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Hands-on with Alienware’s new, curved QD-OLED gaming monitor

Samsung’s new display tech debuts in a gaming monitor

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Alienware QD-OLED gaming monitor sitting on a white desk in a well-lit room displaying the game Deathloop.

QD-OLED screen technology was one of the big, new innovations that debuted at CES 2022, marking Samsung Display’s long-awaited foray into making big-screen OLEDs. LG Display finally has some competition, and so far, we know that Sony plans to release its first QD-OLED TV models soon. But the first product to actually ship with one of these QD-OLED screens isn’t a TV. It’s a gaming monitor from Alienware.

Alienware’s 34-inch QD-OLED AW3423DW curved gaming monitor is the showcase for the tech, for now, and it’s available starting today for $1,299.99. I had a few hours alone with it, testing it out with some games and apps.

I don’t have a verdict for you today. Instead, I have some first impressions that I’ll expand upon later in a full review, as well as some answers to day-one questions you may have about this exciting monitor.

The first thing I did with the AW3423DW plugged in was admire its punchy, rich colors, and inky blacks. This Alienware monitor possesses the hallmark traits of an OLED, as I hoped and expected. But of course, QD-OLED tech works a little differently. While OLEDs have precise control over what parts of the panel are illuminated, and blacks are truly black, Samsung’s new tech aims to do all of that, while boosting brightness and color reproduction by pushing blue light through a quantum dot layer.

I haven’t yet compared the AW3423DW side-by-side to other monitors in our office, but I’m curious if it can get brighter than LED panels. That could be telling, since LED screens are still known for being able to go brighter than OLEDs, and for retaining that bright picture in HDR modes. QD-OLED aims to close that brightness gap.

Alienware’s AW3423DW supports up to 1,000 nits at peak brightness, and it’s certified with VESA DisplayHDR True Black 400. One other standout feature of this monitor is Nvidia’s G-Sync Ultimate, which ensures “lifelike” HDR, the lowest latency gameplay, along with other G-Sync perks, like syncing the display with your Nvidia graphics card’s render rate for the best visual performance.

What’s the difference between OLED and QD-OLED?

QD-OLED screens differ from the traditional OLED panels that’ve long been manufactured by LG Display in the way they produce an image. LG’s displays are considered WRGB OLED, because they use blue and yellow OLED compound to generate white-ish light pixels that are passed through color filters to produce red, green, and blue sub-pixels. More recent OLED TVs also have a fourth unfiltered / white sub-pixel meant to enhance brightness — especially for HDR content.

QD-OLED changes this up by emitting blue light through quantum dots to convert some of that blue into red and green without any need for the color filter. (Blue is used because it has the strongest light energy.) This leads to greater light energy efficiency; since you’re not losing any light to the color filters, QD-OLED TVs should offer brightness gains compared to past-generation OLEDs.

A simplified breakdown of QD-OLED.
A simplified breakdown of QD-OLED.
Image: Samsung Display

They should also be able to maintain accurate, vivid quantum dot color reproduction even at peak brightness levels, whereas WRGB OLED can sometimes exhibit some desaturation when pushed that far. The already-superb viewing angles of OLED are claimed to be even better on QD-OLED at extreme angles since there’s more diffusion happening without the color filter in the way.

The possibility of burn-in isn’t eliminated by QD-OLED, but the hope is that these panels could exhibit a longer overall life span than existing OLED TVs since the pixels aren’t working as hard. Samsung Display is using three layers of blue OLED material for each pixel, and that could help to preserve longevity.

The next thing that I did was play some games. I was connected to an Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 gaming laptop via HDMI 2.0, so the monitor was capped at 100Hz refresh rate, but I tested Deathloop, and it picked up on the monitor’s 3,440 x 1,440 resolution without missing a beat. It looked and played smoothly, and I caught myself appreciating small details that I noticed for the first time while gaming on this display because its colors and contrast are so much more precise than the display that I use at home.

And what’s more, this model’s 1800R curve isn’t so curvy that I noticed a warped, zoomed-in effect around the edges of the display in-game. That was a big problem with Samsung’s Odyssey Neo G9, which my colleague Sean Hollister reviewed in a head-to-head review against the LG C1 OLED. Then again, this more subtle curve might not be immersive enough for some people.

Alienware AW3423DW QD-OLED gaming monitor

In addition to two HDMI 2.0 ports, Alienware’s AW3423DW also includes DisplayPort, with support for up to a 175Hz refresh rate. You’ll also get a headphone jack, a line out for connecting speakers, as well as several USB-A downstream ports for connecting accessories.

Alienware’s debut OLED was meant to be used by PCs, given its compatibility with all sorts of resolutions and aspect ratios, but it’s technically compatible with modern consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X too — with caveats aplenty.

Neither console supports 21:9 aspect ratio, just 16:9, so the output resolution of the AW3423DW tops out at 2,560 x 1,440 on the Series X. In other words, you’ll have vertical black bars on the sides of the picture. Another wrinkle with the Xbox is that Dell says these new consoles can’t output HDR at QHD resolution, so your image may not be as vibrant as you’d like. And since the PS5 doesn’t support QHD resolution, you’ll probably just see a 1080p image in 16:9 aspect ratio. All of this to say, console gamers should probably just get a 4K OLED TV if they really want to appreciate those consoles. They were actually built for that kind of display.

Alienware’s warranty includes three-year coverage for OLED burn-in

But if you’re on PC, there’s a lot about the AW3423DW that seems pretty great. It has the speed, beauty, and accuracy of an OLED screen in a package that’s tailor-made for PC users. Instead of a TV interface, it has a standard on-screen display interface with all of the tweakable settings you’d expect. Plus, it has some OLED-specific ones, like the ability to do a pixel or panel refresh. From these settings, you can also adjust the ambient backlighting of the monitor’s rugged stand, which, by the way, supports a wide range of height adjustments, including tilt, swivel, and slant.

It may be a struggle to figure out if you want this or an OLED TV for your gaming setup. One of the most alluring aspects of this $1,299 purchase is the Alienware AW3423DW’s fantastic warranty. Alienware’s warranty includes three-year coverage for OLED burn-in, which may be a concern for people who are considering buying an OLED. Burn-in has become less of an issue with televisions, but the concern with a computer monitor is valid, since there are more static elements in an OS interface.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here, and I look forward to spending a lot more time with this monitor. I hope to have a full review up on the site within the coming weeks.