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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  • MadMan007 - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Yup I wish more sites would go in to the implications of wide gamut but sadly it seems most just buy in to the MOAR=BETTER marketing hype. Given the depth of some articles at Anandtech it's kind of sad to see only the positives written, almost like marketing material, even if it is ostensibly in the context of professional use and applications. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    I have never noticed any problems whatsoever when viewing images on a high gamut display, but perhaps that's because I have calibration tools available. On the U2711, if you're running standard applications, just set the LCD to sRGB instead of Adobe RGB and your LCD will be running in the reduced gamut.

    Again, I'm not sure how having a wider gamut is supposed to oversaturate colors. Just because a display has a potentially wider gamut doesn't mean you have to use it. Oversaturated reds and blues is a calibration problem, not something inherently wrong with having a higher gamut.

    I've heard this complaint before, and I've just never experienced any problems with this. I've even searched for information on what you might be referring to, with no luck. If you use a standard sRGB color space on a wider gamut, you're going to only use 82% of the available gamut. There should be a mapping for reds to reds, blues to blues, etc. that occurs with the display regardless; red shouldn't suddenly map to bright red.

    Anyway, if you have a link to somewhere that explains how you encounter this problem, post it and I'll go see if I can replicate this issue (with and without calibration).
    Reply
  • 10e - Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - link

    Sorry Jarred, I have to disagree with wide gamut not oversaturating colors in a practical sense, especially with a monitor that has multimedia aspirations like Dell's latest releases.

    I also have calibration tools, and one cannot "calibrate out" wide gamut on my Dell 3008WFP and NEC LCD2690WUXI. Wide gamut works fine with color managed applications like Photoshop, or color managed OSes like Mac OS X, but even using the Color Mgmt control panel and loading in the ICM profile in Windows 7 or Vista (or XP) only fixes the oversaturation in Windows Media Player and Picture Viewer, which funny enough ARE color managed. Ty using Media Player Classic and you'll see that it's different from what WMP 11 or 12 show.

    This is because color managed apps perform color gamut transformation to correctly "map" sRGB colors to a wider gamut co-ordinate, based on information in the ICM profile. Because a wide gamut screen can effectively show a higher color intensity, a color that is R,G,B 255,0,0 will show a deeper red on wide gamut than standard gamut, because if eight bits per pixel is used, you have the same number of bits defining a wider color space than sRGB. In easy terms, the color difference between red at 254 vs red at 255 is more obvious on wide gamut screens.

    Load a photo as your desktop background and load it into Picture Viewer in Vista or Win7 and you will see the difference especially with greens and reds. Even an ocean shot with lots of cyans and turqouises will show up quite obviously. I'm saying to do this, because I have made the same assertion before that wide gamut is not that big a deal, because I was fooled by the built in color viewer of Vista showing me correct colors.

    I DO agree, however that using the sRGB mode for PC users and multimedia (console, BluRay) is best. Because otherwise the wide gamut will show up with stronger, unrealistic colors, similar to an old style TV with a color knob.

    I have read reviews from other sites that listed wide gamut as being a plus, but I would have to disagree for about 90% of the population out there using tagged and untagged sRGB images.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - link

    You have a perfect example imo. I use this quite often myself for testing.

    "Load a photo as your desktop background and load it into Picture Viewer in Vista or Win7 and you will see the difference especially with greens and reds. Even an ocean shot with lots of cyans and turqouises will show up quite obviously. I'm saying to do this, because I have made the same assertion before that wide gamut is not that big a deal, because I was fooled by the built in color viewer of Vista showing me correct colors."

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - link

    I'm not sure about video playback... I just tried to compare a movie in WMP11 and MPCHC on a regular gamut LCD, and there's clearly a difference between the two. MPCHC looks somewhat washed out, with lighter blacks and darker whites. I'm not sure if WMP11 is doing some extra post processing or what. Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    Jarred, virtually all pictures and video were recorded in sRGB space. With 24 bit color, one pixel might be color 103x50x246. That maps to a different color than it should on a wide gamut monitor. Since wide gamut extends deeper into the red zone, the incorrect mapping will give more saturated reds. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    It only maps incorrectly if your monitor is running in a wide gamut color space (both the monitor and OS) and it doesn't handle an sRGB image as being sRGB. If the applications is color space aware, you don't have a problem. Having a wide gamut monitor doesn't inherently cause the problem; in fact, if you have a regular gamut monitor you get the same effect. It's the images/videos and color space they are created in that can create issues. Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    Maybe my understanding is incorrect. The way I see it, regardless of what OS or application is being run, let's say you open a picture on a 72% gamut screen. The color is accurate. Now you crack open the monitor and replace the backlight with one that does 95% gamut. That same picture would appear different and more saturated, right? If so, that would be the case with all sRGB pictures out there, which is nearly every one.

    Even if software could "up-convert" a low gamut sRGB picture to be high gamut (by lowering the integer color values), for viewing on a high gamut screen, the end result wouldn't be a perfect match since we're dealing with integers.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    This is not correct. A high gamut screen has the potential to display a wider range of color, but it doesn't inherently do so. The backlight puts out white, and if it's a better white you can get a wider color range (more or less). But if you run in a limited color space, it doesn't make the colors map incorrectly within that color space. The problem only manifests when you view an image that maps to a different color space, and your image viewer doesn't adjust colors appropriately.

    There's a link above to a site that shows the problem. I can view the "wrong color space" stuff on a low gamut display as well as a high gamut display. So if you want an image to be viewable by your average Joe, you should use sRGB color space. Which, incidentally, the U2711 has a built-in profile calibrated to less than 5.0 delta E.
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    I really appreciate the responses =)

    After looking into this more, I think there are 2 things going on (which happen to relate to the 2 points in my last post). 1) If software isn't color managed, there's an incorrect mapping (see http://tinyurl.com/yk2h9uz)">http://tinyurl.com/yk2h9uz). 2) Even with color management, due to "bits of color" having finite numbers of steps, the conversion for display on a high gamut screen might not be 1:1 (see http://tinyurl.com/y8vocba)">http://tinyurl.com/y8vocba). It seems like #1 is the bigger problem.
    Reply

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