what you would see visually helping to analyse the visual performance more closely. The overshoot measurements are also improved dramatically, again to be more reflective to what you see visually. Our article linked above talks through why this is better and how we arrived at this improved method in much more detail.

We have been using this method for the last year but only really for our main measurement section (optimal refresh rate and overdrive mode) in the gaming part of our reviews, as taking the measurements was extremely time consuming and complicated. The other measurements in these sections where we examine the different overdrive modes and the different refresh rates were instead based on the “traditional response time” method, which is quicker and easier for us to capture considering there are loads of modes to measure. This is fine for quick comparisons and evaluation, and something that had been used for many years in the market, but not as “corrected” as the updated method.

We are in the process of switching over to using a new measurement device and software which helps massively to automate these measurements and calculations for us and makes it possible to now use this improved gamma corrected method for all the measurements. We will write a separate article about the new device and software in the future, but we have been testing and validating it against our existing equipment for the last 6 months and are happy with the accuracy and results it is producing. We will of course continue to provide pursuit camera photos which will help give you a view of real-world perceived motion clarity, to be compared alongside the device measurements.

Anyway, on to the measurements…

Above are the response times at 175Hz. Thanks to the OLED panel these are super-fast, with an average of only 0.47ms G2G measured! The best case was an incredibly impressive 0.3ms as well, not quite as low as the 0.1ms advertised but very close. All transitions can keep up easily with the frame rate demands of 175Hz, and in fact this screen could comfortably keep up with 1000Hz if the panel could support it! Let’s hope OLED refresh rates are driven much higher in the coming years, as it’s a really well suited technology for that. There is some minor overshoot in a few transitions but nothing that creates any visible artefacts or halos in real use.

It’s the same story at 60Hz, with the response times remaining the same at lower refresh rates. For VRR you get consistently fast and clean response times at all refresh rates, and even if you have a fixed 60Hz input you get the same super-fast response times.

This is an example oscillograph showing the response time from 0 – 150 which you can see is near instant on the rise time and fall time. Note the small fluctuating brightness on the top line in sync with a 175Hz refresh rate that we talked about earlier, that is common to OLED screens. This is also an example where there is some minor overshoot, where you can see the first peak shoots up a little higher than it should before flattening down. This does not create any visible issues or halos in real use as the overshoot is minor anyway as it’s a small RGB value overshoot.

Motion Clarity – Pursuit Camera Photos

Pursuit camera photos capturing real-world perceived motion clarity

We captured some pursuit camera photos of the screen at the max 175Hz refresh rate and we thought it most interesting here to compare it with the recently tested LG 42C2 OLED which runs at 120Hz max. We had chance to test both screens side by side for these comparisons which was interesting. These photos are designed to capture real-world perceived motion clarity.

Despite the amazing pixel response times you still get large amount of blur at 60Hz due to the sample-and-hold nature of the OLED screen (not shown here), don’t expect miracles just because it’s got fast response times for lower refresh rates. There are major and obvious benefits in motion clarity as you increase to 120Hz on these OLED screens and this is strongly encouraged for gaming wherever possible. The AW3423DW looks very similar to the LG 42C2 when running at 120Hz. There are then some very nice benefits when bumping up to 175Hz on the Dell, something that the LG C2 cannot support. That extra 55Hz makes a noticeable difference to motion clarity, the image looks clearer and sharper and you get a nice reduction in blur levels. There are no visible overshoot artefacts, halos or trails here at all either.

Lag

Read our detailed article about input lag and the various measurement techniques which are used to evaluate this aspect of a display. The screens tested are split into two measurements which are based on our overall display lag tests and half the average G2G response time, as measured by our oscilloscope. The response time element, part of the lag you can see, is split from the overall display lag and shown on the graph as the green bar. From there, the signal processing (red bar) can be provided as a good estimation of the lag you would feel from the display. We also classify each display as follows:

Lag Classification

  • Class 1) Less than 8.33ms – the equivalent to 1 frame lag of a display at 120Hz refresh rate – should be fine for gamers, even at high levels
  • Class 2) A lag of 8.33 – 16.66ms – the equivalent of one to two frames at a 120Hz refresh rate – moderate lag but should be fine for many gamers. Caution advised for serious gaming
  • Class 3) A lag of more than 16.66ms – the equivalent of more than 2 frames at a refresh rate of 120Hz – Some noticeable lag in daily usage, not suitable for high end gaming

Unfortunately we did not have chance to test the screen’s input lag which requires using a CRT as a reference point which we couldn’t take with us. However, we can refer to the results published recently by PCmonitors.info in their detailed review, since they use the same SMTT tool that we use and our results have always aligned very well over the years when we’ve both tested the same screen. We have faith in their results here. They measured a total lag of 5.17ms for the AW3423DW, which was similar across all refresh rates. So with an approximate 0.24ms of that accounted for by the pixel response times we would estimate a signal processing lag of around 4.94ms.

You can see this is quite similar to the LG 42C2 when that screen is in its Game Optimizer mode and at 120Hz, and also fairly similar to a lot of other gaming screens on this list. Some others can however remove pretty much all of the signal processing lag, and normally you see that on all Native G-sync module screens too. This model has the G-sync module but has a little bit of lag, perhaps related to the handling of the OLED panel – after all this is very different to LCD screens with the G-sync module.

Putting this all in to context, this 5.17ms total lag is still very low and shouldn’t represent any real problems for gaming. If you’re super sensitive to lag or wanting to play competitive FPS games then there are screens with lower lag available, although you will then be giving up in other areas where the OLED panel shines.

Gaming extras

Black Frame Insertion (BFI) – sadly missing

Unfortunately the AW3423DW does not include any BFI feature. This is the OLED equivalent to a strobing motion blur reduction backlight used on some LCD monitors. Basically it would insert a black frame in to the image to help reduce perceived motion blur and improve clarity significantly. This kind of feature normally works exceptionally well on OLED screens, with the super-fast pixel response times and the fact that there’s no backlight to strobe meaning that you get a clear image across all parts of the screen too. We saw great results on the LG CX for instance where you can use BFI at 60Hz and 120Hz. It’s a real shame that Dell have not included a BFI mode on the AW3423DW we think, as the technology is so well suited to it.

There are a few other gaming extras though in the OSD menu including a Timer function, Frame Rate counter and a Dark Stabilizer mode. There’s a good range of preset modes to play with as well including FPS, MOBA/RTS, RPG, Sports and 3 customisable Game modes.

Console Gaming

The Dell Alienware AW3423DW is unfortunately pretty poorly positioned to handle games consoles and this is one of the weakest areas for this screen. For a start, the screen has a 3440 x 1440 resolution, and cannot support any “Virtual 4K” inputs or 4K custom resolutions either. This in itself means that from the Xbox X and PS5, you will be limited to 1440p and 1080p input resolutions only. This is not too bad for Xbox as that can output at 1440p @ 120Hz, but the PS5 cannot support 1440p so you’d be stuck with 1080p @ 120Hz only. Maybe this isn’t a major issue for some, as you could instead then prioritise refresh rate and push up to 120Hz in your games, but clearly the screen misses the capabilities for a 4K resolution for those who want to focus on detail and resolution.

Console Gaming
Native panel resolution3440 x 1440
Maximum resolution and refresh rate supported1440p @ 120Hz
PlayStation 5 support1080p @ 120Hz
Xbox Series X support1440p @ 120Hz
Virtual 4K support
4K at 24Hz support
4K at 50Hz support
(but 50Hz supported at lower resolutions)
HDMI connection version2.0
HDMI connection bandwidth14.4 Gbps (HDMI 2.0)
HDMI-VRR (over HDMI 2.1)
Adaptive-sync over HDMI
Xbox only, not available on PS5
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)
Display aspect ratio controls
Ultra high speed HDMI 2.1 cable provided

The resolution of the screen has a knock on effect to HDR support too. The PS5 will run HDR at 1080p so that is ok, albeit you are limited to the lower resolution than you perhaps might want. The Xbox however will only support HDR output at 4K resolutions, which means you cannot use HDR at all from the Xbox on this screen. That’s a massive shame given it’s an OLED panel and HDR support is one of its key capabilities!

We did confirm that the Xbox will support adaptive-sync VRR over the HDMI connection which is good news, but the PS5 does not support adaptive-sync itself, only the HDMI 2.1-enabled HDMI-VRR, which of course isn’t supported here because there’s no HDMI 2.1 connection.

All in all the screen feels pretty stifled for console usage because of the lack of 4K resolution and HDMI 2.1 capabilities.

HDR – High Dynamic Range

HDR Technical Capabilities
HDR formats supportedHDR10 only, missing Dolby Vision and HLG
Local dimmingYes, pixel level OLED
High number of local dimming zonesPixel level, 4.95 million
Increased peak brightness1013 nits measured (HDR 1000 mode only)
Increased dynamic range (contrast) maxInfinite
Increased “local” HDR contrast ratio maxInfinite
Wide colour gamut >90% DCI-P399.1% absolute and 110.0% relative coverage
10-bit colour depth support10-bit up to 144Hz, 8-bit + GPU dithering for 175Hz

The screen is perfectly positioned to handle HDR content and surpasses anything available currently in the desktop monitor space. OLED technology has long been regarded as the best technology for HDR thanks to its pixel-level dimming capability. This allows each pixel to be individually lit, meaning you don’t need backlight local dimming zones or need to worry about issues like blooming or halos like you get on other technologies. Technically the contrast ratio you get for normal SDR content is infinite:1 as well (for maximum “dynamic range”), but in HDR mode these OLED screens are capable of offering increased peak brightness as well.


Marketing image provided by LG to illustrate local dimming capabilities of OLED panels compared with LCD

Most desktop LCD monitors, even those advertised with the very lapse and pointless VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification lack any form of local dimming for HDR. So by their nature cannot actually improve the dynamic range of the display! Sure, they can accept an HDR input source (usually just HDR10) and some may offer slightly brighter screens, maybe 10-bit colour depth, maybe a wider colour gamut but they don’t always and the HDR 400 spec doesn’t require any of that either! But without local dimming there’s no improvement to the dynamic range at all and you are basically limited by the LCD panel’s native contrast ratio. For a TN Film or IPS panel this would max out at around 1000 – 1300:1 and for a VA panel maybe around 3000 – 5000:1. Local dimming is a vital component of HDR.

Some screens might carry the higher HDR 500 or HDR 600 certifications though which do at least require some form of local dimming, making it at least viable for the dynamic range to be improved. Those specs also require a higher peak brightness of 500 or 600 cd/m2, 10-bit colour depth and wide DCI-P3 gamut so you can at least expect a better HDR potential from HDR 500/600 screens. However, all of these screens feature only fairly simple edge-lit local dimming of the backlight in a very limited number of zones. This is normally something like 8 zones, maybe 16 or 32 if you’re lucky. In theory this can allow for improved dynamic range across the screen as a whole, with the backlight being capable of dimming darker areas while brightening others. In practice you don’t get much of an improvement in “local HDR contrast” between adjacent areas of light and dark, and it’s not capable of picking out smaller highlights or sample areas very well.

For the top-end HDR experience in the LCD monitor market today you’d be looking currently at some of the niche and very expensive top-end models with a Full array Local Dimming (FALD) backlight. We’ve reviewed models like the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ and PG35VQ in the past with 384-zone and 512-zone local dimming backlights for instance. These meet the upper tier HDR 1000 standard so can reach even higher peak brightness of 1000 cd/m2, along with wide gamut colour space and 10-bit colour depth. These FALD options, and some newer “mini LED” options like the Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX we’ve also reviewed for instance (HDR 1400 with 1152 zones) have even more (and smaller) dimming zones and represent the best available HDR options on desktop LCD monitors today. The problem is these models are very expensive and top-end, and even with many hundred zones, it can still leave you with some issues for HDR content. Blooming and halos are still a problem when smaller highlights are needing to be brightened, and while the more zones the better, it will never be as optimal as per-pixel dimming like on OLED.

So the dimming capabilities of the OLED panel here easily surpass all desktop LCD monitors when it comes to HDR, and the true black and infinite contrast make it ideal for improving the dynamic range. This particular AW3423DW display also has the necessary wide gamut and 10-bit colour depth support so it offers the boosted colours and appearance associated with HDR content too. The only limitation would be related to the lack of HDR content types, only supporting HDR10 inputs and lacking Dolby Vision and HLG for instance that you will find on high end OLED TV’s, including the 42″ LG 42C2 OLED.

The AW3423DW has two HDR modes available in the OSD menu. The “HDR 400 True Black” conforms to VESA’s certification of the same name, absolutely not the same thing as their normal HDR 400 certification. There is also then an “HDR Peak 1000” mode which offers increased brightness, again not to be confused with the VESA DisplayHDR 1000 certification. HDR mode activates automatically when the screen detects an HDR10 input signal. We tested both modes as below.

Just before we get in to that we wanted to touch again on the colour depth “limitations” of the screen when used at the maximum 175Hz. HDR content is designed for 10-bit colour depth, and this is available natively from the screen at refresh rates up to 144Hz. Above that, because of the usage of the Native G-sync hardware module you have to drop to an 8-bit colour depth with a dithering stage added by the GPU instead. In practice it is almost impossible to tell any difference and you shouldn’t have any concerns about running the screen at full refresh rate for your HDR gaming.

Useful reading – OLED Dimming Confusion – APL, ABL, ASBL, TPC and GSR Explained

HDR 400 True Black Mode

The default HDR 400 True Black settings showed decent PQ tracking and colour temperature across the greyscale, although the white point was slightly too warm we found (5% deviance).

Peak brightness maxed out at 448 nits in this mode but was sustainable for APL window sizes up to 10% in these tests. When the white window size is larger, the maximum brightness drops a bit, but the changes are not too drastic. In real content you may experience fewer noticeable fluctuations in brightness as the APL changes, as the brightest levels for small sample sizes never reach that high anyway. This mode may also be a bit more comfortable for close up HDR gaming to some people due to the lower peak brightness, although personally we found it crushed bright details too much and we definitely preferred the other HDR Peak 1000 mode which we will show in a moment.

The Quantum Dot coating helped deliver a decent coverage of the large Rec.2020 colour space, with 80.1% measured. Accuracy of Rec.2020 colours was very good overall, with the only real errors coming in here for pure green and blue shades where the monitor’s gamut cannot fully cover the target colour space. If we ignore those 100% RGB primary samples then the average dE in this mode was 1.3 which was excellent. Great colour accuracy in HDR content.

HDR Peak 1000 Mode

As the name suggests, the HDR Peak 1000 mode is designed to deliver an increased peak brightness for HDR and in our opinion looks noticeably better in HDR games and movies. PQ curve tracking was excellent again and we had pretty much the same colour temperature and white point as the HDR 400 True Black mode.

The largest change to this mode is the increased peak brightness and for smaller highlight areas with window sizes of 5% or smaller the screen pushed the brightness significantly. We measured a peak of 1013 nits which is very impressive for an OLED panel. This is quite considerably higher than the ~700 nits of popular 42″ and 48″ sized LG OLED TV’s like the recent 42C2. You may experience more noticeable fluctuations in brightness though as the ABL feature that controls power distribution is fairly aggressive. For instance if there is a small bright part of the image on a dark background, and then another bright area is introduced to the screen, that small bright area may dim a bit more noticeably. We didn’t find it particularly problematic in real use, and it’s how all OLED screen behave anyway. The differences in brightness capability between different window sizes are more pronounced here though in the HDR Peak 1000 mode than the True Black 400 mode so they may be more noticeable.

Colour accuracy remained basically the same as the HDR 400 True Black mode here as well and was very good in the Rec.2020 colour space in which most HDR content is mastered.

We have provided a quick comparison of the screens brightness capabilities in both HDR modes as shown above.


All in all we were impressed with the HDR experience on this screen. The OLED panel with per-pixel level dimming created excellent dynamic range and contrast and avoided any issues with blooming or halos that you would get on even the best Mini LED backlights in the LCD monitor market. The true blacks looked amazing, as long as you are viewing in a darker room which is advisable for HDR anyway where possible. Both HDR modes offered accurate setups, but we preferred the HDR Peak 1000 mode for the increased bright highlights and generally nicer and more punchy overall image. PC HDR gaming should work very well, but it’s a shame that HDR gaming support from consoles is pretty limited (not supported at all from Xbox Series X, 1080p only from PS5).

beenhere
Further recommended reading

Our detailed HDR article

Movies and Video

The following summarises the screens performance for videos and movie viewing:

CategoryDisplay Specs / MeasurementsComments
Size34″ ultrawide
1800R curved
Large for a desktop monitor, but still a lot smaller than modern TV’s. Curved format helps improve immersion although you will have to ensure your viewing position is suitable
Aspect Ratio21:9the ultrawide format may be good for some content, but equally a bit annoying for 16:9 aspect ratio content
Resolution3440 x 1440Can support 1440p and 1080p content, but not UltraHD 4K sadly (no “Virtual 4K” support either)
HDCPYes v2.2Suitable for encrypted content including the latest v2.2
Connectivity1x DisplayPort 1.4
2x HDMI 2.0
Useful to include 2x HDMI connectivity for consoles, Blu-ray players etc.
CablesDisplayPort
Mini DP > DP
HDMI (some regions only)
The screen comes packaged with a DisplayPort cable for connecting your PC, as well as a Mini DP > DP cable if you need that. In the UK the screen unfortunately does not come with an HDMI cable although this is provided in some other regions including the US.
ErgonomicsTilt, height, swivelDecent range of adjustments allowing you to position the screen easily for a range of different viewing positions. Stand is stable and sturdy
CoatingSemi-GlossyProvides a clearer and cleaner image than full anti-glare coatings, but removes a large portion of the reflections you get from fully glossy solutions like those used on OLED TV’s. This can impact black levels in certain ambient light conditions. Better viewing in a darkened room to maximise contrast and black depth
Brightness range27 – 240 cd/m2 (SDR)
1013 cd/m2 (peak HDR)
Reasonable adjustment range offered in SDR mode although not super bright. When in HDR mode the peak brightness is very good for an OLED screen within the “HDR Peak 1000” mode, more on that in the previous section. Flicker free operation with no PWM
ContrastInfiniteAmazing contrast thanks to the self-emitting OLED panel where pixels are turned fully off for full black. Produces incredible contrast ratio and shadow detail. May be impacted a bit by the screen coating in brighter room conditions
Preset modesNone specificallyThere are no specific modes for movies or videos, although you could easily set up one of the 3 customisable Game preset modes to your liking for this usage.
Response times0.47ms G2G at all refresh rates with very low overshootResponse times are excellent and near-instantaneous thanks to the OLED panel. Don’t expect wonders for motion clarity at 60Hz though still. Refresh rate plays an important role here.
Viewing anglesExcellentSuper-wide viewing angles thanks to the OLED panel and no glow like you would get on an IPS panel on dark content
Backlight bleedNoneNo bleed as when an all black image is shown, the pixels are turned off thanks to the OLED panel
AudioNo speakers
1x audio out
1x Headphone out
No integrated speakers on this model keep in mind like many monitors, but something that you would get (and to a decent standard) if you were considering an OLED TV for desktop use. There are audio out and headphone out connections available though for audio passthrough. The headphone jack is easy access on the bottom edge of the screen too
Aspect Ratio ControlsNone in the OSDThere are no aspect ratio controls available in the OSD menu. From a PC this doesn’t matter as your graphics card can handle that. Many external devices will handle it too nowadays, but be careful with older DVD players perhaps
PiP / PbPNot supportedNeither are available here
HDR supportSee earlier sectionsee earlier section for detailed analysis

Conclusion

In our opinion the Dell Alienware AW3423DW is the best PC gaming monitor available right now! Note the qualifiers in there, “PC” and “gaming” monitor – we will explain. There’s no question that the OLED panel offers some amazing performance and capabilities that set it a long way apart from LCD desktop monitors in several areas for gaming. The near instant response times, lack of any visible overshoot and excellent motion clarity are amazing. The fact this screen also offers a high 175Hz refresh rate is great news, setting it apart from common 120Hz OLED TV options and offered some real and noticeable improvements in real use as a result.

Combining this new panel with a Native NVIDIA G-sync module will not be to everyone’s preference, but it should give you reliable VRR experience and a wide range too. It helps minimise input lag, although we noted it’s not as low as G-sync module screens normally are. Who knows what this would be if the module wasn’t being used though! The screen will support VRR from both AMD and NVIDIA systems which is great news. The HDR PC gaming experience is excellent as well, with two very well set up modes to choose from, pixel level dimming, no halos, amazing contrast possibilities, a wide colour gamut and an impressive OLED peak brightness of >1000 nits possible. The only thing really missing that we would have loved to see included was a BFI mode which work excellently on high refresh rate OLED panels.

We said “PC gaming” earlier, and that’s because we were disappointed with the games console support here. This just isn’t a good screen for the latest gen consoles really. That’s mostly down to the lack of a 4K resolution, which has a knock on impact to resolution from the PS5 and to HDR support on Xbox. The lack of HDMI 2.1 connectivity, restricted because of the G-sync module, also means you miss VRR on PS5, although it is available on Xbox. It would have been nice if Dell had included ‘Virtual 4K’ input support which could have at the very least gotten around both those issues. Hopefully other manufacturers considering using this panel will include that. Really though, if console gaming is your main gaming usage then there are better options out there.

“Issues” reported about this screen are there but in our opinion somewhat exaggerated or taken out of context. We didn’t find the text rendering to be problematic in real normal use, absolutely not an issue for gaming and multimedia as the target uses. The fans were quiet really and unless you have a super quiet room and system those shouldn’t be a problem. The lack of 10-bit support for the max 175Hz refresh rate is really a non-issue for most uses. The panel coating is a strange one as while it’s true that a brighter room environment does reduce the black levels and make them look greyer, the alternative if you think about it would be living with a fully glossy coating and far more reflections. Our personal opinion is that the coating is fine, and actually we were impressed by its impressive reflection handling. We’d rather have that than a glossy reflective panel really, and this is coming from someone who’s been using the LG 42C2 for a couple of months on the desk. OLED has never been brilliant in brighter rooms anyway, and for optimal experience for HDR content, where you really do want those deepest blacks, a darker room is recommended for the content and then avoids this issue anyway.

So for PC gaming and HDR it really is an excellent display. Away from gaming the screen has a balance of or pros and cons. The size, resolution and format are very nice and comfortable for general work, split screen multi-tasking and everything else. Thankfully we’ve started the QD-OLED monitor journey with a decent, popular size option and not something like a 21″ 1080p option. The OLED protection measures are a bit annoying in places, and you’ve always got that niggle in the back of your mind when using an OLED panel for static content. If you’re primary use is going to be for this kind of work, maybe an LCD screen would be better. There’s strong claims from Samsung and Dell when it comes to QD-OLED image retention and warranties, but it’s really too early to tell if these claims will be realised.

Default set up was very good in SDR and HDR modes and there’s a decent sRGB emulation available too. The screen does lack a few modern extras and features so if you liked the idea of USB type-C single cable connectivity or a KVM switch then you might want to look elsewhere, or hope that Samsung’s or MSI’s announced equivalent models feature them.

All in all if your primary usage is PC gaming then this is an excellent choice, and it offers some impressive performance. You won’t find a better HDR desktop monitor either right now so if that’s your focus then it’s well worth looking at. If you’re more a casual gamer and you mainly use your display for general and office work, or other static content then we still have reservations about OLED in this space and would advise some caution before taking the plunge.

Our closing comments are about the price and availability of this screen. We think everyone was pleasantly surprised when the price for this screen was announced. At the time of writing it is listed on Dell.com US at $1,299.99 and in the UK at £1,099.00. Yes, this is an expensive bit of tech, but that’s a very “reasonable” price when you consider other high end flagship gaming monitors that have been >£3000 in the last few years in some cases. In fact we’d go as far as to say that’s a very good price for a cutting edge monitor with some very impressive performance. Stock is limited in many regions still, and maybe it’s worth hanging on to see what the Samsung and MSI models (and maybe others) bring, but we would definitely recommend considering this monitor.

ProsCons
Excellent benefits from QD-OLED panel – near instant response times, per pixel dimming, amazing contrastMissing a BFI blur reduction mode which would have worked very well on a high refresh rate OLED screen like this
175Hz refresh rate provides excellent motion clarityConsole support is poor
Excellent HDR experience including an impressive OLED peak brightness capabilitySome missing features due to the G-sync module (KVM, USB type-C, HDMI 2.1 etc)

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