BenQ EX3501R Ultrawide HDR Monitor Review: How Big is Too Big?
With absolutely unbelievable performance, and a totally bonkers 35 inch screen, the only bad thing about the EX3501R is the price.
BenQ’s EX3501R is an insane, 21:9, 35-inch, curved ultrawide monitor. Sporting USB Type-C, HDR, 100Hz refresh rate, and a 3440 x 1440 pixel resolution, let’s see if it’s worth the $899 price tag.
Thanks to BenQ, we’ve got one of these stunning EX3501R monitors to giveaway! All you have to do is enter our contest at the end of this review.
Features and Specification
The EX3501R is something of a bigger brother to BenQ’s EX3203R. While there are many similarities between the two models, the EX3501R is far bigger, but can’t run at such a high refresh rate as the EX3203R.
Let’s dig into the specification:
- 3440 x 1440 pixel resolution
- 35 inch, 21:9 ultra-widescreen
- 2500:1 contrast ratio
- 4 milliseconds response time (GtG)
- 100 Hz refresh rate
- 1800R curvature
- HDR 10 support
It’s only an 8-bit panel, but it does cover 100% of sRGB. The VA panel is LED backlit and supports viewing angles of 178 degrees.
On the back, you’ll find an abundance of ports. These are:
- 2 x HDMI 2.0
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.4
- 1 x USB Type-C
- 2 x USB3 Type-A downstream ports
- 1 x DC input
- 1 x Headphone jack
This USB Type-C port supports 10W of power delivery. In real-world usage terms, this is enough to power a MacBook Pro or other laptop, but not enough to charge the battery. The included power brick is rather bulky, but it’s easy enough to hide away behind your desk.
Inside the box, you get several different cables: HDMI, mini DisplayPort to full-size DisplayPort, and a USB Type-C. To take full advantage of the (not quite) 4K resolution, along with HDR, ensure you use the included cables or your own high-quality HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.4 cables. This USB Type-C cable is only 1M long, so to use this monitor with anything other than a laptop position nearby, you’ll need to buy a longer cable. This is a minor frustration, as BenQ could easily have included a longer cable—the HDMI cable is 1.8M.
Two built-in speakers deliver average sound quality—nothing surprising there. This isn’t a TV, and you’re buying it for its image quality, so this shouldn’t be too disappointing.
The stand provides stable, but slim support for the roughly 22lbs monitor, and is finished in a two-tone silver color scheme. It provides roughly 2.5 inches of vertical movement and 25 degrees of tilt. It’s not possible to rotate this monitor 90 degrees. A giant hole at the back ensures there’s plenty of room to route cables neatly. If you’d rather wall mount, then the VESA compatible mounting holes won’t give you any trouble.
The bezels are ultra-thin, soured only by the slightly chunky bottom chin. In reality, this isn’t a problem unless you want to create a video wall by stacking monitors vertically. You’ll have no problems building a super curved triple monitor rig.
Supersize All the Things
The first thing you’ll notice about this monitor is that it’s huge! It’s bigger than a 27 inch iMac (which isn’t exactly “skinny”). It’s bigger than some televisions and is approaching crazy sizes. The 1800R curvature is the perfect amount of curve. Any larger and things would start to look distorted and weird.
Anything bigger than 35 inches and you’ll have to start turning your head to see each end properly. This is the perfect size for a monitor in our opinion.
Such as large monitor has massive benefits, but it does take some getting used to. Creative applications such as audio or video editing benefit from the extra horizontal space, but casual video watching may not always work out so nicely, especially in full-screen mode.
If you’re a serious multitasker, you can fit a video and a few web pages on the screen at the same time, but only certain videos can take advantage of such a wide display. Watching most YouTube videos, or any other content produced for a 16:9 aspect ratio (even our video review) won’t fill the screen. You’ll encounter serious “pillar boxes”—giant black lines to the left and right of the content.
The only way to get around these pillar boxes is to watch content produced in the same 21:9 ultrawide aspect ratio as this monitor. When you do, the results are spectacular. Most movies or “21:9 ultrawide” content work well, and this is where the monitor comes alive. By sitting close enough, you can get quite immersed in your content. content starts to fill your peripheral vision, and the curvature helps to push media that little bit closer to your eyeballs.
Be aware, however, that this isn’t a TV! You need to use this as a monitor on a desk to get the best results. Sit too far away, and you’ll start to get distracted by the giant curve.
The EX3501R once again includes BenQ’s proprietary eye care technologies. These range from basic low blue light modes for late night working sessions, to their excellent “brightness intelligence” mode.
This has several options to configure, but the basic premise is simple. A light sensor is hidden under the logo at the front bottom of the monitor senses ambient lighting. The display then adjusts the brightness and white balance to reduce the strain on your eyes.
Having used this monitor for several weeks now, I can confidently say that this auto dimming works wonders. You can easily work in a darkened room, or work for long periods of time (with varying daylight changes), and never need to worry about the brightness. This monitor handles it all for you, regularly adjusting to suit the available light.
You do lose some color accuracy and contrast with this setting, but that’s a worthwhile tradeoff and is irrelevant if you’re performing basic web browsing or office work. Anything which doesn’t require accurate colors benefits from this eye care technology.
That said, these tips to reduce computer eye strain can also have a similar impact.
Totally Immersive Image Quality
While an IPS panel produces better colors and viewing angles, this VA panel is no slouch. Colors look bright and vivid, and a variety of manual adjustment or preset modes cater to a variety of different uses.
Support for AMD’s Freesync is something we’ve come to expect from many of BenQ’s monitors, so you’ll be very happy as a gamer. The maximum refresh rate of 100Hz is enough to make some games “pop”, but is still lagging behind many other competing displays.
If you’re buying this monitor for console gaming with the likes of the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, then you’ll have no problems with this refresh rate. If you’ve got a hefty gaming rig, and like to push the pixels at refresh rates greater than 100Hz, then you may be disappointed. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly lagging behind, with the competition (even from BenQ’s other models) pushing into 144, 200, and 244 Hz refresh rates!
Refresh rate aside, this is a great monitor. Capable of reproducing fantastic colors, there’s a lot to love. 4K content almost leaps out of the screen, and the contrast ratio can handle a variety of different applications. From gaming to media consumption, there’s a reason this is sold as a “video enjoyment monitor”.
If you’re a photo or video editor, then this display may not be quite what you’re after. While colors look great, it’s really a consumer level product, and it may not be up to the requirements of a professional workflow. While the huge widescreen format is wonderful for video editing, you may be limited by the colors. There are no Rec. 709 or DCI-P3 coverage figures, and it’s not calibrated for color straight out the box. There have also been reports of slight color-casts between different production runs of the same monitor.
None of this matters from a consumer standpoint, but you may wish to consider the EW3270U for any serious creative use.
One Monitor to Rule Them All
This huge display is excellent for gaming, home computer use, or media consumption. Widescreen movies look stunning, and the huge array of ports caters to nearly everyone’s needs. This huge display lends itself well to content creation, especially audio or video editing apps which use a horizontal timeline. Almost anything can benefit from the increased horizontal room.
The only consideration with this monitor is if it’s right for you and if you have room on your desk for it. If not, BenQ’s various other monitors have your back. From 28 inch to 32 and beyond. Normal monitors, flat monitors, 4k monitors, or this magnificent ultrawide curved creation. The EX3501R is another heavy hitter in BenQ’s ever-growing display arsenal.
Thanks to our good friends at BenQ, we’ve got an EX3501R to giveaway! All you have to do to win is enter our free giveaway contest below.