Home Peripherals HP’s Z34c – a whole lot of ultra-wide monitor (review)

HP’s Z34c – a whole lot of ultra-wide monitor (review)

Ever fancied a larger monitor? Need more screen real estate for that big spreadsheet? Well, HP’s Z34c is the “ludicrous mode” for monitors.

HP's Z34c is a 34”, gently curved, PVA, LED-backlit, LCD panel with a native resolution of 3440 x 1440 and a pair of sidebar, front firing, DTS sound speakers – it is truly amazing to use.

HP Z34c front

To put this review in perspective, I use dual 27”, 1080p, 16:9 ratio, monitors to give me the real estate I need. As a journalist, I often need an email client and email, a browser or two, a Word document, Skype instant messaging and other applications open at the same time to research and write articles – the equivalent of four A4 sized documents open at once.

Dual monitor

Dual 27" monitors (above) offer a little more room (less height at 1080p) but they need to be more tightly angled for comfortable use.

Single monitor

The HP Z34c has lots of real estate and more height at 1440p. However 3440 resolution means slightly smaller images.

In speaking to HP’s Mark Fenson last year, then HP Australia’s Workstation Marketing Development Manager (and now its Business and Mobility Systems Evangelist) he did a “Hoges” – “You call that a monitor, this is a monitor”. The gauntlet had been thrown down.

Out of the bloody big box (107 x 30 x 50 cm x 15kg)

The screen and stand weigh 9.83kg. The panel itself is 95.08 x 9.39 x 37.41 cm and the elegant Z-shaped stand adds 10cm in height and width. It comes with an external power pack, HDMI cable, DisplayPort cable, OSD/remote control, and a CD with HP Display Assistant Software. It is VESA wall mountable.

First impressions are that it is long and wide, yet perfectly normal to use on a standard 75cm wide desk with the gentle curve making it a little easier to take in the commanding vista. I have shown it to a few admirers and all say it presents no eye strain 60 cm away.

I like the cream coloured back and the dark front bezel – quite striking.

Technical specifications HP Z34c (K1U77A4)

  • Screen size is 86.46cm diagonal (34”) giving a panel size of 749.9 x 333.7mm (an A4 sheet is 297 x 210mm so you can fit 3.6 across the screen at 100% and still have room to show the Word Ribbon bar at the top).
  • It is a PVA (patterned vertical alignment) panel made by Samsung, curved 3000r (radius of the arc in mm) with a full zone LED backlit (not an edge/side lit) for even light and colour.
  • Aspect ratio is 21:9 (movies are 16:9 so it shows these with a black bar either side).
  • Native resolution is 3440 x 1440 @60Hz and it will display right down to VGA 640 x 480.
  • Viewing angle is 178° side and top.
  • Brightness is 350cd/m2 and contrast is 3000:1 (fine for office and bright light use).
  • sRGB Gamut 98.8%, 8-bit colour, 110ppi, .232 pixel pitch.
  • Grey to Grey response is 14ms – that is slow but it can be taken down to 8ms with screen overdrive. It is not a gamer’s monitor
  • Speakers are stereo, DTS and can be driven by HDMI, DisplayPort or Audio in.
  • Connectors include 2 x HDMI 1.4 (one with MHL 2.0 and USB charge), 1 x DisplayPort 1.2, USB3.0 upstream, 2 x USB 3.0 with 5V/1.5A (BC 1.2) charging.
  • The stand will tilt -5° to +25° and swivel up to 180°.
  • Kensington lock.
  • One-year warranty with optional HP Care packs.

HP Z34c tech

How does it look?

Having just reviewed the smaller, flat HP 4K, Z27s with 100% sRGB I was a little more prepared for what I saw – real colour. Not some punched up, over-saturated screen, but nice, natural, normal, truer to life colour, calibrated out of the box.

I tested it with many video inputs from old 480p TV shows to 4K movies and could not fault the images. It is a monitor, so it does not have upscaling, Dolby Vision or other smarts – it displays whatever you drive it with. In the tests, it worked fine from a Microsoft Surface Pro 4, a Microsoft Surface Book, an HP x360 Spectre, via MHL from an Android phone, and all of the above using Miracast (Microsoft/Intel Wi-Di dongle).

I also ran it off Kensington 4K docks including its USB3.0 dock and its USB-C dock. These are both excellent alternatives if your computer does not support dual monitors or graphics up to 3440 x 1440 resolution.

It is low glare from any angle. The gentle 3000r curve (about 3.6cm curve across the entire panel) was not noticeable and using the NEC Test pattern line was straight and true.

HP Z34c header

How to use the real estate

Why would you buy this $1517 display? It is for those who want maximum screen space, the convenience of only having a single monitor, and perhaps the prestige of this product – it looks great.

After a short while you get used to the 21:9 ratio – the only time you see 4:3 or 16:9 content is when you play videos. I initially set up four A4-sized windows beside each other, but needed to slightly downscale to fit these and the result was smaller type than my aged eyes can handle.

Instead, I found it most useful to have three A4s side by side at 125% scaling (no glasses needed) and still have room for Skype/Twitter feeds as well.

How does it sound?

It has 2 x 6W DTS stereo forward firing transducer speakers contained in a vertical bar on each side. There is a volume/mute dial for local sound control. You can also adjust it from the IR remote control and the computing device.

There was more than adequate volume to fill a standard sized room, it was clear and crisp but lacked just a little bass punch. Now that could be a simple equaliser adjustment (if your device has one) or you could add a Bluetooth speaker for more cinematic sound.

On-screen menu

It is very comprehensive and allows for almost everything to be tuned. I found that a factory reset was all I needed for the best experience. Still, it is nice to know that it offers comprehensive adjustments.

I tried the HP Display Assistant Software that allows for PIP (picture in picture) and picture beside picture (PBP), adjusting the monitor's settings and customising the display. One thing that could be useful is the Desktop Partition icon that allows you to select one, two, three or four independent screens or combinations. It takes a little getting used to, but could provide a more efficient workflow.

HP Z34c display assistant

Conclusions

I understand that Mac users graduate to this after the 27” Cinema Display becomes too small. Later Macs and Windows 10 hardware natively support the 3440 x 1440 resolution.

OK, this is a big monitor – it belongs on a managing director’s desk to impart status. But it is an incredibly useful monitor for office use and I can see this as a solution for staff who demand dual screens or work on big spreadsheets!

Now the gauntlet had been thrown down – big single or two screens? The big single screen wins, if only because two screens, even of the same model purchased at the same time, will have colour differences (which will drive you crazy). And then there are the two bezels in the middle breaking up the image. Many computing devices will not drive dual screens (let alone both at 2/4K) only having a single HDMI or DisplayPort output – the second screen often runs off a DVI or VGA port.

Two screens have one minor advantage – you can angle them tightly to create a V-shaped workspace and that is good for smaller workspaces.

At $1517 the Z34c is perhaps a tad too expensive for general consumer use. But do shop around as you might find it 10% cheaper at Harris Technology or grab a bigger bargain online but watch out for Australian warranty and shipping costs (it is 15kg).

Pros:

  • Humongous, single, 34” display
  • Natural 98.8% sRGB colour
  • Good brightness and contrast for even the brightest office
  • Speakers are very good
  • Three video inputs and auto-switching
  • I prefer it at 125% scaling but those with better eyesight will enjoy using the huge screen at 100%
  • HP quality

Cons:

  • No webcam (if you are a Mac user you expect this)
  • Not a gaming monitor – showed signs of tearing at high-speed graphics

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!