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
DisplayPort w/HDCP
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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  • poohbear - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    a 27" lcd monitor review??? you guys should do your research and see what your users actually use, what portion of your demographics actually use a 27" $1000+ monitor? write articles that are practical for your users and that your users would be interested in, no this i have $1000 lying around and then ontop of that i have $700 for an sli or crossfire setup to handle the insanely high resolution for this monitor.

    i expected more from u guys.
  • Voo - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    Wouldn't that mean that AT also should stop reviewing new CPUs, because the majority of users only buy some cheap Phenoms or core2s?

    Would be rather boring.. not that you can't (and shouldn't) also review cheaper monitors, but I don't think it has to be a "either or".
  • Raoul Duke - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    As someone looking to replace a 30" LCD I completely disagree. This article had perfect timing for me as I was planning on purchasing the Dell 2709W next week. This was an article I found well written and informative.
  • CSMR - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    Modern integrated graphics can handle this monitor. You just need a dual dvi output or displayport (or sufficiently good hdmi I guess).
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    I spent $1500 on my 30". Worth every penny. And my car costs less than yours.
  • kmmatney - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    I sort of agree. While its great to see reviews of high end monitors, there are also a lot more interesting monitors to review, such as the new e-IPS displays. I bought the new NEC 23" e-IPS display, and I also own a Soyo 24" MVA display. These were both around $300 (and the Soyo is better , btw, but you can't buy it anymore). Would be nice to see a review of the NEC or Viewsonic 23" eIPS displays.
  • Pandamonium - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Maybe this is idiotic, but what if you mounted a midrange computer to the back of the panel? It shouldn't be too difficult to modify a shim to go between the panel and the stand that can hold a smallish desktop. Maybe I've been struck with the Apple bug, but there's something to be said for minimizing wire clutter. If Apple weren't hell-bent on proprietary video inputs, I'd be looking at the 27" iMac more carefully. So instead I'm trying to figure out how you could do something similar in the PC world.
  • CSMR - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    I wouldn't use apple if you gave me for free, but they do have better video connections than PC, PC makers have all these legacy connections including VGA while apple was quick to DVI and then displayport. They chose a strange displayport plug but that's all you can blame them for.
    But various PC makers have all-in-ones. I think Sony makes at least one with a good screen.
  • CSMR - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Good information about a good product I'll definitely consider. But I was disappointed by novice errors about pixel pitch.

    Claim: Small pixel pitch makes text hard to read. The windows dpi setting is limited to 96 and 120.

    This is a particularly bad error because so many people fall for it. It's important for a tech site to hammer home the right answer here so that people set up their displays right. Smaller dpi always improves text. It doesn't make text smaller because you just adjust the dpi setting to whatever you want. Smaller dpi just gives better-resolved text. XP had problems but since Vista this has worked well in Windows so you shouldn't perpetuate this mistake.
    (Now with icons and web images, yes you may get minor artifacts of scaling, but this is becoming less and less of an issue, and the lower the pixel pitch the less of an issue it is.)
  • JarredWalton - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    The text isn't worse; it's simply smaller, and *that* is indeed harder to read for many people (especially those who are 40 and older).

    Changing the DPI will help with the text problem, true, but there are all sorts of other artifacts. Take web sites that tend to use a set width (AnandTech and tons of others). You can get big text with a change in DPI, but the images stay the same. It's not an ideal way of working.

    Also, if you're working at a 120 DPI, documents and spreadsheets and such don't look the same on other PCs running the default 96 DPI. It's one of those "issues" I glossed over. Icons are another. When I switched, there were all sorts of oddities that I wasn't anticipating; I've mostly come to grips with them, but it would have been nice if the 120 DPI setting had just scaled everything but images "perfectly".

    I suppose that ideally I'd want my text DPI set at 192 for some things, but I'd prefer my icons and Windows UI elements to stay at 96, and other areas would be nice to have at 120, and.... You get the point. I think by using the magnification capabilities of Word, Excel, and most browsers I can get around changing the DPI altogether... almost.

    Basically, higher DPI (finer dot pitch) is good for some people and in some usage scenarios, and potentially bad in others, depending almost entirely on user preference. In the case of the U2711, I'd almost rather run it at 1920x1080 with sharpness at 60-70% than deal with the DPI stuff... expect I really like 2560 width when you work with large images.

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