|Introduction & Specifications|
|Ask any person who owns a dual-monitor setup and they'll all tell you they couldn't fathom going back to a single display. Maybe you're one of those people, and if so, you know exactly the feeling we're talking about. But what if you could enjoy all the benefits of a dual-monitor configuration from a single monitor? Would you be game to reclaiming some desk space by trading in two panels for a single display?
AOC aims to answer that question with its new 29-inch Q2963PM display. Armed with an UltraWide In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel, this LED-backlit monitor boasts a 2560x1080 resolution with 21:9 aspect ratio, providing viewers with an extra long panoramic view. It's a cinematic screen, and with features like picture-in-picture (PIP) and picture-by-picture (PBP) built-in, workcaholics can multitask the night away from multiple video sources with plenty of horizontal real estate to play with.
The funky aspect ratio limits the appeal of the Q2963PM to gamers, though if developers were to jump on board, a 21:9 monitor could offer a new level of immersion. For now, however, power users and multitaskers are the true beneficiaries. It's true that some of the same benefits can be found on 30-inch monitors rocking 2560x1600 panels, but most will run you at least twice as much as AOC's 29-inch display, which retails for $500 MSRP (around $400 street). They're also quite a bit bigger, which we'll get to later on in this review. For now, let's digest the system specs and see where this panel falls in the grand scheme of things.
On paper, this is a feature-rich display with a variety of ports to accommodate a wide range of systems. As we touched on earlier, you can connect multiple systems to the Q2963PM and, if desired, split the screen among two inputs. Going in a completely different direction, you can also use the DisplayPort connection to daisy chain several monitors to your system.
Flexibility is the name of the game here, and at a glance, AOC seems to have all of its ducks in a row. There's even a Mobile High Definition Link (MHL), so if you're stuck working late, you can connect and charge your phone, even as you stream videos from it.
The majority of AOC's monitors are 24 inches or smaller, though the company does offer four 27-inch models, and of course the 29-inch panel reviewed here. It's both the biggest (in terms of diagonal screen size) and only UltraWide screen display in AOC's lineup.
We imagined AOC's 29-inch ultra-wide display would be this gargantuan thing that would dominate the desktop with a footprint bigger than King Kong. After all, the 30-inch panels we've reviewed have all been rather large and overbearing, and the box AOC shipped its monitor in is big enough to comfortably accommodate a hobo family of four. To our surprise, the Q2963PM isn't a massive panel by any stretch; it measures 28.1 inches (W) by 15.3 inches (H) by 8.4 inches (D) inches and weighs 15.2 pounds. When we plopped it in front of our Dell U3011 30-inch monitor, it was only slightly wider and a little more than half as tall -- the U3011 measures 27.34 inches (W) by 18.95 inches (H) by 8.32 inches (D) and weighs 33.67 pounds. Keep in mind those dimensions are for the panel only and don't factor in the stand. In addition to weighing twice as much, Dell's U3011 sits much higher than AOC's display.
The panel itself is an In Plane Switching (IPS) type that should offer superior viewing angles and deeper, richer, and more accurate colors than what even a high-end TFT panel can offer. Going with an IPS panel was a wise choice by AOC. Even though it drives up the price a bit, having a wider viewing angle is even more important since the sides of the display extend so far past the middle. An IPS panel allows you to view all parts of the screen from a single position without sacrificing color uniformity or introducing other unwanted artifacts.
It's also important to note that this monitor is primarily aimed at productivity gurus. There's not a ton of content designed specifically for a 2560x1080 resolution, and where that really comes in handy is when lining up multiple windows side-by-side.
One of the weak points that quickly became evident is the stand. It's sturdy and well-built, but it doesn't support much in the way of ergonomics. The only amenity it offers is tilt from -5 degrees to +20 degrees; there's no height, pivot rotation, or swivel adjustments to be made. We're also disappointed that the Q2963PM doesn't rotate into portrait mode. An ultra-wide screen display like this one would be a power surfer's dream if only it supported portrait rotation.
While we're picking on the stand, we should point out that it doesn't include any cable management features. Many monitors have cutouts or other fancy ways of routing cables to help reduce clutter. You won't find any of that here.
If you want, you can skip the base altogether and attach the Q2963PM directly to your wall. The VESA cover with AOC's logo pops right off with a long fingernail or flathead screwdriver.
Video output ports are found on the right side of the stand. These include:
Sitting on the underside of the stand are a pair of DisplayPorts. With the front of the panel facing you, the left DisplayPort serves as an input and the right is an output, which allows you to daisychain multiple monitors. The supported resolution is 2560x1080.
Also on the underbelly are audio in/outputs and the power connector. Noticeably missing from the panel is a built-in-USB hub, somewhat of a glaring omission on a monitor designed for professionals.
Remember when we said this is a monitor for the working stiff? Here you can see why. In addition to the panel's built in picture-by-picture (PBP) and picture-in-picture (PIP) modes for viewing images from two sources at once, there's also a screen splitter function to make the most out of the available real estate. There are several scenarios where this might come in handy, whether it's editing photos or typing up a research paper for a college class.
|Calibration & Controls|
There are several different presets to choose from in the On Screen Display (OSD) options. We stuck with the Normal setting for the duration of our tests.
AOC opted for physical buttons rather than touch-sensitive controls, a great decision in our opinion. Touch-sensitive controls don't always register our touch inputs, whereas physical buttons are generally more reliable.
Navigating the settings is a mostly easy and intuitive affair. The different options are clearly labeled, and so are the navigation options as you zigzag through the OSD.
There's also an OverDrive setting (Weak, Medium Strong, and Off) that adjusts the response time. Using OverDrive can introduce input lag, so it's nice to see AOC offering different levels to play with.
We're now using DisplayMate for Windows (www.displaymate.com) as part of our monitor evaluation process. DisplayMate's smorgasbord of tests allow us to root out potential problems areas, such as geometry distortion and color inaccuracies, to name just two.
To AOC's credit, we didn't notice any major issues with its Q2963PM. The IPS panel proved bright and vibrant with accurate color reproduction with exception black level performance. There wasn't any backlight bleeding, and despite its wide profile, distortion never reared its ugly head. We were especially impressed with its small font performance. Tiny text appeared sharp and readable, whereas lesser quality displays tend to struggle with this portion of DisplayMate's gamut of benchmarks.
Not all was perfect, though. As we've seen with other high-end monitors, there was a tiny bit of overshoot detected in the video bandwidth test. A perfect score in this test is 100, and the Q2963PM scored about 105. Values over 100 indicate over-peaking and compensation, which can result in ringing and overshooting an image, according to DisplayMate.
We also noticed a bit of overloading on the bright-end of the LCD intensity scale in DisplayMate, indicating a bit of white level saturation. It still outperformed the majority of TFT panels we've tested, but was slightly behind other IPS displays.
Photos looked superb on the Q2963PM. People and scenes came to life on the brightly lit display, and though we noticed some white level saturation in DisplayMate, it didn't appear to affect our sample of photos, including brightly lit scenes. You need not worry about your vacation photos looking crummy on the Q2963PM.
While DisplayMate lays out a monitor's performance in black and white (and blue and green and red and...), we also take into consideration a subjective analysis. After all, you're not purchasing a monitor to view test patterns for hours on end. To see how the Q2963PM performs in the real world, we viewed a series of high definition movies and fired up a few games. Torturous, we know, but hey, you guys are worth every minute of our entertainment.
The benefit of a 21:9 aspect ratio for movie buffs is the near elimination of top and bottom black bars, as it's close to what cinemas use. There's a catch, however. Standard 1080p content is more widely available in 16:9, and if you're viewing widescreen content on this display, you can expect bars all the way around.
Nevertheless, the HD movie samples we fired up on the Q2963PM looked great. Skin tones weren't over exaggerated, and the monitor handled both dark and brightly lit scenes with aplomb. Visuals aren't a concern here, though audio might be.
The built-in speakers are some of the worst we've ever sampled in a monitor. They're especially lethargic when it comes to bass, but overall, they're weak, tinny, and just not very good for anything more than having access to audio in a pinch. If you're going to watch movies or play games, or do anything that requires sound, you'll want to invest in a pair of external speakers or headphones.
Gameplay was surprisingly fluid on the Q2963PM. AOC isn't pitching this monitor to gamers, though it might as well be. The extended viewing angle in games allows you to become more immersed in the virtual world, and we didn't notice any ghosting or other hiccups during fast moving scenes. Combined with its excellent color accuracy, the Q2963PM isn't a bad choice for gamers, provided your video card supports 2560x1080.
|Performance Summary & Conclusion|
AOC impressed us on multiple fronts with its Q2963PM. In our gauntlet of DisplayMate tests, the Q2963PM impressed us with excellent color reproduction and sharp text, even when dealing with small fonts. Photos popped, and movies looked great due to the monitor's ability to handle extreme ends of the spectrum (dark and light scenes). There was a bit of white saturation that was revealed in DisplayMate, but nothing overly concerning, nor was it a burden on real-world performance.