The trend for curved TVs has had an effect on the monitor market, as manufacturers start to provide curved models in all shapes and sizes. The BenQ XR3501 is certainly the most impressive at this price point that I’ve seen so far, with a 35″ screen, 21:9 aspect ratio and 144Hz refresh rate.
It launched last year for under £800, a competitive price for a monitor of this size, and can now be picked up for £579.99 on Amazon.
Sitting on a hefty chrome stand, the imposing 35″ screen actually looks quite sleek, but you’ll need to ensure you have the desk space and clearance to handle the 597 by 1010 size.
Despite the width, this is a Full HD monitor and rather than supporting a 2K or 4K resolution it only increases the pixels lengthways, so you’ll end up with a 2560×1080 pixel area. In the past this would have been an issue but more and more games are now supporting this setting and with others you can use a little software patch to obtain it.
The stand holds the weight of the monitor well but is only adjustable in certain directions, it can tilt up and down but not left and right, meaning that you’ll need extra space below the monitor for the wide feet if you want this to sit at an angle. It’s most likely a conscious design issue due to the weight of the monitor coming in at just over 11kg.
The ports on the back are well hidden by a circular piece of plastic which pops off to reveal 2 HDMI 1.4 sockets, a DisplayPort 1.2 and mini DisplayPort, Line In and Headphone jack. The Headphone socket location may be an issue for those who want to constantly plug in and disconnect audio equipment, though.
Strangely for a moden BenQ gaming monitor, there are no USB ports to be found. It’s not something I really miss on this monitor, though, and it’s hard to see where they’d actually go. You wouldn’t want to reach the sides of this wide monitor just to plug a USB device in.
Buttons are recessed under the right hand bottom edge of the screen and are only given rudimentary indicators on the front. The fact that they are so far back does occasionally make it tricky to find the right button and I did end up pressing the wrong one from time to time.
The buttons are also menu dependant, so functions will change depending on what menu you’re on, hence the lack of explicit icons. Menus are easy to follow and give plenty of options for optimising the screen.
Speaking of the screen, the 8-bit VA panel provides some really lovely colour depth and deep blacks. It may be only 79 pixels per inch, but this can be a boon to those with a graphics card that won’t run 2K or 4K games at decent frame rates. The resolution looks great even close up.
Backlight fading was noticeable on dark coloured backgrounds, but only around the edges. It’s not a huge impact to the picture as a whole, though It’s certainly more noticeable on curved screens in general.
The other thing this screen has to its advantage is the refresh rate of 144Hz. There’s no FreeSync or G-Sync available (the competing formats for AMD and Nvidia cards respectively) but the refresh rate keeps things moving smoothly when compared to a standard 60Hz panel. There are 3 different options for gaming here; 60Hz, 120Hz and 144Hz.
In practice, gaming was smooth enough for most gamers and colours were great when using custom option, the various game modes on offer (2 FPS modes and a racing mode) seem to have been set far to bright to really bring out the colours and setting it lower also improves the issue with the backlight bleed.
It’s not the best widescreen monitor by far, but then the BenQ XR3501 isn’t priced as high as the competition, either. The high refresh rate and price make this an ideal monitor for non-professional gamers who want an impressive looking large screen.