Going wide… like ultra wide

Source: LG official website

This is going to be a long one.

As you may or may not aware, Singapore was under “circuit breaker” period for the past months. Similar to lockdown imposed around the world, everyone needs to stay home as much as possible, limiting their contact and exposure to others in order to curb the spread of virus. Like everyone else, I was forced to work from home. My daily work involves juggling between 2 to 3 super long excel sheets and a few power point slides at the same time, and doing that on a 13 inch laptop screen is tougher than mission impossible. I do have a 22 inch Full HD monitor borrowed from office for this period. Although it does help a little, but there are many issues that I ran into with the dual screen setup of monitor + laptop screen.

To put it simple, Windows is just poor in managing screens. That’s what I summed up from my experience thus far. Connecting the monitor, setting it as primary display, yet time and time windows and programs will open itself on the secondary screen instead. Although it is possible to work on this setup, the hiccups and the occasional quirks have hindered productivity. Something needs to be done. I could add another external monitor and stop using my laptop screen, but that will not solve the issue of windows opening randomly on any monitor it wished. After long consideration, I figured that I need to use a one monitor setup. Large high resolution screen came to mind, but considering Windows is so sucks in managing screen scaling, it would still be problematic and I may not be able to really improve my workflow. Hence, came the idea of trying out an ultra wide monitor.

Watching movie in its native 2.35:1 aspect ratio

My aim is to connect my laptop to only one display, and this display should allow me to have a good multi-tasking workflow. I don’t need ultra high resolution screen for my work, as long as I can read the text and graphics I’m okay to see some pixels (anything equivalent to what my current loan monitor will be good enough). After searching high and low, I decided to settle with the LG 29WN600-W. The basic specifications that I bothered for this monitor are as follow:

Screen size: 29 inch
Resolution: 2560 x 1080
Aspect ratio: 21:9
Brightness: 250 nits
Color accuracy: Calibrated, 99% SRGB
Display type: IPS, matte coated
Built-in speaker: 7W x 2
Security: Kensington lock compatible

That’s about it! It does have other gamer centric features, HDR10 support and so on which are not of my concern. All in all, this is a very basic monitor with ultra wide aspect ratio of 21:9, which is around 33% more screen estate than a regular 16:9 Full HD monitor. Reading the specification and looking at the monitor itself shows how “basic” it really is. For example, there’s no height adjustment and swivel on the monitor stand, it doesn’t come with USB-C connectivity, there’s no downstream USB port and the list goes on. But still, I decided to purchase this monitor for a few reasons. It is one of the affordable monitor that grant me access to 21:9 aspect ratio and its feature set meets my need for office use. I’m saying this because if you are willing to pay more, there are much better options out there with much better feature set. If you are interested with this monitor, or you would like to know more about 21:9, feel free to read on.

Multitasking at work

Let’s get the downside out of the way first. Other than those missing features mentioned earlier (which is to be expected for monitor at this price point and not a deal breaker), the complaints I have with this monitor are:

  1. If you are close to the screen or viewing the screen from a steep angle, you may notice the left and right edge of the screen tears a little. Perhaps because the panel is not laminated, or maybe the matte coating, or for whatever reasons, but it is not noticeable as long as you maintain a normal viewing distance from the screen.
  2. No cable management included. I guess it won’t add a huge cost to them by just adding a hook or something at the back of the stand in order to run the cable through.
  3. The base of the stand is rather wide, it supports the monitor well without letting it wobble while in use, but it will take up some space on your desk.
  4. The overall height is pretty low, most probably you will need to use vesa mount or a stand to elevate the monitor to your eye level.
  5. After using it for few days I noticed a little bit of discomfort to my eyes. I thought it was due to PWM flickering, but after I checked it seems to be a flicker free panel. Things got better after switching to “Reader Mode”, but after playing around with the settings for a couple of days, seems like the problem has reduced or resolved. This very much depends on individual, so your milage may varies.

And… that’s about it. Yes, I don’t have a lot to complaint overall. In fact, there are a number of surprises that I did not expect the monitor will deliver, such as reasonable sound quality from the built-in speaker and colours are quite accurate out of the box. So in the end, does a 21:9 monitor solved my problem?

After using it for awhile now, I must say yes it did improved my workflow and productivity. Opening two programs side by side with enough space to see the content and work on them is a game changer, something that is hardly doable with my previous screen. And now since I’m running everything on one screen, it has less annoyance and I was able to work through windows by windows easily. However, if you are running programs on fullscreen, it could be overwhelming at times. Excel is okay as I’m able to glance more columns. Website for example are not optimized for such aspect ratio, so there will be a lot of empty spaces lying around.

Lightroom on ultra wide screen

The same goes to programs such as Lightroom. However, other application such as Photoshop and video editing software which allow you to rearrange the adjustment panel would be able to make good use of the extra screen estate. As for movie consumption, 2.35:1 movies will play in native aspect ratio without the black envelop, however 16:9 movies will play with black bar on the sides. For these topics, I guess there are enough materials covered by various youtubers or reviewers, so you can search around and see if ultra wide screen will benefit on your current workflow. Don’t ask me about gaming… I don’t game!

All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with this monitor. I got it at a good discounted price during the recent “work from home” sales, and there is no regret so far. I do noticed there are a few older models from LG that are available through some other retailers, if you plan to save on a few bucks, perhaps you can take a look at those too. Now, this brings me to another thoughts… should I get myself a 21:9 for own personal use? Not now I guess as I’m still rocking my 3 years old iMac (still going strong), but in the future, it is certainly something I would really consider. If you have any question, feel free to ask and I’ll try my best to get back to you. Sorry for the super long review, I’ll do a follow up post to discuss more on the 21:9 aspect ratio in another post. Till then.

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