Last year, Samsung turned the market upside-down with their super-ultra-wide, 49” CHG90 gaming monitor (review), and it provided a uniquely awesome experience—despite a somewhat low 1080 p vertical resolution. This year, they’re one-upping themselves with the CRG9 (See it at Amazon), which—for a $1499 list price—brings the same super wide form factor at a much higher 1440 p resolution. Samsung lent us a model to try out so we could see how it performs.
The CRG 9 looks almost exactly like its predecessor, with a super wide, 32:9 aspect ratio that measures 49” diagonal. The top and side bezels have a “frame less” design, which basically means there’s still black bezels on the panel itself, but there are extremely thin plastic bezels around the edge. The bottom bezel is thicker and sports the Samsung Logo along with a few buttons for adjusting the monitor’s settings. This monitor is big, heavy, and attaching the stand is a bit nerve-wracking due to its size and shape, but once you get this thing on your desk, it’s a beauty.
The stand itself is rather deep, meaning it’s going to sit pretty far forward on your desk, wasting a lot of space behind it. It’s also fairly wobbly, in my experience, though it does have height, tilt, and swivel adjustments so you can position it just right. The stand even has cable management routes so you can hide the rat’s nest behind your monitor—and you’re likely to have a few cables, thanks to the CRG 9’s ample I/O. You have one HDMI port, two Display Ports, headphone and mic jacks, and four USB ports you can use as a hub connected to your PC. It also has software that allows you to arrange your windows for better multitasking (though I tend to use Windows’ built-in tricks for this instead).
The VA panel is still the most impressive part of this monitor, though, with an insane 5120 x 1440 resolution, 120 hz refresh rate, and Samsung’s Quantum Dot technology for fantastic color. Note that 120 Hz is a bit slower than last year’s 144 Hz CHG 90, but it’s a worthy trade off for the increased resolution. This monitor also comes with HDR 1000—significantly better than most HDR monitors, which top out at a measly 400 nits—and Free Sync 2, so you can game without screen tearing.
Samsung’s on-screen display, where you adjust its picture modes, continues to be top-notch thanks to an easy-to-navigate menu using the joystick on the bottom of the display. You get the usual customization like Brightness, Contrast, and Color, but you can choose between multiple Free Sync ranges (since the widest range may cause flickering on some systems), enable a virtual cross hair in the middle of the screen, and adjust black levels to your liking. There is also an overdrive setting called “Response Time” designed to reduce ghosting, but it didn’t do much in my testing (which was fine, since I didn’t notice much ghosting anyways). The Response Time setting is greedy out when using Free Sync, anyway.
Speaking of testing: I run every monitor I review through a few of Lagom’s LCD test patterns to see how it performs, and the CRG9 performed admirably. Black and white levels were on point, with the blackest and whitest squares being just barely distinguishable from reference black and white, respectively. Gamma hovered just above 2.2, and gradients showed no visible banding. I found the out-of-the-box Sharpness to be a little high, though, causing an artificially pix-elated look to my screen—but lowering it one notch (to 56) made it look a lot better.
Response time was surprisingly decent for a VA panel—in Lagom’s tests, an animated GIF shifts multiple squares between different shades of grey, which flicker if they shift too slowly. Only the biggest three transitions produced noticeable flickering, even with the Response Time overdrive feature turned off—which is better than most VA panels I’ve tested. Turning the Response Time feature on didn’t do much, and since it can’t be enabled with Free Sync on, I found myself just leaving it turned off. Blur Busters’ UFO test did show some minor ghosting, but again, not as much as many VA displays, and I didn’t find it super noticeable in games and movies.
Viewing angles were good, not great, as is expected with a VA panel—but as long as you’re sitting directly in front of the monitor, the 1800 R curve keeps colors from shifting except in the far corners.
Gaming at 32:9 is one of the most captivating experiences you can have on a PC today—though I’d personally argue it’s a more subtle jump from ultra wide to super wide than it is going from standard 16:9 to ultra wide. It can be a little off-putting at first, thanks to a fish eye effect on the sides of the display, and but if you keep your focus at the center, the sides will fill out your peripheral vision nicely. It may also help to change the field of view in certain games if they feel too unnatural. I found most relatively recent games supported the 5120 x 1440 resolution just fine, albeit with some cut scenes rendered in standard 16:9 with giant black bars on the side. The real challenge is driving this many pixels with an affordable graphics card—though if your game supports display scaling, that can help quite a bit.
What makes the Samsung truly stand out from its competition Even in non-HDR mode, the QLED tech in this screen makes colors incredibly vivid. Quite often I caught myself just staring at my 32:9 wallpapers in awe, and colorful games like Rocket League and Over watch are truly a sight to behold (even though the latter doesn’t support 32:9 aspect ratio). HDR games and movies look similarly great when it comes to color, although CRG9’s local dimming—which is only available in HDR content—leaves a bit to be desired, since there are only a few edge-lit zones across the screen. On a monitor this high-end, I wish the back light was full-array so it could take real advantage of HDR. On the bright side (no pun intended), I didn’t notice much ghosting in games or movies, at least compared to other VA panels I’ve tested in the past.
I’d be remiss not to mention the non-gaming experience on this monitor as well, since a 32:9 aspect ratio is just as awesome—if not more-so—on the desktop as it is in games. You get the real estate of two 16:9 monitors with no bezel in the middle, which means I could easily fit Tweet Deck, Slack, and two Chrome windows on my desktop with a little room to spare. In other words, you get the best of both worlds: an immersive ultra wide experience for gaming, with the real estate of two single 16:9 monitors for desktop work. Couple that with the high-end display tech in this monitor and you’ve got something very, very tempting, even for $1,499.
Samsung’s CRG9 is very expensive, and there are a few things I wish it did better for the price—like local dimming—but all told, it’s a truly unique experience with fantastic picture quality.