Samsung C49HG90 49-in Ultrawide FreeSync 2 Monitor Review: How Wide is too Wide?
Ultrawide monitors have become an enormous trend in PC gaming over the last 3-4 years. In late 2014 when LG launched the first PC monitors with a 21:9 aspect ratio, I indeed was a skeptic. To me, it seemed like such a radical new aspect ratio would be wrought with game incompatibility, and wouldn't offer much of an advantage over two monitor setups for productivity.
And in the beginning, this was mostly the case. In 2014, games didn't even enable the option for 21:9 aspect ratio resolutions, and those that did, generally resulted in distorted image and FOV settings.
However, gamers wanted these ultrawide aspect ratio displays, and the game support soon followed. Now, ultrawide monitors are a staple of every monitor manufacturer's product lineup.
What we are looking at today though, is the most intense of all of the ultrawide monitors, the 49" Samsung CHG90. And it just so happens to be one of the first AMD FreeSync 2 displays.
Still in the ultrawide category, the CHG90 moves away from the more traditional 21:9 ultrawide aspect ratio to a wider and squatter 32:9. This aspect ratio allows Samsung to maximize the width of the CHG90 while keeping the display short enough not to engulf your entire wall.
Essentially, you can look at this display as two 27" monitors sitting side-by-side, without the pesky bezel in the middle. Similarly, the resolution of the CHG90 matches the effective resolution of two 1080p monitors sitting next to each other, with a total resolution of 3840x1080.
To achieve such a big display size in a still relatively usable form factor, the CHG90 display features a 1800R curvature. This figure refers to the measurement of the resulting radius that the display would make if it continued to make a full circle. For example, a 3000R display would have less of a curve than a 1800R display.
The curve on the CHG90 isn't quite like any other display we've seen, however. Due to the immense size of the display, the entire panel isn't curved. The curve stops about 6 inches from the edge of either side of the screen.
When staring at the display head-on, as you would for the majority of the time you're using your PC this is very difficult to notice, but if you are looking at it from the side, there's a strange parallax effect that can take some adjusting.
In order to support the massively wide display, the CHG90's stand requires a very large footprint. This means you have to have a deep desk to support using this panel, while still having room for a keyboard and mouse in front of it.
This display is one of AMD's early FreeSync 2 options, including variable refresh rate support through the DisplayPort and HDMI connections, both with enough range to implement LFC (low frame rate compensation). More on that below.
In addition to being a massive 49-in and sporting a 32:9 aspect ratio, the CHG90 also features support for HDR and is certified for the VESA DisplayHDR 600 standard. Samsung can achieve the higher color gamut levels required for this certification through the use of a Quantum Dot metal layer in the backlight, borrowed from their QLED technology for TVs. As a result, Samsung quotes the CHG90 all the way up to "Typical 92%, Minimum 88%" AdobeRGB coverage.
As we've seen with several of the earlier Ultrawide displays, the CHG90 offers a split-screen functionality to allow you to use multiple inputs at the same time.
Any two of the display inputs can be assigned to either split the screen in half (emulating two 16:9 monitors) or in a third configuration where you have a 21:9 "main" input, while a second input fills the rest of the space.
For someone who is often switching between PCs, I found the side-by-side 16:9 mode to be quite useful for display information from two different machines at the same time with a clean, bezel-less look.
As I alluded to earlier, support for ultrawide monitors in games has come along way in the past few years. Luckily for Samsung, implementing 21:9 support has meant that games are more adaptable to different aspect ratios, instead of being designed solely around a traditional 16x9 or 16x10 display.
This means, that even though the CHG90 sports a new 32:9 aspect ratio, a lot of the previous legwork in games and game engines means proper support for gamers on this display.
The first game I tried out on the 49" CHG90 display was a natural fit, Dirt Rally. Racing games have traditionally been very adaptable to different aspect ratios, and generally, support multi-monitor setups as well as ultrawide monitors.
The experience with Dirt Rally was great, allowing for me to see more of the track through my periphery out of the side windows of the car as compared to a 16:9 display.
Keep in mind though, while you are gaining the advantage of no bezels, you have less Field of View with an ultrawide monitor, even a 32:9 display, than a more "traditional" 3 display setup for serious racing simulation setups.
In general, First Person Shooter titles have had some of the worst support for non-traditional aspect ratios, be it from multi-monitor setups or ultrawide displays. However, modern titles like Far Cry 5 have been built from the ground up with the ultrawide experience in mind.
Far Cry 5 takes full advantage of this extra space, with an expanded Field of View which comes in handy when driving or piloting vehicles in particular.
Civilization VI is an interesting example of a title that supports ultrawide monitors but has its disadvantages. While the game itself looks great in a wide aspect ratio, crucial UI elements and buttons remain at the edges of the display, meaning you'll have to crane your neck around the screen to play the game. I found that personally, this made the game almost unplayable for me for large stretches of time, which is a disappointment for a Civilization game.
Another infamous example of poor ultrawide support is Blizzard's Overwatch. While it technically supports 21:9 resolutions, the resulting image is cropped and distorted. This is a conscious effort on the part of Blizzard to prevent a competitive advantage from a wider aspect ratio.
One significant benefit for gamers with the CHG90 is support for AMD FreeSync 2 technology. With a variable refresh range support between 48-144Hz via DisplayPort, and 48-100Hz via HDMI.
This sizeable variable refresh range also means that the CHG90 supports AMD's Low Framerate Compensation technology to provide a smoothe experience even once you drop below the 48Hz bottom floor.
Testing with an RX Vega 56 GPU, we found no apparent issues with the implementation of FreeSync with this display. Gamers with AMD GPUs can expect a tear-free, fluid gameplay experience.
The CHG90 features DisplayHDR 600 certification. This certification covers many different facets of the display as a whole including color reproduction and response time, but for right now we are going to focus on backlight brightness.
Proper HDR support is achieved through the combination of higher color gamut and the ability for the backlight to shine several times brighter than a traditional display. For LCDs, this is generally accomplished through the use of a Full Array Local Dimming backlight array.
DisplayHDR 600 certification requires a display to be able to sustain a 10% patch in the center of the screen at a brightness of 600 nits, as well as be able to flash the entire display at the same 600 nits brightness. However, normal full-screen long duration backlight brightness only needs to be able to hit 350nits, which is just a bit above the typical 300 nits of a traditional, "SDR" display.
Personally, I have found the HDR capabilities of the CHG90 to be underwhelming. As someone who consumes HDR content on a fairly regular basis via an HDR-enabled TV, the CHG90's image quality is "flat", closer to an SDR display than a true HDR experience.
Both in gaming and movie playback, the CHG90 seemingly can't get bright enough to create enough contrast between light and dark items in a scene.
This isn't a unique problem to the CHG90 however. Reviews of the current crop of "HDR" PC displays have generally been less than stellar. Fitting a fully dimming backlight array with hundreds of zones into a display that can still comfortably fit on a desk seems to be an extreme challenge at the moment for panel manufacturers.
We've seen the promise of small, desktop-sized displays capable of hitting 1000 nits in G-SYNC form from ASUS and Acer, but the numerous product launch delays and lack of news further point to how difficult it is to integrate high-end HDR technologies into sub 40-in class displays at the moment.
I'm confident in the next year or so that PC displays will get to a similar level of HDR competency as TVs, however at the moment, if HDR is one of the more prominent selling points attracting you to the CHG90, I would wait to see how the market shakes out.
The Samsung C49HG90 display is one of the most unique PC displays I've had the opportunity to look at over the years. In the time it's spent on my desk, I've had numerous questions from people in the office wondering about it, and expressing interest in this super ultrawide display.
However, I don't think the CHG90 is for me. Personally, I would much rather have two higher resolution 2560x1440 27" displays next to each other, and deal with the bezel in the middle. Unless you are buying this display mainly for gaming, I think that this is a better option.
However, for gamers, it's difficult to beat the immersive experience provided by sitting close to such a wide monitor. While I do think the CHG90 lacks the necessary pixel count for productivity, this becomes an advantage for gaming, meaning that even moderately powerful graphics cards can adequately feed this display.
At just under $1000 on Amazon right now, the C49HG90 is a tough sell. With the lackluster HDR performance, it comes down to the unique aspect ratio of this display as the main standout feature. Still, combined with FreeSync 2 compatibility, the uniqueness of this display could be the perfect thing for a gamer looking to enter the Ultrawide market.
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All Information as of the Date of Publication
|How product was obtained:||The product is on loan from AMD for the purpose of this review.|
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