LG 38GL950G 38″ UltraGear Monitor Evaluation

The LG 38GL950G doesn't get the most user-friendly name, but what you need to know is that it is a high-end ultrawide monitor that has been on our radar for some time. This monitor, which was presented at CES 2019, was a long time coming and was only recently launched. Here is our full test.

The 38GL950G has a new display format: a 37.5-inch panel with a resolution of 3840 x 1600. This results in approximately the same pixel density as with 3440 x 1440 displays that we have had for some time and approximately the same aspect ratio . Technically, neither format is exactly 21: 9, but it's close enough. The result is the same experience as with 3440 x 1440, but from a larger screen that is about 9 cm wider and 3 cm higher.

This LG monitor also uses the new Nano IPS technology that we first used in the LG 27GL850. This enables a wide range and extremely fast response times. LG claims to be 1 ms gray to gray, and although the 27GL850 doesn't really achieve this with usable settings in the real world, it's still the fastest IPS technology on the market and is approaching what is possible with TN panels is.

We also get a very high refresh rate of 175 Hz, which goes beyond the values ​​supplied with 3440 x 1440 monitors and currently exceeds 144 Hz unless you buy the very expensive G-Sync Ultimate HDR models.

This combination of functions promises an impressive, ultra-wide gaming experience with excellent movement handling. In fact, the technology of the LG 27GL850 is designed to drive ultrawide monitors further than before.

When we first heard about this monitor, the specs were pretty unique, though another year and another CES came and went and we announced several other 3840 x 1600 monitors, including some from LG with different HDR capabilities and different refresh rates. Who knows when they'll come, but even then LG positions the 38GL950G as the best of everything.

Additional functions include full G synchronization with the Nvidia module included. This offers real benefits that we'll talk about in a moment, but as we all know, it also increases the price. There are some limited HDR features with DisplayHDR 400 certification, but we wouldn't be too happy about that.

This is an expensive monitor. It is currently listed on Amazon for $ 1,800, $ 800 more than LG's previous flagship, the 34GK950F. It's also more expensive than most ultrawides on the market, with the $ 2,200 price tag for the Acer Predator X35 not top, but this is high-end territory.

But even if you are not interested in such an expensive monitor, the performance that we will go through shortly gives you a good idea of ​​how this panel behaves in other cheaper options that will come to market soon. In our opinion it is a very interesting presentation.

design

The design of the monitor is very similar to the previous LG UltraGear monitors. On the front there are somewhat narrow bezels, a wide V-shaped stand made of black and red plastic, a cylindrical column made of metal and a minimalist back on the back. You will see a few more red highlights, e.g. B. in the upper ventilated area. It's not the slimmest monitor ever, it has a bit of space, but that's not uncommon for a curved Ultrawide.

There's a feature on the back that LG calls Sphere Lighting 2.0. This is an RGB LED ring around the column and the connections. We saw a lot of RGB lighting on a monitor, but we think this is the best implementation. There are a lot more RGB lights than we normally get and they are very bright. The problem with RGB lighting on the back of monitors is often that they are dim and can only be seen from the back, which is usually facing a wall . This makes the lighting bright enough to create an ambient effect around the display.

And that's good news, because LG software lets you synchronize the RGB effects with the effects shown on the screen to improve the environment. This works best in a dark room, but even in a well-lit office, you can see the lighting to some extent. We usually only output RGB on a monitor as complete garbage, but that's surprisingly good.

We also like the stand that LG used here. It has decent height adjustability and incline support, but most of all, it's very sturdy. This is a large, wide screen, and wiggle movements can be magnified slightly around the edges simply because they are so big. But no, this stand is strong and can withstand a bit of punishment with ease.

The screen display is controlled by a direction switch at the bottom and is also a good OSD. It is quick to navigate and includes practical functions such as crosshairs and FPS counters. As with the 27GL850, however, there is no backlight strobe mode available to further improve clarity. We would have loved to see that.

Port selection is standard for monitors using Nvidia's G-Sync module: an HDMI port and a DisplayPort. There is also a USB hub. Let's take a moment to talk about what you can and can't do with these ports as there are some limitations …

With DisplayPort you can use a maximum refresh rate of up to 175 Hz. However, even with 8-bit colors, you can only perform chroma subsampling with maximum update and resolution. However, an 8-bit color can be achieved at 160 Hz. For 10-bit colors, you have to drop down to 120 Hz. Of course, you can continue to use 8-bit color HDR if you prefer the higher refresh rates. In the meantime, the HDMI port is limited to 85 Hz, so we wouldn't use it.

Without Display Stream Compression or DSC, which means we work with chroma subsampling at maximum refresh rate, most users will prefer this monitor at 160 Hz for a clearer and clearer experience, especially on the desktop. The difference between 175 Hz and 160 Hz is not big, but it is somewhat disappointing that the maximum update mode is restricted in this way. Hopefully a future revision will support DSC and fix this problem.

A few other quick notes. You may have heard that the latest generation G-Sync module from Nvidia also supports adaptive VESA synchronization (a.k.a.FreeSync), so you can use G-Sync monitors with AMD GPUs and still get a variable refresh rate. This is one of these monitors, so the latest variant of the G-Sync module is included. We reiterate that the LG 38GL950G's variable update experience is available for both Nvidia and AMD GPUs.

There is a small fan in this monitor. In our experience, however, it is practically noiseless and is nothing to worry about. It's definitely quieter than some G-Sync Ultimate monitors.

Show performance

Response times / overdrive modes

Let's look at the response times first. LG offers four overdrive modes with this monitor, which only require a gray-gray response of 1 ms in the maximum faster mode. However, the performance is still very strong even when overdrive is switched off. At 175 Hz we saw a gray-gray average of 6.40 ms with this setting, which is very fast for modern IPS standards. Typically, an IPS panel needs overdrive to achieve these response times, and even then, some monitors don't get that fast.

Normal is a step up again, about 1 ms faster, but it's the fast mode in which the 38GL950G really tightens its muscles. Here we get an unbelievable average of 3.17 ms gray to gray with existing overshoot levels that are manageable. 85% of the transitions had no problems, only with a few closely spaced transitions the overshoot exceeds about 20%. And in gameplay, we found these problems to be virtually impossible to spot. At these speeds, 100% of the transitions fall within the relatively narrow 5.71 ms response window for 175 Hz games, which is perfect.

As you may have noticed, this overdrive mode is technically not a 1 ms monitor. To do this, we have to have faster and … the same problem as with the 27GL850. The overshoot is incredibly high here, which leads to obvious traces of light on moving objects on the screen. The average from gray to gray is 1.83 ms, with some transitions completed in less than 1 ms. However, this is not important if the overshoot is so high.

And although this mode is unusable and the monitor is not really 1 ms capable, we do not want to dissuade from what is otherwise a very fast IPS monitor experience. Usable speeds in the 3 ms range are excellent.

What's even better is the 38GL950G's performance across the refresh rate range. At 160 Hz, the experience is essentially the same as 175 Hz. This is good news for those who don't want to deal with chroma subsampling. At 144 Hz, the overshoot gets a little worse, but even then this is still a useful experience, a similar story at 120 Hz that still delivers response times below 4 ms.

It actually gets better from there. At 85 Hz, the overshoot is significantly reduced, with the average response time being only up to 4.56 ms. Then we see a similar overshoot at 60 Hz with slightly higher response times, now up to 5.12 ms. This is somewhat slower than at 175 Hz. If LG had kept the 3 ms power at 60 Hz, we would probably have seen a significant overshoot. So it's a better option to slow down a bit here. And 5ms is still pretty fast.

We also see the result of a variable overdrive that you get with all full G-Sync monitors via Nvidia's high-end G-Sync scaler. You will find that we did not have to change the overdrive setting to get excellent results at 175 Hz to 60 Hz. We were able to set them to Fast without any problems. The power has changed noticeably between 120 and 85 Hz to maintain acceptable overshoot levels. This is the case with variable overdrive. The overdrive level changes depending on the refresh rate.

Variable overdrive is now possible on non-G-sync displays using conventional scalers, but is rarely implemented. One of the few ways to do this is through full G-Sync monitors.

Some panels need this technology to perform best at all refresh rates, others don't. However, this is a tangible advantage of G-Sync with this display. Whether this is worth the price premium depends on how sensitive you are to the response time.

In the comparison table below, the 38GL950G looks very impressive. It doesn't have the absolute fastest response time we've tested, but it is among TN monitors like the fast Gigabyte Aorus KD25F and HP Omen X 27. This is unprecedented for an IPS monitor with significantly better colors and viewing angles. The performance is just excellent.

There are some other noteworthy comparisons that need to be made here. Overdrive is better optimized with the 38GL950G, so it is faster than with the 27GL850. We believe that both panels perform similarly overall, but the 38GL950G is much closer to its limits and also has a variable overdrive.

Compared to other Ultrawide monitors, the Acer X35 is the closest competitor, although it is slower and a VA panel, it has to some extent problems with smudging and overshoot in the dark.

You can also see improvements over the previous generation LG monitor. The 34GK950F is good with a gray to gray average of 5.14 ms, but LG scraped off almost 2 ms, which is significant and enables a clearer picture in conjunction with its faster refresh rate. Budget ultrawides tend to offer response times of 7 to 8 ms and do not belong to the same performance class.

We see the benefits of IPS in average darkness performance. You used to see the X35 approach the 38GL950G, but the X35 falls down the ladder due to the inherent limitations of VA panels.

Maintaining the response time is perfect, even at a high refresh rate of 175 Hz, which many monitors could only dream of. The downside is the error rates, which focus on the differences between the LG Nano IPS and most TNs. The 38GL950G is pushed to its limits, hence higher error rates, while most of the 3 ms TNs we tested reach this speed relatively easily. The 38GL950G is very impressive, but nano IPS panels are not yet at the level of TNs.

You can see this on our inverse ghosting diagram. The fastest TNs with a response time of 0.5 ms have very quick responses without overshoot problems, such as the Gigabyte Aorus KD25F.

At 60 Hz, the 38GL950G is still a strong performer, although it has fallen back to a gray to gray average of 5 ms. It is beaten by the 27GL850, which also maintains strong performance without having to change the overdrive setting. However, this is a different nano IPS panel.

The input delay is great because the processing delay is less than 1 ms, a fast refresh rate, and fast response times add up to an end-to-end delay of less than 7 ms, which is elite-level performance.

Power consumption is higher than 34-inch equivalents, which is to be expected given the larger panel size and bright RGB lights on the back. While 62 watts are still reasonable, they may not be the most efficient on this list.

Color performance

Another area where the LG 38GL950G performs well is color rendering. LG lists this panel as factory calibrated. This is based on our tests.

The CCT performance is immediately ready for use and offers an almost perfect temperature and gamma curve. A DeltaE average of 1.09 is possible ex works, which is much better than most monitors.

When measuring with sRGB, an sRGB terminal is not supplied as standard, although there is an sRGB mode that we will talk about in a moment. If you do not activate sRGB mode, you will get supersaturated colors and deltaEs in the range of 2.0 to 3.0. Which is still pretty good for a gaming monitor, but not perfect.

Standard color performance

sRGB color performance

What about sRGB mode? Well it's pretty good. The upper end of the grayscale is – at least in our test device – tinted a little blue, and unfortunately you cannot correct this in the OSD because the color temperature setting is grayed out. A DeltaE of 1.76 is still very good, but ideally the sRGB terminal provided in this mode can also be accessed in another mode in which the color temperature can be adjusted to cause minor problems with the device from the factory remedy.

Did we say sRGB clamp? Yes, that's what sRGB mode offers, ie DeltaEs below 2.0 are possible. If you want immediate sRGB accuracy, we recommend using this mode despite some color temperature issues. All in all, this is the best mode for displaying sRGB content.

D65-P3 color performance

The performance of the D65-P3 is also ready for immediate use. The grayscale performance is similar to the one we discussed, with the saturation and ColorChecker DeltaEs also below 2.0. This is the type of factory calibration that we like to see. Basically, we have two modes that offer decent sRGB and P3 performance without the need for adjustments.

Calibrated color performance

From here, we can use DisplayCAL to perform a full calibration that completely resolves any remaining problems. sRGB DeltaEs around this 0.5 mark and similar to P3. However, we are not yet getting full P3 coverage. With this panel we are still limited to around 95% – a very good result for IPS monitors for end users. However, this leads to slight clipping at the top when displaying content with a large color gamut. If you're a perfectionist, this can be cause for concern, otherwise it's a great result of a game-focused monitor.

The 38GL950G delivers over 400 nits of calibration, which is very bright, which means there are no problems with panel brightness. The viewing angles are also excellent, not quite the best IPS viewing angles we have ever seen, but significantly better than TN and many VA offerings.

The IPS glow was also minimal in our test device. Many people are concerned about the fact that they shine horribly when buying IPS monitors, but most of the current generation panels that we have seen do not suffer from serious glow problems.

If you've read other reviews of Nano IPS displays, you know that contrast ratios and black levels are a problem. Unfortunately, this also applies to the LG 38GL950G. We measured a contrast ratio of 879: 1 after calibration, which is slightly better than with our 27GL850 device. However, it's still not great to stay in the TN panel space instead of reaching the 1000: 1 and higher we expect from the best IPS monitors.

What does that mean in practice? If you play under artificial light or during the day, you are unlikely to notice any problems with the contrast ratio compared to other types of monitors. This is because ambient light disturbs the observed black levels to some extent. The 38GL950G only falls behind other monitors, especially VAs, in darker viewing environments.

While this is a poor result for nano IPS panels, we think it is important to note that although the contrast is similar to TNs, the 38GL950G and 27GL850 have a significant advantage over TNs in terms of viewing angle and color performance. It appears that a victim was a contrast to improve response times to TN-related values. This is an area that we would honestly see as a hit rather than an angle.

And even then, the 38GL950G is only 8% behind the 34GK950F and 15% behind the Pixio PX7 Prime. So it's not as bad as it seems.

The uniformity is good, but not perfect. The middle area of ​​this display is strong, but our device had a slight vignette effect along the top and bottom edges, which is noticeable when used regularly. For a $ 1,800 display, vignetting isn't a good result, but at the same time it's not a big problem and it's not recognizable when playing.

We finally come to HDR. We won't go into that much as the 38GL950G is not locally dimmed and therefore cannot realistically display single image contrast ratios over 1000: 1. This means that the actual dynamic range of this monitor is "standard" and not "high" as you need it for HDR, so we are not getting a real HDR experience. The brightness also falls short of the required targets and only reaches 460 nits in HDR mode.

I will say that support for HDR inputs is actually good, so if you enable HDR mode on Windows, the monitor won't look like trash, but the actual image quality is not in the same league as real HDR displays. HDR mode may be useful for working with a wide color gamut. It's just not real HDR.

That was a lot of testing, hopefully for anyone waiting for a thorough review of this monitor. All of your questions have been answered. If you've already read reviews of the LG 27GL850, you've already figured out how the LG 38GL950G works because it uses the same type of nano IPS panel technology.

First-class monitor: for whom?

The LG 38GL950G is currently clearly the best ultrawide monitor on the market. Essentially, every feature we've received with previous Ultrawide flagship displays will be further improved. The resolution and panel are physically larger, if only slightly, which we think is really good. We love this size and increasing from 3440 x 1440 to 3840 x 1600 is convenient. In our opinion, it offers an even more intense experience and is also better suited for productivity work with a split screen.

The refresh rate is also higher than previous monitor offerings, which were exceeded at 144 Hz. Now we are reaching 175 Hz – although with chroma subsampling – that is realistic 160 Hz for a full quality display. The chroma subsampling problem is somewhat disappointing, but forgivable if it still delivers a high refresh rate at a high resolution. The bump may not be big for those who already have an 144 Hz Ultrawide. However, if you come from a popular 100 or 120 Hz monitor like the Acer Predator X34, we believe that this is a significant improvement – and that comes from a long-time X34 user.

The most impressive are the excellent response times. It is the first time that an IPS monitor delivers response times that correspond to TN monitors. It is a very quick ad. A slight overshoot on the 38GL950G still gives the best TN monitors an advantage in terms of overall performance, but the clarity of movement with this monitor corresponds to a TN with the same refresh rate. It is a major upgrade over previous IPS panels with a response time of 5 ms. Given the other benefits you get from IPS, this is a next generation viewing experience.

Some will undoubtedly criticize the inability of this monitor to actually achieve a gray to gray average of 1 ms with a usable overdrive mode. However, this is no different from TN panels. We haven't yet reviewed a TN monitor that averages 1 ms, and at this point we've looked at several that take 0.5 ms response time. Yes, we saw at least 1 ms and 0.5 ms, but not on average. The point is that the 38GL950G's most usable overdrive mode is still impressive and comparable to optimized TNs.

The LG 38GL950G also delivers in other ways. The variable overdrive ensures solid performance across the entire refresh rate range. Although it has a G-Sync module, it is FreeSync compatible and works with AMD GPUs. The input latency is very low. LG calibrates these panels ex works and the results are very good, both for sRGB in sRGB mode and for use with a wide range of colors.

Did we mention that this is a wide range with 95% P3 coverage? Yes, you understand that too. High brightness levels, excellent viewing angles and a great design with functionally useful RGB lighting.

Although this is generally an excellent monitor, it is not perfect. So let's acknowledge some shortcomings. The greatest is the contrast ratio, which is not impressive compared to other IPS and especially VA monitors. Whether this is a problem for you depends on how you display your monitor, and those who play in the dark are the most affected. There is also a complete lack of true HDR functionality. Usually we can forgive a little game on the HDR front if the monitor is suitable for SDR games. However, given the high price of the 38GL950G, proper HDR functionality is almost a requirement.

For a cool $ 1,800, this is no small sum for an admittedly really good monitor. If you're looking for a better value for money, a range of 3840 x 1600 monitors with 160 Hz refresh rate will soon be on the market, including LG's 38GN950. Earlier Ultrawide flagships like the Acer Predator X34 and the LG 34GK950F typically ranged from $ 1,000 to $ 1,200 at launch, which is still less than the new LG 38GL950G. However, the prices for LG monitors change frequently. They are known to discount products in the months following their launch. So we wouldn't be surprised if they cost around $ 1,500 in the middle of the year.

Conclusion: If you were looking forward to upgrading to a premium Ultrawide for gaming, the LG 38GL950G is a fantastic monitor and one of the best displays on the market.

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