Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/6890/dell-u3014-lcd-review
Dell U3014 LCD Reviewby Chris Heinonen on April 15, 2013 2:00 PM EST
In the last year, 27” 1440p displays went from being really high end in the monitor food chain to becoming close to commodity items that you buy off EBay for cheap from random vendors. It seems that there is a bit of a shift in the high-end display market, where previously resolution was dictating the upper echelon but now as we wait for 4K displays, or retina-style PPI displays on the desktop, it’s other features that are dictating what costs more.
The newest reference display from Dell is the U3014, which takes the place of the U3011. It retains the same 2560x1600 resolution of a 30” display, but adds a few more notable features including DisplayPort MST support, USB 3.0 support, uniformity correction, and most notably it's one of the first LED-backlit displays with an AdobeRGB gamut. Looking only at the specs, this looks like a monitor aiming for the NEC and Eizo users out there, but does it reach those standards?
The LED backlighting this is one of the most interesting things about the U3014. Traditional LED-backlit monitors use White LEDs, which only allow for an sRGB color gamut at maximum. Even then they often struggle to hit the full sRGB colorspace, making LED backlighting more about cabinet looks, and possibly energy use, than about performance. There have been a few exceptions like a Dell laptop and Samsung desktop LCD that used RGB LED backlighting, but typically despite the hype and marking around it LED lighting is usually not a sign of high performance in a monitor, and often it can be a sign of the opposite.
The U3014 uses a GB-LED lighting system, where you have Green and Blue LEDs and a red phosphor that is excited by those LEDs to produce a much larger spectrum of light wavelengths, which allows for a larger color gamut. This article provides some more details and even talks about Quantum Dots, which Sony is starting to use on their TVs and you might see in a computer monitor at some point as well. To give another example of the wider gamut these can produce, here are the spectral signatures recorded in CalMAN using the Dell U3014 and the Nixeus VUE 27” and its standard White LEDs.
Looking at these two charts (which are a bit confusing, I admit), we see that the level of blue output is similar from both, which we expect with LEDs. What you see on the Dell is a much higher level of green and red spectrum available, which is what allows for the larger color gamut to be used. Previously we’ve had to rely on CCFL lamps to do this larger gamut, but now with some LED tricks and a matching red phosphor, we can have LED illuminated displays that utilize a larger gamut.
Of course you also have the assumption that more colors = better, right? Well, unfortunately that isn’t the case. If you only have a larger gamut and not software that understands how to use that gamut, what you get are colors that are further outside of the gamut than they should be. Greens are too green, reds are too red, and everything looks like a badly calibrated OLED smartphone. Anyone buying something like the U3014 is going to need to have accurate colors in any colorspace, and the Dell offers an sRGB mode as well.
In addition to the preset sRGB and AdobeRGB modes, Dell offers two custom CAL1 and CAL2 modes that their calibration software can set to any gamut and white point you want. I will look at this in a moment and cover its performance.
Straight out of the box, the Dell U3014 feels like a huge monitor. I’ve reviewed a lot of 27” displays this past year, but even then the U3014 is a different size beast. As is standard for Dell, the monitor comes packed well, but using cardboard and other recyclable components instead of Styrofoam that breaks apart easily and it’s good for repacking. Removing the panel and attaching it to the adjustable stand takes just seconds, and I’m still amazed so few vendors can get this simple thing right. No screws, no manual needed; it just slides into place and clicks right on.
The design itself hasn’t changed much since the U3011, though it does have a few noticeable features that other vendors would be smart to implement. On the left of the display are two USB 3.0 ports and a card reader that handles most common memory card formats. Inputs available consist of DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort, and a Mini DisplayPort. The presence of MiniDP and the lack of a VGA input are two big things to notice here. Dell ships the U3014 with a DisplayPort to MiniDP cable, and having both inputs means that a single cable can work with a video card that has either output. It also lets you hook it up to two different DisplayPort sources, such as a desktop and laptop, which becomes more essential as DisplayPort is the main standard now. It was a nice change of pace to be able to simply connect to any source instead of hunting for a cable. The lack of VGA shouldn’t affect anyone at this point, and it helps to reduce costs by dropping the price of an analog to digital converter.
The Dell also has a DisplayPort output, which lets you use Multi-Stream Transport (MST) to hook up another DisplayPort monitor directly to the Dell U3014. I tested this with the Nixeus VUE 27 that I mentioned earlier and found that it managed to work well, with a couple of caveats. Every time I’d come back to the computer, which goes to sleep automatically after 30 minutes in my case, the Nixeus wouldn’t power back on. I’d have to power cycle it for it to be recognized, but since the Nixeus sometimes does this when it’s the only monitor, I can’t be certain if this is an issue with MST, the Dell, or the Nixeus. Unfortunately, I have no other DisplayPort monitors around to test right now.
Also, I sometimes use the Nixeus for audio since it has internal speakers, and with 30” monitors on my desktop I can run out of room for speakers pretty easily. When feeding audio over MST, it's very crackly and features lots of breakups, like trying to do a Skype call over a 56k modem. Since audio typically works fine on the Nixeus, I have to assume this is related to MST and that it might not handle audio perfectly. I never saw an issue with video over MST, but audio did not work well at all.
Finally the U3014 has a connector for USB 3.0 in and two more USB 3.0 outputs next to the connectors, and a power output for the Dell SoundBar that connects to the bottom of the display. One feature that is missing that Dell displays usually have is rotation. Having a stand that raises high enough for a 30” monitor to rotate would be a bit large, and most people probably aren’t going to rotate it, but it certainly does make hooking up cables much easier.
Setup of the U3014 was as straightforward as you can get. I used the MiniDP input as my video card is a DisplayPort output, then hooked up the Nixeus directly to the U3014 using its DisplayPort cable. After connecting the USB cable I installed the card reader driver, installed the software packages Dell provides, and everything was ready to go.
Dell has one of the best OSD designs out there I think, with a simple menu system that keeps controls moving in the same direction, with unlabeled buttons that have their use put up on screen, so it’s easier to tell than trying to look for a silk screened label in the dark. This time I think that Dell made a step back with the U3014 by moving to touch sensitive controls. When your hand approaches the buttons, ones that you can use light up to indicate that you can hit them, but I found them to only be so-so in responsiveness. I really wish Dell had kept the traditional hard buttons but added the auto-sensing lights, and then it would be an ideal setup. As it is, it is only "okay" because of this change.
As an IPS display, viewing angles are basically perfect. The screen is so huge that any flaw in this area would be really bad, but in this case I don’t see any shifts in brightness until I get to at least 45-50 degrees from a few inches away, and then the very edge starts to darken a bit. IPS is still fantastic in this regard.
|Video Inputs||1xHDMI, 1x MiniDP, 1xDisplayPort, 1xDVI-DL|
|Pixel Pitch||0.25 mm|
|Response Time||6ms GTG|
|Viewing Angle (H/V)||178/178|
|Power Consumption (operation)||60W Typical|
|Power Consumption (standby)||< 0.5W|
|Screen Treatment||Anti-Glare 3H Hard Coat|
|VESA Wall Mounting||Yes|
|Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD)||27.15" x 19.00" x 7.93"|
|Weight||16.20 lbs. w/o stand|
|Additional Features||USB 3.0 Hub (4 port), Headphone Output, Card Reader, DisplayPort out with MST|
|Limited Warranty||3 Years|
|Accessories||MiniDP to DisplayPort cable, DVI-D cable, USB 3.0 cable, Cable Tie, Power Cable|
The Dell U3014 is rated for 350 cd/m2 on the spec sheet, but I found the most I could get it to produce was 315 cd/m2. It would likely produce more if you were to push the contrast all the way to the maximum, but doing so clips the top whites, so all your highlights suddenly become a single shade instead of distinct. It might make the numbers look worse, but not allowing clipping makes for an honest number, and 315 cd/m2 is what the U3014 can do. With the backlight at the minimum, it drops down to only 45 cd/m2 of light, which is good. That gives you lots of room to work with, and most users will be fine with these levels.
Black levels with the backlight at maximum are 0.357 cd/m2, and that drops down to 0.052 cd/m2 at minimum backlight. Dell offers a dynamic backlight on their displays where a pure black screen totally disables the backlights, giving you “infinite” contrast, but that option is disabled in the most color-accurate modes. It also seems be an all-or-nothing approach, and not one where you can selectively enable and disable part of the edge lighting. I’m not a fan of dynamic backlighting unless you have a full backlit LED array, where you can enable and disable it for parts of the screen at once, and find they are usually just tricks to make their contrast numbers seem better than they are. Dell is honest and gives you real and dynamic numbers in their specs, though.
These numbers wind up giving us a contrast ratio in the area of around 900:1. This is maintained from 0-100 percent on the backlight intensity, so it’s an honest 900:1 contrast ratio from the Dell U3014. There are some recent displays that have hit closer to 1,100:1 but these numbers are still quite good overall, and maintaining it across the whole range of brightness is ideal.
This is a decent start for the U3014, but the real question for me is if they can keep the colors accurate in all color spaces with that new G-B LED backlight system.
The last Dell monitor that I reviewed, the U2713HM, really impressed me by having a very accurate sRGB mode out of the box. It was the best performing one that we had seen to that point, but since then we’ve switched the way that we evaluate monitors and now use dE2000 data that can’t be directly compared with previously tested displays.
Pre-Calibration with the Dell, the sRGB mode was the most accurate, though I did look at the grayscale on every other mode to be sure before I selected it. The Multimedia preset was the closest other than the sRGB, but color accuracy on it wasn’t nearly as good as it was on the sRGB mode. Looking at the grayscale data, we see that there is a bit of a green push there, and our average CCT winds up at 6389 and not quite the ideal 6503K.
The Gamma has a small dip at 5%, indicating that the gamma is an sRGB target and not our 2.2 target, but there is also a large drop at 95% that I see many times in displays. This indicates that the very peak whites are spaced too tightly together, possibly by an incorrect contrast setting or something else in the display electronics. You’ll see highlights be slightly washed out as a result.
The grayscale dE hovers right around 3-5 for most of the range and has an average dE2000 of 4.3. I did measure a contrast ratio of 905:1 in this mode, with whites just over 200 cd/m2 and black at 0.2225 cd/m2. The grayscale is good here but not excellent.
Colors are much better, with the major errors being in white, but overall the luminance levels are very good. That's the most important aspect and the color errors are low. If we could remove white from the average it would be far below the 2.14 we got, but color performance is very good. They also match up pretty close to the targets, with just slight under-saturation in some colors.
The Gretag Macbeth numbers are very good for a non-calibrated display, and we once again see that the grayscale is the majority of the issue here, with colors being much better. That’s a bit surprising to me as often it’s the other way around, but that is just what we see this time, along with some more slight under-saturation. I included the luminance chart here for the Gretag Macbeth data just to show that the U3014 is dead-on accurate with the luminance levels, which is what you want to see.
Finally when we check out the saturations, we see that some colors are very good, like Yellow and Green, but Red has a noticeable lack of saturation across the gamut, and the issues get larger as we get closer to 0%. These aren’t awful numbers, but they're not as good as we could see.
In the default sRGB mode, the U3014 is still very good, and as we get more displays in for testing I think the quality of those numbers will just improve as we see what other displays manage on our new benchmark. Keep in mind that these are all out-of-box numbers so far, where many displays end up close to double digits for DeltaE.
I'm not too surprised, but the U3014 sure does calibrate quite well. Using CalMAN 5.1 and targeting the sRGB gamut, 200 cd/m2 of light output, and a 2.2 Power Gamma Curve, we obtained some mighty fine results.
Grayscale performance went from fine to superb. We see almost no colorshift at all in the RGB balance, even down at 0%, and an average CCT of 6551. The Gamma is close to ruler flat with a small bump at 5%, but an overall average of 2.22, and our average grayscale dE2000 is just 0.64. Our contrast dropped slightly to 863:1, but that’s a small sacrifice for this grayscale performance.
Colors were already good, but with the improved grayscale we dropped the average dE2000 down to 0.90. Color primary and secondary performance is pretty close to perfect here.
The Gretag chart saw a serious performance increase as well. Our average dE2000 is now 0.73, which means you can’t see any issues with the naked eye at this point. The tiny luminance errors are also totally gone, and if you’re looking for something to complain about on this chart, you’re going to have to keep looking. No error even gets close to 2.0, so this color is practically perfect.
Saturations are just as perfect. Some numbers creep over a dE2000 of 1.0 but very few, and you can’t notice an error that small anyway. Unless you’re measuring with an instrument, it’s going to look perfect.
We also target print and photo applications, and for those we use the sRGB standards: 80 cd/m2 of light, and the sRGB gamma curve. Most of the numbers are directly comparable to the 200 cd/m2 numbers, so I’m going to focus on those that actually changed. First, the U3014 does a very good job of tracking the sRGB gamma curve. We can ignore the number, as unlike power the number varies across the curve, but we want to see how it lines up. The little bit from 0-5% where it doesn’t line up is likely because CalMAN can only measure those 2 points and would need to measure 1%, 2%, 3%, and 4% as well to track the curve better. Overall it tracks amazingly well, so it can do sRGB very easily.
Our color errors are slightly larger, with Red and Blue both being slightly unsaturated in comparison to 200 cd/m2 though the error levels are still very low on average. They just aren’t as exceptional as they were at 200 cd/m2.
Finally we see that the saturations chart shows slightly more error as well, with some numbers creeping over 2.0 here. Even now they will still only be visible when directly next to the correct color sample, and even then it will be almost impossible to tell. For print and photo work, the U3014 will still work very well; it just seems to perform slightly better at high backlight levels.
Another reason that we changed calibration packages is that we can now target AdobeRGB correctly, as CalMAN supports it and almost any other color space out there. Here we used the U3014 AdobeRGB preset and measured with the same targets as before. We didn’t do the 80 cd/m2 pass as AdobeRGB doesn’t use an sRGB gamma curve in the specification, and we saw how the Dell U3014 handles the change in luminance levels already. We are mostly looking to see how the monitor handles the larger gamut of AdobeRGB and if it gets the color points correct.
Once again, the Grayscale has a green bias to it by default. The overall average CCT looks good at 6568K, but that’s why you have to look at the individual RGB components as you can easily have an accurate CCT but have a color shift that is clearly visible.
The gamma is once again very good up until 85-90% where we see a steep drop-off that seems to be crushing highlights a bit. This issue pushes the average gamma down to 2.1 from our 2.2 target. I checked the contrast with a pattern before setting it and taking the measurements so all white samples are visible, but it seems to push them too close together at the top. I’d recommend taking the contrast down 3-4 levels from the maximum available to help with this highlight clipping, but that also will reduce the contrast ratio a bit as we saw with the sRGB calibration.
The grayscale starts out good, but you get errors above a dE2000 of 5 from 35% on, except for at 85%. Given the green tint that we saw in the RGB balance this isn’t surprising at all, since dE2000 is really a combination of gamma and RGB balance, and if both of those are perfect your dE2000 should be perfect as well. Conversely, when there are errors (as seen above), they'll show up here as well.
Colors again are very good by default, with errors being made much worse by the presence of white in the average. You can see the much larger gamut of AdobeRGB here, as those color points are in different locations than they are with sRGB. The color dE2000 errors are on top, and on bottom is the AdobeRGB CIE chart with the sRGB CIE chart overlaid on it to show the difference in gamut size.
The Gretag chart fares worst in the default AdobeRGB mode, with the grayscale being a very high error and skin tones being bad as well. Most other colors manage to get to a dE2000 of 3.0 or below, but the average for the whole chart is 3.22, which is still good for no calibration but not excellent. Luminance levels for the colors are all still fantastic, which is the most important thing to get right, but other aspects of the colors don’t fare as well.
Finally our saturations show that we have errors that get larger the closer we get to being unsaturated. Despite the higher errors there, our eyes are really more sensitive to errors with 100% saturation, so it’s better that the errors happen this way than the opposite way. Of course, this should improve after calibration, and then we hopefully won’t have to make any sacrifices at all.
For AdobeRGB calibrations, we target the AdobeRGB gamut, with a power law gamma of 2.2 as the specification says. We go for 200 cd/m2 as there is no official luminance target, and we used CalMAN 5.1 to do this as well. Everything is done using a C6 meter that is profiled from an i1Pro.
After the calibration, our RGB balance is perfect, as expected. Perhaps you can see a couple points where one color is 3-4% higher, but those are few and far between, and we have an overall CCT of 6482K here. The greenish tint is long gone, and black and white images look totally neutral on this display now.
Our gamma curve only has a small little bump up at 5%, but as you start to run out of as much control in the monitor down low, it’s really pretty close. The overall average comes out to be 2.21, almost perfectly 2.20, and that highlight issue we saw before is gone.
The grayscale with this combination of results shows no issues at all. The average dE2000 is 0.57 and a couple points get close to 1.0, but really there is nothing to fault here after calibrating, nothing at all. The contrast ratio is 894:1, which is slightly better than sRGB but close enough that a small stray bit of light on the 0% measurement would easily cause that difference.
Colors were already good, but the average dE2000 drops down to 1.03 now that White has been corrected. No color gets past a dE2000 of 1.5 and the color points are all very close to the CIE targets. We have a slight bit of under-saturation in Red and Blue still, but even with that they are very close to ideal. Dell manages to use this LED setup to have a full AdobeRGB gamut, which is nice to see.
Now our Gretag numbers are excellent. The average error is a dE2000 of 0.80 and there is no luminance errors to be seen at all. A few numbers are closer to 1.5, but overall you are not going to see anything wrong here. A worry with any display with a larger gamut is that it is only going to get one gamut right, either sRGB or AdobeRGB, but not both; the Dell U3014 manages to do both with near perfection.
The saturations aren’t quite as perfect as they were for sRGB mode, as Red and Blue don’t quite get all the way out there, but only a few pass a dE2000 of 1.0 and then just barely. The average dE2000 of 0.98 is fantastic and shows the U3014 does a very nice job with its electronics and LUT for building a uniform display.
Using CalMAN, we get flat out superb measurements from the Dell U3014 monitor. Before calibration they are good but not excellent, but after they are nothing but excellent. Dell also has their own calibration software that works with the U3014 and an i1DisplayPro sensor which they provided, so perhaps that can coax even better performance out of the display. Let's check that next.
The U3014 ships with a copy of Dell UltraSharp Color Calibration Solution on the CD but doesn’t include the necessary hardware. For this you actually need to buy an i1Display Pro meter, though you can order it off Amazon or anywhere else and not just directly from Dell. One thing to note is that you need to use the retail i1DisplayPro meter and not the OEM version, as they have a different hardware ID and companies have to buy the licenses for each type separately from X-Rite. For 99% of you this won’t be an issue, but it meant my i1DisplayPro didn’t work as it’s an OEM one that some calibration software requires, and so Dell provided me with a brand new one. This is really an X-Rite issue as they added this restrictive licensing that didn’t exist on their old hardware, but it’s something to be aware of.
Using the Color Calibration Solution is really quite easy. You hook up the i1DisplayPro meter, choose your targets, and let it work. You can set up two custom settings in the CAL1 and CAL2 settings on the monitor, and you can choose from common colorspaces or a custom one. This makes it very easy to set up an sRGB and AdobeRGB calibration, Day and Night calibrations, or any other combination. One thing I wish Dell did let you do was rename them in the display, as Day and Night would be easier to remember than CAL1 and CAL2.
Dell also needs to provide some post-calibration measurements showing the difference from before and after. LGs calibration package does this, but the Dell software just finishes and installs the profile with no numbers, charts, or side-by-side examples to show you what it did. One would assume it gets very close to the target, but you really have no idea at all unless you measure with another software package. That’s mighty inconvenient to have to do.
The main issue I have with the Dell software, which we will see shortly, is that it only supports the i1DisplayPro. Being a colorimeter and not a spectrometer, the i1DisplayPro is very good at reading levels of light but can be confused by irregular wavelengths of light. Since the U3014 uses a brand new G-B LED array that has different wavelengths than most monitors, that means the i1DisplayPro is likely to interpret data from it incorrectly unless it has a custom response table built for each individual meter. With the U3014 aiming directly at the upper-end of the marketplace, it needs to include support for spectrometers like the i1Pro as well to do a better job calibrating it.
To show the difference this makes, I made three sets of measurements after the Dell software finished its calibration. The first set is using the i1DisplayPro that the software uses to do the calibration. The second is using an i1Pro meter, which is a spectrometer. The third is using a C6 colorimeter, which is basically a slightly customized i1DisplayPro, but which has been profiled in CalMAN using the i1Pro so it knows how to read the light spectrum from the U3014.
First up, let’s look at the grayscale numbers. Using the i1DisplayPro, we see there is a heavy green shift, with a bit of blue at times, and red is really low. However, if we switch to the i1Pro or the profiled C6, we see that red and green are high and blue is low. Our average CCT switches from 6826K, a blue tint, to 6325K, a reddish tint. If you’re comparing results and it’s not a very dark screen (below 10 cd/m2), the spectrometer is going to be correct, not the colorimeter. Here we see that the Dell software might think it’s getting a better result than it is, because the i1DisplayPro can’t read the light output properly.
Looking at the Grayscale dE2000 data, we actually see a huge error when only using the i1DisplayPro, with an average dE of 4.3 whereas the C6 and i1Pro see errors of 1.99 and 2.12 respectively. I lean to the C6 numbers over the i1Pro as it can read 20% and below much better, which means that data is going to be more accurate. We still see that we get totally different results from the same screen using the different meters, and we get worse data from the i1DisplayPro itself, which I didn’t expect to see.
This carries over into the Gretag Macbeth charts as well, where we see a much higher average dE2000 (2.96) with the i1DisplayPro than we do with the C6 (1.59) or the i1Pro (1.68). This is mostly grayscale error, but skin tones and oranges in particular are also poor. It might be that those wavelengths are the ones the i1DisplayPro has trouble reading correctly, and so its picking up less red than it should. This would account for almost all of these issues, but it still shows the problems with only using a single colorimeter that hasn’t been profiled for the display it is being used on. These problems only grow as you use custom backlights that have a new spectral signature.
In the end, the Dell software gets you closer than the default, and if you have an i1DisplayPro that you can use I’d go ahead and use it. However, if you have access to something like an i1Pro or other spectrometer, you could use ArgyllCMS and one of the free front ends like dispcalGUI to get better results because it can read the light correctly. If Dell can add support for the i1Pro or another spectrometer, or even better allow you to profile the i1DisplayPro off an i1Pro, then their software would be very nice to use. Considering its free, this might seem like a lot of complaints, but I wouldn’t want someone to buy the U3014, use the software and their suggested meter, and think they have a perfectly calibrated display when we can see that isn’t actually the case.
Once we get into high-end monitors, display uniformity becomes more and more important. If you’re doing serious graphics work then you need to have one side of the display look like the other for doing comparisons. If two images look different because of the display then doing work becomes harder. Previous models that I’ve seen with high end uniformity control, like the NEC PA271W, have been thick beasts as they try to control temperature and everything else to preserve that uniformity. The Dell is much thinner but that could be due to the GB-LEDs and not using a CCFL backlight.
Dell also features Uniformity Compensation on the U3014, which was a feature I was excited to see. However, I’m tempering my excitement because it unfortunately has a number of restrictions. First, it can’t be used in the sRGB, AdobeRGB, or CAL1/2 modes. Second, when using it in the Standard mode, your brightness is locked at 50. On the NEC, once you pushed past a certain level (right around 250 cd/m2) it would tell you that uniformity can no longer be controlled, but it still allowed you to adjust the brightness level. If you are concerned about uniformity then you’re probably concerned about color first, so it makes no sense to have a uniformity mode that can’t help with both.
I did quickly measure the display with uniformity enabled in Standard mode, and it is very uniform in brightness. It ranges from 240-247 cd/m2 across the display, which is about as good as you can get. However, it also means you are stuck with the less-accurate colors and grayscale by default, and that you can’t adjust the brightness level as 247 cd/m2 is really quite bright. This makes it even more upsetting that Dell only has this mode in a very restricted use scenario, since it seems to perform great.
Dell also is the first display I’ve seen that ships with a calibration report that displays the uniformity of the screen, both in brightness and in dE levels. To see how close they get, I used CalMAN again as they have a new uniformity tool that provides a lot of data. I used 25 points to match the reporting that Dell provided me, so I can see how accurate the report is. Unfortunately CalMAN isn’t totally finished so all I can report on is the average dE2000 for each zone and not the dE2000 compared to the center, which is actually what I want to know. You can have the same dE2000 in two zones but with totally different errors, so they’ll look nothing alike. CalMAN can display this data on screen, and so I’ve created a couple of galleries for it, but the export of this data isn’t there yet.
Checking our grayscale uniformity, we actually see a really good result overall. Using the center point as a reference, we drop down to 88.5% brightness on the far left edge and 86.2% on the far right edge, but otherwise we are at 95% or higher over most of the screen. Keeping the brightness in the range of 190-200 cd/m2 over that much of the screen is very good and better than most displays out there. The black level isn’t quite as good, as there are a couple of bright corners, especially in the lower-left, that I would prefer to not see. However, these result in a contrast ratio around the screen that ranges from 643 in that bright corner up to 1057, with the median being 920:1. Dell specifies 1000:1 and that would have been hit pre-calibration, but we had to reduce the contrast a little because of the white clipping at the very top.
The CalMAN charts here for Grayscale show you readings around the screen for 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100%. You can see the dE2000 for each zone compared to the center zone, and the dE2000 compared to each surrounding zone. This is the best way to measure this and what we will use as soon as CalMAN lets us export the data correctly. You can see that once we get to 100% White, some zones have an error up to dE2000 4.6 compared to the center, while their actual dE2000 number is only 2.50 to the reference target. This helps validate why this method works so much better, as the actual difference on-screen will be 4.6, but if you just measure each zone independently you would see a peak error of 2.50 and assume that’s the worst case scenario.
One thing to note about these charts is to ignore the data in the lower-right square. I failed to change this to the secondary display when running this test, which doesn’t affect anything except the Windows 8 “Activate Windows” icon was visible in the lower-right corner, causing incorrect readings. All the other data is fine, but this data doesn’t save like all the other data so it’s impractical to re-run everything again to fix that one square. The White and Black level readings were done again to make sure they’re correct, but the dE2000 number is wrong.
After all of that with the grayscale, how does the color checker test perform? With the same caveats about the data as with the Grayscale, the highest dE2000 in any zone after calibration is 2.74, which is still very good. Only 3 of the 25 zones are above a dE2000 average of 2.0, so overall all the areas look good independent of each other. As with the Grayscale, we have some of the data from the uniformity testing in CalMAN in a gallery. 6 of the 24 samples in the Color Checker test are grayscale, so I’ve added six more colors here so you can see how it performs. Overall the errors compared to center are quite good, with the highest errors in the lower-left corner that suffers from some light bleed. Overall the U3014 is very good with its uniformity, though not perfect. I just wish the uniformity compensation worked in all modes, but the limitations on it make it paractially cuseless for most people interested in such a feature.
Unfortunately, as I went to test this display using SMTT, which I’ve used for the past year, I found my license has expired. Furthermore, the author has stopped selling licenses right now, so we can’t use it anymore. This is unfortunate as it let us easily determine input lag versus pixel response time, and nothing else does that as well. With that gone, I went to three different options to test the lag on the Dell U3014:
- The Leo Bodnar Lag Tester
- FlatPanelsHD lag timer
Using the FlatPanelsHD test, it was a straight 49 or 50ms each time on the U3014. Since you have to mirror this on a CRT, that means running at 1920x1080 resolution on the Dell so the usual caveats apply, though it was the same lag with 1:1 pixel mapping or with scaling, so at least that introduces no additional penalty.
Using 3DMark03, I managed to measure right around 37.3ms, and with the Leo Bodnar lag tester I measured 33.8ms. All of these were while running in Game Mode, so the least input lag that I saw was two frames. Because I don’t live in a vacuum, I also looked at the results that TFT Central managed with the same display, since they have an oscilloscope that I don’t and they found virtually no lag at all. I think the 50ms number is really off, as there are issues with using a Flash timer for measuring lag. The Leo Bodnar actually gives three results, 28.4, 34, and 38.9, depending on if you are high, middle, or low on the screen, and so that low one more closely matches up with the 3DMark one, where the FPS counter is at the bottom.
Because of this, I think the Leo Bodnar average of the three is the most accurate number that I can produce right now. Of course, that is over HDMI and not DisplayPort or DVI, and at 1080p, so the reliability of that number is admittedly low, but there is no better solution available to me to measure it right now. I’d like to produce a better number than that, but sadly I can't at present. Hopefully SMTT will come back, as it produces a much better number with more verifiably accurate data, but right now I’m stuck with this method.
Power Use on the Dell is pretty good, considering the size of the panel. With an all-white screen at full backlight, it uses 77 watts of power. With the same screen and minimum backlight, it uses 33 watts of power. Given that 27” CCFL monitors can use well over 100 watts, to get this out of a 30” LCD is very good and a testament to the GB-LED backlighting system. To put this into a new way of measuring, at maximum backlight the U3014 produces 12.19 Candelas per Watt, and at minimum it produces 4.11 Candelas per Watt. I’ll try to use Candelas/Watt going forward, as it allows for uniform evaluations of power efficiency across all screen sizes. There are only a few monitors in here now, but I will try to go back and add more as I can.
We’ve already looked at Gamut a bit with the AdobeRGB charts, but I’m going to use the Gamutvision chart to see exactly how much of the AdobeRGB gamut is covered. According to its data, we see that 97% of the AdobeRGB gamut is accounted for. The Dell specs call for 99%, but with our slight under-saturation in red that probably accounts for the difference. It is still a very good number overall and should satisfy those that need the expanded gamut of AdobeRGB.
Dell really put a lot into the U3014, with almost every single high-end feature that you might want to have being present. AdobeRGB support, DisplayPort MST for the first time in something I’ve reviewed, uniformity compensation, and calibration software that works directly with the display. On the whole, you can look at the U3014 and think it is an ideal high-end display based off those points. Of course, many of those features have limitations.
The display uniformity works great, but only if you run the monitor in Standard mode and only at the preset 50% brightness level, which means for many people it just won’t work at all. The Dell calibration software is a great idea, and I can’t knock it too much since it is free, but the limitation of meters to a single model, and not even a spectrometer, causes me to suggest it shouldn’t be used for color-critical situations, which is pretty much any time you'd want to calibrate. Finally, the DisplayPort MST works well for video content, but the secondary display had to be power cycled every single time to make it be recognized and audio corruption was present on the secondary display. I also sometimes had issues with the Dell U3014 being detected coming out of sleep and would have to power cycle it as well. Perhaps it just doesn’t like my video card (a GTX 660 Ti model), but it still is a bit annoying.
Dell also made a bit of a mistake by changing the best OSD and interface to one that is now touch sensitive and not as responsive. It looks great on the side of the display, but I’d much rather use the older models with the solid buttons that might not look quite as good but are more usable. That’s a bit of a UI issue, but the main factor to look at with the U3014 is its performance, and there I found very little to complain about. The GB LED array did a very good job of utilizing the AdobeRGB gamut, coming up just slightly short in my measurements but not by much. More importantly, it also managed to keep the sRGB gamut in line when utilizing that mode, as most people will likely use sRGB mode rather than AdobeRGB.
The included software from Dell also lets the monitor automatically adjust calibration modes based on the application you are running. If you do your photo editing in AdobeRGB and everything else in sRGB, then you don’t need to worry about remembering to switch as the display will handle it for you. These usability features, combined with the vast array of inputs and outputs, make the Dell U3014 a monitor that is easy to recommend if price isn’t a consideration. However, price is always a consideration, and in the case of the U3014 it’s a very high $1,500 currently.
There are only a few monitors on the market that are 30” and AdobeRGB gamut, and the Dell U3014 falls at the bottom of the pricing system. The HP ZR30w is cheaper, though it uses a CCFL backlight with fewer inputs, but it also has AdobeRGB coverage. The NEC models that would be comparable are close to $2,000 and up, though they will likely have better uniformity control on a calibrated screen. If you don’t need AdobeRGB coverage, than we’re starting to see cheaper 30” IPS panels hit the market, like an $800 model from Monoprice that's similar to the 27” panels that came to market last year. These are all pretty bare-bones in comparison to something like the U3014, but you can almost get two of them for the same price, so those that are only after the resolution can go for a pair of those instead.
For its target market of graphics professionals, not the casual user or gamer, the U3014 gets a lot right. It is very accurate after calibration, looks wonderful in use, and is absolutely massive on my desk. My reservations on it are that the uniformity correction doesn’t work in every single mode, as I think it should, and the Dell calibration software needs to work with spectrometers as well to be useful to its target market. The last one is easily correctable with a software update and the first issue may be addressable in firmware, but I’m not certain that it will be. Since Dell only releases a 30” display every three years or so, these little flaws are going to be around for a long time, but it also gives Dell a chance to possibly correct them.
If you are after a color critical 30” display and have your own calibration software to use with it, the Dell U3014 will do the job for you, and do it well. It meets all of the specifications that Dell put out there, and it looks fantastic. It’s also priced competitively for what it does even before a discount, which Dell often has. I can’t give the Dell a universal recommendation, as it has a narrow target audience and a couple features that should be better for that audience. Hopefully those can be improved upon, and then the Dell U3014 will be an easy recommendation for those that are in its target audience.