Dell UltraSharp U2711 lcd monitor

The Dell UltraSharp U2711 is one of the best LCD monitors that a consumer can buy, with an excellent 27 inch screen.

Dell UltraSharp U2711
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5


  • 2560x1440 screen resolution, quality of H-IPS panel, lot of input ports, DeepColor gamut support, input lag not noticeable


  • No screen pivot functionality

Bottom Line

The Dell UltraSharp U2711 is an absolutely enjoyable 27-inch monitor. With an awe-inspiring screen resolution, a quality IPS panel, future-proof colour gamut and wide variety of input options, people who do not mind spending more for a good product need not have to think very much as it is simply the best buy. And shop around online and you can get a good deal. If you were anyway looking for a 26 inch monitor or beyond, consider this one where the picture on-screen rivals a good CRT, games are easily playable with negligible input lag, and the overall package is mouth-wateringly cool. The only sticking bone could be that Dell seems unconcerned about the high price. This is one area where nit-picking is pointless, since this monitor is still the most economical at this niche level of feature offering and there is almost no competition in this price segment since the U2711 would win hands down on the price/quality graph.

Would you buy this?

Dell UltraSharp U2711: Enthusiast Concerns

Video input signal processing, input lag, DPI and colour gamut are going to be four big concerns for the class of users who’d consider buying this monitor. We shall take up the first topic of signal processing. For the target audience of this monitor, going into hair-splitting detail of each port might be a bit extreme. Suffice to say that we tested all the input ports under expected use-cases (analog input with a TV set-top box, DisplayPort/DVI/VGA with laptop and desktop PCs, HDMI with a PlayStation 3 game console and also a PC).

In each case the monitor behaved as expected and all was well. We did not test for different Hz input ranges, and just optimized the video output device to play well with the monitor. All of the digital ports tested with a PC were at 60 Hz (this is the default and the maximum on most LCDs in existence today). With the simple tests of how it looked to the human eye, we cannot claim exhaustive tests at 50 Hz and 23.9 Hz.

What we can say for a fact is that the wide variety of input ports and the signal processing ability of the monitor are both very nice. There are “Fill” and “Aspect ratio” modes of scaling up the incoming video stream, and considering the number of pixels, the scaler managed to do an admirable job. Which input port should you prefer? We thought the DisplayPort (the newest) standard would be the natural choice. However, the DP port had an issue with the drivers of the Radeon 5000 series card we used (switch off your monitor when PC is running, then switch it on again, only to be greeted by a blank screen since the card seemingly refused to acknowledge that the monitor was switched back on). So even if your graphics card has DP as an output option, those who’ll only use one monitor might be better served by the Dual-Link DVI input, at least it is reliable even if the cable is a bit thicker. DVI single link and dual link, see the difference

Input lag usually cripples many displays that use an IPS panel. No display is perfect in this regard and the absolute lag between user actions and the screen may never be eradicated since it is influenced by many other factors – Processor, Motherboard chipset, Graphics card and mouse for instance. To quantify an objective number of milli-seconds for input lag, you’d usually have to connect a top-of-the-line CRT in dual-monitor mode, run a stop-watch application and take photos with a camera after a few minutes.

This can be quite a complex issue, as the U2711 (DisplayPort/digital) and the CRT (VGA/analog) do not use the same native display cables. In addition, the DVI-VGA adapter or different graphics cards could make a difference if they use differing RAMDACs for output. On the side of the monitor under test, multiple input ports might exist with each having their own relative lag as per the respective signal decoder, the monitor’s inbuilt scaler (used for upscaling) might impact this, as would the "overdrive" function to reduce lag in games, and the dynamic contrast.

Using stopwatches to measure lag has limitations as well, since an LCD's refresh rate of 60 Hz means the screen is updated only 60 times a second. Since shutter speed of digital cameras can be far higher and 1000 milli-seconds comprise a second, this 60 Hz limit can translate to an error margin of 17ms by itself. While playing a game online, you need to factor in your internet connection’s latency as well. Thus any lag seen may not be entirely objective. Context of reference to a lag was subjective, as observed while playing. To be specific about the numbers we saw, this monitor does have lag, about 30 ms at worst and 10 ms at best. You have to add the rest of the lag that can be possible in a system to this number.

We compared input lag to a CRT (good), a current-gen gaming LCD monitor (low lag) and an older U2408 LCD monitor (bad lag). The Dell U2711 performed surprisingly well, in comparison to other consumer monitors and even Dell's own previous S-PVA and IPS panels (at this price level you wouldn't expect anything less). Though it is not immune to lag, it still aced this one, with no perceptible mouse lag even in fast-paced FPS games (they remain very playable), or out of sync audio in movies. The only time you can sense the lag is during system boot-up and while switching input sources. Resolution switching was almost instant. To put this in words as simple as possible, let us just say that the Dell UltraSharp U2711 was a monitor on which playing games was a pleasure.

Now we shall discuss the much misunderstood DPI (dots per inch) issue. The U2711 has a pixel pitch of 0.233 mm. Remember the much bandied-about term “dot pitch” during the CRT days? The logic remains the same here, a lower pixel pitch number is better since that will increase the DPI (pixel density). As against the conventional 96 dpi seen in most displays (0.28 mm), the U2711 betters that number to 109 dpi (0.233 mm). This means the pixels are arranged closer together (can help reduce the “sieve effect” for people who notice it). If today’s laptops can cram a Full-HD 1080p screen resolution on a 15.6 inch display (translating to 147 dpi), a 27 inch display with a 1440p resolution would likely do just fine. A great “dot pitch” means you can have a higher screen resolution and thus more screen real-estate. More workspace is always welcome, not only for photography enthusiasts and those who use graphics/CAD applications, but also for browsing and programming.

For gamers, remember the better the pixel pitch is, the lesser is the need for GPU-based Anti-Aliasing, thus improving graphics card performance. The same thing can negatively impact those who browse the web and have to work on text documents a lot, because fonts become smaller than you are accustomed to. The extra number of pixels crammed into the same space can make the screen sharper, but it could feel "too sharp" for those with any less than 20/20 vision (so try it out once before buying to see if your eyes hurt). This is not necessarily a problem and you just have to be aware of it, there are solutions such as increasing the zoom level and the DPI setting on the OS. The “Magnifier” tool on Windows 7 is an option as well. The keyboard shortcut to summon it is to hold the Windows key and press the plus key to summon it and zoom in, Win+minus to zoom out, and Win+Esc keys to exit the Magnifier. Remember, the Magnify tool can be unwieldy if you have more than one monitor hooked up to your graphics card in a dual-monitor setup.

The wider colour gamut supported by this monitor is worth explaining, since on the one hand some people are irrationally taken in by the specifications (mentioned in this review earlier) and on the other hand are people who are apprehensive about possible colour distortions. The reality is that the 1.07 billion colours that are supposedly made possible by "deep colour" will not be actually made use of by current apps, so it is currently just a potential benefit lying in wait.

If you see a difference (pleasant improvement) of display quality, the reason is the IPS panel used and the calibration performed upon it at the factory itself. You first need to install the colour profile (.ICM file on the disc accompanying the Dell monitor) and change the preset on the monitor’s OSD to actually get to use the claimed "deep colour" ability. For the techie, 30-bit colour in short means 1024 values for red, green and blue, instead of 256 for 24 bit. This increases the number of colours (gamut) that can be shown, and your eye will be able to see more real colours and see a real difference, provided the entire chain is compatible (content, application, OS, graphics card, signal input, monitor). Visual content in 30-bit colour is limited at the moment, but expect the future to usher this wave in, just like DVD and LCD TVs took off in the past decade and became common.

Recently released consumer graphics cards support 30-bit output over DisplayPort, as does Windows 7 and this monitor. So the chain is completed and is now waiting for games/apps to use more colours. For this reason, the calibrator and chroma meter we used might not even be enough to fathom the true colour gamut of this monitor. But the naked eye can see the difference on RAW photos shot by newer dSLR cameras, and in select colour-managed apps like Photoshop. Gamers and others who don't need or want the extra colour gamut can simply switch to the normal one on the PC side, or pick sRGB on the monitor side. As for media players and gaming consoles, current-gen products simply don't make use of the extras in this panel, nor have a colour profile to actually utilize the expanded colour gamut, and so will display in sRGB mode which is what you'd expect. So do not worry about whether wide gamut colour will distort or have negative effects on visual content, it remains in your control.

Dell UltraSharp U2711: Target Audience

This monitor is high-quality, priced high and offers a lot, but make no mistake about who it is not meant for. The super high-end market segment of professionals, whose livelihoods actually depend upon the quality of work they do on their monitor, is the segment that the Dell UltraSharp U2711 27-incher is not targeting. Part of that segment, in the graphics and medical applications fields may use Dell’s UltraSharp line but given more finance and a choice, they might have bought something else. NEC, Eizo and HP are just three of the brands in the top rung, while Dell, Apple and LaCie are the ones making products that try to reach the top rungs.

Monitors based on PVA and TN panels feel quite poor, for those who've gotten used to, and expect the kind of quality offered by IPS panels. Similarly IPS technology is no competition to TN panels when it comes to gaming, although there is still much debate about how the claimed "2ms response time" on those TN panels is actually misleading in a way. If you compare the gorgeous viewing angles of the U2711 to what you experience on a normal LCD TN-panel monitor (even on laptop or mobile phone) when you look at the screen from a different vertical/horizontal angle, you'd never want to look at a TN again. Even in a limited home environment setting, the "angle issue" crops up, when a person is holding a laptop and displaying photos to on-looking members of family, but those at the farthest edges end up seeing just ghostly images, looking like film negatives (resurrecting as it were, visions of cameras that used to save photos to "negative" film rolls that'd then have to be "developed" by photo studios, before today's digital cameras came in).

The Dell U2711 on the other hand is simply an awesome multi-purpose IPS monitor for “prosumers” and enthusiasts. Professionals might still prefer top-class CRT and LCD models, while consumers will baulk at its price and are happy with "good-enough" cheap LCDs. Unlike the perception in some circles, CRTs are not always better than LCD, only the very high-end ones were good, otherwise LCDs are better for most purposes. In any case, the best CRTs keep getting harder to find and existing good CRTs in the premises of the pros have been deteriorating over the years. But with this monitor's display quality and image vibrance, people can finally feel secure in moving out of CRT-land. Ironically the weight of the 27 incher is close to that of a large 19-inch CRT monitor. It is a splendid replacement in terms of accurate colour reproduction for a good CRT monitor. It is for users who want 10-bit colour in all its calibrated glory, hate backlight bleed, want access to very high resolutions, a wide range of inputs for maximum flexibility, and the extras of a premium product. But though it can be useful for general purposes, web browsing, movies, gaming and photo editing, it is not needed for general home and office use.

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