Nvidia's tagline for the new GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card is "Play The Future." As far as Nvidia is concerned, the future can never get here fast enough, mostly because its demands for more pixels and graphical power are what keeps the GPU maker in business. That's why Nvidia is pushing 4K gaming as the next big thing, and that's also why the company is so excited to see a new wave of high-resolution 34-inch curved displays emerging here at Computex.
Everyone is standardizing around a consistent spec: 34 inches and ultrawide
Local Taiwanese powerhouses Acer and Asus are joining the likes of Dell and LG in standardizing around a new set of specifications for their latest and best desktop monitors. Measuring 34 inches diagonally, these new displays are basically what you'd get if you took a regular monitor, stretched it out to the cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio and filled the extra space with pixels. Both Acer and Asus are showing off 34-inch, 3,440 x 1,440 IPS displays in Taipei, though they differ markedly in terms of design and primary purpose.
Acer emphasizes gaming, putting its Predator branding and some extra design flourishes on its new X34 monitor. LED lights adorn the underside of the screen, allowing you to customize the rhythm of their pulsations, and the whole thing is styled in a typically aggressive and macho fashion. The company has also overclocked the refresh rate from 75Hz to 100Hz, added two DTS-certified 7W speakers, and made the stand height- and tilt-adjustable. This package won't come cheap, with Acer indicating a price of over $1,000 for a launch in August. A more affordable, yet bigger, option will be made available in the form of the Predator X35: a curvier display with a higher refresh rate (144Hz) that uses a cheaper VA panel. That one will be going on sale in September.
While it may seem like Acer has covered every little detail that a gamer might care about, a couple of rather significant hurdles remain to be overcome. Firstly, it's not at all clear that 21:9 is a good aspect ratio for gaming. Even if you're convinced that it is, though, the proposed scenario of stringing three X34 or X35s together to create one ludicrously wide field of view just doesn't work. I mean that both figuratively — it feels awkward and unhelpful for the player — and literally, as The Witcher III simply doesn't provide the option to render at the extra-wide 10,320 x 1,440 resolution of the three panels together.
Acer was forced to stretch the content to fill the two side-screens, and it may take a while before we see games actually supporting such oddball resolutions. That's not helped by the steep entry price, which will keep these monitors in the niche category for the immediate future.
Acer is going after gaming enthusiasts, Asus is pursuing luxury enthusiasts
Asus has taken a different approach, eschewing the gaming focus in favor of a more universally appealing design. Whereas Acer wants to capitalize on the willingness of gaming enthusiasts to spend generously on their setups, Asus is going for the sense of luxury and exclusivity that a beautifully designed, high-end piece of technology provides. The curved LX341 monitor matches Acer's 3,440 x 1,440 resolution and claimed 178-degree viewing angles, but it also includes Asus' SonicMaster speakers, built around Bang & Olufsen's ICEpower technology. I'm not sure how much of an advantage that will prove in this new monitor, but it's given Asus the confidence to aim for a higher price, somewhere around $1,200, when it releases the LX341. The company says to expect it in the fourth quarter of this year or the beginning of next.
Perhaps Nvidia will bristle at how long it's taking for these monitors to actually become available, and thereafter, how long it will take them to become cheap and practical. But now that the major manufacturers are all standardizing around a common specification, the momentum seems to be there for 34-inch ultrawide monitors to grow into a proper category of their own. Curved or not, they seem set to be a big part of our future.