As someone who uses timeline-based apps such as Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X on a regular basis, horizontal display real estate is incredibly important to me. When it comes to editing video and audio, the bigger the monitor the better.
With the recent popularity of extra-wide 21:9 monitors, I’ve come to understand that width can make a major difference in managing timeline-based editing workflows as well. The extra horizontal real estate is also a nice option for watching movies shot with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
With this in mind, I’ve been looking forward to going hands-on with a 21:9 display. LG’s 34UC98 UltraWide IPS monitor is not only extremely wide at 3440 x 1440, but it’s curved as well. How does this new display fit into my workflow? Does having a so-called UltraWide display make a difference?
The issue with resolution
Before I even received this monitor, I knew that I would have to overcome one major issue if I was going to be able to use it long term. That issue, of course, revolves around clarity.
As someone who is accustomed to Retina (HiDPI) displays, transitioning back to lesser clarity was going to present the biggest challenge. That’s what makes 4K monitors, and to an even greater degree, 5K monitors, so desirable. Because these monitors have enough real estate to run in HiDPI mode, you get the benefit of a large screen that looks as good as your MacBook Pro with Retina display with regard to text sharpness.
How “Retina” HiDPI mode would look on the UltraWide — not practical
At 3440 x 1440, the 34UC98 doesn’t really have that luxury. Sure, you can use third-party utilities in an attempt to enable HiDPI mode, but then you’d still be looking at a max resolution of 1720 x 720. Having such little real estate pretty much negates the benefits of having an UltraWide display, so the best choice is to try to live with the “non-Retina” look of the monitor.
Could I do it? Well, I’d be lying if I said it was easy. Going from Retina to non-Retina can be taxing on the eyes for sure, especially when reading text. I really wanted to make it work, though, so I persevered through a little bit of eye strain. After about a week of constant usage, my eyes began to get used to reading text that was just a tad blurry when compared to my MacBook Pro.
If you don’t use a Retina display on a daily basis already, then such a predicament won’t even be an issue for you. For instance, if you’re still using Apple’s Thunderbolt Display on a regular basis, you won’t notice much of a difference as far as text fidelity is concerned.
- Screen Size Class – (diagonal) 34″
- Panel Type – IPS
- Color Gamut – (CIE1931) sRGB over 99%
- Color Depth – (Number of Colors) 10bit (8bit + A-FRC)
- Pixel Pitch (mm) – 0.2325 mm x 0.2325 mm
- Response Time – 5ms GTG
- Refresh Rate – 60 Hz
- Aspect Ratio – 21:9
- Resolution – 3440 x 1440
- Brightness – 300 cd/m2
- Contrast Ratio – 5M:1
- Viewing Angle – 178 / 178
- Surface Treatment – Hard Coating (3H), anti-glare
It’s the horizontal real estate
Just what are the benefits of such a display if you don’t get to enjoy the crispness afforded by HiDPI mode? As I alluded to at the outset, it’s all about the amount of real estate, primarily the horizontal real estate.
Having 3,440 pixels of horizontal resolution means that you can fit multiple browser windows side-by-side with ease. More importantly, it means that you can fit some incredibly long Final Cut Pro X or Logic Pro X timelines on a single screen.
For those of you who do work using non-linear editing apps, you’ll immediately recognize the benefit of such a setup. It means less scrolling and less zooming, which can save you time on your edits.
With an UltraWide display, scrolling and zooming is still necessary, but it can be used a lot more sparingly. There’s just something about being able to see more of a project timeline without having to use zoom often. The sheer amount of additional horizontal space makes this monitor worth considering for frequent timeline editors.
Movies look awesome
One of the biggest benefits to having a 21:9 monitor didn’t occur to me until I tried watching a movie from my iTunes collection. On my normal 16:9 monitor, I’d get those annoying black bars at the top of the screen for any movie shot with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
As you know, many movies are shot using this anamorphic aspect ratio, so this monitor, with its wider screen, is particularly suitable for watching such movies. Obviously, 4:3 content and even 16:9 content is going to feature black bars, but if you watch a lot of modern movies with anamorphic aspect ratios, then you’ll be able to view them without the letterbox.
Ahead of the curve
Curved displays may seem like marketing gimmicks, and for things like televisions, where you’re sitting five or more feet away from the screen, I’d tend to agree. But for a monitor that’s literally no more than a couple of feet from your face, having a curved display makes for a more immersive experience.
At first, I found the curve to be a little disorienting. It was almost as if the screen was 3D and the image was popping off the display. Like the rest of my experience with this display, time seemed to alleviate most of my issues, and I no longer felt that sensation while viewing the screen.
I’ll say this; having a curved screen might not reap any tangible benefits, but I certainly didn’t feel like it detracted from the experience at all. Besides, it looks way cooler sitting on my desk than a flat panel display ever would.
If you aren’t particularly fond of a curved display, you can opt for LG’s flat panel 34″ UltraWide display from last year, which also comes at a cheaper price.
Thunderbolt support and more
Not only does the 34UC98 feature dual HDMI and a DisplayPort connection, but it also features dual ThunderBolt 2.0 inputs that can be used to connect directly to your Mac with a single cable.
Having Thunderbolt as a connection option adds a great deal of simplicity to Mac setups. That’s because you can access other peripherals that connect to the monitor via USB over the Thunderbolt connection. In other words, such a setup essentially turns the UltraWide monitor into a convenient docking station for your Mac.
Speaking of USB, LG’s curved UltraWide display features two USB 3.0 inputs, along with a USB uplink cable for those who don’t use Thunderbolt. One of the ports supports faster charging for mobile devices via its Quick Charge feature.
Rounding out the rest of the interface options is a 3.5mm headphone input and a place for the monitor’s power adapter.
For all of its advantages, I was disappointed that LG omitted placing an SD Card reader on the display. That seems like a huge missed opportunity considering the type of audience that a product like this is going to attract.
LG’s MaxxAudio speakers is a two speaker stereo setup at 7W each. The sound quality is okay if you’re in a pinch, but you’re definitely going to want to invest in some audio hardware to go along with this display.
Sound on the 34UC98 is thin, lacks clarity, and is devoid of any sort of low end range. That’s par for the course when it comes to speakers on monitors or televisions, so that should not be surprising in the least.
Stand and build quality
The stand for the display easily snaps on to the back of the monitor and provides it with an adequate amount of stability. While on the stand, the monitor can tilt forward and backward -5° to 15°. The stand also allows users to adjust its screen height up to 110mm. The monitor doesn’t rotate from side to side, but that might not be a big issue given its curve.
The stand itself is a mixture of white and grey plastic. The bottom portion of the stand curves around to compliment the curve of the display itself.
I’ve noticed that most monitors these days suffer from shaking and stability issues, especially as you raise the height. Outside of Apple’s own in-house displays, it’s hard to find a monitor that features rock-solid stability. LG’s UltraWide is no exception. Moving the desk that the stand is resting on pretty much guarantees at least some slight movement of the display itself. It’s not overly distracting, but it’s something to be aware of.
Thankfully, the issues with stability can be solved by using a heavy duty monitor arm, and LG’s UltraWide can connect to an industry standard VESA mount via an attachment. If stability issues become a concern to you, then it’s nice to know that you have options outside of the default stand.
Overall, I wasn’t very impressed with the build quality of this monitor considering its asking price. An all metal stand would have gone a long way towards helping the presentation. I also noticed small gaps on the side of the display where the front of the monitor meets the back. For a price north of $1,000, I think my high expectations are warranted.
Interface and options
There is a single button found on this monitor, and it’s one of those joystick deals that allow you to control the entire OSD from a single source of input. Moving the joystick to the left or to the right adjusts the monitor’s sound volume, and pressing and holding the joystick toggles the monitor on and off. A single press on the joystick activates the OSD, which allows you to configure the display’s many settings and options.
The OSD features the typical options that you’d generally associate with a display. There’s input settings for changing the current input, and quick settings for quickly adjusting crucial features like brightness and contrast.
You’ll also find more advanced features like PBP mode, which allows you to display two sources of input on the display in a simultaneous side-by-side setup. With PBP mode, you could display an Apple TV and your Mac at the same time.
There are several additional options available for this display, including LG’s OnScreenControl app. TheOnScreenControl app is basically LG’s version of window snapping, and it lends a quick way to take advantage of all of the available space on the monitor across multiple apps.
The LG 34UC98 UltraWide display is an awesome display when used with the right applications. For using timeline-based audio and video editing applications, it truly excels and can make editing easier. Anamorphic widescreen movies fill the entire display and look downright incredible. If either of those use-cases fit your circumstances, then I can easily recommend LG’s UltraWide offering.
With all of that said, this isn’t a monitor that’s going to work properly with HiDPI modes. That means that you won’t get the “Retina” look that many of us enjoy on the MacBook and MacBook Pro with Retina display. If you’re someone who’s primarily working with editing apps like Logic Pro X, or Final Cut Pro X, this will be much less of an issue.
But if writing and reading are your main things, I have to be honest and say that some of you will not be able to handle going back to a non-Retina display, even if it means a better experience from a real estate perspective. For those of you in that boat, I totally understand. It’s not easy dealing with semi-blurry text once you’ve gotten used to the sharpness made possible by HiDPI modes.
Another thing to think about when considering this monitor is the lack of an SD Card reader. For creatives, the type of people that are the primary audience for this display, that seems like an egregious omission. My entire workflow is based largely around transferring the contents of SD Cards to my Mac, and having an SD Card slot would have simplified this exercise.
Lastly, I wasn’t overly impressed with the monitor’s build quality. Plastic is the material of choice here, and while it’s high quality plastic, I tend to expect more when spending close to a grand.
While having such a wide screen is a definite win for video editing workflows, as someone who writes more than he edits video, I do miss the sharp text afforded by a Retina display. This is a solid, workflow-enhancing second monitor for pro apps, but 4K is what I’d recommend for web browsing, reading, writing, etc.
One day, we’ll get a Retina-enabled UltraWide display with a 6880 x 2880 resolution. Such a monitor, right now, would likely cost a small fortune. In the meantime, you can score LG’s UltraWide 34UC98 for about $1,039.99 for the Thunderbolt-enabled model, and only $868 for a version sans Thunderbolt. The cheaper version also comes with a black exterior and stand, which some may prefer. Don’t forget that you can get last year’s non-curved model for a cheaper price as well, if curved displays aren’t your thing.
What type of monitor are you currently using with your Mac? Drop me a line in the comment section with the details. For more coverage of Mac-compatible displays, be sure to have a look at Jordan’s 4K display shootout.