Philips throws a curveball at the display market.
Philips has a new monitor. This isn’t exactly unusual — but what is a little out of the ordinary is the shape. The clue lies in the name, which is a potted description: the Philips 34-inch Curved UltraWide LCD monitor with FreeSync. (The ‘short’ name for it is 349X7FJEW, in true uninspiring product names fashion.)
Two things immediately strike you about the screen. First, the curve really does set it apart, and second, it’s almost freakishly wide! At a native pixel resolution of 3,440 x 1,440, it’s close to 2.4 times wider than its height, and it’s a full 81cm from side to side [About half the height of our weeny Chief-Sub and Ed... — Ed]. Our rough calculations put it at about 111 pixels per inch, so it’s not at all Retinaclass. But you wouldn’t sit as close to such a wide screen, so it feels pleasingly sharp.
So why have they gone curved? A curved display may seem unusual, but as displays get bigger, we’ve been noticing more and more problems with colour accuracy, particularly with certain LCD technologies. The more expensive IPS (in-plane switching) LCD panels work well even when seen from sharp angles, but the cheaper and common MVA (multidomain vertical alignment) form of LCD panel shows large colour and contrast shifts as your point of view moves from being flat-on to the screen. Put a large flat panel on your desk and you simply can’t avoid this problem... unless the screen itself curves to help keep the whole surface more or less pointing right at you.
The curve is a smooth horizontal segment of a circle roughly 3m in diameter, so the best theoretical viewing spot is 150cm away. For active design work, it felt natural to sit half that distance away (around 75cm back), but the curve still did its job well. Images and even flat colours — the acid test for angle-of-view problems — were essentially even and consistent.
The manual says this display achieves 99.5% of sRGB. Our tests with a dataColor Spyder colorimeter showed 91%, so this isn’t the ideal screen for really critical colour proofing. But the way the curve compensates for the MVA technology’s quirks means it’s actually better in real-world terms than comparable large, flat displays containing the same LCD panel type, regardless of sRGB scores.
Other specifications are just as we’d like: 15cm fingertip-driven height adjustment and the usual -5° to +20° tilt, two HDMI ports (one of them the 2.0 standard), one DisplayPort (not yet a core Mac concern, but one day...), four USB 3.0level ports, and analogue audio in and out sockets.
Speaking of audio, this display has speakers that actually sound good in general use. They’re not floor shakers, of course, but they are better than the offerings in most displays. Its huge width also gives a measure of stereo separation that’s not at all expected in monitor speakers.
So... yes, the curve can feel odd at first, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! What’s really good about this screen is the way it allows for work to be shown really large, yet still have acres of room for tools and other windows. It’s quirky, cool, and a much better display than we expected.
34-INCH LCD MONITOR $949 | WWW.PHILIPS.COM.AU