We’ve been able to regularly enjoy all the benefits that OLED panels have to offer in living-room televisions for a few years now. But it’s only recently that OLED has meandered down the hall to the gaming den, and the growing world of panel types for gaming monitors. Led by initial offerings like the Alienware 55 OLED and LG’s CX/CG/C1 line of OLED gaming monitor/TV hybrids, the new $1,299.99 Alienware 34 QD-OLED (QD’s short for “Quantum Dot,” more about which later) comes in a curved, ultrawide format that’s both highly immersive, and highly productive in the right hands.
Whether you’re tracking multiple windows while taking a Zoom call at the same time, or just relaxing with a game of Elden Ring after all that work, the Alienware 34 is a great entry point into the world of OLED desktop monitors, even if its brightness levels and sporadic picture quality periodically reveal the magic trick behind its price point. With a bit of tuning and time out of the box, the Alienware 34 QD-OLED eventually became one of the best monitors we’ve tested this year, and while QD-OLED may not be the “one monitor tech to rule them all” just yet, Alienware’s first attempt in the space certainly earns its Editors’ Choice slot.
The Design: Alienware Meets…Apple?
Alienware has grown one thing by leaps and bounds over the past few years: its monitor design. In a category where companies trying things like the fabric-lined backing of the Razer Raptor 27 are the exception, it’s good to see Alienware take an alternative approach to the tired “black plastic shell, RGB lighting, and vents” cabinets we’ve seen on many dozens of gaming monitors by this point.
Alienware instead has both standardized its distinctive color scheme—primarily Apple-white paneling with blue accents and lighting—and its overall stand design. Encasing a 34-inch curved panel (rated for an 1800R curvature) running at 3,440 by 1,440 pixels, the Alienware 34’s cabinet features a design straight out of the company’s more recent playbook. Think an unidentified alien craft with an almost wholly white plastic shell, save for a few black strips and customizable LED arrays strewn around the monitor’s underside. It’s the same styling we’ve seen in previous Editors’ Choice picks like the Alienware 27 (AW2721D), but further refined with even more tightly machined seams.
To the eye, it actually looks as though the entire panel backing is a single piece, something that no ultrawide monitor out there can claim yet, not even the current winner in the design space—in this reviewer’s opinion, anyway—the Samsung Odyssey G9. Again, we can’t help but reference Apple here, with respect to Alienware’s recent cadence of refinement. If you’ve seen one Asus gaming monitor in recent years you’ve seen most all of them. But Alienware is clearly putting intention and thought into how it can disrupt the gaming-model design rut most other manufacturers have fallen into.
Speaking of build quality, the stand is just as sturdy and reliably ergonomic as previous models in this line, like the Alienware 27. I noticed effectively zero monitor shake while typing (and I’m a pounding typer). Plus, adjusting the monitor to my preferred position was both easy and quiet; more of the attention to machining at work, here.
The lighting isn’t locked to the default blue hue, however. Alienware continues to be one of the most customizable brands when it comes to lighting, with dozens of RGB patterns and combos available to configure via the OSD or via the Alienware Command Center software suite.
Every element, from the design to the build quality of the Alienware 34 QD-OLED, is a step above most of what else is out there in the ultrawide-display market. Now, to be sure, some of this comes down to the flexibility, no pun intended, offered by OLED technology. The panels are thinner and lighter, and they can run significantly cooler than competing panel tech in the gaming-monitor market, such as IPS, TN, or VA, all of which at various times in past years have been at the core of previous Editors’ Choice-winning gaming monitors.
Weighed just as the panel, before you mount it to the stand, the Alienware 34 is easily the lightest curved ultrawide gaming monitor near its size that we’ve tested, at just 15.6 pounds, which makes it a solid pick for anyone who prefers to use external VESA mounts. Placed on the stand, things get a lot heavier and sturdier, though, up to 35 pounds.
You’ll find ports all along the underside rear of the unit. These include two HDMI 2.0 inputs, one DisplayPort 1.4b input, and a hub of USB ports. The USB mix: You get two USB 3.2 Gen 1 downstream ports on the front, and two USB 3.2 Gen 1 downstreams on the back, next to another USB 3.2 Gen 1 upstream. There’s also a line-out audio port, as well as a 3.5mm jack for headphones or powered external speakers—this monitor has no built-in speakers.
If Alienware’s 34 QD-OLED can deliver on performance, it solves many problems of previous ultrawides at this spec tier, while also setting a new bar for build quality and branding in the process. So, how does the monitor hold up once you stop gawking at the paint job and actually turn it on?
Testing the Alienware 34: QD-OLED’s Peaks and Valleys
The display is built on a new “Quantum Dot OLED” panel (QD-OLED) with a native refresh rate of 144Hz, which can be overclocked to 175Hz if you’re okay kicking the color. It features support for VESA DisplayHDR 1000, as well as HDR 400 True Black. (Head over here to get a grip on what that all means.) The monitor also comes with support for Nvidia’s top grade of G-Sync adaptive sync technology, G-Sync Ultimate, to prevent screen tearing when used with compatible GPUs.
The Alienware 34 is built around Samsung’s new QD-OLED panel tech, which you can read about in greater depth here. In so many words, QD-OLED hopes to shore up two of the biggest problems we had with the OLED-backed Alienware 55 when it first landed in PC Labs in 2019: low peak brightness, and outsize cost. Since then, the field of OLED monitors got a lot more competitive from 2020 to present, with LG’s G-Sync-compatible “C” line of gaming-monitor/TV hybrids. These OLEDs have gripped the hive mind of monitor reviewers around the world as “the best of the best right now.”
That brings us to the start of 2022 and this new set of QD-OLED panels from Samsung, which aim to challenge LG’s current dominance of this niche.
And while we haven’t been able to get a C-model LG OLED in for ourselves to test against, we do have the previous Alienware 55 OLED as a launching point of comparison, which is all but confirmed to have used the same LG panel inside.
We tested the Alienware 34 QD-OLED using a Klein K10-A colorimeter, and Portrait Displays’ CalMAN 5 software. Here is what we saw…
In the Standard picture mode with an SDR signal, the Alienware 34 showed a peak brightness of 299.5 nits (candelas per square meter) and a black level of 0 nits, of course; that’s the nature of OLED. OLED is preferred for its “true blacks,” wherein the pixel actually shuts off entirely, creating a zero-light zone and greater picture contrast versus IPS, VA, or TN panels. These numbers changed significantly depending just on the display preset we were set to—we measured as low as 85.4 nits in the preset “Game Mode 1″—and as we also realized in media testing, the presets are actually a hindrance to the experience (more on that in the next section).
In the HDR picture mode, with an HDR signal pushed via DisplayPort 1.4b at full RGB, and 10-bit color enabled in both HDR True Black 400 and HDR Peak 1000 mode testing, the Alienware 34 posted a maximum brightness reading of 677.8 nits and, again, a black level of 0 nits. We recorded this result in an 18% window at the center of the monitor, and things steadily got dimmer as we both expanded the size of the window, and recorded different results from various areas of the panel. For example, that result of 677.8 nits pulled from the middle of the screen dropped to the mid-400s when we went to 100% window size, and got even worse (sub-300s) when we started taking recordings at the corners. These aren’t the best results when compared against the 1,000-nit peak brightness rating on the box, admittedly. However, they technically still represent a leap forward, given the top result of just 285 nits we saw while trying to max out the Alienware 55 OLED.
Moving along to the color results, the Alienware 34 covered 156% of the sRGB gamut and also hit some high marks in DCI-P3 at 96.4% coverage, making it a strong pick for gamers and content-lovers alike, though that much was hopefully already obvious from the “OLED” in the title.
The AdobeRGB gamut returns were also surprisingly high at 97.7% coverage, which is way above the threshold that most gaming panels hit. This, along with its bang-on Delta E result of 2.0 in our Color Checker test, should give any professional content creators another model to consider. Given that Delta E reading, we can imagine that the monitor could reach even better levels of color accuracy with more tuning via the six-way saturation configuration options available both in the OSD and Alienware Command Center.
We didn’t have the time to dig in this deep ourselves, and more control, in most cases, is usually a good thing. Usually.
Media and Gaming Performance
Now, on to the media and gaming benchmarks. In HDR, our 4K Costa Rica test footage (output at 1440p to match the monitor’s native resolution) was very good, but it still took some tuning to get right. First I had to stop the Alienware from imposing one of its “gaming presets” on top of the HDR image, a perplexing configuration option to be sure. Generally HDR is supposed to take full control of the OSD color settings away from the user, given that HDR metadata will be telling the monitor what kind of color scheme it should display, in reductive terms.
By allowing gamers to swap among various presets while HDR is active, they could accidentally make the HDR image look worse in ways that they may not understand upfront. Because I deal with gaming monitors all day, though, it wasn’t long before I got the HDR image looking accurate by applying the “Custom Color” preset at the bottom of the menu, and maxing out all three values inside (R,G,B) manually.
I recommend you do the same on purchase. This step isn’t explained in the owner’s manual I was provided in the press kit, and if it was momentarily confusing for me, it could end up becoming a major headache for Alienware’s customer support staff after release.
Once the Alienware 34 was configured correctly and the HDR test footage was rolling, I was impressed with the overall “richness” of the image, something OLEDs are already well known for. However, its vividness certainly could have been better, and in certain scenes even HDR 400-rated Fast IPS models like the Gigabyte Aorus FI32Q produced a brighter and “punchier” image, if you will.
I wasn’t outright disappointed by the Alienware 34’s performance in video, but I wasn’t as bowled over as I was hoping for, either. The $1,299 price shows in the panel limits here.
With the video testing out of the way, it was onto what this thing was “really” made for anyway, if you ask the largest segment of people lining up to buy it—games. To start off, our standard run of the Final Fantasy XV Windows benchmark looked great in SDR, and the Alienware 34 even managed to pull off great results with Auto HDR thrown into the mix for fun.
Next up, I booted a few more titles that support either Auto HDR or native HDR: Elden Ring, Forza Horizon 5, and Lost Ark. Each of these games had its own subtle tweaks needed to get the picture right, whether it was increasing the saturation levels in Elden Ring or checking the peak white points in Forza. Once I got them tuned and working on a per-game basis, though, the effect was certainly a nice one. HDR, again, added a considerable amount of overall richness and depth to the color palette onscreen.
As for traditional input lag (the amount of time between when a monitor receives a signal and the screen updates), we test that with an HDFury 4K Diva HDMI matrix. With a 60Hz test signal, the Alienware 34 showed an input-lag measure of 3.3 milliseconds (ms). This is higher than many displays in the Fast IPS category, but still very impressive for anything with the OLED acronym somewhere in its model name. For comparison’s sake, the Alienware 55 OLED scored 29.3ms in the same test. Just a near-10x improvement in a little over a year…nothing major!
During my multiplayer games testing in Overwatch and Valorant, I found it easy and fast to line up my sniper shots with G-Sync Ultimate on board. Screen-tearing was almost non-existent, and the 175Hz overclocked refresh rate was enough to let me keep up with the rest of my team. Note, though: Because DisplayPort 1.4b maxes out at 144Hz/10-bit color, we did have to kick things down to 8-bit in order to enjoy that 175Hz overclock.
However, it should be said that in general, if you’re playing a game where a 30Hz difference in refresh rate could actually change the leaderboard in your favor, the last thing on your mind is how much your enemy’s blood color “pops” off the screen, right? In gaming performance and performance alone, I was very impressed with the Alienware 34, and even forgetting all about the QD-OLED, I’d be happy to call this my daily driver in any of the most competitive multiplayer titles on shelves right now.
OLED: But What About Burn-In?
We know you were thinking it, and no, we didn’t forget about burn-in. (Neither did our old TVs! Ha cha cha.) For those of you wondering “what took so long” for OLED to make its move from TVs to monitors, it could be argued the main reason we haven’t seen the same rate of rapid adoption for OLED on either laptops or PCs as on televisions, is because of the big bad B-word.
Image burn-in, sometimes called “image retention” if you’re a panel maker trying to make it sound better, first hit the public ear back when flat-screen plasma televisions originally took off. People would find that images they left on a television for extended periods of time—for example, a 24-hour news channel with a static chyron or logo playing at a doctor’s office all day—would leave onscreen “imprints,” if you will, of the image after the channel had been changed, or even after the TV was switched off.
This can happen for a host of reasons that change depending on the panel tech you’re talking about. In the case of OLED, it’s down to the way the pixels are charged to display their colors. We won’t bog down this already long review with any further technical details (this primer will handle the heavy lifting there), but just know that Alienware thought of that before launching the 34.
Each time you turn off the display, just before the panel powers off it will run through what Alienware calls its “pixel refresh protocol.” In it, various charges are run through the panel to “unstick” (note: we are really simplifying things there) any potentially problematic pixels. Because this happens every time the monitor powers down, Alienware says it’s confident that users shouldn’t see issues with, say, icons on their desktop or their Start Menu buttons burning into the 34’s panel.
Burn-in takes a long time, so even though we had the display for a week, it would be silly and presumptuous to outright claim, “No, it’s not a problem with QD-OLED!” What we can say is that no, we didn’t notice any burnt-in images during our seven-day advance time with the unit. So far, so good!
Alienware Takes Us to The Lead…er
While display technologies like OLED are, and have been for quite some time, the outright dominant panel pick for color and quality in televisions, the story of OLED-backed PC monitors is one of frustrating fits and starts.
For example, it would likely be difficult to name an OLED television that actually looks worse than any other TV panel tech out there. But in monitors, a few Fast IPS-backed options could still give the QD-OLED-based Alienware 34 competition under the right conditions.
Even the VA-based Asus ROG Swift PG35VQ, which we’ve saved mentioning until now given its age and likely replacement in the stack soon, gives the Alienware 34 a run for its money in the ultrawide/curved/HDR gaming-panel market with higher brightness levels, similar color results, and current availability. The going street price of $1,775, off of an MSRP of $2,499, mostly keeps it out of this conversation for now. But if we see that price drop to the $1,500-ish range, the Alienware 34 needs to keep its eyes glued to the rear-view mirror.
A major reason to go with the Alienware 34 over that model, though, is the same as for many OLEDs: The panel runs cool as heck by comparison, and it is about half the poundage, to boot. QD-OLED panels are, like OLEDs, both thinner and lighter than anything else out there, making them the ideal choice for anyone who can’t put up with the heat output that VA-backed ultrawides are known for.
When we first saw the price of the Alienware 34, our first thought was: “What’s the catch?” Now, after having used it for a week myself, I can see while there are some, they don’t ruin the experience to the point where it’s still not worth the price of entry. Samsung’s new QD-OLED panel tech provides a decent balance between the outright eye-watering beauty of standard OLED televisions and the gaming responsiveness we’ve come to expect out of the gaming-monitor segment in 2022, meeting somewhere in the middle of both.
It may not be the outright revolution in gaming-monitor panels we were expecting at its announcement, but in more ways than one, the Alienware 34 is an evolutionary step in the right direction, and we’re excited to see where QD-OLED allows the category to unfold from here.