The ViewSonic VP3881 ($ 1,261.99 list) is a professional monitor geared toward photographers, video editors, and other creative professionals who require very accurate colors. To this end, it has a large, ultra-wide screen that comes pre-calibrated to conform to multiple color spaces. The VP3881 beautifully rendered photos and videos in our testing. The panel is a 38-inch monster with a moderate curve, meant as a single enveloping display for graphics pros. We’d suggest looking at this panel from the point of view of pure display quality and minimalism, and not to count on the built-in audio or to put too much stock in the HDR support.
That Compelling Screen
The monitor’s design is simple and conservative, with clean lines and a narrow, nearly invisible bezel, keeping one’s focus on the panoramic screen. The VP3881 measures 19.7 by 35.3 by 11.8 inches (HWD), including the stand; you can raise it by nearly five additional inches. You also get swivel and tilt adjustment (the latter, 22 degrees across the whole range). The stand emerges from a wide and sturdy rectangular base.
The in-plane switching (IPS) panel is admittedly impressive, spanning 38 inches (of which 37.5 inches are viewable), with a native resolution of 3,840 by 1,600 pixels (WQHD+). Given that resolution, the aspect ratio works out to an ultra-wide 24:10.
ViewSonic rates the VP3881’s contrast ratio at 1,000:1, which our testing showed to be within half a percent of what we measured in our tests (996:1). The VP3881’s peak brightness is rated at 300cd/m2 (aka nits); it turned in a slightly better 327 nits when we took it through its paces.
The panel is gracefully curved, rated for 2300R of curvature, which is fairly generous but not as pronounced as the curve on the BenQ EX3501R or Asus ROG Strix XG32VQ recently reviewed. (They both have 1800R curvature ratings.) A lower number means more drastic curvature. These figures mean that if enough VP3881 monitors were placed side by side to form a full circle, the radius of the circle would be 2,300mm, or 2.3 meters. The EX3501R and ROG Strix XG32VQ would form tighter circles, with radii of just 1.8 meters, but the VP3881’s less pronounced curvature provides for very comfortable viewing.
ViewSonic’s monitor has a good set of connectors, including two HDMI inputs, a DisplayPort input, a USB Type-C port, three USB 3.0 downstream and one USB 3.0 upstream ports, and two 3.5mm jacks. The audios are one audio-in and one audio-out, meant for connecting to an external audio source, or to speakers or headphones. You may well make use of the audio-out jack, because the built-in pair of 5-watt speakers, although reasonably loud, pumps out mediocre-quality sound. Audio was better with the twin 10-watt speakers on the Editors’ Choice LG 38UC99-W, which doubles as a professional and gaming monitor.
Putting a Finger on the OSD Controls
The six buttons to activate and control the onscreen display (OSD) are on the back of the panel, on the right. The controls are invisible when viewing the monitor from the front but can be manipulated sight unseen (at least by a right-handed person). Navigating with the buttons did take some getting used to, and early on I would frequently press the wrong button.
On the bottom is the on/off button. Pressing any other button opens a master menu that offers Standard Color, Contrast/Brightness, Input Select, Main Menu, and Exit. Standard Color lets you choose between preset and custom color spaces. With Input Select, you can shuffle your inbound signal among DisplayPort, either of the two HDMI ports, or USB Type-C. From the Main Menu, you can choose (once again) Input Select, Audio Adjust, ViewMode (with settings tweaked for Game, Movie, Web, Mac, Designer, or Photographer), Color Adjust, Manual Image Adjust, and Setup Menu. Under Manual Image Adjust, there is a setting called HDR10; the monitor will accept an HDR signal, but the differences between it and standard definition were relatively modest, with a slight improvement in contrast when viewing HDR video, for example.
I viewed photographs, video, web pages, and other content with the VP3881, and the color looked true, pleasing, and reasonably vivid.
Trust But Verify (and Hit Reset)
I did our luminance, color-accuracy, and contrast-ratio testing using a Klein K10-A colorimeter and SpectraCal CalMAN 5 software. ViewSonic touts the VP3881’s color accuracy, and the fact that the monitor comes pre-calibrated for a variety of color spaces (sRGB, EBU, SMPTE-C, Rec. 709, and DICOM-SIM).
Normally, I would reset a monitor to its factory-default condition before beginning the testing process, but perhaps swayed by the company’s boast of “flawless color out of the box” on its site, I started testing it as-is. But when I first ran our color-accuracy tests in sRGB mode, some of the points on the chromaticity chart seemed off. Fortunately, resetting the monitor to its factory defaults produced a much more accurate chart, with an expanded color gamut.
As you can see below, the points—each representing a different color reading—are positioned fairly uniformly outside the triangle. (The area bounded by the triangle represents all the colors that can be made by mixing the three primary colors.)
It’s possible that I (or someone else who had access to this monitor) had inadvertently changed some setting that affected color accuracy. The moral I took out of this experience: Be sure to double-check, follow procedures, and don’t take anything for granted. The VP3881’s color is beautiful and accurate, but it did take a factory reset to confirm that.
Not only is the monitor pre-calibrated, but it comes with a color-calibration report, giving you a reading of your panel’s sRGB, EBU, SMPTE-C, and REC709 performance, as well as uniformity. Other professional features include ViewSonic’s ViewSplit multitasking software, which facilitates working in multiple windows on the large screen; the company’s uniformity correction, which helps provide consistent brightness from edge to edge; and a 14-bit 3D lookup table that generates a palette of 4.39 trillion colors.
Fine for Casual Gaming
With a 60Hz refresh rate and no support for AMD FreeSync or Nvidia’s G-Sync, the VP3881 is not geared to high-impact gaming. Still, I had a pleasant experience playing the likes of Hitman, Far Cry: Primal, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, all on our PC testbed, using an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 card as the signal source. Pixel response is as quick as 5 milliseconds. I tested the panel’s input lag at 21.2 milliseconds using a Leo Bodnar Video Signal Lag Tester.
Also, I measured the VP3881’s power consumption at 57 watts, which is good for a monitor of its screen size. The 35-inch BenQ EX3501R and 34-inch Dell UltraSharp 34 U3417W each consumed 56 watts.
As an ultra-wide monitor geared to graphic design professionals, the ViewSonic VP3881 provides excellent color accuracy (my own calibration adventures notwithstanding) for photos and videos, and is a joy to use. It is fine for casual gaming, eschewing hardcore gaming features like a high refresh rate and Adaptive Sync support.
But this makes ViewSonic VP3881 less versatile than the Editors’ Choice LG 38UC99-W, another 38-inch monitor, which, in addition to its excellent color accuracy and image quality, adds gaming-centric features such as AMD’s FreeSync technology, a higher-than-normal 75Hz refresh rate, and loud, good-quality audio. (The LG 38UC99-W also has the same sort of mini-joystick OSD control that we saw on the Asus ROG Strix XG32VQ.) If you don’t care much about gaming and want the display purely to focus on your photography, video, or design work, though, the VP3881 is well worth your consideration.