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Dell UltraSharp U2711 review: Dell UltraSharp U2711

Continuing its IPS assault on the monitor space, Dell outs a 27-inch, 2560x1440 wunderkind, with all the expected trappings to boot.

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Craig Simms
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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.

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9 min read

Following up on the U2410 and 2209WA, Dell's updated its 27-inch screen, leaving the 3008WFP as the last of its premium range yet to receive a makeover.

dell-ultrasharp-u2711_1.jpg
9.5

Dell UltraSharp U2711

The Good

H-IPS panel. Great resolution. Huge array of inputs. Offset and gain control. RGBCMY hue and saturation control. 24p support. Excellent HQV scores. sRGB and AdobeRGB modes.

The Bad

Input lag might be disturbing to competitive gamers. Ever so slight judder. More granularity over offset would be nice. No ATW polariser, so white IPS glow is present.

The Bottom Line

With a huge resolution, excellent performance in both colour and movies, and a huge amount of inputs, the U2711 excels in almost every area it puts its mark to. Hardcore gamers may be a little wary of the input lag, and others of the cost — but if you can afford one, you'll likely be very, very pleased.

Its predecessor, the 2709W is still on sale under Dell Australia's business section for AU$999 — although we imagine this won't last too long, as it's currently limited to two units per customer, and the higher spec U2410 is only AU$200 more. The 2709W was a 1920x1200 screen like its 24-inch brethren, but with a larger pixel pitch; something that would perhaps help those who found that 24-inch screens were difficult to read. It was a VA-based screen that started Dell's current design ethos of the black bezel and proximity/touch-sensitive buttons.

The U2711 goes the other way. At a resolution of 2560x1440, it's second only to 30-inch monitors (excluding some freak occurrences), by virtue of opting for a 16:9 ratio over the usual 16:10. Think iMac 27, but without the Mac or the gloss bit. It's also dual-link DVI territory, so you'll need a graphics card that can handle the output.

As a consequence of the resolution and screen size, text and icons at default look tiny. Windows 7's DPI scaling handles this minor hurdle perfectly, allowing elements to be scaled to comfort, but Windows XP's messy implementation leaves a lot to be desired, and in some instances may leave you squinting.

What else is new? The U2711 steps up from its VA roots to be H-IPS based, meaning theoretically better viewing angles and colours, and features 12-bit internal processing for smoother greyscale gradients. There's also a few colour management surprises under the hood... so let's get cracking and see what this super resolution monster has to offer.

Specs at a glance

Size 27 inches
Resolution 2560x1440
Aspect ratio 16:9
Pixel pitch 0.233
Panel technology H-IPS
Viewing angles
(10:1 contrast)
H: 178°
V: 178°
Response time 6ms G2G
Max vertical refresh 60Hz
Connections 2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, component, composite, soundbar power, 3x 3.5mm line out for surround sound, 4x USB, xD/SD/MS/MMC card reader
Accessories DVI, VGA, DisplayPort, USB upstream, power cables

Stand and ergonomics

We've long loved Dell's stand, with its rack and pinion height adjustment, swivel adjustment through the neck rather than the base, and tilt adjustment and cable management through the neck. Sadly, the U2711 (unlike its smaller cousin, the U2410) doesn't pivot, meaning no portrait mode. Mind you, the height of the stand would have to be significantly increased to even attempt this, and we're not too fussed by its omission. One thing we do miss, however, is the button release to separate the panel from the stand — in this case you'll need to get funky with a torx driver in order to get it off.

Dell UltraSharp U2711 stand

The Dell stand is great, but the sheer size of the monitor means the 90° pivot function has been removed.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Connections

Dell UltraSharp U2711 inputs

The U2711 continues Dell's massive input tradition. Power, speaker bar power, 3.5mm audio jacks for 5.1 sound, DisplayPort, 2x Dual-Link DVI, VGA, HDMI, component and composite, USB upstream and two USB ports. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Dell UltraSharp U2711 USB ports

Two more USB ports, and an xD/SD/MMC/MS card reader. Like the U2410, the CF card reader is no longer there. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Buttons and on-screen display (OSD)

Things have shifted minutely since the 2709W. While the buttons remain capacitive, the power button is now mechanical, preventing accidental turn-offs. The rest of the buttons are still proximity sensitive: they stay unlit until a hand comes near them, then the bottom button lights up. Press this, and the menu appears, along with context-sensitive options described next to each button. It's a powerful and well-designed UI that's served Dell well.

Dell UltraSharp U2711 buttons

The unmarked buttons have a blue light in the middle. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Dell UltraSharp U2711 OSD

It's been around for a little while now, but Dell's OSD is still one of the best on the market. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

The menu contains Dell's usual vastness of options including picture by picture; RGB/YPbPr colour space setting; PC or Mac Gamma modes; Graphics and Video modes, each containing their own presets; fill, aspect and 1:1 scaling; sharpness settings on digital inputs; and AdobeRGB and sRGB modes.

What caught our attention though, was the claim that the U2711 supported six-axial colour calibration (RGBCMY), as well as hue, gain, saturation and offset controls. It took us a little while to discover, but you have to put the U2711 into Video mode to turn these on, and then select the "Custom Color" preset mode. For this sort of control you usually need to shell out for a hideously expensive professional monitor — Dell is continuing its tradition of bringing these features to the grasp of the ordinary consumer.

The other profiles under the "Graphics" setting are "Standard", "Multimedia", "Game", "Warm", "Cool", "Adobe RGB", "sRGB" and "Custom Color", while under "Video" you get "Movie", "Game", "Nature", "Custom Color" and if you have an xvYCC compliant source, "xv Mode". While the PlayStation 3 supports this, we had no source material available to test.

A side note — while we were unable to discover the service menu, turning the monitor off, then holding the bottom two buttons down and turning it on again would load a display showing the backlight time and power consumption. Unfortunately, this also disables the menu, and the only way to get things back to normal is to turn the monitor on and off again.

Performance

Lagom.nl LCD tests
After calibrating to a target brightness of 140cd/m² with an
X-Rite i1Display 2, Eye-One Match 3 and tweaking with HCFR, the U2711 was run through the Lagom.nl LCD tests.

Greyscale gradients were flawless, with only test 4a in the pixel walk tests flickering.

Image tests
Contrast Sharpness Gamma Black level White saturation Gradient
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass
Inversion pixel walk tests
Test 1 Test 2a Test 2b Test 3 Test 4a Test 4b Test 5 Test 6a Test 6b Test 7a Test 7b
Pass Pass Pass Pass Flicker Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass

Input lag
Measured against a Samsung SyncMaster 975p CRT, and using a Canon 40D set to a shutter speed of 1/320, an average of over 60 photographs were taken using Virtual Stopwatch Pro. Things weren't so great for the U2711, clocking in at 33ms on average, which equates to about 2 frames. Unlike the U2410, switching to game mode did not reduce this in any way.

Colour accuracy
ΔE is the measurement of how far a measured colour deviates from its expected value, allowing us to determine the colour accuracy of a monitor. While a ΔE value of 1 is considered perceivable, as long as it's less than 3 the shift shouldn't be too obvious. HCFR was used to determine ΔE for the monitor.

Sadly, we didn't have long enough to see how close to the wire we could properly calibrate the U2711 — we did, however, manage to compare its built in sRGB and AdobeRGB modes to reference.

Measured levels (sRGB mode)
Contrast ratio 724:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.23
White level (cd/m²) 166.48
Gamma 2.19
Greyscale ΔE
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
45.5 10.7 4.1 4.8 5 4.2 4.6 4.5 3.9 3.9 5.1
Colour ΔE (compared to sRGB)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
4.6 10.6 6.1 4.8 6.6 14.0

Dell UltraSharp U2711 CIE sRGB emulation chart

The sRGB setting gets close to the dark reference triangle, pushing out mainly on green and perennial pain-in-the-derrière magenta. Unfortunately, when in sRGB mode you really only have control over brightness and contrast, making it harder to get better values. (Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

Measured levels (Adobe RGB Mode)
Contrast ratio 731:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.19
White level (cd/m²) 138.95
Gamma (target 2.2) 2.19
Greyscale ΔE
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
47.4 9.3 3.5 0.7 2.7 3.3 3.5 2.6 4.7 3.3 4.0
Colour ΔE (compared to Adobe RGB)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
5.5 9.7 8 4.5 3.7 14.4

Dell UltraSharp U2711 CIE Adobe RGB mode chart

The AdobeRGB mode gets close to the reference as well (the light grey triangle), although once again green and magenta cause the most trouble. In the Video > Custom Color mode it should be possible to whittle these values down even further. We got decent preliminary results, getting greyscale 30-100 down to an average 1.5 ΔE, and colours G 7.2, B 4.3, Y 2.1 and C 2.6. Red still needed to be tweaked at a stonking 39.8, and consequently magenta was out massively as well at 70.4. We're confident we could have screwed these values to the wall with the config options Dell gives. (Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

We did have some time to play with offset, gain, saturation and hue settings — unfortunately, calibrating with HCFR at this level is a long and drawn-out process and we ran out of time. One thing we noted was that offset settings were limited to increments of 10; we'd have liked a little more control here.

HDMI performance
While a monitor might have an HDMI port that's no guarantee it'll display images as expected. We hooked up a PlayStation 3 and checked for 24p capability, as well as judder and ran the HQV Blu-ray test to see how well it coped with an interlaced source and noise.

24p capable Understands YUV Mission Impossible III
Scene 11 judder test
Mission Impossible III
Scene 14 judder test
Yes Yes Very slight judder Very slight judder

HQV noise
reduction
score
HQV video
resolution loss
score
HQV jaggies
score
HQV film
resolution loss
score
HQV film
resolution loss – stadium
score
Total score (out of 100)
10 (no noise reduction, 25 with adaptive noise reduction) 20 20 25 0 75 (90 with adaptive noise reduction)

Video performance is excellent for a computer monitor — there was still ever-so-slight judder present during the MI:III scenes, but nothing too disturbing.

Viewing angles
Viewing angles were taken with a Canon 40D in spot metering mode, with only shutter time adjusted to obtain a good exposure.

Dell UltraSharp U2711 viewing angles

Ah IPS, how we love thy viewing angles. It's only right at the edges of the viewing angles where the contrast ratio begins to suffer. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Backlight uniformity
Backlight uniformity was measured by placing HCFR into free measure mode, displaying a completely white image and recording the brightness along a 5x3 grid on the screen. This should be considered a guide only, as backlight uniformity is likely to change from unit to unit.

Dell UltraSharp U2711 backlight uniformity

This is definitely more uniform than the average TN screen, but then, it should be. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Light bleed
While no light bleed was present, the U2711 suffers from the IPS "white glow" effect on a dark screen, as it does not come with an ATW polariser. Dell informed us this is because the company it used for polarisers stopped production, as they "no longer made economic sense".

It's important to note that the effects of light bleed will likely change from monitor to monitor, regardless of make.

Other issues
The panel itself is quite deeply inset, and the bezel is piano black, meaning that during bright scenes you may notice the screen's reflection on the bezel, which will be distracting for some.

Power consumption
We measured power consumption using a Jaycar mains digital power meter. It's important to note here that due to limitations of the meter, measurements are limited to values 1W and greater, and are reported in 1W increments.

All measurements, screen brightness and contrast were set to 100 per cent, and a test image displayed.

Juice Box
Maximum power draw 110W
Power-saving mode <1W< td="">
Off <1W< td="">

Wow, that's quite a hit at max draw. Impressively though power usage drops to less than 1W in power-saving mode.

Warranty

Dell offers a three-year warranty that can be upgraded to a four-year warranty for AU$26.40, or five years for AU$46.20. This includes next-business-day exchange.

Dell's dead pixel policy alters depending on what monitor you have bought. For the U2711, you'll only need one bright subpixel to get a swap out; but if you have a dark pixel, you'll have to wait for another five to be eligible for a swap over. You are able to return any monitor within 15 days of the invoice date to Dell; however, the user pays shipping in this instance.

Conclusion

With a huge resolution, excellent performance in both colour and movies, and a huge amount of inputs, the U2711 excels in almost every area it puts its mark to. Hardcore gamers may be a little wary of the input lag, and others of the cost — but if you can afford one, you'll likely be very, very pleased.

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