BenQ EX3501R Assessment: A Curved, Ultrawide Masterpiece

Ultra wide monitor BenQ EX3501R

"The BenQ EX3501R is 35 inches of great, ultra-wide quality."

  • Simple but attractive design

  • Great gaming display

  • Bright, vivid screen

  • Outstanding color accuracy

  • HDR support

  • No tilt adjustment

  • HDR still sucks on Windows 10

Large monitors are great, but if the size alone is not enough, curved ultrawide monitors are the next step. Unfortunately, they are not cheap.

The BenQ EX3501R won't change your mind if you spend nearly $ 1,000 on a monitor – but while $ 900 may sound like a lot, the EX3501R offers a wide range of features, including HDR support and EyeCare technology, a refresh rate of 100 Hz, FreeSync and 35 inches of wonderful ultrawide screen area. This is impressive, even alongside the rivals from LG, Dell and HP.

Show – until you turn it on

BenQ monitors have a look or maybe an intentional lack of a look. The company's monitors should blend in with the office environment and not stand out with their striking design. The EX3501R has no ultra-thin bezels, and even the base and back are harmlessly silver-colored. The chrome and flash of an Asus or Acer gaming monitor are certainly not there.

On the other hand, the idea of ​​a 35-inch curved, ultra-wide monitor that “fits in” is a paradox. Every monitor of this size is an eye-catcher, and the EX3501R is no different. Place this 3440 × 1440 monitor on your desk and employees can't help stopping and gawking at its size. This is not the largest Ultrawide monitor we have ever tested – this applies to the 38 incher from LG, Dell and HP. However, it is certainly wide enough to open multiple windows in full-screen mode and enjoy the impressive experience with a curved Ultrawide. If you've never used a 21: 9 ultrawide monitor, you'll be surprised at how practical things like multiple window productivity become.

Ben-Q EX3501R monitorBill Roberson / Digital Trends

The 1800R curve isn't quite as fat as the 1500R Samsung CF791, but it's still fantastic for watching movies and playing games. That's right – the BenQ EX3501R serves as a very powerful gaming monitor. Despite its everyday appearance, the EX3501R has a refresh rate of 100 Hz, which the HP Z38c monitor lacks. It's not quite as smooth as 144 Hz, which is the highest refresh rate currently available, but games still feel snappy and responsive. Thanks to the monitor's FreeSync support, you don't have to deal with torn or uneven frames. The four millisecond response is also not groundbreaking, but if you're not a professional esports enthusiast, it's more than responsive enough.

Every monitor of this size is an eye-catcher, and the EX3501R is no different.

Aside from HDR, it's perfectly matched to the Samsung CF791, which is currently $ 150 cheaper than the BenQ. Meanwhile, the LG 34UC98-W is priced at $ 1,000, and the Dell UltraSharp U3415W is now reduced to $ 800 – but both have a more general 60Hz refresh rate. That's okay, but they don't look quite as smooth in games out.

Attaching the screen to the stand and base is quick and easy – no tools are needed at all. It's not as robust as the HP Z series full monitor monitors, but we have never been nervous about moving it around or adjusting the angle. Speaking of stands: the BenQ EX3501R has a vertical setting of 60 millimeters, which is decent. However, monitors such as the HP Z38c also offer you more flexibility in pan adjustment.

All the ports you need

The BenQ EX3501R has a standard array of ports, including USB-C, HDMI, DisplayPort and two USB-A ports. The most important is the USB-C port, which allows a single cable connection if the computer you are using supports it.

We wish BenQ would have gone one step further and added quick access to USB-C and USB-A on the side of the display, since unfortunately the others have placed them in a hard-to-reach place under the screen. It's something HP and Dell have on many monitors, and we miss it here.

Ben-Q EX3501R monitorBill Roberson / Digital Trends

As for the menus, the EX3501R has six physical buttons located at the bottom of the display. There are dedicated power and enter buttons, while the other four help you navigate the menus. It's not a great system and it makes it difficult to find your way to certain settings at first.

We got used to it at some point, but not before we accidentally turned off the power several times. Dedicated buttons control basic functions such as brightness and contrast, but there is no display on the front of the monitor to tell them apart. This means that you have to remember what is doing what or rely on the Guess and Check method.

Vibrant, precise colors

The BenQ EX3501R is a top performer in display quality. Of all monitors of this type that we tested, the EX3501R has the best contrast ratio and maintains 1100: 1 at full brightness. The BenQ reaches a maximum of 336 nits, which in our experience was very bright and hardly brighter than its competitors, which were hovering around 330 nits.

The BenQ EX3501R isn't perfect for the gamut, but it shows 100 percent of sRGB and 82 percent of AdobeRGB. It is ideal for photographers and videographers who need a high level of detail for their work. It is only surpassed by the 85 percent of the Samsung CF791, which hardly matters in the color scale. When it comes to precise colors, the EX3501R is a champion again. With a value of 1.38, it is the most accurate of all competitors. The colors are beautiful and vivid, never saturated or blown out. BenQ has once again lived up to its reputation for delivering extremely high quality displays.

That is, until you try to use HDR.

While many of the EX3501R's flagship features are available on other monitors, BenQ wants the business card on this monitor to offer HDR support. On the one hand, it's great to see how HDR is implemented on an expensive display like this. For the videos we checked out in HDR, the effect is a game changer. The colors are displayed so that you never want to go back to SDR. In addition to some videos, HDR works in a growing list of PC games, especially since the monitor supports HDR10, the most commonly used standard in games.

Ben-Q EX3501R monitor

Ben-Q EX3501R monitor

The display has an "HDR mode" that really bursts the colors, even though it's just an emulation – not a real HDR. However, things got ugly when we turned on HDR mode in Windows 10 settings. Our beautiful, lively monitor turned into a washed-out mess right in front of our eyes. Even with the setting changes in the latest Windows 10 update from April 2018 from Microsoft, this is not yet resolved. Until Microsoft fixes the problem, we recommend disabling Windows 10's default HDR settings by default. You can turn on HDR in certain games or HDR when watching HDR-compatible movies.

The EX3501R reaches a maximum of 363 nits, which is not bad for a computer monitor. But that's pretty weak compared to HDR TVs. Since the quality of HDR depends on how bright a screen is, this will always limit the experience of HDR a little and show how far the monitor technology is from TV sets.

BenQ has once again lived up to its reputation for delivering extremely high quality displays.

Even though you only use a little HDR on your PC today, this is a future-proof function that is probably worth it. When you buy an expensive monitor, you want it to last for many, many years, and HDR support ensures that it stays up to date even after years. Who knows – maybe as soon as the market is flooded with HDR monitors, Microsoft will find out its HDR situation. At the moment it is an investment that will pay off later.

The good news is that BenQ has not added any significant surcharge to the HDR. So you can ignore it until it's a little more useful. Otherwise, this is a high-quality monitor with a fantastic color gamut, contrast and color rendering.

Results after calibration

BenQ immediately delivered a precise and vivid display. The only real change we saw after calibration was color accuracy – which makes it even better than before. After calibration, we found that the average color error was reduced to just 1.11, which solidifies the lead as the most accurate display of all competitors.

Our opinion

The BenQ EX3501R is not noticeable, but it has the goods where the display quality matters. The EX3501R outperforms its competitors in almost every aspect of image quality. It's a little more expensive than some of its rivals, but with HDR support and decent game features, the BenQ is an all-rounder that deserves its price.

Any alternatives?

The most obvious competitor is the Samsung CF791, which fits the BenQ in every category, at a reduced price of just $ 750. It's hard to beat. If HDR is a must for you, the EX3501R is the best choice.

There are some decent deals from LG, HP, and Dell, but the BenQ EX3501R is a better monitor in most respects.

How long it will take?

This monitor comes with a three-year parts and labor warranty that is standard on such monitors. Good port selection, build quality and HDR support ensure that this monitor lasts for many, many years.

Should you buy it

Yes. It's a fantastic monitor that's future proof for a day when HDR will be a must.

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