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Alienware AW3423DWF QD-OLED Gaming Monitor Review: Contrast and Color for Days


When they first arrived on the scene, OLED panels were something of a unicorn. The technology was proven, but low manufacturing yields kept them from entering the consumer mainstream. OLED panels are still a premium product today, but prices have come down to a more approachable level. OLED phones are commonplace, but desktop monitors are not. You can buy a 48-inch screen like Aorus’ FO48U, but is that truly a desktop display?

Alienware has fulfilled a need with its AW3423DFW 34-inch ultra-wide curved OLED monitor. In addition to a 1800R curvature, it sports 3440×1440 (WQHD) resolution, 165 Hz, Adaptive-Sync, HDR with 1,000 nits peak and a wide color gamut. At this writing, it’s selling for around $1,100.

Alienware AW3423DWF Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Panel Type / BacklightQuantum Dot
 Organic Light-Emitting Diode (QD-OLED)
Screen Size / Aspect Ratio34 inches / 21:9
 Curve radius: 1800mm
Max Resolution & Refresh Rate3440×1440 @ 165 Hz
 FreeSync: 48-165 Hz
 G-Sync Compatible
Native Color Depth & Gamut10-bit / DCI-P3
 HDR10, DisplayHDR 400
Response Time (GTG)0.5ms
Brightness (mfr)250 nits SDR
 1,000 nits HDR
Contrast (mfr)1,000,000:1
SpeakersNone
Video Inputs2x DisplayPort 1.4
 1x HDMI 2.0
Audio3.5mm headphone output
USB 3.21x up, 4x down
Power Consumption40.7w, brightness @ 200 nits
Panel Dimensions32.1 x 16.4-20.7 x 14.3 inches
WxHxD w/base(815 x 417-527 x 240mm)
Panel Thickness5 inches (127mm)
Bezel WidthTop/sides: 0.4 inch (9mm)
 Bottom: 0.7 inch (17mm)
Weight20.5 pounds (9.3kg)
Warranty3 years

The AW3423DFW introduces a new OLED variant to the mix, QD-OLED, where the QD stands for Quantum Dot. You’ve likely heard of that tech associated with LCD panels. Quantum Dots are dots made from a light-emitting substance printed on a layer of film. It can be placed over the backlight of an LCD or sandwiched in front of an OLED array. When the dots are excited by light energy, they emit their own colors. This widens the display’s color gamut and increases its total light output. The result is a good thing for OLED, because it has lagged behind LCD in the peak output metric for years.

The AW3423DFW has a bit more color than the average OLED panel. Where most cover between 90 and 95% of DCI-P3, the Alienware AW3423DFW fills over 107%. It also delivers plenty of brightness. In HDR mode, it can hit 1,000 nits when rendering small highlights. It’s far brighter than the 55-inch AW5520QF I reviewed in 2022. More light means greater dynamic range. OLED panels already deliver the blackest blacks of any display technology. A higher peak number just means an even better picture.

The AW3423DWF’s gaming performance received equal attention. The max refresh rate is 165 Hz, and both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync are supported. It also sports a claimed 0.1 ms response time. My measurements showed the same performance as other 165 Hz screens, but during practical observation, I noted that it looked smoother than an LCD panel running at the same speed. It’s visually comparable to a 240 Hz display, which means it’s making more of the same frame rate.

Of course, the curvature and the 21:9 aspect ratio also enhance the gaming experience. An 1800R radius strikes a good balance between immersion, of which there is plenty, and image distortion, of which there is none. The AW3423DWF is as well suited for work as it is for entertainment. Some gamers will appreciate the AlienVision feature that highlights the center of the screen for sniping. In addition, photographers will appreciate its color accuracy, which is factory certified. During my tests, I found no need for calibration. And there is a Creator mode, which lets the user choose between DCI-P3 and sRGB color gamuts.

Assembly and Accessories

Alienware, like its parent company Dell, ships its monitors in sustainable packaging where most of it is recyclable. Rather than crumbly foam, the contents are protected by molded cardboard pulp with bits of flexible foam placed in just a few important spots. The stand and base bolt together, then the panel snaps to it. Two DisplayPort cables are included, one DP-to-DP and one DP-to-USB-C. You also get USB and an IEC power cord for the internal power supply. A large cover snaps onto the back of the panel to hide the inputs. Cables can be routed through the stand and out the back of the base.

Product 360

From the front, the AW3423DWF is all screen with a very thin bezel that’s flush-mounted. Alienware is printed at the bottom, and you can see the power button/LED at the lower right. The color and effect can be controlled in the OSD, along with two logos on the back. You can choose any color of the rainbow or cycle through the full spectrum. Or turn everything off for a stealth look.

The stand is very deep and rock solid. You’ll need nearly 15 inches of desktop space to accommodate the base. Ergonomics include -5/21 degrees tilt, 20 degrees swivel and a 110mm height adjustment. You can’t rotate the panel to portrait mode, but 5 degrees of slant is built-in, ostensibly to accommodate desktops that aren’t level.

You can see a component bulge in the back surrounded by a grill that effectively vents the small amount of heat generated by the AW3423DWF. The Alien head and size designator, 34 in this case, are lit up to let your opponents know what display you’re using to defeat them. Under the input panel cover, you’ll find two DisplayPort 1.4 inputs and a single HDMI 2.0. Those decrying the lack of 2.1 will note that 2.0 accommodates gaming consoles that support the 16:9 aspect ratio at 120 Hz, which means only 2560×1440 pixels. Console users will see black bars on either side of the image while playing, and you’ll need to use DisplayPort for the full 3440×1440 at 165 Hz. Peripherals are supported by five USB 3.2 ports, one upstream and four down. Two of them are underneath the front bezel, which is a nice convenience. The headphone jack is also found there near the OSD joystick.

OSD Features

The AW3423DWF’s menu system will be familiar to any Dell or Alienware user. It’s controlled solely by the joystick mounted at the bottom center of the panel.

Pressing the joystick once brings up a quick menu at the bottom and a status bar at the top of the screen. The panel health meter shows green, yellow or red based on how long it’s been since the panel or pixel refresh functions were last used. The quick menu gives access to picture mode AlienVision options, inputs, dark stabilizer and brightness/contrast.

There are 12 total SDR presets, of which Standard is the default. It’s very accurate and doesn’t need further adjustment if you’re OK with the full color gamut. For sRGB, engage the Creator mode, where you can choose a gamut and change the gamma. The Game modes add RGB sliders and game presets to the mix. Or scroll to the end for Custom Color where you can adjust RGB gain and bias controls plus hue and saturation sliders for all six colors.

Turning on Console mode lets one adjust hue & saturation plus gamma. In HDR mode, those options are grayed out, and you can toggle Source Tone Map, which uses the source signal’s metadata to set the tone-map transition point. This serves to enhance highlight detail.

AlienVision is a gaming aid that highlights the center of the screen. Or you can display the largest crosshair ever if you need help aiming. It’s a green cross that’s nearly four inches square.

AlienFX Lighting refers to the power LED, Alien head and number logo on the back of the panel. You can light them individually in any color or intensity. Choosing Spectrum cycles through all colors in a mesmerizing display.

In HDR mode, you can pick from six modes. For the best accuracy and greatest dynamic range, choose True Black. If you want the brightest possible highlights, go for HDR Peak 1000. The other presets are less impactful. My preference was True Black, as it shows off OLED’s capabilities to the fullest. And it’s plenty bright enough even in my sunlit office.

The joystick directions can be customized to provide quick access to the AlienVision options. You can also specify the functions of the quick menu.

To maintain a healthy panel, the AW3423DWF includes both pixel and panel refresh options. Both can run when the monitor is on standby. Once you’ve set these options, they’ll run only when you’re not using the display. I’ve used a similar routine with my two-year-old LG television, and I can attest to its effectiveness. There is no burn-in whatsoever.

Alienware AW3423DWF Calibration Settings

In the AW3423DWF’s Standard mode, calibration is unnecessary. Grayscale tracks perfectly to the 6500K color temp with gamma near 2.2 and no visible color errors when referenced to the DCI-P3 gamut. I found tiny improvements when I tweaked the RGB sliders in Custom Color mode, but this was more to satisfy my tests than anything else. If you want or need the sRGB gamut, it is available in the Creator mode, which also includes gamma presets. My recommended settings for SDR content are below.

In HDR mode, both HDR 1000 and True Black modes render with excellent color accuracy. They only differ in their luminance tracking. For the best possible HDR image, choose True Black. Overall brightness is the same, but the smallest highlights are slightly dimmer. Visually, I prefer True Black because its shadow detail and black levels are much better. I’ll talk more about these two HDR modes on page five.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Picture ModeCustom Color
Brightness 200 nits83
Brightness 120 nits47
Brightness 100 nits38
Brightness 80 nits29
Brightness 50 nits15 (min. 18 nits)
Contrast75
Color Temp UserGain – Red 97, Green 99, Blue 99
 Bias – Red 50, Green 50, Blue 50

Gaming and Hands-on

As a computer monitor, the AW3423DWF has few, if any, equals. The picture quality is simply on another level from any LCD panel I’ve experienced. It’s truly addictive, and once you’ve seen it, you won’t want to go back. Depth and dimension are so realistic, it is, to use the old cliché, like looking out a window. And that feeling includes high-res renderings too. Even when looking at monsters and fantasy environments, the texture is so convincing you’ll find yourself reaching out to touch things like stone or metal.

I saw a perfect example when playing Doom Eternal. Looking down at a stack of shotgun shells, I was struck by the metal end caps, which had just a bit of corrosion. Then I looked up at the gun barrel and marveled at how its shiny surface reflected the environment around me. Parts of it were like a mirror, and I saw every detail.

That detail stayed sharp when moving as well. Though I’ve had many positive experiences playing on 240 and 360 Hz monitors, the AW3423DWF’s 165 Hz is nearly equal in its motion processing. Fast side-to-side camera pans stayed in focus no matter how quickly I moved the mouse. This made it far easier to maintain my aim and to keep my viewpoint locked on where it needed to be. I saw frame rates between 150 and 165 from a GeForce RTX 3090-equipped PC. Even the best LCD with perfect overdrive can’t duplicate this look.

The curvature certainly contributed to the fun I had. You can get a lot of immersion from a large flat panel like the Aorus FO48U, but a curved ultra-wide, especially one with the contrast and color saturation of the AW3423DWF, conforms better to one’s peripheral vision. The curve keeps the entire image in focus with almost no head-turning required.

You’ll want to seek out HDR games whenever possible because that is what this monitor does best. Its SDR image looks great for older titles like Tomb Raider, but once HDR is turned on, you won’t want to turn it off. There was no performance hit or penalty for playing in HDR versus SDR. Adaptive-Sync always worked perfectly, and control lag was perceptually non-existent.

As a workday tool, the AW3423DWF serves well. The curve doesn’t distract when editing documents, and there is no image distortion. Spreadsheets are easier to deal with as you don’t have to scroll side to side as much. Word processing benefits from the easy ability to place two documents next to each other in full-page view. fotoshop can be set up to keep the graphic centered with tool palettes on either side. Or use the PBP function to view two sources at once.

The AW3423DFW is an absolute pleasure to use for work or play. It excelled at everything I did and is a completely addictive gaming display.

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To compare the AW3423DWF’s performance, I’ve included two other OLEDs in the group, the Alienware AW3423DW and Gigabyte Aorus FO48U. The AW3423DW is nearly identical to the review subject but has a 175 Hz refresh rate and G-Sync certification. Functionally though, it is the same monitor. The FO48U is a 48-inch flat panel. The other displays are 34-inch ultra-wides – Monoprice 42772, AOC CU34G3S and BenQ EX3410R

Pixel Response and Input Lag 

Click here to read up on our pixel response and input lag testing procedures.

The AW3423DW has a slight advantage in response time with its 5ms result. The DWF refreshes in 6ms, which makes only a subtle difference. Compared side-by-side with a 165 Hz LCD, the AW3423DWF looks smoother to the eye. This is due to its method of refresh, which is faster at a sub-field level. So, you’ll get a better experience from a 165 Hz OLED versus a 165 Hz LCD.

The AW3423DWF takes the win for overall input lag with an impressive 27ms result, 4ms quicker than the next-best Monoprice. This monitor is quick with a capital Q. It kept up with everything I could throw at it during fast battle sequences. Motion resolution was always exemplary, with no hint of stutter, and Adaptive-Sync worked flawlessly.

Viewing Angles

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

OLED panels have superb viewing angles where the image changes little at 45 degrees to the sides. You can see only a tiny reduction in brightness, maybe five percent, and no difference in color or gamma. The top view is slightly washed out but still free of color shift. The AW3423DWF is very shareable.

Screen Uniformity

To learn how we measure screen uniformity, click here.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

My AW3423DWF sample had visually perfect dark field uniformity. Since OLED black levels are too low to measure, I used a 10% brightness pattern. No anomalies were visible, and color was equally perfect from edge to edge. White fields were free of artifacts and had no variation in brightness or color.

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To read about our monitor tests in-depth, please check out Display Testing Explained: How We Test PC Monitors. We cover brightness and contrast testing on page two.

Uncalibrated – Maximum Backlight Level

The AW3423DWF hits its claimed SDR peak of 250 nits with a score of 253.0470. The Aorus can match most other monitors if you need a brighter OLED. While the average LCD is brighter, only an OLED has black levels that can genuinely be called infinite. To use the scientific vernacular, they are unmeasurable by any instruments available today. That means contrast is also infinite. There are better choices than an OLED if you need a lot of output outdoors or in a bright room. But for ultimate picture quality in most environments, it doesn’t get better.

After Calibration to 200 nits

The story doesn’t change after calibration. The AW3423DWF was tweaked slightly, but that did not change the black level or contrast performance. The other monitors fare well with their VA technology and look great, but they pale compared to an OLED.

Since I am unable to measure black levels, I cannot determine an OLED monitor’s ANSI contrast; however, it is theoretically infinite. The impact of this cannot be overstated. In terms of picture depth, realism and color saturation, an OLED stands well above the best LCDs, including those with FALD and Mini LED backlights.

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The AW3423DWF ships with a factory calibration data sheet for each monitor. My sample matched those numbers in testing. It does not need adjustment in the Standard picture mode.

Grayscale and Gamma Tracking

Our grayscale and gamma tests use Calman calibration software from Portrait Displays. We describe our grayscale and gamma tests in detail here.

Credit: Portrait Displays Calman

Out of the box, the AW3423DWF has no visible grayscale errors. All values are under 3dE which is widely considered to be the visible threshold. Gamma runs fairly tight to the 2.2 reference except for 10 and 20 percent which are slightly light. In the context of an OLED panel though, you cannot see this error.

In the Custom Color mode, I was able to improve the average error but visually, there is no difference. Gamma remains the same.

Using the Creator mode, I could select the sRGB gamut. You can also change the gamma value here, but I had no need as luminance tracking is nearly the same as Standard. Grayscale is almost perfect which is a good thing since it cannot be adjusted in this mode.

Comparisons

Aside from the BenQ, all the monitors have excellent out-of-box performance and do not need to be calibrated. The AW3423DWF finishes a close second to the excellent Aorus FO48U. After calibration, it cruised to a first-place finish with its stablemate AW3423DW right behind.

The AW3423DWF’s gamma tracking is tight, with a small 0.17 range of values. It and the other top three screens have very similar performance in this test. The 1.82% deviation (actual value 2.16) is also similar to the best displays of the bunch. I saw that the gamma anomaly I observed in the AW3423DW is fixed for the newer model. Overall, this is excellent performance.

Color Gamut Accuracy

Our color gamut and volume testing use Portrait Displays’ Calman software. For details on our color gamut testing and volume calculations, click here.

Not only is the AW3423DWF’s default color gamut on-point, but it’s also very large. It meets the full saturation target for green, a rarity among wide gamut displays. It over-achieves in red a bit but not so much that color looks overblown. Near-perfect hue tracking and linear saturation points mean the image always looks balanced and natural.

Calibration barely makes a difference, with just a 0.3dE improvement. Visually, there is no change. Clearly, the Custom Color mode is not necessary for an accurate picture.

Graphics pros and photographers will appreciate the Creator mode, which serves up a perfect sRGB gamut. All saturation and hue points are on target, with an average of 0.89dE.

Comparisons

The AW3423DWF’s color accuracy is exemplary. As a DCI-P3 or sRGB display, it is in the top tier of all the monitors I’ve tested and is as accurate as any professional screen. You could pay more for a pro OLED or Mini LED screen, but why would you? Even without calibration, it would finish third here.

The Quantum Dot layer expands the AW3423DWF’s color gamut to over 107% of DCI-P3. That equates to 76.41% of Rec.2022. Interestingly, the FO48U does not have a QD layer but can match color volume with the Alienware screens. You can also see the ideal coverage of sRGB at 99.98%.

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Our HDR benchmarking uses Portrait Displays’ Calman software. To learn about our HDR testing, see our breakdown of how we test PC monitors.

OLED panels look great in SDR mode, but HDR is where they truly shine. The AW3423DWF can produce bright highlights, expanding its dynamic range and making the picture pop even more.

HDR Brightness and Contrast

OLED panels vary their brightness depending on the total picture level. Though the AW3423DWF can hit 1,000 nits, I had to measure a tiny white window to achieve this result. A full-field white pattern is closer to 450 nits. This is where the two Alienware monitors have an advantage over the Aorus. It can’t go beyond 400 nits regardless of content. The AW twins deliver super bright highlights. A starfield is the best example of this. The stars really twinkle against an inky black background. It’s something no LCD can match, no matter how many dimming zones it has.

With unmeasurable black levels, contrast is theoretically infinite. It certainly is to the eye. Blacks really are black, yet shadow detail is clearly visible. The other monitors do a good job with their VA panels, but OLED is on another level in HDR mode.

Grayscale, EOTF and Color

I spoke earlier about the AW3423DWF’s various HDR modes. You must select the True Black mode to get the most accurate luminance tracking and widest dynamic range. HDR 1000 will get you the bright peaks, but its low and mid-tone areas are too light. If you only view bright content, that’s fine, but the presentation is mostly a murky gray in darker scenes. The EOTF tracking result supports this. Between zero and 40%, it’s well above the reference line. In True Black mode, it’s nearly perfect. In either case, the tone-map transition point is at 60%. And grayscale tracking has no visible errors.

Color is different in the two modes as well. In HDR 1000, red and blue come up a bit short of full saturation. True Black is over-saturated linearly, so color looks balanced, and all detail is sharply rendered. The Rec.2022 charts are closer to each other, but True Black is still the best choice for image fidelity.

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It’s likely that LCD will remain the dominant flat panel technology for the foreseeable future. However, OLED will always have a picture quality advantage thanks to its higher contrast. The ability to produce a true black, as in a pixel that’s completely extinguished, is something LCD cannot do. Its light valve operation means that the backlight will always be a factor.

OLED is a rare thing in computer monitors, but unless you need a lot of light output, it is the best choice for gaming and entertainment. It doesn’t require overdrive to achieve smooth motion processing. And the latest QD-OLED panels boast very large color gamuts. Those concerned with burn-in can trust the panel maintenance features built into displays like the Alienware AW3423DWF.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

As a gaming monitor, the AW3423DWF is unparalleled. The picture is beyond stunning for both SDR and HDR content. Color is richly saturated and vivid. Contrast is phenomenal and the clarity is fantastic. Accuracy proved to be a non-issue, with no calibration required. With the available Creator mode, I could call up an equally accurate sRGB mode when needed. And the gamma issues I noted in my review of the AW3423DW have been rectified. The monitor excelled in every color test with results that rival any professional display.

Motion processing is also above the norm. Though it runs at 165 Hz, the AW3423DWF delivers the smoothness of a faster monitor. It will easily have you thinking it runs at 200 or 240 Hz. There’s no tweaking of overdrive necessary either. It just does its thing without fuss. And it eliminates frame tears with equal precision for both FreeSync and G-Sync systems. I also noted that it had lower input lag than its stablemate AW3423DW, beating the other 165 Hz screens for overall quickness.

At $1,100, the AW3423DWF is undoubtedly a premium display. But it’s a good value considering the superb picture quality and gaming performance. Unless you need even more speed, it’s hard to imagine a better gaming monitor. I’ll have a hard time sending this one back.

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