Simply put, the Dell UltraSharp U3011 is the best 30-inch monitor we've yet seen. Not only does it deliver great performance--which is expected from most devices running at a 2,560x1,600 resolution--but it also has tons of connection options and an OSD with a surprisingly high number of calibration features. The only problem is the price. At $1,349, it's about $400 more expensive than the 27-inch Dell UltraSharp U2711, which includes mostly the same features, with less real estate. The U2711 is still the best overall large-screen monitor, but if 27 inches just isn't enough, the U3011 is a fully capable alternative.
Design and features
The 30-inch UltraSharp U3011 takes nearly everything great about the UltraSharp U2711, adds three inches to its screen size, increases the already high resolution, and adds even more On Screen Display (OSD) options. This in itself is nothing to write home about (not that anyone receiving such a message would be the least bit interested anyway), but when we consider that OSD options for the vast majority of 30-inch monitors (including the recently reviewed HP ZR30w) are limited to brightness adjustment options only, the fact that the UltraSharp U3011 includes a full array of OSD options is quite the oddity. In fact, the last 30-incher we reviewed that included OSD options was Dell's own UltraSharp 3008WFP from 2008.
The OSD follows a label-free design that's become the house style for Dell monitors. Five vertically arranged 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 five buttons. Once a new menu is selected, the function of each button 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.
Each OSD button on the U3011 is responsive and depresses just enough to feel satisfying. The OSD menu options include the standard brightness, contrast, and various color options. These color options include custom color controls for gain and offset, each allowing you to adjust the red, green, and blue values in the brighter and dimmer sections of the screen respectively. Also, the hue and saturation options include RGB adjustments as well as cyan, magenta, and yellow (CMY) adjustments.
Main screen presets are Standard, Multimedia, Game, Movie, Warm, Cool, Adobe RGB, sRGB, and xv Mode. There are options to adjust the sharpness and 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) and OSD transparency level.
Like the U2711, the U3011 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 1.8 inches, bringing the full monitor depth to about 3.7 inches. The panel width measures 27.3 inches; the surface of the screen itself is a slightly frosted and smooth matte. The bezel measures 0.9 inch on all sides.
The Dell UltraSharp U3011 has a host of connections including two DVI, two HDMI, DisplayPort, Component, VGA, four USB downstream, one USB upstream, and an SD card reader, making this one of the most robust monitor connection arrays we've seen.
|Design and feature highlights|
|Connectivity||DVIx2, DisplayPort, Component, VGA, HDMIx2|
|Ergonomic options||35 degree back tilt, 45 degree swivel, 3.6-inch screen height adjustment range|
|Audio||Option and controls for speaker bar|
|VESA wall-mount support||Yes|
|Included video cables||DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI|
|Number of presets||9|
|Picture options||Brightness, Dynamic Contrast Ratio|
|Color controls||RGB, CMY, Gain, Offset, Hue, Saturation|
|Additional features||4 USB downstream, 1 upstream; SD card reader|
We tested the Dell UltraSharp U3011 through its DVI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using the included DVI cable. The display posted a composite score of 97 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.
The U3011 displayed excellent color reproduction and accuracy. Although the HP ZR30w showed evidence of a green push, the U3011 had no such problems and as a result got higher marks in our color tracking test. In our grayscale bars test, we were able to see dark gray down to level 2, two levels above black, which indicates accurate black-level performance.
The U3011 performed well in our uniformity and dark screen tests, showing only a minimum amount of backlight bleed-through. Unfortunately, as with the ZR30w, we did see clear evidence of static streaking. Static streaking occurs when there are large changes in contrast and either the darker or lighter color "streaks" onto its counterpart, showing, for example, black bars on a white background.
The biggest advantage the UltraSharp U3011 has over the ZR30w is its detailed OSD that allows you to adjust the monitor's output, which can result in better performance.
In text, we saw no color problems with black text on a white background. Fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8 size. Not much wrong a monitor can do at this high of a resolution on such a large screen.
We tested the Dell UltraSharp U3011 using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar". We saw deep blacks, and accurate color that looked great on the huge 30-inch screen. Faces looked natural with no egregious color tint problems.
Because of our intimate familiarity with StarCraft II (SCII), it is our new favorite tool for judging color quality and vibrancy in games. It's difficult for a game running natively at 2,560x1,600 to look bad, and indeed SCII looks quite stunning on the 30-inch U3011.