For a while I’ve been after a new monitor – my 17″ Viewsonic may have been a PC Pro a-listed cutting-edge monitor back in 2005 (when it cost me £187.22!) but now it’s a little small and the colours aren’t quite as vibrant as they were 6 years ago.

Now, I was happy to spend a bit more to getter a higher quality monitor and there were  certain things I wanted (in no particular order)…

  • (Ideally) a zero dead pixel guarantee
  • 23″ – 24″ screen size
  • Not bothered about speakers
  • A USB hub would be nice
  • Good general output quality and a lack of external light bleeding
  • HDMI or DVI input
  • Adjustable stand

After much searching I settled on the Dell UltraSharp U2311H – reviews gave me all the above at a price of around £260. Ordering was easy and the delivery quick – I couldn’t be around for the drop-off so I arranged to pick it up from my local UPS office.

Inside the unassuming brown box was the monitor, various leaflets, a CD, power cable, VGA cable and DVI cable. I needed neither of the connection cables as I was going to use my existing HDMI to DVI cable 1.

The monitor is not sexy but it’s not ugly either. It’s more functional – matt black plastic with menu buttons integrated into the side of the display. The stand is highly adjustable and can rotate around for portrait display. It has DVI, VGA and DisplayPort inputs, as well as a side-mounted 2 port USB hub, with a further 2 USB ports mounted on the back near to the video connections 2. The stand connects via a standard VESA mount, so the monitor is also wall-mountable. It uses a standard power connection and the PSU is built-in. As you can probably guess this isn’t, unlike the LG, a slimline stunner at 18.4 cm deep but neither is it overtly large.

Cables are routed through a hole in the top of the stand but, unlike some of their other monitors, I find this to be a little too low (especially if you have the stand at full height) so the cables are still visible. It doesn’t come with built-in speakers but you can buy a separate “sound bar” to attach to provide this functionality, if required.

I had some initial problems with the included CD, as the software didn’t want to launch under Windows 7 64-bit. Sadly, it’s a real struggle to find downloads on the Dell website without a Service Tag, and these aren’t provided on monitors under 27″. A google search found no official download link from Dell either. However, Microsoft Update automatically picked up on the new hardware and supplied the appropriate software for download.

The CD also contains the manual and, thankfully, that is available from the Dell website.

PC Pro, when recently reviewing the monitor, had the following to say about the image…

After installing the monitor driver supplied by Dell, we weren`t entirely impressed by the image quality. Colours appeared wildly oversaturated, and in gradient tests we noticed obvious banding artefacts.

However, changing the monitor to its Custom (RGB) setting, leaving the individual Red, Green and Blue controls set to maximum and uninstalling Dell’s driver swiftly improved matters. Our test images and Blu-ray discs now looked amazing, and the gradient test showed a smooth transtition [sic] from black to white with no banding.

However, I couldn’t see a difference when I changed the RGB settings. Running the Windows 7 calibration tests, it showed that gamma was a little low – increasing this and re-running cleartype adjustments made a huge difference to the image quality. The end results, and probably all thanks to the IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel being used, are stunning.

Shunning an LCD backlight it means the Dell does draw more power but, as a result, has an impressive level of brightness. Having said that, with no USB devices in use it does still only use 33W (and less than 1W in standby).

Does it have any downsides? Not that I can find.

However, and this isn’t aimed at this monitor in particular, I’m not overly impressed by the aspect ratio of these monitors. The width is good, but the height is barely any more than my old 17″ Viewsonic. For those not wanting to watch films regularly the current ratios don’t work for normal PC usage. When, say, I’m in a code editor and all the code is “butted” up against the left hand side of the monitor, that’s a lot of lost real estate. Like most people I sit centre of the monitor, but just end up spending a lot of time twisting around to look at the left hand side. I’d much rather loose horizontal resolution to gain more vertical (and, no, turning the monitor into portrait mode isn’t a solution – that’s too far the other way!). Bring back the 4:3 ratio monitors!

[review]An excellent monitor with features galore. It’s a little pricey but you get what you pay for, especially in terms of image quality. And if that quality is important to you, then the Dell is an essential purchase. [/review]

  1. and for those who read my previous post about the problems I was having watching Blu-Ray movies… yes, this monitor does resolve the issue![]
  2. note that the USB hub powers off when you switch off the monitor’s power via the corner power button – I therefore use the rear ports for my wireless mouse receiver and a webcam[]

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