Ultra-wide monitors are quickly becoming the new standard in the PC market. With mainstream adoption happening at a staggering pace, manufactures are quickly adapting to meet the demands of eager consumers. Today we are going to look at the BenQ EX3501R Curved HDR monitor which BenQ sent me for review. This new model is a refresh of BenQ’s successful XR3501 gaming monitor.
My first impression of this monitor after placing it on my desk, I was wowed by the enormity of it’s 35” display. I’ve been using an Alienware 34” ultra-wide monitor for the past few months and I was really surprised by how the extra 1 inch in monitor size made such a huge difference in screen real-estate. For a monitor this large, the foot print is surprisingly small. I’m using an Ikea Karlby as my desktop, and this desk has a shallow depth of only 26”. The legs of the EX3501R only extent 9” onto the desk which still give plenty of room for peripherals and decor.
Taking a tour of the displays housing, it’s clear that BenQ is positioning this monitor as one of its flagship displays. From the ultra slim top and side bezels to the chrome legs featuring clean modern lines, this display screams premium quality and will fit right in with the décor on any desk setup. The only downside of having chrome legs is they are finger print magnets. Be sure to keep a micro fiber cloth on hand while you figure out the monitor placement on your desk.
The monitor stand offers basic adjust-ability. You can raise and lower the monitor height by up to 2.5” and tilt the screen from -5 to 20 degrees. This stand does not have swivel functionality; however, due to the curve of the monitor and the overall size of the panel, you likely wouldn’t need that feature. Also, VESA mounting is supported on the EX3501R; however, a separate wall mount transfer fit needs to be purchased to add the VESA mounting functionality. I was a bit disappointed this kit wasn’t included in the box as I was looking forward to mounting the display on one of my monitor arms.
The back I/O features one display port, two HDMI 2.0 ports, two USB 3.1 ports, one headphone jack, and one USB type C port. The inclusion of a USB type C port is nice to see being it will make the monitor that much more future-proof.
As I mentioned earlier, the EX3501R is a refresh of the XR3501 monitor BenQ released in 2015. While the old model featured a 35” 1080p display, BenQ bumped up the resolution of this new model to 1440p, which is the sweet spot for a display this size and is quickly becoming the new standard. While the refresh rate has dropped from 144hz to 100hz, this drop is negated by the inclusion of AMD’s Freesync technology. Unfortunately, I only have a Nvidia graphics card, so I won’t be able to test out the Freesync functionality as it only works with compatible AMD graphics cards. This monitor uses a VA panel and is fairly color accurate and offers 100% sRGB coverage. The Alienware monitor I’ve been using for the past few months has an IPS panel, and while the IPS panel is a superior panel for color accuracy and viewing angles, the EX3501R’s VA panel performs extremely well. I expected BenQ’s VA panel to be inferior to that of the Alienware’s panel, but I was pleasantly surprised by its performance. One more notable feature is that the curve of the monitor has been increased from 2000r to an aggressive 1800r which provides for a much more immersive experience while viewing the display.
The on-screen menu is controlled by the classic buttons under the bezel format found on most displays. The menu controls all familiar menu setting such as brightness, contrast, color temperature pre-sets, and the ability to turn the HDR functionality on and off.
Now let’s talk about how the monitor performs. Viewing 21:9 content on the EX3501R is incredibly immersive. Blacks are inky black, viewing angles are excellent, and the display doesn’t suffer from excessive light bleed. Media consumption is where this monitor shines! The mat black screen finish reduces unwanted light reflection on the screen and helps pulls you into the immersive experience it provides. The picture uniformity was very good for a monitor this size and the colors the VA panel produced were very vibrant.
Gaming on this monitor was an awesome experience. Racing simulators where made for curved ultra-wide monitors. Being able to run this monitor at 100hz makes for buttery smooth game play. Just keep in mind that if you’re going to gaming in the native 1440p resolution, you’ll need a beefy graphics card to keep your frame rate high. I’d recommend at least an AMD Vega 64 or a Nvidia 1070 if your looking to get anywhere near 100 fps at 1440p in most modern titles…otherwise, you’ll probably need to lower your graphics settings or pull your resolution down to 1080p.
Now let’s touch on the HDR functionality of this monitor. First off, it’s an 8bit panel with 300 nits of brightness. To get a true HDR experience with either standard of HDR10 or Dolby Vision, a 10bit panel is required with most manufactures using a minimum 1000 nits back-light to provide proper contrast. While the specs of the BenQ fall far short of the aforementioned standards, the HDR implementation of this monitor does provide meaningful real-world results in improving picture quality. When the HDR function is enabled on the monitor it does a good job at emulating a true HDR experience…although there is some room for improvement.
In conclusion, the BenQ EX3501R monitor is a welcomed addition to the curved ultra-wide monitor market space. The 35” display is a dream for media consumption and gaming alike. The behemoth size of the display, as well as the 1800r curve of the monitor really pulls you into all the onscreen action. While this monitor is fine for video editing, those looking for a monitor for professional photo editing or those who have a requirement for true to life color accuracy should stick to an IPS panel. Anyone choosing this monitor will not be disappointed with their purchase.