AOC AGON AG352UCG review

Not-so-cheap thrills
Specs
Display panel

35-inch MVA
2000:1 contrast
4ms response time

Resolution

3440 x 1440 (21:9)

Refresh rate

100Hz
G-Sync

Adjustability

60° swivel, 35° tilt, 120mm height adjustment

Ports

DisplayPort, HDMI 1.4, 2x USB 3.0, 2x 3.5mm

Dimensions

85 x 59 x 27cm

Net weight

15.5 kilograms
(10.8 kg without stand)

This 35-inch monitor sports a beautiful curved design and a higher-than-average 3440 x 1440 resolution at 100Hz. That’s a tempting combination, despite the monitor’s premium £800 price point. Let’s see how it stacks up for gaming, creative endeavours and really wide spreadsheets!

 

Design

The AG352UCG looks similar to its stablemates: a glossy black bezel of medium thickness on all four sides surrounding an amusingly wide screen, the AGON wordmark in the bottom centre and LEDs shining gently through transparent strips on the underside of the monitor. The thicker bezels here make the AG352UCG less suitable for multi-monitor setups, but with this much screen you’re unlikely to need more than one monitor!

The back of the monitor has its own LED strips, with three horizontal stripes across each side of the monitor. The LEDs can be illuminated in red, green or blue colours, and the intensity can be adjusted: strong, weak, medium and off. Sadly, it’s not possible to disable the front strips and leave the back ones.

The ports are on the underside of the monitor, some on the central plane and some on the right (as viewed from the front). In the centre, we have the power brick input, a 3.5mm microphone passthrough and two video port options: DisplayPort (1.2?) and HDMI 1.4. On the right, there are two further 3.5mm ports, two USB 3.0 ports (one supporting sleep-and-charge) and a USB Micro-B SuperSpeed passthrough port. We’ve seen more USB ports on other monitors, but otherwise this is a good port assortment.

The AG352UCG is mounted on a stylish metal stand, with widely-spread legs that allow a small (tenkeyless) keyboard to fit between. The stand needs to be screwed into the back of the monitor before it’s secure, or it’s liable to come off in your hand when you’re repositioning it. Speaking of moving the monitor, it comes with a useful handle at the top for this purpose.

The monitor is controlled through a four-way joystick, although this particular model seems to operate differently than other AOC monitors I’ve used in the past — clicking in the joystick turns off the monitor, where on others it brings up the OSD. The OSD is actually summoned by pressing the joystick to the right, with all of the options shown in a three-pane box on the bottom right corner of the screen. Left backs out, and up or down adjust values once a setting has been selected. This is way less intuitive, and the OSD as a whole strikes me as an earlier version than I’ve seen in other monitors. There are fewer options, the layout is harder to grasp and there are no helpful symbols or graphics to be found — just letters and numbers throughout.

 

Impressions

We used the AG352UCG for one week, testing it in games, for web surfing and video editing. In this time, we played the following titles:

Here are our impressions.

Gaming performance

As you would expect, a 35-inch ultra-wide monitor provides an immersive experience when playing games, particularly when you’re in a first-person perspective in a shooter or racing game. You get many of the benefits of a multi-monitor setup, including the ability to set a higher field of view without distortion in supported games, without bezels getting in your way.

The AG352UCG’s 100Hz refresh rate is noticeably smoother than 60Hz monitors, allowing users to be competitive in fast-paced games like Counter-Strike. However, tearing here was more obvious than monitors with a higher 144Hz or 240Hz refresh rate, and gamers that mainly spend their time in fast-paced shooters would certainly benefit from a faster refreshing monitor. However, in single-player titles like Wolfenstein you can simply enjoy the cinematic experience; the nazi zombies will give you time to shoot them.

The 3440 x 1440 resolution is also worth discussing. This is a fairly strenuous workload for your graphics card and processor, with 4.9 million pixels to be rendered. That’s a little more than 1440p (3.6 million pixels), but still comfortably below 4K (8.3 million pixels). We’d recommend a GTX 1070 or an AMD Vega card in order to hit 100 frames per second at this resolution in most games. Our test rig includes a GTX 1080 and a Core i5 6600K processor, which was sufficient for almost all games apart from the notoriously inefficient PUBG. (You can find the full test rig spec sheet here.)

Image & video editing

VA panels are usually suitable for image and video editing, and as you’ll see in the benchmark the AG352UCG fits that description too. It has 100% sRGB coverage, nice contrast and reasonable colour accuracy as well. Before calibration the monitor looks a little washed out, but afterwards it’s a marvel with lovely inky blacks.

The monitor’s generous screen real estate makes editing 1080p videos a little easier, as you have plenty of room for windows, controls and so on. However, anyone shooting in 4K will obviously benefit from a 4K or higher monitor.

The AG352UCG isn’t going to be anyone’s first choice when it comes to creative endeavours, but if you want an ultra-wide for both gaming and professional work, this monitor can certainly do the job.

Web surfing and general use

For general use, such as surfing the web and getting work done, the AG352UCG is quite handy. While most ultrawide monitors these days are 2560 x 1080, this monitor is 3440 x 1440, which gives you a lot more space on screen at 100% Windows scaling. You can fit two or even three windows side-by-side without difficulty, which is great for multi-tasking. You can have a web browser open in the centre, a spreadsheet to the left and a document to the right without feeling cramped.

The monitor supports a low blue light mode and can even remind you to take a break, which is nice to have in an office environment. Its adjustability is also pretty good, with enough height adjustment to ensure a comfortable experience. Just keep in mind that it does take up a lot of desk space, with a footprint of about 50 x 26 centimetres (20″ x 10″), so plan accordingly.

Finally, watching videos on the AG352UCG is pretty awesome — although you’ll notice that most videos are in the more familiar 16:9 aspect ratio, so you get black bars on the left and right for much of the internet. It is possible to find some native ultrawide videos, and for these the AG352UCG excels, delivering a properly cinematic experience.

 

Benchmarks

In order to give this AGON monitor a fair test, we examined its synthetic performance in our usual benchmarks courtesy of the Spyder4Elite colourimeter. We started by calibrating the monitor to 120 nits brightness, which corresponded to a brightness level of 26 / 100. Contrast was left at 50, gamma setting 1 was chosen and all other features were left at their default settings.

You can download the ICC / ICM file below, although each monitor is different and this may not produce a better result than the factory settings.

AOC AG352UCG-1

The monitor was calibrated using the Spyder4Elite colourimeter, which has some flaws but is the most advanced testing equipment we have at present — an upgrade to a X-Rite i1Display Pro is planned.

Initial calibration results

After our initial calibration, we’re pretty much on target — a little brighter than we wanted at 121.3 rather than 120 nits, but pretty close. The white points are looking good too, while the ΔE (error) values are excellent at less than 0.5 (anything below 1.0 is good). The gamma is impressive too, at 2.21. Let’s hope this fine form continues!

Gamut coverage

The AG352UCG has no problem hitting 100% sRGB, which is what we’re hoping for from this MVA panel. 81% of AdobeRGB and 77% of NTSC are also nice, but not likely to be of interest to all but a subset of image and video professionals.

Brightness and contrast at different brightness settings

The AG352UCG manages to hit over 350 cd/m2 at maximum brightness, pretty darn bright! The Spyder4Elite consistently overstates black levels and thereby understates contrast ratios, but based on past results*, I’m happy to state that the monitor is capable of reaching its promised 2000:1 static contrast ratio.

This is more than enough for games, image editing and cinema, although it is possible to find monitors that offer even higher levels of contrast through darker blacks.

*Normally the contrast ratio is underestimated by a factor of between 2.75:1 and 3:1. For example, the Predator Z1 monitor we tested earlier has a stated contrast ratio of 3000:1, and our tests showed 1060:1 on average. This is a known issue with the Spyder4Elite colourimeter we’re using; we’re currently raising funds to replace this with a better but more expensive model.

Gamma, tone response and grey ramp

We can see how the three gamma settings compare on the graphs below (click to expand these images if necessary). Gamma 1 corresponds to gamma 1.9, gamma 2 to gamma 1.8, and gamma 3 to 2.1, with about 10% variance in each — OK, but not perfect.

Colour accuracy

Colour accuracy is always an important test, even for monitors that aren’t intended for creative professional use. Here the AG352UCG surpasses our expectations, with an average ΔE just above 1.0 — a great result. As usual, the teal 1F shade is the most troublesome, with most other shades providing error values of less than 1.0 which we love to see.

Colour uniformity

Colour uniformity is also important, and here things are a bit off. The upper corners are the closest to the D65 standard, with the centre offering relatively high ΔE values of 3.0 or greater. Things improve as brightness comes down to usable levels, but remain relatively high at 1.8 in the centre at 50% brightness.

 

Luminance uniformity

Luminance uniformity is also below our expectations, showing values of about 110 cd/m2 in the upper left at 100% brightness — 18% dimmer than the lower right (135 cd/m2) and centre (133 cd/m2).

Monitor rating

Finally, we have our monitor rating, as determined by the Spyder4Elite software. I generally put more stock in colour uniformity, but otherwise tend to agree with these, and that holds true for today’s monitor as well. Gamut and contrast are the strong points, with props also for colour accuracy. Meanwhile, luminance uniformity and tone response are a little off ideals.

Overall, it’s a good result but not quite as good as we were expecting from the initial strong start we had in this benchmarking section. Still, the wide gamut and good colour accuracy should make this at least a decent stand-in for professional use.

 

Wrapping up

The AOC AGON AG352UCG is an excellent monitor, offering an immersive experience for games, movies and spreadsheets alike. The 100Hz refresh rate may be a little limiting for fans of fast-paced shooters, but for almost everyone else it’s a nice upgrade from the standard 60Hz fare. The 35-inch curved span of the monitor and solid 3440 x 1440 resolution provide a good middle-ground between sharp image quality and moderate system requirements, too. While this monitor is expensive at over £800, you do get quite a lot for your money. 

 

Links

If you’re tempted by the AG352UCG, hit up the links below to see the latest prices on Amazon.

See on Amazon.co.uk > See on Amazon.com >

About The Author
William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @wsjudd or on G+.