The BenQ EW3880R is a well-designed and robust monitor with good colors and excellent sound. Unfortunately, it falls behind in what matters most: image quality. It offers nothing special in terms of SDR quality and can’t truly be considered to have any credible HDR quality either. For the niche market that enjoys good speakers with their monitor, it might be appealing. Otherwise, there are other options worth looking into first.
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Most large ultrawide monitors target one of two specific markets: gamers, or professionals. But what if you want a big, vivid monitor with great speakers for general use? BenQ’s EW3880R, which pairs a large, vivid screen with excellent audio quality, has a laser-like focus on this niche—but so-so image quality cuts against its value.
This review is part of our best monitors roundup. Go there to learn more about competing products and our evaluation process.
BenQ EW3880R: The specs
The BenQ EW3880R’s specifications are typical for this category, which is unusually uniform even in the world of monitors. I can’t think of a current 38-inch monitor for sale with a resolution that differs from 3840×1600, or one that lacks an IPS display panel.
Display size: 37.5-inch ultrawide
Native resolution: 3840×1600
Panel type: IPS
Refresh rate: 60Hz
HDR: Yes, HDR10, no VESA DisplayHDR certification
Ports: 2x HDMI 2.0, 1x DisplayPort 1.4, USB-C with 60 watts Power Delivery and DisplayPort Alternate Mode, 2x USB 3.0 downstream
Stand adjustment: Height, tilt, swivel
VESA mount: 100x100mm
Speakers: Yes, speakers with subwoofer
What stands out most, as mentioned, is audio quality. The monitor pairs 3-watt speakers with an 8-watt subwoofer. Most competitors have 2-watt speakers (if they include speakers at all). The monitor also supports HDR10, though, unfortunately, HDR performance falls flat.
BenQ EW3880R: Design
The EW3880R is part of BenQ’s premium “entertainment” monitor line. Unlike most brands, where entertainment is often used as a stand-in for “budget,” BenQ puts thought in to what an entertainment monitor should be.
This extends to the monitor’s unique bronze-gold look. It doesn’t seem much different from a matte-black monitor at a glance but, on closer inspection, the bronze hue gives the EW3880R a unique, premium look that stands apart from competitors. It’s a well-built monitor, as well, with thick plastic panels that have a pleasant texture.
A wide stand holds the EW3880R’s 38-inch ultrawide display in place. It’s hefty, which keeps the large display panel planted, and provides adjustment for height, tilt, and swivel. The stand’s width and depth make it a poor choice for large desks, but that’s to be expected given the monitor’s size.
The stand is a chore to attach or detach. Most monitors have a clip-on system with a lever used to loosen and remove the stand when needed, but the EW3880R uses four screws and a plastic cover that snaps over them. The screws thread into the 100x100mm VESA mount, which also provides support for most third-party monitor stands or arms.
BenQ EW3880R: Features and menu
Built-in speakers, an afterthought for most monitors, are key to the BenQ EW3880R’s appeal. It delivers a pair of 2-watt speakers alongside an 8-watt subwoofer.
This is a huge improvement over competing monitors and, for many people, will make desktop speakers unnecessary. The speakers are loud at maximum volume and the subwoofer adds depth to music, movies, and games. It’s not an audiophile-quality experience, mostly due to a lack of detail in the high end, but superior to desktop speaker sets that lack a subwoofer.
They’re easy to use thanks to the bundled remote control. It can access all monitor settings including volume, brightness, contrast, and image-quality presets. A responsive joystick control hides around the monitor’s right flank, providing a backup in case you lose the remote.
The EW3880R offers a range of image-quality settings beyond the standard brightness, contrast, and sharpness tweaks available on all monitors. Owners can further tweak color using RGB adjustments in the color-temperature menu. It has several color-temperature presets, though none target a specific color temperature; and five gamma modes, all which target a specific gamma value.
The monitor has a Rec.709 color mode, which might be useful for professionals who work in that color space. It lacks a dedicated sRGB mode, however, which is a bummer. I think an sRGB (or DCI-P3) color mode would be more relevant for content creators who might consider this monitor.
Connectivity is mixed. The monitor offers two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4, and one USB-C port with DisplayPort Alternate mode. That’s a total of four video inputs. The USB-C power is limited to 60 watts of Power Delivery though, which is disappointing. That’s not enough to handle the maximum power consumption of many high-end professional laptops. A pair of USB-A downstream ports can be used to extend USB connectivity when the USB-C port is in use.
BenQ EW3880R: SDR image quality
The EW3880R has a big 37.5-inch screen and beefy speakers, but what about image quality? There’s reason to be suspicious: BenQ’s marketing materials make few specific claims about image quality.
Maximum SDR brightness comes in at just 214 nits, which is among the lowest results from any monitor in 2022. It’s below even the Alienware AW3423DW, which has an OLED display and also struggles with brightness.
The BenQ EW3880R is a bit easier to use in a bright room because it has an anti-glare coat, while the Alienware AW3423DW is glossy. However, the EW3880R does suffer from some glare when a light source is in front of the display, as the curved screen tends to amplify the light.
Still, I had no trouble using the BenQ EW3880R in a light-controlled room and, in fact, had it tuned to about 40 percent of maximum through most of my use.
Contrast is where the EW3880R takes a licking. This is an IPS monitor with a standard edge-lit LED backlight, and that leads to a contrast ratio of just 870:1.
That would be fine in 2020, as evidenced by the Alienware AW3421DW, an older monitor with a similar contrast ratio. However, shoppers can now choose from a variety of options that have new panel technology.
The Dell U3223QE offers IPS Black, which roughly doubles contrast when compared to conventional IPS. Samsung’s Odyssey Neo G9 uses Mini-LED to further boost contrast to an excellent 8780:1. Alienware’s AW3423DW has a QD-OLED panel that, in my testing, had an effectively infinite contrast ratio.
The BenQ EW3880R is a wide gamut monitor that covers 96 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut and 88 percent of AdobeRGB. This is wide enough to make the monitor useful for some professional tasks, but it’s defeated by the Dell U3223QE and Alienware AW3423DW.
Despite this, most owners will like what they see out of the box. A color gamut this wide skews the monitor towards a vivid, colorful presentation that looks great in games and movies. It’s best when displaying games with a punched-up color palette, such as Overwatch. Animated movies and shows look great, too.
Color accuracy is strong, though not exceptional. The BenQ EW3880R scores as well as the Odyssey Neo G9 and older Alienware AW3821DW, but falls way behind the Alienware AW3423DW. I doubt this will be a problem for most owners, as all the monitors compared are rather accurate overall and more than sufficient for general entertainment.
The EW3880R suffered a couple minor setbacks in more nuanced aspects of image quality. It scored a default gamma curve of 2.3, which indicates the image is a bit darker than the target of 2.2. Color temperature was a bit cool, too, at a reading of 7000K instead of the target of 6500K. This means the image can look rather sterile and clinical at default settings. Both gamma and color temperature can be adjusted through the on-screen menu.
Sharpness is good, but not amazing. The monitor’s 3840×1600 resolution seems high on paper but, when spread across a 37.5-inch ultrawide panel, translates to 110 pixels per inch. That’s almost identical to a 27-inch 1440p monitor. The image looks sharp, but some pixelation becomes noticeable around very small fonts and fine details in 3D games.
It’s a bit of a mix, then. The BenQ EW3880R performs well in color but falls behind in brightness and contrast. As mentioned, the EW3880R’s overall performance would be excellent in 2020, but it’s falling behind the pack in 2022.
BenQ EW3880R: HDR performance
The marketing behind BenQ’s HDR support could use another look, to say the least. The monitor supports HDR10 and includes the company’s “HDRi” branding, which seems to suggest it offers great HDR support. Yet BenQ makes no specific promises about HDR performance, aside from the fact it’s supported, and the monitor is not VESA DisplayHDR certified.
The EW3880R is a lackluster HDR display. It detects an HDR signal automatically and turns HDR mode on without issue. Once on, however, I measured a maximum HDR brightness of just 317 nits. That’s low: Most HDR displays can at least hit 400 nits. The lack of brightness, alongside the monitor’s modest contrast, makes for a dull HDR experience.
The BenQ EW3880R is a SDR monitor at heart, and I recommend leaving HDR off.
BenQ EW3880R: Motion clarity
I was a bit surprised to discover the BenQ EW3880R has a maximum refresh rate of just 60Hz. The EW3880R is sold as an entertainment display, not a gaming display—but what is gaming, if not entertainment?
The lack of an improved refresh rate has consequences for motion clarity. Fast objects are reasonably clear but small details become hard to pick up. Ghosting streaks often follow fast objects.
Overall performance isn’t awful, and typical of a 60Hz IPS monitor, but ditching support for high refresh rates feels like an obvious miss given the low price of entry-level 144Hz gaming monitors.
BenQ’s EW3880R is in a tough spot. It sticks to a conventional IPS display panel with an unsophisticated LED backlight despite competition with superior IPS Black, Mini-LED, or QD-OLED technology. I suspect this is a reality of manufacturing. I’ve yet to see any 38-inch ultrawide with cutting-edge panel technology, so I suspect suitable panels are not available in this size.
Still, it’s hard to recommend paying over $1,000 for a monitor with modest image quality. Most shoppers would be better off buying Alienware’s AW3423DW. It’s smaller, sure, but there’s an easy fix for that. Just move it a couple inches closer to your face.
Even when compared to 38-inch alternatives, however, the BenQ misses on a few details. These include HDR performance, USB-C Power Delivery wattage, and refresh rate. Alternatives like the LG38WN95-C and Alienware AW3821DW win in these areas, though at a typical price that’s $100 to $250 higher. If budget is a concern, the LG38WN75C-B seems a better choice, as it’s available under $900.
The EW3880R does have one clear advantage: audio quality. That’s a niche perk, though, and not enough to make BenQ’s big ultrawide a good choice.
Matthew S. Smith is a freelance technology journalist with 15 years of experience reviewing consumer electronics. In addition to PCWorld, his work can be found on Wired, Ars Technica, Digital Trends, Reviewed, IGN, and Lifewire. Matthew also covers AI and the metaverse for IEEE Spectrum and runs Computer Gaming Yesterday, a YouTube channel devoted to PC gaming history.