Having recently acquired the first LG 34UM95 UltraWide IPS monitor delivered to Canada, I thought I’d take a moment to share my hands on review of working with a 34 Inch 21:9 IPS monitor for photography and video editing.
IPS Versus TN Monitors
Most consumer level monitors are TN (Twisted Nematic) panels. (There is an easy way to know for sure – if the manufacturer isn’t advertising that its not a TN panel, then its a TN panel.)
TN monitors are affordable (ie. easier to manufacture, and therefore cheaper), however they generally do not offer very good color reproduction or contrast compared to IPS (In-Plane Switching) monitors. That’s not to say that some of the higher quality TN monitors available don’t have pretty good color gamut and contrast performance – they do. But, the big issue with TN monitors vs. IPS monitors is that the color and contrast changes depending on the viewing angle.
For a photographer or a filmmaker, this is a major problem. Funny story: I once sent a client a set of finished photos that I had edited on a TN display that I had allowed to fall out of calibration. I had used some burning to hide a bunch of junk in the background – and on my screen – it was black. But on her screen, and most other devices, all that junk was still clearly visible.
The bottom line is that you can work with a TN monitor as long as you keep on top of your monitor calibration (with a Sypder or similar) and are conscious of the angle you are viewing the screen at (in fact I have still been working on a pair of 24 inch TN monitors for years) – but really the professional choice is to go with an IPS display.
This is a pretty extreme viewing angle, but you’ll notice that the color and contrast are still accurate.
LG 34 Inch IPS Monitor versus 27 Inch Apple Thunderbolt Display
For most photographers, the default choice for a professional level IPS computer monitor is the Apple 27″ Thunderbolt Display. You may not know this, but even if you are running a PC, you can still use an Apple display – a monitor is a monitor.
For a long time, if you wanted an IPS monitor – Apple was the only choice (without going to an expensive niche specialty supplier).
However, with a new generation of high quality IPS monitors coming from all of the major PC world manufacturers, there is no longer a reason to overpay for an Apple product.
Comparing apples to Apples, the LG 34UM95 is roughly the same retail price as the Apple 27″ Thunderbolt display.
Same viewing angle, same contrast ratio, similar brightness (the Apple is slightly brighter), similar color gamut, same vertical resolution.
The only major difference is that with the LG, you get an additional 880 pixels of real estate (about 7.5 inches).
To put things into a visual context, I love this graph that shows all of the common display resolutions – note the difference between the Apple 27″ Thunderbolt Display (WQHD 2560 x 1440) and the LG 34UM95 (QHD 3440 x 1440).
It is also important to note that neither the LG 34UM95 or the 27″ Apple Thunderbolt display are wide gamut displays. They cover sRGB color gamut, but not Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB. LG advertises that the 34UM95 covers 99% of the sRGB color space. In reality it is slightly less – this review pegs it at 95.4% of sRGB and 69.6% of Adobe RGB. Interestingly, I can’t find any corresponding information for Apple displays.
I am going to approach this from the perspective of a photographer and film maker – I don’t use my computers for games and I’m not a spec geek – so I’m not going to get too in depth with the technical specs for the LG 34UM95.
Here are the basics for the LG 34UM95:
|Display Size||34″ / 86.36 cm
32.7″ / 83.06 cm (diagonally)
|Resolution||3440 x 1440|
|Color Gamut (CIE1931)||99%|
|Brightness||320 cd/m² (typical)|
|Surface Treatment||Anti-glare, 3H|
One other spec that you might want to know is the maximum refresh rate. With a DisplayPort connection, you can get 60 Hz. With an HDMI connection, you’re limited to a max refresh rate of 30 Hz.
Like I said, I don’t use my computers for games so the refresh rate is not overly important to me – but if you are using an HDMI connection (more on that in a minute), fast action is not going to look that great.
If you want more information on the technical specs and performance information – I found this LG 34UM95 UltraWide Display review on Tom’s Hardware to be very informative.
This is a nice looking and high quality monitor. The bezel is very thin – so you get ALL MONITOR in front of you.
The LG 34UM95 comes with a nice aluminum base with a clear plastic stand.
I am planning on mounting my monitor on the wall, but if you are planning the same – this is a heavy display.
The screen is very clear and of course the colors are true except at very extreme viewing angles.
The screen also has a matte finish to it – which I prefer because it is easier on the eyes than a bright glossy display. It also cuts down on unwanted reflections and glare that can get in the way of editing photography and video. However, this also slightly changes how photos and video appear on the screen – the colors and contrast appear a little more muted compared to how they appear on a glossy screen (which is why Apple insists on all gloss all the time).
One issue I did have was connecting the LG 34UM95 via DisplayPort was that I ended up with a very glitchy screen. There was a weird distortion and the screen would flicker and randomly black out. I suspect that this is an issue with my graphics card (AMD Radeon R9 280) and not the display, but I haven’t been able to crack it, so as of right now I am using an HDMI connection.
The only difference between the DisplayPort connection and HDMI is the maximum refresh rate (60 Hz for DisplayPort vs. 30 Hz for HDMI). But to be honest, for photography and video editing, I have not noticed an issue at all with a 30 Hz refresh rate.
Color and Contrast Calibration
I calibrated my monitor with a Datacolor Spyder calibration system.
The LG has built in controls for Gamma, Color temperature and Red, Green, Blue levels – which makes color calibration very accurate.
And if you want to, you can even fine tune these with Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow hue and saturation customization.
But right out of the box the monitor was very accurate and there was only a minor change in the color and contrast after calibration with the Spyder.
Editing Photos and Video on a 34 Inch Display
For a photographer or film maker, the whole purpose of purchasing a 34 inch 21:9 ultra wide angle display is to get as much real estate as possible on a single screen for editing photos and video.
However, so far I have found that working with a single 34 inch wide computer monitor isn’t quite as efficient or ergonomic as I was expecting.
For one thing, the workspaces of the main photography and video editing software that I use on a regular basis (Lightroom, Photoshop, Premeire Pro, After Effects and Audition) are not really set up to be used on a 21:9 display.
Here is what Lightroom looks like:
As you can see, even if I pull the side menus in as much as possible, there is still a ton of wasted space in the middle. It is slightly better with a landscape photo, but the result is that I find myself having to mouse back and forth much more than I was used to with a double 24″ display setup.
Besides excessive mousing to access the menus at the sides of the screen, I have also noticed that the 21:9 UltraWide display configuration does not work well with my tablet – which is meant to be used with a less wide-angle aspect ratio display.
Where it is nice to have all of that extra space is for 1:1 editing. It is great to be able to zoom right in for detail edits and still be able to see what your edit looks like with context. This also makes doing detailed selections much easier.
Where the space available on a 34 inch 21:9 UltraWide display really excels is for editing video in Premiere Pro and After Effects. In fact, video editing is the main reason I chose to go with this display.
As you can see, with the complex Premiere Pro workspace, there is a ton of room to have a big, long timeline – and still have room for all of the other video editing windows.
As for everyday use, web browsing on a 34″ QHD monitor is a little weird. Here is what a standard website at 100% zoom looks like:
I find that zooming in to 125% or 150% makes web browsing a little easier on the eyes, but it is still weird to have all of that blank space if you’re full screen.
Although, some web sites such as Stocksy are built for art directors with big high resolution displays to be able to utilize all that extra space, so it can be pretty awesome to be able to take full advantage of such a large display area.
I have tried splitting the display to better utilize the screen area available – and the LG 34UM95 does have a built in utility that allows you to partition the display – but, I personally find that the task I am working on has to be directly in front of me (man, that is true on so many levels). For example, having Lightroom on 2/3 of the display and a web browser on 1/3 fits quite well – but I just can’t work on something when it is slightly off to the side.
Is the LG 34UM95 UltraWide Display a Good Choice for Photographers and Filmmakers?
Editing photography and video on a big high-resolution 34 inch wide IPS display is a big improvement over my old setup of twin 24 inch TN LED displays.
I love the screen area available for editing video – it makes navigating the timeline and complicated Premiere Pro and After Effects workspace so much more efficient.
However, for photography and general use, I think that the more traditional 16:9 display aspect ratio that is used in most other current 27 inch 2560 x 1440 WQHD displays is a more efficient and more ergonomically friendly workspace.
What About 4K?
The reason I didn’t go with a 4K display is because as of right now the hardware required to run a full 4K display at 4096 x 2160 resolution with a decent refresh rate doesn’t seem to be quite there.
From connection issues to the sheer processing power needed to output 4K video I personally am happy with a display that works out of the box and is nearly 4k anyway.
Do You Recommend The LG 34UM95 Display?
There are a few versions of the LG 34UM95 display available.
The LG 34UC97 was just released and features the same resolution screen as the 34UM95, except it is curved.
Initially, I was a little miffed about this since I though that I would have preferred a curved screen and I had just received the 34UM95 – however, after using the 34UM95 for a few weeks now, I am not sure that the curved screen would have been a good choice for photography and video editing – even a small curve could change your perception of how images look on screen versus how they actually look flat – but I haven’t seen it in person to know for sure.
There is also the LG 34UM94-P (not sure what the difference is between this display and the 34UM95), and the LG 34UM65-P which only has a resolution of 2560×1080 and the LG 34UM64-P (again, not sure what the difference is between this display and the 34UM65-P).
The lower resolution 34″ displays are a few hundred dollars less expensive – but for my money 1080p resolution kind of defeats the purpose of purchasing a huge monitor in the first place – its not much better than an HD TV.
I would recommend the LG 34UM95 display and maybe the curved LG 34UC97 to filmmakers and to photographers who also edit video.
For pure photography editing and general use, a more traditional 16:9 WQHD 27 inch 2560 x 1440 IPS display is less expensive and better suited to working with the current photography editing workspace available in Lightroom and Photoshop.
Of course, if you were willing to overpay for an Apple 27″ Thunderbolt display anyway – why not spend the same amount and get a little more space to work with.
If you are not in the market for a new display right now, it would probably be prudent to wait until 4k displays (and the hardware needed to run them) hit the mainstream.
What Do You Think?
What would you go with: an LG 34 Inch IPS Monitor versus a 27 Inch Apple Thunderbolt Display?
Are you waiting to purchase a 4k display?
Are you happy with TN LED monitors or is IPS the only choice for serious photographers and film makers?
What is your preferred display for photography and video editing?
Leave a comment and let us know!
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