Samsung CF791 ultrawide curved gaming monitor.
When you’re seated in front of a Samsung CF791 ultrawide curved gaming monitor, walking the neon-bathed streets of a futuristic Prague while rain pours in thick, heavy sheets, it’s easy to lose yourself. With a big enough monitor, with a deep enough curve, the display commandeers your entire field of view.
It’s no wonder these monitors started to really pick up steam in the latter parts of 2016 — and they’re poised to take over the market entirely in 2017. Prices are going down, performance is going up, and companies like Samsung are rolling out ultrawide curved monitors to match growing customer demand.
The Samsung CF791 is one such monitor. It’s a 34-inch, ultrawide monitor with a curve deep enough to wrap around your entire field of vision. Those specifications on their own would be impressive, but the CF791 has another trick up its sleeve: quantum dots.
Yep, this monitor is filled to the brim with those nanocrystal semiconductors that bend light to their will and deliver unparalleled color depth, contrast ratios, and all sorts of other stimuli for your retinas. Quantum dots are supposed to deliver sharp, accurate colors at a much lower price than their OLED competitors, but the Samsung CF791 retails for $1,000. It’s not the most expensive ultrawide, but it’s far from the cheapest.
Is the Samsung CF791 worth the price of entry? Let’s find out.
Before you even turn it on, the Samsung CF791 cuts an elegant figure. A broad aluminum-colored disc supports a glossy white armature that seems to effortlessly hold the display aloft. It’s not often that a monitor’s adjustable stand is appreciably different from all the others on the market. It has a simple job — hold the monitor up, keep it from wobbling, and don’t be a pain when you need to adjust the height or angle.
It’s a straightforward, but thankless job, and you only ever really notice the stand if it’s misbehaving — if your display is wobbly, or if it never manages to stay at just the right height. Curved monitor manufacturers sometimes cut corners here, and offer stands that are nice-looking but inadequate, or stable but overly large. With the CF791, Samsung establishes a comfortable middle ground.
The base is large, but not too large. It provides stability without overreaching and taking over your whole desk. Despite the size of the base, it never seems overbearing, and the stability it brings to the monitor is a welcome addition. Ultrawide curved monitors have a bad reputation for being wobbly, due to their size, but the CF791 proves a steady hand.
A narrow, articulated armature clad in glossy white plastic sprouts from the back side of the base. This arm holds up the monitor, and accounts for the CF791’s impressive adjustability. Every monitor is adjustable in some way or another, usually just a little up and down with some give to tilt it forward or back. Usually, these adjustments produce audible clicks or require some muscle to get just right.
Even when bright, vibrant rose-reds contrast well against stark, snowy whites.
Again, the Samsung CF791 manages to improve on a simple aspect of the user experience that is very easy to ignore. Adjusting this monitor’s big, curved display is easy. Not just that — it’s pleasant, which is a weird thing to say. When you pull the display toward you, angling it up or down, the arm moves with just the right amount of resistance before settling into its new position.
Once adjusted, the stand is remarkably stable. Tapping or nudging the display doesn’t change its position, nor does bumping the table or desk it sits on. The display itself only wobbles noticeably when directly jarred, or if you start shaking the table.
The CF791 features a standard array of connections and ports, including two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4 port, and one USB port, alongside built-in speakers. It’s also VESA compatible, another nice, standard addition.
Basic configuration is handled with a set of familiar on-screen menus accessible via the jog button on the back-right side of the monitor. It’s responsive, and makes clicking through the menus easy enough, but like most jog buttons, you’re going to end up hitting the wrong setting now and then. It’s not exactly a precision instrument.
The menus themselves are easily navigable, clear, concise, and surprisingly robust. There are a lot of options here. You can adjust your brightness, contrast, and individual color levels, also configure which version of HDMI or Display Port you want the monitor to be running (1.4 or 2.0) on each of the input ports, and you can toggle AMD’s FreeSync on or off.
The CF791 supports a 100Hz refresh rate, even without AMD’s FreeSync, in case you don’t have an AMD video card. It’s a nice addition and definitely puts the CF791 in competition with other gaming monitors.
The speakers get the job done, but they’re nothing to write home about. Playing music through them, you’ll end up losing most of the bass, and games don’t fare much better. Gunshots are sharp and snappy, but deep rumbly sounds get lost in translation.
In search of content
It’s impossible to discuss the Samsung CF791 without mentioning its overwhelming size. This is a big monitor. With a 34-inch diagonal wingspan, as well as a 3,440 x 1,440 resolution, the CF791 has a comfortable 110 PPI. The deep curve makes the already impressive presence of the monitor even more dramatic. Just putting it on your desk makes your workstation look like a futuristic command center.
Before we even cracked open our colorimeter and set about calibrating the CF791, we had to find some video content to test it with. This isn’t a 4K display, and it’s not 1080p. Of course, 1440p content is easy enough to find, but at an appropriate aspect ratio to really leverage the CF791’s ample screen space? Not so much.
That’s actually something of a larger problem for the CF791. Games support its odd dimensions with ease, but streaming services like Netflix, HBO Now, and Amazon Video had trouble scaling video content without losing quality. HBO Now, in fact, had the most trouble scaling to the CF791’s enormous and unusual size, zooming in on one corner of the video and chopping off the rest.
You might have better luck if you hooked up a game console or downloaded your favorite streaming service’s official app instead of streaming from your browser.
This isn’t the monitor’s fault, and it’s a symptom you’re going to see on any monitor with a resolution a little outside the norm. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to just use 4K content on this monitor — browsers and streaming services are better at scaling down than they are at scaling up.
Other than a handful of user-created videos on YouTube, finding content at a native resolution large enough to fill the CF791’s display was pretty difficult. It’s something you’ll want to keep in mind, especially if you plan on using this monitor primarily for media. Worse comes to worst, you’ll just find black bars on either side of whatever you’re watching, or you’ll have to temporarily lower your monitor’s resolution to accommodate the video content.
Once we did track down some appropriately sized video content, 4K or 1440p, the Samsung CF791 exceeded our expectations in the most spectacular fashion. When you put it to work, this monitor is breathtaking.
From edge-to-edge, the CF791 delivers rich, velvety colors. Watching a movie trailer, colors just cascade across the screen, reds leap out against deep, inky blacks, whites are sharp and stark. These colors don’t run, they don’t bleed, they are precisely where they need to be and they never stray outside the lines. Even when bright vibrant beet-reds are contrasted against snowy whites, the CF791 never misses a beat.
Compared to Samsung’s last 34-inch curved monitor, the S34E790C, the CF791 is an improvement on an already great product. The new design all but eliminates the bezels around the screen, deepens the curve, and shatters the S34’s impressive contrast ratio of 740:1 with its own 940:1 contrast ratio. Gamma is fairly middle of the road, coming in at 2.1.
Brightness maxes out at about 299 lux, and black levels are appreciably deep — moving up to only .33 at full brightness, and 0.0 at the lowest brightness setting. What does that mean for your display? Just that your highlights and lowlights, your bright patches and shadows will remain nicely differentiated no matter your brightness setting — a credit to the CF791’s fantastic contrast ratio.
How did Samsung do it? Well, that contrast ratio is the result of those quantum dots, which handle color much more efficiently than standard LCD displays. They’re essentially molecular-sized prisms that bend light to different colors (frequencies) depending on their size. These nanocrystal semiconductors act as a filter between the LCD’s backlight and the display, ensuring that colors go where they need to, when they need to, and nowhere else.
Those quantum dots manage to push the CF791 ahead of the competition, without inflating its price tag. For instance, the LG 38UC99 boasts an impressively high brightness level of 300 lux, and a 38-inch screen, but it’s 660:1 contrast ratio doesn’t come anywhere near the CF791’s impressive 940:1 contrast ratio.
Even with a lower maximum brightness, the CF791 just seems brighter. Its quantum dots make its colors sharper, more vibrant, and much more accurate. Let’s see if we can make them work a little harder with some calibration.
Wait, it gets better
Normally, calibration can help gloss over a monitor’s shortcomings — you can give that color accuracy a boost, and fix off-kilter gamma, but that’s usually about it. Expecting anything other than a minor improvement is unrealistic — most of the time.
The Samsung CF791 is just full of surprises. While the out-of-the-box color accuracy is not ideal, coming in at 2.56 (anything lower than 1.0 is undetectable to the human eye), running it through a basic calibration lands you nearly pitch-perfect color accuracy — about 1.08, which is just a few decimal points away from professional-grade color accuracy. Thanks, quantum dots.
The CF791 also avoids a common pitfall of curved ultrawide monitors — the dreaded light bleed. Throughout our tests, even when we were trying to reproduce some common light bleed, the CF791 maintained its inky darkness even with a fully black — but active — screen. No light bleed around the corners, none along the top or bottom edges. In this regard, the CF791 is again able to run circles around some of its high-end competitors like the LG 38UC99, which fared better than most curved monitors, but still had some unsightly light bleed around the curvature of the screen.
Before you even turn it on, the Samsung CF791 cuts an elegant figure.
Calibration might ding your contrast just a bit, though. In our tests, the precalibration contrast ratio of 940:1 went down to 910:1, which is a fairly negligible loss given what you stand to gain in color accuracy. Brightness and black levels remained pretty much the same, pre- and post-calibration, but those gains in color accuracy are definitely worth the trouble of calibration.
If you don’t have access to a professional colorimeter, worry not. You can check out our calibration guide here for some tips on how to get the most out of this — or any other — monitor.
The Samsung CF791’s color accuracy manages to edge out a few rivals, including the Samsung S34E790C, which comes close, but doesn’t quite match the CF791’s stellar accuracy. In fact, the CF791’s post-calibration color accuracy actually comes close to the accuracy you’d find on a professional-grade monitor like the BenQ SW2700PT, which features out-of-the-box color accuracy of .84.
The Samsung CF791 comes with a standard one-year warranty for parts and labor, covering manufacturer defects in materials and workmanship, but only guards against noncommercial use. It’s not an unusual warranty, it’s just a little sparse. The Acer Predator Z35, for instance, features a three-year warranty, which is much more common for high-end monitors.
If you purchase a CF791, you might want to pick up some kind of device insurance or extended care plan from a trusted retailer — the included warranty has a lot of caveats.
Ultrawide curved monitors are impressive to behold. They just look great. They’re aesthetically pleasing, they create a luxuriant workspace that supplants typical two-monitor setups, and they’re immersive. Size and scope often compensate for any shortcomings a typical ultrawide monitor might have.
The Samsung CF791 isn’t a typical ultrawide monitor. It doesn’t really have any shortcomings. It doesn’t need to compensate for anything, because it delivers in every way you need it to. It’s a gaming monitor that upgrades your workspace, and a workspace that delivers stellar gaming performance.
Is there a better alternative?
Simply put? No, there isn’t a better alternative. The CF791 sits comfortably in the Goldilocks zone when it comes to price, performance, and picture quality.
There’s the Acer Predator Z35, if you need a blisteringly fast refresh rate, but you’ll lose out on that deep curve and the rich contrast provided by the CF791’s quantum dot display.
The DT Accessory Pack
Similarly, you could pick up the LG 38UC99, a 38-inch IPS monitor, which delivers an immersive experience with a massive panel, but less-than-impressive contrast. It’ll also run you an extra $500 more the CF791.
How long will it last?
We’re in a unique period when it comes to consumer technology, particularly monitors. Resolutions continue to ramp up, year over year, but for most uses, we’ve reached a comfortable plateau. For instance, 4K displays have trouble with icon scaling and text because of their overwhelming pixel density. On the other hand, 1440p is a happy middle ground between 1080p and 4K — it’s a safe place to be for quite a while.
The Samsung CF791 has two major advantages that will contribute to its longevity. Its size, which is unlikely to be eclipsed any time soon. After all, monitors might keep getting bigger, but desks sure don’t. You only have so much space available for a monitor, and the CF791 just barely scrapes the ceiling on that front.
Second, the resolution and pixel density are pitch-perfect for text. Pixel density is high enough that text and icons aren’t visibly pixelated — they’re sharp and smooth like a pen stroke — and the resolution is capable of approximating 4K content without too much difficulty. After all it’s only 400 pixels shy of 4K.
In short, the Samsung CF791 will last an awful long time. It’ll outlast most of the components in your PC, and continue to deliver immersive gaming experiences long after you replace your brand-new video card.