Alienware 34 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3420DW) Review
Curved monitors generally cost more than flat monitors at a given screen size — curved models tend to be premium in other ways beyond the panel itself — but curved ultrawide monitors cost much, much more. The Alienware 34 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3420DW) sports a lusty retail price of $1,519.99, which would seem high for any monitor until you look at comparable models that fly past the $2,000 mark. This doesn’t make the Alienware 34 a budget monitor, though. It sits near the top of Dell/Alienware’s lineup of formidable gaming monitors, and it offers excellent color performance and fairly low input lag. This is a highly competitive slice of the display market, though — we’ve seen faster, and we’ve definitely seen brighter, in elite models from Acer’s Predator and Asus’ ROG lines.
The Sighting of an Alien Ship
There’s nothing subtle about the Alienware 34, viewed from the front or the back. The body is white with black inserts, evoking the design of Alienware’s recent Aurora desktop PCs and the Sony PlayStation 5. (Alienware dubs this its “Lunar Light” color scheme.) The curved 34-inch screen features only a thin black band running around its perimeter, and hardly any bezel save for a narrow strip on the bottom edge holding the Alienware logo.
The back side of the cabinet is almost completely white, except for black highlights in the recessed area in the center where the monitor joins the stand, and near the bottom of the screen where the ports can be found. The left side of the back of the screen is home to, arranged in a column, a four-way joystick and four additional buttons for navigating the monitor’s menus. The power button sits on the bottom of the screen, near that corner.
The screen itself has a 1900R curve, more pronounced than the much more common 1800R curvature rating of most curved ultrawide monitors. This means the picture wraps around you a bit more when you’re sitting directly in front of it, if not by a great amount. It’s a comfortable degree of curve that can cover your field of vision without feeling overwhelming.
Under a snap-off panel on the back, in a recess, is an array of most of the Alienware 34’s ports. A three-prong PC power cable connector, a 3.5mm audio output, an HDMI input, and a DisplayPort input can be found on the back of the monitor to the left of the stand, facing down. A USB connector for your computer and two USB downstream ports (for using the monitor as a hub) sit to the right of the stand, also facing down.
In addition, outside the recess are two more USB ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack, hidden on the bottom edge of the monitor just behind the Alienware logo.
The monitor sits on a white-and-black stand with a wide, V-shaped foot. The mount supports adjustments for vertical and horizontal tilt, and moving the screen up and down. It does not pivot to portrait orientation like the Alienware 25 does. (It’s far too wide to do that, anyway.)
If you’re so gamer that you need RGB lighting all around your monitor, the Alienware 34 has you covered. Its AlienFX lighting system has four different light zones, including a light bar on the bottom edge of the monitor, a long loop of light on the back of the stand, and the illuminated alien-head logo in the top-right corner of the back of the monitor. Each zone is customizable through the Alienware Command Center software, and supports dynamic lighting effects with themes for 145 different games.
Testing the Alienware 34: Color Is a Surprise Strength
The screen itself is a 3,440-by-1,440-pixel Fast IPS (FIPS) Nano Color panel with a 120Hz peak refresh rate. That native resolution works out to a 21:9 ultrawide aspect ratio. Note that the panel does not support high dynamic range (HDR) signals.
We test gaming monitors with a Klein K-80 colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G signal generator connected over HDMI, and Portrait Displays’ Calman software. Out of the box, the Alienware 34 didn’t particularly impress us with its luminance, but its color performance is excellent.
In Standard mode, the monitor shows a black level of 0.225cd/m2 and a peak brightness of 181cd/m2. That brightness can be massaged up to 306cd/m2 by manually boosting the monitor’s brightness to full, but that’s still a bit below Dell’s stated typical brightness of 350cd/m2. The effective contrast ratio of 800:1 is also lower than, if fairly close to, the stated contrast ratio of 1,000:1. The smaller Alienware 25 monitor we tested alongside this model gets much brighter than this larger, curved specimen, hitting 245cd/m2 out of the box, with a maximum brightness of 436cd/m2.
What the Alienware 34 is missing in brightness, it makes up for in color. Out of the box, the monitor easily covers 100% of the sRGB gamut, as indicated in our color chart for that color space…
It even makes an admirable go at DCI-P3, covering 93% of the gamut. This isn’t a professional content creator’s monitor, but for a gaming monitor, it impresses with color. The ViewSonic Elite XG270QG beats it out in color range, though, covering the full DCI gamut.
For input lag, the Alienware 34 performs like a proper gaming monitor, with plenty of speed. Using an HDFury Diva HDMI matrix, we measured input lag at 5 milliseconds (ms) with a 60Hz signal. Converted to the monitor’s native 120Hz refresh rate, that’s an input-lag measure of 2.5ms. That’s pretty good for a gaming monitor, if not bowl-you-over impressive against the slate of competitors that offer sub-2ms input lag, including its own little sibling, the Alienware 25 (1ms at 240Hz, the lowest we’ve recorded so far).
Eyes-On With the Alienware 34: Gaming and Watching
The Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition graphical benchmark looks very good on the Alienware 34, with natural, well-saturated colors. The picture could be a little brighter, but plenty of detail appears in both highlights and shadows, showing strong contrast. The action is also nice and smooth on the monitor, with no noticeable motion artifacts.
The Alienware 34’s 120Hz refresh rate makes for generally very smooth action, but I noticed some mild choppiness when I really pushed the screen’s G-Sync capabilities in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Hitting processed frame rates of around 300 frames per second (fps), the monitor showed some vertical-sync issues when I turned my character around very quickly. Even capping the game’s frame rate at the monitor’s native refresh rate of 120Hz (easily achievable with our testbed’s GeForce RTX 2060 card) did little to reduce the tearing. It wasn’t excessive, screen-warping artifacts that made quick turns disorienting, but the seams of drawing fields could be seen now and then. I didn’t notice any ghosting artifacts when testing the monitor.
The wide color reach of the Alienware 34 comes through in non-gaming content, like our 4K Costa Rica test video. The greens of leaves and lizards, as well as the reds of flower petals and birds, both look rich and vivid without appearing oversaturated. Details are crisp, and colors look natural across the board. It’s an excellent monitor for watching videos, even without formal HDR signal processing.
Verdict: A Capable, But Spendy, Curve
The Alienware 34 is a great-looking curved gaming monitor with very strong color coverage and strong contrast, but we expected more for its $1,500 price. It isn’t particularly bright, and its input lag could be lower. If you can really splurge on a big-screen gaming display, consider the Asus ROG Swift PG35VQ or the Acer Predator X35, both Editors’ Choice award picks of ours that pack incredible brightness and contrast.
If you want an ultrawide panel at this size for a lot less money, and don’t mind giving up the curve, the MSI Optix MPG341CQR is also a fine buy. It’s just over half the price of the Alienware 34, with a much lower (1.4ms) input-lag measure and HDR compatibility. If you can find it on sale, the Alienware’s design elevates it over the flat Optix, but otherwise its high retail price makes it prohibitively expensive in comparison. Still, if you’re looking for a big, gorgeous-looking curved monitor that syncs up with the design of your new Alienware desktop, this is the one to get.