To paraphrase Paul Hogan in the iconic 1986 movie Crocodile Dundee: “That’s not a monitor – this is a monitor!”
The Philips Brilliance BDM4350UC is a 43-inch monster gaming display aimed at those who aspire to 4K, and want to be able to see the extra details when they run in this mode from across the room.
But how practical is a screen this big, and what aspects have been sacrificed to achieve the affordable price point of $499 (around £375)?
As designs go, the BDM4350UC doesn’t break any molds or challenge any expectations. It’s a 43-inch IPS panel – with a 1cm border on three sides and a marginally thicker bezel on the bottom – that most people will immediately assume is a TV.
With such a large screen and a weight of nearly 10kg to contend with, in terms of a stand, the designers went with two wide spaced aluminum feet that screw to the underside.
These project about 10cm from the panel, limiting how close to a wall you can get the monitor, although the screen does also have VESA 200 mounting holes for those who like wall mounts or desk pillars.
One annoyance that we immediately identified was the placement of the input ports on the rear of this screen.
There are five video inputs: two DisplayPort 1.2 connectors, another pair of HDMI 2.0 ports, and a wholly nostalgic VGA port. Why VGA was included is a mystery, because that interface doesn’t support 4K resolutions, and any video card with only that connection available would be hard pressed to offer decent performance at 1080p.
Here is the spec of the Philips BDM4350UC sent to TechRadar Pro for review:
Screen size: 43-inch
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160
Brightness: 300 cd/m2
Response time: 5ms GtG
Viewing angle: 178/178-degrees
Contrast ratio: 1,200:1
Color support: sRGB 100%
Up to four of the inputs can be used at once, should you have four 1080p systems that you’d like to see picture-in-picture.
Along with the video inputs, there are also audio jacks and a full USB 3.0 hub with four ports.
What’s wrong with all these inputs is that they are all at 90-degrees to the back of the screen, rather than flush. That means for wall mounting, you will probably need to find cables with L-shaped connectors, or you will have cabling problems.
Most TVs have flush or recessed ports these days, and Philips makes plenty of them, so why this flaw wasn’t spotted and corrected is anyone’s guess.
Where this design seems less like a TV is the inclusion of a control joystick, a system which in the last six months has taken over from the confusing button clusters that came before.
The joystick provides access to an on-screen menu system that allows you to tweak a wide range of settings including brightness, contrast, color temperature and input selection.
One slight oddity with this menu is that it will only appear once any input is detected. When we received the review model it defaulted to the German language, and we attempted to change it to English, but the menu would almost immediately disappear before we could make the change. However, once plugged into a PC we were able to say ‘auf wiedersehen’ to that language option without any further issues.
Overall, the BDM4350UC isn’t anything special from a design or aesthetics perspective, rather it is mostly about the panel and what that can achieve with a suitable computer or console.
Philips quotes an sRGB gamut of 100% for this panel, although in our calibration testing we only managed 97% and just 75% of AdobeRGB.
Those aren’t bad numbers, but it wouldn’t tempt anyone who works professionally with color to pick this monitor as their weapon of choice.
For gaming purposes, the colors are fine if not exceptionally punchy, and the static contrast levels are good – even if they need a little tweaking away from the default settings.
Pleasingly, the tonal response is almost exactly Gamma 2.2 across the full range. But what lets this panel down is the backlight, or rather the inconsistency of it over the full 43-inches of this screen.
Most screens are brighter in the center than the edges, but the BDM4350UC’s variation is extreme; possibly too much. In testing luminance levels, the middle of the screen was generating 279 cd/m2 whereas the top-right was only 205 cd/m2. That’s a third lower.
The other problems are frame and backlight shadows that become very apparent when the screen is a uniform color. In moving games with a complicated background these artefacts weren’t noticeable. But, set the desktop to a single flat color, and they immediately become apparent.
The review model had three distinctly brighter patches to the right of middle, for example. This may not be the case with the model you purchase, of course, but all we can report is what we saw with our review sample.
If you can accept that this screen isn’t perfect – and at this price, we shouldn’t expect it to be – there is one more issue to consider. Can you afford 4K?
Is 4K a blessing?
There is an issue with 4K panels that the makers can’t address. It’s to do with the GPU a PC must have to drive that many pixels at a decent framerate in most popular titles.
We’d recommend that the minimum spec for 4K gaming is at least a GTX 1070, but ideally a GTX 1080 video card, if you like those detail settings to remain high. If you don’t have a fast contemporary GPU, they can be an expensive proposition – particularly when the prices are driven up by cryptocurrency miners, as we’ve seen in recent times.
This screen is also of a size where it is assumed that you have either a very deep desk to place it on, or a room where the screen is situated at least five feet from the viewer.
That might be conceivable in many American homes, but is perhaps much less practical in European properties, where floor space is usually more restricted.
The necessity for an expensive GPU and a big room to use this monitor in does raise questions regarding the practicality of 4K gaming for many people.
The BDM4350UC is something of a mixed bag, with big-screen gaming at one end and average metrics at the other. If you must have a 4K screen that everyone can easily see from a distance, then this is it. However, using it as a general-purpose display is less desirable.
The price is excellent, though, given that if you plug this into a cable box, it can easily double for a TV – so maybe it is best to think of the BDM4350UC as one without an inbuilt decoder.
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