The Samsung CHG90, or the LC49HG90DMNXZA to give it its full and proper title, is by far the most ludicrous monitor I’ve ever seen. Measuring a whopping 49in across its fancy curved diagonal, this ultra-super-stupidly-wide 32:9, 3840×1080, 144Hz, HDR (let me catch my breath for a second) FreeSync 2 VA display is proper bonkers. And I sort of kind of love it.
I’ve always been fond of ultra-wide monitors and I use one every day for work. They’re so convenient, being able to have two windows side by side without feeling like they’re being squished in at the sides. Just lovely. It also means I’ve got a bit more wiggle room to shift browser tabs around if one of my cats decides to plonk themselves in front of it so they can stare longingly at my mouse cursor.
But whereas my ultrawide monitor is an old 21:9, 2560×1080 model, giving me a bit more room than your typical 27in monitor, the CHG90 is essentially two 27in 1920×1080 monitors in one, providing enough screen real estate to have three full windows open side-by-side and still have room to spare. Just think of the spreadsheet possibilities! Of course, it also means you can game in super-duper widescreen without any nasty black bezels getting in the way.
And let me tell you, this isn’t any ordinary kind of widescreen gaming. Throw in a 144Hz refresh rate, high dynamic range (HDR) support for brighter whites, darker blacks and more vivid colours, plus FreeSync 2 for AMD graphics cards, and this is about as fully-featured a monitor as you’re going to get in this day and age. The only downside is the price, as you’ll need to be prepared to spend north of £1075 / $1100 for the privilege. Excuse me while I sit down for a moment.
In many ways, it’s not surprising that such a ludicrous endeavour commands this kind of money. No one else apart from Samsung are making such mad screen sizes, let alone curved ones, and its seemingly hundreds of extra features only add to the overall cost. In fact, when you look at it next to the rest of today’s best gaming monitors, it seems like a relative bargain, as the only other HDR one you can actually buy right now is BenQ’s SW320, which costs upwards of £1300 / $1500, and some of the best and biggest non-HDR monitors like Acer’s XR382CQK still go for around £800 / $820. In this light, another £200 / $300 for HDR, a higher refresh rate and FreeSync 2 rather than regular old FreeSync seems, on paper, not that bad.
But is the CHG90 actually any good? I must admit, I was skeptical when I first saw it only had a 3840×1080 resolution. Spread across a monitor this wide, the CHG90 is right on the very edge of what I’d consider an acceptable pixel density, coming in at 81.4 pixels-per-inch. That’s basically the same as a standard 16:9, 27in 1920×1080 monitor, which is also borderline in my books, and I would never usually recommend someone buy a 27in 1080p monitor unless they were on a budget. At that size, you really want the crisp reassurance of a 2560×1440 resolution, so to spend this amount of money on something that isn’t actually that sharp in the flesh remains one of my biggest rankles with it.
Admittedly, it doesn’t help that the CHG90’s preposterously deep stand insists on shoving all those pixels right up in your eyeball grill. Measuring 381mm deep, it often means you’re only sitting around 2ft or half a metre away from it, making it much easier to spot those ever so slightly jagged text edges than if it was further back against the wall.
I should also point out that the stand is almost as stupidly wide as the monitor itself, coming in at around 820mm with rough ruler measurements, and there wasn’t actually enough room on my desk for both it and my mouse mat in the end. Luckily, the particular mouse mat I’ve got at the moment is a rigid RGB job, so it just stuck out over the side. Needless to say, though, you’re going to need a pretty big work space to accommodate it.
The thing is, though, while its pixel density might not look great for daily computing tasks, it’s much less noticeable when playing games. Far Cry 5 at 3840×1080 looks pretty damn stunning, if I do say so myself, and playing Final Fantasy XV at this resolution makes the whole ‘best boy’ argument null and void, because none of them can compete with the monitor itself. It certainly beats the faff of trying to set up three monitors individually for widescreen gaming, and the CHG90’s 1800mm curvature radius really does feel like it wraps around your vision at this length, providing a far more immersive experience than any other curved 21:9 monitor I’ve used thus far.
Its picture quality impresses as well. Utilizing the same ‘Quantum Dot’ technology as Samsung’s high-end TVs, this VA panel delivers bright, vivid colours that only get better once you enable HDR. In truth, Windows 10 still hasn’t got its act together on how to display HDR properly on your desktop yet, as everything just becomes an instant dull mess. As a result, I did all my accuracy testing with HDR turned off, as this was the only way to get a proper idea of what it’s like.
Admittedly, on the CHG90’s default Custom picture mode, my i1 Display Pro calibrator showed it wasn’t quite as accurate as other curved VA panels I’ve tested in the past such as the Acer Predator Z35p or Philips 349X7FJEW, but its 95.7% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut is certainly nothing to sniff at.
Indeed, the CHG90 had a higher contrast ratio than either of those two monitors, coming in at 2686:1 as opposed to something nearer 2000:1. Its black levels were also significantly lower, hitting a pleasing 0.08cd/m2 (the closer to 0.00cd/m2, the better). This meant dark patches of shadow looked convincingly black and inky, and the transition back to light was full of lots of lovely, juicy detail.
There are plenty of other picture options to choose from on the CHG90, including a High Brightness mode, sRGB, Cinema and a whole host of game genres such as FPS, RTS, RPG and the ambiguous AOS (which I can only assume refers to Aeons of Strife, or MOBAs in general, because I have no idea what else it could possibly mean). Most of these, however, don’t give you as much flexibility as Custom, so I stuck with this one throughout my testing.
Continuing my calibration journey, the CHG90’s peak brightness was a perfectly decent 240-odd cd/m2 on Custom with HDR turned off, which is more than enough for office work and gaming alike, but if you really need an extra boost, High Brightness will take it up to just over 300cd/m2.
Of course, alarm bells may be ringing for HDR aficionados at this point, as high-end tellies must be able to do at least 1000cd/m2 to qualify for that coveted ‘Ultra HD Premium badge’. I’d also imagine that the majority of cheaper 4K HDR TVs are doing more than 300cd/m2 as well, even though HDR (and by extension brightness requirements) isn’t technically a requirement to get the next standard down, which is Ultra HD Certified.
On the face of it, it’s exactly the same problem I had with BenQ’s entry-level 4K HDR monitor, the EL2780U, whose max brightness of 280cd/m2 just didn’t create a big enough impact for good-looking HDR. That, at least, had the excuse of only costing around £329 / $500, but fortunately the Samsung CHG90 has two handy tricks up its sleeve: local dimming and FreeSync 2.
Local dimming is the fancy way of saying a display has multiple, individually controlled backlight zones, but you’d normally only encounter something like this in a top-end TV. The more local dimming zones a display has, the more capable it is of making bright sections bright (and dark sections dark) without interfering with the rest of the image, and this really comes into its own when you turn on HDR and the CHG90’s FreeSync 2 support (or rather the confusingly named FreeSync Ultimate Engine in its onboard menu).
To quickly recap, ordinary FreeSync is AMD’s adaptive frame rate technology, which matches the refresh rate of your monitor to the number of frames being spat out by your compatible AMD graphics card, helping to eliminate tearing and stutter and keeping things super smooth if it happened to be struggling a bit.
FreeSync 2, meanwhile, throws AMD’s own interpretation of HDR into the mix as well, requiring displays to hit certain image quality requirements (wider colour gamuts, low latency and dynamic refresh rates) before they can earn that extra ‘2’. On the one hand, this muddies the waters of HDR standards even further, which were already pretty murky to begin with as manufacturers still can’t decide on whether to go all in on HDR 10 or Dolby Vision, and that’s before you start considering those aforementioned UHD certifications and the fact Nvidia’s doing a similar thing with its own G-Sync technology as well.
On the other hand, it just kinda works. And it’s arguably one of the best and convincing bits of HDR I’ve ever seen outside of TVs.
In the opening of Far Cry 5, for example, the glowing dials and control panels of your helicopter are suddenly transformed into bright bursts of light with HDR, local dimming and FreeSync 2 turned on, piercing the night time gloom with such a vibrant intensity that it almost matched the experience of watching it on my OLED TV.
When the game shifts to daylight, I could also see a smidge further into the bright sunshine than I could with HDR turned off, and the very brightest spots hit an impressive 500cd/m2 when I stuck my calibrator on them. The difference in colour vibrancy wasn’t as noticeable, all told, but the whole HDR effect definitely made more of an impact than the BenQ EL2870U.
Turn FreeSync 2 off (either altogether or by switching to the ‘Standard Engine’ in the onboard menu, which is essentially just ordinary FreeSync support), and those white spots max out at just over 300cd/m2, lessening the wow-factor and not really delivering the kind of amazo-image quality you’d expect from a grand’s worth of monitor.
It goes without saying, of course, that you’ll need a FreeSync-compatible graphics card to take advantage of this, but the extensive list of supported components on AMD’s website means you should be well-catered for if you bought a graphics card in the last four years or so.
The Samsung CHG90 doesn’t stop there either in terms of features. In its wonderfully intuitive onboard menu, you’ll also find a black equaliser that adjusts the brightness of dark areas, and you can also adjust the monitor’s response time. Adjusting the latter will affect on the monitor’s overall image quality, but it’s nice to have the option. Ditto for being able to turn on a low input lag option, which is meant to help minimise any potential input lag by reducing the time spent processing the video signal so you can react faster to what’s happening onscreen.
You can also save up to three gaming profiles and map them to the buttons next to the main navigation stick, giving you plenty of flexibility when playing different types of games. I also really like how the main UI gives you a potted summary of all the key gaming features right at the top, giving you a nice overview of what’s what before you dive into the main bulk of the settings.
You’re well-catered for in the ports department, too, as you get two HDMI inputs, one DisplayPort, one miniDisplayPort, separate headphone and microphone jacks plus a two-port USB3 hub, one of which can charge your phone as well. Throw in an low blue light filter for reducing eye strain and a height-adjustable stand with built-in tilt and swivel, and I don’t think I could ask for anything more.
There’s no getting round that this thing costs an absolute fortune, but there’s also no denying the Samsung CHG90 is a lovely, lovely monitor that delivers on almost every front imaginable. The resolution may be a sticking point for some, but give me the option of playing Final Fantasy XV in stupid widescreen with no bezels at 144fps with the best HDR I’ve ever seen on a monitor and it makes an extremely convincing and compelling argument.