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Alienware 38 AW3821DW gaming monitor review

With the Alienware 38, you get one of the best 21:9 gaming monitors — if you got a whopping amount of cash

Alienware 38 AW3821DW gaming monitor review
(Image: © Rami Tabari)

Our Verdict

The Alienware 38 AW3821DW Curved Gaming Monitor offers a gorgeous curved display with an eye-opening 21:9 aspect ratio, but it is ridiculously expensive.

For

  • Bright, vivid WQHD+ panel
  • 144Hz refresh rate
  • Fast response time
  • Nvidia G-Sync Ultimate

Against

  • No speakers
  • Expensive

Looking to expand your horizons? As long as you got wads of cash, the Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3821DW) will grace you with its gorgeous 37.5-inch, 21:9 display with a sharp 3840 x 1600-pixel resolution, a 144Hz refresh rate and a 1-millisecond response time.

So what’s wrong with this machine? Not much, really. Well, apart from the asking price of $1,899 (currently on sale for $1,425). Also, it doesn’t come outfitted with speakers, which is disappointing for a monitor this large and expensive.

As long as you have the cash and you don’t mind setting up your own audio solution, the Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3821DW) is easily one of the best gaming monitors around.

Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3821DW) design

You better clear out some space on your desk because the Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor is a thick boy. As you might have gathered from the “38” in its name, this Alienware is a 37.5-inch monitor that curves to wrap around most of your sightline with a 21:9 aspect ratio. Thanks to the aspect ratio, it's sleek, but the stand gives the monitor a huge backside.

Alienware 38 AW3821DW gaming monitor review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

The Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor’s bezels are relatively thin considering the size of the display. Still, there’s enough room to mount a webcam at the top without covering the screen. On the bottom bezel of the display is a white Alienware logo, and to the right, on the underside, lies the RGB-lit power button.

The back of the monitor features a clean, sci-fi-esque design with a stylized “38” on the right-hand side, and just above that is an RGB-lit Alienware logo. On the bottom left are five navigational inputs while the bottom center holds room for all of the ports.

The Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor features a V-shaped base at 11.6 inches long from back to front, so it takes up quite a bit of space. However, the base features a white Alienware logo as well as an RGB-lit infinity loop that gives the back a pleasing glow.

Alienware 38 AW3821DW gaming monitor review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

Since this monster is big, there’s not a lot of room to move it around. It can tilt from +21 degrees to -5 degrees and swivel from +20 degrees to -20 degrees. There’s roughly 5.1 inches of free movement in terms of the height, making the monitor 17.7 to 22.8 inches tall. If you’re looking to mount this monitor on a wall, you can hook it up to a 100 x 100 millimeter VESA mount.

At 26.7 pounds and 35.2 inches x 11.6 inches x 17.7 to 22.8 inches, the Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor doesn’t take up a lot of vertical space, but it’s certainly space-consuming when it comes to its width.

Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3821DW) installation and setup

The Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor comes in three main pieces, but it’s easy to put together. 

Alienware 38 AW3821DW gaming monitor review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

First, I screwed the stand base into the stand riser with a simple screw that was already attached to the base (no tools needed). I then clipped the stand riser into the back of the display with one easy motion; at that point everything was attached apart from the snap-on I/O cover.

Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3821DW) ports, cabling and interface

Unlike some monitors that turn 90 degrees to give you easy access to the ports, the Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor doesn’t move around so getting to the inputs you need can be a pain in the ass.

Alienware 38 AW3821DW gaming monitor review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

From left to right, when facing the back, you’ll find the power connector, two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4 port, a USB Type-A port, a headphone jack, another USB Type-A port, a USB Type-B port, two USB Type-A ports and an audio-out jack. You can also hide the ports away with a plastic panel that snaps onto the back.

Alienware 38 AW3821DW gaming monitor review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

The Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor comes with a DisplayPort cable, a Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable, an HDMI cable and a USB Type-B cable. I don’t think I’ve seen a Mini DisplayPort cable included with a monitor before, so that’s a pretty cool addition, as it’ll let you easily connect to your gaming laptop.

Alienware 38 AW3821DW gaming monitor review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

You can navigate the interface via the buttons on the right side, but despite its size, there’s no included remote. The five buttons included: the joystick, the cancel button, the preset button, the brightness and contrast button, and the dark stabilizer button.

When navigating the menus, the first tab is the Game tab, which includes options for preset modes (FPS, MOBA/RTS, RPG, Sports, etc.), game enhance mode (timer, frame rate, display alignment), response time, dark stabilizer and variable backlight. Then there’s the Brightness/Contrast tab. After that is Input Source, then AlienFX Lighting, which lets you customize the four RGB zones on the monitor. Finally, there’s the Audio tab, which just lets you adjust the volume, the Menu tab, which changes languages and smaller settings, and the Personalize tab, which lets you edit the shortcut keys.

Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3821DW) performance

The Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor boasts a 37.5-inch, 3840 x 1600 display with a 144Hz refresh rate and a 1-millisecond response time. This IPS panel also has HDR600 support and is compatible with Nvidia G-Sync Ultimate.

Alienware 38 AW3821DW gaming monitor review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

In Resident Evil Village, I was ambushed by a werewolf in said titular locale, and after popping off a few shots, its crimson blood squirted in incredible detail on the display. Despite the naturally muted colors that made up the area, the snow on the ground and the disheveled blue and red houses looked vibrant on the Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor. The panel was also bright enough for me to see the smallest detail in the poorly lit house I was rummaging through. The 21:9 aspect ratio also suited the game amazingly well, giving me more visual room to work with.

I played some No Man’s Sky, and as I breached the atmosphere of a highly radioactive planet, the hazy purple clouds encompassed the horizon and popped on the display. What really immersed me in the moment was the bright orange glow of the interior of my ship as I was coasting over the planet before seeing something blue spark and crash in the distance. Thanks to the high refresh rate, I could also see a lot more objects and details than usual as I sped my way to the crash site and discovered some 18-syllable material.

In Middle-earth: Shadow of War, I ran across the mossy battlefield and spilt black orcish blood all over the ground, and it looked like I was painting on a lively canvas. When I was challenged by a flaming orc, the orange and red fires that were singeing his skin looked incredibly bold. When I found my way into a dark hallway, the flickering torchlight around me was the only thing illuminating the area, but the display was bright enough to compensate and detail the area I was in.

The best settings for my play time were Preset: FPS, Brightness: 100, Contrast: 75, Dark Stabilizer: 0, and Variable Backlight: Off. I liked FPS over the other presents because it presented nice warm colors. But if you are not a fan, you could use one of the Game presets that let you configure the color yourself.

Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3821DW) lab testing

As you might imagine, the Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor scored remarkably well on our benchmarks, although I’m not so sure it makes up for its price.

Alienware 38 AW3821DW gaming monitor review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

The Alienware AW3821DW averaged 486 nits of brightness on SDR settings, toppling the Asus ROG Strix XG27UQ (355 nits) and the Alienware AW5520QF (400 nits). With HDR turned on, the Alienware AW3821DW averaged 531 nits at the center of the display. Keep in mind that is an isolated test and doesn’t calculate for real-world use, as HDR can automatically adjust the monitor’s brightness.

I knew this baby was bursting with color when I saw it for the first time, and the benchmarks back me up, with the Alienware AW3821DW covering 118.9% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. It soared past both the Alienware AW5520QF (100.5%) and the Strix XG27UQ (108%).

When it comes to the sRGB range, the Alienware AW3821DW covered a blistering 167.9% of the sRGB color gamut, which destroys the the Strix XG27UQ (152%) and the Alienware AW5520QF (141.9%).

As far as color accuracy goes, the Alienware AW3821DW has a Delta-E of 0.27 (closer to zero is better). It’s roughly the same as the Strix XG27UQ (0.28) and Alienware AW5520QF (0.27).

Bottom line

The Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3821DW) is an excellent monitor for gaming as much as it is for productivity thanks to how much screen real estate it offers. Between the vivid colors and vibrant brightness, it could be hard to say no to this particular monitor. But it’s just not affordable for most gamers, so only those who are able to save and invest will get to experience this panel.

If you’re looking for something cheaper, check out the Asus ROG Strix XG27UQ, which is a 27-inch, 4K monitor that keeps its price just under quadruple digits.

Otherwise, if you have the cash and love curved screen with wide aspect ratios, the Alienware 38 Curved Gaming Monitor (AW3821DW) is a great monitor.

Rami Tabari

Rami Tabari is a Senior Writer for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.