BenQ EX 3501R 35-inch mon­i­tor

£709 | $899 www.benq.co.uk An ul­tra­w­ide mon­i­tor with HDR

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While high dy­namic range (HDR) – a dis­play tech­nol­ogy that of­fers higher con­trast and more vivid colours – is be­com­ing ever more com­mon­place in TVs it hasn’t re­ally taken off yet in PC mon­i­tors. So when a mon­i­tor such as the BenQ EX3501R comes along boast­ing HDR sup­port, you can’t help take no­tice. And HDR is only one of the ex­cit­ing fea­tures to be found here, thanks to an ul­tra­w­ide 21:9 as­pect ra­dio, AMD FreeSync sup­port, and USB-C con­nec­tiv­ity.

Price and avail­abil­ity

A 35-inch ul­tra­w­ide curved mon­i­tor is never go­ing to be cheap, but at £709 ($899), the BenQ EX3501R isn’t hor­ren­dously pricey, and com­pares well to the AOC Agon AG352UCG and Acer Preda­tor X34, both of which are slightly more ex­pen­sive, but with sim­i­larly im­pres­sive specs.

The BenQ is also a fair bit pricier than the LG 34UC79G-B, which costs £592 ($625). How­ever, while LG’s screen has a 21:9 as­pect ra­tio, its res­o­lu­tion is lower (2,560x1,080) than the EX3501R’s (3,440x1,440), which feels much eas­ier to use.

De­sign

Un­like mon­i­tors which are aimed at gamers and have strik­ing de­signs to match, the BenQ EX3501R is po­si­tioned as a ‘video en­joy­ment mon­i­tor’, which means the large screen – and the con­tent it dis­plays – are the stars of the show here, with the rest of the mon­i­tor’s de­sign be­ing smart, yet se­date.

The metal stand feels sturdy, and al­lows for ver­ti­cal ad­just­ment of 60mm and tilt ad­just­ment of be­tween -5 and 20 de­grees. As­sem­bly is tool-less, which means you can at­tach the screen to the stand without hav­ing to dig out a screw­driver, mak­ing in­stal­la­tion much sim­pler.

The bezels that sur­round the edges of the screen aren’t the thinnest, but they don’t add too much ex­tra girth to this al­ready large mon­i­tor. The bot­tom bezel is a fair bit larger than the oth­ers, though, since it holds but­tons for nav­i­gat­ing the on-screen menu, as well as a power but­ton, and a light sen­sor – a fa­mil­iar ad­di­tion to BenQ mon­i­tors that fea­ture the com­pany’s Bright­ness In­tel­li­gence Plus tech­nol­ogy.

This de­tects am­bi­ent light and au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs the mon­i­tor’s bright­ness ac­cord­ingly, so help­ing to re­duce eye strain. It’s a fea­ture that works well, al­though you can turn it off if you wish.

Along­side the sen­sor is a USB-C port. The EX3501R also fea­tures two HDMI 2.0 ports, a Dis­play­Port 1.4, a USB 3.0 port for con­nect­ing to your PC to turn the EX3501R into a USB hub, and two USB 3.0 ports for con­nect­ing ad­di­tional pe­riph­er­als.

While any 35-inch screen and an ul­tra­w­ide as­pect ra­tio would do a good job of fill­ing your field of

view, the curved de­sign of the BenQ EX3501R fur­ther im­merses you in your me­dia. The cur­va­ture is 1800R, which means it’s quite pro­nounced – many other curved mon­i­tors and TVs have a cur­va­ture of 3000R, which is more sub­tle.

So 1800R makes for a more vi­sion-fill­ing dis­play, but some peo­ple may not like such a deep cur­va­ture, es­pe­cially when us­ing the mon­i­tor for non-me­dia ac­tiv­i­ties. With a cur­va­ture of 1800R, 1.8 me­tres is the max­i­mum rec­om­mended dis­tance for op­ti­mum view­ing, whereas for a 3000R dis­play it’s three me­tres. So, since you’re more likely to sit closer to your mon­i­tor than to your TV, it could be ar­gued that 1800R is a prefer­able cur­va­ture for a PC mon­i­tor sit­ting on your desk.

Per­for­mance

If you’re us­ing the BenQ EX3501R with Win­dows 10 you’re go­ing to have a pretty great ex­pe­ri­ence, since the op­er­at­ing sys­tem han­dles a range of res­o­lu­tions and as­pect ra­tios well, and the ad­di­tional desk­top space you have to work with means this mon­i­tor can have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Some of the ready-made pic­ture modes in­clude HDR, sRGB and Photo, while you can also cre­ate your own cus­tom look by tweak­ing bright­ness, con­trast and other set­tings. Of the pre­set pic­ture modes HDR and sRGB are the best, with Photo look­ing a bit too cold, thanks to a blue tint. The var­i­ous gam­ing modes look a bit dull.

Straight out of the box the mon­i­tor dis­plays the Win­dows 10 desk­top well, how­ever the de­fault set­tings are a lit­tle too bright, lead­ing to some im­ages look­ing washed out. Turn­ing on HDR mode pro­duces quite a pleas­ant re­sult straight away al­though, as the

“If you’re us­ing the BenQ EX3501R with Win­dows 10 you’re go­ing to have a pretty great ex­pe­ri­ence”

on-screen dis­play informs you, this is sim­ply an em­u­lated HDR ef­fect. Turn­ing on ‘true’ HDR is more com­pli­cated – first, you need to have the Win­dows 10 Fall Cre­ators Up­date in­stalled, then you need to switch on HDR in sys­tem set­tings. Un­for­tu­nately, the re­sult can look rather harsh and we achieved much more pleas­ing pic­ture qual­ity us­ing the Nvidia graph­ics set­tings app that comes with our in­stalled Ti­tan Xp graph­ics card.

Watch­ing HDR videos is also com­pli­cated. If you want to watch Net­flix in HDR you’ll need to use ei­ther Net­flix’s Win­dows 10 app, or its web­site via Mi­crosoft Edge, which is all a bit cum­ber­some.

All that is a world away from the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing HDR-en­abled games. Here, the games de­tect that the EX3501R is HDR-en­abled and en­able you to tog­gle on the HDR ef­fect. Com­bine this with the high re­fresh rate, FreeSync sup­port and an im­mer­sive as­pect ra­tio and the BenQ EX3501R is a far bet­ter gam­ing mon­i­tor than a ‘video en­joy­ment mon­i­tor’ – and it’s a bet­ter gam­ing mon­i­tor than many ded­i­cated gam­ing screens.

The re­sponse time of 4ms may be slightly too high if you need as lit­tle lag as pos­si­ble, but we didn’t no­tice any de­lays.

When HDR works, it works well, al­though the colour depth is 8-bit, which won’t pro­duce quite as pro­nounced re­sults as dis­plays ca­pa­ble of 10-bit HDR.

Sum­mary

The EX3501R is a great mon­i­tor, al­though BenQ is do­ing it a bit of a dis­ser­vice by not shout­ing about its gam­ing prow­ess – this is a bril­liant gam­ing mon­i­tor that de­liv­ers high res­o­lu­tions, im­mer­sive vi­su­als and smooth game­play, and the HDR in games is very good.

As a me­dia-play­ing mon­i­tor it cer­tainly has the chops, but we’d like to see bet­ter HDR sup­port in Win­dows 10, es­pe­cially in its video apps – when it does come, and it will, this mon­i­tor will be ready. An ex­cel­lent ul­tra­w­ide mon­i­tor that han­dles games well. It’s also great for watch­ing films on.

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