Widescreen monitors are great. They're spot-on for watching Blu-rays or downloaded TV, and they're well suited to modern PC gaming. But if you want to multi-task, regular widescreen can be a bit restrictive; it's just not wide enough. LG's 21:9 UltraWide UM65 monitor is made for serious productivity, but it's equally at home running through a couple of rounds of Titanfall or Battlefield.
What Is It?
The LG 29UM65 is a 29-inch LED edge-lit monitor, using one of LG's IPS panels with a 21:9 ultra-widescreen ratio. This out-of-the-ordinary ratio means it has a similarly out-of-the-ordinary resolution; your Windows or Mac OS X desktop will be running natively at 2560x1080 pixels — this is, interestingly enough, an middle-of-the-road compromise between the horizontal resolution of a 2560x1440 pixel widescreen panel and the vertical resolution of a 1920x1080 pixel one.
Along with the $599 29-inch 29UM65, LG also has the 34-inch 34UM65, with the same 2560x1080 pixel resolution. There's also an even crazier 3440x1440 pixel 34-inch UM65 as well as a few other UltraWide monitors in various sizes. Although none of these are especially cheap, it's great to have several choices.
Like so many other LG display devices — the new G3 smartphone included — the UM65 monitor has almost no physical bezel on its top edge and sides. There's actually around 5mm of bezel around those edges when you have the UM65 turned on, but when it's switched off the front of the monitor is one smooth layer of plastic. The lower bezel is a little thicker; it hides a pair of speakers with 14 Watts of power.
What Is It Good At?
A decent range of inputs means the 29UM65 caters well to a wide range of PC and Mac users; HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2 are versatile enough to cover most users, and dual-link DVI stands in handily for older PCs. You can use the UM65's internal stereo speakers or output audio through the rear headphone jack; you can also input audio over both the digital video connectors or a 3.5mm connector.
The UM65's 29-inch, IPS, 2560x1080 pixel display is every bit as good as you'd expect. With a screen finish that's closer to matte than glossy, there's a slight amount of detail lost in the antiglare coating, but for the most part you won't be disappointed with the quality of 1080p native content. The IPS panel makes for excellent viewing angles, even at the extreme far edge of the ultrawide display. For the most part contrast and colour accuracy are line-ball with other mid- to high-end LED monitors — not perfect, but more than adequate for everyday use.
Being a resolution that, in terms of the sheer number of pixels, sits somewhere in between Full HD 1920x1080p and Quad HD 2560x1440p, the 29UM65 has a middling impact on your 3D gaming. If you want a bit more detail than Full HD (and a wider image) it's a great choice, and if your computer isn't quite powerful enough to run a Quad HD monitor, it's slightly less demanding. It's not exactly apples to apples, though, because of the UM65's unique aspect ratio.
LG has included a comprehensive calibration engine within the 29UM65's onscreen user interface, so you can choose preset settings or tweak your own white balance or contrast or brightness settings. For the most part, straight out of the box the LG UltraWide monitor actually presented a pretty accurate colour palette and decent detail in both shadow and highlight regions of on-screen images. Stay away from the automatic brightness and contrast modes, though — they're too slow to give you the dynamic range boost you want in either gaming or movies.
What Is It Not Good At?
The LG 29UM65's onscreen interface is controlled with a single multidirectional joystick, which sits below the LG logo on the lower front of the screen's bezel. It's the only control on the entire monitor, which means you'll need to learn how to drive it (left, right, up, down, inwards) to power on and power off the monitor and navigate through menus. The on-screen guide helps but it's easy to make a mistake when trying to navigate quickly. As innovative and potentially useful as the joystick could have been, a simple row of buttons on the lower front bezel or rear of the panel would probably have been more convenient and less hassle in the long run.
The 29UM65's internal speakers are a little underpowered and indistinct. You shouldn't ever have particularly high expectations from the speakers inside a small and thin monitor, but if you're going to be plugging in HDMI or DisplayPort, I'd suggest you use some external speakers for the best possible sound quality. I generally use a small soundbar on top of or underneath my monitors anyway; the Edifier MP250 is surprisingly good. The UM65's speakers are OK, but they're not going to flatter a nice high quality movie.
As computer monitors go, the LG 29UM65 is also relatively expensive. You're paying a premium for the UltraWide display, and although it does certainly come in handy for the expanded screen real estate and for multi-tasking on the Web — it's a writer's dream having a word processor open alongside a Web browser with some info — the price means the UM65 will be competing with some high-end regular widescreen monitors like the Dell U2413.
Should You Buy It?
If you like the idea of browsing the Web with a couple of browser windows open simultaneously, the $599 29UM65 is the monitor to get. If you want a flashy and modern monitor that also works as a conversation starter for anyone walking past your desk — "What the hell is that?" — there's nothing on the market more outrageous than the stretch limo UltraWide 29UM65.
Considered in abstract, the LG 29UM65 is a good monitor; the internal speakers are my only real sticking point with it. If you're an absolutely avid movie-watcher or gamer, there is probably a more appropriate regular 16:9 widescreen monitor for each specific use, but the UM65 is versatile enough to flatter no matter what.