ASUS got in touch with me the other week and said, "Hey, would you like to see our new monitor?" And I thought, sure. Monitors are cool. Tech is cool.
But this isn't a monitor. It's more like a TV.
I'm not completely averse to the idea of having a TV on your desk as a monitor. With 4K TVs becoming more and more affordable, especially anything under 50", the idea of having one screen replace two or three makes a lot of sense. Real estate is a premium, especially in the office, and having one nicer screen always trumps two or three garbage ones.
So when ASUS emailed to ask if I wanted to test their ASUS ROG Swift PG348Q ultrawide screen monitor, a 34" monster with an IPS panel, 100Hz refresh rate and a native resolution of 3440 x 1440. It's a veritable monster, in pixel count and raw real estate. And that's only made more obvious when it's placed between my two ordinary, daily 23" desktop monitors.
It's too bloody big, really.
Minus the larger size, IPS panel, slight curve and difference in refresh rate, you're getting a monitor with much the same features, build quality and styling as the ASUS PG258Q that I tested earlier this year. The three-pronged base is back. The ports at the back are in exactly the same place, and just as hard to reach as last time. The monitor's OSD seems a bit faster to respond and navigate through, but it's mostly what you'd expect: a bigger screen, and a nicer quality one to boot.
The PG348Q starts from $1769, by the way.
A decade ago, people used to get excited by the prospect of LCD screens that could do just 100Hz. These days you can throw a stick at a LAN and chances are you'll hit a screen with a super high refresh rates.
The main thing going from a standard 23" or 27" monitor to something of this size is that you need to make sure your space can physically accommodate that. I'm not talking about just being able to fit it on the desk, but having enough depth that you can use it on a daily basis comfortably.
Put simply, you don't sit an arm or an arm and half's length away from a living room TV on a regular basis. And you shouldn't be that close to a 34" screen. Apart from the fact that it's physically uncomfortable, you also have to get accustomed to not having a browser window in the direct centre of your vision.
When you use a browser on a regular basis, the positioning is pretty straightforward. Your body is in line with the centre of the monitor. Your browser window takes up the majority of the screen, or at least the centre element.
Using an ultrawide monitor shifts that centre, and it takes some getting used to. There's enough space for two 1720 x 720 (or less) windows side by side, which is useful if you spend a lot of time looking at one window while typing into another.
It doesn't quite replace a second monitor if you rely on fullscreen applications or viewing - think games, streaming, or taking screenshots of livestreams and such. And while more and more games are beginning to support ultrawide screen resolutions, plenty don't. Netflix doesn't support ultrawide videos out of the box, so if you don't want to deal with letterboxing you'll need a Chrome extension, or to spend some time fiddling around in your desktop graphic settings.
And that's kind of the kicker with something this size. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful screen. It's plenty bright, blacks are nice and deep, brightness is consistent throughout the whole panel and the 100Hz refresh rate is more than welcome on a screen this large. It's useful for Photoshop work as well, although you'll always want to calibrate your monitor before doing that.
But a 34" screen has to make sense for your gaming/working environment. And given that you can get two 27" 1440p monitors for $700 or $800 a pop - and there's plenty of screens with IPS panels, 144Hz refresh rates - it's hard not to say to yourself: sometimes, there is such a thing as too big.
That said, just look at how much visibility you can get in Battlegrounds with this beast:
Gorgeous. But most people won't want to pay $1769 for that privilege.