HP Z38c Ultrawide Monitor Overview

Ultra wide curved HP Z38c monitor

"The HP Z38c will suck you into its immersive screen."

  • Lean industrial design

  • Nice, accurate colors

  • Highly adjustable stand

  • Good connectivity

  • No FreeSync support

  • No speakers

Most people don't want to spend $ 1,000 on a monitor. It's not easy to justify if you've already spent at least that much on your gaming rig or laptop. However, the size and quality of your monitor can have a greater impact on your workday or gaming sessions than you might think. If you have the budget for it, why not go all-in? If you are thinking of buying the $ 1,200 HP Z38c, go all-in.

Ultrawide, curved displays are getting sharper – and wider.

LG impressed everyone when it unveiled its 38-inch wonder to the world in late 2016, but Dell made it cheaper this year with its UltraSharp 38 Curved Monitor for $ 400. HP comes into play with its own version, a massive, curved 38-inch display that competes with the competition from specification to specification. Although there are wider monitors, the Z38c with its 3840 x 1600 resolution and 21: 9 aspect ratio is an impressive sight. Ultrawide, curved displays have been around for a few years, but they're getting sharper – and wider.

HP is the newcomer to the 38-inch monitor game this year. So let's take a look at the details to find out if the HP Z38c is worth an all-in.

Elegant and yet understated

"Immersive" is the buzzword that is often associated with ultrawide displays – and there is definitely an element that is absorbed within the width of the display. If you've never seen an ultra-wide curved monitor in person, it's an experience worth looking for, especially for gamers and professionals.

At 38 inches, the Z38c is one of the widest monitors ever, and this size gives you an odd 21: 9 aspect ratio. To put it in perspective, it's roughly the height of a standard 27-inch 16: 9 Monitor. The resolution of 3,840 x 1,600 corresponds to that of the UltraSharp 38 Curved Monitor from Dell and the 38UC99-W from LG.

In recent years, the HP design team has knocked it out of the park, whether it's 2-in-1 PCs or pure laptops. This is marked with the redesigned HP logo on the front and aluminum packaging, which gives it a better feeling than the competition from LG or Dell. It looks exactly like smaller displays from HP like the Z27 or Z24.

HP has done a great job of keeping things simple and downsizing the entire display, from the bezel to the stand that keeps it in the air. The bezel at the bottom is slightly larger than Dell's, but nothing stands out.

HP has done a great job of keeping things simple and trimming the display all around.

The Z38c has a large, square stand that makes the monitor more powerful. Both the stand and the base are made of aluminum, which increases the weight and gives the Z38c a significant inclination, height and pivoting effect. The 38-inch display can swivel left and right by up to 45 degrees, which is 15 degrees more than the Dell, and the LG can't turn at all. You really have to pull on it to adjust, but you never feel like you'll break it – and that's important if you're dealing with $ 1,200 pixels.

However, the stand takes up a fairly large footprint on the desk, especially when compared to the tiny base of the LG 38UC99. If you want to turn it off or install the monitor on an arm, you can use the standard VESA mounting adapter.

Many ports – in the wrong direction

A variety of ports are available for I / O, including DisplayPort (1.2), HDMI (2.0), three USB-A ports and a single USB-C port. For a good measure, you also have a Kensington lock. There aren't as many ports as the Dell, but there is the same choice of ports – and it's nice to see that it comes with a USB-C. The LG does not include that.

HP Z38c review HDMI
HP Z38c checks backports

Dan Baker / Digital Trends

Most of these connectors are on the back of the monitor and face down. Because the screen cannot rotate, access is particularly difficult – and with this width, you have to clear your desk completely to have a look. Once you've connected everything, this will ensure a neat set up. Just hope that you don't have to replace them regularly.

However, the Z38c offers you a USB-A and a USB-C port on the left side of the monitor for easy access. That means you can add peripherals with little effort.

A modern monitor with old menus

You will find the controls of the Z38c exactly where you expected them – at the bottom right of the display. You get a power switch and four control buttons. While the on / off switch is a bit too sensitive for our taste, the four control buttons are clickable and easy to use.

The menus will remind you a little of old TVs.

Outside of the brightness, you probably won't have to worry much about the settings, but HP has access to extensive color options and display modes. In the display modes, you can switch between night, deep blue light, reading, HP Enhance + and photo. With the color options, you have the option of precisely adjusting the color for RGB.

However, they are not the most beautiful menus in the world. They will remind you a little of old TV settings. Dell's selection and design are key here, but the Z38's menus are functional enough.

Do you appreciate silence?

The Z38c has no built-in speakers. This is probably not a big deal for most people who want to use external speakers, but it is something that both rivals include that HP has given up on. If you want a monitor with speakers, you have to look elsewhere.

Display quality before calibration

If you've looked at the other two 38-inch Ultrawide monitors on the market, you should know the HP Z38c. It has the same screen resolution of 3,840 x 1,600, which is still the highest you will have on an Ultrawide monitor. It is also a bit behind the others in terms of maximum brightness, contrast ratio and display area (percentage of RGB) – if not enough to notice.

These monitors don't have the crazy contrast ratio of something like the BenQ EX3200R or the Samsung CF791 – but on the other hand, they're not 38 inches tall. The HP Z38c has a brightness of 310 nits, which isn't too bright, but keeps up with the 38-inch Dell and LG.

HP claims that the Z38c is equipped with a "factory color calibration" that promises consistent and accurate colors. In our tests, the HP Z38 fulfilled this promise very well and received an average color error of 2.03 before we calibrated the display. The colors appear bright and bold, making things like watching movies and playing games completely impressive.

The colors appear bright and bold and make films and games impressive.

Without FreeSync support and just a 60 Hz refresh rate, this is anything but the ultimate gaming monitor, but most players will be happy. For a serious ultrawide gaming monitor, you should take a look at the Acer Predator Z35 with a refresh rate of 200 Hz or the Samsung CF791 with 144 Hz.

In our tests, the display processed 95 percent of the sRGB color gamut and 74 percent of the AdobeRGB – which is not the absolute best, but certainly good. This is also slightly behind the LG and Dell, but you will probably not be able to tell the difference. The Z38c is ready to use and is great for editing photos and videos without worrying about the display lying to you.

Image quality after calibration

We calibrated the Z38c screen and found no serious changes. The color error has decreased a bit, which is great, but there isn't much else here to report otherwise. Overall, HP did a great job of making sure the display was almost calibrated right away.

Warranty information

HP comes with a standard 3-year warranty and extended protection options to get your money's worth.

Our opinion

Curved ultrawide monitors are still a bit new, but it's hardly a gimmick. The HP Z38c is a beautiful, massive monitor – there is no doubt about that. The picture quality is comparable to that of the competition, and the structure of the stand and base makes it something special.

You can get a higher resolution, higher contrast monitor elsewhere, but for its size, the HP Z38 is the best you can buy.

Is there a better alternative?

The HP Z38 has two competitors – the Dell Ultrasharp 38 and the 38UC99 from LG. The image quality is the same across the board in terms of resolution and refresh rate. Both the HP and Dell offer their monitors at a greatly reduced price compared to the LG (around $ 1,200 compared to $ 1,500), which largely takes the LG out of the race. The feature that LG has over the others is FreeSync support, which would make it a possible choice for gamers.

It's almost a mistake between Dell and HP. We like the slim design of the stand and base of the HP Z38c compared to the standard corporate feel of the Dell. The HP Z38 also offers slightly better pan and height adjustment, while the Dell offers more USB ports and a slightly lower price ($ 30 when purchased at MSRP). Both are great ultrawide monitors that are the best in their class.

If you look at smaller monitors, the Samsung CF791 remains our first choice. The incredible picture quality and sleek design outperform these larger screens and can be purchased online for just $ 750.

How long it will take?

When you buy a monitor, you should expect it to last a long time – especially if it costs over $ 1,000. The HP Z38 should last for many years, especially considering how robust the stand is.

Should you buy it

Yes. The HP Z38 is a large, beautiful ultrawide monitor that binds the Dell Ultrasharp 38 for the best of its kind.

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