Reg man wraps head in 49-inch curved monitor

03-05 16:02

ReviewIn 2017 we learned that Samsung had given the world the CHG90, a curved, 49-inch, 3840 x 1080 monitor with a 32:9 aspect ratio. Rather a lot of Reg readers read and/or commented on thestory about the screen and more than a few of you seemed intrigued by the ideas of having your heads just-about-surrounded by display.

So we went and got one, installed it at Vulture South and can now report that using the monitor is quite a ride.

Setup was easy. The monitor ships in a big unwieldy box that looks like it's designed to hold a couple of bass guitars back-to-back, with ample padding in-between. The first thing you see inside is the monitor's stand, which takes about two minutes to assemble and needs only a Philips head screwdriver to finish the job. At 15.1kg (33lb) and 119cm end-to-end the monitor needs a bit of hefting to get into place, but the job can be done without consulting "safe lifting in the workplace" manuals.

The monitor offers HDMI and DisplayPort input and the one we tested shipped with cables for both. A MacBook Air detected and drove the monitor immediately and effortlessly.

It's an imposingly large machine. Vulture South currently nests in serviced-office/cult WeWork where all the desks are 120cm wide. The monitor therefore rather dominated the desk. The splayed feet on the stand don't help matters as they intrude about two thirds of the way into the desk, leaving not much room in front of the monitor.

Once I realised there's lots of space behind the monitor's curves, I was able to get all my junk on the desk.

Using the monitor can be a bit exhausting. My setup for the last few years has been a 23-inch monitor dead in front of my keyboard, plus my 13-inch laptop propped up on a stand with screen open. The apps I use all day - Word, a browser and Slack - are on the main monitor right in front of me and I monitor social media on the laptop's screen.

Flicking the eyes across the 23-incher towards the application I want requires very little movement and I've become accustomed to the shift in focus required to focus on the laptop.

The CHG90 presents more substantial challenges. Between the curve (an 1800mm radius, to be precise) and its sheer size, finding and focussing on the window I wanted gave my eyes quite the workout. Instead of being able to flick to a known spot, I constantly had to find what I was looking for and then focus on it.

At the end of the first day in front of the machine I went home with decidedly tired eyes. That fatigue persisted for a couple of days before my peepers got used to the extra travel.

Complicating matters was Mac OS'es insistence that its Menu bar and status icons remain at the left and right extremes of the screen, which made for some long-distance mousing.

Throw in a little graininess when using text at 14 points or above and the monitor took a little getting used to.

One of the things we asked when considering the monitor last year was how many Excel columns it could display. The answer at 3840 x 1080, and without adjusting any settings or resizing cells in a new spreadsheet, is 59 - all the way to column "BG". Leaving Microsoft's marvellous Ribbon in place and going full-screen left us with 49 rows to fill and a glorious total of 2,891 cells to fill.

2,891 glorious cells of Excel. Click here to see at full size.

I suspect not many users would run a spreadsheet at full screen because it's probably easier to scroll to the bit of the sheet you need to focus on rather than swing your eyes around. That was my experience, anyway: I developed an inclination to run windows slightly larger than I would on a smaller monitor, but also to keep them in the centre of the screen. Less-used apps were exiled to the periphery.

And what a periphery it is! I found myself working with layered windows just poking out enough that I could click to switch between applications or documents. That may have meant a little less ALT-TAB during the day, but did mean I found myself happily running an extra couple of apps just because I knew I had space for them (and thanks to a recent laptop refresh, enough RAM to keep them open).

I found myself feeling a little more productive as a result because I didn't have to find apps to open them: all the stuff I'd anticipated using was open and a short mouse journey away.

The monitor handled video with aplomb, even a pair of 1920x1080 windows side by side. Perhaps avid stereogram folk could have a lot of fun with that. A single HD window seems rather wasted on the screen, as when centred it leaves a lot of unused pixels on either side.

The monitor's built for gaming but suggested for folks who need a lot of large windows open at once. After using it for a couple of weeks, I feel 4K screens may be a better option for users of applications that need extreme close-ups of detailed images.

But if you run two HD monitors, the CHG90 offers the chance for a tidier and far more impressive desktop setup - albeit at a premium price (US$950 vs. $150 apiece for 24-inch HD cheapies).

Perhaps the best way to gauge the device is my dread at having to hand it back: nothing will look the same again after using a curved 49-incher! ®

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