Dell's 22-inch "Crystal" marks another design divergence for the Texas-based company. The looks have polarised the CNET.com.au office, but needless to say it's certainly striking, and we think it depends on the Crystal's surrounds as to how impressive it seems. Modern display house, big thumbs up. Small rundown rental property, not so much.
The monitor itself sits behind a glass panel, its borders exceeding that of the screen and giving the Crystal its distinctive look. The glass is much like that used on a plasma TV — so if used in a high-light environment, reflections and glare become a large problem, particularly when viewing dark scenes.
The glass bezel has four speakers embedded around the outside — these are "subtly wired" according to the Dell Web site, but in reality are marked by thick, black, obvious lines. Not bad, but certainly not subtle. A 2-megapixel webcam is set into the top of the screen, and it all stands upon a tripod of plastic silver legs, which means the only comfort adjustment available is a somewhat shallow tilt function.
Capacitive touch buttons are on the bottom right of the panel, which make a horrid error-like sound every time you touch them and will have you scrabbling to turn it off. Once this is achieved, you'll notice Dell's new menu — it appears in the right-hand corner, is translucent, and light years ahead of what appeared on the x07 and x08 series in terms of usability. When not in the menu, the up and down buttons function as volume controls.
A Dell logo glows blue underneath the monitor, suspended in the glass — while it is fairly low light, we found no way to turn it off as it may distract people trying to watch movies. When there's no video input, the Dell logo turns red. There's a big Dell logo that lights up blue on the back as well, and given the Crystal's "trophy product"-like status we wouldn't be surprised to see some product placement popping up on a TV show near you.
Menu options on the Crystal are all the standards, with brightness and contrast, RGB/YPbPr setting, the usual presets (including a vastly undersaturated sRGB mode and an oversaturated Standard mode, now seemingly common on Dell monitors) that will have you reaching for the custom RGB setting. A zoom function that can't be panned is also included (making it pretty much useless), and you can turn the response time, overdrive and dynamic contrast off if you so wish. Scaling modes of 1:1, 4:3, 16:9 and Fill are offered, should you choose to run something outside of the native 1,680x1,050 resolution.
The monitor comes with a single, non-removable cable that breaks out into a hydra's worth of little cables at the end — USB for the speakers and webcam, an HDMI connector with DVI adapter for the video, a power port (which plugs into a laptop-style power brick) and a jack for an optional subwoofer, which interestingly, isn't available for sale on the Dell Web site.
The speakers are certainly better than the usual monitor fanfare in both clarity and volume, the extra treble and bass settings in the menu helping even further — however, the extra sub would probably assist even more, and unless the treble is set to zero it's quite harsh. While listening to music languished, gaming was acceptable.