For centuries, people have debated whether size matters. As far as the Alienware AW3821DW curved gaming monitor is concerned, it absolutely does. Coming in at a massive 37.5-inches in terms of the panel, and almost three feet wide, this $1,899 behemoth looks to assert itself as the apex predator of ultrawide gaming monitors.
The Alienware AW3821DW is the bigger, badder sequel to the outgoing 34-inch AW3421DW. It boasts a better Nano IPS WQHD panel with more vibrant and accurate colours up to 95% DCI-P3 and 130.6% sRGB color gamut. Even without fancy colorimeters, my graphic designer's eye can easily confirm that things look much better and more accurate on this newer panel than the old 34-incher.
Also improved is the HDR over its predecessor—now supporting VESA DisplayHDR 600 and with edge-lit local dimming zones. My testing in different games and video showed great contrast, color vibrancy and details. However, the local dimming is just a few vertical zones and they can be glaringly obvious. I especially noticed this on black loading screens—you can see the distinct zones as the mouse moves across them.
Thankfully, this isn't as visible in most content, and using the monitor's different variable backlighting modes can help reduce this. Though that comes at the expense of contrast.
Content on the AW3821DW is stunning whether you are playing games, binging WandaVision episodes, or multitasking tons of apps. I finally played Ori & the Will of Wisps and good Lord, what an incredible experience ultrawide HDR is. The level of immersion is truly breathtaking and well worth the steep asking price. The increased field of view in games like Call of Duty Warzone, Apex Legends, or Fortnite is amazing. But sadly it didn't make me any better at them.
Screen size: 38-inch
Panel technology: NanoIPS
Native resolution: 3,840 x 1,600
Refresh rate: 144Hz
Response time: 1ms
Brightness: 600 nits (typical)
Inputs: 2x HDMI 2.0, 1x DisplayPort 1.4
Other: G-Sync Ultimate, 4x USB 3.0 hub
The almost-4K resolution of 3840 x 1600 pixels, in a 21:9 aspect ratio, and refreshing at 144Hz with ultra high settings could break even the Nvidia RTX 3080 if you have one. Thankfully, the Alienware AW3821DW is rated for G-Sync Ultimate, so there's no fear of stutters or tearing. Combined with the fast 1ms response time ensures smooth gaming all day. The monitor's native refresh is 4ms but can overdrive to 2ms and 1ms, but it's worth noting that does introduce some slight ghosting. Most will find the native 4ms perfectly fine.
Looking away from the panel, the AW3821DW sports the same gorgeous Legend industrial design of its predecessors. It comes in Alienware's Lunar White colorway, with the signature O-ring RGB stand. The stand has a stupidly huge footprint, about two feet wide and a foot deep, that won't suit smaller desks, but you can also VESA mount the monitor on a wall or arm. Should either be robust enough, that is.
The stand holds the panel's 8kg easily, while also offering a wide range of motion with swivel, tilt and height adjustment. It has the obligatory cable management and the RGB lighting is excellent too. There are four customisable lighting zones which include the Alien head logo on the back, the stand, power button and a small strip in the bottom bezel. The lighting is bright enough to light up your surroundings in pitch dark but you won't notice it during the day.
The massive size gives space to a wealth of ports. You get a DisplayPort 1.4, two HDMI 2.0, Audio out and four USB-A ports. It’s maybe disappointing that it doesn’t support HDMI 2.1 port for the next gen consoles, or even USB-C for a single cable setup with laptops.
Switching between devices is easy thanks to the intuitive OSD menu accessible via the context sensitive menu buttons on the back right of the monitor. The buttons are easy to find and tactile and will change function depending on what menu page you're on.
One challenge I found is that, because the panel is so wide, reaching for the menu buttons is quite a chore and I have no idea why Dell doesn't include a simple Windows OSD app like MSI. The app lives in Windows task centre and allows you to fiddle with the OSD using your mouse, which would be super convenient especially for such a huge monitor.
Still, Alienware has created one of the best ultrawide gaming monitors money can buy. It's fixed a lot of the issues I had with the 34-inch model and whether you're a gamer, designer, or accountant, this monitor has plenty to offer. If I had to complain, the lack of USB-C and HDMI 2.1 would be top of the list, followed by the wonky local dimming but beyond that, there’s little to really fault here.
Some might find the sheer size too much for their space but to them I’d say, look at Alienware's equally excellent but smaller 27-inch model. But if size matters to you, and money is no object, this is too good an experience to pass up. And it's also worth remembering... Dell often has great discounts.