Price (RRP): $1099
The BenQ EX3501R, 35-inch, UWQHD, USB-C is a monitor with curves in the right places. If it was possible to fall in love with an inanimate object – this is it.
The BenQ EX3501R is one of those new breeds of USB-C connectivity (as well as HDMI and DisplayPort) monitors and stretches the images to 21:9 ratio delivering 3440 x 1440 crisp, clear pixels and 16.7 billion colours (we counted them?). Seriously it has 100% sRGB (about 81% DCI-P3) and BenQ Cinema HDR – more on that later.
BenQ touts this as part of its ‘Video Enjoyment’ range, and it certainly is that. The range includes 4K (3840 x 2160, 16:9), QHD (3440 x 1440, 21:9 ultrawide), and one FHD (1920 x 1080, 16:9) model in curved or flat panels.
I really like the 21:9 ratio, the 1800R curve and narrow bezels (for dual monitor use). No, it is not a professional grade 10-bit, 1 billion colour monitor like its cousin the 32” 16:9 EW3270W (GadgetGuy review here) but it is at the top of those I have tested in this class.
Review: BenQ EX3501R, 35-inch, QHD, USB-C monitor
Australian website here
While I have covered the most important specs in the preamble above, I wanted to focus on use.
It is an AMVA (Advanced multidomain vertical alignment), W-LED (White-LED) edge-lit (bottom) screen. AMVA has extremely deep black colour depth because each RGB pixel is actually 8 smaller ones and the extra white LED accounts for the 20,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.
The 21:9 ratio or ultrawide (UW) is about as far as you can stretch 3440 x 1440 pixels (QHD) without dropping below the magic 100 pixels per inch (ppi). Although I have seen some brands touting ambitious 38” UWQHD vista’s – I will be getting my magnifying glass out with these.
The result is a clear, crisp image although I suspect BenQ is doing some interpolation (filling in any missing pixels) and that is a good thing.
A 21:9 ratio means your computer must support that. Most recent models do but watch out for older Macs and PCs. If the image looks elongated – stretched – rather than perfect, then Houston you have a problem.
In office use cases a 35”, 21:9 provides just the right height for Word and Excel documents allowing up to four 100% A4 sheets to show side-by-side (screen size is 819.41 x 345.89mm).
GadgetGuy content creators have largely changed from flat to curved 21:9 monitors because they are better on a desktop allowing more focus. The extremities (corners) are closer than a flat screen.
Of course, artists/designers need 4K, 100% Adobe RGB or DCI-P3 and flat screens to avoid unintentional image distortions.
1800R is one of the tightest curves (we have seen 1600R), but it is perfect for a desktop where you sit close to it. As with all VA panels, you start to see issues over about 45° off angle – it is a desktop monitor, not a TV substitute.
For me as an ‘office’ worker it gives a vast vista for Excel spreadsheets or multiple A4 Word pages, real-life sRGB colours (important for a website publisher), heaps of brightness (300 nits) and contrast (2500:1 to 20,000,000:1) as well as 100Mhz panel capable of BenQ’s cinema HDR.
BenQ Cinema HDR
HDR (high dynamic response) simply means it enhances details in the shadows and reduces over-exposure in the lighter areas. HDR on a monitor is different from HDR on a TV although the result is similar. A TV typically has 1000 nits or more brightness to be called HDR – or any of the variations we see like HDR10, HDR+, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log Gamma… These use metadata and colour look-up tables transmitted with the content..
Tone mapping takes the input content and adapts it to the maximum dynamic brightness of the display. That helps reduce over-exposure.
Gamut mapping takes whatever colours are in the content stream, say Rec. 2020 and map these to the 100% sRGB gamut, Rec. 709.
We played 4K Blu-ray content via the HDMI port and while a trained eye could tell the difference between it and a several-thousand-dollar Dolby Vision TV – it was damned good.
BenQ has two modes – HDR TV (HDR10 compatible movies and games) and BenQ Cinema HDR (emulation). The latter was, for want of a better word, smoother and a little subtler than the HDR TV mode that is perhaps better for animation and games.
BenQ menu OSD
Like most, it uses physical buttons. I would love a screen/mouse interface!
It supports multiple inputs (two source devices) and PIP and PBP.
Colour temperature can be modified – normal, bluish, reddish, user define (RGB) and gamma (luminance) by five steps. Default mode was closest to 100% sRGB. There is a raft of advanced picture settings including standard, HRD, sRGB, Photo (Adobe RGB) and gamers modes.
And as BenQ is famous for – a flicker-free panel and low blue light mode. This also works with BenQ’s Bright Intelligence Plus (BI) sensor to detect ambient light and adjust a range of picture parameters. Again, leave it on for the best image.
We also discovered the upscaling feature although it is called Super Resolution. This offers four steps to increase the pixel resolution of lower density images. We left it on setting three although it made no ‘perceptible difference’.
The full manual is here.
Ports – enter USB-C
USB-C is a 5Gbps port capable of providing [email protected] (alt DP mode), USB-C Power Delivery to 10W via two USB-A 3.0, 5V/2A ports
It also has 2 x HDMI 2.0, one x mini-DisplayPort 1.4, a 3.5mm audio out and a Kensington lock slot
I was impressed at the speed of video connection over the USB-C port – it was almost instant compared to 20+ seconds on some other brands. For example, you could plug in a corded keyboard and mouse and have instant use.
It uses a typical triangle stand about 23cm deep with most of it behind the monitor for a cleaner desk space. It has tilt (-5/+20) and 60mm height adjustment to set the monitor at perfect eye height. It can also be VESA wall mounted.
Power comes from a 65.7W brick adaptor.
GadgetGuy’s take: BenQ EX3501R is perfect for the right user
There is so much to like about this monitor – we are compatible. It ticks all my boxes!
What I like is that out of the box using default settings it is perfect. Some monitors need a lot of tweaking – this does not yet it offers a huge range of tweaks if you want them.
The right user is an office or home worker wanting screen real estate – and I would buy two and use them as dual monitors (one driven by USB-C and one by HDMI/DP).
It is fine for a casual to good gamer (it has Freesync 48-100Hz and 4ms G-t-G) and for HDR media content consumption. The lack of speakers here means you will use a better Bluetooth stereo speaker or a soundbar anyway.
Overall it is one of the best UWQHD that I have had the pleasure to review and its going to be hard to go back to my normal kit.
What is it not?
It is not a pro gamers monitor, nor is it 10-bit colour, 100% RGB for professional photographers or videographers.
The BenQ EX3501R sells online and via major retailers for $1099. The best price we have seen is $949 from UMart (plus freight).