- ✓34.1-inch, 21:9 display
- ✓Good image quality
- ✓Extensive PiP options
- ✓Plenty of connections
- ✕Screen curvature is more style than substance
- ✕Awkward joystick control for OSD
The ultrawide, curved-screen format of the Philips BDM3490UC marks quite a departure from the flat displays most people still use. Delivering UltraWide Quad HD (3,440 by 1,440) resolution at 60Hz, this 34.1-inch, 21:9 aspect-ratio display is an arresting piece of desk furniture.
The display panel itself is an Advanced High performance In Plane Switching (AH-IPS) panel with a 5ms grey-to-grey response time, manufactured by LG Display. It's beautifully presented in the BDM3490UC in a narrow, matte-grey-bezel casing, with a glossy off-white back, supported on a chrome pillar rising from the arc of a grey metal base. This is tilt-only -- there's no height or rotation adjustment. A narrow perforated grille in the base conceals two forward facing loudspeakers (with Dolby DTS) and a barely visible white power LED.
The Philips Brilliance Curved UltraWide BDM3490UC lists at £799.99 (inc. VAT, or £666.66 ex. VAT) with street prices as low as £595.20 (inc. VAT, or £496 ex. VAT).
Controls and connectors
The only user control, accessed from the front, is at the centre of the lower edge of the bezel, hidden behind a chromed tab carrying the Philips name. This is a 4 way 'joystick' button that provides access to different menus when tilted to the front, back, left or right. It doubles as an on/off button and holding it down in the central position for three seconds will switch the display off. A momentary click will then turn it on again.
In practice, this button takes a little getting used to because the control is small and tucked under the edge of the display. A left click is used to turn menus on and off, but is also the SmartImage hot key and, if pressed repeatedly, will toggle the SmartImage menu on and off. SmartImage provides a preset choice of six brightness and colour balance settings, such as Office, Movie or Game.
A right click accesses the On Screen Display (OSD) menu with OSD, Language and Setup options. When a menu is displayed, all four directions on the button serve for menu navigation. When a menu is not displayed, a back click opens the Picture-in-Picture menu while the forward click is user assignable. There are, of course, a number of sub-menus for audio input select, video source, colour settings and so on. With so many options crammed into this one control the procedure of locating and changing many of the settings can be quite annoying.
Connections to the display are split into two groupings on the back of the case. Viewed from the back, there's a 4-port USB 3.0 hub on the left and HDMI 2.0, MHL-HDMI 1.4 and HDMI 1.4 ports, a DisplayPort connector, a 3.5mm audio-in jack, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a coaxial power connector on the right. Power is provided by a sizeable (171mm by 73mm by 39mm) external power brick, which has a captive lead on the low voltage side (20V DC) and accepts a C5 'clover leaf' power lead for 100V-240V mains.
The most noticeable and most useful thing about this display is its 34.1-inch (diagonal) width -- the curve seems more of a design statement than anything else.
To make the most of the wide display, the BDM3490UC has quite extensive Picture-in-Picture capabilities. You can, for example, connect your desktop PC and a phone or laptop to view the outputs from both at the same time.
According to the specifications, the curvature of this display is 3800R -- that is, a curve with a radius of 3800mm or 3.8 metres. This does mean that for the focal point for your eyes to remain constant across the width of the screen you would have to sit 3.8 metres or about twelve and half feet away from it. The normal viewing distance for a desktop monitor is about one metre or less. In practice, the pincushion effect for this display disappears at a viewing distance of only half a metre.
As you might expect from an AH-IPS panel, the colour quality from this display is good but is ultimately limited by the W-LED backlight. Philips claims that the BDM3490UC's gamut extends to 99 percent of the sRGB colour space, and our measurements showed the review display actually exceeded that figure by a small amount. Colour depth is 8 bits per channel, with Frame Rate Control (FRC) simulating 10-bit for 1.07 billion colours.
Included with display are the power brick with a C5 mains lead, an HDMI cable, a DisplayPort cable (both 2-metre), a 2.5mm stereo jack audio cable, a paper Quick Start pamphlet and a CD with an HTML interface containing drivers and a user manual in PDF form. Oddly, the user manual advises under system requirements that the display is to be used with Microsoft Windows 8.1, 8 or 7 -- possibly because these are the only drivers supplied. It also carries stern warnings about image burn in if the display is exposed to static images for any length of time.
The display is supplied with a sheet of uniformity measurements made at 21 equidistant points across the screen.
More screen area is never a bad thing, and this is where the BDM3490UC really shines. It's not so much the curve that makes this display 'immersive', but the sheer width and 21:9 aspect ratio. Wide-format games and movies look great and the ultrawide format lends itself to applications where multi-screen arrays are often used, such as stock trading and graphic design. The width of the display is a little under four sheets of A4.