If you ask me, curved television sets are a little over the top. Unless you have a television the size of a movie screen, it just doesn’t make financial or practical sense to bend that screen. But when it comes to monitors a few feet from your eyes, Samsung’s CJ791 curved monitor really does make the difference.
I’m not one to fatigue easily, but we all have our limits when editing for hours in front of a screen. A lot of this has to do with our eyes constantly refocusing — even just those micro-adjustments from the center of a desktop monitor to the far edges become tiresome after thousands of repeats during an edit. And this is the problem a properly curved monitor promises to solve. The problem is that small word, “properly.”
All curved monitors will alleviate this type of eye strain to some extend compared to a flat monitor, but only one with enough curve to it will actually ensure all surfaces of the display are equidistant from your eyes. The CJ791 does just that and features the curve with the smallest radius of any competitor: if the monitor were extended to make a complete circle around you, it would create a smaller circle than any other monitor in this range with a radius of 1.5 meters (more on this in later).
Personally, the simple nearness of the monitor and the act of blasting an LED backlight at my head for a few hours seem to be a bit more cause for eye strain. But it did seem like this latest curved display made at least a small difference, just as soon as you get over the trippy feeling of sliding application windows across a curved surface. While this is all fantastic, it’s not even the curved aspect, however, that drives me most to this monitor. More than anything, the beauty of this setup is the ultra-wide aspect ratio.
I’ve seen plenty of photographers with multi-monitor setups, which naturally require multiple monitor input/output ports and aren’t exactly seamless. But the beauty of these latest ultra-wides is that you really do get all the real estate of a dual-monitor setup without the interruption of bezels and without your operating system have to spatially manage multiple monitor positions. Add a curve to that, and you have something quite remarkable; and it’s not even badly priced considering you’re getting a 2-in-1 monitor solution with the latest Thunderbolt 3 connection and full 85-watt charging capabilities. The 21:9 aspect ratio is pretty amazing: a 2:1 XPAN image will still have horizontal bars on it when viewed to fill the screen.
In addition to the Thunderbolt 3 port — and this is how you really should be connecting to this monitor, given the beauty of a single cable that powers your laptop while simultaneously carrying data across it — this monitor includes HDMI 2.0 and full-size Display Port 1.4 connections. A pair of additional USB ports offer a respectable hub experience, especially given that the CJ791’s 1,440 x 3,440 resolution won’t saturate the bandwidth on the Thunderbolt 3 link.
This is worth a discussion because, no, this is not a 4K monitor. And no, you shouldn’t care. Before all these fancy options were out, I did go out and buy myself a 4K monitor. But I’ve written about how I regret that in other reviews and how this is really unnecessary for a number of people. I could understand how 4K video shooters would appreciate 6K or 8K displays to be able to have their editing tools in Premiere or Final Cut Pro surround a full-resolution window of their videos. The same naturally goes for those editing 1080 content on a 4K display. But for photographers, a high-resolution 4K display can be so fine-pixeled that you may actually miss small details in your shots unless you bury your face right up there in your monitor and have perfect vision. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have our images blown up just a bit with a still-high, but more reasonably outfitted monitor.
The CJ791’s 1,440 x 3,440 resolution is more than adequate for an experience where you simply won’t notice the individual pixels, a feature Apple popularized with its “Retina” display marketing term. At roughly half the pixel density of a Retina-level experience, you have to remember that assumes a 20-inch viewing distance; and that’s a little close for me. I sit more like 30 inches from this 34-inch beast; so all of a sudden we’re much closer to that experience as it is (and remember, you will literally miss pixel-level details in your images if you can’t even see the pixels). Needless to say, the C971 is plenty sharp.
This monitor consistently gets good marks for color in the curved monitor world. With 100 percent of sRGB and 85 percent of Adobe RGB covered, you can confidently handle almost every realistic need you’d have. Out of the box, my copy was a bit more magenta than my calibrated MacBook Pro screen, but a quick calibration of this monitor solved that (and honestly, I found it more pleasing before, even if it wasn’t technically calibrated for what I had set up).
Across the board, the CJ791 is a modern monitor with a proper 100 Hz refresh rate, support for AMD FreeSync, and all the I/O you’d want (what more do you need aside from Thunderbolt 3? Bonus points for including a nice, long cable, by the way).
I did say we’d discuss the monitor curve a little more, so here we are. The CJ791’s 1500R radius rating simply means the curve has a radius of 1,500 mm (or 1.5 meters). This means you have to sit 1.5 meters (or 4 feet 11 inches) from the monitor in order for all of the screen to be an equal distance from your eyes. As you can start to gather, that’s not reasonable or realistic in any sense. Still, among the ultra-wides, this is class-leading and should still receive some eye strain. But I would argue this is not the reason to be a curved-monitor fan (at the moment, at least). There is another, more practical reason.
If you’ve ever sat in front of a monitor like Apple’s 30-inch Cinema Display, you may remember literally turning your head slightly to adequately look from corner to corner on that monster of a screen. The CJ791 is a gargantuan 34 inches — and it has an aspect ratio that extends 6 inches beyond the width of the 30-inch Cinema Display. No one comfortably moves their eyes in their sockets that much, which means that extra movement is going straight to your neck. If you haven’t done it: trust me, it’s annoying. And the CJ791 really does make this easier.
As far as I’m concerned, curved or not, ultra-wides are the future for those looking to maximize screen real estate. You can debate eye strain all day long (it’s subjective, and people will take advantage of that to make the point they “feel” is right), but curving those ultra-wides is a no-brainer once you’ve tried it.
What I Liked
- Massive 34-inch width gives amazingly useful screen real estate
- Proper Thunderbolt 3 I/O is what we should all be getting these days
- 85-Watt charging is another must: check
- Great color performance for the category
- Nice implementation of a stand with a good level of angle adjustment
- Reasonably priced alongside the prospect of buying two monitors
- Menu system unobtrusive and easy to use with Samsung’s typical behind-screen joystick
What I Didn’t Like
- Nearly all-plastic design could have been a little better built (but we would have paid for it; so, fair enough)
- Some backlight bleed in one area, but nothing you would notice unless on a 100% gray screen
- If you need (or want) something absolutely razor-sharp, this resolution still won’t quite hit the mark for you
If you’re looking for an ultra-wide monitor worth getting, I would look for something with a screen around 34 inches, decent color accuracy, Thunderbolt 3 with full 85-watt charging, and a curve to alleviate the obvious strain of going that wide. I would look for the CJ791.
You can get the CJ791 from B&H today starting at $834.99 with free expedited shipping.