Dell Alienware AW3821DW Monitor Review

Tested using Methodology v1.1
Reviewed Feb 03, 2021 at 10:21 am
Dell Alienware AW3821DW Picture
7.9
Mixed Usage
7.9
Office
8.2
Gaming
7.9
Multimedia
8.0
Media Creation
7.3
HDR Gaming
Size 38"
Resolution 3840x1600
Max Refresh Rate
144 Hz
Pixel Type
IPS
Variable Refresh Rate
G-SYNC

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.

Our Verdict

7.9 Mixed Usage

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.

Pros
  • High 3840x1600 resolution.
  • 144Hz native refresh rate and native G-SYNC support.
  • Excellent response time.
  • Large screen delivers immersive gaming experience.
Cons
  • Reflection handling is just okay.
  • Low contrast ratio.
  • Terrible local dimming feature that can't be disabled when in HDR.
7.9 Office

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.

Pros
  • Large 38 inch screen.
  • High 3840x1600 resolution.
  • Impressive SDR peak brightness.
Cons
  • Reflection handling is just okay.
  • Mediocre ergonomics.
8.2 Gaming

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.

Pros
  • 144Hz native refresh rate and native G-SYNC support.
  • Incredibly low input lag.
  • Excellent response time.
  • Large screen delivers immersive gaming experience.
Cons
  • No Black Frame Insertion feature.
  • Low contrast ratio.
7.9 Multimedia

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.

Pros
  • Large 38 inch screen.
  • High 3840x1600 resolution.
  • Fairly wide viewing angles.
Cons
  • Reflection handling is just okay.
  • Low contrast ratio.
8.0 Media Creation

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.

Pros
  • Large 38 inch screen.
  • High 3840x1600 resolution.
  • Incredibly low input lag.
Cons
  • Reflection handling is just okay.
  • Mediocre ergonomics.
7.3 HDR Gaming

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.

Pros
  • Incredibly low input lag.
  • Excellent response time.
  • Large screen delivers immersive gaming experience.
Cons
  • Low contrast ratio.
  • Terrible local dimming feature that can't be disabled when in HDR.
  • Limited to 120Hz over 10-bit signal.
  • 7.9 Mixed Usage
  • 7.9 Office
  • 8.2 Gaming
  • 7.9 Multimedia
  • 8.0 Media Creation
  • 7.3 HDR Gaming

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
Curved Yes
Curve Radius 2300R
Weight (without stand)
17.6 lbs (8.0 kg)
Weight (with stand)
25.4 lbs (11.5 kg)

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.

Design
Stand
Width
23.6" (60.0 cm)
Depth
11.8" (30.0 cm)

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.

6.2
Design
Ergonomics
Height Adjustment
5.1" (13.0 cm)
Switch Portrait/Landscape No
Swivel Range -20° to 20°
Tilt Range -21° to 5°

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.

Design
Back
Wall Mount VESA 100x100

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.

Design
Borders
Borders
0.4" (1.1 cm)

The borders are fairly thin and shouldn't be distracting if you use it in a multi-monitor setup.

Design
Thickness
Thickness (with stand)
11.2" (28.5 cm)
Thickness (without stand)
5.1" (13.0 cm)

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.

8.5
Design
Build Quality

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.

Picture Quality
5.8
Picture Quality
Contrast
Native Contrast
883 : 1
Contrast With Local Dimming
870 : 1

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.

2.5
Picture Quality
Local Dimming
Local Dimming
Yes
Backlight
Edge

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:

8.4
Picture Quality
SDR Peak Brightness
SDR Real Scene
479 cd/m²
SDR Peak 2% Window
483 cd/m²
SDR Peak 10% Window
492 cd/m²
SDR Peak 25% Window
494 cd/m²
SDR Peak 50% Window
495 cd/m²
SDR Peak 100% Window
495 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 2% Window
483 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 10% Window
492 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 25% Window
493 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 50% Window
495 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 100% Window
495 cd/m²
SDR ABL
0.001

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'.

7.4
Picture Quality
HDR Peak Brightness
HDR Real Scene
496 cd/m²
HDR Peak 2% Window
591 cd/m²
HDR Peak 10% Window
660 cd/m²
HDR Peak 25% Window
663 cd/m²
HDR Peak 50% Window
549 cd/m²
HDR Peak 100% Window
481 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 2% Window
476 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 10% Window
528 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 25% Window
536 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 50% Window
535 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 100% Window
468 cd/m²
HDR ABL
0.010

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'.

7.0
Picture Quality
Horizontal Viewing Angle
Color Washout From Left
41 °
Color Washout From Right
41 °
Color Shift From Left
54 °
Color Shift From Right
55 °
Brightness Loss From Left
46 °
Brightness Loss From Right
47 °
Black Level Raise From Left
25 °
Black Level Raise From Right
22 °
Gamma Shift From Left
36 °
Gamma Shift From Right
32 °

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.

7.0
Picture Quality
Vertical Viewing Angle
Color Washout From Below
34 °
Color Washout From Above
30 °
Color Shift From Below
40 °
Color Shift From Above
32 °
Brightness Loss From Below
37 °
Brightness Loss From Above
32 °
Black Level Raise From Below
70 °
Black Level Raise From Above
70 °
Gamma Shift From Below
39 °
Gamma Shift From Above
32 °

The Dell AW3821DW's vertical viewing angle is decent. The image remains fairly accurate even if you mount it above eye-level.

8.9
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
2.416 %
50% DSE
0.091 %
5% Std. Dev.
0.323 %
5% DSE
0.047 %

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.

6.3
Picture Quality
Black Uniformity
Native Std. Dev.
1.105 %
Std. Dev. w/ L.D.
5.372 %

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.

7.2
Picture Quality
Pre Calibration
Picture Mode
Game 1
Luminance
501 cd/m²
Luminance Settings
100
Contrast Setting
75
RGB Controls
100-100-100
Gamma Setting
No Gamma Setting
Color Temperature
7062 K
White Balance dE
3.18
Color dE
3.38
Gamma
2.23

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.

9.7
Picture Quality
Post Calibration
Picture Mode
Custom Color
Luminance
99 cd/m²
Luminance Settings
15
Contrast Setting
75
RGB Controls
100-100-92
Gamma Setting
No Gamma Setting
Color Temperature
6528 K
White Balance dE
0.49
Color dE
0.33
Gamma
2.18

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.

9.3
Picture Quality
SDR Color Gamut
sRGB xy
99.7 %
Adobe RGB xy
86.6 %
sRGB Picture Mode
Custom Color
Adobe RGB Picture Mode
Custom Color

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.

9.5
Picture Quality
SDR Color Volume
sRGB In ICtCp
98.2 %
Adobe RGB In ICtCp
91.1 %
sRGB Picture Mode
Custom Color
Adobe RGB Picture Mode
Custom Color

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.

7.9
Picture Quality
HDR Color Gamut
Wide Color Gamut
Yes
DCI P3 xy
88.5 %
Rec. 2020 xy
70.4 %
DCI P3 Picture Mode
Gamer 1
Rec. 2020 Picture Mode
Gamer 1

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.

8.1
Picture Quality
HDR Color Volume
DCI-P3 In ICtCp
87.9 %
Rec. 2020 In ICtCp
73.7 %
DCI P3 Picture Mode
Gamer 1
Rec. 2020 Picture Mode
Gamer 1

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.

10
Picture Quality
Image Retention
IR After 0 Min Recovery
0.00 %
IR After 2 Min Recovery
0.00 %
IR After 4 Min Recovery
0.00 %
IR After 6 Min Recovery
0.00 %
IR After 8 Min Recovery
0.00 %
IR After 10 Min Recovery
0.00 %

There are no signs of temporary image retention after displaying a high-contrast static image. Note that this may vary between units.

9.8
Picture Quality
Gradient
Color Depth
10 Bit

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.

10
Picture Quality
Color Bleed
Pixel Row Error
0.000 %
Pixel Column Error
0.004 %

There aren't any signs of color bleed on the Dell AW3821DW.

6.5
Picture Quality
Reflections
Screen Finish
Matte
Total Reflections
6.8 %
Indirect Reflections
3.2 %
Calculated Direct Reflections
3.6 %

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.

7.5
Picture Quality
Text Clarity
Sub-Pixel Layout
RGB

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.

Motion
8.7
Motion
Response Time @ Max Refresh Rate
Best Overdrive Setting
Fast
Rise / Fall Time
2.9 ms
Total Response Time
10.2 ms
Overshoot Error
12.4 %
Dark Rise / Fall Time
3.2 ms
Dark Total Response Time
9.9 ms
Dark Overshoot Error
12.4 %

Overdrive Setting Response Time Chart Response Time Tables Motion Blur Photo
Fast Chart Table Photo
Super Fast Chart Table Photo
Extreme Chart Table 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.

8.4
Motion
Response Time @ 60Hz
Best Overdrive Setting
Fast
Rise / Fall Time
3.8 ms
Total Response Time
15.2 ms
Overshoot Error
5.2 %
Dark Rise / Fall Time
4.3 ms
Dark Total Response Time
15.0 ms
Dark Overshoot Error
4.5 %

Overdrive Setting Response Time Chart Response Time Tables Motion Blur Photo
Fast Chart Table Photo
Super Fast Chart Table Photo
Extreme Chart Table 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.

10
Motion
Image Flicker
Flicker-Free Yes
PWM Dimming Frequency
0 Hz

The Dell AW3821DW has a flicker-free backlight, which helps reduce eye strain.

0
Motion
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
No BFI
BFI Maximum Frequency
N/A
BFI Minimum Frequency
N/A

The Dell AW3821DW doesn't have a Black Frame Insertion feature to clear up motion blur.

9.0
Motion
Refresh Rate
Native
144 Hz
Max Refresh Rate
144 Hz
Variable Refresh Rate
Yes
FreeSync
Compatible (Tested)
G-SYNC
Yes (Native)
VRR Maximum
144 Hz
VRR Minimum
< 20 Hz
VRR Supported Connectors DisplayPort, HDMI

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.

Inputs
9.4
Inputs
Input Lag
Native Resolution
4.4 ms
Native Resolution @ 60Hz
12.0 ms
Variable Refresh Rate
6.1 ms
Variable Refresh Rate @ 60Hz
14.4 ms
10 Bit HDR