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LG 38UC99-W Test: High End-Display with Freesync and a Mighty Price Tag

The LG 38UC99-W would’ve been unmatched in its league if Acer hadn’t released their XR382CQK – a device with nearly identical specs – in December of 2016. At the time of this review, the Acer is listed in the catalogue but not available yet. The LG display has been introduced at IFA 2016 and enjoys great availability on the market at the moment.

This big ultrawide display is definitely a looker: It’s brushed aluminum finish paired with the beautiful front of the stand makes it a real eye catcher. The glossy white back gives it a simple and elegant appearance. Both the power cable and power supply are also kept in white beautifully complementing the look of the device.

LG 38UC99-W

At 9,3 kg, this 38” behemoth certainly isn’t lightweight making a solid foot or strong wall mount a necessity. The foot can easily be removed and the display can be attached to a VESA mount. Without the foot, the display weighs only 7,7 kg. Most mounts are rated for a maximum load of 8 kg, so you’re lucky here.

The foot allows you to adjust the height of the display from 7 up to 18 cm above the table and it can be tilted up to 20°. The display cannot be swiveled or tilted however, which wouldn’t have made sense in an ultrawide of this size, anyway.

LG 38UC99-W: Features

As the “inventor” of the UltraWide format, LG has equipped its flagship model with a wide panel. While other manufacturers are still fumbling around in this sector, LG now offer a spectrum of over 30 Ultrawide models. All of which have an aspect ratio of 21:9. The 38UC99 is the only device with a 24:10 aspect ratio which makes it even wider than most of its UltraWide models. At 37,5”, it is also a lot bigger than its siblings which usually come in 34”, 29” or even 25”.

Features

Resolution

We’re also talking superlatives in the resolution department at 3.840 x 1.600 pixels. This means that even at its big size the panel reaches a pixel density of 110 PPI. Other 34” models reach similar density at 1440p.In comparison: 24” at Full HD equate to 92 PPI.LGs gaming model, the 34UC79G only reaches 81 PPI but offers 114 Hz at 1080p as a bonus. The refresh rate in the model we tested, the 38UC99-W lies at 60 or 75 Hz. Freesync operates in the range from 52 up to 75 Hz making this device a true all-rounder.

Sound

Sound

On the bottom of the panel, there are stereo speakers at 10 watts each. Audio can be sent to the display via HDMI or DisplayPort making additional audio cables unnecessary. On top of that, the display also has Bluetooth audio connectivity allowing you to stream audio from devices such as your smartphone. This doesn’t work the other way around however. The display can’t send audio to external Bluetooth speakers which would have made more sense. It is only possible by using the analog headphone output.

Sound quality is sufficient for regular tasks but you wouldn’t want to watch a movie with the sound coming only from these speakers. Simple active speaker sets offer much better sound quality for those applications.

Accessories

Apart from the typical accessories, LG are giving you a couple of extras: The external power supply as well as DisplayPort and HDMI cables are standard. Since the integrated USB 3.0 hub connects via USB Type C LG also ship a USB-C cable as well as a Type C to Type A adapter. The included CD contains the display drivers, PDF manuals, and a software allowing you to configure the display from your computer. We expected nothing less than that for the price.

Ports

Alongside a DisplayPort and two HDMI connectors, the USB-C port is the true highlight of this device. Not only does it connect your computer to the USB 3.0 hub, it also functions as a video input and charging port. This single port thus fulfills three functions. The display becomes a full docking station for notebooks – even though not many models support charging over USB-C nowadays. The display can also handle multiple input signals through a split-screen option.

LG 38UC99-W: Image Quality

Brightness & Contrast

Like most high-quality consumer displays, the LG has an AH-IPS panel that is said to have a maximum brightness of over 300 cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 1000:1. Our measurements came very close to that with the brightness at 295 cd/m2 and a black point of 0,3 cd/m2. This means the contrast ratio is 983:1.

Color Accuracy

Color Accuracy

In terms of Brightness and Contrast the LG is on par with other current IPS panels. The color accuracy however, is a lot better. Factory calibration isn’t something that every manufacturer does. Many consumer displays thus have less than ideal color accuracy. Many cheap TN panels have a noticeable blue tinge to them. These differences are measured in the Delta-E value, which with the LG comes in at 2. Other IPS panels came in at around 5-6. After calibrating the display manually using our color meter, we were able to lower the deviation to 1,3 – this really improved how shades of grey are being displayed. Only in the reds where there some deviations to be found that only the CalMan test showed.

For professional image editing, the deviation from the color norm should be less than 2. For gamers, this doesn’t really matter at all. Manual RGB adjustment makes it possible to compensate for any color tinge in mid-class models – it isn’t absolutely necessary though.

Brightness and Viewing Angles

Using Kolorimeter, we checked how even the backlighting is distributed across the panel. We measured the brightness in 9 sections of the panel and compared the measurements to that of the middle. With the exception of one area that had a 4% deviation, most areas differ by only up to 1%. This is almost as good as it gets.

Many middle-class models show deviations in backlighting between 6% and 10% – which is still acceptable. As with the homogeneity of the backlight, viewing angles are also great with IPS panels. No matter if you’re looking at it from the front or the sides, the image stays consistent in color. Bad off axis performances is indicative of cheap TN panels.

Input-Lag and Reaction Time

In our office we still keep an old CRT display that serves the sole purpose of testing the input latency of LCD displays. We assume that CRT monitors display the image without any latency. LCD displays take several milliseconds longer than that. The 38UC99 has three Overdrive modes that assure faster reaction times. In our test, we used the highest Overdrive level and saw input lag of around 10ms. This is a good metric for IPS panels that can only be beaten by TN displays.

With Overdrive turned off, input lag increases to around 30ms which can already be too slow for fast-paced shooters. Our colleagues at Prad have examined the individual Overdrive levels more closely and found that ghosting is only moderately present and that there is no sense in deactivating Overdrive since it reduces reaction times. In the mixed-color-test, Overdrive lowers the latency from 17,2ms down to 6,6ms.

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LG 38UC99-W: Conclusion

Putting the hefty 1.400€ price tag aside, the LG 38UC99 has no flaws – neither in build quality or image quality. With its diagonal of 37,5” it is the biggest display in LGs UltraWide range, and at 1600p it is also the one with the highest resolution.

It is a true all-rounder and not a product specifically target at a very narrow demographic. Those who mainly care about gaming would probably be better off choosing a model with 144 Hz – for example the LG 34UC79G-B (in case UltraWide is needed). This one also only costs half as much. Nonetheless, the biggest model supports up to 75 Hz and offers Freesync. Not the best for pro-gamers but definitely a gem for ambitious casual gamers of many genres. Especially if they also happen to use the display for work.

Thanks to its great color accuracy, it can be fully recommended for photographers and videographers. The 38UC99 delivers a homogenous and color-accurate image that almost no consumer model in this price range can match.

Those who find multi-display setups to convoluted but still need a lot of screen real-estate will find it hard to say no to the 38UC99. Acer’s clone is not yet available meaning that the LG is without competition at the moment.

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