Dell UltraSharp U2412m review: Dell UltraSharp U2412m

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The Good The Dell UltraSharp U2412m has great performance with excellent ergonomic support and a robust and easy-to-navigate OSD with tons of options for customization. It also has five USB ports, and it's currently available for about $350.

The Bad HDMI is missing from the connection options, and performance-wise, it's not quite there compared with high-end, pro-grade IPS panels, especially when it comes to viewing angles.

The Bottom Line With thoughtful design, great performance, and plenty of OSD features, the Dell UltraSharp U2412 fills its value quotient to the brim.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 8

As the follow-up to 2009's Dell UltraSharp U2410, the U2412m has quite a bit to live up to. I expected Dell to stay on its high-end and expensive course it had already plotted for the series. Not surprisingly, I'll admit to being a bit disappointed when I learned Dell went with a cheaper IPS panel with the 2412m compared with its previous efforts.

Design and features
"Thin and light" aren't usually descriptors assigned to 24-inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) monitors, but in the curious case of the Dell UltraSharp U2412m, that's as apt a description of its physical attributes as I could think of.

Unlike the U2410 from 2009, the U2412m houses an LED backlight and uses an E-IPS panel as opposed to the H-IPS panel that the U2410 utilized. E-IPS panels are cheaper to manufacturer, but performance-wise, usually land between Twisted Nematic (TN) and H-IPS. Check out the performance section to see how true that is in this case.

While not incredibly slim, that's a fairly slim profile for an IPS performance monitor.

The U2412m's LED backlight affords it a much thinner design than previous entries in the series. Initially, the panel measures 1.1 inches thick. It then tapers back toward the rear where another 1.6 inches house the connection options and ventilation system. This brings its collective depth to 2.7 inches; that's a little more than half an inch thinner than the U2410. At 13 pounds, again, we're seeing something uncharacteristic: a light IPS monitor. Unexpected, since they can easily top 20 pounds.

A 45-degree left and right swivel isn't enough to stop the downpour.

The left and right side bezel measures 0.7 inch each, and the full panel width is 21.9 inches. The foot stand sits 11 inches wide and 7.2 inches deep; however, knocking the panel from the sides yields ample wobbling on a flat surface. Not a necessarily earth-shattering discovery, given its light weight.

The U2412m sports a complete collection of ergonomic options, including a 90-degree pivot, 45-degree left and right swivel, and 20-degree back tilt. Also, there's 4.8 inches of screen height adjustment, with panel-to-desktop space measuring 1.3 inches at the bottom and 6.1 inches at the top.

Video connections options consist of DisplayPort, DVI, and VGA. The lack of HDMI is disappointing, but perhaps even more disappointing is the placement of the connections that are included. Connections on monitors should face out, not down, plain and simple. Many smaller monitors achieve this, as do pretty much all TVs. It's time we started seeing them on performance monitors. That said, the pivot feature makes slightly less blood drip from my nose when connecting the monitor.

DisplayPort, DVI, VGA, USB upstream, and USB downstream x2. Sadly, no HDMI. No composite or component, either, but who cares about those? Seriously, though, the lack of HDMI speaks to a larger trend I've noticed with recent monitors. Could DisplayPort finally be in a position to take over as the primary computer video input?

The OSD array is aligned vertically along the lower-right bezel and consists of four small but well-spaced buttons. Navigating the OSD is simple and clean. Dell still makes the best-designed OSDs in the industry with a contextual navigation system that never lets you forget the function each button has at any given time.

Customizations are robust and vast, providing access to brightness, contrast, and sharpness. Its seven different presets consist of Standard, Multimedia, Movie, Game, Text, Color Temperature, and RGB. The color temperature preset allows for altering temperature values from 5,000 Kelvin up to 10,000K. The RGB preset allows you to access red, green, and blue values individually. One minor disappointment, however, is that you can't alter color temperature or RGB values when in a different preset. You can augment both hue and saturation, though.

For the energy conscious among you (all both of you), in the top-right corner of the OSD sits an energy use meter that gauges how much power the monitor is using. Also, there's an Energy Smart mode that lowers the brightness based on the amount of ambient light in the room.

Perhaps as a byproduct of being unaccustomed to such light IPS displays, it was difficult to get used to something (a well-performing IPS monitor) that felt so light and airy. In my mind, IPS monitors should be these weighty behemoths; experiencing the opposite was a bit off-putting. Admittedly, this is a crazy personal thing and doesn't really affect the monitor's quality.

Design and feature highlights
Connectivity: DVI, DisplayPort, VGA
Ergonomic options: 20 degree back tilt, 45 degree left and right swivel, 90 degree pivot, 4.5 inch height adjustment
Resolution: 1,920x1,200 pixels
Aspect ratio: 16:10
Audio: n/a
VESA wall mount support: Yes
Included video cables: DVI, VGA
Backlight: LED
Panel Type: E-IPS
Screen film: Matte
Number of presets: 7
Overdrive: No
Picture options: Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness
Color controls: RGB and six color-temperature options
Gamma control: Yes
Additional features: USB downstream x 4, USB upstream x 1

I tested the Dell UltraSharp U2712m 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.

DisplayMate: The U2412m displayed light gray up to level 254; 255 is considered white and every level in-between it and 1 is a variation of gray, so 254 is about as high as you can get. The U2412m's performance here indicates that the display would retain its contrast ratio and likely not be prone to washing out light colors. As for dark gray, the U2412m just barely displayed down to level 2 while still maintaining a very deep black, pointing to the display being capable of retaining dark detail during dark scenes in movies.

The U2412m excelled in all of our color tests, showing a propensity for displaying color accurately and smoothly with no unexpected jumps in color scale progression.

In our Dark Screen test, we did see some light clouding in all four corners of the screen. And by "light" I mean "very little."

Text: Black text on white looked clear, without any obvious color tint problems. Also, fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8-point size.

Movies: I tested the Dell UltraSharp U2412m using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." The movie preset provided a great movie-watching experience, displaying a high contrast and vibrant look with rich colors with appropriately deep blacks. No oversaturation or green tint problems were noticeable.

Games: When evaluating the look of games on a monitor, the two most important features to consider are vibrancy and color. If the monitor can display games with a bright and vibrant cleanness, this goes a long way toward benefiting its looks. If colors can also pop with fullness and depth, games can usually look great. Streaking is a different concern that honestly isn't very pervasive with most modern monitors, but if you're concerned about it, be sure to check out the last paragraph in this section.

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