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Dell Crystal - 22 inches (wide screen) review: Dell Crystal - 22 inches (wide screen)

Dell Crystal - 22 inches (wide screen)

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Eric Franklin
Eric_Franklin.jpg
Eric Franklin Editorial Director

Eric Franklin leads the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.

Expertise Graphics and display technology. Credentials Once wrote 50 articles in one month.
6 min read

Priced at $1,199, this 22-inch LCD is clearly not aimed at the general consumer. For the money, you could pick up four SP2208WFP Editors' Choice award winning 22-inch Dell LCDs. Aside from the price, there's a lot to like about the Crystal, but even a perfectly outfitted 22-inch would have trouble justifying a four-figure price. The tempered glass design is striking and has a strong image quality. We would have liked to see more video connection options, however, along with better brightness and the capability to display 1080p video without scaling. We doubt it would attract many more buyers if it were a $1,200 24-inch panel, but the price starts make a little more sense if the size was increased and resolution bumped up to 1,920x1,200. Either way, the Dell Crystal's audience is a small one that is likely purchasing it to fill a public space and charging it to an expense account.

6.6

Dell Crystal - 22 inches (wide screen)

The Good

Aesthetically pleasing design; built-in speakers; great performance, especially in color reproduction; elegant and practical onscreen display.

The Bad

Sky-high price puts it out of reach for most of us; lack of connection options; nonadjustable screen height.

The Bottom Line

For boardrooms and public spaces in need of a LCD conversation piece, the Dell Crystal might find a home. For those not operating on a bloated corporate budget, however, there are plenty of other 22-inch LCDs that cost a fraction of the cost.

Design
The Dell Crystal can most easily be described as a normal 22-inch LCD with a 4mm thick glass overlay. The glass facing extends over the edges--3 inches on each side and 1 inch on the top and bottom--and houses the speakers and the control buttons for the onscreen display. The glass overlay makes for a good first impression, but it's easily smeared and attracts fingerprints fast.

The display rests atop three metal legs. The foot on each leg is narrow, which raises the potential for an accident; make sure you have the Crystal set up on a desktop or stand with lots of room. The three-legged stand also does not allow for any height adjustment. The only adjustment option? You can rotate the screen back 30 degrees.

Two speakers are embedded into the glass overlay on each side of the display. The circuitry required to connect the speakers to the display is nicely hidden as two lines coming out of the screen and into the speakers.

The OSD has an elegant and simple interface that we hope Dell incorporates into its mainstream displays. With one press of the menu button, you are brought into the controls that most people want to adjust first--brightness and contrast. The color settings include six presets and separate settings for video and graphics. The video mode lets you also change color and saturation in addition to just choosing the presets. We really liked the capability to turn off the confirmation beep you usually get when pressing any of the buttons. Another useful touch is the capability to adjust the volume of the speakers simply by pressing the up or down arrows whenever the OSD is not open.

Dell went for a simplified one-cord solution for the cables. The cord is more than 4 feet in length before it splits into four smaller cords: HDMI (there is an adapter included for DVI connection), USB for the Webcam, an audio connection for a subwoofer, and power. A 2-megapixel Webcam is almost hidden on the top bezel and is very easy to miss.

Branding is kept to a minimum. A large Dell logo sits in the middle of the back of the display, illuminated by a bright blue LED. Another blue LED lights up a smaller transparent Dell logo beneath the screen on the front of the monitor.

Manufacturer's specifications:
Resolution: 1,680x1,050
Pixel-response rate: 2ms
Contrast ratio: 2000:1 (Dynamic)
Connectivity: DVI (via adapter), HDMI
HDCP compliant? Yes
Included video cables: DVI (adapter), HDMI

Features
In keeping with the sparse design, Dell went for simplicity over abundance with the Crystal's features. The one cable system provides an HDMI or a DVI connection. We're more than willing to sacrifice VGA or composite video connections, but at its price, we expected to see component video jacks.

The Dell Crystal offers HDCP support for displaying high-definition copyright-protected content, but a 22-inch screen has a native resolution of 1,680x1,050, which means it will need to scale to display 1080p content. A 24-inch Crystal model would provide a 1080p-friendly 1,920x1,200 native resolution and perhaps go a little further in justifying the high cost.

Performance
The Dell Crystal performed very well in CNET Labs DisplayMate-based performance tests. Its composite score of 90 has been matched only by the Dell SP2208WFP and the Dell 2408WFP. In particular, it excelled on all five of our color tests. Most monitors struggle on DisplayMate's color tracking test, which evaluates a display's capability of properly balance the RGB channels' intensities in signal-level changes. In other words, it looks for the appearance of red, green, or blue when looking at the grayscale. Most displays exhibit some color on this test, but the Crystal reproduced the grayscale with absolutely no hint of red, green, or blue.

However, the display did stumble on our screen uniformity test. Using various color screens and looking at them at different brightness levels, we are able to test the backlight's capability to deliver perfectly uniform lighting across the entire screen and also test for reflections inside the panel. A display that struggles here will show dim patches across the screen. At the darker color levels, the Crystal showed some dim areas, which means either its backlight does not achieve uniform lighting or there are irregularities such as reflections inside the panel, or both.

The Dell Crystal also excelled on our contrast ration benchmark, producing dark blacks and bright whites, but it turned in a disappointing result on our brightness test. It wasn't nearly as bright as other 22-inch LCDs we tested recently, which might hurt its appeal for use in a brightly lit conference room or atrium.

Brightness scores (in cd/m2)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Contrast ratio
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Dell Crystal
1,006:1 

DisplayMate test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

DVD playback was clear and colorful. We watched Kill Bill Vol. 1 and were impressed by the display's capability to reproduce vibrant color without oversaturating it. The Bride's yellow jumpsuit, in particular, looked great and popped off the screen. The Blu-ray version of Swordfish also looked great, but honestly, Swordfish looks great on most displays we've tested. The same goes for World of Warcraft. It looked smooth and colorful; however, its smoothness can be attributed to the display's glass screen, which can sometimes smooth out images that would otherwise show edges like polygonal characters. The glass also produced some glare, but no more so than a typical LCD with a glossy screen coating. We had no problems watching light or dark scenes in normal room lighting.

Unless you connect a separate subwoofer, you'll find that the included speakers have trouble reproducing heavy bass without sounding tinny. However, their output is impressively loud. We found them more than suitable for movie watching and casual music listening.

From the left and right sides, the viewing angle is good, with only a small shift in the perceived color. If viewing from above however, text is mostly unreadable past 45 degrees, which isn't a real problem since the screen rotates back 30 degrees.

Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.

Service and support
The $1,199 price includes a three-year limited warranty that covers defects in the display and its peripherals. This also includes a 24-7 toll-free phone technical support as well as technical support through live Web chat. To get the speakers to work, you have to install the Webcam software, as the speaker drivers are not on the Information Disc. Also, Dell's site does not contain drivers for the display so make sure you hold on to your discs.

6.6

Dell Crystal - 22 inches (wide screen)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 5Performance 7Support 7Setup 0
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