LG UltraWide 34UC97 review
LG has been at the forefront when it comes to ultra-wide PC monitors, and it’s easy to see why the company has attracted a fair amount of attention. This screen’s 3,440 x 1,440 resolution means it’s a tempting option for work or gaming, and the firm’s latest panel ups the ante by adding a curve.
It’s a subtle change to existing ultra-wide panels, but the gentle arc of the screen is noticeable. It makes it easier to see items at either end of the wide screen, which can enhance work and play – we didn’t have to squint or move our head to see documents or browser windows when working, or small HUD items during games.
The 34-inch diagonal and 3,440 x 1,440 resolution returns a density level of 110ppi. That’s lower than the 163ppi and 145ppi you’ll find on 27-inch and 30-inch 4K panels, and it’s a double-edged sword – you won’t get the sharpness and detail of a 4K screen but, conversely, you won’t struggle to make out desktop features.
The LG compares well with lesser resolutions, too. Monitors with a 1080p resolution and 22-inch or 24-inch 1080p diagonals have density levels of 100ppi and 92ppi respectively, so switching to the 34UC97 increases sharpness and eliminates bezels.
It trades blows with its key rival. The Samsung SD590CS is a cheaper curved panel than the LG, but its 27-inch diagonal is smaller and its 1,920 x 1,080 resolution is far less impressive.
LG’s screen looks the part. Its narrow, angled chrome-effect stand is smart and sturdy, and the screen is surrounded by a thin, dark bezel. The screen has an anti-glare layer, and there are no buttons on the front to disturb the 34UC97’s clean lines.
Its sheer size does mean that it’s not too easy to build, with numerous screws needed to secure the stand in place. It’s got limited adjustment – 20 degrees of tilt, but that’s it, with no height or side-to-side angle changes possible. All the ports face downwards, which makes access tricky, and they can be covered with a plastic shroud, which makes access harder but improves neatness.
It’s not exactly lightweight, either, at 18 pounds (8.2kg) – more than 5 pounds (2kg) weightier than the Samsung. The screws, ports and weight make the LG awkward to put together, but that’s not a huge problem – after all, most users only go through the setup procedure once.
The curve isn’t the only bit of sensible design. The LG’s 21:9 aspect ratio matches films, so there’s no need for irritating black bars above and below the image. The rear serves up a versatile port selection: two Thunderbolt ports promise to play nicely with Apple hardware, and there are two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort connector. It’s got a pair of USB ports, an audio jack, and two 7W speakers.
On the inside it shares the same panel as LG’s non-curved 34UM95. It’s an IPS screen with a W-LED backlight, which means that this screen should have great viewing angles and top-notch colour accuracy.
A deeper dive into the specs reveals LG’s professional aspirations. It’s a 10-bit panel designed to display 99% of the sRGB colour gamut, and in our tests it’s not far off, displaying 97.2% of the gamut with aplomb. It even comes with a sheet detailing LG’s factory calibration, so you’re able to see the subtle differences between review samples and the monitor you’ve bought yourself.
LG doesn’t have any buttons on the front of this screen – instead, its menu is controlled with a small joystick that sits in the middle of the underside. It’s an unusual bit of kit: tapping the stick opens the menu, and moving it in four directions navigates the various options.
It’s initially confusing, but soon becomes second-nature, and it’s helped by the menu itself – the interface is large, taking up the entire right-hand side of the screen, and is sensibly laid out. The Samsung SD590CS has a sharper menu with more options, but the LG isn’t far behind.
We tested the LG with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter, and the 34UC97 got off to a good start at factory settings. The measured brightness level of 232cd/m2 is ample, and it’s bolstered by a black level of 0.21cd/m2 – another good result. Those figures combine for a contrast ratio of 1,104:1, which is good enough to ensure deep blacks, bright whites, and a wide gamut of different shades in between. Viewing angles are great, too – there’s no distortion even when gazing at far-flung corners of the screen, or looking from odd angles.
Colours are reasonably accurate as well. We measured the factory Delta E at 2.67, which is decent – anything below 2 is stonking, but that’s usually the preserve of more expensive professional panels.
LG augments its screen with several modes designed for different scenarios. They’re a mixed bag: we’d use the Cinema and Photo modes for day-to-day work, as they both improve the colour accuracy and temperature without compromising contrast. The Reader mode tones down the brightness and colour accuracy, though, and Gaming mode isn’t much better. The warm, medium and cool colour temperature options aren’t much cop, either – they warp the screen to such a degree that we can’t see them being useful in many scenarios.
We got our best results by manually calibrating the panel with our Colorimeter. The Delta E improved to 1.02, and the colour temperature sat at a revised 6,569K – close to the 6,500K ideal figure. We achieved this level of performance by taking the screen’s default green setting down five notches and raising the brightness by three notches.
The LG delivered accurate colours and good contrast across most of our tests, but the 34UC97 couldn’t maintain good uniformity – an issue that’s particularly prominent on widescreen panels. The LG’s top edge lost an average of 9.6% of its brightness when compared to the middle of the screen, and the bottom edge lost 10.8%. That’s not a great result, and you may notice a lack of depth in the corners during darker scenes in movies or games.
We used a Leo Bodnar testing device to measure the LG’s input lag. It’s not a gaming screen, but the 34UC97’s input lag sat at 16.6ms. That’s excellent, and will only be beaten by dedicated gaming panels. It means the LG is good enough for gaming – only pro players will have the reflexes to notice any input lag.
Our final tests evaluated the LG’s audio kit. Its speakers have enough volume to fill an office or bedroom, and there’s a surprising amount of bass. The dominant deep notes overshadow the mid-range, though, and affect the top-end just as badly.
LG includes its MaxxAudio software to improve treble response, and it does make things better – but we’d still rather use external speakers.
The LG’s capacious size and high resolution nail the balance between sharpness and screen space, with a density level that beats 1080p screens without resorting to the squinting needed on some larger 4K panels.
The curved design works well, too, gently arcing the corners towards the user. Whether it’s for gaming or work, that’s a boon.
It’s a high quality unit overall. Colour accuracy is consistently good, and brightness and contrast are similarly decent – to get anything better you’ll have to spend more on pro-level panels.
The LG’s size may make work and play better, but it means other screens are more versatile. The LG is heavy and takes a bit of effort to build, and there’s limited scope for adjusting the panel’s height and angle.
Some of its screen modes aren’t much cop, either, and uniformity is a little lacking – no surprise across such a large screen.
And finally, there’s the price. This screen may be curved and a good quality display, but priced at £730 (or $1,086 in the US, which is around AU$1,4200), it’s a lot to pay to replace a more conventional panel or two.
The LG’s curved design, high resolution and huge diagonal make it a high quality replacement for single 4K panels or a pair of 1080p screens, and the form factor means it’s tempting for work, games and movies. Screen and build quality are both high, too, although the high price could be a stumbling block for many. Think hard before deciding that this screen is a better option than more conventional alternatives.