US$1,300 / AU$2,299 at Dell
It's rare to review a monitor with the potential to revolutionize the industry, but the Alienware AW3423DW could do exactly that. It packs a cutting-edge OLED panel with Quantum Dot technology at a price surprisingly competitive with high-end IPS ultrawide monitors.
Does this new Alienware make its peers obsolete? When it comes to 34-inch ultrawide monitors, yes, though this luxurious display isn't quite perfect. Still, gamers will want to snatch the AW3423DW up without hesitation.
Alienware AW3423DW specs and features
QD-OLED panel aside, the Alienware AW3423DW's specifications are typical for an ultrawide gaming monitor. It packs a 34-inch screen with a 21:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 3,440 x 1,440. The monitor also claims 99.3% coverage of the DCI-P3 gamut which, though high, can be matched by some premium IPS panels.
- Display size: 34-inch
- Native resolution: 3,440 x 1,440
- Panel type: QD-OLED
- Refresh rate: 175Hz
- Adaptive Sync: Nvidia G-Sync Ultimate
- Ports: 2x HDMI 2.0, 1x DisplayPort 1.4, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1x USB Type-B (upstream), 1x audio-out, 1x headphone out
- Stand adjustment: 110mm height, 40 degrees swivel, 25 degrees tilt
- VESA mount: Yes, 100mm x 100mm
- Speakers: Included
- Price: US$1,299 (AU$2,299)
The key difference can be found in the monitor's VESA DisplayHDR 400 True Black certification. This promises a deep, inky black level alongside a reasonable level of HDR brightness. Alienware's AW3423DW is the first gaming monitor to achieve this certification.
Alienware AW3423DW design: Stunning, with one small problem
Alienware unified its product in 2019 with a new design language, Legend, that felt straight out of a modern sci-fi film. It was a success. Alienware's products are among the most attractive and sturdy available. Samsung's monitors are a close second but lack the build quality to back up their look.
The AW3423DW uses OLED to its advantage. A thick, bulky rear panel quickly tapers to thin edges that are only possible because OLED doesn't need a backlight. The LED accent lighting has moved from the stand to the monitor panel, as well, so you can still enjoy it if you use a third-party monitor arm. The monitor is curved, but the 1800R radius is not aggressive and easy to forget in day-to-day use.
A massive stand keeps the monitor planted and adjusts for height, tilt, and swivel. It feels nice in-hand thanks to its heft and smooth, high-quality plastic cladding, but it's less practical than it looks. The stand's legs sweep forward, eating into desk space, and the stand's neck is deep. This means the screen will be closer to you when placed at the edge of your desk.
If Alienware's engineers happen to read this, please, I'm begging you: Find another design. The depth of the stand shipped with most Alienware monitors is impractical for use with the shallow desks commonly sold today. Most people, myself included, are gaming on a desk from Ikea or Wayfair. At least there's a 100mm x 100mm VESA mount for attaching a more sensible stand or monitor arm.
Alienware AW3423DW features: Just the basics
Connectivity is one place the Alienware AW3423DW cuts corners. It provides two HDMI 2.0 ports alongside one DisplayPort 1.4. This is disappointing, as the HDMI ports can only achieve a 100Hz refresh rate at the monitor's native resolution of 3,440 x 1,440.
The Alienware AW3423DW makes every other 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor obsolete.
USB connectivity is also basic. The monitor has four USB Type-A downstream ports powered by one USB Type-B upstream port. Two of the USB Type-A ports are on the front lip and two are on the rear. All USB ports support just 5Gbps of bandwidth. All of this is typical for a gaming monitor, but this is 2022, so I'd like to see USB-C. Gaming brands should recognize top-tier gaming displays are often used by content creators.
Pros will find some perks in the menus. Setting the mode to creator allows access to sRGB and DCI-P3 modes and custom gamma adjustment. These settings are not accessible outside creator mode, which is slightly annoying, and there's no custom color temperature available. Color adjustment is limited to RGB.
Alienware AW3423DW SDR performance: Simply excellent
The Alienware AW3423DW is the first gaming monitor available with VESA DisplayHDR 400 True Black certification, but SDR is still key. Most PC games do not support HDR, and while Windows Auto-HDR can sometimes fix that, it doesn't work well with some games. An excellent gaming monitor must have excellent SDR. Fortunately, the AW3423DW delivers.
First, the bad news. The Alienware AW3423DW achieved a lackluster maximum SDR brightness of just 246 nits. This is not bright for a modern gaming monitor and, to make matters worse, the monitor has a glossy display coat.
Whether this becomes a problem depends on where you use the monitor. A brightness of 246 nits is more than enough for use in a room with light control. Gamers who play in a dark room will actually need to turn the brightness down. If your room lacks light control, however, or you need to game with all the lights on, the monitor's brightness won't impress.
Now we get to the good stuff.
The Alienware AW3423DW's contrast ratio is so high that it exceeds the capabilities of my SpyderX Elite testing tool in SDR mode. The monitor achieves this with a perfect black level reading of zero nits. This is a result I've only recorded from OLED televisions like LG's C1 OLED.
This holds up in subjective reality. Dark areas of the screen look truly, perfectly dark, with not a hint of luminance even when viewed in a lightless room well after sunset. This is great for gamers who like dark, moody titles, such as Diablo 2: Resurrected or Resident Evil: Village. It's also good news if you like to stream Netflix to your PC.
Color gamut comes in at 100% of sRGB, 99% of DCI-P3, and 95% of AdobeRGB. These figures fall a tad behind many other OLED displays, which more typically achieve 100% of DCI-P3 and 96 to 100% of AdobeRGB, but they easily beat nearly all IPS and VA panel monitors sold today.
Color accuracy is a dream, coming in with an average delta error well below one. This is typical of an OLED monitor but remarkable all the same. Most IPS monitors have an average color error between one and three, with only the best dipping below.
The AW3423DW also hit the ideal gamma curve of 2.2 and a default color temperature of 6300K, just slightly off the preferred 6500K. In short, content you view on this monitor will look very close to what the creator intended.
Alienware AW3423DW HDR display performance: Generally good, but a few quirks
The Alienware AW3423DW offers a choice between two HDR modes: HDR400 True Black and HDR Peak 1000. HDR400 is the default mode and will be enabled if you turn on HDR in Windows.
HDR 400 True Black is a good HDR mode. It reached a peak sustained brightness of 325 nits and a peak 10 percent window of 411 nits. Strangely, enabling this mode slightly lifted the minimum black level to a .1 nits, the lowest level my SpyderX Elite calibration tool can measure. It also narrowed the color gamut and reduced color accuracy compared to SDR.
All of this might sound dire, but my subjective impression was better than testing suggested. The HDR400 mode's brightness is not great but high enough to look impressive in a dim or dark room. My gaming den is rather dim, with only one window on a far side of the room, so a sustained brightness of 325 nits is enough to deliver extra oomph in bright scenes.
The HDR 1000 Peak mode seems pointless. In my testing, this mode achieves a maximum of 558 nits in a 10 percent window. I'll note that I am not able to test a 1% window, and reviewers who have tested this found a peak brightness above 1000 nits. With that said, I remain unconvinced that performance in a 1% window is relevant. How often do you play a game where only one percent of the display's pixels are brightly lit? Not often, right?
HDR 1000 Peak seems calibrated to aggressively manage the panel's brightness with a skew towards lighting small portions of the screen. It's so aggressive that I could see it in action while moving a bright image across the screen and during transitions in game cutscenes. This soured me on the HDR 1000 Peak mode.
Still, there's no doubt the AW3423DW outperforms an average backlit IPS ultrawide gaming monitor, and most gamers will notice a big upgrade compared to what's already on their desk.
Alienware AW3423DW motion performance: OLED is hard to beat
Gamers will enjoy the Alienware AW3423DW's maximum refresh rate of 175Hz when connected over DisplayPort. Most competitors have a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. The monitor is also G-Sync Ultimate certified, which means Nvidia's G-Sync technology will work across the entire range of refresh rate with no flickering, stuttering, or other issues, assuming you have a compatible GeForce graphics card.
OLED also has extremely quick pixel response times. Alienware quotes a response time of .1 milliseconds gray-to-gray. That's zero-point-one, not one, the lowest figure quoted by IPS or VA gaming monitors (and most only achieve that in an overclock mode).
The result is excellent motion clarity. You'll see none of the ghosting or smearing visible on a gaming monitor with an IPS or VA panel. Fast-moving objects are exceptionally crisp and text remains readable while you scroll through a document or webpage.
To be clear, the AW3423DW is not a competitive gaming monitor. Its size and aspect ratio disqualifies it from serious competitive use. Still, its refresh rate and motion clarity are useful in a range of titles. I enjoyed it even in Final Fantasy XIV, where I could pan the camera across the game's more gorgeous vistas without losing detail.
Alienware AW3423DW text clarity
The AW3423DW's great SDR mode and color accuracy should make it ideal for general use, but it has a minor issue that does not show in tests: mediocre text clarity. I noticed aliasing around some fine text elements and, depending on font and background, a slight off-color or shadow to one side of text.
It's fine in most situations, but text clarity is not as good as you might expect from a display with nearly 110 pixels per inch. Anyone who works with documents or images that include fine fonts will be let down and even web pages don't look as crisp as they could.
Alienware AW3423DW and OLED burn-in
The Alienware AW3423DW has an OLED screen and, like all OLED screens, it may be susceptible to burn-in. The monitor specifically includes a panel refresh feature that, according to the manual, will automatically engage at 1,500 hours whether you want it to or not. This would not be included if burn-in could not occur.
Burn-in is more likely the more often you have static images on the screen and, in any case, will require at least many hundreds (and likely thousands) of hours displaying a similar image to cause burn-in. Alienware also includes burn-in coverage in the monitor's generous three-year standard warranty.
Should you worry? That depends on how long you plan to use this monitor. I personally hold on to monitors for many, many years, so burn-in is a concern. However, many gamers replace a monitor every few years. If that's you, you'll have less reason to worry, as odds are you'll switch out the screen well before burn-in might occur.
The Alienware AW3423DW makes every other 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor obsolete. It's also a somewhat flawed display that won't be ideal for everyone.
PC gamers will love this monitor. SDR image quality is great straight out of the box, providing a sense of dimensionality and realism that's a cut above the competition. HDR performance is not impressive compared to a Mini-LED monitor, but no 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor currently offers a Mini-LED backlight (MSI has announced a Mini-LED model, the MSI MEG 341, but it is not currently available).
If you want a gaming monitor to handle content creation and general use, however, there are a few drawbacks. The AW3423DW's connectivity is disappointing, with just one DisplayPort no or USB-C. The stand is too large, and too far forward, making the monitor difficult to use on modest desks. Text clarity is sub-par relative to the monitor's pixel density and can distract if you often use small font sizes.
These downsides will be disappointing for those who hoped the Alienware AW3423DW would be the one display to rule them all. Still, this is an impressive monitor and a great start for QD-OLED technology in the PC market.
Then there's the price. US$1,299 (AU$2,299) is not affordable, but it's highly competitive and an extra layer of buttercream frosting on an already delicious cake. Most flagship gaming ultrawides with similar specs, like the LG Ultragear 34PG950G, are just as expensive despite inferior performance.
Gamers, don't hesitate. You'll want to buy the AW3423DW before it goes out of stock.