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3840x1600 Ultrawide Monitors: How 160 Lines Can Make All the Difference

Author:
Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: Acer

When PC monitors made the mainstream transition to widescreen aspect ratios in the mid-2000s, many manufacturers opted for resolutions at a 16:10 ratio. My first widescreen displays were a pair of Dell monitors with a 1920x1200 resolution and, as time and technology marched forward, I moved to larger 2560x1600 monitors.

I grew to rely on and appreciate the extra vertical resolution that 16:10 displays offer, but as the production and development of "widescreen" PC monitors matured, it naturally began to merge with the television industry, which had long since settled on a 16:9 aspect ratio. This led to the introduction of PC displays with native resolutions of 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, keeping things simple for activities such as media playback but robbing consumers of pixels in terms of vertical resolution.

I was well-accustomed to my 16:10 monitors when the 16:9 aspect ratio took over the market, and while I initially thought that the 120 or 160 missing rows of pixels wouldn't be missed, I was unfortunately mistaken. Those seemingly insignificant pixels turned out to make a noticeable difference in terms of on-screen productivity real estate, and my 1080p and 1440p displays have always felt cramped as a result.

I was therefore sad to see that the relatively new ultrawide monitor market continued the trend of limited vertical resolutions. Most ultrawides feature a 21:9 aspect ratio with resolutions of 2560x1080 or 3440x1440. While this gives users extra resolution on the sides, it maintains the same limited height options of those ubiquitous 1080p and 1440p displays. The ultrawide form factor is fantastic for movies and games, but while some find them perfectly acceptable for productivity, I still felt cramped.

Thankfully, a new breed of ultrawide monitors is here to save the day. In the second half of 2017, display manufactures such as Dell, Acer, and LG launched 38-inch ultrawide monitors with a 3840x1600 resolution. Just like the how the early ultrawides "stretched" a 1080p or 1440p monitor, the 38-inch versions do the same for my beloved 2560x1600 displays.

The Acer XR382CQK

I've had the opportunity to test one of these new "taller" displays thanks to a review loan from Acer of the XR382CQK, a curved 37.5-inch behemoth. It shares the same glorious 3840x1600 resolution as others in its class, but it also offers some unique features, including a 75Hz refresh rate, USB-C input, and AMD FreeSync support.

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Based on my time with the XR382CQK, my hopes for those extra 160 of resolution were fulfilled. The height of the display area felt great for tasks like video editing in Premiere and referencing multiple side-by-side documents and websites, and the gaming experience was just as satisfying. And with its 38-inch size, the display is quite usable at 100 percent scaling.

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There's also an unexpected benefit for video content that I hadn't originally considered. I was so focused on regaining that missing vertical resolution that I initially failed to appreciate the jump in horizontal resolution from 3440px to 3840px. This is the same horizontal resolution as the consumer UHD standard, which means that 4K movies in a 21:9 or similar aspect ratio will be viewable in their full size with a 1:1 pixel ratio.

Continue reading our look at 38-inch 3840x1600 ultrawide monitors!

There are of course downsides to a monitor like the XR382CQK, although these downsides are primarily the same as those faced by all ultrawide form factor displays. First is game support. Although the situation has improved over the past two years, many games don't support ultrawide aspect ratios, especially 3840x1600. Even among those games that do, many aren't "optimized" for it. For example, games may indeed render the entire screen, but they'll place crucial UI elements at the far left and ride sides, forcing you to whip your head back and forth during gameplay. This may not be a big deal on smaller 2560x1080 ultrawides, but can be a pain -- figuratively and literally -- on these large 38-inch models.

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A related issue is video content support. There's simply a ton of content out there that isn't suited for this type of display, so you'll need to get used to having large black bars flanking your TV shows and movies while watching full screen. And heaven help you if you end up with letterboxed content from a 4:3 source. In my opinion, however, and in the opinion of the millions of already happy ultrawide owners, these issues are easily outweighed by the benefits of having an enormous curved screen a foot or two from your face.

This article is intended more as a discussion of the benefits of an ultrawide's 1600-pixel vertical resolution rather than a detailed review of the Acer XR382CQK itself, but I'll note that Acer's first entry into this specific form factor is deserving of high marks. Color reproduction and uniformity were both very good, the display's anti-glare coating kept reflections at a minimum without distorting the image, and I like its slick modern look.

Current 3840x1600 Ultrawide Monitors

For those few sorry fools out there who share my disdain for vertical resolutions less than 1600 pixels, or for those who simply want the biggest monitor on the block, here's a look at the 38-inch 3840x1600 ultrawide displays currently available.

Acer XR382CQK ($998)

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Dell U3818DW ($1,038)

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LG 38UC99-W ($1,150)

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2018 will be a big year for PC monitors thanks to the expanded availability of features like HDR and new initiatives such as NVIDIA's Big Format Gaming Displays, so here's to hoping that additional 3840x1600 ultrawides will hit the market later this year. For now, let us know in the comments if I'm missing any other currently available options.

Review Terms and Disclosure
All Information as of the Date of Publication
How product was obtained: The product is on loan from Acer for the purpose of this review.
What happens to product after review: The product remains the property of Acer and was returned after the publication of this story.
Company involvement: Acer had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.
PC Perspective Compensation: Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by Acer for this review.
Advertising Disclosure: Acer has not purchased advertising at PC Perspective during the past twelve months.
Affiliate links: This article contains affiliate links to online retailers. PC Perspective may receive compensation for purchases through those links.
Consulting Disclosure: Acer is not a current client of Shrout Research for products or services related to this review. 

March 13, 2018 | 03:26 PM - Posted by Dade (not verified)

WTB: 38 inch 3840x1600 ultrawide with 144+Hz, HDR, and Gsync

March 13, 2018 | 03:41 PM - Posted by Onyx1640

I'll take one of them as well. That seems like sweet spot for my next gaming monitor.

March 13, 2018 | 03:54 PM - Posted by Phoenician (not verified)

You forgot <$500. Seriously though that sounds awesome but expensive as heck!

March 14, 2018 | 07:25 PM - Posted by Bleo (not verified)

Oh god yes, I've been waiting so long for that combo. At minimum i'm very happy to see 1600p coming back. Being stuck in 1440p land for this long with no real alternatives hasen't been the greatest. 1st world problems I know....

March 20, 2018 | 06:50 AM - Posted by Bakath

That's what I would want as well. Just not anything from ACER I have had enough of their insistence in putting in a splash screen when you turn on the monitor, so add instant on and I am in :)

March 13, 2018 | 04:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous2 (not verified)

How about just buy a 4K monitor for a third of the price and get an "extra" 720 lines of resolution?

March 13, 2018 | 08:44 PM - Posted by Brother Michigan (not verified)

A lot of it is the aspect ratio, too; you can actually get a lot more reasonably-arranged content on an ultrawide than on a typical 16:10 or 16:9 display.

March 14, 2018 | 04:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous2 (not verified)

That's stupid - not only can you get the IDENTICAL arrangement of content (run the 4K monitor at 3840x1600 with black bars at the top and bottom), but you can get more content by using the whole screen. Why people insist on paying $1,000 for a monitor that is a stripped-down $300 monitor is insane.

March 14, 2018 | 06:20 PM - Posted by Somebody Anybody (not verified)

You're still limited by width. Physical space matters just as much as resolution. Generally speaking you can reasonably fit 3 or 4 columns of content side by side on an ultra wide, while giving each window enough width to be usable.

If you go with 16:9 aspect ratio on a similar sized display in even at UHD resolutions things along the horizontal plane are too narrow which leads to having to use horizontal scrolls bars, or being more economical with space.

March 14, 2018 | 06:59 PM - Posted by edwardahkee (not verified)

Well then the solution is to simply by the in every way superior 40inch class 4k display.

March 13, 2018 | 04:58 PM - Posted by Anonymouse (not verified)

If 160 pixels is so good, than 720 more should be excellent, so why do manufacturers insist on such short displays? It would make sense if they were significantly cheaper than big 4k's, but these are all $1000-1150 which is often even more expensive than 4k! Wide is nice, but wide and tall aren't mutually exclusive

March 13, 2018 | 06:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous3D (not verified)

3D Vision or I'll pass

July 10, 2018 | 10:18 AM - Posted by castl3bravo (not verified)

A waste of cash in my opinion. I did that to play BF3 but you really don't notice it after a few minutes of playing. Also which AAA games work with 3Dvision.

March 14, 2018 | 01:04 AM - Posted by Anonymouse (not verified)

I'll stick with 16:10.

I still miss 4:3.

It's a computer monitor not a TV.

March 14, 2018 | 01:34 AM - Posted by Hakuren

Well to some extent I'm with you, but - and that big (sizable) but ;)- for productivity its quite nice option (size only, display quality that's another matter).

4K scales like crap literally on everything, 5K is even worse when you're on Windows. This looks like nice solution to solve the problem of 4K scaling and lack of space in applications like Corel Painter. There is like million boxes, brush controls and stuff. To compound the problem fonts used to name everything are literally like 6-10 px big. With normal 1440p you'll scratch you head what to keep on screen and what to hide in the menus. Here you get 1280 pixels extra to offload menus and sub-menus there. 160 extra px vertically is nice addition.

Sure Corel should add scaling to the interface the way Celsys' Clip Studio Paint* - 4 levels for basically every environment imaginable, and its perfect. Corel just need to get there, they work in geological time. :P

March 18, 2018 | 12:52 PM - Posted by Stef (not verified)

I may agree just for 16:9 monitors, back in the day I had a 16:10 CRT display wich was great for programming (and gaming of course) way better than 4:3. 16:9 really aren't the same, just good for movies and some games (fps on the ground) but there is a noticable disvantage with rts and flight simulators for example as you loose precius vertical field of view.

March 14, 2018 | 02:10 AM - Posted by saceo (not verified)

The resolution is what matters, not the ratio. Looking at it another way, a 16:9 display is giving you extra horizontal lines vs. a 16:10 display. When I upgraded from my first 16:10 display with a resolution of 1680x1050 to a 1080p display, this gave me an extra 240 horizontal and 30 vertical lines.

May 20, 2018 | 08:51 PM - Posted by kickenit (not verified)

"this gave me an extra 240 horizontal and 30 vertical lines."

I think you mean 240 vertical and 30 horizontal!

March 14, 2018 | 07:39 AM - Posted by Erich Swafford (not verified)

I run my games in an (oddly enough) 3840 x 1600 window on my 49" Samsung HDR HDTV. So yeah, it's a nice aspect ratio if you're sitting close to a large display. Also, it's a lot easier on my old GTX 1080 than full 2160p.

March 14, 2018 | 05:21 PM - Posted by Mike P. (not verified)

I recently picked up a U3818DW. My previous monitors were a Dell U2410 1920x1200 and a Dell 2007FP 1600x1200. I replaced both with the one screen.

I had considered large 4K screens like the LG and Dell 43" monitors but I found they were just too big when I actually got in front of one. I almost settled on a Dell 34" U3415W 3440x1440 but felt it wasn't quite big enough. (either in size or resolution)

Then I saw the Dell 38" (and others based on the same panel) in Microcenter and immediately liked the size and resolution. Definitely not cheap but I find I use monitors for a long time. (through multiple system upgrades)

I'm able to connect my laptop via the USB-C input and the one cable drives the monitor and charges the laptop. It has a built in KVM that lets me switch between the laptop and desktop and share my keyboard and mouse between them.

The Dell display manager app let's you split the screen a number of different ways and snaps apps to the resulting layout. It's much more useful then I expected. (I think LG has something similar for their version)

Overall, I'm very happy with the monitor.

March 15, 2018 | 02:42 AM - Posted by erad84 (not verified)

Does anyone know if there will be Gsync versions of these monitors?

Want to upgrade specifically for adaptive sync but Nvidia don't like open standards so kinda stuck atm.

Like the author I too like 16:10 ratio screens (currently on Dell U3011) and when I saw this monitor I was like finally! But only Freesync.

HDR is a mess atm for not only content but just how many moving parts have to line up for it to work. So I can ignore HDR support for the time being.

But yeah, a Gsync version of this would be ace.

March 19, 2018 | 08:36 AM - Posted by Sapphire Ed (not verified)

I am a wealthy man when it comes to monitors with pretty much every native resolution you can image in house. (Okay not the new 49" Samsung, but soon )

The best resolution in my opinion is not cut and dry, it depends on the desired usage. For work I love my 3440x1440, the 1600 was nice but the cost difference did not make it that nice. I was able to get a 34" 3440x1440 IPS for $500 at 75Hz with freesync. Look at the above prices, need I say more?

For gaming however my monitor of choice is the LG 34UC79G. Yes I know it is only 2560x1080 but that is a near perfect gaming resolution and with IPS and 144hz freesync it looks amazing. Plus a good mid range card like a 570 or 580 drives this beast very well.

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