Imagine everything you’d want in a gaming monitor — a bright and beautiful screen, a fast refresh rate for silky smooth graphics, HDR to really make things shine — and there’s a good chance you’ll find it in Alienware’s 34 Curved QD-OLED monitor. It’s one of the first screens to ship with Samsung’s Quantum Dot OLED panels, and it’s stacked with other features that’ll make your Halo Infinite matches all the more satisfying. While it may seem a bit extravagant at $1,299, compared to Apple’s $1,599 Studio Display it’s practically a steal. (Or maybe I’m just telling myself that to justify buying this thing.)

I’ll admit this up front: I’m a sucker for ultrawide (21:9) monitors. Having a ton of horizontal space makes it easy to juggle multiple apps at once, and it’s far cleaner than setting up multiple displays. So when Alienware revealed that it was finally debuting an OLED ultrawide, I was sold. While OLED has solidified its place in premium TVs, it’s taken a while to reach computer monitors (we only started getting OLED laptops regularly a few years ago). What makes this monitor even more intriguing is that it has all of the benefits you’d expect from OLED — deep black levels, excellent contrast and no backlight bleeding thanks to pixels that light up individually — but the addition of quantum dots means you’ll continue to see vibrant colors as the screen gets brighter.

Sure, this new tech means there’s another annoying display acronym to remember, but at least QD-OLED will offer some other notable upgrades. According to Samsung, it’ll be able to reach up to 1,000 nits of peak brightness (like this Alienware monitor), whereas the cream of the current OLED crop reaches around 400 nits. More brightness isn’t everything, especially since OLED’s perfect black levels can produce some eye-blistering contrast, yet it’s still a meaningful step forward as LCDs are becoming even more luminous with Mini-LED backlighting.

The Alienware QD-OLED monitor, like many 34-inch ultrawide models, features a 3,440 by 1,440 resolution. Think of it as an extra-long quad-HD screen: It’s not as sharp as 4K, but it’s still a huge leap ahead of 1080p. And since it doesn’t have as many pixels as a 4K screen, you’ll be able to play many games at its native resolution without taking out a loan for an RTX 3080 Ti. There’s also support for G-SYNC Ultimate, NVIDIA’s adaptive refresh rate technology which helps to reduce stuttering, as well as HDR 400 True Black. Alienware says it reaches 99.3 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut and it’s also color calibrated at the factory, both important features if you’re doing any production work.

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But enough specs, does this monitor actually look good in action? Yes, oh yes. My eyes watered while playing Halo Infinite’s desert-based “Behemoth” map, it was almost as if I was watching the sun reflecting off pristine sand in person. (That was also a sign I needed to lower the brightness a bit.) I kept noticing new details about my Spartan’s armor, thanks to the monitor’s color accuracy and pitch-perfect contrast. It also took me a while to get used to playing Overwatch again, as my brain struggled to keep up with the QD-OLED’s fast 175Hz refresh rate. The game reacted almost instantly, thanks to the QD-OLED monitor’s 0.1ms response time.

Compared to Dell’s 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor, which I tested for several months last year, the Alienware QD-OLED looked dramatically better no matter what I was looking at. Colors popped off the screen, even when I was just scrolling through the web or watching movie trailers, and the deep curve always kept me in the center of the action. You’ll have to live with vertical black bars if you want to watch typical 16×9 videos fullscreen, but personally, I’d rather have more room to play something in the corner or side of the screen. Let your TV handle movie night — ultrawide monitors are all about multitasking.

A bigger issue is the lack of support for ultrawide resolutions in some games. Elden Ring, for example, can only be played in standard widescreen resolution. (You could risk a third-party patch, but that could get you banned if you play online.) I still enjoyed the dozens of hours I spent with the game on this QD-OLED monitor, but the black bars on the sides of the screen effectively turned it into a 27-inch display. You could run the game in a window and multitask on the side, but Elden Ring is the sort of experience I’d rather devote my full attention to. At the very least, the state of ultrawide gaming is far better now than it was a few years ago. It’s hard to find major titles that ignore 21:9 screens entirely, especially when it comes to shooters.

While the Alienware QD-OLED’s design isn’t as handsome as Apple’s metallic Studio Display, it features the same sci-fi aesthetic Alienware has been pushing since 2019. The case is made of plastic, but at least it feels sturdy and smooth to the touch. There’s none of the cheap flexing you’d find on budget monitors. There’s a tasteful oval of LED lighting on the back of the monitor, alongside a glowing Alienware logo, but it’s thankfully free of the garish bling you’d find on other gaming displays. A small fan blows hot air out of the top of the monitor, which gives it a slight hum that was easily drowned out by the sounds of my gaming rig. The Alienware monitor also offers both tilt and height adjustment, something you’d have to pay $400 more to get with the Studio Display.

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When it comes to connectivity, the Alienware 34 QD-OLED includes one DisplayPort 1.4 connection (up to 175Hz), 2 HDMI 2.0 ports (up to 100Hz), and four USB 3.2 Gen 1 connections spread across the bottom and back of the display. There’s also a headphone port on the bottom bottom of the monitor, and an audio line-out connection on the rear. It would have been nice to see HDMI 2.1 ports, or at the very least HDMI 2.0 connections with 120Hz support for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Clearly, Alienware is focusing on PC gamers, but some competitors offer HDMI 2.1 to make life easier for console players.

At $1,299, you’ll be paying a steep price for Alienware’s QD-OLED monitor, but it’s on par with other premium ultrawide monitors. LG’s 34-inch UltraGear is currently selling for $1,243, but that’s an LCD screen with a slower refresh rate. Or you could just go for LG’s 42-inch C2 OLED TV for $1,399, which is one of the best screens you can buy right now. (but it’s probably a bit too tall for desk work). If you’re looking for a similarly-sized display on a budget, Dell’s (admittedly far less impressive) 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor is down to $500.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Here’s the thing: Even though Alienware’s QD-OLED is a major investment, it’s arguably a wise one that could last you for years. For the price of a premium display last year (and less than Apple’s Studio Display!), you get next-generation OLED technology, an objectively gorgeous screen and all of the gaming upgrades you could ask for. It’s the rare gadget that makes me grin like an absolute idiot while I’m using it, surely that’s worth paying for.