You’re either on team flat or team curved when it comes to how you prefer your gaming monitors to look. Corsair’s new $1,999 Xeneon Flex, a new 45-inch OLED option that’s shipping early next year, doesn’t make you pick sides. It can morph between the two modes — sadly, not by pressing a button — but by primitively squeezing the screen together with its two handles. It requires a surprising amount of force to pull it into a curve and to push it back into a flat panel, letting out faint clicks when each side has reached its destination.
After testing a non-final version of the Xeneon Flex for several days, my fear of breaking it has nearly subsided, but my fun with switching its modes hasn’t. Using HDR with its 240Hz refresh rate and 21:9 aspect ratio looks great when connected to the M1 MacBook Pro that I use for work. And I experienced pure joy while gaming on it with a 2022 Razer Blade 15 laptop.
Its ability to morph between flexed and flat is what drives that two-thousand-dollar price tag. In the small but growing world of OLED gaming monitors (sans TV tuner), that’s expensive. It costs $700 more than Alienware’s impressive, curved 34-inch QD-OLED display. LG’s flat 27-inch and curved 45-inch UltraGear OLED gaming monitors that ship in early January 2023 will cost $999 and $1,699, respectively, and a company called Dough is claiming to have a 27-inch OLED monitor for just $649. The smaller 42-inch LG OLED Flex can bend or flatten with a button on its remote, but it costs $2,499 on sale.
Being able to switch between flat and curved modes is convenient when you want to switch between productivity and gaming. I prefer to work and watch videos on a flat screen, but switching to its peak 800R curvature is great for gaming because it’s easier for me to see what’s in my peripheral vision.
The Xeneon Flex’s bending mechanism is on its rear, hidden from view when you’re looking at it straight on. To bend or flatten it, you have to press a button on each of the handles at its left and right sides, which allows them to extend and lock in place. Then, without touching the display, you have to push or pull each side of the display until it clicks like you’re using the world’s nerdiest gym machine.
I enjoy switching from flat to curved, and I appreciate that each side can be bent independently and to a different level of curvature. However, the sliding mechanism on this early unit didn’t feel effortless enough for its cost, and the clicks indicating that the display reached its peak curve or flatness weren’t as pronounced as I’d prefer. Justin Ocbina of Corsair’s PR team told me that those two complaints are being addressed in the final unit.
Corsair’s reviewers guide claims that the bendable screen has an “almost limitless bending life cycle,” though its metrics indicate that there is, indeed, a limit. If you bend it five times a day for every day of the week, it expects the mechanism to last for five and half years. Corsair is supplying a three-year warranty with the Xeneon Flex. It also covers burn-in as well as dead pixels.
Whether it’s flat or curved, PC games like God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered and others that support the display’s 21:9 ultrawide aspect ratio look superb. On PC, game compatibility with 21:9 is hit or miss, though as its popularity increases, more games are adding support while others can be forced into that aspect ratio with community-made mods. One caveat about my experience is that 21:9 games didn’t take up the total size of the screen; close to full but shy by a couple dozen pixels on the left and right sides. I’ve asked Corsair about this, and I’ll update this post if it responds.
Thanks to its two HDMI 2.1 ports, Corsair’s OLED monitor can run PS5 and Xbox Series X games at up to 120 frames per second. However, both consoles are limited to the 16:9 aspect ratio, the usual orientation of TVs and many gaming monitors. Console games are enjoyable at 1440p resolution but with sizable vertical black bars hugging the picture. As such, it’s hard to give an enthusiastic recommendation of any 21:9 monitor, including this one, unless you play games on a powerful PC.
The Xeneon Flex makes its price feel worth it in more ways than just being able to transform. It has a zippy 240Hz variable refresh rate with AMD FreeSync Premium and Nvidia G-Sync compatibility and a 0.03-millisecond response time — even faster than LG’s current lineup of OLED TVs. It has a QHD Plus resolution with a 21:9 aspect ratio (3440 x 1440) with 83 pixels per inch (PPI). That’s pretty low, though it didn’t impact me as much in games as it did with productivity, where text is readable but slightly pixelated.
The Flex’s max 800R curvature is curvier than most curved monitors, which usually range between 1000R and 1800R (the lower the R number, the more curved the screen is). A more intense curve can increase immersion and make it easier to see everything that’s on the screen that might sit outside of view when it’s flat. What’s great about Corsair’s monitor is that it lets you tweak how curved it is, in case you prefer a more subtle curve or if you want just one side of it to be curved.
It’s got fantastic viewing angles when it’s flat; I can make out details standing to the side with minuscule color and brightness shifting. That changes a bit when it’s curved, but it’s still easier to appreciate visuals at off-center than non-OLED curved monitors, like Samsung’s Odyssey Ark and Neo G9.
While the OLED panels in most TVs are covered by a contrast- and detail-enhancing glossy finish, the panel in the Xeneon Flex has an anti-glare (matte), low-reflectivity layer coating, sometimes abbreviated to “AGLR.” This may disappoint some people, but my experience hasn’t been affected by it. I typically work in The Verge’s office at a desk that’s near a wall of windows, and I appreciated the lack of glare. Even more so did I appreciate, once again, that its sides can be flexed independently. It’s a clever way to keep some light from shining on the display.
Like all OLEDs, the peak brightness of the Xeneon Flex depends entirely on what’s on the screen. Corsair claims a peak brightness of 1,000 nits, but you’ll only see that when an HDR image is taking up 3 percent of its total screen size. Increasing the window size to 10 percent at HDR reduces it to 800 nits. Intense dimming kicks in if you have a bright image taking up the full size of the Xeneon Flex; it’ll apparently top out at just 150 nits — nearly half as bright as Alienware’s brighter QD-OLED gaming monitor in a similar test. To prevent burn-in, the entire display periodically shifts its pixels to help prevent burn-in by moving static pixels. While noticeable (and a little strange to witness the first few times), it’s not distracting.
All of the video inputs are located on its back, including one DisplayPort 1.4 port, two HDMI 2.1 ports, one USB-C port that can charge devices at up to 30W (I wish it pushed at least double that) and pull in video via DisplayPort alt mode. If you have a more power-thirsty laptop, you’ll need a lot more than what this single cable connection can supply to keep it charged. Corsair also squeezed in a USB hub with one USB-C port to make an upstream connection with your PC and two USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 downstream ports for accessories.
There are even more ports on its front: two USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports on its front alongside a 3.5mm port for audio output. Next to those are Corsair’s input button, a power button, and a five-way joystick for navigating its on-screen settings (these features can also be controlled in Corsair’s iCue desktop software). Of note, for as “gamer-y” a name as the Xeneon Flex is, I’m surprised and pleased that it does not have a single RGB LED for decor. It looks stunning and serious on a desk.
As I hope to see with any pricey monitor, Corsair includes all of the cables that you’ll need to get the most out of the devices you might wish to connect to the Xeneon Flex. You’ll get a DisplayPort cable, an HDMI 2.1 cable, a USB-C to C cable, and a USB-A to C cable. The final unit will include a 240W power adapter, which is roughly the size of ones that are included with many Windows gaming laptops (note: Corsair originally shipped a 230W adapter in the box, but it sent over a 240W option. Justin Ocbina of Corsair’s PR team told me the company discovered power deficiency issues in some “extreme cases,” so final units will include the 240W adapter.)
This early sample runs different firmware from the yet-to-be mass-produced version, says Ocbina. It also lacks refinements made to the screen-bending mechanism to make it easier to morph. Here’s the full list of changes provided by Corsair upon request:
- Firmware final version has been updated to version V1.01 for MP [mass production]
- Changes from V0.94 [the firmware version available for review]
- Fixed Preset sRGB Mode picture display issue
- Improve HDR signal picture display when PIP/PBP [picture-in-picture/picture-by-picture] enabled
- Fixed Crosshair and Refresh Overlay behavior issue
- LED indicator would keep white light when power on instead of fading out after 20 seconds
- Change Preset Standard mode color temperature to Standard (6500K)
- Fixed input source setting wouldn’t match when PIP/PBP enable
- Aspect Ratio wouldn’t set to Full and grey out automatically by Adaptive Sync On
- Main Menu Transparency setting value shouldn’t affect Input/No Signal/Cable not connected message
- Handles have improved sliding mechanism for smoother action
- Mechanical hinge has slight adjustment to torque settings to provide smoother motion and click sound
The Xeneon Flex’s $1,999 price may be out of range for most gamers, but it’s cheaper and bigger than LG’s competing OLED Flex. Sure, you have to flex this one manually, which takes a little getting used to. Some may still find LG’s curved-only 45-inch UltraGear OLED that sells for $300 less to be a more alluring deal, but getting a custom curve with Corsair’s model won’t cost you much more.