Philips 346B1C

Author: Adam Simmons
Date published: January 1st 2020

 

Introduction

Whilst 16:9 remains the most common aspect ratio for modern monitors, the number of 21:9 UltraWides on the market is increasing. 3440 x 1440 UltraWides are a popular choice for both work and play, with some clear benefits and an experience that some users really enjoy. The Philips 346B1C is designed with productivity in mind, marrying a 34” 3440 x 1440 panel with 100Hz refresh rate. A combination which could prove attractive other uses such as gaming – even if work rather than play is a key marketing focus for this model. We’ll be putting this monitor through its paces in our usual suite of tests to see how it performs.

Specifications

This monitor uses a 100Hz Samsung SVA panel with custom backlight solution. This has a 3440 x 1440 (21:9 UltraWide) resolution, a 1500R curve and supports 8-bits per subpixel colour output. A 5ms grey to grey response time is specified, but as usual you shouldn’t put too much weight on that figure. Especially given the panel type used. Some of the key ‘talking points’ of the specification have been highlighted in blue below.

Screen size: 34 inches

Panel: TPV TPM340YP05 [Samsung panel with custom backlight] SVA (‘Super’ Vertical Alignment) LCD

Native resolution: 3440 x 1440

Typical maximum brightness: 300 cd/m²

Colour support: 16.7 million (8-bits per subpixel without dithering)

Response time (G2G): 5ms

Refresh rate: 100Hz (variable, with Adaptive-Sync)

Weight: 11.49kg

Contrast ratio: 3,000:1

Viewing angle: 178º horizontal, 178º vertical

Power consumption: 34W typical

Backlight: WLED (White Light Emitting Diode)

Typical price as reviewed:£599 ($480 USD)


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Philips 346B1C


Features and aesthetics

From the front, the monitor has a smart business-like aesthetic. The stand base has a simple rectangular design, with a mixture of matte black plastics, including a central turntable with a brushed texture. The bottom bezel shares this texture and includes a shiny silver-coloured Philips logo in the middle. To the left of this the ‘PowerSensor’ and ‘LightSensor’ is located. The ‘PowerSensor’ allows the the monitor to dim significantly and eventually turn off if a user isn’t detected. The ‘LightSensor’ allows the screen brightness to adjust according to ambient brightness. Both features are explored in the OSD (On Screen Display) video shortly. The top and side bezels have a dual-stage design, including a fairly slender panel border that’s flush with the rest of the screen plus a thin hard plastic outer component. Including both elements the bezels are ~8.5mm (0.33 inches) at the top and sides, whilst the bottom bezel (with very little visible panel border) is thicker at ~24mm (0.94 inches). The main feature from the front is the large curved UltraWide screen, with a light matte anti-glare finish. These aspects are explored deeper into the review.

A smart design

Switched on

Top-down view of the curve

The OSD is controlled by pressable buttons on the underside of the bottom bezel, towards the right side. There’s also a small forwards-facing power LED which glows white when the monitor is on and flashes when it enters a low power state (i.e. signal to the system is lost). The video below runs though the menu system and OSD controls.



From the side the monitor is reasonably slender – ~18mm (0.71 inches) at thinnest point, bulking out centrally. The included stand offers good ergonomic flexibility; tilt (5° forwards, 30° backwards), swivel (180° left, 180° right) and a generous 180mm (7.09 inches) height adjustment. The left side of the screen includes 4 USB 3.2 ports (yellow port supports BC 1.2 fast-charging) plus a USB upstream port. At lowest stand height, the monitor sits ~58mm (2.28 inches) above the desk surface, with the top of the screen ~425mm (16.73mm) above the desk. The total depth of the monitor including stand is ~250mm (9.84 inches), with the centre of the screen sitting ~50mm (1.97 inches) back from the front edge of the stand.

A side view

The rear of the monitor combines matte black plastic centrally with a brushed-textured black plastic surrounding this. The stand attaches centrally using a quick-release mechanism and can be detached easily by pressing the switch beneath the attachment point upwards. It can be replaced by an alternative 100 x 100mm VESA compatible solution. There’s a K-Slot towards the bottom right. The ports face downwards, beneath a removable port cover and include; AC power input (internal power converter) with zero-watt power switch, HDMI 2.0, DP 1.2a, USB-C (3.2 Gen 1 with 90W PD and DP Alt Mode), RJ45 LAN port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The monitor also includes 2 x 5W speakers. These provide sound output with decent volume and more bass than most integrated speakers. Although not the cleanest or purest sound output, with a fair bit of distortion for the mid-tones and trebles.

The rear

Power switch and input

The main ports

3440 x 1440 @100Hz plus Adaptive-Sync is supported using DP 1.2a (including USB-C Alt Mode) and HDMI 2.0. With respect to USB-C capabilities, note the following from the product page: “The USB hub default setting of USB C input for this monitor is “USB 3.2”. The resolution supported by USB 3.2 is 3440 x 1440 @ 60 Hz. When user switches to USB 2.0, the resolution supported will be 3440 x 1440 @ 100 Hz.” A DP cable, HDMI cable, USB-C cable and power cable are included as standard accessories (may vary between regions).

Calibration

Subpixel layout and screen surface

The image below is a macro photograph taken on Notepad with ClearType disabled. The letters ‘PCM’ are typed out to help highlight any potential text rendering issues related to unusual subpixel structure, whilst the white space more clearly shows the actual subpixel layout alongside a rough indication of screen surface. A light matte anti-glare screen surface is used on this monitor, offering good glare handling whilst keeping the image free from strong graininess. It also helps preserve vibrancy better than ‘stronger’ matte screen surfaces. There is a slight ‘misty’ graininess to lighter content, but this isn’t a ‘heavy’ or ‘smeary’ graininess.

Subpixel layout

As shown above, the monitor uses the standard RGB (Red, Green and Blue) stripe subpixel layout, which is the default expected by modern operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Apple’s MacOS. Windows users don’t ned to run through the ClearType wizard, although may still with to do so and adjust according to preferences. Mac users needn’t worry about text fringing from less usual subpixel layouts. The subpixels are slightly squat as is fairly typical for Samsung SVA panels, with relatively thick vertical gaps between subpixels. This can lead to or exacerbate issues such as static ‘interlace pattern artifacts’, which we explore shortly. It can also make some text or fine edges appear just a touch softer, but only to a minor degree. The subpixels do not show partial illumination as some VA models do, which would lead to more obvious text and fine-edge clarity issues. The subpixel layout and arrangement is therefore considered normal and we had no major subpixel-related concerns with respect to sharpness or text clarity on this model.

Testing the presets

The Philips 346B1C offers a range of ‘SmartImage’ presets; ‘EasyRead’, ‘Office’, ‘Photo’, ‘Movie’, ‘Game’, ‘Economy’, LowBlue Mode’ and ‘SmartUniformity’. Most of these presets simply adjust various settings in the OSD and don’t achieve anything you couldn’t achieve yourself using manual adjustments. The presets are briefly explored in the OSD video, but for the purposes of this section we’ll be focusing on various other adjustments and some of the more interesting and potentially useful presets. The table below gives gamma and white point readings taken using a Datacolor SpyderX Elite colorimeter in addition to general observations. Our test system uses Windows 10 and an Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti connected using the supplied DP cable. Additional testing was performed with an AMD Radeon RX 580. No additional monitor drivers or ICC profiles were specifically loaded. The monitor was left to run for over 2 hours before readings were taken or observations made.

Aside from our ‘Test Settings’ where various adjustments are made, assume factory defaults are used with the monitor set to 100Hz. Setting the refresh rate to 60Hz didn’t significantly alter observations or readings or indeed noticeably impact static image quality more broadly and neither did using HDMI instead of DP. When viewing the figures in this table, note that for most PC users ‘6500K’ for white point and ‘2.2’ for gamma are good targets to aim for. Individual targets depend on individual uses, tastes and the lighting environment, however.

Monitor Settings Gamma (central average) White point (kelvins) Notes
Gamma = 1.8 1.8 6350K A bright and somewhat muted look overall, with some shades showing reasonable saturation. A slight green push to the image.
Gamma = 2.0 2.0 6349K As above but a little extra depth.
Gamma = 2.2 (Factory Default) 2.2 6360K As above but a significantly richer look overall. The image appears quite vibrant and varied, with some shades appearing quite strongly saturated. Towards the edges and bottom of the screen some saturation is lost and things appear a bit less vibrant - a general observation, not specific to this setting. The saturation shift is due to viewing angle related perceived gamma changes. Relatively minor from a normal viewing position, especially for a VA model of this sort of size.
Gamma = 2.4 2.4 6356K As above but some extra depth and saturation.
Gamma = 2.6 2.6 6371K As above with extra depth and saturation. Quite a striking and cinematic look, but many shades far deeper than intended – significantly affecting detail levels in darker areas, too.
Low Blue Mode = 1 2.1 5986K A mild Low Blue Light (LBL) setting. The image appears somewhat warmer than default with a bit of a green tint (green channel remains strong). The blue colour channel is weakened by a fair degree, reducing blue light output from the monitor.
Low Blue Mode = 2 2.1 5689K As above with a somewhat warmer and greener appearance. Further weakening of the blue colour channel and reduction in blue light output.
Low Blue Mode = 3 2.1 5593K As above but dimmer by default and a touch warmer. Brightness manually adjustable for all LBL settings – reducing this is recommended to maximise the effect.
Low Blue Mode = 4 2.1 5446K The most effective LBL setting on the monitor. As above but a warmer tint. The blue channel is weakened significantly and blue light output significantly reduced compared to factory defaults.
Color Temperature = 5000K 2.2 5077K An alternative LBL setting. The blue channel is nearly as weak as ‘Low Blue Mode = 4’, whilst the red channel remains dominant and green channel reduced significantly. The resulting image is warm but better balanced than the conventional ‘Low Blue Mode’ settings due to lack of green cast.
Color = sRGB 2.2 6441K An sRGB emulation setting. Colour gamut is cut down significantly, as explored later. Image appears much less saturated (quite dull and undersaturated in places).
Color = User Define 2.1 6394K Similar to factory defaults but green push is significantly stronger and gamma curve sags a bit centrally to average ‘2.1’.
SmartImage = SmartUniformity 2.1 6569K A Uniformity Compensation (UC) setting designed to even out brightness across the screen (we explore this later). Good balance overall in terms of colour temperature, although the gamma curve shows a noticeable central dip (well under ‘2.2’) whilst rising above ‘2.2’ towards the ends. The gamma averages ‘2.1’ – there’s a bit of a lack of depth in places.
Test Settings (see below) 2.2 6496K A good balance to the image, with comfortable brightness and good white point balance without an unwanted green push. The image is fairly vibrant and varied overall.

Out of the box the monitor provided an image that was quite vibrant and varied, fairly bright with a slight green push but otherwise well-balanced with some extra saturation beyond sRGB. The monitor includes a factory calibration report, which is unique to each unit. Our example is shown in the following image. The factory calibration data shown in the report refers to the factory calibration of the monitor when it’s set to the ‘SmartUniformity’ setting. You retain full OSD adjustability with this setting active. Note that this is a factory-calibrated UC mode which works best at factory defaults – changes to colour and gamma in could make this less effective. Brightness can be changed according to preferences, the setting performs in quite a similar way following such adjustments.

Factory calibration report

The graphs below show the gamma calibration of out unit under our ‘Test Settings’ (top graph) and ‘SmartUniformity’ (bottom graph). Under our ‘Test Settings’ gamma is very similar to the factory defaults, averaging ‘2.2’ and tracking quite close to the desirable curve. Although not clear from the graph, there some ‘slack’ in the curve (lower gamma) for very dark shades. This is perhaps intentional to offset some ‘black crush’ without upsetting the image elsewhere. The ‘SmartUniformity’ setting averages ‘2.1’ with significant central sagging – and although not clear due to this fairly simple graph, a higher gamma at the top and bottom of the curve.

Gamma 'Test Settings'

Gamma 'Test Settings'

Gamma 'Smart Uniformity'

Gamma 'Smart Uniformity'

Various Low Blue Light (LBL) settings are included on the monitor. The main settings are referred to as ‘Low Blue Mode’ settings, with 4 levels of effectiveness. The strongest setting (‘4’) was effective, although the green channel remains strong to help maximise contrast. An alternative setting ‘(Color Temperature = 5000K’) offered an alternative, with effective blue light reduction without the associated green cast. Your eyes adjust to the green cast to a degree, but we found even after an adjustment period that this alternative LBL setting was better balanced. Despite the slight contrast hit, we used this for our own viewing pleasure in the evenings – although not for specific testing beyond that involving this setting directly. Cutting out stimulating blue light is important in the hours leading up to bed as it affects sleep hormones and keeps the body ‘alert’ when it should usually be winding down.

Test Settings

Our ‘Test Settings’ involved a reduction in brightness and some colour channel adjustments. Note that individual preferences and units of the same model vary, so these settings aren’t going to be optimal in all cases and are just a suggestion. Assume that any setting not mentioned here was left at default in the OSD, including ‘Contrast’. We’ve also included our preferred ‘SmartResponse’ setting, ‘Adaptive Sync’ status and refresh rate used in Windows, just for reference.


SmartImageGame = Off

Adaptive-Sync = On

Brightness= 58 (according to preferences and lighting)

SmartResponse= Faster

Color Temp. = User Define

Red= 99

Green= 94

Blue= 100


Contrast and brightness

Contrast ratios

We used an X-Rite i1Display Pro to measure white and black luminance levels, from which static contrast ratios could be calculated. The table below shows this data, with various settings used. Assume any setting not mentioned was left at default, except for the changes already noted in the calibration section. Black highlights indicate the highest white luminance, lowest black luminance and maximum contrast ratio recorded. Blue highlights indicate the results under our ‘Test Settings’.

The average contrast ratio with only brightness adjusted was 2178:1, some way shy of the specified 3000:1 but still firmly within VA territory. This fairly strong contrast gives a deeper and somewhat inkier appearance to darker shades compared to non-VA LCDs without complex local dimming solutions. A contrast ratio of 2100:1 was recorded under our ‘Test Settings’, which is reasonable but by no means outstanding for the panel type. The monitor maintained relatively strong contrast using even the strongest ‘Low Blue Mode’ setting (~2200:1), with a slight dip to 1860:1 using the alternative ‘5000K’ setting. As explained earlier, this lowers the green channel strength for better balance at the expense of contrast. The lowest contrast recorded was 1800:1, using the ‘SmartUniformity’ setting that’s designed to even out brightness at various points of the screen. The highest white luminance recorded was 301 cd/m², extremely close to the specifications for the monitor. The minimum white luminance recorded was 60 cd/m², a reasonably low but not exceptionally low minimum. The resulting luminance adjustment range is 241 cd/m².

The monitor includes a Dynamic Contrast setting called ‘SmartContrast’, which allows the backlight brightness to adjust (as a single unit) according to the levels of light and dark being displayed on the screen. The luminance adjusted fairly rapidly to changes in scene brightness and was fairly effective in dimming for predominantly dark content. We found the luminance generally too high even with mixed content containing plenty of dark elements. The brightness setting isn’t greyed out, but the setting takes quickly over and ignores this adjustment. As usual we prefer manual control over brightness, with this setting acting as a compromise where the backlight is controlled globally (no local dimming).


PWM (Pulse Width Modulation)

The 346B1C does not use PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) to regulate backlight brightness at any level and instead uses DC (Direct Current). The monitor is therefore considered ‘flicker-free’, which will come as welcome news to those sensitive to flickering or worried about side-effects from PWM usage.

Luminance uniformity

Whilst observing a black screen in a dark room, using our ‘Test Settings’, we observed some backlight bleed and moderate clouding, particularly towards the bottom of the screen. It’s important to bear in mind that individual units vary when it comes to all aspects of uniformity, including backlight bleed and clouding. The following image was taken a few metres back to eliminate ‘VA glow’. This is a silverish-purple glow that appears towards the edges, particularly near the bottom corners of the screen from a normal viewing position. This ‘VA glow’ blooms out more noticeably from sharper angles, as demonstrated in the viewing angles video a bit later.

Monitor displaying black in a dark room

The SpyderX Elite was used to assess the uniformity of lighter shades, represented by 9 equidistant white quadrants. The luminance of each quadrant was measured and compared to the brightest measured quadrant. The tables below show these values as well as the percentage deviation between each quadrant and the brightest point measured. The top table shows the results under our ‘Test Settings’, whilst the bottom table shows the results with ‘SmartImage’ set to ‘SmartUniformity’. This is the factory-calibrated Uniformity Compensation (UC) mode mentioned previously.

Luminance uniformity table 'Test Settings'

Luminance uniformity table 'Test Settings'


Luminance uniformity table 'SmartUniformity'

Luminance uniformity table 'SmartUniformity'

Under our ‘Test Settings’, the luminance uniformity was variable. The brightest point recorded was ‘quadrant 3’ towards the top right of the screen (173.2 cd/m²). The maximum deviation from this occurred at ‘quadrant 7’, towards the bottom left (140.9 cd/m², which is 19% dimmer). The average deviation between each quadrant and the brightest point was 9.63%, which is reasonable. The ‘SmartUniformity’ setting made little difference to the luminance uniformity. The brightest point recorded was again ‘quadrant 3’ towards the top right (185.3 cd/m²). The maximum deviation from this again occurred at ‘quadrant 7’, towards the bottom left (150.6 cd/m², which is 19% dimmer). The average deviation between each quadrant and the brightest point was 9.75%, very similar to with the setting deactivated. Similar observations were made using HDMI rather than DP. It’s important to remember that uniformity varies between individual units and you can also expect variation beyond the points measured.

The contour maps below show these deviations graphically, with darker greys representing lower luminance and hence greater deviation from the brightest recorded point than lighter greys. Percentage deviations between each quadrant and the brightest point are also given. The first map shows results under our ‘Test Settings’ whilst the bottom map shows results with ‘SmartUniformity’ enabled.

Luminance uniformity map 'Test Settings'

Luminance uniformity map 'Test Settings'


Luminance uniformity map 'SmartUniformity'

Luminance uniformity map 'SmartUniformity'

The SpyderX Elite was also used to analyse variation in the colour temperature (white point) for the same 9 quadrants. The deviation between each quadrant and the quadrant closest to the 6500K (D65) daylight white point target was analysed and a DeltaE value assigned. A DeltaE <3 represents deviation that most users wouldn’t readily notice by eye. The top graphic shows the results using our ‘Test Settings’ and the bottom graphic with ‘SmartUniformity’ enabled.

Colour temperature uniformity map 'Test Settings'

Colour temperature uniformity map 'Test Settings'


Colour temperature uniformity map 'SmartUniformity'

Colour temperature uniformity map 'SmartUniformity'

Using our ‘Test Settings’ the colour temperature uniformity was fairly poor. Significant deviations were recorded in 5 out of 8 quadrants, with the central quadrant measured as closest to 6500K. The maximum deviation recorded was DeltaE 3.9, towards the top right. This is not an extreme deviation but is still significant. The ‘SmartUniformity’ setting improved things somewhat. Now only 2 out of 8 quadrants showed significant deviation with the central point (closest to 6500K) and the maximum deviation dropped to DeltaE 3.5 (left of centre). Again, remember that individual units vary when it comes to uniformity and that deviation beyond measured points can be expected. Also note that there are some perceived deviations in both brightness and colour temperature that are typical on VA panels and aren’t reflected by these readings.

In addition to the quantitative testing above, we performed a subjective assessment of the uniformity of a variety of ‘medium’ shades, including 50% grey. Some monitors exhibit uniformity issues such as splotches or striations when viewing screen fills of such shades, giving an inconsistent appearance that some users refer to as ‘DSE’ (‘Dirty Screen Effect’). VA models are particularly prone to this. We observed slight patchiness and very minor striations in places, but no distinct striations or heavy patchiness.

Contrast in games and movies

On Battlefield V the monitor put in a strong contrast performance overall. Brighter elements such as fires and lamps stood out well amongst darker surroundings. These darker surroundings and other dark shade showed good depth. The atmosphere created was not perfect. ~2100:1 static contrast doesn’t create an inky look to such shades (particularly if viewed in a dark room) and there was a moderate amount of ‘VA glow’, particularly towards the bottom corners of the screen from a normal seated viewing position. This lightened darker shades up a bit, but was at a pretty normal level for an UltraWide VA and not too obtrusive from our preferred viewing distance (~70cm). Much less conspicuous than ‘IPS glow’ – and combined with the superior contrast, a much better atmosphere for dark scenes on this model by comparison. We also observed some ‘black crush’, although about as little as we’ve seen on a VA model and helped somewhat by the gamma being slightly reduced for very dark shades. ‘Black crush’ is whereby some of the darker shades in the central region of the screen appear even darker than intended when viewed from a normal viewing position. So they blend into a black mass, which masks some of the finer detail. Observing these shades closer to the edges of the screen reveals a greater level of detail. There was a bit of extra detail towards the edges of the screen, where perceived gamma was lower, but this wasn’t as pronounced as the gamma shifts on TN models (vertically) or some VA models. The screen surface provided only a very light misty graininess to the image, keeping lighter shades looking quite smooth overall.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider provided a similar contrast experience. Quite strong overall, with a much better atmosphere to dark scenes than non-VA models – something that’s common on this title with many dark caves, tombs and suchlike. There was again some ‘VA glow’ and the static contrast wasn’t as strong as on some VA models, so the shade depth wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. Even if superior to non-VA LCDs. ‘Black crush’ was also observed on this title, masking some detail. But this was at about the lowest level we’ve seen from a VA panel, so didn’t really detract too much from the overall contrast experience in our view. The screen surface kept lighter shades looking quite smooth, with only the lightest misty graininess – a far cry from the grainier appearance of many matte screen surfaces. We also observed the film Star Wars: The Last Jedi. As with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, this title craves a strong contrast performance. Plenty of scenes involve bright elements (explosions, light sabers etc.) against much darker backgrounds. The look that the monitor gave here was fairly cinematic, much more so than non-VA panels without fancy local dimming technology. The perceived gamma shifts (causing ‘black crush’ centrally and a bit of extra detail peripherally) were observed here, but were by no means extreme. Observing streamed movie content, particularly when it’s heavily compressed, introduces ‘compression artifacts’ which can give a blocky appearance if gamma is too low. This was well-masked for most of the screen, a little more obvious towards the extreme edges but remaining pretty well-contained even there.

Lagom contrast tests

The Lagom tests for contrast allow specific weaknesses in contrast performance to be identified. The following observations were made.

  • The contrast gradients were displayed appropriately, with distinct brightness steps in all cases.
  • Performance on the black level test was quite good overall. The first few blocks blended in quite well, but were a little more visible than on a monitor tracking the ‘2.2’ gamma curve precisely. This is due to the slight reduction in gamma for very dark shades mentioned earlier. The remaining blocks on the first row were visible against the background, although weren’t quite as distinct as they ideally would be due to ‘black crush’. If you move your head you can see the brightness and tone of the blocks shift readily, something we call an ‘oil slick effect’. This is due to perceived gamma shifts related to viewing angle and is always observed on a VA panel. We didn’t observe any obvious dithering.
  • Performance on the white saturation test was quite strong. All blocks were distinct from the background. The final block was visible, but fainter than it could be. Masked slightly by a misty graininess from the screen surface and just appearing a little less distinct than it ideally would in general.
  • The greyscale gradient appeared smooth without obvious banding or dithering.

Colour reproduction

Colour gamut

The Philips 346B1C’s colour gamut (red triangle) was compared with the sRGB (green triangle) and DCI-P3 (blue triangle) reference colour spaces using our ‘Test Settings’, as shown below. The gamut offers quite comprehensive coverage of the sRGB colour space (99%), with some extension beyond in some regions. It covers 88% of the DCI-P3 colour space and although not shown in the graphic, covers 83% Adobe RGB. This gives the monitor the potential to output pretty much all shades within the sRGB colour space, with some extra saturation.

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

Colour gamut 'Test Settings'

The monitor also offers an sRGB emulation setting – setting ‘Color’ to ‘sRGB’ in the OSD. As explored earlier, this locks off brightness control as well as other settings such as the colour channels. So it’s quite inflexible. The colour gamut using this setting is shown below, with significant undercoverage of the sRGB colour space (87%) but no extension beyond. To maximise colour accuracy within the sRGB colour space, for colour-managed workflows, full calibration and profiling with a colorimeter or similar device using the full native gamut is advised.

Colour gamut 'sRGB'

Colour gamut 'sRGB'

AMD users can activate a more flexible sRGB emulation mode, with superior sRGB coverage compared to the one built into the monitor. This is done by opening ‘Radeon Settings’, navigating to ‘Display’ – ‘Color’ (little icon towards the top right) and pressing the ‘Color Temperature’ toggle so it reads ‘Automatic’ instead of ‘6500K’. The gamut below shows the colour gamut under our ‘Test Settings’ with this driver tweak applied. The colour gamut now closely mirrors sRGB (98% coverage), without any real extension beyond. This is a useful setting if you’re an AMD user and wish to gain close tracking of the sRGB gamut without profiling including in applications that aren’t colour-managed.

Colour gamut AMD 'Automatic' setting

Colour gamut AMD 'Automatic' setting


Colour in games and movies

The monitor showcased a good variety of fairly vibrant-looking shades on Battlefield V. The fairly generous colour gamut injected a bit of extra vibrancy – with games like this (under SDR) designed with the sRGB colour space in mind, extension beyond this increases saturation levels. This was an even boost in saturation and very different to a digital saturation enhancement (Nvidia Digital Vibrance Control etc.) which simply pulls shades closer to the edge of the gamut without expanding the gamut itself. The wider colour gamut, in contrast, maintained a strong variety of shades. The environments appeared rich with some good lush-looking greens and a decent palette of more muted greens and earthy browns. Some of the brown shades had red hues which were brought out a little strongly, for example some tree trunks appeared less neutral than intended, but this was not extreme. There were some slight saturation shifts, with loss of saturation towards the edges and bottom of the screen due to perceived gamma behaviour. This was as low as we’ve seen from a VA model, especially of this sort of size. It’s more pronounced if you sit closer to the monitor or view from a decentralised angle and less pronounced further away. From our preferred viewing distance of ~70cm it took a bit of an edge off the saturation peripherally, but things still looked quite vivid overall. Particularly centrally but to a fair degree further out, vibrant elements such as fires and some brightly painted objects appeared pretty vivid and eye-catching. Although not in an extreme or garish way.

We also observed Shadow of the Tomb Raider, where the monitor presented an equally varied and quite vibrant-looking spectrum of shades. The game environments appeared natural with a bit of extra saturation but nothing extreme. Fires appeared intense and vibrant, with a nice range of rich orange and yellow shades. The game certainly didn’t look cartoonish or garishly oversaturated. Lara’s skin looked only slightly more tanned (or rosy) than it should due to some slightly richer red hues. The shifts in saturation were generally most noticeable on pastel shades such as Lara’s skin, as this appeared somewhat less saturated when displayed towards the edge of the screen than when displayed centrally. If anything it appeared more accurate towards the edges of the screen due to the slight oversaturation centrally, but the shifts weren’t dramatic. And indeed were far less pronounced than the vertical saturation shifts you’d see on a TN models. And also less pronounced than the saturation shifts you’d see on the flat 31.5” ‘4K’ VA models using Innolux panels.

We made similar observations on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Environments appeared quite vibrant overall, but retained quite a natural look due to the gamut extension beyond sRGB being far from extreme. Some skin tones appeared somewhat more saturated than intended centrally, and a little less saturated than intended towards the very edges of the screen. But the overall look remained quite vivid with things looking largely in-place. There were some nice licks of vibrancy, for example bright purple flowers, some of Lara Croft’s colourful patterned deep blue and golden dresses and fairly vivid orange and yellow flames. We also made some observations using the animated TV series Futurama. This is a brutally effective test for colour consistency, with large areas of individual shade showcasing any shifts in saturation at different areas of the screen very readily. A good variety of shades was displayed, with a palette of muted pastel shades looking appropriately dull compared to ‘louder’ deep and neon shades. The generous gamut added some extra saturation, but this was an even boost and didn’t affect shade variety. Some shifts in saturation could be observed, most readily on some character skin tones which looked less vibrant towards the flanks and bottom of the screen than centrally or higher up. These shifts were about as low as we’ve seen from a VA model, impressive considering the width of the screen. Significantly lower than the shifts you’d see vertically on a TN model, but weaker than the consistency of IPS-type models.

Viewing angles

Lagom’s tests for viewing angle help explore the idea of colour consistency and viewing angle performance. The following observations were made from a normal viewing position, eyes around 70cm from the screen. Sitting closer to the screen exaggerates the sort of shifts explored here.

  • The purple block appeared a bluish purple for the most part, particularly centrally (in line with your eyes). A stronger pink hue was evident further out, particularly towards the bottom corners. This shifted readily alongside head movement.
  • The red block appeared a vibrant red throughout most of the screen. It appeared a slightly pinker hue lower down and towards the sides of the screen. The more pink hue shifted readily with head movement.
  • The green block appeared a saturated green chartreuse throughout. The extension beyond sRGB in the gamut made this appear somewhat less yellow than on models with a weaker colour gamut. There was a bit of extra yellowing lower down the screen.
  • The blue block appeared deep blue throughout.
  • The Lagom text appeared a blended grey with a slight green tint to the striping in a large central cone. This coincided with the area of the screen your eyes are in-line with. Further out and particularly near the bottom of the screen a stronger red tint to the striping was observed, shifting with head movement. There were no obvious flashes between brighter green, saturated orange and red as you’d see on a TN model. This indicates a moderate viewing angle dependency to the gamma curve of the monitor, characteristic of a VA panel. The photo below gives a rough idea of how the Lagom text test appeared.
Lagom Text Test

The following video shows the Lagom text test, a mixed desktop background and dark desktop background from various viewing angles. For the mixed image you can see some shifts in colour and contrast. They’re most pronounced at steeper angles, but there are saturation losses that kick in fairly quickly as viewing angle shifts off-centre. There is no ‘colour inversion’ as you’d observe on a TN model vertically and the shifts vertically are not as extreme. The final third of the video shows a dark desktop background and highlights ‘VA glow’ mentioned earlier. This blooms out more noticeably from sharper viewing angles but is not as strong from centralised viewing angles.



Interlace pattern artifacts

On some monitors, particularly but not exclusively those with high refresh rates, interlace patterns can be seen during certain transitions. We refer to these as ‘interlace pattern artifacts’ but some users refer to them as ‘inversion artifacts’ and others as ‘scan lines’. They may appear as an interference pattern, mesh or interlaced lines which break up a given shade into a darker and lighter version of what is intended. They often catch the eye due to their dynamic nature, on models where they manifest themselves in this way. Alternatively, static interlace patterns may be seen with some shades appearing as faint horizontal or vertical bands of a slightly lighter and slightly darker version of the intended shade. We didn’t observe dynamic interlace patterns on this model but did observe some faint static interlace pattern artifacts. Particularly but not exclusively for some medium grey, red and orange shades. Sensitive users might notice this, but the pattern is rather faint so shouldn’t bother or even be noticed by most users.

Responsiveness

Input lag

A small utility called SMTT 2.0 was used alongside a sensitive camera to analyse the latency of the 346B1C, with over 30 repeat readings taken to help maximise accuracy. Using this method, we calculated 8.08ms (a bit over 3/4 of frame at 100Hz) of input lag. Note that the input lag measured here is influenced by both the element you ‘see’ (pixel responsiveness) and the element you ‘feel’ (signal delay). It indicates a reasonably low signal delay which most users should be comfortable with. Note that we don’t have the means to accurately measure input lag with Adaptive-Sync active in a variable refresh rate environment.

Perceived blur (pursuit photography)

Our article on responsiveness explores key concepts related to monitor responsiveness. One of these important concepts is ‘perceived blur’, which is contributed to by both the movement of your eyes as you track motion on the screen and the pixel responses of the monitor. Most of the perceived blur observed on a modern monitor comes from the movement of your eyes, but pixel responses are also important. The article also explores ‘pursuit photography’, which uses a moving rather than static camera to capture motion on a monitor in a way that reflects both key aspects of perceived blur. This contrasts with static photography or videos, which only reflect pixel responsiveness.

The images below are pursuit photographs taken using the UFO Motion Test for ghosting, with the test running at 960 pixels per second. This is a good practical speed for capturing such photographs and highlights both elements of perceived blur nicely. The UFOs move across the screen from left to right at a frame rate matching the refresh rate of the display. All background shade levels (dark, medium and light) were used with the monitor set to all its ‘SmartResponse’ pixel overdrive settings; ‘Off’, ‘Fast’, ‘Faster’ and ‘Fastest’. The monitor was tested at 60Hz (directly below) and 100Hz. The two final columns shows 2 reference displays, both set to what we consider their optimal pixel overdrive settings at 60Hz and 100Hz. The ASUS MX34VQ, which uses a similar VA panel to this model. And the ViewSonic XG240R, a fast TN model which shows how things look where pixel responsiveness isn’t a significant limiting factor.

Perceived blur, 60Hz

At 60Hz (above), the UFOs appear unfocused without clear internal detailing. This reflects a moderate level of perceived blur due to eye movement. Note that this relatively soft appearance appears for the UFO even on the fast TN reference shot and is closely tied to the 60Hz refresh rate. Various levels of trailing can be seen behind the UFOs, too, due to weaknesses in pixel responsiveness. This is reduced somewhat as the ‘SmartResponse’ setting is increased. With the ‘Faster’ setting, for example, there’s a clear ‘heavy powdery’ trailing behind the object for the dark background (top row). This is less extensive for the medium background (middle row), although the trailing is still quite bold directly behind the UFO. The light background (bottom row) shows very little in the way of conventional trailing. There’s a touch of overshoot (inverse ghosting) – a slight ‘halo’ trail that’s brighter than the object or background colour. This is increased when using the ‘Fastest’ setting and also introduced for the medium background there. The overshoot is more noticeable in this example for the light background of the ASUS MX34VQ reference. In practice we still found some obvious examples of overshoot on the Philips using the ‘Fastest’ setting and preferred the ‘Faster’ setting at 60Hz. The images below show things bumped up to 100Hz.

Perceived blur, 100Hz

At 100Hz (above), the UFOs appear narrower with somewhat clearer internal detailing. This reflects a reduction in perceived blur due to eye movement. There are again various degrees of trailing behind the UFOs. Ever increasing ‘SmartResponse’ settings show a gradual reduction in this trailing. By the time you read the ‘Faster’ setting, there’s only a faint whiff of ‘powdery’ trailing for the light background, but a fairly bold trail for the medium background and to a greater extent the dark background. Comparing this setting to the MX34VQ reference, things look fairly similar overall. The trailing for the medium background is somewhat more extended on the ASUS but also fainter overall, the trailing right beside the UFO does not appear as bold. For the light background, the ‘powdery’ trailing is replaced with some bright ‘halo’ trailing on the ASUS. This can be seen on the Philips when it’s set to the ‘Fastest’ setting as well – for some transitions this is more obvious than it appears here, for the light backlight of this test. For that reason we consider the ‘Faster’ setting optimal at 100Hz as well.

Note that we will not be including a section on overclocking, as the monitor refused to display an image when set much above 100Hz at its native resolution or indeed lower resolutions such as Full HD.

Responsiveness in games and movies

On Battlefield V, where the frame rate kept up with the refresh rate, the monitor provided a fair amount of perceived blur. This was largely down to eye movement and tied to the 100Hz refresh rate. With over 1.5 times as much visual information being outputted every second as a 60Hz monitor, there was a reduction in perceived blur overall. This also aided the ‘connected feel’, which describes the precision and fluidity when interacting with your character and the game world. Coupled with reasonably low input lag levels, the monitor did quite well in that respect. There were some definite weaknesses in pixel responsiveness, which added to perceived blur. There was an additional mask of perceived blur even for some transitions involving medium and lighter shades, a bit of a ‘powdery’ trailing on top of what you’d ideally see. There were some more distinct weaknesses where darker shades were involved in the transition, including some ‘smeary’ trailing. This was certainly not the slowest VA model we’ve come across, but the weaknesses were a bit more noticeable and more widespread than on some of the other high refresh rate VA UltraWides we’ve used, including the ASUS MX34VQ. There was also a bit of overshoot in places, but this only affected a small number of transitions and was generally faint using our preferred ‘SmartResponse’ setting. The section of the video review below runs through some of the strengths and weaknesses of the monitor’s response performance. As noted there this monitor is not designed or marketed as a gaming monitor – although some users would find the performance when gaming just fine anyway.

We made similar observations on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. There were quite a few transitions involving darker shades here, with plenty of dimly lit locations. There was some ‘smeary’ trailing in places including what we call ‘break-up’ trailing. Whereby some of the shades contained in the object or background colour appear to leach out as if you’ve wet a page with water soluble ink on it. For example, some dark red hues sometimes appear in the trailing as you move past illuminated and darker sections of cave wall. This was not as extensive as the sort of ‘break-up’ trailing you see on the slowest VA performers, which give more of an extended smoke-like appearance. It won’t necessarily catch everyone’s eye or detract from their enjoyment when gaming on titles like this. We also observed video content at a range of frame rates, including 24 – 30fps Netflix content and 60fps YouTube content. For the lower framerate content there were no distinct weaknesses. A little bit of extra ‘powdery’ trailing in places for some of the transitions with dark shades, but nothing obnoxious. The 60fps content showed these weaknesses more clearly, although not as clearly as 100fps gaming. We didn’t really find the weaknesses particularly distracting when watching any of this movie content.

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Philips 346B1C


FreeSync – the technology and activating it

AMD FreeSync is a variable refresh rate technology, an AMD-specific alternative to Nvidia G-SYNC. Where possible, the monitor dynamically adjusts its refresh rate so that it matches the frame rate being outputted by the GPU. Both our responsiveness article and the G-SYNC article linked to explore the importance of these two elements being synchronised. At a basic level, a mismatch between the frame rate and refresh rate can cause stuttering (VSync on) or tearing and juddering (VSync off). FreeSync also boasts reduced latency compared to running with VSync enabled, in the variable frame rate environment in which it operates.

FreeSync requires a compatible AMD GPU such as the Radeon RX 580 used in our test system. There is a list of GPUs which support the technology here, with the expectation that future AMD GPUs will support the feature too. The monitor itself must support ‘VESA Adaptive-Sync’ for at least one of its display connectors, as this is the protocol that FreeSync uses. The 346B1C supports FreeSync via DP, USB-C (DP Alt Mode) and HDMI on compatible GPUs and systems. You need to make sure ‘Adaptive-Sync’ is set to ‘On’ in the ‘Picture’ section of the OSD. On the GPU driver side recent AMD drivers feature Radeon Settings, which makes activation of the technology very simple and something that usually occurs automatically. You should ensure the GPU driver is setup correctly to use FreeSync, so open ‘AMD Radeon Software’, click ‘Settings’ (cog icon towards top right) and click on ‘Display’. You should then ensure that the first slider, ‘Radeon FreeSync’ is set to ‘Enabled’ as shown below.

Enable FreeSync

The Philips supports a variable refresh rate range of 48 – 100Hz. That means that if the game is running between 48fps and 100fps, the monitor will adjust its refresh rate to match. When the frame rate rises above 100fps, the monitor will stay at 100Hz and the GPU will respect your selection of ‘VSync on’ or ‘VSync off’ in the graphics driver. With ‘VSync on’ the frame rate will not be allowed to rise above 100fps, at which point VSync activates and imposes the usual associated latency penalty. With ‘VSync off’ the frame rate is free to climb as high as the GPU will output (potentially >100fps). AMD LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) is also supported by this model, which means that the refresh rate will stick to multiples of the frame rate where it falls below the 48Hz (48fps) floor of operation for FreeSync. If a game ran at 40fps, for example, the refresh rate would be 80Hz to help keep tearing and stuttering at bay. This feature is used regardless of VSync setting, so it’s only above the ceiling of operation where the VSync setting makes a difference.

To configure VSync, open ‘AMD Radeon Software’. Click ‘Settings’ (cog icon towards top right) and click ‘Graphics’. The setting is listed as ‘Wait for Vertical Refresh’. This configures it globally, but if you wish to configure it for individual games click ‘Game Graphics’ towards the top right. The default is ‘Off, unless application specifies’ which means that VSync will only be active if you enable it within the game itself, if there is such an option. Such an option does usually exist – it may be called ‘sync every frame’ or something along those lines rather than simply ‘VSync’. Most users will probably wish to enable VSync when using FreeSync to ensure that they don’t get any tearing. You’d therefore select either the third or fourth option in the list, shown in the image below. Above this dropdown list there’s a toggle for ‘Radeon Enhanced Sync’. This is an alternative to VSync which allows the frame rate to rise above the refresh rate (no VSync latency penalty) whilst potentially keeping the experience free from tearing or juddering. This requires that the frame rate comfortably exceeds the refresh rate, not just peaks slightly above it. We won’t be going into this in detail as it’s a GPU feature than a monitor feature.

VSync options

Some users prefer to leave VSync enabled but use a frame rate limiter set a few frames below the maximum supported (e.g. 97fps) instead, avoiding any VSync latency penalty at frame rates near the ceiling of operation or tearing from frame rates rising above the refresh rate. If you go to ‘Setup’ – ‘Information’ in the OSD, you will see the refresh rate listed there change in real time alongside the frame rate of the content, if it’s within the variable refresh rate range of the display. Finally, it’s worth noting that FreeSync only removes stuttering or juddering related to mismatches between frame rate and refresh rate. It can’t compensate for other interruptions to smooth game play, for example network latency or insufficient system memory. Some game engines will also show stuttering (or ‘hitching’) for various other reasons which won’t be eliminated by the technology.

FreeSync – the experience

We ran various game titles on this monitor with FreeSync enabled and as usual the technology worked in much the same way across all game titles. Any issues identified on one specific title would suggest a game or GPU driver issue rather than a monitor issue. We’ll therefore simply focus on a single title for this section; Battlefield V. This title is good for testing the technology as it offers appropriate flexibility with its graphics settings to test the entire variable refresh rate range of the monitor. The Radeon RX 580 used in our test system struggled to maintain a constant 100fps, with frequent dips a bit below this even with fairly low graphics settings. Without FreeSync, even slight dips in frame rate would cause obvious (to us) tearing if VSync was disabled or stuttering if VSync was enabled. With FreeSync enabled and the refresh rate matching the frame rate, these interruptions were removed – very nice indeed for sensitive users like us. As frame rate dropped significantly and 100fps became a distant memory, there was a noticeable drop-off in connected feel and an increase in perceived blur. This is purely related to the drop in frame rate and isn’t something a variable refresh rate technology can address.

As frame rate dropped there was a bit of an increase in overshoot, for example some slightly more eye-catching ‘halo’ trailing. That’s because, unlike with G-SYNC monitors (with G-SYNC modules), the monitor doesn’t use variable overdrive. The pixel overdrive is just tuned for optimal performance at the maximum refresh rate (100Hz in this case), whereas ideally things would be re-tuned with reduced acceleration levels for lower refresh rates as well. This increase in overshoot was slight, though, and we don’t feel this was a major issue even towards the floor of operation (48fps). As frame rate dipped below that, the monitor employed LFC and stuck to a multiple of the frame rate with its refresh rate. There was a momentary stuttering or slight brief flickering when LFC activated or deactivated, but unless you’re frequently passing the boundary this shouldn’t really be an issue. The LFC technology worked very well to keep tearing and stuttering at bay.

Nvidia Adaptive-Sync (‘G-SYNC Compatible’)

As noted earlier, AMD FreeSync makes use of Adaptive-Sync technology on a compatible monitor. As of driver version 417.71, users with Nvidia GPUs (GTX 10 series and newer) and Windows 10 can also make use of this Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) technology. When a monitor is used in this way, it is something which Nvidia refers to as ‘G-SYNC Compatible’. Some models are specifically validated as G-SYNC compatible, which means they have been specifically tested by Nvidia and pass specific quality checks such as the inclusion of effective variable overdrive. The make use of the technology, you need to connect the monitor up via DisplayPort. With the 346B1C you also need to make sure ‘Adaptive-Sync’ is set to ‘On’ in the ‘Picture’ section of the OSD. When you open up Nvidia Control Panel, you should then see ‘Set up G-SYNC’ listed in the ‘Display’ section. Ensure the ‘Enable G-SYNC, G-SYNC Compatible’ checkbox as well as ‘Enable settings for the selected display model’ is enabled as shown below. Press OK – the monitor should briefly flick off then on again and the technology should be active.

G-SYNC Compatible settings

You will also see in the image above that it states: “Selected Display in not validated as G-SYNC Compatible.” This means Nvidia hasn’t specifically tested and validated the display, not that it doesn’t work. The technology did work and did its thing to remove tearing and stuttering from frame rate and refresh rate mismatches. Much as with FreeSync and with the same effective range of operation, plus an LFC-like behaviour below 48fps. We also observed flickering across a broad range or refresh rates, which wasn’t observed when using AMD FreeSync. At least not with such intensity or as widely. This was perhaps subtle enough for some to ignore at relatively high refresh rates, but below around 60fps and particularly with sudden fluctuations from a much higher frame rate to <60fps the flickering became quite intense. This won’t make the technology unusable for all, but users who are sensitive to flickering will probably find this quite bothersome.

Our suggestions regarding use of VSync also apply, but obviously you’re using Nvidia Control Panel rather than Radeon Settings to control this. The setting is found in ‘Manage 3D settings’ under ‘Vertical sync’, where the final option (‘Fast’) is equivalent to AMD’s ‘Enhanced Sync’ setting. You’ll also notice ‘G-SYNC Compatible’ listed under ‘Monitor Technology’ in this section, as shown below. Make sure this is selected (it should be if you’ve set everything up correctly in ‘Set up G-SYNC’). Finally, note again that you can go to ‘Setup’ – ‘Information’ in the OSD to see if the technology is working. If it is, the refresh rate displayed will change in real time according to the frame rate of the content, if it’s within the variable refresh rate range of the display.

G-SYNC Compatible settings

The 34″ 3440 x 1440 curved ‘UltraWide’ experience

We’ve got an article dedicated to the 3440 x 1440 resolution and 21:9 and the experience that provides on the desktop, on games and for video content. This screen is the same size and resolution as the one in the article – 34” diagonal with a 3440 x 1440 resolution, yielding a pixel density of 109.68 PPI (Pixels Per Inch). This pixel density is similar to a 27” 2560 x 1440 (WQHD) model, whilst the vertical height of the screen is very similar as well. The larger horizontal screen space of this 21:9 screen and extra pixels give a nice boost in ‘desktop real-estate’ – with enhanced productivity being a key focus of this product. The Philips also has a moderately steep curve, at 1500R. This is more noticeable than on many curved monitors due to the radius of the curve and width of the screen. But it’s something we found comfortable and natural to use after a relatively short adjustment period (coming from a flat screen). Pictures and videos tend to exaggerate the effect of the curve and gives the impression of there being an obvious pincushion effect to the image. When you’re sitting at your desk using the monitor, this isn’t something you observe and after a period of adjustment the curve becomes the norm. It draws you in a bit to the image and brings the edges of the screen closer to your eyes. This brings with it potential viewing comfort benefits, too. Some users, such as graphic designers, may prefer the geometric predictability of a flat screen, but most users should embrace rather than fear the curve. The images below exaggerate the curve and makes it appear deeper and more obvious than it is in practice and are purely for illustrative purposes.

The UltraWide desktop

Some multi-tasking

As mentioned earlier the curve draws you into the image a bit, with the 1500R curve and sheer width of the screen making this quite a noticeable but to us natural-feeling aspect of this screen. For gaming, it adds to the immersion but is something you soon forget is even there when absorbed into the game world. More noticeable is the 21:9 aspect ratio itself, which provides a significant Field of View (FOV) advantage in most titles. This is explored in our previously linked article on the topic. The article also explains that the screen-filling effect can work nicely for movie content. Provided you’re watching the right sort of content and you’ve got a browser extension or are using software which takes care of the zooming and cropping for you. As before the images below exaggerate the effect of the curve and they do not in any way indicate the image quality observed first-hand on the screen. They’re just there to show the screen in action on a few game titles, to fire up the imagination a bit.

UltraWide Battlefield V

UltraWide Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Interpolation and upscaling

It may be necessary to run the monitor at a resolution below its native 3440 x 1440, perhaps for performance reasons or because you’re using a system (such as games console) that doesn’t support it. The monitor supports scaling functionality via any of its display inputs and at any selectable refresh rate, but offers more flexibility if using HDMI. To ensure the monitor rather than GPU is handling the scaling process, you need to make sure the GPU driver is set up correctly. For AMD GPU users the monitor will handle the scaling by default, when gaming at non-native resolutions. Nvidia users should open the Nvidia Control Panel and navigate to ‘Display – Adjust desktop size and position’. They should ensure that ‘No Scaling’ is selected and ‘Perform scaling on:’ is set to ‘Display’ as shown below.

Nvidia scaling options

There are various scaling modes located in the ‘Picture’ – ‘Picture Format’ section of the OSD; ‘Wide screen’, ‘4:3’, ‘16:9’, ‘Movie 1’, ‘Movie 2’ and ‘1:1’. These were only accessible to us using HDMI rather than DP and are explored in the section of the OSD video below. One of the more useful settings is ‘Wide screen’, which will use an interpolation process but maintain the aspect ratio of the source resolution. And 1:1, which is a pixel mapping feature that will only use the pixels called for by the source resolution, without any distortion or loss of sharpness. Any unused pixels remain as a black border around the image. When using DP, where this menu was greyed out, different resolutions used different scaling methods. 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) used an interpolation process that stretched the image out across the entire screen. Whereas 2560 x 1440 used 1:1 pixel mapping, as a 27” diagonal image with black borders at the sides.

The interpolation process used by the monitor, for example to display 1920 x 1080 using the default ‘Wide Screen’ setting, is one of the better interpolation processes we’ve come across. The image appears somewhat softer than viewing the resolution natively on a 27” screen, particularly when observing more slender edges. The textures aren’t quite as crisp. But the softening is by no means extreme, an effective sharpening filter is used and if you’re sitting back a bit from the monitor it appears fairly sharp and detailed really. The 2560 x 1080 resolution uses a similar interpolation process, but because it has a 21:9 aspect ratio the full screen space is used without any black bars.

As usual, if you’re running the monitor at 3840 x 2160 and viewing 1920 x 1080 content (for example a video over the internet or a Blu-ray, using movie software) then it is the GPU and software that handles the upscaling. That’s got nothing to do with the monitor itself – there is a very small amount of softening to the image compared to viewing such content on a native Full HD monitor, but it’s slight and shouldn’t bother most users.

Video review

The video below shows the monitor in action. The camera, processing done and your own screen all affect the output – so it doesn’t accurately represent what you’d see when viewing the monitor in person. It still provides useful visual demonstrations and explanations which help reinforce some of the key points raised in the written piece.




Timestamps:
Features & Aesthetics
Contrast
Colour reproduction
Responsiveness

Conclusion

The 3440 x 1440 resolution and 21:9 aspect ratio has plenty to offer for both work and play. The Philips 346B1C is marketed as a ‘productivity monitor’, so more firmly focused on the former – although its specifications may prove enticing for the latter, too. The generous screen width and pixel count plus decent pixel density delivered a rich working experience. It also delivered an engrossing movie watching and gaming experience, for a bit of procrastination on the side. The monitor was solidly built with good ergonomic flexibility, plus some nice additional features such as USB-C and a ‘PowerSensor’ which proved surprisingly useful. The OSD included the usual suite of settings we’ve come accustomed to from Philips, including various gamma and colour temperature modes that many other manufacturers overlook. Although the gamma didn’t need adjustment on our unit, it’s a nice flexibility to have – and the ‘5000K’ colour temperature setting proved useful as a nicely balanced Low Blue Light (LBL) setting. The curve was in our view a nice addition, one which makes sense on a model as wide as this. It was easy to adjust to, draws you into the experience a bit more in a natural way and isn’t something users should be afraid of.

The main strength of any VA panel is contrast. Static contrast was relatively strong here, delivering superior depth and atmosphere compared to other LCD panel types. It wasn’t as high as we’ve seen from some VA models, though, and fell a bit short of the specifications. Meanwhile, the light matte screen surface kept lighter content looking relatively smooth, free from strong graininess. There was a bit of ‘VA glow’, but this was much less obtrusive from a normal viewing position than ‘IPS glow’. There was also some ‘black crush’, although about as little as we’ve seen from a VA panel. The colour and gamma consistency was as good as we’ve seen from the panel type, falling short of IPS-type panels but clearly ahead of TN panels and also some VA models. The monitor also provided quite vibrant colour output, with a generous but not extreme colour gamut that extended comfortably beyond sRGB. An sRGB emulation mode was included, although this cut down on the gamut too heavily (significant sRGB undercoverage) and blocked off brightness control.

Whilst clearly not designed as a gaming monitor, the inclusion of a 100Hz refresh rate proved useful for a bit of play on the side. This reduced perceived blur levels compared to lower refresh rates such as 60Hz and also improved the ‘connected feel’. Input lag was reasonably low, too, so won’t impede the experience for most users. Adaptive-Sync was also supported and worked well with AMD FreeSync. It also ‘worked’ with Nvidia’s ‘G-SYNC Compatible Mode’, although there was widespread flickering there that could bother some users. There were some definite weaknesses in terms of pixel responses. Whilst some were fast enough for a reasonable 100Hz experience, there were some instances of ‘heavy powdery’ and ‘smeary’ trailing. All VA models struggle to some extent with certain transitions, with some performing better than others. This was a little weaker than some of the other VA UltraWides we’ve tested, such as the ASUS MX34VQ, it was by no means poor. Most users should find it just fine for a bit of gaming on the side. Looking at the complete package here, there’s quite a lot to like about this monitor. It’s a feature-rich product with decent all-round performance, at a reasonable price.

The bottom line; a solidly built and feature-rich monitor offering an immersive UltraWide experience, more for work than play.

Positives Negatives
Good extension in the colour gamut beyond sRGB, but not extreme – delivering quite vibrant and varied colour output
Gamut doesn’t match any wider standards, sRGB emulation mode inflexible with significant undercoverage
Relatively strong static contrast and a light matte screen surface free from strong graininess, delivering better depth and atmosphere than other panel types (without local dimming) Some ‘VA glow’ and a little ‘black crush’ on the side and static contrast falling some way short of the specifications
A 100Hz refresh rate with Adaptive-Sync support and reasonably low input lag offered some benefits to the gaming experience
Some distinct weaknesses in pixel responses, including fairly widespread ‘powdery’ trailing
A decent pixel density and resolution, offering a useful workspace and some benefits for movies and gaming, with a good range of ports and features The light sensor is inflexible and will therefore prove impractical for many users


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Philips 346B1C

 
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