In the segment of ultra wide monitors, Benq was an early adopter brand with a gaming model, the XR3501. We were very enthusiastic about it at the beginning of 2016, but by now it couldn't keep up with its specifications. So we had been looking forward to the successor, the EX3501R. When it reached our lab a while ago, we immediately got to work with it.
At its introduction, the Benq XR3501 was particularly striking because of its size and 144Hz refresh rate; the resolution of 2560x1080 pixels was less appealing. More than two years later we can state that 'wide Full HD' is something that we mainly expect in the budget segment, or it has to be combined with even higher refresh rates. The new EX3501R ultra wide has a panel with 3440x1440 pixels, or UWQHD. It combines that resolution with a 100Hz refresh rate and a fairly modest price.
While the rest of the PC market is fully committed to gaming, Benq's designation is a bit of a dirty word. Here one prefers to speak of eSports, and the models under the Zowie subbrand are invariably referred to as eSports monitors. This, of course, is mainly marketing, but Benq also focuses in practice on the world of competitive gaming. In addition to a permanent presence at and sponsorship of the necessary eSport events, this can also be seen in the interesting choices in the field of technology. For example, the G-sync and Freesync have mainly been ignored to create, as they say, the best experience with their own anti-motion blur techniques and, of course, low response times.
However, the EX3501R is not an eSports monitor. Here, too, Benq avoids the gaming label: according to the website, this screen is intended for video enjoyment. A remarkable choice. Other brands also have so-called entertainment screens, which offer some extras for gamers but are aimed at use in the living room, for example with a game console, tuner, smart TV box or a combination of these. With its 21:9 43:18 ratio and 100Hz refresh rate, those applications are not obvious for the EX3501R. Consoles only deliver 16:9 images, with 60Hz at the most, and the same applies to the other sources mentioned. Of course, you can watch video in 2.39:1 format at this resolution, but standard Blu-rays contain no more than 1920x800 pixels - a lot less than what this screen can show. It seems hard to imagine someone buying a monitor just to watch UHD-super-wide-screen movies. The only association with 'video' that the screen evokes is the mention that HDR playback is supported.
Anyway, as far as we are concerned, this Benq has an excellent basis to be a very attractive gaming monitor. Perhaps not so much for the die-hard athlete, but for those who love grand and compelling images: that's where ultra wides excel. Moreover, the EX3501R has a competitive price of 780 dollars. That's downright sharp for a UWQHD monitor with a VA panel and high refresh rate. So it's time for a closer look.
Buy BenQ EX3501R
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The Benq EX3501R is a thorough UWQHD ultra wide monitor, which mostly does not drop the ball. The exception is the HDR claim, but a grain of salt is allowed. In terms of response times, it is not the fastest, but one of the best tuned. The price is certainly good, allowing the EX3501R to compete with significantly more expensive models. If you don't want to have fancy pancy features, but just want a good ultra wide, then this might be the screen for you.
- HDR support does not go beyond the signal
- Uniformity of black can be better
- Not the best black value or the highest contrast
- Not the fastest response times
- Excellent colour rendering and colour range
- Good contrast and brightness (also minimal)
- Good viewing angles and uniformity
- Good balance between response times and overshoot, no input lag
- 2x HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4 and USB-C with video and data (and a very small amount of power delivery)
- Competitive price