The screen of my Steam Deck reminded me how old my Gaming PC monitor was. I’ve upgraded so much of my system, except my old monitor. After a ton of comparison shopping, I pulled the trigger on the Alienware 34 Inch OLED AW3423DW. The upgrade is impressive, maybe not $1400 impressive, but I definitely won’t return this thing.
My Old Omen X 35 Served me Well
Somewhere around 5 or 6 years ago, I bought a heavily discounted Omen X 35. It was my first curved ultrawide monitor and I was very impressed. The sheer size and immersion was ridiculous to the point I actually giggled a little bit at the sight of it in game.
Fast forward to months ago and I noticed how faded the colors appear compared to the OLED TVs in ever electronics store now. I knew my next monitor requirements must include full HDR support after seeing those deep colors on those TVs.
I also noticed the ghosting that’s always plagued LCD monitors. In AC Valhalla, I’d see a black outline on Eivor when moving fast that would take a fraction of second to catchup before hiding behind the character. Things like that could be driver issues, but setting the response times faster or slower on the monitor showed I could make it better and worse.
After upgrading to the AMD Ryzen 5800x for CPU, the Nvidia RTX 3090 for GPU, my case to beQuiet DX 500, Memory and fans, it was past time to upgrade my monitor. The final straw was Plague Tale Requiem was days away from release. I decided the blocky blacks were no longer acceptable and I need to see all those shades of dark.
Choosing the Alienware 34 Ultrawide AW3423DW Monitor
Like so many upgrades before, I spent hours researching and comparing monitors. Many reviews labeled the Alienware AW3423DW as the best ultrawide gaming monitor right now. It checked all the boxes I wanted.
It is a 1440p ultrawide with proper HDR and very fast pixel response time. That’s all great, but it’s also super expensive. Inflation and supply chain issues don’t help, but this is also the first Quantum Dot OLED ultrawide gaming monitor. That mouthful means early adopter price pain to the tune of $1400 during my search.
That price pain drove me to see if there were decent alternatives. I actually flirted with the idea of the Samsung G9 for it’s ridiculous size.
Coming to my Final Alienware 34 Inch OLED Decision
Like most of those “best for gaming right now” products, I kept going back to the Alienware OLED, despite that price. It checked too many boxes to ignore. The 34 inch length is what I’m used to. Contrast ration for that color pop is ridiculous. I think my old monitor ration was 2500 to 1, while the Alienware OLED is 1 MILLION to 1!
That crazy difference is paired with HDR 400 Pure Black with an option for HDR 1000. I had no idea what any of those numbers mean back then (it’s nits for how bright white is), but the Pure Black market language hit for me.
The Response Time issue I wanted to also solve was another huge upgrade. My old Omen monitor could eek out 4ms response times while most modern monitors are at 1ms. This Alienware Monitor is 0.1ms! Again hitting that best of the best spot to help justify the price.
On top of all that, the Alienware OLED has GSync Ultimate to allow super smooth and tear free frames, even with HDR enabled. Another bonus was the several high speed USB ports available and accent lighting on the back.
Taking Care of OLED Burn in Concerns
Beyond the price, the only other downside is the monitor is not really geared toward desktop work like word docs and excel, but I only care about the gaming. Text is not as crisp compared to other monitors. The concern with OLED is always burn in, but this monitor packs some mitigation methods.
There’s apparently a feature where the monitor has extra pixels used to shift the entire image over a few lines to avoid burn in. The more important feature is the 3 year warranty Dell provides for this monitor.
In the end, I figured spending so much money on my CPU/GPU is sort of a waste if I don’t pair that with an impressive monitor.
Alienware’s First Ultrawide OLED Monitor is Expensive, but so Good
Hearing about all the horror stories of the earliest of adopters, I was nervous about the state my monitor would be in. I freaked out when it arrived with a noticeable dent in the box.
Luckily, no damage to the monitor thanks to the foam. I’m also very happy the box is easy to open. It basically unfolds open so I don’t have to flip the box upside down to let all the foam case slide out. There was a very minor bit of assembly.
I screwed the 2 base pieces together, but it has a thumb screw so no tools required. The only thing after that was connecting cables, sliding the base into the monitor and inserting the cable shield. Done.
After pulling the whole assembly out of the box, I’m glad the bubble wrap residue issue some had on the screen did not apply to me. I was quick to connect and fire it all up. Nothing super impressive on that first load, but I knew I had to setup HDR in WIndows 11 to properly enjoy it.
Alienware 34 Inch OLED Setting up and Testing HDR
I followed Microsoft’s HDR setup instructions to set things up and used the calibration program they suggested. That’s definitely an important step to set baselines for full black and full white. There was an option to automatically use HDR for some non SDR content, so turned that on, but had to play with SDR brightness. I’ve heard there’s also a HDR/SDR brightness balance I’ll try playing with later.
After my initial settings and calibration, wow did those colors pop. This monitor is meant for playing games, so I loaded Cyberpunk 2077 to see the beauty of those Neon colors. I happily turned HDR on in Video settings and opened the HDR settings to set my maximum Nits (400 since I was using the Pure Black setting).
The huge number of new colors on the Alienware 34 Inch OLED is so impressive. I could see new slight details I never knew were there, but what’s really crazy is the sun. Looking at the sun in game is bright to the point you almost want to squint. The photo above pales in comparison to the real thing.
The pixel response is as, or maybe even more, impressive than the colors. Rapidly moving my mouse was a joy to see how quickly the monitor responded with almost zero blur on any outlines.
I played a bit of AC Valhalla in HDR and was again impressed by the colors and response, but again a photo won’t do it justice.
Forza Horizon is so much better with this monitor. The colors of the cars and environments reveal details that are like a slight resolution upgrade. That lightning fast response time is fantastic when driving. The clarity of driving at speed is so much better than my old monitor. What I thought was extra motion blur when played on my old monitor turned out to be the slow response time.
The whole game looks better and feels fasters. It was the most impressive case for this monitor in the early days. Again, sunshine was so impressive. It’s just crazy to realize there’s sun shining through my monitor. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but it’s really like a light source coming out of the monitor.
Using the HDR 1000 (nits) setting cranks the sun’s brightness up higher, but having the true blacks is what I was more concerned with. Plus, I’ve read people notice the monitor auto reducing brightness as a protection measure for that higher setting. Seems like an Alienware 34 Inch OLED overclock or experimental option with that in mind.
Around the time I started writing this, I racked up hours playing Plague Tale Requiem. The abundant shadows and use of light sources in the game is an even better showcase for what this monitor can do. I’ll write more about that later because the game itself is so good and the monitor further enhances the whole experience.
After hours of playing and testing, this monitor is definitely a keeper. I think $800 is the true sweet spot for this monitor, but even paying 100s over that I’m not disappointed. If you have the money and some desire to buy this monitor, just buy it.