Review: BenQ EX3501R, 35″ 21:9 Gaming Monitor

BenQ's 35" curved gaming monitor, the EX3501R, is a fantastic way to upgrade your battlestation. This monitor offers a 3440 x 1440 resolution in a 21:9 aspect ratio, offered in a single uninterrupted display. Having a display of this size and resolution is the perfect replacement for a dual-monitor setup. This avoids the dual bezels in the middle of that type of setup, which also falls exactly in your eye line.

If you currently have a single monitor, than an ultrawide like this can offer a serious upgrade to the screen real estate available. with extra screen real estate, theory is, you can be much more productive. When I work, I'll usually multitask between WordPress, Gmail, Photoshop and TweetDeck. I also love to have glanceable information available to me, like Sky News or YouTube. Having a display like this enables you to have multiple windows and accomplish these kind of goals.


Curves in all the right places

The monitor looks fantastic both front and back. The front features a thin bezel on the left, right and top edges. On the bottom the bezel is a little thicker, which shows off the BenQ logo. To control the display settings, you'll use the buttons on the bottom of the display. Given the stand is actually a mirrored surface, if you are in the right position, you can see a reflection of the buttons, to help you find their location.

This brings us to the stand itself, it's a great design that is minimal, efficient in its size, which means it'll fit on more desks and leave more room for keyboards and accessories in front of it. The height-adjustable  stand offers some basic cable management, with a generously sized hole to pass cables of any description through. This is really helpful, given the monitor's array of connection options. This stand connects to the monitor with a unique mount, sadly moving away from the standard VESA mount. There is an adapter, but it I don't see the BenQ mount offers any advantages over standard. If you'd like to use the monitor with an existing mount, this will be a bit of hassle.

The back of the display is a slick 2 tone black curve that's elegant, slick and something you wouldn't mind people seeing. While most users will have this back facing a wall, if you were to have it on display, say on a reception counter, it'd be a really clean look.


How do it perform ?

In terms of how the display performs and works as a daily monitor, I'd have to say it's fantastic, so good I really don't want to give it back. The BenQ EX350IR Ultrawide monitor work really well, from everyday desktop use with loads of application multitasking, to gaming and watching videos this monitor looks and performs seriously well.

If you're someone who's constantly annoyed by the fact you bought a 16:9 monitor and when you watch movies you still have black bars, then a 21:9 monitor like this is for you. Movies fill out the entire display and the curve wraps your vision, making movies more engaging that on a simple flat screen. Sitting the right distance from the monitor, there's no moving your head side to side, just sit and immerse yourself in the action.

When it comes to gaming, the 4ms response time, along with the 100Hz refresh rate mean the content is crisp, clear and fast. With 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, and HDR, the content looks amazing, with blacks deep and colours bright and vibrant. BenQ use a technology called HDR with B.I. and in this mode, the blacks are black, as opposed to some variant of grey as the LED backlight illuminates the pixels. White the monitor is great, I wouldn't say it's on the same level as the Samsung QLED I have, the blacks on that are absolutely stunning.

One of the features BenQ promote with this monitor is the viewing angle is 178 degrees. While it's impressive that colours and brightness don't fade when off to the side of the display, the reality is, you sit right in front of it, this is a single person use monitor, not like a TV that has audiences at varying angles thanks to couch arrangements.

Of course there's display modes to customise to suit your individual preferences. Available from the OSD, they include Standard, HDR, sRGB, Photo, Gamer 1,2 and 3, Custom 1 and 2 and M-Book. Having 2 custom settings are great for those who have different preferences in certain workloads, easily switching between the 2 (as long as you can hit the right button under the monitor).

This monitor has FreeSync, which is great if you're in the AMD camp, but personally I run a GTX1080, so with no support for G-Sync, I wasn't able to test this. FreeSync and G-Sync are technologies that are designed to deal with screen tearing that can occur in fast-paced games like FPS or racing titles. Even without it, I never noticed this to be a problem.

The final thing to discuss about the monitor's performance is BenQ's eye-care. If you choose to, you can customise one of the monitors buttons to activate this eye-saver mode. At night, in dimly lit rooms, this is absolutely something you want. If you have a Windows 10 laptop, the built-in display can already do this, so it's great to see monitors picking up this trick too. The great thing about making it a simple process of pressing 1-button to access, is that you can use it, quickly and easily every day. The amount of blue in the screen is adjustable to your preference.


Stand out features of this display.

When it comes to features, BenQ haven't gone crazy, but they have supplied some important ones.

USB-C One-Cable Connectivity

If you've got a shiny new device that uses USB-C for all video, you can connect your laptop to the monitor via a single USB-C cable. This not only provides the video bandwidth required to send 3440 x 1440 pixels to the screen, but also can charge the device.

Because the monitor is powered by AC, you can also use this USB port to charge your USB-C devices, like your smartphone, GoPro etc.

Dynamic Brightness

Build into the bottom of the monitor is a trapezoid shaped sensor. It looks like an IR blaster port, but is actually where the ambient light sensor lives. This means the monitor understands how much light there is in the room and adjusts the brightness and colour temperature, based on this.

Picture in Picture / Picture by Picture

With a monitor that's a mega 35" diagonally, there's plenty of room to get creative. If you're someone who really like to multitask, say running Tweeteck and Foxtel Now, while you play the Xbox, then PIP is a great inclusion. Not all monitors do this by the way, so it is worth point this out. PIP can be moved to different corners of the screen, but essentially you can feed 2x display inputs and watch them at the same time.

If you don't want any part of your display obscured by the other input, then you have another option in the menu. Just choose PBP instead and picture by picture will show the 2 inputs side-by-side.


Not everything's perfect

BenQ made a decision to not use a standard VESA mount on the rear of the display, so if you'd like to use it with another stand, monitor arm, or wall-mount, you'll need this adapter plate for an additional US$37.00. Usually a decision like this has some benefit and is worth the loss of universal adaptability, but in this instance, I can't understand why they went in this direction. That said, the stand that comes with the display is a really nice stand, it's just some of us want an ultra-clean desk and use monitor arms or wall-mounts.


How much and when can you get one ?

BenQ's 35" Ultrawide (EX3501R) is available now from Amazon, Mwave and Scorptech. You can expect to pay A$1,099.00 wherever you choose to buy it. Amazon has 1 advantage, delivery is free for Prime members.

The price is on point, that is a good price for a great monitor. It's not a crazy premium and it's also not the cheapest display on the market. I think BenQ have priced this correctly, matching the display quality, features and performance of the display.


Final thoughts

BenQ have put together a fantastic monitor here. The performance and design are a perfect match and that price point represents great value for money. If you don't want to wait for the new displays coming later this in 2019, pull the trigger now and go 21:9 with the BenQ EX3501R, you won't be sorry.

There's just a stack of great qualities to this display, most of all are subtle, like the cable management in the stand, or the height and vertical angle adjustments that makes it easy to perfectly position the display to match your seating position.

The only knock on the monitor is the decision to make the stand attach with a non-VESA mount, this was a mistake as many PC users already have monitor mounts they'd like to re-use. Of course there's an adapter that'll get you there, but this should just apply to the universal VESA standard.

Personally I want this mounted on my office wall, it's a brilliant display for the price, accommodating every task you throw at it, from productivity to entertainment, this display does the job and it does it incredibly well.

Check out this link for more information.

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwright
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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