As an ultra-wide entertainment monitor, the BenQ EX3501R packs a gorgeous 35-inch curved screen. It vividly displays HDR content, performed well in our image testing for both color and grayscale accuracy, and cleaned up nicely in gaming testing, too. Although it can't match the Editors' Choice Dell UltraSharp 34 Curved Monitor U3417W in either features or performance, the EX3501R is an appealing option as a general-purpose multimedia monitor.
A Look Around the Panel
The EX3501R's panel is housed in a matte-finish, gray-black cabinet, and the screen is almost rimless. You get an inch-wide bezel at the bottom, and on the top and sides, the bezel is so thin as to be barely discernable. It comes with a stand that provides tilt and height adjustment but lacks swivel adjustment—unlike the Dell UltraSharp 34 U3417W, which provides a generous 60 degrees of swivel. When affixed to its stand, the EX3501R measures 17.5 by 32.8 by 8.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 22.9 pounds.
The generous selection of ports includes two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort, one USB Type-C port, two ordinary USB 3.0 ports, and a headphone jack. They are all in back, facing downward under a strip of metal, which is never an ideal arrangement but felt unusually cumbersome with this display. With the monitor upright, I wasn't able to see the ports from the back, nor insert an HDMI cable in its port by touch alone. I had to turn the monitor screen-down to connect the cable, and gingerly at that, as its mount felt a bit flimsy. That, combined with the monitor's size and weight, made port access unwieldy.
With its UWQHD (3,440-by-1,440-pixel) native resolution and a 21:9 aspect ratio, the EX3501R is a true ultra-wide monitor. This Vertical Alignment (VA) panel has a 2,500:1 contrast ratio and 300 cd/m2 (a.k.a. nits) rated luminance, which is brightness per unit area. Using a Klein K10-A colorimeter and SpectraCal CalMAN 5 software, I measured its luminance at 324.95 nits in HDR mode, a little brighter than its rating.
The panel is wickedly curved, with an "1800R" curvature rating, which means that if you were to put together enough EX3501R monitors to form a circle, it would have a radius of just 1,800mm, or 1.8 meters. This is slightly more curved even than the Editors' Choice Dell UltraSharp 34 U3417W, with its 1900R curvature. Other curved-screen monitors we have looked at have had curvatures up to 3800R.
The EX3501R lacks built-in speakers. This shouldn't be a deal-breaker, as monitor speakers generally have mediocre (at best) sound quality when manufacturers bother to include them at all—the HP Envy 34c Media Display and Dell UltraSharp 34 U3417W are notable exceptions, packing loud speakers with good sound quality—but it would have been nice to include at least a basic set for casual use.
Along the bottom bezel are the on/off button, plus six control buttons to navigate the display's menu system. From the mode menu, you can choose among 10 picture modes, including Standard, HDR, sRGB, Photo, M-book, Custom, and three separate gaming modes of varying brightness. Another menu lets you control settings for Display, Picture, Picture (Advanced) Audio, and System.
BenQ covers the EW3270U with a three-year warranty on parts, labor, and backlight. The monitor ships with HDMI and USB-C cables in the box.
Checking the Color and Grayscale Performance
Color accuracy for the EX3501R was good right out of the box. As shown on the chromaticity chart below, based on my color testing in HDR mode, the red, green, and blue color measurements (represented by the colored dots) are all slightly outside of the triangle depicting the normal bounds of the CIE RGB color space (represented by the boxes), indicating a wide color gamut.
The chromaticity chart for standard mode was similar to the HDR chart, except that red was slightly undersaturated.
The EX3501R did well in our grayscale testing using the DisplayMate suite, handling both very dark and very light grays well. It also has good viewing-angle performance.
I did some ad-hoc testing with the EX3501R in place of my usual monitor. It did well in displaying photos, with good color saturation and contrast. HDR video looked fittingly vivid.
It's Got Some Gaming Chops
I played some Rise of the Tomb Raider (as well as running the game's canned benchmark sequence) on our Windows-based monitor testbed, and noticed no unusual artifacts. A 100Hz refresh rate and compatibility with AMD's FreeSync technology—which adapts the monitor's refresh rate to variable frame rates—bode well for those seeking a smooth gaming experience, provided that you have a FreeSync-compatible video card. (We were not able to see FreeSync in action with our testbed, which uses an Nvidia GeForce 10-series card.)
The EX3501R 's 4-millisecond gray-to-gray pixel response is pretty good for a VA panel and fine for a general-purpose entertainment monitor, though a bit low for serious gaming. Input lag, as measured with a Leo Bodnar Lag Tester, came in at a decent 14.1 milliseconds. The BenQ SW2700PT remains our leader, with a 9.5-millisecond input lag, while the Acer Predator X34, our Editors' Choice ultra-wide gaming monitor, tested with a lag time of 10.3 milliseconds.
I measured the EX3501R's power consumption at 56 watts in Standard mode. (This panel doesn't have a separate Eco mode.) That's the same as the Dell UltraSharp 34 U3417W (56 watts), and higher than the BenQ XR3501 (50 watts).
The BenQ EX3501R is an appealing ultra-wide monitor with a 35-inch curved screen. In our testing, it rendered HDR video with brilliant color and clarity. It performed well on our color and grayscale image testing, and it has some gaming chops (especially for folks with FreeSync-compatible systems enabled by a late-model AMD GPU). Unlike some comparable displays, such as the Editors' Choice Dell UltraSharp 34 U3417W, the EX3501R lacks a few features, such as speakers and a swivel adjustment. But the EX3501R is nonetheless a thing of beauty, with generous screen real estate and good image quality. Buyers looking for a wide-aspect curved panel for games, productivity work, and media enjoyment alike should be very pleased.