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Three 27-in. displays prove that bigger is better

By Bill O'Brien
April 29, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Dell UltraSharp U2711

With black becoming the new beige, the UltraSharp's black-on-black motif doesn't distinguish it from the crowd. No larger and with the same basic display specs as the other two monitors reviewed here, Dell's UltraSharp U2711 at first stands out for a simple reason: It costs $1,099, considerably more than the other two.

Dell UltraSharp U2711
Dell UltraSharp U2711

There is justification for this, however -- starting with a maximum resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels. Dell's host of input options is also impressive: The back of the display is well equipped with an RCA composite video jack, component display connections, two DVI connectors, a VGA port, a DisplayPort port and an HDMI connector. The monitor can auto-sense what's connected where; you can also switch among them using the on-screen display (OSD).

As if that weren't enough, the monitor also doubles as a USB 2.0 hub, offering four additional USB ports along the left side, along with an eight-in-one card reader. It does not, however, come with any speakers.

The UltraSharp's creature comforts include tilt, swivel, rotate, and height adjustment. On the surprising side, the panel enclosing the LCD has a depth of about three inches, which is thicker than usual for an LCD display.

Out of the box, the UltraSharp was much too cool for my tastes. I don't mean that in a lifestyle sense -- I mean that the on-screen image had too much blue to it, making everything look a bit frosty. (In other words, it looks like there's a very light frost starting to overlay the image.) I headed for the on-screen menu buttons located at the lower, right side of the display.

Dell has done something interesting there. As your hand approaches the general area of the capacitive-touch buttons -- which are inlaid black-on-black in the bezel -- the menu button begins to blink blue. Once you press that button, all of the buttons light up similarly and a small on-screen display appears, indicating which functions are attributed to which of those buttons at any particular menu level. It's an elegant approach to OSD operation.

The UltraSharp U2711 has preset viewing modes plus an additional mode that allows you to customize the view. I found that switching to the "Warm" preset was an easy general fix. Then I backed out one level of menus, went into the brightness and contrast option, and fiddled a bit until the picture looked perfect. All told, I spent about three minutes on the adjustments.

All in all, the UltraSharp's response to graphics was excellent, with great color differentiation. There was absolutely no blur or streaking. Watching a Blu-ray DVD was equally as uneventful, with no problems to report.

In fact, at about 89 degrees of deflection from center (which is just about looking at the side of the panel), there was no color shift and no loss of detail. It was a perfect picture at that extreme angle -- and that's not routine for your average LCD monitor.

Bottom line

While the UltraSharp costs a bit more than I'd like to spend, its outstanding color quality and plethora of ports means it can be used for anything from a professional graphics or video monitor to a replacement television anchored to a set-top box.

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