The LG 38GN950 is the company’s new flagship Freesync ultrawide gaming monitor. It sports a massive 38inch panel with a 3840 x 1600 resolution, providing a noticeable upgrade in size and resolution over more typical 34in ultrawide displays. It also boasts a 1ms response time Nano IPS panel, DisplayHDR 600 support and although it doesn’t have a G-Sync module it does still support G-Sync as well.
All told, it certainly seems to tick many of the boxes you’d hope, for a display of its calibre, but does it deliver?
Well, on the design and features front, LG has stepped things up a notch from most of its monitors by adding RGB to the back. This supports both a soundsync and a video sync mode that will fit the lighting to what the display is showing. It’s a nice addition and it can add a nice bit of atmosphere to what you’re watching and potentially even reduce eyestrain. However, it does require a USB cable and software and it’s not always that accurate.
Elsewhere the display is reasonably smart, thanks to its low profile bezels and generally muted all black finish with just a few red plastic highlights. It’s certainly not particularly slim, though, and due to the size of the screen and its curve, it has quite the footprint.
Also, the stand, while it looks elegant, sticks out quite far, gobbling up desk space. What’s more, like many of LG’s other screens, it only offers height and tilt adjustment and not rotation. As such, I’d be inclined to take advantage of the 100mm VESA mount and use a monitor arm with this display.
Thankfully, setup via the onscreen display is effortless. The main mini joystick control is responsive and the menus are intuitive to navigate and have all the options you should need, including an sRGB mode that has adjustable brightness. However, you don’t get an FPS counter, which we’ve found to be a surprisingly useful feature on many monitors, and there’s no support for any sort of backlight strobing blur reduction mode.
Alongside the main stick is a wheel control that’s used to cycle through the RGB lighting options, if you don’t fancy using the software.
When it comes to connectivity, there’s nothing too outstanding here. You get the standard single Displayport and two HDMI along with a two-port USB hub and a headphone jack. You don’t, however, get speakers, not indeed any extra physical features other than the RGB.
Turning to the panel itself and this is where the 38GN950 really shines. The step up in size and resolution from a 34inch screen isn’t game changing but it’s certainly nice to have and with window management tools like those included in LG’s software, it takes you one step closer to being able to ditch that second screen and have one screen to do it all.
The panel is LG’s own nano IPS technology, and while sometimes it has proven to be a little low when it comes to contrast, here there are no such problems. It consistently delivered around a contras of 950:1 in my testing, which while not outstanding for an IPS panel, is a lot better than some of LG’s previous nano IPS panels.
As for other image quality criteria, this display is simple fantastic. Although I’ve only had the chance to test this one sample, it nonetheless arrived with near perfect calibration. Colour balance, gamma response, colour accuracy and colour range are all spot on. What’s more, switch from the wider colour gamut default modes to the sRGB mode and it also delivers the goods, so you can comfortably use this display for all colour critical work right out the box.
Because it’s IPS, viewing angles are of course great too, and although there is some IPS glow, it’s no worse than any other IPS panel.
All this and the 38GN950 even does half decent HDR, which isn’t something I’ve been able to say before about any LCD monitor that doesn’t employ hundreds of individual backlight zones and cost a ludicrous amount of money for its screen size. Here, then, you get DisplayHDR 600 support. This requires the extended colour gamut that is all most supposedly HDR displays include but on top of this also requires a peak brightness of 600 nits, where most typical displays top out at around 300-400nits. And, most importantly, it needs to be able to deliver that brightness while also showing a maximum black level of just 0.1nits at the same time, for an effective contrast of 6000:1.
How this screen achieves this when its native contrast ratio is only 950:1 is by having some backlight zones that can vary the backlight brightness. And by some I mean eight of them. So, yes, in effect, for most HDR content this display will just be running the backlight at the same brightness resulting in that same 950:1 contrast.
However, there might be the odd occasion where one zone might be able to shine a little dimmer or brighter. What’s more, I measured the peak brightness of this display in HDR mode at 760nits so really do get some truly dazzling bright flashes when called upon. Ultimately, it’s not going to be the selling point of the screen but it’s a step up from most pseudo HDR displays. Finally, then, we come to gaming and here again the 38GN950 pulls away from so many alternatives. With a native refresh rate of 144Hz and overclockable to 160Hz, you get a nice upgrade in refresh rate over older 120Hz ultrawide panels and you also get LG’s class-leading 1ms response time. Like most other supposed 1ms panels, you seldom achieve that raw figure here but this is still a very fast switching IPS panel that’s noticeably better than most competitors.
I don’t have the test equipment to put a number to that claim but LG’s other similar panels have all been shown to have average response times of under 5ms, which compares to around 8ms for older 34inch ultrawides such as the Acer X34P, and you really can feel that step up in responsiveness.
Freesync and gsync are of course on hand too so you get consistently smooth framerates on both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards. All told, then, this 38GN950 is a seriously impressive display. Its size and resolution are a nice upgrade over 34in panels, its 160Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time are likewise a step up and you even get vaguely decent HDR. It’s a shame the stand isn’t better and you don’t get many extra features, but none are likely to be deal breakers for most buyers.
There is one big problem, though, which is the price. Although availability is scarce enough that it’s hard to pin down an exact price in some places, it mostly appears to be selling for £1500 or 1500 US dollars. That’s a big chunk of change and a significant step up from even LG’s own 34GN850, which was already expensive for a modern ultrawide.
Considering you can pick up 144Hz, 34in, 1ms IPS ultrawides for under £500, you’ve really got to want the best to justify forking out for this panel.