Benq EX3501R WQHD HDR 100Hz UltraWide Curved Gaming Monitor
Gaming Monitor (35”)
Going to the local HOYTS Cinemas
as a kid, I remember noticing early on that for some movies the curtains in front of the screen opened fully and for others they remained a little bit closed. Not exactly what you’d might call a bastion of perception, but without any real understanding of aspect ratios and what a widescreen presentation was there was a sense that if those curtains opened – whatever you were watching, was going to feel more cinematic.
With home entertainment in 2019 dominated by television displays with a 16:9 aspect-ratio one would expect to find a similar story when it comes to PCs. And for the most part you’d be right, as most PC displays and monitors are widescreen 16:9 with resolutions either in the Full-HD
(1440p), or 4K
(2160p) range. Depending on your setup and budget, finding something to suit your needs is possible across all three.
This brings us to the one area where PC displays have an edge over televisions – the UltraWide monitor. With the 21:9 aspect ratio offering the same image width and breadth as many of cinema’s most enduring classics, it’s a presentation that proves to be transformative for both gaming and day-to-day use – and in the process removing the need or want to run multiple displays. The Benq EX3501R
falls into this UltraWide (or ultrawide) category. With a pixel-density and resolution of 3440 x 1440, a large 35-inch screen, HDR
and AMD FreeSync
support, this curved and sleek looking display is uniformly excellent.
At a glance the Benq EX3501R sets itself apart from most gaming displays right away, the minimal black outline of the screen and subtle futuristic brushed chrome back is more in line with something you’d find sitting on the desk of a graphic designer. Complimented by the 1800R curvature, the screen-area itself being almost bezel-free, a simple logo, and no sign of RGB accents – it’s hard not to fall immediately in love. But, make no mistake about it, the Benq EX3501R is a gaming monitor at heart. Thanks to the underlying hardware, this stylish display also offers up a 100Hz refresh rate, several pre-calibrated Game picture modes, a low 4ms response time, and full AMD FreeSync support.
There’s just something to be said about a display that puts the image front and centre, while still leaving room to create a visually appealing and understated design. Also, one that has the sort of functionality that you’d expect to find underneath the hood. Easy to setup (all said and done once we opened the box, we were up and running in seconds – not minutes) and adjust (raising, lowering, or tilting is a breeze), the surprisingly light 10.4kg frame of the Benq EX3501R is something that screams quality.
The 1800R curvature adds to the immersion too, more than we’ve seen in past with standard 16:9 displays featuring the same thing. Marketing for monitors often tout that the product in question will transport viewers to a magical realm of colour, brightness, and rainbow coloured hot air balloons. To say something along those lines about the Benq EX3501R wouldn’t be too far-fetched – especially when it’s used to play something like Control
, Gears 5
, or Metro Exodus
. In the end, the Ultra-Wide aspect ratio when couple with the 1800R curve offers up pure immersion for the single-user setup. And when it comes to PC gaming, there’s just nothing quite like it. Much like the first time you experience the smooth responsiveness that comes from FreeSync or G-Sync – once you go UltraWide, there’s no looking back.
Maximum Resolution: WQHD 3440 x 1440
Panel Type: VA
Refresh Rate: 100Hz AMD FreeSync
Response Time: 4ms (GTG)
Brightness: 300 cd/m²
Colour Gamut: 100% sRGB
The Benq EX3501R is one of the more affordable Ultra-Wide displays with a WQHD resolution that you can find. Namely due to the implementation of a VA panel over IPS. As mentioned in other VA-panel reviews we’ve done in the past, the better contrast ratio on offer can lead to deeper blacks and more vibrant cinematic images suited to media like movies and games. But, as with anything in the realm of screens, quality and performance can vary from screen-to-screen and brand-to-brand. VA panels can suffer from reduced sharpness and colour accuracy.
On that front, the Benq EX3501R turns in a solid effort – albeit one that takes some tweaking and adjusting. There are a handful of picture modes included that are offer decent results (sRGB being probably the best out-of-the-box), but this is one display that truly comes alive after some time is spent tweaking and adjusting various settings. Not just to suit personal tastes and preferences, but to get the right 100% sRGB colour balance, brightness, and contrast at the clarity and definition that impresses across several applications.
Although the 100Hz refresh rate may not be as high as some 144Hz displays out there, it’s still impressive when paired with AMD FreeSync. Although not officially on the NVIDIA G-Sync compatible list, we did manage to test out the Benq EX3501R with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. And with titles like Borderlands 3 and Gears 5 hovering somewhere in the 80 or so frames-per-second range, we didn’t notice any stuttering or tearing with the results being smooth across both games.
On a side note, they both looked stunning, thanks to just how great games look running in full 21:9.
A View to Remember
Another area where VA panels can often disappoint comes with day-to-day browsing and usage, where the loss in perceived sharpness can look a little fuzzy compared to an IPS display. Surprisingly we found no issue here with the Benq EX3501R – making it a great choice for non-game use such as editing or other applications.
Where the Benq EX3501R falters, is with its HDR implementation being 8-bit and not 10 – meaning it’s not exactly reference quality. The display is certainly bright enough to offer a visible difference without a huge impact on clarity, and BenQ’s own proprietary picture tech that it utilises to enhance HDR and dynamically adjust brightness and colour intensity looks pretty good. But it continues the trend we’ve seen of PC displays and HDR feeling like secondary features at best instead of things you’ll point to when listing strengths and weaknesses.
In the end, the Benq EX3501R impresses as one of the more affordable Ultra-Wide displays currently available. Where the lower price-point compared to some doesn’t result an inferior experience. Far from it. Gaming in the 21:9 aspect ratio with an immersive 1800R curvature and a vibrant and responsive image feels exceptional. Which is a good a word as any to describe the Benq EX3501R.