Over the last few years, we have been [in general] demanding higher and higher resolutions from our monitors, and before we even think about using a multi-screen setup – the most common resolution of choice has to be 1920×1080. Over the last year or so, we have been seeing a slow transition over to the 2560×1600 bandwagon as some users opt for bigger 27″+ panels. The problem with these through is that the cost is far greater than a 1920×1080 panel so having a pair of 22″ or 24″ panels is not uncommon – it gives a balance between the desktop space and cost that many people look for.
In a bid to give users the best option of desktop space and display aspect ratio, the 2560×1080 resolution has slowly been cropping up within the market place and in effect it is an ideal alternative for anyone that is looking at a dual 1920×1080 screen setup. The super-wide aspect of this 29″ monitor gives a single desktop space to work within, however when we move over to the gaming side of things, the extra pixels allow for a wider peripheral vision without the distraction of a bezel right in the middle of your view.
AOC’s super-wide monitor is just one of the few to now offer the new resolution, but it doesn’t just give more pixels; it also has one of the best panels on the market to show the image as well. The AH-IPS (Advanced High-Performance In Plane Switching) panel that AOC have chosen produces a mixture of supreme colour accuracy, high pixel density and a high level of brightness, oh and let’s not forget that it has a superb viewing angle as well. All the ingredients are there for certain, but does having a 21:9 aspect monitor really make that much of a difference?
Before we even get a chance to delve inside the box, AOC are keen to show off the screens super-wide aspect ratio and its ability to house multiple windows with ease. The blue box also has a row of the panels highlighted features laid out along the lower edge with a front and back view of the monitor found to the right.
Taking everything out of the box, we find the monitor in two parts and alongside a two-part DC power adaptor we also have a VGA display cable, HDMI cable, 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable, a cable tie, rubber feet and a CD containing a set of display drivers and AOC’s accompanying software for this panel.
A Closer Look
Starting off with the stand, we can first of all note that this panel does not have any height or rotational adjustment built-in. The Q2963PM also has a large 23 x 21cm foot print, so if you’re using a small desk, you may wish to consider a VESA mount. Getting the stand to attach to the rest of the monitor is very quick and easy. Two metal plugs stick out of the base plate – each with a small latch and these lock into the upper part of the stand to give an A-frame type look from the side.
Looking around at the back of the stand, we find a sticker with all the regulatory information that the screen conforms to whilst the serial number is found towards the bottom. To the left of the recess we find a push button. This button ‘unlocks’ the base plate from the rest of the stand, in the event of upgrading to a VESA mount or moving location.
Moving over to the panel itself, on the lower edge of the arm we find a DC power jack, 3.5mm audio output, 3.5mm audio input, DisplayPort output (for daisy chaining panels together) MHL-HDMI input and to either side a hole where the lower part of the stand is inserted.
On the left hand side of the arm, another set of inputs include DVI, D-Sub (VGA) and DisplayPort.
On the back of the arm, a simple back plate covers the VESA mount point and removing this, allows for a VESA 100 mount to be fitted.
With both parts of the monitor fitted together in almost no time at all, we can get a better feel at how the complete unit will sit on a desk. Whilst the screen is not that different in height to a number of fixed height 22″ panels, the difference obviously is in its width. Stretching to just over 71cm wide, the Q2963PM is a large panel in its own respect.
Turning the completed unit around, we can get a better perspective at how the inputs on the monitor are positioned. With the main inputs housed to the left hand side of the A-frame type arm, those at the bottom a little less accessible. At the peak of the stand, it’s clear that there is not height adjustment available, but AOC do allow for some pivoting of the panel to +20° / -5° . Lastly we can also note a small pair of speakers that are set into the stand on either side.
At a glance, the Q2963PM appears to have one of the thinnest bezels out there on the market, but this is not quite as thin as one would thing when looking at the screen from a distance. Getting up close and personal with the AH-IPS panel, we can see that there is in fact a large border around the active area of the display, so whilst the bezel may look to be only a few mm wide at the top and a couple of cm to either side, it’s more the size of that found on most displays.
On the right hand edge of the monitor is a discretely hidden set of buttons for power and navigating through the OSD. Considering there are no indications as to what each button does, once pressed a set if images appear on-screen next to them to keep things in check.
On Screen Display (OSD)
Whilst in most cases we find the on-screen menus located towards the middle of the display, the menu provided on the Q2963PM is located to the lower right corner of the display. As highlighted on the previous page, as the navigation buttons are pressed, a set of icons appear next to them on the display, giving users an intuitive fell to the menus.
On of the key features that this screen has to offer [and something that we rarely find] is a dual input Picture-in-picture mode. In essence this means that the display area can be set to either display to separate input sources at the same time side-by-side, or even more handy to have one input laid on top of another in a much smaller window and set to one corner.
With such a wide aspect ratio available, being able to force the display to a set ratio is important – especially when viewing video files.
These days we are starting to find more and more monitors shipping with various bits of accompanying software that can either assist with the day-to-day running of a monitor or extend the range of features and display properties that a monitor has to give. With the Q2963PM AOC have done both of the above with three simple pieces of software that come included on the CD alongside the user manual. The first piece of software that we find installed is i-Menu. Whilst there is a full OSD the can be controlled by the use of the buttons on the right-hand side of the monitor, AOC have made the process of tweaking the settings far easier by offering the full set of OSD options plus a couple more in a desktop user interface.
Before I get too far into what extra options i-Menu has to offer, I will note that even though the Q2963PM does not have any USB ports, the i-Menu software adjusts the display settings on the monitor itself rather than tweaking the graphics output to simulate the same settings. Instead of using a USB interface, the display settings are adjusted on the display through the Display Data Channel (DDC) protocol that is present on the display interface and is linked through the display cable to the host system. There is no restriction on what type of input is used on the monitor as the DDC protocols are present even on a VGA connection.
Going back to the i-Menu software, on top of the same settings that can be played around with through the OSD, there is also the option to rotate the display and have the panel setup in a portrait orientation whilst also being able to control the desktop resolution from the same window.
Whilst i-Menu has a lot to offer, it is not without errors. In the event that the software is already running and the end-user attempts to re-open it, a message window appears to inform that the software is already open, but the eagle-eyed readers out there will note that there is a major spelling mistake in this simple message ‘runing’ instead of ‘running’. It may only be the most minor of flaws in the software, but for a major brand, this is a big thing to miss out.
The second utility that can be installed is known as ‘Screen+’. This very simple piece of software works on the system end of things and it divides up the desktop into a set of virtual areas, allowing multiple windows to be seen at once without the trouble of having to resize them individually.
The last utility on hand is e-Saver. Like Screen+, this is a simple piece of software that has one function. Like i-Menu, this works on the display end of the chain and it controls when the monitor turns itself off in four different circumstances. With many people leaving their monitor in a standby state and not turning it completely off, this simple program could effectively save you a small fortune over the course of a year for example. In the instance that there are a number of Q2963PM’s in say an office, the savings could be much greater – a
Usage And Performance
Like any monitor that I get to have a play around with, there are a number of different scenarios that I will work through to get a feel of how the monitor compares to other panels on the market. Where the testing of this panel will differ from my standard field testing is looking at how the 21:9 aspect ratio affects day-to-day usage, both in an office environment where there is the ability to view two windows side-by-side and then in a gaming environment where the effect of having a wider peripheral vision can enhance game play.
Taking the extra pixels that this panel has to offer out of the equation for the moment and looking more at the image quality that the AH-IPS panel has to offer, it’s time to put the panel through its paces with a series of different tests. Starting with a series of videos with a mixture of bold and darker colours to see how the brightness and contrast perform, the screen is then used in a typical day-to-day home/office environment with a bit of image and video editing. Once the typical home office testing is over, it’s over to the games with some FPS and racing rounds with Metro: Last Light and Dirt3; at which point we will take the extra pixels into account.
When it comes to playing games, the super-wide panel is in a class of its own, The extra width gives a far greater peripheral vision that would only otherwise be gained through two or more panels. The huge advantage that you’ll get with this panel however is that there is no break in the image due to bezels and for people who use two panels, this is even more of a benefit as the cross-hair in a first person shooter is no longer tied between to panels. In racing games, the extra vision gave a better feeling of knowing where your opponents were in relation to you giving a far greater feeling of being in the ‘driving seat’.
Moving over to the day-to-day testing in a home office environment, the ability to have to windows placed side-by-side without any real effect on the workspace that is available actually works better than I though it would have done. Granted windows are not going to be as wide as they normally would on a standard 1920×1080 resolution, but there is more than enough space to play around with. the IPS panel gives a good level of depth and vibrancy to any colours that are shown on-screen, whether it be in a game, whilst watching a film or even just through general day-to-day work.
For a panel of this type, the first guess would be that a steep price tag is going to be firmly attached to the box. This is far from the case as at little over £300, AOC’s Q2963PM offers up not only a high quality image, but also a large desktop area to work around in with all the connectivity and display options that you will ever need.
When I first got this panel in to have a look at, I didn’t honestly know what to make of it. Considering that it is far from the typical 16:10 and 16:9 aspect ratios that we have been very much used to for a number of years now, having a panel that is super wide and isn’t as tall as I have used up to this point (on a single panel that is), I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised at how ‘comfortable’ it feels to use. As highlighted on the previous page, the extra width that the AH-IPS has to offer is perfect for the likes of video editing and playing games. When using video editing software such as Adobe Premier, there is far more space to work with for example on the video timeline. Rather than having to zoom out to show a greater length of time is no longer an issue for example and when it comes to playing games, the peripheral vision not only boosts the level of depth that you get to the game, but it can also give you a slight advantage in seeing the enemy a split second sooner. For any gamer this is going to be an advantage by any means.
Looking over the rest of the panel, there is no shortage of input options, with all the major display cables fully supported and the presence of a DisplayPort output also to hand, getting connected is all but a breeze. It would have been nice to see all the inputs located on the bottom of the panel so that cables would flow down the stand more discretely or alternatively have the option of some cable management features to tie and hide cables away more efficiently. Continuing on the topic of display inputs, there are not many panels on the market that give the option to have two input sources active at once. Due to the super wide aspect ratio, the Q2963PM is able to display two different sources side-by-side or display one source on top of another in the PIP (Picture in Picture) mode. This is ideal for using to desktop environments on a single display when using the side-by-side option or for displaying a video source through the PIP mode.
The rest of the panel has a great feel of quality to it and the design is a little different with the extra wide arm on the rear of the screen that takes host to the speakers and all the display connections. The grey colour that the screen has been finished off with is a refreshing change to the matte black that we typically see and the ultra-thin plastic bezel around the screen doesn’t make it feel as though it is too-wide which, when you think about it is something that some people may worry about.
If anything, there are only a couple of items that I’d like to see added to the design and specification of the Q2963PM. The first of these is height adjustment. Even though the panel can be tilted back and forth, it would be nice to have some height adjustment of some sort to hand. The panel does sit a little low on the desk and you can get the feeling that you are looking down on it if you have it placed on a desk that is not that deep or wall mounted. The other item that I would like to see is a USB hub. More and more monitors are coming out with four port USB3.0 hubs on them and with the number of USB devices that we own growing, it would be handy to have one of these mounted on the opposite side of the arm to the DVI and VGA ports.
On the whole I’m not left disappointed with this screen at all. When I first had it out of the box and placed on my desk, I really didn’t know what to make of it. I was expecting that the lack of a 1440 or 1600 pixel high-resolution to be an issue and the I would feel short of space, however it turns out that this is far from the case. Being able to view two windows side by side really does make a difference and if you really wanted to, you could mount two or three of them on some VESA mounts and have them in portrait mode – something that is ideal for content writers as myself. As a a package, this is going to be ideal for anyone that would like to have a dual screen setup on their desk, but is unable to space constraints. For a shade over £300, you won’t be disappointed by what it has to offer.
- Super wide 21:9 aspect ratio
- Wide range of display connections available including MHL-HDMI and DP-out
- Ultra thin bezel
- AH-IPS panel with great colour reproduction
- VESA mountable
- PIP and PBP input modes
- No height adjustment
- USB hub would be a welcome addition
“If you’re in the market for a dual-screen setup, but are restricted by limited desk space that two monitors would take up then a super-wide panel may be just your savior. AOC’s 29″ UWHD AH-IPS monitor not only gives a supreme quality image, but it also has all the connectivity options on hand that you may ever need. You’ll only realise how much of a difference it makes once you give it a try”
Thanks to AOC for providing us with this review sample.