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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  • ninjackn - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    The color gamut issues stems from issues with applications not using ICC profiles. It was a huge problem in windows XP because so few applications cared to use color profiles. It's gotten a lot better with windows vista/7 (or with OSX) but it still pops up from time to time, specifically with all those images on the web missing color information.

    Here's a website that shows what i'm talking about:
    http://www.gballard.net/psd/go_live_page_profile/e...">http://www.gballard.net/psd/go_live_page_profile/e...

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Okay, I read through that, tried it on Firefox 3.5.7, IE8, and Safari 4. I get the problem now... it's not having a wide color gamut LCD, but rather viewing images that have an ICC profile in applications that don't respect those profiles, right?

    In terms of internet publishing, I'd have to agree that we need to standardize, and since sRGB is already the standard there's no point in going elsewhere. For an imaging professional where the content isn't going on the web, though, wouldn't you want the better color space? I always "save for web" if I'm going to post an image online, and that strips out any ICC profile information (AFAIK).

    I need to go play with this on the U2711 with and without a monitor profile (and using sRGB and Adobe RGB) to see what effect - if any - it has on the experience. Stay tuned....
    Reply
  • CSMR - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Save for web should give an sRGB label and does with Photoshop CS3. No point in stipping it out.
    FF is color managed. As soon as IE becomes color-managed it will be fine to use any color spaces in web images. Microsoft has been fairly good about color management of late, so hopefully in IE9, fingers crossed.
    Reply
  • velis - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    To me, this monitor is more interesting from a different viewpoint:
    It's one of the rare few monitors that offer 2560 resolution at less than 30" size. And even this one only has 109 DPI resolution.
    If this monitor was 22 - 24" in size, I'd buy it without second thought.
    Of course you need to run Word at 150% magnification, but the fonts look just awesome with so many pixels available to render them. Not to mention games. A "fairly powerful" graphics card is needed though.
    The only problem is that current display managers, be it Windows or Linux are all still raster ones and can't really adapt well to increased DPI displays.
    Perhaps if more monitors like this would show up on the market, MS and Linux gurus would finally develop true vector user interfaces. Then we could have 150, 200 and even more DPI displays. I'm wondering how many more years before displays catch up to what printers had some 20 years ago already.
    Reply
  • CSMR - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    High dpi is very useable, even with normal pixel pitches 120dpi can be a good option. But yes vector graphics would make the benefit of higher dpi displays even greater.
    There is vector support in WPF since Vista so Windows is getting there at least.
    Plus modern applications (including OS) tend to have raster graphics at various dpis, I think often including 150, so that is improving even without vector graphics.

    But the fact is most people don't need very high dpi so we have to wait for the cost to come down. Also for displayport to become common once dvi reaches its limit and that will take a while.
    Reply
  • dasgib - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    I'm really curious about to know if the matte displays of the U2711 has the known "anti-glare effect" which many people complain about on 24" IPS monitors (like the HP LP2475w and Dell U2410)?

    I don't like glossy displays (as most people do), but I had to send the stated HP display back because of that anti-glare effect.
    Reply
  • MadMan007 - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    I have the HP and it's not bad as far as anti-glare coating although not the best I've seen - that would be a Samsung but sadly it was TN. It helps to sit a reasonable distance away, like a mere 2 feet or more. Every single Dell I've seen is far worse in terms of grainy anti-glare which is a shame because it means I can't consider Dell monitors at all, it just drives me too crazy to see whites all sandy-sparkly-grainy. It really makes me wonder how more Dell users don't even notice it at all.

    Maybe they've gotten better though? I'd sure like to know.
    Reply
  • dasgib - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    I just asked Jarred about this via email. Hopefully we get an answer soon :) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    I haven't noticed any negative effects from the anti-glare coating. I use a Dell 3007WFP normally and haven't ever noticed a problem there either. Mostly, I see the "grainy effect" on cheap TN panels, but maybe I'm just one of those people that isn't bothered by what you're referring to. Anyway, FWIW I feel the U2711 has the same appearance as the 3007WFP and I enjoy the picture. I don't notice "more graininess" or anything like that. Reply
  • MadMan007 - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    There may be some confusion here over the word 'graininess.' It is not a screen-door effect, pixel pitch by-product or defect in the actual image. It is the screen coating itself - it's not 'grainy' per se in the way a film might be grainy, it's 'sparkly' is my best word for it. Another way to describe it is if you took some sand and lightly dusted the screen surface with it - the image itself looks fine but there's always this layer above it that has its own effect on the image. It makes things 'sparkly' -tiny random dots of coloration across the specturm. For some people it may blend together, I don't know, but I can't see how it's possible to miss entirely. Dell's anti-glare is known to be heavby and particularly prone to this effect which is why it's brought up. Check out forum threads about Dell monitors and you'll find plenty of people noting it.

    Now someone who uses a Dell monitor all the time may get used to it especially if they never have another monitor next to it. But Jarred you surely have seen a variety of screens. Have you ever set them up side-by-side with your Dell? What about a laptop screen if you have one? Or if you have access to a glossy screen at least to compare, they by nature will not have any anti-glare coating problem.
    Reply

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