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Dell UltraSharp U2711 LCD Monitor Review

by The Review CrewMay 30, 2010

Dell’s UltraSharp U2711 is one of the best performing monitors we’ve seen; but at $1,049, its price will be prohibitive to some buyers. However, the U2711 earns its high price with incredible performance, a plethora of connection options, and the monitor’s piece de resistance, its 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution. Dell also fixes the static dithering issue that plagued the U2410’s release. This is the monitor to buy if you have the money. Honestly, even if you don’t have the budget, you should probably start pinching pennies because it is that good.

Design and features
The 27-inch Dell UltraSharp U2711 looks a lot like a larger version of the U2410 that Dell released a few weeks back–in fact, it’s larger by 3 inches, at least for the screen. Like the U2410, the U2711 has a matte black chassis with a gray highlight running through the middle of the panel. The panel is 1.75 inches deep; however, the back of the display–which houses the backlight, connection options, and ventilation system–extends another 1.5 inches, bringing the full monitor depth to about 3.4 inches. The panel width measures 25.4 inches long and the surface of the screen itself is a slightly frosted and smooth matte. The bezel measures 0.8 inch long on all sides.

Its rectangular foot stand measures about 12.5 inches wide by 7.8 inches deep. When knocked from the sides, the U2711 wobbled more than the U2410 did. On the U2410, wobble was nearly nonexistent. With the screen height at its lowest, the distance from the bottom of the bezel to the desktop is 1.7 inches, and at its highest it’s 5.1 inches. The panel swivels about 70 degrees left and right and tilts back about 25 degrees. The panel can be unscrewed from the stand and mounted (VESA-style) on the wall. Unfortunately, there is no portrait mode, unlike with the U2410.

Dell includes a plethora of video connection options for the U2711, all located on its back, including VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, Component, Composite, and two DVI ports. S-Video is the only missing connection, originally included on the 2408WFP. Also included are two downstream USB ports, one upstream port, an audio out port, and a speaker port. Accessing these connections was fairly easy; we were only hampered by the lack of a pivot feature on the monitor. On the left side of the panel are two additional USB downstream ports and one card reader port compatible with xD-Picture cards, MultiMedia cards, Secure Digital cards, and Sony Memory Sticks.

The onscreen display follows Dell’s label-free design seen in many recent Dell monitors. Five buttons line the lower right-hand corner of the bezel. Pressing any of the buttons brings up the OSD, which pops up parallel to the button array, and each option corresponds to one of the four buttons. Once a new menu comes up, the function of the buttons changes dynamically, as the top two buttons become the up-and-down arrow buttons used to navigate through the newly seen menu. Since any button labels for the OSD are actually on the screen (instead of on the bezel), calibrating the display in a dark room is easy.

The Dell U2410’s OSD buttons have low sensitivity, making it necessary sometimes to push them harder than what we consider normal. The U2711 didn’t have this problem, as the buttons were appropriately responsive.

Its OSD menu options include the standard brightness, contrast, and various color options. The presets are separated into two categories: Graphics and Video. There are six Graphics presets to choose from: Standard, Multimedia, Game, Warm, Cool, Adobe RGB, sRGB, and Custom. Its Video presets are: Movie, Game, and Nature. The presets don’t change anything other than the red, green, and blue color balance; therefore, how well each setting works is subjective. There are options to adjust the hue, sharpness, and color saturation as well as additional options for setting the OSD to stay onscreen up to a minute (useful for anyone who will spend a good amount of time calibrating).

The Dell UltraSharp U2711’s 16:9 aspect ratio has a 2,560×1,440-pixel native resolution. The 16:9 monitor trend currently sweeping the market has given many smaller monitors higher resolutions than they were capable of at 16:10 aspect ratio. A 22-inch model with a 16:9 aspect ratio now has a potential high-definition, native resolution of 1,920×1,080 (1080p) pixels as opposed to 1,680×1,050 pixels.

Manufacturer’s specifications:
Resolution: 2,590×1,440 pixels
Pixel-response rate: 6ms
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1
Brightness: 400cd/m2
Connectivity: DVIx2, VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, Component, Composite
HDCP compliant? Yes
Included video cables? DVI, VGA, DisplayPort
Backlight type: CCFL
Panel type: H-IPS
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Performance
We tested the Dell UltraSharp U2711 with its DVI connection in the Standard (default) preset. The display posted a composite score of 98 on CNET Labs’ DisplayMate-based performance tests–one of the highest scores we’ve yet seen. The U2711 scored well in all of our color and uniformity tests–it didn’t have the color compressing issue that we saw with the U2410 or the slight pink screen tint.

The Dell UltraSharp U2711 achieved a brightness score of 333 candelas per square meter–less than the U2410’s 434 cd/m2. While at first glance, this may seem like a disadvantage, but the U2410’s higher brightness strained our eyes over prolonged use. With the U2711’s lower base brightness, our eyes were spared such fatigue.

We looked at “Kill Bill Vol. 1″ on DVD and several 1080p movie files from Microsoft’s WMV HD Showcase. Movies on the Dell looked great thanks to the display’s deep blacks and colors that look full and natural in the Movie preset.

Unreal Tournament 3 and World of Warcraft both looked great running at 2,560×1,440 pixels and showed no signs of ghosting or input lag. Compared with the U2410, the U2711 exhibited deeper and richer color in both games. Its color saturation is among the best we’ve seen–ranking as good as the HP LP3065’s full and deep colors.

We also looked at some high-resolution photos with the U22711 and found that is produced natural and vibrant colors, proving that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

On the Dell U2410, when viewing dark gray in the SRGB and Adobe RGB presets, we noticed apparent static dithering. We didn’t see this dithering at all on the U2711 in either RGB mode or in any of the other presets. This should come as a relief to consumers that viewed this flaw as a major sticking point on the U2410.

The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a quarter of the screen’s distance down from the top. At this angle, you’re viewing the colors and gamma correction as they were intended. Most monitors are made to be viewed only at that angle. Depending on its panel type, monitor picture quality at nonoptimal angles varies. Dell used an H-IPS panel to make the U2711, which usually shows only minimal color shifts with angle changes. On the U2410, we noticed a faint white glow when viewing dark images at off angles and a dark shadow when viewing light images in the same way, about 120 degrees to the left or right and even less from above. The shift isn’t as dramatic as with a TN panel, but it was slightly more dramatic than with the 2408WFP; however, its color didn’t shift as much as the perceived brightness did.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.