At $239, it's difficult to fault the 24-inch Dell ST2420L too harshly. The monitor includes DVI and HDMI, has a well-designed OSD, and is easy on the eyes. Unfortunately, it earns that low price with unresponsive OSD buttons, difficult-to-reach connections, and uninspiring movie and games performance. Also, although VGA, DVI, and HDMI connections are included, Dell ships the ST2420L with only a VGA cable. Lastly, although most Dell monitors are covered for up to three years, the ST2420L is only covered for a year and costs an extra $50 to get those extra two years of coverage.
Design and features
The 24-inch Dell ST2420L has a fairly glossy, piano-black chassis, with smooth rounded corners. The bezel is a short 0.75 inches wide on the right and left sides. The panel itself is about 0.6 inches thick initially, and extends back another 1.75 inches to include the ventilation system and connection options, bringing the panel's full depth to 2.35 inches. The bottom of the bezel ends prematurely, revealing about an inch of eye-catching gray that otherwise would not be seen. In the bottom middle of the bezel below the Dell logo is a white LED that illuminates the aforementioned gray, creating a cool look. Unfortunately, the amount of light emitted isn't enough to illuminate the onscreen display (OSD) array in the dark.
The distance between the bottom of the bezel and the desktop is a short 2.25 inches. The circular foot stand is 8 inches in diameter and unfortunately is unable keep the monitor stable if knocked from the sides. And we found the ST2420L was very susceptible to rear force, especially compared with the Samsung PX2370. The monitor is capable of a 10-degree back tilt, but offers no other ergonomic options.
In the middle of the back of the panel is a Dell logo. A few inches below that are the connection options, which consist of HDMI, DVI, and VGA, with no additional connections available, and Dell includes only a VGA cable as the sole cable option. The connections face downward and are tucked up into the chassis in a way that makes them particularly frustrating to access--we prefer it when connections face outward, as on the PX2370, instead of downward. When connections face downward, it usually means you'll need to turn the monitor sideways to connect it or at least get really low in order to see them clearly. The placement of the ST2420L's DVI port is particularly annoying. It's located directly over the foot stand, near the neck of the display, making connection an awkward endeavor.
In the lower right-hand corner, on the face of the bezel, is the OSD array, aligned vertically. In place of buttons, Dell uses touch areas, each denoted by a small gray dot. Touching any of the dots brings up the OSD menu, which pops up parallel to the array, and each option corresponds to one of the four touch areas. Once a new menu comes up, the function of the touch area changes dynamically, as the top two touch areas become the up- and down-arrow buttons used to navigate through the newly seen menu. Since any labels for the OSD are on the screen (other displays typically label them on the bezel), calibrating the display in a dark room should have proven painless. Unfortunately, the lack of a discernable separation between the areas, coupled with lack of illumination and the inconsistent responsiveness of the touch areas, frequently made what is normally a fairly seamless process on other Dell monitors a frustrating chore in this case.
OSD 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, and Custom. Its Video presets are Movie, Game, Sports, and Nature. The presets change the color balance and contrast with the intent of being appropriate to the task at hand. Certain presets also include options to adjust the hue, sharpness, and color saturation. Also, there are 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).
|Connectivity:||HDMI, DVI, VGA|
|Ergonomic options:||10-degree back tilt|
|Audio:||Audio In and Out; no speakers|
|Included video cables?||VGA|
|Number of presets:||10|
|Picture options:||Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness|
|Color controls:||Hue, Saturation|
|Additional features:||Dynamic Contrast mode|
We tested the Dell ST2420L through its DVI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC via a DVI cable from our own bountiful DVI cable stock we've collected over the years. The display posted a composite score of 87 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests, more than a few points lower than the Samsung PX2370's 96. The ST2430L performed well in most of our color and grayscale tests, displaying up to a 253 white level and down to a level 4 dark gray, indicating that the monitor would not oversaturate colors and would be able to display dark detail in movies--both of which we found to be true in our real-world testing.
The monitor did show some very slight color-tracking problems, with a negligible screen push toward green, although this showed up more noticeably when we looked at movies, which you can read more about below. We did see some color compression at the light end of the color scales, particularly in the color red. This indicated that the ST2420L has a lower gamut than the PX2370, which didn't have this problem. Also, thanks to the display's low luminance level, we saw minimal backlight bleed-through on our dark screen test. We also saw some sparse evidence of static ghosting.
In text, we saw no color problems with black text on a white background. Fonts were visible down to a 6.8 size.
We tested the Dell ST2420L in its Movie preset, using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." The ST2420L displayed the movie with a noticeably drab and "soft," almost blurry look; definitely not as sharp and vibrant as the PX2370 presented the same scenes. Also, faces had a slight green tint. We were able to marginalize the green tint effect by adjusting the hue downward, but this had the unfortunate side effect of pulling much of the red out of the picture as well. As for dark details, we could see most of the intended dark detail of the Na'vi's hair in dark scenes.
Because of our intimate familiarity with World of Warcraft (WoW), it remains the best tool for judging color quality and vibrancy in games. We looked at WoW in the Dell ST2420L's Game preset and found the display delivered an image with colors that were somewhat drab and lacked vibrancy and pop.