Accessory Let's talk monitors

newtothegame

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Hi there,

I've been planning on building a computer for professional image work (audiovisual/graphic) for a long time now. After enough soul-searching I think I've got a good grasp of the sff system I want to build, but when it comes to the point of selecting a monitor I can't wrap my head around the whole thing. Basically, after having worked for many years on the mac, I'm mostly concerned about color reproduction, low-dpi screens, and quality control. If someone could help by recommending a monitor or share their experience with image work on a certain model or with a certain brand, that'd be extremely helpful.

For illustrative purposes here's a list of what I'm aiming for:
  • Max 800$ budget
  • Color accurate (99% sRGB)
  • 1440p resolution or higher
  • High pixel density
  • Reliable (no noticeable backlight bleed, shadowing, color shifting, etc.)
Welcomed bonus features:
  • FreeSync
  • >=75Hz
  • VESA
  • Usb-C
  • Quality customer service
  • 99% Adobe RGB
These models are the ones I've found to be more convincing so far:
  • 549$ LG 34UC80-B 34” (3440 X 1440) IPS 60-75Hz Freesync sRGB 99%
  • 638$ Dell UltraSharp U3415W 34” (3440x1440) IPS 60Hz No-FreeSync sRGB 99%
  • 630$ LG 27UK850-W 27" 4K UHD IPS 60Hz sRGB 99%
What do you guys think? I was pretty much sold on going ultrawide but I'm not that sure anymore. Is a sub-800$ ultrawide suitable for graphic/image work? Is a 16:9 4K display better in terms of pixel density and more pleasant to work with?

Thanks!
 

smitty2k1

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Dec 3, 2016
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I've got the LG 34UM88 which is the flat version of the 34UC88. I'm very happy with it, except it only does 60Hz with FreeSync and I bought it thinking it did 75Hz FreeSync like the 34UC88.

I use the monitor for gaming and Lightroom work, I'm just an amature photog, but I like it for photo work. Had a Dell U2412M before.

How does the 34UC80 differ from the 34UC88? I'd imagine the 34UC88 can be had at pretty much the same price point ($550) when on sale if it has any specs/features that make it better than the 34UC80.
 
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newtothegame

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I've got the LG 34UM88 which is the flat version of the 34UC88. I'm very happy with it, except it only does 60Hz with FreeSync and I bought it thinking it did 75Hz FreeSync like the 34UC88.

I use the monitor for gaming and Lightroom work, I'm just an amature photog, but I like it for photo work. Had a Dell U2412M before.

How does the 34UC80 differ from the 34UC88? I'd imagine the 34UC88 can be had at pretty much the same price point ($550) when on sale if it has any specs/features that make it better than the 34UC80.

Thanks for the insight smitty2k1.

I'm indeed interested in ultrawides with flat screens. I'm not sure if the slight curve helps with work, viewing angles and immersion or if, in the contrary, is counter productive for graphical work.

While researching for all this I found a video of the 34UM88c in which they overclock it to 75Hz without any issues. Take a look, maybe it helps:
 

Phuncz

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I was looking for an Ultrawide 2 years ago with about the same requirements as you. Because of the issues in (back then) all the screens, I went with the one that had the best specs and least issues: Acer XR341CK, which only had backlight bleeding and issues with noise in the speakers when the brightness was not max. Those speakers were the first thing I disabled anyway, even my phone sounds better.

But basically all screens back then had issues with color banding, low FreeSync range (mine has 30-75Hz and LFC = Low Framerate Compensation), bad color reproduction, flickering because of PWM or atleast a couple of a dozen other issues that you don't want on a $500+ screen.

That model has now been replaced with the XR342CK but I'm not sure how the more recent additions fare. The LG 34UC99 also looks interesting if you don't mind the near useless FreeSync range.

About curved panels: I have the Acer which has a very slight curve and I sit about an arm's length away from it. It doesn't bother me in the slightest.
 
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newtothegame

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I was looking for an Ultrawide 2 years ago with about the same requirements as you. Because of the issues in (back then) all the screens, I went with the one that had the best specs and least issues: Acer XR341CK, which only had backlight bleeding and issues with noise in the speakers when the brightness was not max. Those speakers were the first thing I disabled anyway, even my phone sounds better.

But basically all screens back then had issues with color banding, low FreeSync range (mine has 30-75Hz and LFC = Low Framerate Compensation), bad color reproduction, flickering because of PWM or atleast a couple of a dozen other issues that you don't want on a $500+ screen.

That model has now been replaced with the XR342CK but I'm not sure how the more recent additions fare. The LG 34UC99 also looks interesting if you don't mind the near useless FreeSync range.

About curved panels: I have the Acer which has a very slight curve and I sit about an arm's length away from it. It doesn't bother me in the slightest.

I totally agree, I was certainly surprised when I began the research and saw so many issues with monitors, expensive ones mostly, mind you. In fact, I had previously seen the XR342CK you mentioned, but I discarded it too hastily as the recent amazon reviews were discouraging. Now that I've taken another look at it, I've learned that apparently it's possible to overclock it to 100Hz (not that I would be driving a QHD resolution at that frame rate but it's good to know there's a possibility), and the 649$ price doesn't seem bad for what it offers. Do you think the curve could be a problem when designing graphics or is it something you get used to?

The LG 34UC99 is also another good option, a bit on the expensive side tough. The thing is that besides the USB Type-C port, I can't tell what differentiates it from the cheaper 34UC80-B. I'll have to look for a comprehensive chart of sorts because the naming schemes are kinda driving me nuts as it's really hard to tell them a part or know which one is more recent than the other.
 
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Necere

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The monitor market has been extremely frustrating for years. We continue to get more features, higher resolution, bigger displays, but the actual image quality seems to be no better, and possibly even worse than in the past. Every panel type has its own distinct shortcomings, and with the poor QC that plagues the industry you end up playing the panel lottery while praying the monitor is just able to properly delivers what's on the spec sheet and the panel defects aren't too awful. No backlight bleed or color shifting, etc. is nearly an impossible ask - especially at the $800 price point. The best LCDs for raw image quality are going to be Eizos and maybe HP Dreamcolors, but they'll set you back at least $2k for something with an A-TW polarizer (which compensates for IPS glow). Also don't expect any gaming features like Freesync.
 
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Phuncz

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Do you think the curve could be a problem when designing graphics or is it something you get used to?
For the occasional photo editing work I do, it doesn't really restrict me, I barely notice the curve even exists. Maybe in CAD or other precise design work but because everything on the screen follows the same curve (including the bezel) I don't experience it as unnatural or confusing.

@Necere @newtothegame indeed, the all-too-common defects that manufacturers think are "within spec" or are blamed on the inherent technology characteristics. My previous "monitor" was basically a 1080p 32" television (>100cm viewing distance) that cost 600€, but it happened to have an IPS panel, 1:1 pixel mapping and no display issues that were common in today's 600-1000€ screens. It was very frustrating to realise all manufacturers have decided to drop the QA more then a few notches while not being ashamed of asking premium money for it.

Another issue the Acer has is that sometimes (once or twice a month) it doesn't accept RGB color space when turned on and drops to YCbCr422, over the supplied DisplayPort cable. This was an issue on my previous AMD R9 290X and my current GTX 1080. What does that look like ?

4:4:4 (RGB)



4:2:2 (YCbCr422)



Luckily I can fix this by disconnecting and reconnecting the cable, followed by adjusting the setting in the card's settings.

With HDR monitors, there are many other quirks, some of which Linus Tech Tips and Hardware Canucks have had experience with. All ranging from not displaying HDR output while enabled up to a purple screen.
 
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3lfk1ng

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My wife has the LG 34UC98-W and it's a very nice display that fits within your pricerange.
She does graphic design/logo/web/print and the curved display doesn't bother her.
She has a 1080ti so she just runs it at 75Hz 24/7 instead of using Freesync.
The monitor is mostly used for games but occasionally she uses it for work (she has a 5k iMac at her office and tries not to work at home).

Tom's was very impressed by it's color accuracy (here) is that helps.
 

Maniac

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Oct 18, 2018
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I'm very happy with my 35" Benq EX3501R UltraWide. Here you get 100Hz with or without FreeSync. Also has HDR and high speed USB-C. Currently using it via my Macbook Pro, but it does wonders in gaming as well (used it with a eGPU case). I moved from a 27" Acer Predator with G-Sync to this, don't regret for a sec. Just love it, also have one at the office, no way I'm going back to two regular monitors after this XD.

https://www.benq.com/en/monitor/video-enjoyment/ex3501r.html
https://www.techradar.com/reviews/benq-ex3501r
 
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newtothegame

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@Necere Thanks for the recommendations. I didn't know about the HP Dreamcolor lineup although currently, its price range it's a bit out of my budget. I had discarded the idea of an EIZO for the same reason but maybe in the future those will be serious options to consider. I guess my approach was mistaken and I shouldn't have expected to be able to find a semi-professional grade monitor for 800$. Even if that's a lot of money, it seems that's a prosumer range rather than a professional one.

As you and @Phuncz mentioned the quality control issue seems to be ubiquitous. My main reasons for building a PC are repairability and upgradability, I thought that as Apple's quality dwindles I'd be better off building my own system but, I honestly didn't expect to find so many problems for sub 1K$ products, that's crazy.


My wife has the LG 34UC98-W and it's a very nice display that fits within your pricerange.
She does graphic design/logo/web/print and the curved display doesn't bother her.
She has a 1080ti so she just runs it at 75Hz 24/7 instead of using Freesync.
The monitor is mostly used for games but occasionally she uses it for work (she has a 5k iMac at her office and tries not to work at home).
Tom's was very impressed by it's color accuracy (here) is that helps.

Thanks for the information 3lfk1ng, I'm glad to read the curve isn't that much of a problem. I had checked the LG 34UC98-W previously as well, but I wrote down the LG 38UC99-W instead as it drops the Thunderbolt 2 for a USB C port. The 99-W Is probably a newer version although I'm just guessing because of that port switch and the numerical increase of the last digit. Chronologically speaking, the monitor quest it's being a nightmare. Thanks for sharing your personal take, the LG 34UC99-W is currently one of my favourites.


Another issue the Acer has is that sometimes (once or twice a month) it doesn't accept RGB color space when turned on and drops to YCbCr422, over the supplied DisplayPort cable. This was an issue on my previous AMD R9 290X and my current GTX 1080. What does that look like ?

That's quite interesting, I thought modern monitors didn't have subsampling issues as I expected current Display Port and HDMi specifications to be able to transfer QHD 4:4:4 RGB signals without compression. I've been investigating and according to Wikipedia a bandwith of 18.0 Gbit/s is enough for a 4K 60Hz 8 bpc RGB signal. The HDMi 2.0 port of the XR341CK has a total bandwith of 18.0 Gbit/s (14.4 Gbit/s for video) and its DisplayPort 1.2 allows for up to 17.28 Gbit/s transfers. That should be enough for displaying 60Hz QHD video without subsampling, right? Also, I might be wrong here but I think there should be no need for degrading a "raw" RGB signal to YCbCr components, especially 4:2:2. I hope your issue is just a cable-related one, if it's about hardware I'm completely lost here, monitors are way more complicated than I thought they would be.

By the way, thanks for letting me know about the photo editing work and the monitor curve :)



Thanks for your recommendation GuilleAcoustic, I hadn't thought about it but at that price I could also go down the dual monitor route. How's the pixel density for a 25-Inch 2560 x 1440? The numbers say it's better but I wonder if it's a noticeable improvement.


I'm very happy with my 35" Benq EX3501R UltraWide. Here you get 100Hz with or without FreeSync. Also has HDR and high speed USB-C. Currently using it via my Macbook Pro, but it does wonders in gaming as well (used it with a eGPU case). I moved from a 27" Asus Predator with G-Sync to this, don't regret for a sec. Just love it, also have one at the office, no way I'm going back to two regular monitors after this XD.

https://www.benq.com/en/monitor/video-enjoyment/ex3501r.html
https://www.techradar.com/reviews/benq-ex3501r

haha, thanks for the insight Maniac, the specs look good on paper although I'm not sure about VA panels, I think I'll have to go to a computer/electronics shop to check out the color difference between a VA and a similar IPS. The BenQ's I like are the PD3200U and the SW2700PT, especially the last one because it packs many image production oriented features.
 
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Solo

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I dread the day my Eizo dies. I feel like it won't though. All of my Japanese gear is still working.
 

GuilleAcoustic

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I dread the day my Eizo dies. I feel like it won't though. All of my Japanese gear is still working.

Mine "died" (cluster of persistent pixels) after 11 years of abuse. It was a 17" TN panel from 2003.

I had an IIyama A702HT before that. It was 17" (16" usable) 1600x1200 Trinitron CRT, with high refresh rate ... IIyama golden age.

I just can't use a gamer monitor, even for gaming.
 

Necere

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A big reason Eizos (the CG series, at least) are better for color work is they're some of the only monitors (along with HP Dreamcolors) that use Panasonic IPS Pro panels. See this excerpt from a Dreamcolor Z31x review for a little bit of insight into why they're better than other IPS panels:

So who makes the panel for the Z31x? There’s an interesting background story on this, because the current crop of IPS panels may have been compromised to make them more widely available. According to Greg Staten, who is HP’s DreamColor product manager, HP couldn’t find a panel with the performance it needed because the panel manufacturers had altered the original IPS design to lower the cost of the panels. “The dynamic color was sacrificed,” Staten explained. “The viewing cone — the true viewable width of the display — was reduced.” And the newer panels have an issue that Staten refers to as black lift. “That’s where as you move your head either up or down, as if you were standing up or, most critically, for someone who is standing off shoulder, you see a different level of gray in the black.”

That last issue wasn’t a problem with the first-generation Z27x, when the IPS panels were manufactured to an earlier, less-compromised standard. So HP approached Panasonic and asked that company to use the original IPS patent as a basis for creating a new, customized panel for the Z31x. HP refers to the panel technology as High Performance IPS, though it may be more accurate to think of it as Classic IPS Plus.

The biggest difference in the Z31x panel over the previous Z27x panel is its ability to render deep and pure blacks. If you’re hoping to find OLED-type blacks in a reasonably priced IPS display, this is as close as you’ll be able to get with the current technologies. When you place a Z31x monitor beside an older Z27x monitor, you’ll see that the blacks are noticeably improved, to the point where you may not want to go back.

Because Panasonic adapted the panel from its earlier IPS technology, the displayed image remains remarkably consistent across its 178-degree viewing range, both horizontally and vertically. If you tend to use your monitor to show content to more than one person at a time, this could be a critical advantage. The fall-off in contrast, color, and brightness is barely noticeable across the angles that would typically involve group viewing. And the anti-glare matte surface on the display will be easier on the eyes when multiple people are viewing the monitor. You’ll see some slight reflection, but it’s diffuse enough that you can ignore it without much effort.
 
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newtothegame

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A big reason Eizos (the CG series, at least) are better for color work is they're some of the only monitors (along with HP Dreamcolors) that use Panasonic IPS Pro panels. See this excerpt from a Dreamcolor Z31x review for a little bit of insight into why they're better than other IPS panels:
This is both incredibly interesting and a bit depressing at the same time. I honestly didn't expect HP to produce such professional-grade monitors but after having watched a handheld crappy video on Youtube I've been taken aback. Now I almost wish I hand't seen it.
 
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Kmpkt

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I've asked this before, but since we're on the topic is anyone aware of a good 1080p (or better) monitor that comes in at < 11.3" in overall height (minus stand). I've been looking for something that will fit in the lid of my Nanuk 935 but have had no luck. Hopefully with more bezelless monitors hitting the market all the time someone will eventually hit the mark.
 

Untero

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Dec 14, 2017
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I've asked this before, but since we're on the topic is anyone aware of a good 1080p (or better) monitor that comes in at < 11.3" in overall height (minus stand). I've been looking for something that will fit in the lid of my Nanuk 935 but have had no luck. Hopefully with more bezelless monitors hitting the market all the time someone will eventually hit the mark.
This is a bit more compact device than thing mentioned above.

If you'd wan't to go full lightweight bezelless monitor - I'd only suggest Gobigger zb156 which I'd be getting in near future. Looks like something that could be easily fit in a backpack. It's only 1080p, but that's the smallest 15.6" monitor I've seen yet.
 

newtothegame

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Alright, after a few days of research it's time for an update and for me to stop looking into the monitor world. I'm. Going. Bananas. I found difficult to wrap my mind around the obnoxious world of monitor naming schemes and finding the release date of the products was not easy either.

After all this I remain mostly ignorant but I'm certain that the monitor market is quite terrible in terms of quality control, innovation and pricing. The ubiquitous and common offenders are black and grey uniformity, image retention, lack of local dimming, average contrast or average brightness (pick one, can't have them both at +500$), lacklustre pixel density, and marketing stunts like HD400, to name a few.

For posterity's sake I'll leave here a couple of really useful websites:
https://www.rtings.com/
https://us.hardware.info
https://www.displayspecifications.com/

Anyway, onto the results! (I should warn that these notes are not 100% accurate and/or complete and I'm only using them to overview a few details quickly).


16:9 4K
  1. 630$ LG 27UK850-W 27" 4K (3840x2160) IPS 60Hz FreeSync, sRGB 99% 163ppi, HDR10, 5 ms, 350 cd/m², 1000 : 1, USB Type-C (2018).
  2. 400$ LG 27UK650-W 27" 4K (3840x2160) IPS 60Hz, FreeSync, 163 ppi, HDR10, 5 ms, 350 cd/m², 1000 : 1, VESA (2018).
  3. 617$ LG 27UD88-W 27” 4K (3840x2160) IPS 60Hz FreeSync, 163 ppi, 5 ms, 350 cd/m², 1000 : 1, Usb-C.
  4. 469$ LG 27UD68-W 27” 4K (3840x2160) IPS 60Hz FreeSync, 163 ppi, 5 ms, 300 cd/m², 1000 : 1 (2017).
There's no logic beyond the USB Type-C for choosing the 27UK850 over the 27UK650. The additional features like speakers, 2 USB ports, "true color pro"... I don't think matter that much. Is the USB-C enough to justify 230$ extra? I have my doubts, but I'll leave the list as is for now. I also like a lot the 846$ LG 32UD99-W and its DCI-P3 95% coverage but in the EU it costs 954€ so I'll have to pass on that one.

On this category there're a few VA LG models with wider color gamuts and better contrast that are also interesting, but most of them have a peak brightness of 250 nits instead of the usual 300 of their IPS siblings. I wonder if that's enough for a bright room so for the time being I've left them out of the selection. (Should someone be interested: LG 27UD59, 32UD59-B, LG 32UD60-B.)


16:9 QHD
  • 338€ Iiyama ProLite XUB2792QSU-B1 27" (2560x1440) IPS 70 Hz FreeSync, 109 ppi, 5 ms, 350 cd/m², 1000 : 1, VESA 100mm.
  • 465$/522€ Dell Ultrathin S2719DC 27" (2560x1440), IPS 60Hz FreeSync, 109 ppi, 5ms (fast), 8ms (normal), 400 cd/m² (typ), 600 cd/m² (peak), 1000 : 1, USB-C 45W, VESA 100mm, (Sep 2018).
  • 543$/560€ Dell UltraSharp U2719DC 27" (2560x1440) IPS LCD 60Hz, 5 ms, 350 cd/m², 1000:1, USB-C 65W, VESA 100mm (Oct 2018).
  • 573$/603€ Samsung C32HG70 32" QHD (2560x1440) VA 144Hz FreeSync, DCI-P3 90% sRGB 94%, 93 ppi, 1 ms, 350 cd/m², 3000 : 1, VESA 100mm (May 2017).
At first I was reluctant to look into this category, mostly because it's possible to get a 4K monitor for just a little bit more, but apparently, to really appreciate 4K it's better to have a 32" monitor and the 27" sized are ideal for QHD resolutions.

The Dells look really good, so much so that I wish they could compete better in the 4K category, both models are awesome but I believe the Iiyama has a better price for a QHD monitor.


16:9 Semi-pro
  1. 545$ BenQ PD2710QC 27" (2560x1440) IPS 60 Hz no-FreeSync, 109 ppi, 100% sRGB and Rec.709, 5 ms, 350 cd/m², 1000 : 1.
  2. 600$ BenQ 27" SW2700PT (2560x1440) IPS 60Hz no-FreeSync, 99% Adobe RGB 100% Rec.709/sRGB, Hardware Calibration, 14-bit 3D LUT, HDMI 1.4, 109ppi, 350 cd/m², 1000 : 1 (Similar to UP2716D).
For the semi-professional category I found BenQ to offer the most choices with their PV series for videographers, the SW series for photographers, and PD and BL series for designers, although the majority are quite old at this point. There's a couple of Dell Ultrasharps (UP2716D, UP3216Q) which are also interesting.


16:9 Pro
  1. 1600$ Dell UP2718Q 4K (3840x2160) IPS 60Hz HDR10, 8ms, 1,000 nits, 20,000:1, 384 local dimming zones, 100% AdobeRGB, 100% sRGB, 100% Rec. 709, 97.7% DCI-P3 and 76.9% Rec. 2020.
  2. 2000$ Asus ProArt PA32UC-K 32” IPS 4K (3840 x 2160) 60Hz 100% sRGB, 99% Adobe RGB, 95% DCIP-3, HDR 1000 cd/m² Thunderbolt 3.
  3. $4000 HP Dreamcolor Z31X 31.1” IPS 60Hz True Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) 17:9, 99% DCI-P3, 1500/1 contrast ratio, 250 cd/m², automatic color calibration.
All of them waaay out of my budget but I looked them up just to learn what they have to offer. I didn't bother with EIZO or NEC but those would definitely be a go-to should the future present itself brighter.


5K
  1. 750€ Iiyama Prolite XB2779QQS-S1 27" 5K (5120 x 2880) IPS 60Hz, 99% DCI-p3, no sRGB mode, 4 ms, 1,200 : 1, 440 cd/m², 218 ppi.
  2. 1600$ LG 27MD5KB-B UltraFine 27” 16:9 5K (5120 x 2880) IPS, Thunderbolt 3 / USB Type-C, 14ms, 1,100 : 1, 500 cd/m², 218 ppi.
  3. 3000€ DELL UltraSharp UP3218K 32" 8K Ultra HD (7680 x 4320) LED 6ms 60Hz, 1,300 : 1, 400 cd/m², 280 ppi.

Here I'd choose the Iiyama without a doubt, the lack of sRGB is a problem but an ICC profile or recalibration can solve it albeit painfully, but I'd be willing to take the pain as the next options dwell in pro-budget territory. The only worry I have with Iiyama is their customer support or guarantee, I haven't looked into it so my worry is purely ignorance-driven.


Ultrawide
  1. 787€ LG 34UC99-W 34" (3440 x 1440) IPS 60Hz-75Hz Freesync, 110ppi, 5 ms, 300 cd/m², 1000 : 1, USB Type-C (Feb 2017).
  2. 890$/879€ LG 38UC99-W 37.5" (3840x1600) IPS 60/75Hz FreeSync, 111 ppi, sRGB Over 99%, USB Type-C, 14 ms / 5ms GTG, 300 cd/m², 1000 : 1.
  3. 1000$ ViewSonic VP3881 38” (3840x1600p) IPS, 60Hz No-FreeSync, 109ppi, 100% sRGB Rec709 HDR10 14-bit 3D LUT Color Calibration, 7 ms, 300 cd/m², 1000 : 1, USB Type C.
  4. 1200$ LG 38WK95C-W 37.5" (3840x1600) AH-IPS 60/75Hz FreeSync, 111 ppi, sRGB 99%, USB Type-C, 5 ms, 300 cd/m², 1000 : 1.
This is a bit discouraging because I began my research thinking about purchasing an ultrawide QHD monitor but after all, they seem to be too expensive for what they offer and for what I can afford, so I'll probably have to go with the 16:9 options if I don't manage to find anything more enticing.

I want to mention that the LG 34UC80 seems to be a great purchase for only 549$ but it seems that it's a US only monitor, in Europe we are stuck with the 2016 LG 34UC98 model with Thunderbolt 2 for 649€ (no way, lol). Similar story with the Acer XR342CK, in the EU is almost 1000$ and for a non-professional monitor that's a no-no. Anyway, these are the options I ended up selecting, the ViewSonic seems great for what it offers but is too expensive for me currently but I guess I could say that for all of them really.
 
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Phuncz

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Thanks for sharing your journey, I hope you'll find something interesting soon.
 
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