It’s rare that we see palpable steps forward with display technology. Sure, we get better panels, higher resolution, and all sorts of advances with specs such as G-Sync/adaptive sync, but we haven’t seen a fundamental change in quite some time. An entire decade has passed since monitors jumped onto the 16:9 display ratio bandwagon, and we really haven’t looked back since. Today, LG seems to be single-handedly leading the charge towards the new 21:9 cinematic aspect ratio with their new flagship monitor, the 34UM95. We’ve spent a few weeks with it now to really get a feel for it, and I think it’s safe to say that the future is here.
LG’s 34UM95 is absolutely impossible to ignore. The massive monitor packs a 3440 X 1440 resolution into a 34 inch diagonal panel. Calling it massive is, quite frankly, an understatement. I had cleared a large portion of my desk off in preparation for this review, and once I unpacked this beast I still had to move things a bit more to fully accommodate it how I wanted it. In practical terms, you’re looking at a 33 inch long (84 cm) and 18 inch high (45.72) piece of hardware on your desk once everything is said and done.
There’s not a lot of wasted space here, either. The hidden bezel is a mere half an inch (1.27 cm) on the top and side, and you only have about 4 inches (10.16 cm) worth of space from your set-up to the start of the display with the included stand. The matte panel does a fantastic job of hiding what little bezel there is by stretching from edge to edge, and I sincerely doubt I would have noticed it had I not had another monitor next to it for comparison. In practice, you essentially have the ability to run two programs at 1740 X 1440 on 20.5 inch displays while only needing one monitor. Simply put, there isn’t a damn thing that’s subtle about the 34UM95.
The panel itself is extremely high quality. The 34UM95 features an 8-bit IPS panel rated for 5 ms response and 60 Hz, although it does support 10-bit color through the DisplayPort input. Alongside the DisplayPort connections, you’ll also find two 1.4a HDMI connections, two Thunderbolt ports, an integrated USB 3.0 hub, and an auxiliary headphone out port. There are also two 7-watt speakers built in, but for the life of me I cannot understand why. A pair of 7-watt speakers will indeed give you audio, but not with any sort of fidelity you’d want really want to use. I can almost forgive the headphone jack, but outside of some very specific instances I can’t imagine where someone would have an upper echelon monitor such as this and not have even a cheap set of speakers nearby. I’ve seen other products do this, but it still seems as waste of resources to me.
I do want to point out that the HDMI inputs are limited to 50 Hz as opposed to DisplayPort’s 60Hz. This isn’t a knock on the monitor in any way since it’s simply a limitation of HDMI, and it’s not as jarring a difference as you may expect, but if you’re going to use a product of this caliber you should be sure you can use it to its fullest.
LG has thankfully included a VESA mount, and it’s something that I would strongly advise you to consider when picking this monitor up. The included stand — dubbed Crystal Float — is definitely pretty, but woefully inadequate in use. The stand has a clear back and a very low profile, giving off the illusion that the 34UM95 is floating above your desk at first glance, but only offers the smallest bit of tilt. Outside of putting it on a monitor stand to raise it a bit, there’s really nothing else you can do to improve your experience. It’s something that I’m planning on doing in the very near future.
Outside of its obvious size differences, the second biggest change most people will see is the lack of traditional buttons in favor of a joystick, which is located on the bottom center of the monitor. From here, you can access your standard features such as selecting inputs, brightness control, and the rest of the usual suspects. There are a few built in color management schemes such as a reading mode which should lower eye fatigue, but it distorted the colors a bit too much to be useful in my opinion, especially when there’s a free software solution in f.lux available for download.
All right, enough about the technical aspects, how does the 34UM95 play out in the real world? Well, that honestly depends on what you’re attempting to use it for. From a productivity standpoint, this is easily one of the finest products on the market. As I type this, I comfortably have two Word documents open as well as Chrome all sharing a third of the monitor without having to decrease the font size in the slightest. I previously thought I was spoiled from having multiple monitors available to keep track of notes/coding/what have you, but being able to share the screen real estate right in front of me is outstanding. LG has made this a bit easier by including a two way screen split on the 34UM95’s firmware as well as having software capable of handling up to a 4 way split.
As for gaming, the 34UM95 is a mixed bag, but that’s through no real fault of its own. There’s a large collection of games that simply don’t support 3440 X 1440 natively, and you’ll usually default back to a 27 inch, 16:9 setting (i.e. 2560 x 1440). Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with how it looks there, but if you’re going to game on a more standard 1440p monitor there are a lot better options for that. For instance, there are third party apps such as Flawless Widescreen that open up a good chunk of the games I’ve found to have issues.
Ignoring that minor flaw, games played at full 3440X1440 are absolutely breathtaking. Sure, they don’t have quite the fidelity of 4k resolutions, but the cinematic display offers up some truly impressive visuals. Playing Team Fortress 2, I’m able to have a more natural field of view without any tweaks. In fact, it almost feels like cheating now that I’m no longer restricted to the standard 16:9 aspect ratio.
The benefits didn’t stop with first-person shooters, of course. Civilization V allowed me to manage my kingdom easier by watching all of my borders with minimal scrolling. While 1440p resolution isn’t supported by Diablo III, I swear that I was able to see further into the distance and call out packs for my party faster. Both The Witcher II and Dark Souls II needed third party help in order to fully utilize the full 21:9, however, standing on top of mountains and looking into the distance provided something I had only previously experienced in a movie theatre. I wasn’t just playing a game; I was smack bang in the middle of it.
Possibly the best part about the 34UM95 is that, with the 5 megapixel display, this is only going to take about 30% more power to run than your standard 1440p monitor. Sure, you’ll still need a decent graphics card to take full advantage of it, although you won’t have to break the bank to get that bleeding edge performance that’s demanded out of a GPU for 4K resolutions.
For you cinephiles out there, I don’t have to explain the obvious benefits of this setup. This is as close as you’re really going to get to the theatre experience right now, at least until we start seeing 21:9 TVs come down to more affordable prices. I’m personally not a fan of watching movies strictly at my desk, but I’m positive that some of you out there won’t have a second thought.
If it sounds like I’m really gushing over the 34UM95, that’s because I am. While it’s not perfect, my complaints are either minor in the long run or simply not the fault of LG. Sure, I would have loved to see a better stand out of the box, and even having the slightest bend on this screen would have been fantastic. However, I can solve one of those problems with a VESA mount, which I generally tend to use anyways, and asking for a bend in the screen almost feels greedy considering how much I’ve enjoyed my time here so far.
The only real problem with the 34UM95 is that it’s simply not a gaming monitor by design. It does the job well enough, there’s definitely no argument about that, but gamers specifically are looking for a certain set of standards. 60Hz is considered the bare minimum for PC gamers in terms of fluid motion, and there is a noticeable downgrade from the 120Hz Overlord we had previously been using for reviews. It perhaps would have been nice to see G-Sync or, even better, FreeSync, but those technologies are in their infancy. G-Sync is just starting to really hit the market and FreeSync hasn’t officially debuted yet. I certainly can’t knock LG for not including them, but it does demonstrate the slight gap between the 34UM95 and some of the latest gaming-centric monitors on the marketplace.
One more minor complaint is that turning off the display actually seems to disable it in Windows. If you solely use the 34UM95, this is a problem you will almost never face. Howeverm those of us who still hold on to the early 2000 rule stating of “I need as many screens as possible!”, it’s slightly annoying to realize your windows may have moved screens when you fire everything back up. This is the very definition of nitpicking though, since any “problems” that come out of this can be resolved in about 45 seconds and it’s certainly not something most people will deal with.
To put it simply, the 34UM95 has spoiled me. The extra immersion found in games is something that’s hard to fully put into words, but it’s a magical feeling. I almost feel like I’m a child again, playing Super Mario Bros. for the very first time and watching this world unfold around me. From a productivity point of view, outside of the first time I was able to use dual monitors, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so free. The 34UM95 is simply one of those products that can completely revitalize your love for hardware. 21:9 is still in its early stages in terms of adoption, and it is up against the looming 4K juggernaut that will undoubtedly win the war, but this is an absolutely fantastic piece of tech. For those looking to upgrade to the next big thing but aren’t quite ready to settle for the 4K TN panels with their UI scaling issues and heavy GPU demands, the LG 34UM95 may very well be the best avenue to take.
This review is based on a unit given to us for review purposes.
The LG 34UM95 is one of the most impressive monitors we've ever encountered. It may not have been designed strictly with gamers in mind, but now that we've experienced cinematic 21:9 gaming, I don't think we'll ever be able to go back.