BenQ EX3501R 3440×1440 21:9 35″ Curved VA monitor (WHL #33)

Getting sidetracked lately, I know…

Why not post about something that doesn’t come from some Wan Hung Lo factory? I could write a review and put it in some hardware forum, but as there are very few reviews out there as of now, let’s try tweaking visitor count a little ;)

The BenQ EX3501R arrived earlier today (HUGE 100x65x35cm³ box!), and I was waiting for something like that for the past two years already. Manufacturers obviously like to spoil products these days, every new monitor of that kind has something that puts me off big time – no (or very crude) height/tilt adjustment, glare (glossy) coatings, insane stands with integrated electronics meaning no VESA mounts, basically nonexistant FreeSync ranges on “gaming” displays, flickering in FreeSync mode, or something else that somebody probably got a raise for inventing the bullshit. The BenQ looks like it’s the first usable model of the FreeSync-enabled type — if there was no such thing, I would have already bought the great AOC u3477pqu that is on my desk at work. Same resolution, 34″ IPS, DP+HDMI+DVI+VGA (!), fully adjustable stand including pivot functionality. Pivoting such a monster means over 80cm of vertical space…

Well, there’s still a lot of marketing wank included with this one. For example, it is called a “Video Enjoyment Monitor”. Fap, fap, I can already imagine the hipster with the big ugly glasses and the moist knickers that invented the term. More on the technical side, it’s not only a highly curved (1800mm) display (…why?), but it’s also sold as “HDR” compatible. Yeah, HDR at 2500:1 “native” (made-up) contrast ratio and 300 nits of brightness. Fuck off.

That aside, I think it’ll stay with me. As I’m an idiot, I don’t have any sufficient Displayport cable ready, and the included one is a mDP to DP cable, which doesn’t fit my graphics card. So I’m currently using the HDMI fallback, meaning 30Hz refresh rate (no HDMI 2.0 on the card) instead of up to 100Hz. That also means it’s pointless to do some refresh rate shots and decide if it is “gaming grade” until I get a proper cable.


(yeah, improvised setup – at least I was forced to dust off that table! Power brick has to go somewhere, that thing is ginormous at 17x7x4cm³ / 120W, almost 4x the size of the 65W laptop power supply)

However, I can already do some comparison shots with fixed camera settings, showing backlight smoothness/bleeding and the effect of the overall curvature. So here we go.

The camera is the same as usual, a Canon Powershot S100. Unless WordPress enjoys manipulating metadata, all images should include EXIF data. I did not perform color correction, and only some of the early ones have been cropped using the lossless JPEG crop option. The backlight comparison photos are completely untouched. All images have been taken using a teeny tiny tripod and the camera is roughly at eye level (yet a tad closer to the display, as my desk is only so big)

So at fixed 1/100s exposure, f/2.8, ISO 400, tungsten white balance profile, we have this set of images with activated dimming (using the integrated light sensor – works really well!)

(black, white, blue, yellow, red, pink, green, turquoise)

Same thing with the dimming disabled:

The color shift is very visible on the images, but that’s just an effect of the fixed camera setting. Different brightness, different (over/under) exposure. Clearly visible with the white screen – it’s white in both cases, but the dim one looks very bluish. There’s a blue filter option in the OSD as well, I might need to take another comparison shot of that.

Black screen in darkened room (not pitch black, but sufficiently dark):

Same 1/100s as before:

1/30s:

1/10s:

1.0s:

Yeah, I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse. Much worse. Given this is a huge screen that is also curved, the curved part and the different angle of large parts of the screen have much more impact on color reproduction than the imperfections of the backlight. Being a 21:9 (21.5:9…) screen, there’s also no or very little letterboxing for movies and only pillarboxing for typical TV (16:9) content, which reduces the amount of visible black screen edges a lot. The monitor does support low refresh rates like 24 Hz (guess that’s just doubled up), so in principle, there should be a way to watch video material in basically arbitrary frame rate without tearing or any telecine pulldown effects. I didn’t manage to enable that yet, maybe that’s an HDMI restriction. My VLC still shows a lot of tearing, and forcing 23.976fps material to display on 24Hz, that tearing strip is visible all the time, regardless of VLC or Radeon settings regarding refresh rate and video output method.

For comparison, I made another series of shots with my old monitor, a Fushitsu Siemens (ah well, it has served me well after being a RoHS victim that just needed some resoldering) P20-2, 20″ S-PVA with 1600×1200/60Hz.

Yeah, it’s more uniform, but this is also only half the screen area and there’s no curvature. Having seen the guts of these monitors, I can tell you that the diffusor plate is not just 1-3mm as in modern displays – that thing is almost 10mm in thickness. Total weight is over 9kg – that’s just shy of the BenQ’s 10.5kg. Moreover, this was a pretty high-end monitor in its day, not an Eizo, but also no filthy Acer. Just think about how long it took to reach (1920×1200) and finally overtake (2560×1440) the vertical resolution of this thing…and Lenovo is still selling bloody Thinkpads with 1366×768 default resolution (where’s the vomiting smiley when you need one?)

There are also long exposure shots just like above – 1/100s:

1/50s:

1/20s: (yup, messed up that one, was 1/30s with the BenQ)

1/10s:

and one entire second:

Again, this is the BenQ at 1.0s exposure:

Doesn’t look too shabby, I think. The SIX friggen CCFLs of the P20 are clearly visible, causing light spots at the bottom and dark ones at the top, where they cannot illuminate right to the top. I’m fine with the performance of the EX3501R in that regard. Also, the bottom power LED is very dim, that’s a good thing to have. Maybe it can even be disable entirely.

One more thing: BenQ promises VESA mounting, but the stand isn’t attached with the usual four screws. So there has to be an adapter that is no included in the box – I will ask the seller to provide that, at least at a reasonable price. I read somewhere that BenQ doesn’t really sell them – if that is the case, I will have to wrap the thing up and return it. Until a better one comes around…just like I said in the introduction.

Oh, and if you wanted to know the price: It was a special and time-limited offer from notebooksbilliger.de – not for Black Friday or any of the American ideas of shopping hell. 700€ delivered.
Over at the overclock.net forums someone claims to have gotten a 650€ deal — can’t verify that, but given the street price of about 800€, that’s a bargain.

Bet there are people that have time to do a more in-depth video review about this monitor, but currently there are none (that I’m aware of) – so this is just a quick overview for anyone that thinks about getting one for themselves. If you got any questions – feel free to ask them below.


6 Responses to BenQ EX3501R 3440×1440 21:9 35″ Curved VA monitor (WHL #33)

  1. St. Pauli says:

    Hi!

    Thx! I have been looking for a review of this monitor. What is the ETA on the gaming test? :)

    /Pauli

    • Bzzz says:

      I’m not a full-blown gamer as you can tell by the shitty keyboard and the MX510 that I keep alive. I can only do some Path of Exile testing on that thing – and I already know I have a huge CPU bottleneck, as the P20 does cap at around the same FPS as the EX3501R does. But having a DP cable to do any performance tests would be a start… ;)

      But: I can do pixel response tests, there’s an oscilloscope on the bench next to it. I guess that’ll be interesting for you gaming folks as well!

  2. St. Pauli says:

    Pixel response and ghosting test would me much appreciated. I had a MX510 myself. Sadly it died. :(

    • Bzzz says:

      Ghosting test is already online and I’ve just added response time measurements. Nauseating, but perfectly explains the smearing in the dark areas of the images, while the lighter parts do not suffer that much from ghosting.

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