With near perfect timing in relation to Apple’s big MacBook Air and Mac mini refresh, the LG UltraWide 34WK95U display (on sale for $1399 at B&H) landed in the office last week. Should you consider this highly anticipated end-of-year hardware release? Watch our LG 5K UltraWide review for the details.
Note: Please be aware that there appears to be a compatibility issue with the 2018 MacBook Pro with the 560X GPU. This may be a temporary deal-breaker for 15-inch 2018 MacBook Pro owners until this problem is resolved. There is a report on LG’s website that says the latest macOS 10.14.2 beta resolves the issue. We have reached out to LG for comment and will update this post with any response.
LG’s UltraWide 5K display was revealed during the beginning of 2018 at CES, and I’ve been watching for its release like a hawk. This Thunderbolt 3-enabled display measures 34-inches diagonal, features a wide 21:9 aspect ratio, and has a native resolution of 5120-by-2160. On paper it sounds like a compelling companion display for the MacBook Pro, Mac mini, or MacBook Air.
LG 5K UltraWide Specifications
- Nano IPS (In-Plane Switching) Panel
- Thunderbolt 3 Interface
- Power output: 85W
- 5120 x 2160 Resolution
- 21:9 Aspect Ratio
- 60Hz Refresh Rate
- Brightness: 450 (Typ), 360 (min) cd/m2
- Support for VESA HDR 600
- DCI-P3 98%
- Color depth: 10bits (8bit+A-FRC)
- Contrast ratio: 1200:1
- Viewing angle: 178/178 (CR≥10)
- Response time: 5ms
- 2 x HDMI
- 1 x DisplayPort
- HDCP: Yes (2.2)
- DisplayPort connectivity
- 2 x USB 3.0
- USB B-to-A
- 3.5mm headphone input
- Speakers: 5W x 2
- Thunderbolt 3 cable included
- Slim bezel design on all four sides
- Stand tilt (angle): -5~15 Degree
- Stand height: 110mm
- VESA mount compatible
- Dimensions (with stand) 32.2″ x 22.0″ (up)/17.7″ (down) x 9.2″
- Weight (with stand) 19.4 lbs
- Curved stand
- Price: $1499.99
More like 4.5K…
The LG UltraWide 5K display is not a true 5K display, in that it only features 5K resolution (5,120 lines) on the horizontal x-axis. On the y-axis, it features 2,160 lines of vertical resolution, which is more akin to that of a UHD 4K display.
With this in mind, the LG UltraWide is more like a 4.5K display than a true 5K monitor. It features the vertical resolution of 4K, combined with the horizontal resolution of 5K. To illustrate this, take a look at the following GIF animation:
What conclusions can we draw from this comparison? If you currently use a 4K display, then the LG 34WK95U is a significant upgrade in horizontal resolution, making it particularly appealing for apps featuring horizontal timelines like Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro. If you’re used to a traditional 5K display — such as the 5K iMac or LG UltraFine 5K Display (hands-on) — the LG 34WK95U is actually a downgrade in usable resolution; it has less vertical real estate.
It’s interesting, because LG used to market this display as a “5K” display, but in updated marketing material it notes that it’s a “5K2K” display. I guess LG realized that its customers would quickly learn that this display provides less resolution than a typical 5120×2880 display. With this in mind, we’ll refer to the display as a 5K2K display from here on out.
The amount of real estate displayed on 4K monitors
Naturally, a 21:9 display is a completely different animal than the typical 16:10 or 16:9 display, as found on traditional monitors. With this in mind, LG’s 5K2K UltraWide won’t be for everyone, but for those coming from a 4K or lesser-resolution display that are specifically after a wide-screen experience, LG’s hardware largely delivers.
LG’s UltraWide 5K2K Display delivers substantially more horizontal resolution
What strikes me the most about this display is that it features enough pixel real estate to support pixel-doubling, lending users an effective wide-screen default “Retina” resolution of 2560 x 1080. For timeline-heavy apps, that’s just enough vertical resolution to get things done and be comfortable to the eyes. I’d never dream of running this, or any other 4K or 5K monitor at native resolution, as on-screen assets and text are mind-numbingly-small when doing so.
One of the buzzwords surrounding the launch of the 34WK95U is Nano IPS, a new in-plane switching LCD technology developed by LG. While LG doesn’t go deep into the specifics of Nano IPS, it does note that the technology results in enhanced color for consumer displays. In fact, the 34WK95U features 98% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space, resulting in enhanced wide color support.
The LG 5K2K UltraWide passes the WebKit Display P3 wide color test
Launched back in 2017 with the release of the 32UK950 32-inch UHD 4K display, this isn’t the first outing for Nano IPS. LG notes that Nano IPS involves an application of nanometer-sized particles to the screen’s LED to absorb excess light wavelengths. The result, according to LG, is greater intensity and purity for on screen colors. It also results in its display donning VESA-certified DisplayHDR 600 compliant badge for enhanced High Dynamic Range support.
The LG34WK95U is not as bright as the display found in the 5K iMac, but holds its own at 450 nits max brightness. The unit includes an ambient light sensor on top of the display housing (because of the tiny bezels) for auto brightness, which can be toggled in the settings.
Ambient light sensor location
The display panel isn’t glossy like the 5K iMac, which helps reject reflections and ambient light, but I feel like its anti-reflective properties should be stronger. With my pancake studio lights positioned several feet behind the display, I found myself needing to crank up the brightness quite a bit, which could be a side effect of the oddly placed ambient light sensor.
Viewing angles, as you should expect from an IPS panel, are good. As long as the display’s backlight is cranking out enough lumens to offset ambient light, off-axis viewing yields legible on screen assets.
The 34WK95U features a 1200:1 contrast ratio, and for this untrained eye, black levels seem good. With a backlit IPS display this wide, I wasn’t surprised to see backlight bleed on the far edges of the display when in dark environments.
Although LG doesn’t go into much detail, its UltraWide display supports local dimming with various zones around the panel. Using a simple local dimming test on YouTube, I could make out a noted difference in black levels with local dimming active versus it being inactive.
A simple test confirms that LG’s display has several local dimming zones
Plenty of inputs and power delivery
LG’s 34-inch UltraWide features both DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI inputs, but this monitor was designed with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity in mind. As such, you’ll want to take advantage of the simple connectivity afforded by modern Macs with Thunderbolt 3 in tow. As it stands now, LG’s 34WK95U will work with the following Mac computers via Thunderbolt 3:
- 2016 MacBook Pro
- 2017 MacBook Pro
- 2017 5K iMac
- 2017 iMac Pro
- 2018 MacBook Pro (review) (see disclaimer at outset of article about 15-inch 2018 models)
- 2018 MacBook Air (review)
- 2018 Mac mini (review)
For laptops like the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, the display’s power delivery via the Thunderbolt 3 cable is another advantage to consider. It provides up to 85 watts of power, enough to recharge a 15-inch specced-out MacBook Pro at full speed.
Full power delivery via Thunderbolt 3
That’s not to say that LG’s new display won’t work with other computers, because it will. You can still leverage the DisplayPort or HDMI inputs for devices lacking Thunderbolt 3 ports.
LG’s 5K2K display offers a variety of I/O
You can take advantage of the display’s native resolution by utilizing DisplayPort 1.2 or higher. HDMI 2.0 connections, however, are capped at a 4K resolution of 3840×2160, with unsightly pillar-boxing on both sides of the picture. The default resolution for HDMI 2.0 connections is 3440×1440, which fills the entire display, but is an obvious downgrade on display sharpness.
Needless to say, it’s telling that LG doesn’t include an HDMI cable in the box. You’ll want to stick with Thunderbolt 3 if at all possible, or if you’re utilizing an eGPU without Thunderbolt 3 passthrough, such as the Razer Core X (review) you’ll want to use DisplayPort.
LG includes a white 2-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable
Along with the single DisplayPort and dual HDMI ports, there’s a USB-B 3.0 uplink port, and a pair of USB-A 3.0 ports — both of which are accessible via Thunderbolt 3. If you’re not using Thunderbolt 3, the 34WK95U can still be used as a USB hub if you connect to your Mac via the USB-B uplink port.
There’s also a white DisplayPort cable included
If you need even more I/O, you’d be better off connecting your Mac directly to something like CalDigit’s TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 Dock (review) in a daisy-chain setup. By using a Thunderbolt 3 Dock, you get plenty of extra I/O, while still getting to enjoy the simplicity of single cable connectivity and power delivery.
The last piece of I/O that you’ll find on the rear of the display is a 3.5-mm headphone jack, which allows you to listen to music routed through the display via HDMI or DisplayPort. Initially, I wasn’t able to output music through the display’s speakers or 3.5-mm headphone jack via the Thunderbolt 3 connection. After a few restarts, audio output began working via Thunderbolt 3 like it should.
Unboxing and set up
Set up can be accomplished in just a few short minutes thanks to the quick-attach mount plate on the rear of the display. Simply connect the stand to the arm via its built-in thumb screw, and lock the arm into place using the quick mount plate.
LG supplies a white 2-meter-long Thunderbolt 3 cable that’s used to connect the display to your Mac of choice. The obvious candidates — MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini — all work well, but it can also connect to the iMac or iMac Pro via Thunderbolt 3.
The power cable for the display, is just that — a cable. In other words, there’s no obnoxious power brick to contend with. And the cable is long enough to accommodate most reasonable setup scenarios.
The 34WK95U rests atop a metal stand that features a curved design, but the display itself is flat. For a pro-oriented product, I’m happy that LG stuck with a flat panel, as curved screens introduce subtle amounts of distortion.
One of the most important attributes of any good display is adjustability; the more adjustments that the user can make, the better. The 34WK95U isn’t the most versatile display when it comes to adjustments, but it has enough to make most users happy.
The arm pivots up and down to change viewing height, up to 110 mm, and there’s also -5~15 degrees of tilt. There’s no rotation for the display, which would be nearly impossible anyway given its wide-screen form factor, but there are a few degrees of play to make sure that the display is aligned parallel to its resting surface.
For those not satisfied with the stand’s adjustment ability, the 34WK95U includes VESA mounting holes behind the stand panel for mounting on a third-party monitor arm, stand, or wall mount.
It should come as no surprise that LG’s display is inferior to the build quality of the discontinued Apple Thunderbolt Display, and the 5K iMac. As is the case with nearly all third-party displays, the unit is comprised primarily of plastic.
The base is metal, but the arm and everything else is plastic
Even the arm that holds the display on the stand is made out of plastic that’s painted to look as if its metal. The only metal component contained in the package is the base stand, which needs the weight that metal provides to prevent it from toppling over.
I wish display makers put more effort into fleshing out build quality, but it’s hard to knock LG for making a plastic monitor when nearly everyone else is doing it.
It’s mostly plastic, albeit high quality plastic
Like most displays that can be raised, the LG display gets more wobbly the higher you go. For the best stability, you’ll want to keep the display as close to its base as possible. At its highest, mere keyboard strokes can cause the display to move subtly, but this phenomenon is mostly eliminated at lower heights.
I appreciate the tiny bezels of the LG 5K2K UltraWide, which really make the wide-screen display pop. The unit employs a design that’s similar to the edge to edge glass design found on the MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, the design on the LG34WK95U isn’t as clean, as you can see where the bezel areas meet in the corners of the display. It’s a small detail that you really have to look for, but I have to be honest and say it looks low-budget.
Notice the line where the bezels meet
Adjusting display settings
All display settings are controlled via the clickable four-way joystick nub on the bottom-center area of the display. LG’s OSD is relatively intuitive and easy to use. Moving around the on-screen interface is performed with the four-way joystick, while a click of the joystick confirms your selections.
You can quickly adjust speaker volume by clicking left or right on the joystick. Clicking forward on the joystick while volume controls are displayed toggles mute. Like most displays with built-in speakers, the 34WK95U’s dual 5W speakers are just okay enough to get by, but you’ll definitely want to opt for headphones or a dedicated standalone speaker option.
Clicking in on the joystick brings up the quick menu, which allows you to jump directly to key areas, such as input, picture mode, settings, and power off.
Selecting settings brings up the full swath of monitor preferences, which include things like local dimming, auto brightness, PBP, DisplayPort version, and more.
Unfortunately, as mentioned at the outset, there looks to be known compatibility issues with the 15-inch 2018 MacBook Pro, which I’ve heard that LG is working on addressing. I don’t own a 2018 MacBook Pro, so I haven’t been able to see these issues for myself. All of my other Macs — a 2017 MacBook Pro, 2017 iMac Pro, 2018 MacBook Air, and 2018 Mac mini — all play nice with the LG UltraWide when connecting via Thunderbolt 3 with DisplayPort 1.2 enabled.
If you regularly work on content that benefits from a wide display area, and you currently use a monitor with 4K resolution or below, then the LG UltraWide 34WK95U is a significant workspace upgrade. Having the extra horizontal real estate can go a long way towards improving your productivity, and the overall feeling of working in apps like Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro, and Logic Pro X is enhanced.
Coming from a 4K display, the 34WK95U is an upgrade
This display really shows its utility when connected to a Thunderbolt 3-enabled Mac, particularly a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, as it can charge those machines along with working as a primary or secondary display. It’s not so useful when connected to HDMI sources, but DisplayPort is an okay secondary option that yields full resolution output if need be.
Thunderbolt 3 is the preferred connectivity method
It’s annoying that third-party display makers continue to produce products that are comprised mostly of plastic, especially at this price, but until consumers vote with their wallets, I don’t see this trend changing.
Almost everything…is plastic
With its 21:9 aspect ratio, the LG UltraWide 34WK95U is for people who work with content that’s enhanced by a wider field of view. If that’s not you, you’d be better off sticking with a display with a 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio.
But if you’re a creative professional who knows what you’re getting yourself into, this display is a significant real estate upgrade from 4K. Just make sure you understand that this is really a 4.5K display, and it doesn’t offer any resolution advantages over a true 5K display like the one found in the 5K iMac or iMac Pro.
As long as you know this monitor’s practical limitations, and can take advantage of its strengths, it’s a worthwhile investment that can enhance your productivity if properly wielded.
You can find the LG 5K2K UltraWide on sale at B&H for $1399. What are your thoughts on this display? Would you consider adding it to your desktop setup, and if so, which Mac do you plan on pairing it with? Sound off down below in the comments.
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