With HDR content becoming more popular by the day, companies like BenQ are helping drive the HDR movement by releasing HDR monitors such as the EX3501R. Today we are reviewing BenQ's EX3501R which is the successor to the XR3501 that was released more than three years ago. BenQ has designed the EX3501R to provide an immersive gaming experience and also serve as a multi-purpose monitor for users who are into HDR content such as watching movies and content creation. The EX3501R is part of the 'EX-Series' and is BenQ's new flagship of its video enjoyment product line.
The EX3501R features an attractive 35-inch curve design with a 21:9 ultra-wide aspect ratio. BenQ has equipped the EX3501R with a 3440 x 1440 resolution and a refresh rate of 100Hz with a 4ms (GtG) response time which will provide for a smooth gaming experience. The screen has a nice 1800R curve and an amazing 2500:1 contrast ratio and is also listed for 178°/178° viewing angles. BenQ has included support for 24Hz, 25Hz and 30Hz operating modes for film content which will make watching movies with the EX3501R much more enjoyable. Peak brightness is set at 300 cd/m² which seems to be the norm among most ultrawide gaming monitors nowadays.
BenQ is using a VA panel on their EX3501R which is a type of panel that is best known for higher contrast ratio and richer blacks than IPS panel. VA panels typically come with a 2500:1 contrast ratio compared to 1000:1 on IPS. Another great thing about VA panels is that they have little to no backlight bleed whereas IPS panels suffer severely from backlight bleed. Compared to TN panels, VA panels offer much better viewing angles and better colors but not nearly as good as that of an IPS panel. TN panels on the other hand provide faster response times than IPS and VA panels but come at a trade-off in washed out colors and poor viewing angles.
Price-wise, the EX3501R retails for $850 on Amazon and comes with 3 years of warranty including on-site replacement service. Thanks to BenQ, you can get 15% off by using this Amazon promo code (15EX3501R) that expires on 4/16. BenQ has positioned the EX3501R towards the higher end of the market to compete with other ultrawide gaming monitors on the market such as the AOC Agon AG352UCG ($850), Acer Predator Z35P ($1050), Dell AW3418DW ($1220) and ASUS ROG XG35VQ ($800).
Many of these gaming monitors lack features that distinguish them from other gaming monitors but BenQ has integrated many attractive features into the EX3501R such as the Flicker-Free technology, HDR mode, Low Blue Light technology, Brightness Intelligence technology, Smart Focus and AMD FreeSync.
Flicker-Free technology is used to reduce or eliminate screen flickering which effectively reduces eye fatigue and it can also help with reducing headaches brought on by prolonged computer use. There have been many studies that have shown that blue light coming from the computer monitors may be very harmful to the eyes causing macular degeneration or sleep disorders and that's where BenQ's Low Blue Light technology comes into play to combat the possible side effects.
The Brightness Intelligence technology is used to reduce eye strain in any light environment by detecting the environment that you are in and changing the brightness and color temperature of the monitor accordingly. When HDR mode is enabled, the Brightness Enhancement engine will increase the luminance from 300 nits to 400 nits for significantly higher contrast performance. The EX3501R comes with an 8-bit color depth that can display up to 16.7 million colors and it supports 100% sRGB coverage. A true HDR display is said to be capable of producing 1,000 nits or higher and more than 10-bit colors but many companies such as BenQ are trying to push HDR on displays with much lower max brightness levels.
AMD FreeSync technology is an adaptive synchronization technology that is used to reduce screen tearing by synchronizing the refresh rate of the monitor to the framerate of an AMD Radeon video card. Both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync behave very similar but essentially what it comes down to is cost. AMD does not charge monitor manufactures a licensing fee to use the FreeSync technology whereas nVidia will charge a premium price for it which is why G-Sync monitors are about $100 to $200 more expensive than FreeSync monitors.
I have been testing the EX3501R for the past week by playing games such as Battlefield 1 on maximum settings and I'm truly amazed by this beast. Gaming performance with the EX3501R is beyond amazing and image quality is outstanding especially once you enable HDR mode. I spent some time experimenting with different picture modes but I found the HDR mode to offer the best image quality in games. HDR mode does a great job of improving the contrast and enhancing the dark areas in games for a greater level of detail and clarity. To take advantage of the FreeSync feature, you will need a high end AMD video card such as the Radeon Vega 56 or Vega 64 graphics card.
|BenQ EX3501R Specifications|
|Panel Type:||VA Panel|
|Refresh Rate:||100 Hz|
|Color Bit:||8 Bit|
|Pixel Pitch (mm):||0.238mm|
|Response Time:||4ms (GtG)|
|Max Resolution:||3440 x 1440|
|Display Colors:||16.7 million|
|Color Gamut:||100% sRGB|
|DCR:||20,000,000 : 1|
|Display Area:||819.41(H) x 345.89(V) mm|
Low Blue Light
Brightness Intelligence Plus
Dynamic Power Saving (DPS)
|Video Bandwidth (MHZ):||600MHz|
|Power Supply:||90 ~ 264 AC|
|Power Consumption (On mode):||63W|
|Power Consumption (Power saving mode):||0.5W|
|Power Consumption (off mode):||0.5W|
|Dimensions (HxWxD mm):||504.02 x 833.95 x 224.08|
|Net Weight:||10.4 kg|
|Gross Weight (kg):||16.5 kg|
|Color Temperature:||Reddish/ Normal/ Bluish/ User mode|
|OSD Language:||18 languages|
|VESA Wall Mounting:||Yes|
|Tilt (down/up):||-5° ~ 20°|
|Signal Cables Included:||Power cord for adapter (1.8m)|
HDMI 2.0 cable(1.8m)
DP to mDP cable(1.8m)
USB Type-C cable (1m)
|Ports:||1x DP 1.4|
2x HDMI 2.0
2x USB 3.0 Downstream
1x USB 3.0 Upstream
1x USB Type-C 3.1
|Release Date:||March 2018|
The EX3501R comes in a big cardboard box that weighs roughly 35 lbs. The features of the monitor are listed on the front and on the sides of the box. On the front, we can see the 'EX Series Curved Monitor' followed by the model number 'EX3501R' and '1800R Curvature' underneath this. On the sides you will find some basic information about the monitor such as the 35" monitor size, eye-care, model number and all the features such as HDR, UWQHD 3440x1440, curved, 100Hz, Brightness Intelligence Plus, Low Blue Light technology and AMD FreeSync.
BenQ includes high quality thick cables which is nice to see. The components inside are well packaged and everything feels well secured inside the box. Inside you will find the 35” monitor which comes with the stand/base pre-attached, power cord (1.8m), 2x HDMI 2.0 cable (1.8m), 1x DP to mDP cable (1.8m), 1x USB Type-C cable (1m), and a quick-start guide with documentation on a CD-ROM. BenQ also includes a cover that can be used to hide the cables behind the monitor. The monitor's dimensions are 32.8 inch in width, 19.8 inch tall and 8.8 inch deep and weighs 22.93 lbs including the stand.
The EX3501R comes well protected by two high density foams as shock absorbent and plastic wrapping to prevent any accidental damages during shipping. Packaging is top notch and the product arrived in perfect condition.
Design-wise, the BenQ EX3501R features a minimalistic and elegant design with a silver and chrome finish that looks really attractive to the eyes. The display sports an anti-glare screen coating finish which makes it easier to see the screen under bright lights. What stands out the most is the metal stand that gives the monitor a very nice contrast to the black display. BenQ has designed the EX3501R with a nice premium feel to it and it feels robust due to the sturdy design.
BenQ ships the EX3501R pre-assembled so that means the stand and base are already attached to the monitor and all you have to do is lift the monitor out of the box. Of course, if you want remove the stand so you can mount the EX3501R on a swivel desk arm, you can also do that. Normally, when installing a monitor you need a screwdriver to connect the panel to the stand but BenQ has made the installation process so simple that even a caveman can do it.
Moving on, on the back you will be presented with a nice smooth silver surface along with the BenQ logo printed on stand. When it comes to adjustments, you can adjust the height of the monitor up to 60mm and tilt the monitor by -5° backwards and 20° forward. The monitor can only be tilted backwards and forwards so it is not capable of rotating the screen sideways or swiveling the panel. The panel offers 178/178-degree viewing angles and 4ms (gray to gray) response time. The OSD buttons are located underneath the frame and they are easy to press.
Underneath the bottom center of the monitor is where you will find the Brightness Intelligence sensor. The Brightness Intelligence Plus (B.I+) technology uses a sensor to detect the environment that you are in and change the brightness and color temperature of the monitor accordingly. Before a change occurs, an icon appears at the bottom right corner of the screen to inform you that the sensor has detected a change and adjustment is about to happen. BenQ allows you to disable this notification without turning off the Brightness Intelligence feature. Enabling Brightness Intelligence Plus will help to balance maximum contrast and vibrancy while maintaining viewing comfort.
As far as ports go, you get one 3.5mm headphone jack, two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4 port, two USB 3.0 Downstream, one USB 3.0 Upstream, and one USB Type-C 3.1. The ports themselves can easily be hidden behind a cover which BenQ includes. Also, the EX3501R has support for VESA 100 x 100mm mounting but BenQ has not included a VESA converter plate in the box. You will need a VESA transfer kit that you have to buy from BenQ's store for $39 USD. Asking people to spend an extra $40 after they have spent $850 is a slap in the face and a big disappointment.
We have already mentioned that the curvature of the EX3501R is 1800R which basically means it is quite pronounced compared to other curved monitors that sometimes have a curvature of 3000R, which is more subtle. Some people may find the deep curvature difficult for non-media related activities but I think you get used to it very quickly.
I love the minimalistic design of the stand that BenQ has gone with here. It feels extremely well designed and high quality. The stand offers fantastic stability and is very sturdy and it doesn't wobble even if you move your desk around. Most manufactures utilize a blocky stand which takes up quite a bit of space but the 'V-shaped' stand of the EX3501R takes up very little space and provides firm and precise movements.
Large monitors normally come with a big power supply and the EX3501R is no exception. The EX3501R comes with an enormous external power supply that measures 170mm in width, 75mm in height, and 40mm in depth. Having a big power brick under the desk can be quite annoying but I guess you can easily hide it since the power cord is ~4 feet long.
The power supply is capable of offering 6A to 20V, so it can deliver a power of up to 120W. You can expect the power consumption to be around 60W during maximum consumption with full brightness and in standby mode, the power consumption will drop below 0.5 watts. During normal operation, the power supply does not generate much heat which is nice.
The on-screen display menu is easy to navigate and the buttons are located underneath the frame of the monitor. The buttons are quite snappy and easy to press. The OSD menu consists of four settings with the first setting being the picture mode, then we have contrast mode, after that comes brightness mode, and then comes the customizations mode which is where you will spend the majority of the time tweaking different settings.
The picture mode allows you to select between pre-configured options but you can also customize your own profile. The monitor ships with the standard option as the default but you can also choose between HDR, sRGB, Photo, Gamer1, Gamer2, Gamer3, Custom1, Custom2, and M-Book.
The contrast setting is self-explanatory.
The brightness setting is also self-explanatory.
Now in the customization mode is where you will be spending most of your time. This is where you will go to play around with settings such as Display, Picture, Picture-Advanced, Audio, and System. In the display section, you can select between PIP / PBP and Input. PIP / PBP stands for picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture which can be used to separate the screen into two parts so you can view images from different signals. The input option will display whether you are using an HDMI, DP or a USB-C connectivity.
The picture section provides control over brightness, contrast, sharpness, gamma, color temperature, AMA and reset color. Most of these settings can be left the way they are but if you find yourself making a lot of changes, you can easily reset all colors to default.
In the picture advanced setting, you can tweak picture mode, color vibrance, low blue light, super resolution, dynamic contrast, overscan, display mode, HDMI RGB PC range, B.I+ and adjust by duration. Super Resolution increases the pixel density of low-res content, while Dynamic contrast is used to allow the monitor to automatically adjusts picture detail and brightness. When you enable HDR, some of these settings become locked and you can't adjust them until you deactivate HDR.
The EX3501R does not come with built-in speaker so you will need to use external speakers. This is a disappointment because BenQ is advertising the EX3501R as a 'video enjoyment' monitor and you can't even use the monitor out of the box for watching movies or listening to music without external speakers. Even the standard 2x2W built-in speakers would have been great. Most gaming monitors come with 2x2W built speakers which are notorious for being low-quality and having a low sound output, but they can be quite useful for people who can't afford external speakers.
In the system section, you can tweak settings such as Input, OSD Settings, CustomKey1, CustomKey2, CustomKey3, DDC/CI, USB-C Configuration, DP Auto Switch, HDMI Auto Switch, USB-C AutoSwitch, Auto Power Off, Resolution Notice, Information, and Reset All.
The Information option displays some basic information such as the resolution, refresh rate, monitor model, HDR, and input mode.
You will find the BenQ logo located in the bottom center bezel and underneath the bezel is where you will also find the Brightness Intelligence sensor.
Here's a close up picture of the monitor and you can see that the panel goes all the way to the frame of the monitor and there is no gap between the screen and the frame. The bezels on the sides and top measure approximately 8 millimeters while the bottom bezel is about 21 millimeters thick. BenQ is using a 2-stage bezel design for the sides and top which is a very thin hard outer component and a panel border that appears to blend into the screen when the screen is turned off. We should start seeing true borderless screens in the near future but for now, technology has not reached that point yet and a 2-stage bezel design is as good as it gets.
Now we are going to test the backlight bleeding at 0%, 50% and 100% brightness and the testing will be performed in a dark room. Backlight bleeding is a major concern among enthusiasts and gamers because it is a major issue with IPS panels but not so much with VA and TN panels. VA panels normally have superior blacks to IPS panels, but IPS panels typically have better color accuracy and viewing angles.
Another thing that I want to mention is that VA panels do not normally suffer from
backlight bleeding whereas IPS panels are known for suffering from backlight bleeding.
The above photo is tested at 0% brightness and you can clearly see that this monitor does not suffer from backlight bleeding which is awesome.
Here we are testing the backlight bleeding at 50% brightness.
Now we are testing at 100% brightness and you can see a slight color variation on both sides but it's nowhere near as bad as an IPS panel. When it comes to backlight bleeding, it will all depend on how sensitive you are to it but I can tell you from spending a week testing this monitor, that this monitor has zero issues with backlight bleeding. Also, keep in mind that backlight bleeding varies from panel to panel and you could spend a lot of time trying to a find a monitor without any bleeding and not succeed.
Now we are testing the viewing angles at 0%, 50%, and 100% brightness and the testing will be performed in a dark room. The above photo was tested at 0% brightness and you can clearly see that the viewing angles and color uniformity are not as good as an IPS panel.
Now we are testing the viewing angles at 50% brightness.
Here we are testing at 100% brightness. During testing, there was color shifting and loss of luminance when viewed from an angle which is to be expected from a VA panel. You can clearly see above that the colors do not stay true when the screen is viewed from an angle without distorting the picture or losing color accuracy. Overall, the viewing angles and color uniformity are acceptable for a VA panel.
BenQ has a winner on their hands with the EX3501R and it is certainly a new contender in the curved gaming monitor market. The EX3501R has everything you can ask for in a high-end curved gaming monitor such as a high build quality, excellent connectivity, AMD FreeSync support, high refresh rate and an attractive price. The build quality is elegant with a minimalistic design which I really like and the OSD menu is clear and simple to navigate. On top of that, you get a long three-year limited warranty which includes on-site replacement service. Also, if you have external speakers, the EX3501R makes for a great all-purpose monitor that can be used for streaming music, watching movies and office related work.
BenQ is utilizing a VA panel on their EX3501R so that means the contrast ratio will be far superior to IPS panel and there won't be any backlight bleeding which is a big plus for gamers. As great as the EX3501R is, it is not perfect. Some drawbacks include the lack of built-in speakers and VESA transfer kit. Unless you already have external speakers, you will have to spend additional money to use this monitor for watching moves, music streaming and gaming. Pretty much most of the curved gaming monitors on the market come with the standard 2x2W built-in speakers and even though they are low-quality, they would still be perfect for the average user who is not tech-savvy. Another thing that I don't like about the EX3501R is the stand and that's because it doesn't offer swiveling and it can only increase the height by 60mm which might be an issue to a few people but it's not a big deal in my opinion.
Like I already mentioned, the EX3501R doesn’t deliver a true HDR experience but it tries to emulate it. In order for a monitor to display true HDR content, it must support above 10-bit color and have a very high DCI-P3 color space coverage, and also have 1000+ nits of peak brightness. The EX3501R comes with 8-bit color and with a peak brightness of 300 nits which is far below the true HDR standard. There are only a few true HDR monitors on the market but they cost about three times the price of the EX3501R which is too expensive for most people.
+ Amazing Gaming Performance
+ AMD FreeSync Support
+ 100Hz Refresh Rate
+ Elegant Modern Design
+ Attractive Price
+ HDR Support
+ Great Packaging
+ Excellent Connectivity
- No Built-In Speakers
- Requires VESA Transfer kit
- Not Fully Adjustable Stand
Price-wise, BenQ has strategically priced the EX3501R to be very competitive and I think at $850, the EX3501R is a much more attractive product than the competition. At the time of writing this review, you can find it on Newegg and Amazon for $850 which makes it much cheaper than the Acer Predator Z35P ($1050) and Dell AW3418DW ($1220). Compared to AOC Agon AG352UCG ($850) and ASUS ROG XG35VQ ($800), I think BenQ's EX3501R is a better choice for users who want an immersive gaming experience in the $850-$900 price-rage. Overall, the BenQ EX3501R deserves our elite award.
Final Score 9.8