An ultra-wide monitor with impressive performance – figuring out if it’s worth the money?
Most monitors are either made for gaming and boast high refresh rates and low response times, or made for work and movies, so they support wide color gamut and high resolutions. The widescreen LG UltraGear 38GN950 is somewhere between two extremes – it supports 10-bit color, almost completely covers DCI-P3, and only 560 horizontal lines separate it from UltraHD 4K. At the same time, it can be overclocked to 160 Hz, the response time is only 1 ms (GtG), it supports G-Sync and FreeSync, and on the back cover it has a circle of programmable RGB diodes. So is the LG UltraGear 38GN950 made for gaming or for work?
|High resolution and fast refresh rates – 3840 x 1600 at 144Hz default and 160Hz factory overclocked||Maximum brightness is much lower than promised by the manufacturer|
|10-bit color||Local dimming is almost imperceptible|
|Decent default color accuracy and amazing after calibration||HDR blacks are unimpressive|
|Wide color space support – 98% DCI-P3||Color accuracy without calibration is good, but not suitable for professional work|
|Games look very epic in 21: 9 cinematic aspect ratio|
|G-Sync and FreeSync support|
|Excellent RGB lighting|
Includes: VESA mount, power supply, DisplayPort cable, HDMI cable, and USB cable for lighting control and USB hub.
|Permission||3840 x 1600|
|Pixel density||110 PPI|
|Update frequency||48-144Hz 160Hz (Accelerated)|
|Color gamut||DCI-P3 98%|
|Color depth||10 bit (8 bit + FRC)|
|Matrix type||Nano IPS|
|Response time||1 мс (GtG)|
|Backlight type||Light-emitting Q-LED|
|HDR||VESA Display HDR 600|
|Ports||2x HDMI 2.0 1x DisplayPort v1.4 1x USB 3.0 in 2x USB 3.0 out Headphone out|
|Adaptive sync||G-Sync, FreeSync 2|
|Backlight||RGB, spherical at the back|
|The weight||9.2 kg (with stand) 7 kg (without stand)|
|Dimensions (edit)||899x394x12 mm|
This is the first widescreen monitor that was brought to our editorial office for testing, so we were intrigued by its potential pros and cons. Ideally, movies should fill the entire screen, and games should run at any resolution, even unusual ones. In practice, it turned out a little differently.
Almost all modern games automatically support wide format. The engine picks up the available resolutions from DirectX or a video card driver and renders the required number of pixels. Almost all games work in Hor +, i.e. relative to standard 16: 9 monitors, they add new information to the left and right, expanding the player’s field of view. However, further nuances begin, which are best shown in the screenshots.
A true movie lover, Hideo Kojima insisted that in the PC version of Death Stranding, all the screensavers should be reprogrammed to fit wide screens.
Forza Horizon 4 supports widescreen monitors during the game and in the menu, but splash screens, even on the engine, even widescreen ones, are obtained with additional “mess” on the left and right, surrounding the image with a black frame.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is an interesting case. The gameplay works great in any resolution, but any screensaver, even a camera shift when choosing a galaxy map, caused a sharp appearance of side frames. This can be corrected with programs such as Flawless Widescreen, which remove frames from splash screens. While these screensavers did a 16: 9 aspect ratio, the extra horizontal space adds context and cinematic quality to the frames.
Most games run without problems on modern engines. The wide format sometimes even helps to correct not the most successful framing in dialogs on the engine.
Control has changed the most . In every game, Remedy tries to convey the atmosphere of films, comics or TV series. The upgrade from TV 16: 9 to Cinema 21: 9 changes the feel of the game – it now looks not like a TV series, but like a mid-budget experimental film (or TV series on Amazon). The immersion effect is completely different: the person’s peripheral vision is directed left and right, rather than up and down, so widescreen and games with Hor + scaling have a completely new experience.
Unfortunately, this does not work everywhere, and older games may require additional software or not work at all in wide resolutions, so the 38GN950 does not provide a universal experience. But when widescreen games work, it’s worth it!
And a widescreen monitor is great for watching movies – the 21: 9 format appeared there much earlier. However, here it is not without problems. For example, everything is perfect on Netflix. Blu-Ray is more difficult, because they are made for 16: 9 – in such cases, you will have to find a button for scaling to a wide format in the player. YouTube might have the same problem, but Chrome and Microsoft Edge have extensions like Ultrawidify that parse videos and remove black bars automatically.
However, if you have overcome the technical adversity, then a truly interesting experience awaits you. It is not for nothing that in cinemas, large screens are made concave – watching a movie is so much easier and more enjoyable. On the LG UltraGear 38GN950, the edges of the picture are at the same distance as the center, and there are almost no black bars at the top and bottom, as well as on the right and left.
The LG UltraGear 38GN950 is very wide for a desktop screen – a whopping 90 centimeters. If you use a TV of a similar size instead of a monitor, then color and brightness will be distorted around the edges, especially considering that many models use TN panels. The UltraGear 38GN950 compensates for this with an IPS panel with wider viewing angles and screen curvature. If curved TVs appeared and disappeared within just a few years, then for desktop monitors this is not such a bad idea – at least, before the mainstream of OLED, MicroLED or other emitting screen technology, where color and brightness distortion will be absent.
LG claims 750 nits maximum brightness and VESA DisplayHDR 600 compliance. This is certainly worse than the best HDR TVs, but very convincing performance for a monitor.
Unfortunately, the maximum brightness we could measure from an uncalibrated image was 518 nits. This is much lower than the stated 750 nits, but still a good result. The contrast was also a little upset – in none of the picture modes it exceeded 878: 1 both at maximum and at lower brightness settings, while according to rec.709 standards SDR screens are supposed to have a contrast of 1000: 1.
However, the calibration put everything in its place – the contrast rose to 1311: 1 when calibrated to 160 nits. But the accuracy of color reproduction is much more important – if before calibration with standard settings the color difference was about deltaE = 4, which is not bad, but not suitable for professional work with color, then after calibration the values fell below 1. Results less than 2 are considered excellent, because human vision cannot tell the difference, but deltaE => 1 is a fantastic result that only the very best professional screens can boast.
Please note that each screen is slightly different from each other and what works on our sample may not necessarily give the most accurate picture on yours.
- Brightness: 18
- Contrast: 70 (other values result in either a decrease in contrast, or loss of detail in dark and light areas)
- Clarity: 50
- Gamma: Mode 2
- Color temperature: red 49, green 50, blue 51
LG UltraGear 38GN950 boasts a very wide color gamut – 98% of the DCI-P3 color space, in which HDR games and movies are now made. It is 25% wider than the standard sRGB color space for computers. 98% DCI-P3 is a good result even for professional reference displays for thousands of dollars, not to mention a monitor in the consumer segment.
Another important feature of this monitor is the 10-bit color depth. Screens create color tints by mixing red, green, and blue (RGB) subpixels at different intensities. Conventional monitors work with 8-bit color, which gives 256 (28 = 256) possible shades of red, green and blue subpixels, for a total of 256 * 256 * 256 = 16.8 million possible shades. 10 bits is a completely different story, because they give 210 = 1024 shades of each primary color and 1 billion possible shades of the final image. This gives much smoother color transitions, which is very important for professional work and can be noticeable in games and films, diverting your attention from the work itself to technical flaws.
However, there are two small pitfalls. The LG UltraGear 38GN950 can run at 10-bit at full resolution, but only at 120Hz or lower. Certainly not a catastrophe. 120 Hz on the road is also not lying around, especially for work. Another catch: the 38GN950 does not support pure 10 bits, but uses an 8-bit screen matrix and FRC (frame rate control) to create additional colors. Basically, the monitor flickers in different colors quickly so that the human eye can see the new blended color. This is not ideal, but choosing between 8 bits and 10 bits with FRC, 10 bits is still better.
From the LG website, you can download two 38GN950 control applications at once – UltraGear Control Center and OnScreen Control. The first controls the backlight and requires the monitor to be connected to the computer via the included USB 3.0 cable. The app allows you to customize color presets that are stored in the monitor itself, or use smart effects like contextual lighting (like Philips Ambilight) when the backlight simulates the image on the screen. The effect is interesting, but requires the Control Center to be constantly running, and the effect itself has a noticeable delay. For movies and leisurely games – beautiful, for quick games or work – more distracting than involving in the process. But the backlight is bright enough to help relieve the eye during work or long gaming sessions in the dark.
Another application, OnScreen Control, allows you to control many, but not all, of the monitor’s image quality settings directly from the operating system. Interestingly, it does not require a USB connection, the monitor is controlled via DisplayPort. It is very convenient for calibration, because you do not have to worry about the menu of the display itself. However, in the case of the menu, LG was also pleased – the 38GN950 is controlled by a small joystick, and the menus themselves are simple, understandable and well grouped. Between the setup application and the convenient menu with the LG UltraGear 38GN950 joystick, there is still a lack of an application for smartphones, but, frankly, everything is very convenient here.
The LG UltraGear 38GN950 supports HDR and is VESA DisplayHDR 600 certified. This means it can display bright parts of an image at 600 nits (cd / m2) brightness. As we already found out, the real brightness of this monitor is slightly lower, but otherwise the monitor copes with HDR. When it enters HDR mode, the display changes from a standard D65 (6500K, midday sun) white point to a DCI-P3 white point (approximately 6300K). This makes the image slightly warmer, but this is the correct behavior for displaying games and movies in HDR.
Unfortunately, in HDR mode, the 38GN950 is completely non-configurable. Only the backlight brightness and sharpness slider works. No big deal, this monitor is still not designed for professional HDR video work. However, we never noticed the effect of the local backlight dimming. In HDR, the image looks definitely bright, but shadows suffer. And with the settings ON and Auto, local dimming did not produce the desired effect. There may be other similar settings hidden in the monitor, but at the time of writing, we still haven’t been able to get pure blacks in HDR.
Of course, the question of price remains: a little over 100 thousand is more than an impressive amount. But we have already written more than once that a good display can easily survive several PC assemblies, and in itself such an “upgrade” improves the experience of games and content no less. The LG UltraGear 38GN950 simply has a huge screen with a cinematic aspect ratio for an extra immersive experience. The high hertz of the screen is suitable for dynamic shooters, and the color rendition is so good that you can seriously tackle the content. The only thing that is a little upsetting is the work of local shading and the fact that during our measurements the brightness turned out to be lower than the declared one – but even at these indicators it is enough to reproduce HDR content.