If you’re thinking about taking the plunge with a 49-inch, 32:9 ultrawide gaming monitor, then you’ve likely encountered two obstacles. The first is having the desk real estate to accommodate a curved and absurdly wide display. The second is having the funds for such a purchase. I can’t answer the first for you, but for the second, AOC has an attractive proposition with the Agon AG493UCX 49-inch ultrawide gaming monitor. It supplies a 5K resolution for less than $1,000. By comparison, the Samsung CRG9 costs half as much more at $1,500. The AOC Agon AG493UCX is missing a few features found on the Samsung, but can you do without them for the lower price? Let’s wade into the wrap-around, ultrawide waters and find out.
Design and Features
The first breed of 49-inch ultrawide monitors delivered 4K resolution – 3840 x 1080. The Agon AG493UCX bumps the pixel count up to 5K at 5120 x 1440, and the difference in resolution is noticeable. The first iteration of this type of monitor is like having a pair of 27-inch, 1920 x 1080 monitors side by side. The Agon AG493UCX looks like two 27-inch displays, each with a 2560 x 1440 resolution. With the 1800R curvature, sitting in front of the display feels overwhelmingly immersive. Its width and curve fill your field of vision, all the way out to the periphery.
One issue with such a wide display is finding a desk big enough to accommodate it. It is 47 inches wide (nearly 4 feet!), which is the exact width of the desk in this reviewer’s office. The problem I encountered is my desk is only 22 inches deep. With the display pushed back as far as possible, the middle of the display is only 13 inches from the front edge of my desk. Sitting within reach of my keyboard means my eyes are less than two feet away from the display.
With a deeper desk, I could push back a bit from the display to a more comfortable distance. Perched as close as I am, however, allowed me to appreciate the display’s 5K, 1440p resolution. When sitting at such a distance in front of a 49-inch ultrawide display with a 3840 x 1080 resolution you can make out the individual pixels – less so with games and more so during regular Windows use. Such pixelation is much less evident at 5120 x 1440.
The Agon AG493UCX is about as compact as can be, despite its sprawling size. The top and side bezels are razor thin, and the textured bottom bezel is only 0.75 inches wide. Branding is minimal with a small “AGON” badge centered on the bottom bezel. The matte-black cabinet does not scream “gamer” and could easily be used in an office setting without looking out of place. After all, the ultrawide, 32:9 aspect ratio is useful for multitasking in addition to creating an immersive gaming experience.
The display sits on a sturdy, metal stand. The tripod stand has two long front legs and a short back leg, and it creates an impressively effective anchor for the heavy, awkwardly wide display cabinet. The display stays in place with little screen wobble. And with height, swivel, and tilt adjustment, the display is also impressively flexible.
The ports, however, are difficult to reach. They are all located on the back panel (my kingdom for a side-mounted headphone jack!) and all face downward. Back-panel, downward-facing ports are difficult to access on any monitor and all the more so on such a huge, heavy display. You’ll most likely need to lay the display carefully on its back in order to get to the ports.
When you do get to the ports, you’ll find a useful selection. The display offers two HDMI 2.0 ports, two DisplayPort 1.4 ports, a USB-C port, three USB 3.2 Type-A downstream ports, one USB 3.2 upstream port, and an audio-out jack. One of the USB Type-A ports supports fast charging, and the USB-C port supports power delivery and DisplayPort so it can act as a data or video connection to a laptop and also charge it.
The display also includes integrated 5-watt stereo speakers. Their output is predictably limited; the speakers suffice for YouTube videos but gamers will need a pair of headphones or external speakers for full immersion in games.
The display’s OSD menu can be called up and navigated by a row of tiny buttons on the lower-right of the display. It is an exercise in frustration to navigate the OSD with these buttons, but thankfully AOC includes a remote control for controlling the OSD. And even with the remote, it’s not easy to find what you are looking for in the OSD menu. It is organized into six main categories – Game Setting, Luminance, Image Setup, Color Setup, Extra and OSD Setup – and it’s not clear why some settings are in one area and other settings are in other areas. And there is some confusing redundancy. For example, there are six game modes in Game Setting for FPS, RTS, Racing, and three customizable modes, and then you’ll also find additional modes under Eco Mode in the Luminance menu for Text, Internet, Game, Movie, Sports, and Reading.
Also, the OSD forces you to choose between using the motion blur reduction setting (labeled as MBR in the OSD) and AdaptiveSync. Motion blur reduction strobes the backlight to insert a black image between each frame of video and to reduce time each frame is displayed. The overall effect is the image on the display is significantly dimmer. You get 20 levels of motion blur reduction with the Agon AG493UCX, but I favor using the monitor’s AdaptiveSync. With its 120Hz refresh rate and rated 1ms MPRT response time, I did not encounter many blurred edges in games. With FreeSync 2 enabled manually for my Nvidia-based PC, I saw no tearing.
The Agon AG493UCX uses a VA panel with 1800R curvature that’s rated for 3,000:1 contrast ratio and 550-nit max brightness. It’s VESA-certified for HDR400 even though its max brightness ought to qualify it for HDR500. What’s likely keeping it back from the higher HDR rating is its lack of local dimming, which isn’t required for an HDR400 certification. Still, I found the monitor’s contrast to be above average even without local dimming.
I also found no stuck or dead pixels on my review unit, and AOC backs the display with a four-year warranty that comes with a Zero Dead Pixels Guarantee.
Performance and Gaming
Before I got to gaming, I found the Agon AG493UCX a boon for productivity. I was able to fit three windows side-by-side across the ultrawide 32:9 desktop. It took me a few hours to get used to the curvature of the display. Some windows looked distorted at first when stretched across the curved panel, but I grew accustomed to it by the end of the first afternoon of sitting in front of this massive display. And the move from a 1080p ultrawide to the 1440p picture of the AG493UCX was a clear improvement. Text and images looked so much crisper with none of the pixelated screen-door effect that was evident with a 1080p resolution on a display this size.
I used Lagom LCD monitor test pages to measure performance including gamma, black and white levels, color gradient, and response time. The Agon AG493UCX excelled throughout. On the black level test, 20 gray squares should be visible against the black background and I was able to see 19, a positive result. On the white saturation test, I was able to see 11 of the 12 light-gray checkerboard patterns against a white background, another great result. The good times continued on the gradient test; I saw no banding as the gradient pattern transitioned smoothly from black to white and vice versa. On the response time test, it showed slight flickering on 3 of the 8 test patterns when running at a 120Hz refresh rate. I had hoped to reduce the flickering by enabling the display’s overdrive setting but it did nothing to change the results of the test one way or the other. On the Blur Busters UFO test, the test patterns showed only the slightest blur at the 120fps test pattern, an impressive result.
After the Lagon tests, I played CS:GO, Fortnite, and Overwatch. The games exhibited smooth movement with little ghosting and no tearing with FreeSync enabled. CS:GO and Fortnite support the display’s ultrawide 32:9 aspect ratio, but Overwatch tops out at 21:9. Even at 21:9, Overwatch stretched into my peripheral vision and felt immersive. And given the frenetic nature of Overwatch, I had enough details to keep track of that I didn’t miss the extra width I was lacking and the black bars on either side of the game. Both CS:GO and Fortnite, however, can be played at the display’s full 32:9 aspect ratio and looked awesome doing so. CS:GO is a good test for contrast, and I was able to see details in dark scenes without bright areas being blown out. With its bright color palette, Fortnite is a good test for color accuracy and vibrancy, and the Agon AG493UCX excelled on both counts, exhibiting vivid color without looking oversaturated.
The best way I can describe the experience of playing a game at 32:9 is that it feels akin to VR gaming but without the motion sickness. The game fills your entire field of vision, though without the freedom of being able to move your head up and down as you can with a VR headset and stay totally immersed in the game. I did find myself, however, frequently turning my head from side to side in order to spot enemies before they found me.
The AOC Agon AG493UCX is available on Amazon for its list price of $999.99.
This article was originally published by IGN.COM