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Dell 2709W review: Dell 2709W

Dell's latest 27-inch introduces an updated menu system, several new inputs and wide colour gamut.

Craig Simms Special to CNET News
Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.
Craig Simms
5 min read

Dell's previous 27-inch screen, the 2707WFP, was designed as a larger version of the 24-inch alternative — it featured the same resolution of 1,920x1,200, a bigger screen, and hence bigger dot pitch — meaning things were just a little bit larger, a boon for those with diminishing vision. The 2709W follows the same trend, with a few new features to boot.


Dell 2709W

The Good

New menu system is leagues ahead of the 07 and 08 series. Great blacks. Mass of video inputs. Audio out for HDMI.

The Bad

Can be easy to accidentally turn off due to touch sensitive buttons. Zoom function only magnifies the centre, can't be repositioned. Standard preset is too saturated, sRGB too undersaturated. Left and right sides at the extremes are a bit dark. Noticeable input lag.

The Bottom Line

While hardcore PC gamers might want to stay clear, and colour professionals may have to wrestle a little with calibration to get the most out of it, the 2709W is likely to please your average user to no end who wants a big screen with a decent resolution.

The 2709W sits on a black square base and has a silver neck, with swivel, tilt and height adjustments available. The height adjustment mechanism has been inherited from the 3007WFP's rack and pinion design, rather than the lever system found on the 2707WFP and 3008WFP — and while it's a step up, it isn't as smooth as it could be (especially from the top position). Regardless, the base is heavy enough and you should be able to find optimal positioning with little worry. Instead of the brushed aluminium look of the previous 2707WFP, the 2709 opts for the tried and true matte black, with a silver trim around the edges.

Our first worry was the seeming lack of buttons, remembering the limitations of the 3007WFP — however, this was quickly blasted out of our brains by the monitor making a horrible elongated beep when turned on, as if there was an error.

Five blue lights on the right then lit up one at a time, and slowly disappeared again one by one. These are the new menu buttons. They're touch sensitive, and unlike those capacitive buttons built on a super-smooth, fingerprint-loving surface, these are part of the bezel itself, with the same matte texture. Once you're up and running, the completely unlabelled buttons disappear from sight.

You'd be forgiven then for thinking you'd never be able to find these buttons in the dark, and that it would take a while to figure out what each unmarked button does. But hold your hand near the bottom right of the bezel, and a light above the power button turns on, showing you exactly where to press — this is the menu button.

It's here where the hideous beep from before made a return, but in shorter fashion — every single button press results in an error-sound-esque squawk. This can thankfully be turned off, and we did so with amazing haste.

Once the menu button is pressed the five buttons above it light up, and a menu appears in the bottom right of the screen with context-sensitive options available for each button. It's a modified version of what appeared on the Crystal and is amazingly intuitive, not to mention leagues ahead of the annoying menu that plagued the 07 and 08 series. If there's any flaw, it's that the power button is touch sensitive too, and it's all too easy to turn the monitor off by accidentally brushing your palm against it while trying to hit another button. You can even customise three of the buttons to your favourite functions, making your experience a little more "one touch".

This is where Dell excels — the usual card reader at the left supports CF/xD/SD/MS/MMc and dual USB ports, while another two USB ports reside underneath. Also, underneath are the video inputs, offering component, composite, two DVI ports, VGA, display port and HDMI video-in. S-Video is gone, but as a bonus you get three 3.5mm jacks to support 5.1 sound when hooked up through HDMI.

The screen features a variety of preset modes: standard, multimedia, game, warm, cool, Adobe RGB, sRGB, Custom (RGB) and Custom (RGBCMY). Brightness and contrast controls are present, as is input source selection, gamma (set to either Mac or PC) and something new — a mode selection between Graphics and Video. If set to Video, the screen aspect changes, and new preset modes of Movie, Game, Sports and Nature appear, as well as the option to switch between YPbPr colour or RGB. While in graphics mode you have scaling options (labelled as "Wide Mode") of Aspect, 1:1 and Fill, but when switching to video you're presented with 16:9, 4:3 and Fill. Sharpness settings are available in increments of 10 from 0 to 100, and a zoom function is provided as well, although without the ability to determine where exactly is zoomed. Dynamic Contrast can be turned off, which we did for our tests.

PIP and PBP are present as always, allowing for size and position adjustments, however just like other Dell monitors you can only mix an analog signal with a digital signal, and not analog with analog, or digital with digital. Considering the digital ports on the screen now far outweigh the analog ones (and for convenience, we're lumping VGA under digital even though it's not strictly correct), we can only hope this is rectified in the next revision.

Like the 2408WFP, the Standard preset mode is ridiculously over-cooked colour wise, and sRGB is far, far too undersaturated. Fortunately there's a middle ground, as Dell has included an Adobe RGB profile which we found more to our liking — however, you'll want to head to Custom (RGB) or Custom (RGBCMY) to get the most out of this monitor. The white is, of course, still set to retina-searing brightness, so it may take you some time to adjust if you haven't used a Dell monitor before. After a lot of tweaking we managed to get a colour setting we were mostly happy with, but despite our efforts reds still seemed a little too neon for our tastes.

Sitting in the middle of the screen, it appeared as if the left and right sides were noticeably darker than the middle, turning whites a bit dirty. This possibly has more to do with how deeply set the panel is within the bezel than backlight uniformity issues, but is irritating nonetheless. Taking this into account, viewing angles were reasonable.

From a game aspect, Portal looked great, but as people not previously susceptible to input lag, we have to say we noticed it here. It was only small, but will probably be enough to annoy the hardcore competitive gamers. If you're a single-player gamer, it may not stress you too much.

As a test suite for display capability, DisplayMate has never been much of a hard taskmaster for Dell's screens (excluding the first revision of the 2407 series which had severe gradient issues), with all 255 greyscale tones being discernible and gradients looking just fine. Similarly, movies looked fantastic.

While hardcore PC gamers might want to stay clear, and colour professionals may have to wrestle a little with calibration to get the most out of it, the 2709W is likely to please your average user to no end who wants a big screen with a decent resolution.

The Dell 2709W should be available on Dell Australia's website on 20 June, 2008.