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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  • Griswold - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    Go buy TN if you want to play games and are unaware of the _real_ benefits of IPS and PVA. Reply
  • darklight0tr - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Ugh...this is step backwards. 16:9 and an insane pixel pitch that is too small for most users.

    I owned the 2707WFP and currently use the 2709W because of the 16:10 aspect and high pixel pitch (1920x1200, 0.303). Because my eyesight isn't perfect it is a great LCD monitor for me, plus unlike the 28" TN based displays you could get a good quality S-PVA display with either one.

    Now Dell has killed that option with this introduction. They took a step forward with the IPS display, but switching to a low pixel pitch 16:9 display sucks. I've used the 3007WFP and that pixel pitch would drive me nuts for normal use, most things are just too small despite the nice increase in real estate. Plus, doesn't this LCD strongly overlap with the existing 3008WFP?

    Luckily I don't play on purchasing a new display anytime soon.
    Reply
  • MadMan007 - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Also luckily for you this isn't meant as a direct replacement for the 27" monitors you have I don't think. It's a professional monitor with fancy color capabilities and electronics that aren't needed for general home and office use. Reply
  • darklight0tr - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    Given the fact that it shares the model number scheme with the previous monitors it is hard to know right now if it is a replacement for the 2709W. I guess we will know when the 2709W is phased out. If it gets a similar replacement (1920x1200 16:10) my previous comment is null and void. Reply
  • mczak - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    "Note also that the HDMI connection uses the 1.3 standard, so it won't support resolutions above 2048x1152 (a 16:9 resolution)."
    That kinda sucks. Note that HDMI 1.3 definitely DOES support 2560x1600.
    However, seems to be a useless paper spec. Some devices implement other features of hdmi 1.3 (like 30 bit color) however as far as I can tell there are neither monitors nor graphic cards which could output higher resolutions over (single-link) hdmi thanks to the possible higher link bandwidth. Even HD5xxx series graphic cards seem to be limited to 1920x1200, and for the monitors it's often impossible to even figure out as they just list "hdmi 1.3" but they don't tell you they actually don't support the higher bandwidth modes... And that spec is getting old already...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    It could be my laptop that didn't support the appropriate resolution over HDMI, then.... let me test with the M6500 and see if that will do more than 2048x1152 on HDMI. I know that at least one laptop wouldn't allow anything higher. BIAB....

    Oops... the Dell M6500 doesn't have an HDMI port; just VGA and DisplayPort. If I could find my DVI to HDMI adapter I could try it on a different GPU; as it stands, all I know is that on the test laptop, HDMI limited the maximum resolution. (FWIW, I have a Dell Studio XPS where the DisplayPort tried to output 2560x1440 but the GPU apparently wasn't designed to do that. That same Studio XPS didn't give an option to try 2560x1440 on HDMI.)
    Reply
  • Gnyff - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    I own the U2711 - and love it :-)
    I agree with mczak: The vendors are very bad at specifying what their HDMI does - even if they say 1.3 I'm not 100% sure they support the high bandwidth...
    I'm very interested in real life experience with 2560*1440 over HDMI. I'm not certain that the U2711 actually supports it - and I've NEVER seen any of the notebook manufacturers specify maximum resolution over HDMI. But there's nothing in the specs preventing a well designed HDMI 1.3 notebook and screen to run at 2560*1440! Actually this /should/ be a certain thing if they both specify HDMI 1.3 (and at least Dell does!)...
    However, the only safe for now bet seems to be Display Port - but they are mainly on the brand new notebooks and I HATE the glossy screens they usually come with. HP 8740W and Dell 6500 seems to be exceptions - but they are currently a bit outside the price range I was hoping for ;-)
    Reply
  • Lord 666 - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    If you are concerned about cost as I am, what about reviewing the 24" version or comparing along side? Don't understand why the review focused on a very large monitor that is a niche product. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Here's a professionally done review of the U2410, if that's the one you're looking for.

    http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/dell_u2410.htm">http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/dell_u2410.htm
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Because it was offered as a review unit. LOL. I've been doing a lot of mobile reviews and it's hard to get in displays and laptop coverage from one person. This is why we have that call for writers that went out; I'm hopeful that I can turn all display reviews over to someone else and focus on just one area (more or less). Reply

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