We haven't had a display review since our desperately seeking quality LCDs article. That doesn't mean there haven't been interesting displays released during that timeframe, but the trends highlighted in that last article have continued. TN panels are everywhere and are by far the cheapest option, although they do have a bit of competition from E-IPS displays. For example, we have 1080p 23" TN LCDs starting at under $200, compared with 1080p 23" E-IPS LCDs for $300. However, E-IPS isn't the highest quality implementation of IPS (in-plane switching) LCD technology; what if you want to go for the real deal?

Despite the preponderance of TN panels, it's still possible to find some good quality IPS displays. The catch is that you need to be prepared to spend two or three times as much money (or more!) to get that quality. Most consumers will look at the 24" TN panels starting at $200 and then they'll look at an IPS or PVA display costing $550 or more and they'll wonder why anyone would spend the extra money. The answer, quite simply, is quality. Dell offers U-series UltraSharp displays that look to satisfy professional users without quite getting into the professional display price range, and they'll provide substantially better quality than any entry-level display. That brings us to today's review.


Dell UltraSharp U2711 Specifications
Video Inputs 2 x dual-link DVI with HDCP
HDMI w/HDCP
DisplayPort w/HDCP
VGA
Component
Composite
Panel Type IPS (Unknown Manufacturer)
Pixel Pitch 0.233mm
Colors Up to 1.07 billion (10-bit color)
Brightness 350 nits typical
Contrast Ratio 1000:1 advertised
80000:1 Dynamic advertised
Response Time 6ms GTG
12ms TrTf
Viewable Size 27" diagonal
Resolution 2560x1440 (WQHD)
Viewing Angle 178 horizontal/vertical
Power Consumption 113W typical
Power Savings <2W
Screen Treatment Matte (anti-glare)
Height-Adjustable "Yes - 3.5"""
Tilt Yes
Pivot No
Swivel Yes
VESA Wall Mounting Yes - 100x100mm
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 25.46" x 16.84-20.38" x 7.87" (WxHxD)
Weight w/ Stand 23.06 lbs.
Additional Features 4 x USB Ports
8-in-1 flash reader
Audio 2-channel headphone/line out
Optional AX510/AY511 Soundbar
Limited Warranty 3-year warranty standard
4-year and 5-year extended available
Accessories DisplayPort, DVI, USB, VGA, and power cables
Price $1050 MSRP

The latest offering in the U-series is the U2711, a 27" beauty sporting extremely impressive features. For starters, it has an IPS panel, but this isn't your granddad's IPS panel. The U2711 has an extremely high resolution 2560x1440 panel - similar to the panel that's used in the Apple 27" iMac. Notice that we highlighted the word similar? That's because the two panels aren't identical; the glass might be the same, but there are definitely differences.

For one, Apple uses LED backlighting whereas the U2711 sticks with CCFL technology. But isn't CCFL worse? That depends on what you're after; the iMac 27 offers a 72% color gamut while the U2711 has a 102% color gamut (based on the CIE 1931 standard). Using RGB LEDs, it would be possible to get a similarly high color gamut, but our experience with RGB LEDs to date is that they cost more and consume more power than regular LEDs, so we can understand Dell's interest in sticking with the "older" technology. (We've only seen RGB LEDs in a few laptops so far, and as one example it's a $175 upgrade on the Dell Studio XPS 16 compared to a regular white LED display.)

Since this is a display rather than an all-in-one computer, there are plenty of other differences between the Apple and Dell LCDs. Dell includes just about every input you might want on the back of the LCD - DisplayPort, HDMI, two dual-link DVI connections (all with HDCP support, naturally); and just for good measure they toss in VGA, component, and composite video connections as well - not that we would recommend using those if you can avoid it, though the VGA connection is always good to have "just in case". Like most UltraSharp displays, you also get a couple USB ports on the back, two more on the side, and a handy flash memory reader.

Besides having a higher color gamut and different backlighting technology, Dell uses 12-bit internal color processing with the ability to output 10-bit color. That means you can get 1024 levels of grey instead of just 256, reducing the amount of banding present in certain situations. 24-bit vs. 30-bit color also means you get a color palette of 1.07 billion instead of 16.7 million, though we were unable confirm this in testing. First, you need to have a graphics card with the ability to output 30-bit color, which typically means you need a workstation class GPU. You also need some sort of "special sauce" - specifically, you need an application that knows about deep color support. We connected the U2711 to a Dell Precision M6500 notebook (Quadro FX 3800M GPU) via DisplayPort. NVIDIA tells us that the GPU is aware of the deep color capability of the display at that point, but it requires an appropriate application before 30-bit color output would start. Despite our inability to test this feature, considering the cost of other 30-bit displays (often they are priced upwards of $1800), the U2711 becomes a very interesting option for users that need (and know how to use) "deep color" support.

So what's not to like? As with so many other things in life, all of these lovely features don't come free. The U2711 has an MSRP of $1050, so it costs quite a bit more than lesser 27" displays. Then again, it has a higher resolution, better features, and it's still $200 cheaper than most 30" LCDs. Overall, the U2711 makes a very good impression if you're after a high quality LCD; it's just not intended for users that are merely looking for a decent display at an affordable price. If you're a discerning image professional or just someone fed up with lackluster consumer LCDs, read on to find out if the U2711 is the right display for you.

Impressions of the U2711
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  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    I've also tested with the i1 Display2 and achieved essentially the same results (within about 10% on Delta E and within about 2% on gamut). I'm not sure if the Spyder3 is better than both of those, but the i1D2 is pretty well regarded and I've read some stuff in the past where DTP-94 was regarded as one of the better colorimeters. I may play around with the latest version of ColorEyes again just to make sure nothing is wrong. I really don't want to have to invest in another colorimeter, though, since I already have three. :| It would be particularly odd for Spyder3 to be better considering Spyder2 wasn't regarded as being all that great and Spyder3 costs around half as much as the i1D2 or DTP94. But hey, price isn't necessarily a good indicator of quality. Heh. Reply
  • toyotabedzrock - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    Any chance we will see a review on the U2410? I have heard of problems with it and would like to see your take on it. Reply
  • AngEviL - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    Hi Jared, can you please answer me this question ? I had a 22"1680x1050 monitor and I was very annoyed by the "sieve effect". Basically i saw the blackness between the pixels. For that reason mostly i upgraded to a 24" 1920x1200 TN panel lcd and i still spot very well the black between pixels and it is annoying me. Now you will ask how far i am standing from the monitor. I am at 2 thirds of a meter away, or 2 feet, and i really can't go any farther than that because the monitor becomes too small in my field of view.

    I know that the lower pixel pith will make the blackness between pixels less noticeable, but my question is how much less ? Also, is the proportional distance between pixels smaller compared to other models ? I'm just making this up, but let's say that on a 24" 1920x1200 monitor 90% of the screen space is pixels, and 10% is the black space between them. Does this Dell have less black space proportionally or it maintains the same ration, like 5% black space ?

    I ask because i know that the "sieve effect" will be less noticeable on this Dell because of the lower pixel pitch... but how much less compared to a 24" 1920x1200 TN panel ? Thanks.
    Reply
  • AngEviL - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    In case you think that the monitor i have has larger pixel spacing or something, i do see this sieve effect just as much on my 1440x900 17" laptop (from a normal viewing distance), and on my friend's laptops, as well and it is bothering me as much. Another reason why i ask is because i read somewhere that H-ISP (which i think this panel uses) has less proportional distance between pixels(more space is used up by the actual pixels and less by the blackness between them). I'm wondering if this is really true. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    You have better eyes than me, certainly. I can say on the U2711 (and on 30" LCDs), I really can't spot the red green and blue elements that make up white unless I get out a magnifying glass, and I certainly can't see the black between those elements. Well, I suppose I sort of can see the squares that make up the LCD, but that's about it. The U2711 is certainly smaller dots than other desktop LCDs, though. Reply
  • AngEviL - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the answer. Reply
  • macforth - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    An interesting article Jarrad. Clearly from the derth of discussion, screens are very important to us all. Although I don't feel that old, and enjoy gaming to the max, I clearly remember the days when there was no such thing as a visual display unit (as we called them when they were first used).
    Since those heady days in the late 60's we have sure come a long way from those green screens to that which is the subject of your article.
    Surprisingly, having read all the post article discussion, no mention has been made of the new 120Hz screens. You did mention 60Hz at one point in the discussion.
    I just built a nice gaming PC for a mate, and bought a new 120Hz screen to go with that. All I can say, it beats all the other screens in the house from 30" to 22" to an old 21CRT.......mind you when the CRT was in it's hayday, maybe similar. It is very impressive, and was nowhere near the cost of the sceen in your article.
    I do hope that you, or maybe your (hopefully) new writer can have a crack at the new 120Hz movement in screens. Oh!.......the ones available round me (downunder) are 16:10, lol

    Keep up the good work!.......
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    The big complaint with 120Hz displays is that they're all TN panels (as far as I'm aware). But, TN is often good enough for a lot of people, and it's a lot cheaper than IPS and *VA. I'm hoping to at least get *some* 120Hz LCD for testing in the not-too-distant future. Reply
  • mikeyakame - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    I couldn't find the panel type mentioned anywhere, but from what I recall this and the Apple 27" monitors both use the new LG-Phillips 27" H-IPS Panel, not S-IPS. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    I couldn't get any report of the manufacturer; I used to get decent results from Astra32, but now the manufacturers have gotten smart and Dell writes their own name in the firmware. So this panel tells me it's a "Dell U2711". LOL.

    I don't think I called it an "S-IPS" anywhere; it's just *some* form of IPS, and whether that's H-IPS or S-IPS isn't hugely important. Given contrast is measured at 800:1 to 1000:1 (depending on brightness), H-IPS is entirely possible. But then, refinements to LG's S-IPS might accomplish the same thing.
    Reply

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