It’s big, but it ain’t beautiful
PC TECHNOLOGY is pretty mature these days. That particularly applies to monitors. Usually, even a cursory perusal of the spec list gives you a good idea of what to expect. So, it’s not all that often a screen comes along and blows apart your expectations, but that’s exactly what the new Philips BDM4037UW pulls off. Unfortunately, it does so for all the wrong reasons.
On paper, it looks similar to its sibling, the BDM4065UC. That screen has been knocking around for a few years, but offers the same 40-inch diagonal and 3840x2160 UHD native resolution. Both panels also leverage VA technology, and Philips claims similar specifications for everything from contrast to pixel response. Indeed, the only really significant differences involve the BDM4037UW’s gentle panel curvature, and the fact that it’s a couple of years newer.
The former can be an acquired taste, but is at least a known quantity; that known quantity being a curvature of 3000R, and thus far less aggressive than most curved panels. The latter, you’d think, would, if anything, bequeath the BDM4037UW with a newer, more advanced panel, and perhaps some more refined electronics. That would be no bad thing, given the old BDM4065UC had its fair share of image quality quirks.
Alas, no. The new BDM4037UW is a bit of a disaster. The main problem is what, in this day and age, can only be classified as appalling pixel response. Philips rates the panel at 4ms, versus 3ms for its more elderly sibling. But the gap feels more like a minute than a millisecond. The blurring and ghosting is absolutely grim. Unfortunately, ramping up the pixel overdrive setting in the on-screen menu barely puts a dent in the problem. Of course, VA panels have long suffered from the worst response of any of the major panel types, but it’s a while since we’ve seen anything this bad, and the older, flatter 40-inch Philips has perfectly adequate response.
Another throwback to the bad old days of VA panels is the overly warm color temperature. It’s the kind of thing you can mitigate to some degree via calibration. But this is far from the most accurate LCD panel on earth, and you’re never going to achieve anything really neutral when it comes to temperature and overall gamut. While we’re sticking the boot in, the backlighting isn’t particularly strong, either.
What’s more, that shallowness of the curvature is such that it feels more like a gimmick than a practical feature. It’s a big old screen, so if you’re going to buy into the curved panel proposition, why not really go for it? The final image quality demerit involves the viewing angles, which are merely mediocre. To all that, you can add a chassis and stand that look a little cheap and chintzy, at which point you’re probably thinking the BDM4037UW has no redeeming features. That isn’t quite right.
It boasts impressive contrast, with plenty of detail in black and white scales. It also renders virtually perfect, smooth gradients. Moreover, it’s still a 40-inch UHD panel, and that means it’s absolutely huge, and has literally millions of pixels. Just over eight million, in fact. That means oodles of desktop real estate, tons of detail, and an epic overall visual impact. What’s more, most of the time, that sluggish pixel response isn’t actually a huge drawback. It’s often not even that noticeable in games.
For those who want a very large screen and lots of pixels above all else, the Philips BDM4037UW holds a certain appeal. It’s just not a terribly robust appeal in the context of its $750 price tag. To take one example, Philips’ sister brand AOC offers the C4008VU8 with virtually identical specs for $250 less. Put simply, there are better options at this price point.