LG 38GN950 Review: 3840×1600 160Hz 1ms IPS FreeSync UltraWide Curved Gaming Monitor

Bottom Line

The LG 38GN950 is a 38″ 3840×1600 curved ultrawide gaming monitor based on a Nano IPS panel with vibrant and accurate colors, a quick 1ms pixel response time speed, and a rapid 160Hz refresh rate. Further, it features G-SYNC compatibility for smooth performance and DisplayHDR 600 for decent HDR image quality. It greatly combines immersion with responsiveness, at a reasonable price.

Design:
(4.5)
Display:
(4.6)
Performance:
(4.9)
Price/Value:
(4.2)
4.6

The LG UltraGear 38GN950 is a 38″ ultrawide gaming monitor with a Nano IPS panel featuring vibrant colors and quick response time, as well as a high 160Hz refresh rate and decent HDR image quality.

It’s the long-anticipated FreeSync variant of the LG 38GL950G, which has a G-SYNC module, and therefore a higher price – yet inferior HDR support.

Image Quality

Based on LG’s Nano IPS panel with 178° wide viewing angles, dithered 10-bit color depth (1.07 billion colors), and wide 98% DCI-P3 color gamut (equivalent to ~135% sRGB), the UltraGear 38GN950 delivers vibrant, lifelike, and consistent colors.

It also comes with a calibrated 100% sRGB profile in case you prefer more accurate color reproduction for professional work or native sRGB content (most games and web content).

To activate this profile, simply select ‘sRGB’ from the Game Mode settings in the OSD (On-Screen Display) menu. It’s possible to adjust the brightness in this mode, which is a big plus.

Most games still use the sRGB color space, in which case the native wide color gamut of the LG 38GN950 monitor can result in over-saturated colors. This is why an sRGB mode is important. For HDR content, the regular DCI-P3 gamut will be a better option.

The screen resolution of 3840×1600 pixels perfectly suits the 37.5″ viewable screen of the display. With roughly 111 pixels per inch, you get plenty of screen space as well as crisp details, without any scaling necessary.

Such resolution is quite demanding though, so make sure your PC system will be able to output a frame rate in video games that would satisfy you.

The ultrawide format provides you with extra horizontal screen space, which is great for productivity work. On top of that, you get a more immersive gaming experience thanks to the extended field of view. Movies shot at the ~21:9 aspect ratio will also look better!

Content that doesn’t support the 21:9 aspect ratio will have to be displayed with blacks bars at the sides of the picture or it will be zoomed-in/cropped-out, depending on your preference and application.

Moving on, the monitor has a static contrast ratio of 1,000:1, which is standard for IPS panel displays. This means that blacks won’t be as deep as that of VA monitors with a contrast ratio of around 3,000:1, but these displays have disadvantages of their own.

The LG 38GN950 has a flicker-free edge-lit backlight with 12 dimming zones that can further improve the contrast ratio by dimming parts of the screen that need to be dark, without affecting the bright areas.

However, as there are only 12 zones, it’s not particularly effective.

Further, the typical peak brightness of 450-nits gets a boost to 600-nits for HDR content, which notably improves the details in highlights of the picture.

At any rate, you’re not getting the ‘true’ HDR viewing experience due to the limited contrast ratio, but an improvement over the standard image quality is definitely noticeable.

Performance

freesync and gsync

The LG 38GN950 input lag amounts to only ~4ms at 160Hz, which makes for imperceptible delay between your actions and the result on the screen.

The pixel response time performance is also exceptional.

There are four response time overdrive modes: Off, Normal, Fast, and Faster.

‘Faster’ is too aggressive and adds too much pixel overshoot (inverse ghosting), while the Fast mode is well-balanced. It prevents ghosting, but doesn’t introduce overshoot.

The 144Hz native refresh rate of the monitor can be overclocked to 160Hz by enabling the Overclock mode in the OSD menu, and then increasing the refresh rate in your GPU/display drivers.

However, because the monitor doesn’t support DSC (Display Stream Compression) over DisplayPort, there are some limitations.

If you want to use 10-bit color, you will need to lower the monitor’s refresh rate to 120Hz.

With 8-bit color, you can increase the refresh rate up to 160Hz.

We don’t find this to be particularly game-breaking as pushing 120FPS at 3840×1600 will be very hard to do, especially in the more graphically-oriented games with high or ultra picture settings.

Further, the difference between 120Hz and 160Hz is no that big as you already get that significant kick in motion clarity at 100FPS+.

Besides, most games where you can actually get 160FPS don’t even support 10-bit color depth, so you won’t lose anything.

The next thing you should keep in mind about the LG 38GN950 is IPS glow, which is an expected drawback of the IPS technology.

IPS glow can be characterized as visible glowing around the corners of the screen that changes in intensity depending on the angle you’re looking at the screen.

Its intensity also varies across different units of monitors, but in all but most extreme cases, it’s completely manageable.

Features

The LG 38GN950 supports variable refresh rate (VRR) with both AMD’s FreeSync Premium Pro and NVIDIA G-SYNC Compatible certifications thus ensuring smooth performance.

VRR synchronizes the monitor’s refresh rate with GPU’s frame rate in order to completely eliminate screen tearing and stuttering without noticeably affecting input lag.

The supported VRR range is 48-160Hz, but below 48FPS, LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) kicks in and maintains smooth performance by frame rate multiplication (47 FPS -> 141Hz).

Other useful gaming features include various picture presets (FPS, RTS, Reader with a low-blue light filter, and two customizable Gamer profiles), Black Stabilizer (improves visibility in darker games), and customizable crosshairs.

You will also find advanced image adjustment tools, including four gamma presets, manual color temperature settings, and 6-axis hue/saturation.

It’s possible to manually enable/disable the local dimming function or set it to ‘Auto’ (automatically enables when HDR content is detected), and you can change its speed via the Variable Backlight option depending on the content (Fast for gaming, Normal for video playback, etc).

To access and navigate the OSD menu, you can either use the directional joystick beneath the bottom bezel of the monitor or download UltraGear Control Center and make your adjustments in a desktop application.

Finally, there are 48 RGB LEDs at the back of the monitor. The RGB lighting is bright and can create quite atmospheric lighting; it can also be synchronized with on-screen video or audio.

Design & Connectivity

lg 38gn950 monitor design

The stand of the monitor is sturdy and offers decent ergonomics with up to 110mm height adjustment, -5°/15° tilt, 100x100mm VESA mount compatibility, and +/- 3° pivot for balancing the screen. You cannot swivel the screen to the left/right though.

There’s a subtle but noticeable 2300R screen curvature which further improves the viewing immersion. The screen also has a light matte anti-glare coating, which eliminates reflections.

The bezels are ultra-thin at the sides and at the top of the screen, while the bottom bezel is a bit thicker as the monitor doesn’t feature LG’s latest Oxide 4-sides borderless design, like that of the LG 27GN950.

For comparison, the monitor is almost as tall as a regular 32″ 16:9 monitor, but ~25% wider.

Connectivity options include DisplayPort 1.4, two HDMI 2.0 ports (limited to 75Hz at 3840×1600), a headphones jack, and a dual-USB 3.0 hub.

Price & Similar Monitors

The LG 38GN950 goes for around $1,500, which is $300 less than the LG 38GL950G G-SYNC model. So, which one should you get?

The main advantage of the 950G model is the G-SYNC module, which implies variable overdrive and a wider 30-144Hz VRR range (without overclocking).

However, since the overdrive on the GN950 is very well implemented and since there’s LFC support, these two features alone aren’t worth the extra cost.

Next, the GL950G can be overclocked to 175Hz, but it needs to use chroma subsampling over 160Hz, which is a form of image compression that makes text appear blurry.

The difference between 160Hz and 175Hz is not really noticeable, and hitting 175FPS at 3840×1600 to actually take advantage of it won’t be easy, to say the least.

On top of that, the LG 38GN950 has better DisplayHDR 600 support, whereas the G-SYNC model only supports DisplayHDR 400 with a lower 450-nit peak brightness and no local dimming.

The G-SYNC model also has a cooling fan for its module, which some users might find too loud and annoying.

So, when it comes to value for the price, we definitely recommend going with the 38GN950.

It’s also available as a ‘business’ model with an extended warranty, the LG 38GN95B, and with Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C with DP Alt Mode and 94W Power Delivery), the LG 38WN95C.

At this price range, you should also consider the Samsung Odyssey G9 with a 49″ 32:9 screen and 240Hz refresh rate.

There’s also the Acer Predator X35, which offers a much better HDR picture quality, but it’s $500 more expensive and has a smaller screen with slower pixel response time speed.

Visit our best ultrawide gaming monitors buyer’s guide for the best deals and more information.

Conclusion

While there are some features (HDMI 2.1, Oxide design, DisplayPort 1.4 DSC) that would’ve made the LG 38GN950 a more complete and polished product, they aren’t necessary for an immersive and responsive gaming experience, which the monitor does offer.

Of course, better HDR support wouldn’t hurt either, but it would also significantly increase the monitor’s price. Overall,

Specifications

Screen Size37.5-inch
Screen Curvature2300R
Resolution3840×1600 (UWQHD+)
Panel TypeIPS
Aspect Ratio21:9 (UltraWide)
Refresh Rate8-bit color: 144Hz (160Hz OC)
10-bit color: 120Hz
Response Time1ms (GtG)
Adaptive-SyncFreeSync Premium Pro
G-SYNC Compatible (48-160Hz)
PortsDisplayPort 1.4, 2x HDMI 2.0
Other PortsHeadphone Jack, 2x USB 3.0
Brightness450 cd/m²
Brightness (HDR)600 cd/m²
Contrast Ratio1000:1 (static)
Colors1.07 billion (8-bit + FRC)
98% DCI-P3
HDRDisplayHDR 600
BacklightEdge-lit, 12 dimming zones
VESAYes (100x100mm)

The Pros:

  • Big screen with a high resolution
  • Vibrant and accurate colors
  • DisplayHDR 600
  • Quick response time speed
  • FreeSync up to 160Hz
  • Plenty of additional gaming features
  • Height-adjustable stand, USB ports

The Cons:

  • Low contrast ratio
  • Design lacks swivel option
  • DisplayPort 1.4 limitations

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Rob Shafer
Rob Shafer

Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time managing DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.