The Dell Alienware AW3821DW is a good overall monitor. It's Dell's only 38 inch option in their Alienware lineup, and it has a high 3840x1600 resolution to deliver an immersive gaming experience. It has native G-SYNC support and a 144Hz refresh rate. Despite the lack of a Black Frame Insertion feature, motion looks smooth thanks to its quick response time, and input lag is incredibly low. Sadly, it has an IPS panel with a low contrast ratio that makes blacks look gray. It has an edge-lit local dimming feature, but it performs terribly as it fails to improve the contrast, and can't be disabled when viewing HDR content. It's also limited to a 120Hz refresh rate with a 10-bit signal over a DisplayPort connection. On the plus side, it's very well-built, but its ergonomics are mediocre, which is a bit expected for such a large screen.
Note that this monitor is hard to find at major retailers at the time of writing; we purchased ours directly from Dell's website.
The Dell AW3821DW is very good for most uses. It has a 144Hz refresh rate and native G-SYNC support. Its response time is excellent and input lag is extremely low for gaming. It's good for productivity thanks to its 38 inch ultrawide screen and high resolution, allowing you to open multiple windows side-by-side. Even though it displays a wide color gamut for HDR content, it has a low contrast ratio and a terrible local dimming feature that you can't disable in HDR.
The Dell AW3821DW is very good for office use. It has a large screen with a high resolution, allowing you to open multiple windows side-by-side and see text clearly. Its ergonomics are mediocre, but that's somewhat expected for a curved screen of this size. It gets bright, but it only has okay reflection handling, so it may be best to avoid using it in a well-lit room.
The Dell AW3821DW is great for gaming. It has a high 144Hz refresh rate with native G-SYNC support. It has a very quick response time that results in smooth motion, and the input lag is incredibly low. Sadly, it's not good for dark room gaming due to its mediocre black uniformity and low contrast ratio that makes blacks appear gray.
The Dell AW3821DW is very good for consuming multimedia content. It has a large ultrawide screen with a high resolution that helps deliver crisp images. It has fairly wide viewing angles if you want to share your screen with a friend, but its ergonomics are mediocre. However, blacks look gray when viewed in the dark due to its low contrast ratio.
The Dell AW3821DW is great for content creators. It has a big 38 inch screen that offers enough space to open multiple windows side-by-side, and the high resolution delivers crisp images. Its ergonomics are mediocre, as you can't rotate it into portrait mode. Sadly, its low contrast ratio makes blacks look gray when viewed in the dark.
The Dell AW3821DW is decent for HDR gaming. It has a very low input lag and a quick response time. It has G-SYNC support and it can reach a 120Hz refresh rate with a 10-bit signal. Sadly, even though it displays a wide color gamut and has decent HDR peak brightness, its low contrast ratio and terrible local dimming make it less-than-ideal for viewing HDR content in the dark.
The Dell AW3821DW looks like most monitors in Dell's Alienware lineup with a gamer-oriented design. It has a white body with black accents throughout, and there's RGB lighting on the stand. It's mostly made out of solid plastic and feels very well-built. It also has a subtle curve to make it easier to see the edges of the screen.
The stand supports the screen very well, especially for a monitor of this size. There isn't much wobble, and you can slightly rotate the screen to make sure it's leveled. Also, the wide-set feet allow you to place things in front.
The Dell AW3821DW's ergonomics are mediocre. It allows for some adjustments, but since it's a large screen, you can't place it in portrait mode. The screen rotates a bit so you can make sure it's leveled.
The back of the Dell AW3821DW looks like most Alienware models with a white back panel and black accents. It also has RGB lighting on the stand and the branding on the back panel. There's cable management through the stand.
The borders are fairly thin and shouldn't be distracting if you use it in a multi-monitor setup.
The Dell AW3821DW's screen itself is thick due to the curved screen, and it gets much thicker with the stand attached. You need a deep desk to place it on if you still want space in front for your keyboard and mouse.
The Dell AW3821DW has excellent build quality. It's capped entirely with solid plastic, and each component feels well-made. The panels fit well together, and there aren't any obvious gaps in construction. The entire monitor feels heavy and sturdy, and the stand supports it very well.
The Dell AW3821DW has a disappointing native contrast ratio. Blacks appear gray when viewed in the dark, which is expected from an IPS panel. It's lower than the advertised 1000:1 contrast, but this may vary between units. It has a local dimming feature, but it actually makes the contrast worse in our test patterns because all the lighting zones remain on.
The Dell AW3821DW has a terrible edge-lit local dimming feature. It's enabled automatically with HDR content, and you can't disable it. It doesn't help improve the already-low contrast ratio, and blacks still appear gray when viewed in the dark. It raises the black level and doesn't crush any bright highlights. There are only a handful of vertical lighting zones, so an entire zone lights up when there's a small light source, which can get distracting in dark scenes. The local dimming also causes uniformity issues, especially when only a few zones are lit. The zones are on when there are subtitles, which may be distracting in dark scenes, but it's not as visible with most content. Fast-moving objects transition between zones quickly, but it's noticeable when each zone turns on and motion looks jarring. Although the zones turn on quickly, they're slow to turn off.
We tested the local dimming, which is called Variable Backlight, in 'Mode 1' because it has the quickest zone transitions and gets the brightest. 'Mode 0' results in a better contrast ratio and deeper blacks, but the zone transitions are more noticeable. On the other hand, 'Mode 2' looks similar to 'Mode 1', except the black level is raised even more. You can see the differences between each mode below:
The Dell AW3821DW has impressive SDR peak brightness. It gets bright enough to combat glare in most well-lit environments. It also maintains its brightness consistent across different content; small highlights are a bit dimmer, but most people won't notice any difference.
We tested the SDR peak brightness after calibration in the 'Custom Color' Picture Mode with Variable Backlight set to 'Mode 1'.
The Dell AW3821DW has decent HDR peak brightness. It gets bright enough to make small highlights stand out in HDR content. However, it quickly loses its brightness the longer a bright object stays on the screen, and the screen is dimmer when large areas are lit.
We tested HDR peak brightness in the 'Gamer 1' Picture Mode with Smart HDR enabled and Variable Backlight set to 'Mode 1'.
The Dell AW3821DW has a decent horizontal wide viewing angle, which is normal for an IPS panel. Colors remain accurate when viewing from the side, but you may notice that blacks look even grayer.
The Dell AW3821DW's vertical viewing angle is decent. The image remains fairly accurate even if you mount it above eye-level.
The Dell AW3821DW has amazing gray uniformity. The top and bottom edges of the screen are only slightly darker, and there's no dirty screen effect in the center. Uniformity is improved in near-dark scenes as well. Note that uniformity may vary between units.
Black uniformity is mediocre, but this may vary between units. Without local dimming, the entire screen looks gray, but there isn't that much clouding or backlight bleed throughout. However, the local dimming feature actually makes uniformity worse because there's more blooming around the center cross as the zones light up.
The out-of-the-box accuracy is decent, but this may vary between units. Most colors and white balance are a bit inaccurate, which still may be a bit hard to notice. Gamma follows the target curve fairly well, but most scenes are a bit darker than they should be. Sadly, the color temperature is colder than the 65000K target, giving the image a blue tint.
The Dell AW3821DW's accuracy after calibration is simply remarkable. Any remaining color inaccuracies can't be spotted by the human eye, and the color temperature is extremely close to the 6500K target. Gamma still follows the target well, except some really dark and really bright scenes are over-brightened now.
You can download our ICC profile calibration here. This is provided for reference only and shouldn't be used, as the calibration values vary per individual unit even for the same model due to manufacturing tolerances.
The SDR color gamut is outstanding. It has perfect coverage of the sRGB color space used in most content, and photo editors should be pleased with the excellent Adobe RGB coverage.
The Dell AW3821DW has a remarkable SDR color volume. It displays bright colors well thanks to its high peak brightness. However, it struggles with dark colors due to the low contrast ratio.
The Dell AW3821DW has a very good HDR color gamut, and it's considered a wide color gamut. It has excellent coverage of the DCI P3 color space and decent coverage of the wider Rec. 2020.
Note that the DCI P3 coverage is lower than the advertised 95%. This is normal and is due to the way we measure DCI P3. We measure DCI P3 by sending a Rec. 2020 signal, but unlike most reviewers, we limit the colors to the DCI P3 primaries. This results in a lower, but arguably more accurate measurement.
The Dell AW3821DW's HDR color volume is great. It displays most colors at a wide range of luminance levels. However, it struggles with really dark and really bright colors due to the low contrast and only decent HDR peak brightness.
There are no signs of temporary image retention after displaying a high-contrast static image. Note that this may vary between units.
The Dell AW3821DW's gradient handling is exceptional. You shouldn't notice any signs of banding in real content. Note that you can only achieve a max refresh rate of 120Hz over DisplayPort and 60Hz over HDMI with a 10-bit signal.
There aren't any signs of color bleed on the Dell AW3821DW.
The Dell AW3821DW has okay reflection handling. It performs well in most dim or fairly-lit rooms, but the reflections may become too distracting if there's a direct light source on it.
The text clarity is good. Enabling ClearType (top photo) improves the appearance of diagonal lines, like on R, N, G, and S, but straight lines aren't as bold, as seen on the letters T and I.
|Overdrive Setting||Response Time Chart||Response Time Tables||Motion Blur Photo|
The response time at its max refresh rate of 144Hz is excellent, and motion looks extremely smooth. The recommended overdrive setting is 'Fast' because it has the fastest total response time and the least amount of overshoot. There's visible ghosting with the 'Super Fast' and 'Extreme' settings. If you want a monitor with a better response time, check out the LG 38GN950-B.
|Overdrive Setting||Response Time Chart||Response Time Tables||Motion Blur Photo|
The Dell AW3821DW has an impressive response time at 60Hz. Motion remains smooth, and there's less overshoot than at its max refresh rate. Once again, the recommended overdrive setting is 'Fast', so you don't have to worry about changing the setting if the frame rate of your game drops. There's significant overshoot and ghosting with the other settings.
The Dell AW3821DW has a flicker-free backlight, which helps reduce eye strain.
The Dell AW3821DW doesn't have a Black Frame Insertion feature to clear up motion blur.
The Dell AW3821DW has an outstanding native 144hz refresh rate. It has native G-SYNC support and you can achieve its full refresh rate range only over a DisplayPort connection. It's also FreeSync compatible, but only over a DisplayPort connection. G-SYNC works between 20-85Hz over HDMI.
Note that Dell Canada's website advertises a 120Hz max refresh rate over HDMI, while Dell USA's website doesn't make any mention of the max refresh rate over HDMI. However, we were able to reach a max of 85Hz at its native resolution over HDMI, and the only way to increase the refresh rate to 120Hz is by lowering the resolution.