Dell UltraSharp U2711 lcd monitor
The Dell UltraSharp U2711 is one of the best LCD monitors that a consumer can buy, with an excellent 27 inch screen.
- 2560x1440 screen resolution, quality of H-IPS panel, lot of input ports, DeepColor gamut support, input lag not noticeable
- No screen pivot functionality
The Dell UltraSharp U2711 is an absolutely enjoyable 27-inch monitor. With an awe-inspiring screen resolution, a quality IPS panel, future-proof colour gamut and wide variety of input options, people who do not mind spending more for a good product need not have to think very much as it is simply the best buy. And shop around online and you can get a good deal. If you were anyway looking for a 26 inch monitor or beyond, consider this one where the picture on-screen rivals a good CRT, games are easily playable with negligible input lag, and the overall package is mouth-wateringly cool. The only sticking bone could be that Dell seems unconcerned about the high price. This is one area where nit-picking is pointless, since this monitor is still the most economical at this niche level of feature offering and there is almost no competition in this price segment since the U2711 would win hands down on the price/quality graph.
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
Dell UltraSharp U2711: The Experience
Think of the Dell UltraSharp U2711 monitor (2560x1440) as operating upon a unique HD resolution of 1440p, if you like. Since this screen resolution is of the same aspect ratio as Full-HD, it is nice to watch High-Definition movies and HDTV recordings in full-screen mode without any annoying black bars. The sheer scale of both vertical and horizontal resolution mean that anybody moving to this monitor even from a similar sized monitor will still feel that it is a worthwhile upgrade.
But there is a weird side as well. If you are not already accustomed to sitting very close to large-screen 16:9 displays, this UltraSharp will make you exclaim loudly at first glance. Using the 16:9 ratio at such a huge screen size makes it bear a pronounced resemblance to a railway track that stretches as long as the eye can see. Even after many days, the expanse of the screen in the horizontal direction still jumps out at this reviewer. Coming from a Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP (24-inch 16:10 monitor), it feels like the height is almost the same (half an inch taller) and the length is the main difference. To those familiar with the 4:3 aspect ratio of old-school CRT monitors, it does prompt reflections on the evolution of the monitor as something that seems to keep gaining in width and cutting back on height. The industry does this under a figment of reason, that the human eye’s field of vision is wider than its height.
The available desktop resolution does feel good, and allows for a lot more to be displayed on-screen simultaneously. Note that until you install your graphics card drivers, the maximum resolution allowed by Windows is 1920x1440 even if you have connected the Dell UltraSharp U2711 to your PC using a Dual-Link DVI or DisplayPort cable. Since that is not its native resolution, the screen will look distorted, lose sharpness and become fuzzy. Once you get to its native resolution of 2560x1440, freedom takes on a new meaning. The massive amount of screen space available dwarfs all other 27-inch monitors. It is a tribute to Windows 7 that even at such a surreal, beyond-HD resolution, everything still feels comfortable. Other OSes make such a resolution feel ungainly and ocean-like, which is why you see quite a few people claim that such a resolution is “over-kill for a PC” – but will change their opinion once they actually use it on Windows 7. It is a particularly proud moment when you find that a Full-HD (1080p, 1920x1080) movie is just a window even at full zoom level.
We had to make sure we sat at a distance of about a metre away from the monitor. That way, there was no need to turn the head from side to side to view the whole display area. A pleasant surprise was that the mouse did not have to make multiple sweeping movements to cover the gigantic number of pixels that separate the top left corner from the bottom right (2937 pixels diagonally). But when on a text-filed website or document, the screen area is so large that searching for the mouse cursor takes more than a second! With a display like this, one intensely wishes that websites were developed using percentage widths rather than hard limits based on pixels alone, because quite a few websites will load and look laughably limited when they make use of just 30 per cent of available screen space as an isolated column in the middle. The nice thing is that 1440p allows MS Word to display 3 pages simultaneously, at full zoom and still have screen space left over for the ribbon menu.
The screen looks just fine with its matte finish, so colours can stay true to intended levels, without being too vibrant or glossy. Even if your room lighting is in the wrong place, you still don’t need to worry about light glares on-screen. The monitor including all the paraphernalia of the stand, is heavy for sure, so this one is not for those who move house frequently. The build quality is stable and solid, inspiring confidence. The predecessor of the U2711 was the Dell 2709W, which had a PVA-panel, so the newer model (IPS panel, quicker response times) is better and an improvement, even if you don't account for the higher screen resolution.
As for being able to drive this monitor at full-resolution, as long as a DVI port is available, even two year old motherboards with integrated graphics will do just fine. The problem might arise from actual application-usage after booting into the OS. More screen space naturally lends itself to more apps and multi-tasking, making low-end graphics solutions huff and puff, resulting in a disappointing experience for the user. Needless to say, running new games at full native resolution tests the muscle of even the best consumer graphics cards and processors available today. Some game engines may not support such a high resolution and thus have artifacts when playing even at a lower supported resolution. On Windows 7/Vista, scaling up desktop icons, web pages, and office documents can be quite a pleasure.
The brightness and contrast are set to a pleasant 50 per cent by default. Unless your work conditions have higher lighting levels, it would be prudent to not increase these to searing levels where you could burn your eyes out! You might like to shy away a bit from white colours, and change your apps/themes accordingly, even at default brightness/contrast levels. If your work involves continuously staring at the PC monitor for hours, when you look away from it you might find that your eyes need a minute to adjust to the lighting levels of even a room lit by tube light, because the room would feel relatively less bright. Cranking the brightness levels up might be tempting during some games, but resist the temptation because once you exit the game the screen would feel searingly bright. Naturally this does heat up the monitor as evidenced from the heat exhaust vents at the rear grill, and the screen itself.
After a quick subjective check (using the back of the palm) by this reviewer though, upon the Dell UltraSharp U2711 and two other 24-inch UltraSharp monitors that had all been left running for 10 hours, it was settled that this monitor was not any hotter than the others. The 6ms response time claimed on the specs page might not look like a gaming-friendly monitor, but we found games just fine, including fast-paced first person shooter games like Unreal Tournament 2004.
Being a monitor that cannot leave anything to chance, the OSD menu (On-screen Display) is well provided for. There is a clear set of 5 touch-activated buttons located at the bottom right edge of the bezel, just above the physical power button. Using a proximity sensor, these buttons light up in an unobtrusive blue colour when you take your hand close to the power button, and fade a few seconds after you take your hand away. This makes sure you can still operate these buttons even in a dark room.
The OSD was intuitive, easy to navigate, had every setting in the book, and was as easy to use as Dell’s premium monitors have always been. All the usual stuff was present, here we shall mention only a few interesting features. Firstly, of the 5 buttons, 3 can be used as shortcut keys to quickly reach important parts of the OSD, and you can change these shortcut associations. Since the Dell Soundbar can give it audio capabilities, there is an option to set audio output to 5.1 channel or 2.0 (stereo).
Menu lock is still present as usual, as is the DCR (dynamic contrast ratio) on/off setting. In case you have connected the monitor to a video output that does not do 1440p, you can change the “Wide mode” to view the video content as it was intended to be and prevent wrong scaling. The “wide modes” available are Fill, Aspect, and 1:1 – it is a good idea to change over to the Aspect mode as default, because it will preserve the aspect ratio of any video input even if your video output device is not capable of changing its aspect ratio.
Note that the “Aspect” mode of scaling to fit the screen yet not stretch the video, is something that is offered only on higher-end monitors. An option called PBP (Picture-By-Picture) is present, and though it is interesting, might not be of much practical use since it is different from “Picture in Picture”. In addition to a DP/DVI video source at first, the second source on PBP can only be HDMI/Composite/Component.
If you have a Netbook or older desktop with only VGA output and were hoping to use that as the second video source, too bad, won’t happen. Pressing any of the touch-buttons produces a “tink” sound, which does serve as feedback that your button-press took effect. But if you are expecting to tinker with it more than a little, make sure to use the option to turn the “Button Sound” off, to save yourself some annoyance while navigating through the OSD. Interestingly, there seems to be a debugging screen that can be used to obtain information, we shall steer clear of this topic, search YouTube if you would like to know how to enter the debug mode.
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