Simply put, the Dell UltraSharp U3011 is the best 30-inch monitor we've yet seen. Not only does it deliver great performance--which is expected from most devices running at a 2,560x1,600 resolution--but it also has tons of connection options and an OSD with a surprisingly high number of calibration features. The only problem is the price. At $1,349, it's about $400 more expensive than the 27-inch Dell UltraSharp U2711, which includes mostly the same features, with less real estate. The U2711 is still the best overall large-screen monitor, but if 27 inches just isn't enough, the U3011 is a fully capable alternative.
Design and features
The 30-inch UltraSharp U3011 takes nearly everything great about the UltraSharp U2711, adds three inches to its screen size, increases the already high resolution, and adds even more On Screen Display (OSD) options. This in itself is nothing to write home about (not that anyone receiving such a message would be the least bit interested anyway), but when we consider that OSD options for the vast majority of 30-inch monitors (including the recently reviewed HP ZR30w) are limited to brightness adjustment options only, the fact that the UltraSharp U3011 includes a full array of OSD options is quite the oddity. In fact, the last 30-incher we reviewed that included OSD options was Dell's own UltraSharp 3008WFP from 2008.
The OSD follows a label-free design that's become the house style for Dell monitors. Five vertically arranged buttons line the lower right-hand corner of the bezel. Pressing any of the buttons brings up the OSD, which pops up parallel to the button array, and each option corresponds to one of the five buttons. Once a new menu is selected, the function of each button changes dynamically, as the top two buttons become the up-and-down arrow buttons used to navigate through the newly seen menu. Since any button labels for the OSD are actually on the screen (instead of on the bezel), calibrating the display in a dark room is easy.
Each OSD button on the U3011 is responsive and depresses just enough to feel satisfying. The OSD menu options include the standard brightness, contrast, and various color options. These color options include custom color controls for gain and offset, each allowing you to adjust the red, green, and blue values in the brighter and dimmer sections of the screen respectively. Also, the hue and saturation options include RGB adjustments as well as cyan, magenta, and yellow (CMY) adjustments.
Main screen presets are Standard, Multimedia, Game, Movie, Warm, Cool, Adobe RGB, sRGB, and xv Mode. There are options to adjust the sharpness and additional options for setting the OSD to stay onscreen up to a minute (useful for anyone who will spend a good amount of time calibrating) and OSD transparency level.
Like the U2711, the U3011 has a matte black chassis with a gray highlight running through the middle of the panel. The panel is 1.75 inches deep; however, the back of the display--which houses the backlight, connection options, and ventilation system--extends another 1.8 inches, bringing the full monitor depth to about 3.7 inches. The panel width measures 27.3 inches; the surface of the screen itself is a slightly frosted and smooth matte. The bezel measures 0.9 inch on all sides.
The Dell UltraSharp U3011 has a host of connections including two DVI, two HDMI, DisplayPort, Component, VGA, four USB downstream, one USB upstream, and an SD card reader, making this one of the most robust monitor connection arrays we've seen.
|Design and feature highlights|
|Connectivity||DVIx2, DisplayPort, Component, VGA, HDMIx2|
|Ergonomic options||35 degree back tilt, 45 degree swivel, 3.6-inch screen height adjustment range|
|Audio||Option and controls for speaker bar|
|VESA wall-mount support||Yes|
|Included video cables||DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI|
|Number of presets||9|
|Picture options||Brightness, Dynamic Contrast Ratio|
|Color controls||RGB, CMY, Gain, Offset, Hue, Saturation|
|Additional features||4 USB downstream, 1 upstream; SD card reader|
We tested the Dell UltraSharp U3011 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.
The U3011 displayed excellent color reproduction and accuracy. Although the HP ZR30w showed evidence of a green push, the U3011 had no such problems and as a result got higher marks in our color tracking test. In our grayscale bars test, we were able to see dark gray down to level 2, two levels above black, which indicates accurate black-level performance.
The U3011 performed well in our uniformity and dark screen tests, showing only a minimum amount of backlight bleed-through. Unfortunately, as with the ZR30w, we did see clear evidence of static streaking. Static streaking occurs when there are large changes in contrast and either the darker or lighter color "streaks" onto its counterpart, showing, for example, black bars on a white background.
The biggest advantage the UltraSharp U3011 has over the ZR30w is its detailed OSD that allows you to adjust the monitor's output, which can result in better performance.
In text, we saw no color problems with black text on a white background. Fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8 size. Not much wrong a monitor can do at this high of a resolution on such a large screen.
We tested the Dell UltraSharp U3011 using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar". We saw deep blacks, and accurate color that looked great on the huge 30-inch screen. Faces looked natural with no egregious color tint problems.
Because of our intimate familiarity with StarCraft II (SCII), it is our new favorite tool for judging color quality and vibrancy in games. It's difficult for a game running natively at 2,560x1,600 to look bad, and indeed SCII looks quite stunning on the 30-inch U3011.
Yes, it has definitely spoiled us as we found ourselves walking (slowly) back to our 24-inch monitor, the bitter taste of regret still palpable on our tongues.
As on the HP ZR30w, the colors and vibrancy on the U3011 are second to none and everything looked detailed and popped from the screen. The U3011 gets the performance edge here, however, as the presets and color calibration options allow for more detailed tweaking of the output.
We also used DisplayMate's Motion tests and found that the U3011, with its 7-millisecond refresh rate, produced noticeably more streaking than the Samsung PX2370, running at a 2ms refresh rate.
The Dell U3011 delivered clear photos with good color saturation and accurate color tints.
The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a quarter of the screen's distance down from the top. At this angle, you're viewing the colors as the manufacturer intended them. Most monitors are not made to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on its panel type, picture quality at nonoptimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when they are not viewed from optimal angles. On the other hand, IPS panels usually show only minimal color shifts with angle changes. The Dell UltraSharp U3011 has an LG H-IPS (Horizontal In-Plane Switching) panel, and when viewing it from the sides, we perceived the screen as darkening about 15 inches off from center--indicating it has more than twice as wide of a viewing angle as a typical TN panel.
Recommended settings and use:
We found the game and movie presets were both appropriate when viewing games or movies. Go figure. The game preset includes a warmer tone, which enhanced the vibrant feel of StarCraft II. The Movie preset had a much cooler tone and appropriately gave movies like "Avatar" lower black levels and a more solid feel. We found the Standard preset worked best for general use.
Like most IPS-based monitors, the U3011 is geared mostly toward professional use for which accurate color reproduction is required. Thanks to its robust assortment of OSD options, it's the best 30-incher we've seen that will also satisfy most professional graphic artists. The monitor is also great for watching movies, playing games, viewing photos, and for general use. This is not uncommon with gigantic, hi-res screens.
The Dell UltraSharp U3011 achieved a poor power consumption rating, with a Default/On power draw of 105.45 watts, compared with 141.7 watts from another 30-incher, the HP ZR30w, in the same test. Not at all surprising, given their gigantic screens, but Dell set the U3011's default brightness low, hence the lower consumption. In our Sleep/Standby test, the U3011 drew 1.33 watts and the ZR30w pulled a lower 1.23 watts. Based on our formula, the U3011 would cost $32.38 per year to run, compared with the ZR30w's $43.12 per year.
|Dell UltraSharp U3011||Average watts per hour|
|On (default luminance)||105.45|
|On (max luminance)||142.61|
|On (min luminance)||75.05|
|Calibrated (200 cd/m2)||103.4|
|Annual power consumption cost||$32.38|
Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.
Service and support
Dell backs the UltraSharp U3011 with a solid warranty, including a three-year parts-and-labor deal covering the backlight. It also offers support through a 24-7 toll-free number and 24-7 Web chat. Dell also has a fast 24- to 48-hour e-mail support turnaround time--a better package than from most monitor vendors, which don't offer weekend support. Navigating Dell's Web site and finding the drivers, product manuals, and quick guides was simple.