Dell UltraSharp U2711: Quality has a Priceby Jarred Walton on January 22, 2010 2:00 AM EST
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Resolution Support and OSD
While the ideal solution is to run your LCD at the native resolution, there are times when you might want to use something lower. With the fine 0.233mm dot pitch and 2560x1440 native resolution, running at something lower becomes even more likely. We tested the VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, and DVI connections to see how the U2711 would handle non-native resolutions (note that we didn't test component or composite video). The OSD provides three aspect ratio options: Fill (use the entire LCD, with stretching), Aspect (fill as much of the LCD as possible but avoid stretching), or 1:1 (no stretching at all).
The vast majority of resolutions work exactly as you would expect. 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x800, 1280x960, 1280x1024, 1440x900, 1600x1200, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1440 showed no problems at all. Also, when using a VGA connection, every resolution we tried worked properly. Shift to the digital connections and we did encounter a few minor issues.
Starting with DVI, both 720p and 1080p filled the whole LCD regardless of the aspect ratio setting. This isn't terrible, since the image will still maintain the correct aspect ratio, but it does mean that the 1:1 setting failed to work in this instance. We also encountered some oddities with 720p and 1080p using an HDMI cable at times, but those problems appear to be more of a laptop driver issue than something in the U2711. On one laptop, 720p output always looked blurry, and the 1:1 setting didn't actually map to 1280x720 pixels as far as we could tell. In general, though, these common widescreen resolutions still worked well.
The resolutions where we had the most problems are all less common resolutions. On DVI, 1280x768 didn't have the correct aspect ratio, with black bars on all sides. 1360x768 stretched horizontally but not vertically on "Fill", making for a very skewed result, "Aspect" left borders on all four sides, but "1:1" worked properly. 1792x1344, 1800x1440, 1856x1392, and 1920x1440 all did an "aspect" stretch, regardless of OSD setting.
HDMI didn't show as many resolutions, probably because we had to use a different computer as the source (a laptop). Again, "odd" resolutions caused some incorrect behavior, but we don't really fault Dell. 1152x648 and 1776x1000 (underscanned 720p and 1080p, respectively) have a black border at all times, and like the DVI connection 1360x768 was squashed vertically unless you use the "1:1" setting. DisplayPort behavior was the same as HDMI. Note also that the HDMI connection didn't allow us to select resolutions above 2048x1152 (a 16:9 resolution). 2048x1152 was also the maximum resolution we could use on a VGA connection. We're not sure if the limitation was with our test laptop or if it's inherent with the U2711, as we don't have any HDMI connections that we're sure will properly handle 2560x1440.
In general, all but a few uncommon resolutions worked well. Something else we really liked was the "Sharpness" setting when we were using something other than the native resolution. The default setting of "50" appears to pass the signal on without molesting it, but as you move towards 0 the display becomes a bit blurrier and increasing towards 100 will apply a mild to moderate sharpening filter. Running at 1680x1050 with sharpness set at 70, you have to look very closely to notice that the LCD isn't running at its native resolution. Other LCDs have a similar feature, but on many displays the sharpness setting is only active if you use an analog connection (i.e. VGA).
For the sake of completeness, here's a gallery of all the OSD settings. Yes, there are a ton of options. We like that Dell allows you to customize the "quick jump" buttons, but we wish they had allowed us to make one of the settings "Aspect Ratio" rather than limiting the choices to "Preset Modes", "Brightness/Contrast", "Input Source", or "Mode". There's really not much to say about the OSD: it works as expected.