LEAVING the "UltraWide Master Race" After Being a Member for 4 YEARS...

I love UltraWide displays, I love 21:9 and I love the experience it brings for gaming and media consumption. However, having restrictions imposed by developers and the general need for "tweaking" games to work has slowly turned me away. I no longer want a UltraWide as my primary gaming display. I may never end up switching back because I can achieve the same physical (not in game) FOV covering experience with a larger 16:9 panel. With that being said, I am excited to see what the future has to offer for the 21:9 community and I will always be a follower of the UltraWide Master Race.

My First Ultrawide
Story Time! I purchased my first UltraWide monitor about 4 years ago without really doing any research on the 21:9 format. I was browsing Newegg in search of an upgrade from my basic 24" Acer 1080p panel. The only requirements I initially had in mind was that the new monitor was IPS and "better" than my old monitor. So there I landed on my first UltraWide display… The Acer B6 B296CLbmiidprz Black 29" 8ms (GTG) HDMI UltraWide (21:9) LED Backlight LCD Monitor IPS 300 cd/m2 100,000,000:1 (1,000:1) Built-in Speakers . I had looked at a few of the other options that were available at the time (one from Asus, one from Dell and one from LG) but I decided to stick with the Acer model because I had used 2 Acer monitors prior to this without issues. After receiving the monitor, I was unfortunately greeted with disappointment. I found a stuck green pixel on the display. I promptly RMA'd the monitor with Newegg and shortly thereafter received another one.

New monitor in hand, I could proceed with experiencing Ultrawide for the first time. One of the first games I remember playing on my new display was PlanetSide 2. I was immediately impressed by how much more immersed I felt while playing! This was due to the larger display size (29") and the aspect ratio. I was already able to tune out the world with my 24" 1080p panel fairly well but this 29" UltraWide covered even more of my physical (not in game) FOV. The experience was amazing and I was immediately hooked! I loved how everything felt while playing on this monitor. I played several other first person games to get a feel for the monitor. Most of which supported 21:9 wonderfully. I decided to try out Risk of Rain and was surprised to see that this game supported 21:9. I remember how awesome it was to see so much more of the map than before. Everything was wonderful and flawless, for now…

Ultrawide Trouble
This is where the bad news comes in. Everything cannot be perfect in this world, there is always a "gotcha" when all seems right. For UltraWide displays, that "gotcha" is the lack of "proper" game support. Most of this can be resolved by tweaking files, using 3rd party extensions such as flawless widescreen or simply running the display in its respective 16:9 aspect ratio equivalent (with black bars of course). All three of which are disappointing. A lot of people just want to plug and play but UltraWide displays are not always that easy. I do not remember the amount of games I had to tweak to get working but at the time, I did not mind dealing with this to allow my games to run properly at 21:9. To me I felt like it was part of the "experience" of owning a 21:9 display. Even if that experience was not inherently a good thing. Regardless, I was in love with the format and would do whatever it took to get games to run at the native resolution and aspect ratio.

The Ultimate Ultrawide Upgrade
I had not planned on replacing my monitor for a while because I was happy with it. I had seen reviews on the 34" UltraWide variants with a higher resolution (3440x1440 vs 2560x1080) but I never thought it would be necessary to have one. My current computer equipped with a GTX 770 4GB edition (later upgraded to a GTX 970) would struggle to run at 3440x1440 anyway.

Of course, that was until the Acer Predator x34 and Asus PG348Q were announced. I had immediately gotten googly-eyed over them and sucked into the massive amount of hype surrounding them. Prior to these being announced, I had already done a ton of reading and research on G-Sync, 4K, 1440p high refresh and 3440x1440 UltraWide displays. All of which were relatively new technologies. All of it was fascinating but I never felt like I "needed" it. I was happy with my 2560x1080 60Hz experience. As time went on, I tried to contain myself but I slowly got more and more hyped about these new UltraWide displays. Against my better judgement, I determined that I was going to get one no matter what it takes.

Of course with a purchase this large, I needed to validate to myself why it was worth it. Here were my thoughts…
  1. I would be keeping this monitor for several years.
    1. It's a long term investment that will last longer than the components in my computer
  2. It is going to be the best UltraWide experience available for a long time.
    1. It will take something significantly better (such as a higher resolution/higher refresh rate UltraWide) to change that status.
      1. Now in 2017-2018, that will be a thing
  3. The cost, although expensive up front, will be worth it in the long run.
    1. $1200-$1300 is a lot for a monitor but divided over the course of the years it will be used it's not that bad right?
  4. It's fricking cool and I want one!
    1. Yeah! What he said!

Prior to getting the Acer Predator X34, I had just rebuilt my gaming PC on the z170 platform. I initially had kept my GTX 970 but later upgraded to a reference style GTX 980 to better suit my small form factor build. So after waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, I bought one on launch day. I received my monitor shortly afterwards and was immediately blown away by the size of the box. I knew right then and there that this thing meant serious business. I anxiously hooked it up to my computer at home and fell in love once again with 21:9 and UltraWide displays.

The colors were amazing. The 100Hz refresh rate was amazing. The G-Sync experience was amazing. The sheer size and physical (not in game) FOV covering display was amazing. I was able to experience gaming bliss even more than before. I had once again played Risk of Rain on this display and I could literally see everything! Every other game that supported the resolution jumped up in sharpness and immersive feel. Everything was wonderful and right in the world with this monitor for the greater part of 2 years. Yes I still had to deal with game incompatibilities, but I was able to spend time doing what it took to bypass those issues.

The Downfall of the Ultrawide
That is until I unlocked the achievement of acquiring a life partner. In case you do not know, priorities shift a lot (or at least they should in my opinion) when you are in a relationship. The biggest change was the decrease in time I had for playing games. This is where the biggest downfall of UltraWide displays came… I no longer had as much time to spend on troubleshooting and editing .inf files in order to get a game to support the aspect ratio properly. Not to mention, even newer games from well-respected publishers such as Blizzard's Overwatch still don't properly support UltraWide displays.

I love Overwatch and I was not about to abandon the game because of this. However, this whole time I've been living in black bar city playing at 2560x1440@100Hz on my 3440x1440@100Hz capable panel because they basically gave a middle-finger to UltraWide users. The issue of big name publishers and games as a whole having issues with the 21:9 aspect ratio began to slowly drive me away as time went on. It got much more annoying and noticeable now that I had limited time to try and fix it or just deal with it.

The Replacement
So I began toying with the idea of moving away from the UltraWide Master Race. I had thought for a while if it would be worth it and then one day Newegg came out with a surprise deal on the Dell Gaming S2417DG. This monitor had it all! A high refresh rate (144Hz native, OC to 165Hz), 1440p resolution (granted it's a 24" panel) and G-Sync. All of that for $349.99 after coupon codes. It was incredibly hard to pass this up so I impulse bought it. Lucky for me, I'm a Newegg premier member. That allows me to return the monitor for free without any restocking fees. It was the perfect opportunity for me to compare after having a UltraWide display as my main monitor for 4 years.

I have had limited time to play around with the new monitor but my initial thoughts are very positive. The sharpness and clarity of having a 1440p resolution on a "small" 24" display is amazing. I do not regret the drop in size or resolution one bit. Not to mention the extra jump in refresh rate has smoothed things out even more. 100Hz on the large display was great but 144Hz is ever so slightly better. It is not a world of difference, like going from 60Hz to 100Hz was but it makes a difference. The best part of the new monitor is that I am able to just play any game I own and know that it will support the 16:9 aspect ratio without issue. That right there is the biggest selling point and gain from this swap. All of the frustrations are gone!

The Conclusion
Will I miss my UltraWide monitor and the UltraWide experience? Absolutely. Will I be going back to it anytime soon? I do not think so. I can see myself using one at work if my job ever offers, but for my main gaming display I no longer want to have one. There are games that support UltraWide displays right out of the box and do an amazing job at it. Star Wars Battlefront is a prime example of how beautiful and immersive a game can be in 21:9. However, I feel that if I want to have a hugely immersive experience once again and remain relatively trouble free, I can upgrade the physical size of my 16:9 panel rather than the aspect ratio. When the day comes that we have 32" and above high refresh 4K panels, I'm sure I will evaluate that and maybe shift to a higher resolution. For now, I'm happy with my dual 24" monitor setup.