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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  • FlyTexas - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    The difference between .225 and .233 is minor, but that wasn't really my point.

    The 30" panels are quite a bit larger than the 27" panel here, with a higher resolution, for the same money. The 30" Dell also uses a IPS panel, and while not quite as good as this new one, it is pretty close. Close enough for most people anyway.

    Actually, if you want to talk about most people, the 28" HannsG LCD is perhaps the current bargin, I picked up one for my parents before Christmas for $288 from NewEgg. Not as good as the Dell panels, but plenty good for most people.
    Reply
  • B3an - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    Err yes it would. Incase you have not realised, most people do not have insanely perfect eyesight. The dot pitch on the Dell 3008 would still be kind of small for most users. Let alone this display.

    Having said that i would like to the day when LCD monitors have dot pitches of 2 or 3 times as much as this Dell. So the display clarity is perrrfect and non-native resolutions would also look perfect. You also would not need AA in games anymore because of how tiny each screen pixel would be.
    But also have Windows automatically detect this and increase the DPI to compensate so text is just as readable.
    Reply
  • DanaGoyette - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    http://members.ping.de/~sven/dpi.html">http://members.ping.de/~sven/dpi.html -- handy javascript DPI calculator. Looks like this LCD is only 108 DPI.

    I've always thought of reviews that say, "oh no, high dpi means fonts will be tiny!" as "reviewer fail" -- high DPI only means fonts are tiny if you don't have your OS set to correct DPI. In fact, Windows 7 now sets a correct (or at least, rounded down to the next 25% scaling) on high-dpi displays.

    I have a laptop with a 1920x1200, 15.4" LCD (147dpi), and it's awesomely wonderful for my eyes -- I can run HL2DM at native resolution, and not need antialiasing. When reading text, it's "halfway to paper" (printers give at least 300 dpi). The only downside to high-dpi is that some apps do break under DPI scaling.

    Unfortunately, not even ONE single desktop LCD vendor has a display with equivalent DPI rating -- in fact, many are even lower than 96 dpi! At 19 inches, 1440x900 and 1280x1024 are both around 89 DPI -- on such displays, I can easily see the individual subpixels, and such displays can give me headaches.

    If I wanted a second monitor, I'd have to pay tons of money for another laptop lcd and and lcd controller board!

    Also, can anyone vouch for how it compares to that HP DreamColor LCD?
    Reply
  • FlyTexas - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    Even Windows 7 doesn't really fix the DPI problem, simply because so many programs are poorly coded and don't understand anything other than standard Windows DPI settings...

    I used to use a pair of Dell 27" displays simply because I wanted 1920x1200 at that panel size under Windows XP to allow me to see anything. Not all of us are 23 years old with perfect vision you know. :)

    With Windows 7, I moved to a pair of the Dell 30" displays because they handle the resolution better, even if it isn't perfect. That, combined with 200% scaling in IE8 and I'm mostly happy.

    The reason for these displays was for work purposes (work paid for them, thankfully), I can comfortably display 2 side by side pages in MS Word and they are almost exactly real size, as compared to a physical piece of paper.

    The resolution isn't there, but it is good enough for editing. The benefits in gaming are just a side bonus. :)

    The downsize is that too many programs (Quickbooks is a good example) just were not designed for these displays and really don't take advantage of them, nor do they scale the interface up so you're looking at tiny icons...

    What do I really want?

    How about a pair of 40" OLED panels running at 10240x6400. That is about 300dpi and is 4x the resolution of these 30" panels, with better display technology.

    Now how much would that cost me today? ;)

    BTW, that resolution is over 65 million pixels, compared to the 4 million pixels on current 30" panels (and 2 million in a 1080P display). What kind of video card would be needed to drive that?!?
    Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - link

    Your first sentence is enough for anyone not to fiddle around with the DPI setting :) Thx. Reply
  • Gholam - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    And then again, people who take 22" widescreens and set them to 1024x768 greatly outnumber those who want higher DPI. Reply
  • dszc - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    It baffles me that Microsoft, even with Windows 7, has not yet properly addressed the display size issue. Their "font scaling" simply works very poorly or not at all on many apps. This is an OS issue. Very sad. Reply
  • DanaGoyette - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    Er, by "if I wanted another LCD", I mean, if I wanted another LCD with similar DPI rating -- otherwise, a window 4 inches tall on the laptop LCD would be 6 inches tall on the desktop LCD. Reply
  • Gholam - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    Buy a used IBM T221 - 3840x2400 resolution in 22.2 inches, .1245mm pixel pitch. Reply
  • Iketh - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    A good example of games that really benefit from smaller dot pitches are flight simulators. CRTs still give the best picture for these, but this Dell monitor helps close the gap. Reply

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