LG 34UM95 review
Most PC monitors and Windows laptops are now available only in a 16:9 widescreen ratio – great for watching television that's almost exclusively shot in this shape. But these stretched screens are arguably less good for production work, where extra height is more useful, to save needless scrolling when reading text documents and web pages.
Now LG has taken the wide-angle idea to the logical extreme for its 34UM95 super-widescreen monitor. Its 21:9 aspect ratio is built not for regular widescreen video but for feature films, which are often shot in a shape very close to this ratio, namely 2.39:1 ratio.
By making the panel so incredibly wide, it can also lend itself to serious work again, by giving you something like two 4:3 monitors placed side-by-side, while still preserving a decent amount of height, thanks to the enormous 34-inch diagonal panel size.
At 380 mm high with bezel, this 34-inch display has similar physical height as a 27-inch 16:9 monitor.
LG 34UM95 review: Design and Build
The 34UM95 is based around a 34-inch in-plane switching (IPS) LCD panel, with a reflection-reducing hard matt surface hard coating.
The bezel around the visible screen area is remarkably thin, around 10 mm on the sides and top, although a broader edge is visible along the screen bottom, a black border about 22 mm deep.
This lower strip is made from some nasty looking shiny black plastic trim, a finish anathema to serious monitors where you don't need distracting reflections in peripherally. The monitor's overall presentation is cheapened again by the tacky cheap chrome-effect plastic edging that encircles the entire panel.
There are regular 100 mm VESA mount holes on the rear, but if you want to just place the monitor on your desk you could use the supplied pedestal mount.
Using two fixing screws, there are two positions to choose from although even at its highest the 34UM95 only sits 100 mm above the desk, dangerously low for your health until you put it on a small stack of books. The 11.5 mm-thick clear acrylic pillar does give the monitor a great floating-in-air effect though, should you view it from across the room.
The rear of the monitor is again finished in faux-metal plastic, here treated to an aluminium-effect paint, although at least this is subdued satin rather than bling cod chrome.
As you might expect, the LCD itself is made by LG, one of the very few manufacturers of LCD monitors panels in the world today. It's an 8-bit colour panel which the company goes out of its way to make you believe is a 10-bit panel.
Witness LG's marketing audacity with a bold statement on its UK website that ‘in addition, its 10-bit colour display is 64 times richer than an 8-bit colour display, recreating colours softly and naturally without colour banding'.
It's the same trick we saw used recently by one of LG's panel customers, BenQ, in the marketing of the BenQ PG2401PT monitor. Both companies base their misleading promotion on the fact that LG's latest panel technology has been described as providing 10 bit-like performance, through a technique it calls frame rate control (FRC).
Here pixels are rapidly flashed between two alternate colours to give the illusion of a third colour, hence expanding the number of discrete colours the panel can seem to reproduce.
We asked LG for comment, and received a reply from the company's Head of B2B and IT Solutions Marketing, Harold De Vries.
‘Our 34UM95 monitor has an 8-bit colour depth which is indicated in the monitor spec sheet on our website. Using the Display Port facility, the monitor can achieve a 10-bit colour depth for a display which is 64 times richer than its native colour depth.'
LG's US website omits the mendacious 10-bit display claims for this monitor, leading us to wonder if the threat of class-action lawsuits in the US provides a better deterrent to false advertising in that territory.
LG 34UM95 review: Ins and Outs
The selection of video ports available includes one regular DisplayPort and two HDMI. Additionally there are two Thunderbolt 2 ports, which allows the display to sit within a Thunderbolt chain, and not necessarily at the end as was once required with this high-speed standard.
To help you connect desktop accessories there is a USB 3.0 input which feeds another USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports.
Adjusting, or even just switching on, the 34UM95 is not immediately easy, since there is only one mechanical button on this monitor that controls everything. And that's concealed centrally under the bezel out of sight.
Once you've found it, one press turns the display on. Another press of the correct duration opens a round compass on-screen display – from here you can select adjustments, with a full-height overlay that slides from the right-hand side of the screen. Press for too long though and the panel switches off again.
You then use the same button as a little joystick, steering it left, right, back and forth to highlight the required item on-screen, then pressing the button up again to select. It took some getting used to, but in some ways is easier and quicker to use than the majority of monitors that have three or four buttons to control a range of up/down/back/enter functions, often changing purpose depending on context, forcing you to check on each new screen what function that button currently controls.
LG 34UM95 review: Software additions
To help you use the 34UM95 as a production workstation, LG makes available software for OS X and Windows which will snap your individual application windows into preset zones on the screen.
For example, you can select a two-screen 16:5 mode, with the division running down the screen centre. In OS X, if you drag a Finder or application window part-way into the second half, it will snap into place rather like Windows 7 snap-to-window-side function.
Other arrangements from the eight available modes include for instance ‘3 screen (Left)' which makes a main workplace on the left side and two stacked areas on the right.
We tried the Screen Split software on a Mac. To install and use this menu-bar function you must give your consent for it to control your computer using accessibility features, unlocking it first with your computer's admin password within System Preferences/Security & Privacy/Privacy/Accessibility.
LG also allows some hardware calibration possibilites with this display, using its True Color Finder software. This works with certain hardware calibrators such as from Datacolor and X-Rite although we could not find listed which models are officially supported.
For Windows users, only the DisplayPort or Thunderbolt 2 video inputs can be used; Mac users are further limited to just one model of computer, the new 2013 Mac Pro.
There is a strange mixture of messages overall for this product. The monitor includes two Thunderbolt ports, which are still almost unique to the Mac platform; the marketing materials promotes the screen's use with Macs, and yet all the instructions we could find were exclusively for Windows users.
LG 34UM95 review: Performance
LG promises coverage of more that 99 percent of the sRGB colour gamut, and our tests with a Spyder4Elite measured 98 percent sRGB coverage, and 75 percent of Adobe RGB.
Contrast ratio at nominal 50 and 75 percent brightness levels was 580:1, peaking at 610:1 at full brightness. The 100 percent brightness level corresponded to 283 cd/m^2, a level that may look low against models that promise 300 cd/m^2 or higher, although in most professional use it is likely to be set to 200 cd/m^2 or higher anyway.
For such a huge expanse of panel, the measured luminance uniformity from one corner to the next was impressive. At full brightness its maximum deviation (top-right corner) was only 11 percent, and worst-case was still only 15 percent in the same area at 50 percent brightness (185 cd/m^2).
Colour accuracy averaged over 48 colour tones gave a so-so Delta E of 6.16, and several green hues were astray by as much as 44.93 Delta E.
Power consumption was found to be relatively low for an IPS technology panel of this large size, drawing 50 watt at 200 cd/m^2.
It's the subjective experience of such a super-wide panel that should help to sell this panoramic monitor to anyone who gets a chance to try it. If you're used to using two or more displays anyway, the LG 34UM95 gives an even better effect from a single expansive area of screen estate. And besides its workstation and production potential, it plays Cinemascope-width films beautifully.