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Computerized Investing > August 3, 2013
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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$499.99

29-inch UltraWide LED monitor with screen-splitter for viewing from multiple devices.

Several years ago I used a two-monitor setup in my office so I could view multiple browser and program windows from my PC. While it was nice to view everything without having to having to make the windows very small or have windows opened on top of each other, the two monitors took up a lot of desk real estate. Dual monitors are popular among web developers, programmers and even traders, but companies are trying to overcome the footprint issue by creating ultra-wide monitors that take the place of two monitors. One such monitor comes from AOC, its Q2963 UltraWide backlit LED monitor. While AOC may not be a household name in monitors, I am a bit familiar with their products, having reviewed one of their portable USB monitors last year.

Out of the Box

It’s somewhat difficult to visualize a 29-inch monitor until you actually see it. When the box arrived from the company, I knew I was in for something new. The monitor is, in a word, BIG. The display area is 26.49 inches by 11.17 inches. However, it has a stand that is only slightly larger than the 22-inch monitors we mainly use in the office. As you’d expect from a monitor of this size, it isn’t overly light, either: Its net weight is 15.2 pounds, while the gross weight is 22.9 pounds.

The Q2963PM’s screen is housed in a matte-black frame with ultra-thin top and side bezels. The side bezels are curved, which gives the monitor a less severe look. The bottom bezel is slightly larger at 0.75-inches.

On the right side of the monitor are four functions buttons—power, setup, aspect and input—as well as a blue LED power light. None of the buttons is labeled, which means you need to press them in order to find out what they do. Once you do this, an on-screen label appears that uses large, easy-to-understand icons to describe what each button does. Picture settings include the typical contrast, brightness and gamma, as well as AOC’s “Eco mode,” a picture mode that includes standard, text, Internet, game, movie and sports presets. There are also color settings for red, green and blue level adjustments, color temperature, and Dynamic Color Boost (DCB) for green, blue and skin tone enhancement settings.

The base houses all of the I/O ports. On the right side of the base are DVI, VGA and DisplayPort inputs. On the back side, just above where the base connects to the monitor, is an HDMI port, DisplayPort output, audio input and a headphone jack. The base also houses dual three-watt speakers that offer surprisingly good sound.

The base has a hinge that gives you limited forward and backward tilt and is also removable, so you can hang the monitor on a wall using the VESA mounting holes. The Q2963 also comes with VGA, DVI and HDMI cables and a resource CD that includes a PDF user’s guide, monitor drivers and additional monitor utility programs.

Setup

Setting up the Q2963 was very easy. After connecting the power source to the monitor, I connected the monitor to my HP Folio 13 Ultrabook with the included HDMI cable. Windows 7 automatically recognized the monitor and reverted to the recommended 2560 x 1080 resolution. Be aware that not all graphics cards support the recommended 2560 x 1080 resolution, so you will want to confirm that your PC can support it before buying.

I found it odd that the user’s guide offered instructions on how to install the monitor’s drivers for most Windows operating systems except Windows 7 (there were even instructions for Windows 8). I wasn’t able to install the monitor using Windows’ “add hardware” control panel feature either. Windows’ Device Manager only listed a “Generic PnP Monitor,” whereas you oftentimes see the specific monitor make and model. While I was able to adjust the monitor’s resolution and use the function buttons to adjust the picture and color settings, I get the feeling that I am not tapping into the full potential of the monitor.

AOC offers some extra utilities that you can install from the setup disk. Screen+ is a screen splitter that lets you split your desktop into different panels, with each panel displaying a different window. However, even after installing the app and supposedly splitting the screen into multiple panels, I wasn’t able to have my windows automatically resort to that configuration. I had to manually re-size each window to capitalize on the added viewing space. This is a minor inconvenience but, again it leaves me feeling that I am not getting the most from the monitor.

Performance

At the end of the day what I am most concerned with is the picture quality, and the Q2963PM doesn’t disappoint. Colors are rich and grayscale performance is good. The size of the screen allows me to easily have a browser window and Word document open without having to overlap them. Depending on what you are doing, it’s not unreasonable to work on three or four windows at once without having to make them so small you strain your eyes. Video on the full UltraWide 21:9 screen displayed crisp and clear, and the speakers delivered clear audio (although it was a bit lacking in the bass department).

The monitor is also PIP/PBP Hardware Calibration Ready, which allows you to view two devices on the monitor simultaneously.

In addition, the Q2963PM is EnergyStar qualified, which means it uses about 30 % less energy than standard units.

Overall

If you are someone who dreams of added display area but doesn’t have the desktop space for multiple monitors, the AOC Q2963PM may be what you are looking for. Granted, the $500 price tag may be a bit off-putting (although it is somewhat cheaper depending on the online retailer you choose), but you can’t really view it as two monitors slapped together. First off, as I mentioned, it doesn’t have the footprint of two monitors. Secondly, it still allows you to view a single window across its 29-inch display. Until you see Netflix being streamed over the UltraWide 21:9 display, it’s hard to describe. The monitor also offers a good variety of video inputs, meaning it can support pretty much any PC made over the last several years.

I was a bit frustrated by the inability to install the driver and not being able to get the screen splitter utility to work. It would also be nice if the stand offered a greater tilt range and allowed you to adjust the monitor’s height. Lastly, the Q2963 lacks any USB inputs, which I found a bit surprising, seeing that many monitors today have them.

Overall, however, I do think the AOC Q2963PM is a reasonable alternative to having multiple monitors.

Pros

  • Eliminates the need for two monitors
  • Variety of video input ports
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Unable to install proprietary driver, screen-splitter utilities on Windows 7
  • No USB ports
  • Limited tilt range, no vertical height adjustments

AOC Q2963PM UltraWide LED Monitor

$499.99 (Currently $449.99 from Amazon.com)

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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