One word describes the reaction from the CNET.com.au Labs team upon removing Dell's new 30-inch monster LCD display from its packaging: enchanted. Upon plonking the unit onto the nearest available desk, the panel began emitting magnetic waves, beckoning for those in the office to emerge from their tech caves for a looksee. Suffice it to say, if you're after a room-dominating monitor that attracts plenty of attention, the Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP fits the bill perfectly.
Typical to Dell products, the 3007WFP is mostly black with silver trimmings and a silver base. While it's a matter of personal preference, we believe that Dell's offering is just as attractive as Apple's much lauded 30-inch Cinema Display. We're particularly drawn to the 'V'-shaped base, which is much more appealing than the base that debuted with the panel's younger 24-inch brother, the 2405FPW. Thankfully, the 2405FPW has since been updated to the new base design.
So huge it looks like it's about to tip over
Adjustability options abound, with the panel being able to pivot 60-degrees left and right on the horizontal axis and around 3-degrees forward, 19 degrees backward on the vertical axis. The screen itself can also slide 90mm up and down on the stand, which is great for those without a height-adjustable chair. These adjustment options are far more impressive than those seen on Apple's 30-inch panel. You're unable to swing the screen into portrait mode, albeit this would be highly impractical given the sheer size of the display.
While physical adjustability is impressive, the 3007WFP lacks a menu for modifying internal settings such as contrast and colour temperatures. In fact, there are only three buttons on the panel itself - one for power and two for increasing/decreasing brightness levels. This is disappointing, but Dell doesn't lose many points here since other 30" panels currently on the market are similarly bereft of adjustable settings.
The 3007WFP offers a grey-to-grey pixel response time of 11ms (14ms black-to-white), an impressive 700:1 contrast ratio and a native resolution of 2560x1600. Of course, the downside of such an immense resolution is that, as well as shelling out AU$2899 for the monitor, you'll have to put down for a beastly high-end PC as well. This is because only the newest graphics chips support such high resolutions, and even these tend to struggle when it comes to running the latest games. Therefore, an Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX or ATI Radeon X1800XT is essential to make full use of this fine panel. Clearly, only those with a money tree planted in their backyard need apply.
The panel connects to the PC using a dual-link DVI connection, so make sure your PC is equipped with a graphics card that includes these inputs. Unfortunately, there's no S-Video input so connection to a DVD player or TV tuner is impossible, limiting the monitor to being solely a PC display. This is particularly baffling when one considers the fact that Dell's smaller UltraSharp 2405FPW does offer S-Video.
It's not as thick as one would imagine and the base design is undeniably attractive
On the plus side, lining the left-hand side of the bezel is a memory card reader, which supports the CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, SecureDigital and MMC formats. There's also a four-port USB 2.0 hub for connection to external devices such as USB keys, cameras and external hard drives.
Despite our astoundingly positive first impressions of the 3007WFP, upon sitting down to give the panel a thorough thrashing we soon realised how impractical a 30" display is for PC use.
The extremely high resolution provides the user with copious amounts of screen space, however, unless you're constantly multi-tasking with three or more applications running at a time, you'll mainly be using one-third or less of the available area. Granted, it's possible that those partaking in regular multimedia content creation would be able to make use of the space, but it's still wasted on most users.
Text and icons are extremely sharp, albeit, the resolution makes them difficult to perceive, particularly if your eye-sight is less than perfect. We also found that using the panel for extended periods of time can be straining since your eyeballs are constantly traversing the huge canvas.
DVD viewing is, as expected, intensely immersive since the screen consumes much of your field of view. The action unfolds centimeters away from your eyes and is indescribably enthralling. It's a pity then that the panel lacks any video ports, which would allow it to double as a high-definition TV.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned sense of immersion is soon eradicated once you settle in and begin to notice the significant amounts of signal noise. A huge downside to sitting so close to a 30" panel is that you start to pick up even the tiniest image quality artefacts on a per-pixel level. The impact is more severe on lower quality video clips, but is present on DVD films as well.
Ghosting/motion blur is also noticeable in fast-action scenes, but it's not as bad as we had previously imagined. In fact, in our opinion, ghosting is far less of an issue on the Dell panel than it is on Apple's offering.
Gaming is by far the best and most logical application of the 3007WFP, as the user is completely immersed in the game world and ghosting is kept to a minimum. Objects and environments remain vivid even at 2560x1600, albeit we did notice the occasional slow-down in frame rates despite our testing with a beastly high-end system. Make no mistake about it, gaming at 2560x1600 is extremely system intensive. Another thing to keep in mind is that most titles don't support 2560x1600 by default, so you may have to edit the game's configuration file manually.
Colours are true to life and contrast performance is excellent, but in some of the darker scenes in F.E.A.R, we had trouble picking up fine details in objects. The panel's brightness (rated at 400 cd/m2) also impressed us, and this is consistent across the whole display with no visible bright or dark spots.
While the attraction of a 30" behemoth display is undeniable, we highly question the practicality of the Dell 3007WFP in a desktop PC environment. If you're desperate for a gargantuan screen, Dell's 2405FPW -- the 24" model -- makes much more sense and is cheaper to boot.