Dell UltraSharp U3011

Dell's new 30-incher is amazing, delivering excellent performance and great colour control. The price will stop most though — this monitor is only for the truly serious.


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Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


Update: Dell Australia has advised that there's been a price revision on the U3011, and will now be sold at AU$1899. The unit should be on sale from September 21.

The oldest of Dell's monitors, its 30-inch 3008WFP, has finally been given an upgrade, and it's a doozy.

Taking a page out of the U2711's rather accomplished book, the U3011 arrives with a colour calibration factory report. Out of the box, Dell guarantees average Delta E of less than five — this is quite impressive for factory calibration. While a Delta E of three is generally considered the point where there's a perceptible shift in colour, compared to most consumer monitors this is impressive. Just like the U2711, it offers control of offset, gain and hue (which includes CMY colours) for more accurate calibrating. To help this along, it has a true 10-bit panel and 12-bit LUT — the very same panel, we're told, as is in HP's ZR30w.

Make no bones about it, at AU$1899 the U3011 is aimed squarely at the ZR30w, and consequently those who need better colours than the norm. Everyone else will likely be much happier with the U2711 — sure it loses three inches and 409,600 pixels (and according to the specs sheet we have, three per cent of the AdobeRGB gamut), but it also keeps over AU$1000 more in your pocket.

A few more things have changed between the 3008WFP and the U3011. Gone is the CF card reader, the composite and S-Video inputs. An additional HDMI port is included for a total of two, and of course the U3011 now adopts Dell's universal black plastic look, along with the touch-sensitive buttons. The anti-glare coating is definitely a lot less "twinkly", although the twinkle certainly isn't gone.

Good news for those who hate waiting: the screen now only takes three seconds to wake up from sleep (compared to the 3008WFP's seven), and input switching seems to have been given a kick too. A brief test showed that while both the 3008WFP and U3011 took six seconds to switch from HDMI to DVI (we're assuming part of this is a Windows delay), going the other way took only two seconds on the U3011, versus seven on the 3008WFP.

Let's take a deeper look at this long-awaited monster monitor.

Dell UltraSharp U3011 front

Want a unique looking monitor? Too bad, all the Dells now look pretty much the same. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Specs at a glance

Size 30 inches
Resolution 2560x1600
Aspect ratio 16:10
Pixel pitch 0.252
Panel technology IPS
Backlight CCFL
Viewing angles
(10:1 contrast)
H: 178°
V: 178°
Response time 7ms G2G
Max vertical refresh 60Hz
Connections 2x DVI, 2x HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, component, soundbar power, 3x 3.5mm line out for surround sound, 4x USB, xD/SD/MS/MMC card reader
Accessories DVI, VGA, DisplayPort, USB upstream, power cables

Stand and ergonomics

Dell's stand design is now pretty much uniform, the only difference being that larger models like the U2711 and U3011 don't have the capability to pivot 90° into portrait mode. It's still a great stand though, with rack and pinion style height adjustment, tilt and swivel, and a hole through the neck for cable management. As with the U2711 though, you won't be able to remove the panel from the stand unless you have a torx driver. While we do wish that it was easily removable like the U2410, we'd imagine for a panel of this size the extra support the screws provide are needed.

Dell UltraSharp U3011 stand

The Dell stand is great, but the sheer size of the monitor means the 90° pivot function has been removed. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Connections

Dell UltraSharp U3011 inputs

Some legacy inputs are now gone. From left to right: power, 3.5mm 5.1 sound, DisplayPort, two DVI ports, VGA, two HDMI ports, component, USB upstream and two USB ports. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Dell UltraSharp U3011 USB ports

Two more USB ports, and an xD/SD/MMC/MS card reader. Those hoping for CF to make a return will be disappointed. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Buttons and on-screen display (OSD)

The U3011 features a lit mechanical power button at the bottom right, and a proximity sensitive strip above this. Bring the hand near and the bottom button lights up, giving you a perfect in-the-dark interface without having distracting lights all the time. Once you touch this button, the OSD appears on screen, the other buttons light up and are labelled in a context sensitive fashion on screen.

Annoyingly by default all these buttons emit a beeping sound when pressed, which can thankfully be turned off.

Dell UltraSharp U3011 buttons

Only the power button stays permanently lit. The bottom button only lights up when a hand is near, and touching it will bring up a menu, lighting the other buttons and giving contextually relevant options. It also makes it an excellent interface to use in the dark. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Dell UltraSharp U3011 OSD

Like the chassis design, Dell has very much settled on the OSD design. This isn't a bad thing — it's still the best consumer OSD we've seen. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Dell's cavalcade of options is carried over to the U3011, offering the usual RGB/YPbPr colour space; brightness and contrast; hue, gain, saturation and offset controls. The "Video" and "Graphics" modes have been removed, with all the presets now available under the one mode menu. Dell offers Standard, Multimedia (which has a red cast), Game (green cast), Movie, Warm, Cool, Adobe RGB, sRGB, xv Mode and Custom Color as preset options.

Scaling options are complete too, offering fill, 16:9, 4:3, aspect and 1:1 scaling modes. Sharpness is available on digital inputs, and picture by picture is there too. Here behaviour has changed a bit — for your source you can only choose HDMI 1, HDMI 2 or component, the secondary picture being provided off any of the other inputs. It's nice to finally be able to have HDMI and DVI side by side, but those hoping for DVI side by side with another DVI connection will be disappointed.

The U3011 like the U2711 before it has support for six-axial colour calibration (RGBCMY) under the hue and saturation settings, which combined with the gain and offset controls should allow people to screw down their colour calibrations even further than the usual.

While we were unable to find a service menu, even if one exists it is likely it won't be needed — all the options most will require are already exposed in the OSD.

Performance

Lagom.nl LCD tests
After calibrating to a target brightness of 140cd/m² with an X-Rite i1Display 2, and calibrating with HCFR, the U3011 was run through the Lagom.nl LCD tests.

Image tests
Contrast Sharpness Gamma Black level White saturation Gradient
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Slight banding/purple discolouration in the darker end of the scale
Inversion pixel walk tests
Test 1 Test 2a Test 2b Test 3 Test 4a Test 4b Test 5 Test 6a Test 6b Test 7a Test 7b
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass

Interestingly, our review model of the U3011 performed a little worse in the gradient test than the U2711; however, it gains the notable distinction of being the only monitor we've seen to pass all pixel walk tests. Most fail between one and four.

Input lag
Measured against a Samsung SyncMaster 975p CRT, and using a Canon 40D set to a shutter speed of 1/320, an average of over 60 photographs were taken using Virtual Stopwatch Pro. Timing actually ended up better than the U2711 at an average of 27ms. Switching to game mode didn't reduce this in any way.

Colour accuracy
ΔE is the measurement of how far a measured colour deviates from its expected value, allowing us to determine the colour accuracy of a monitor. While a ΔE value of one is considered perceivable, as long as it's less than three the shift shouldn't be too obvious. HCFR was used to determine ΔE for the monitor.

The U3011 comes with a sheet claiming that that particular model has been factory calibrated to < 5.0 ΔE out of the box for both sRGB and AdobeRGB modes. It's complete with graphs across eight grey samples, and four primary and secondary samples, none of which peak a ΔE of three. It's been tested using a Chroma 7121 and 2326, both much more impressive than our little X-Rite i1Display 2.

Dell UltraSharp U3011 calibration report

Mmmm, calibratey. Somewhere, an English major is crying at this caption. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

Let's see how it holds up with our relatively humble set up.

Measured levels (sRGB mode)
Contrast ratio 808:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.28
White level (cd/m²) 223.15
Gamma 2.21
Greyscale ΔE (sRGB mode)
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
42.2 3.4 13.5 13.5 13.4 12.7 12.9 13.2 15.6 16.1 17.4
Colour ΔE (sRGB mode)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
11.7 11.6 7.4 15.2 16.8 11.9

Dell UltraSharp U3011 CIE sRGB emulation chart

At least the greys are consistently out... er... (Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

Good grief. We're not sure what happened between the factory and the test lab, but something isn't quite right here. While some of this can be explained away by using different test and calibration equipment to Dell, our U2711 tests weren't so disparate.

We'd better check AdobeRGB performance to see if this is a greater issue. Here Dell claims 99 per cent coverage — we'll see how it does.

Measured levels (Adobe RGB Mode)
Contrast ratio 778:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.30
White level (cd/m²) 233.35
Gamma (target 2.2) 2.19
Greyscale ΔE (AdobeRGB)
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
40.6 0.3 9.9 10.1 9.8 9.6 9.4 9.6 11.4 12.6 13.4
Colour ΔE (compared to Adobe RGB)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
41.2 20.7 8.4 16.3 16.0 16.8

Dell UltraSharp U3011 CIE Adobe RGB mode chart

The light grey triangle is the AdobeRGB space, the dark the sRGB and the white triangle the measurements of the U3011 in AdobeRGB mode. (Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

Still not great — given that we have early access to this monitor though, this may not be indicative of out-of-the-box calibration across the range. There could also be some odd things going on between our 8-bit card, the 12-bit LUT, the 10-bit panel and our i1Display 2 — but we saw no such issues with the U2711. AMD kindly lent us a FirePro 3D V5800 to test if our Radeon HD 5870 was at fault; however, this made no difference to the measured results.

Let's see if calibration can get us a little closer to target. First, we need to get those greys under control.

Measured levels (sRGB mode)
Contrast ratio 371:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.37
White level (cd/m²) 137.30
Gamma 2.30
Greyscale ΔE (sRGB mode)
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
40.8 5.0 0.7 0.3 0.7 0.5 0.5 0.7 0.4 0.7 0.5
Colour ΔE (sRGB mode)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
38.4 52.6 4.0 7.0 49.3 32.7

Greys: fixed. Green: nuts. (Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

Zero and 10 per cent aside, the greys are now sublime. IPS as a technology impedes us from getting better blacks. A side effect though is that our colours are now whacked — let's see if we can compromise and bring them all into line by tweaking the gain, offset, hue and saturation.

Measured levels (sRGB mode)
Contrast ratio 351:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.38
White level (cd/m²) 133.37
Gamma 2.18
Greyscale ΔE (sRGB mode)
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
38.1 4.8 1.2 2.0 2.6 2.3 2.4 1.3 1.5 1.7 1.7
Colour ΔE (sRGB mode)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
5.9 3.1 3.4 5.1 6.5 7.1

A little compromise goes a long way. (Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

Whew. Now that's a lot better, even if the greys took a slight hit. It took a few hours to get this far though, with a lot of menu wrangling. We'd love it if Dell would merge its gain, offset, hue and saturation controls into the one OSD menu, separated only by colour. It'd make tweaking a lot easier, and it certainly has the real estate to do so.

We're confident we could get these numbers down further, but the amount of effort required is large. We found ourselves constantly wishing for a more sophisticated system like NEC's SpectraView II.

HDMI performance
While a monitor might have an HDMI port that's no guarantee it'll display images as expected. We hooked up a PlayStation 3 and checked for 24p capability, as well as judder and ran the HQV Blu-ray test to see how well it coped with an interlaced source and noise.

24p capable Understands YUV Mission Impossible III
Scene 11 judder test
Mission Impossible III
Scene 14 judder test
Yes Yes Very slight judder Very slight judder

HQV noise
reduction
score
HQV video
resolution loss
score
HQV jaggies
score
HQV film
resolution loss
score
HQV film
resolution loss - stadium
score
Total score (out of 100)
10 (no noise reduction, 25 with adaptive noise reduction) 20 20 25 0 75 (90 with adaptive noise reduction)

HDMI video performance is on par with the U2711: excellent for a computer monitor. There's still a slight judder present in the MI:III scenes, but nothing that's likely to have you yelling at the screen unless you're an absolute purist.

Viewing angles
Viewing angles were taken with a Canon 40D in spot metering mode, with only shutter time adjusted to obtain a good exposure.

Dell UltraSharp U3011 viewing angles

IPS technology continues to have the best viewing angles around. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Backlight uniformity
Backlight uniformity was measured by placing HCFR into free measure mode, displaying a completely white image and recording the brightness along a 5x3 grid on the screen. This should be considered a guide only, as backlight uniformity is likely to change from unit to unit.

Dell UltraSharp U3011 backlight uniformity

Nothing amazing here, but then again, nothing too wrong either. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Light bleed
As a high-level monitor, the U3011 has no light bleed whatsoever. It does, however, fall victim to the "white glow" effect, something endemic in IPS displays. No polariser has been used to mitigate this.

It's important to note that the effects of light bleed will likely change from monitor to monitor, regardless of make.

Other issues
The panel itself is quite deeply inset, and the inset bezel is a shiny black, meaning that during bright scenes you may notice the screen's reflection on the bezel, which will be distracting for some.

Power consumption
We measured power consumption using a Jaycar mains digital power meter. It's important to note here that due to limitations of the meter, measurements are limited to values 1W and greater, and are reported in 1W increments.

All measurements, screen brightness and contrast were set to 100 per cent, and a test image displayed.

Juice Box
Maximum power draw 153W
Power-saving mode 12W
Off 12W

While the U2711 managed less than 1W while in power-saving mode and when off, it seems the U3011 still draws a good whack of power. The specs sheet claims less than 2W, something our sample at least did not hit. Max draw of course is incredibly large, but given the size of the screen we're not surprised.

Warranty

Dell offers a three-year warranty, including next-business-day exchange.

Dell's dead pixel policy alters depending on what monitor you have bought. For the U3011, you'll only need one bright subpixel to get a swap out; but if you have a dark pixel, you'll have to wait for another five to be eligible for a swap over. You are able to return any monitor within 15 days of the invoice date to Dell; however, the user pays shipping in this instance.

Conclusion

The U3011 is massive and sublime. It's by no means cheap, but you're paying for the panel. For those who can justify it, it brings much needed improvements over the 3008WFP. For those who can't, go for the U2711 instead.



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Jerry
1
Rating
 

Jerry posted a review   

The Good:Not acceptable

The Bad:Good only for lame uninformed users

The sparkle effect kills this monitor just like U2711 or NEC PA series which I returned back after 2 minutes as it's same GARBAGE - even on the image above you can see smudges and dirty grain...

Just funny that most people don't have any idea that there are good monitors on the market...

 

suggestions? posted a reply   

u wrote about lame peeps who kno nothin about monitors. suggest a few with screen around 24-30 inches

PS rusloc@gmail.com

 

NeBlackCat posted a comment   

The Good:Superb picture

The Bad:No audio over DisplayPort?

The visuals are great, I don't notice any sparkle at all, but I've been unable to get it to receive audio over DisplayPort (only HDMI) and am starting to suspect it isn't supported. Though that would be a staggering oversight given that the monitor can't be used at native res over HDMI, so I retain some hope. I'm trying to get Dell to confirm one way or the other, but if anyone else knows anything, please post what you know.

 

Christian Schiffer posted a reply   

DP supports audio so maybe its a driver issue.

As to sparkling our friend is wrong, he is the one not knowing what he is talking about, he probably connected the screen via an single link dvi port/cable to get that "hehe nice sparkling effect of his :P"

 

"Audio support over DisplayPort"

RichardM4 posted a reply   

Audio over HDMI to HDMI is standard in all versions. According to the official DisplayPort website, however, audio over DisplayPort to DisplayPort is optional.

[See http://www.displayport.org/consumer/?q=content/displayport-makes-high-performance-standard ]

Note well also the difference between DisplayPort v1.1a and DisplayPort v1.2. According to Craig Wiley, a Vice-Chair of VESA's board of directors, in Feb 2011:

"While DisplayPort v1.1a supports uncompressed stereo audio up to 192 kHz as well as multichannel S/PDIF format, DisplayPort v1.2 adds high-definition audio, audio content protection, and multi-channel audio timing control. As with display data, DisplayPort v1.2 can support many audio channels."

[from http://www.extremetech.com/computing/84094-an-inside-look-at-displayport-v12 ]

 

BillyNYC posted a comment   

Juist got two of them...

Rob H
9
Rating
 

Rob H posted a review   

The Good:Excellent Clarity

The Bad:Nothing Yet.

I just received one today, 27th September, 2010. Cost was $1,500 from Dell. I had the 24" 2405FPW monitor. The difference is amazing. As a software developer the extra screen real estate is extremely welcome. This is a bright monitor and the colors are far more brilliant than with the 2405. Game play is excellent as well. I am driving the monitor with an ATI 5770 video card and it is working as expected. I believe this is a worthy upgrade over the old panel and would recommend it for anyone wanting a higher resolution monitor greater than 1920x1200. I am running this monitor at 2560x1600 and loving it. It can produce two side-by-side documents in excellent detail. For professional imaging, documenting, or software development this is an excellent size monitor to have. It color capabilities are great for this consumer priced monitor.

 

Chris M posted a comment   

Does this have the same finish on the screen that's used on the 2711. For me, it was "sparkly". Can anyone compare this to an Apple 30" Cinema Display?

 

Craig Simms posted a comment   
Australia

After leaving both on for a few hours, I can say that the U3011 is still quite a heat generator. It seems to dissipate a little more efficiently than the 3008WFP though.

Kimmik was on the money in terms of the 10-bit panel, so the review has been adjusted accordingly.

 

Craig Simms posted a comment   
Australia

Thanks Kimmik, I'll see what I can dig up on the subject.

 

kimmik posted a comment   

Craig, there's a mistake in your article: "U2711 — sure it loses 2 bits of colour, 3 inches and 409,600 pixels, but it also keeps over AU$1000 more in your pocket."

U2711 also uses 10bit panel and 12bit lut. so the saving is enormous in light of the display quality.


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User Reviews / Comments  Dell UltraSharp U3011

  • Jerry

    Jerry

    Rating1

    "The sparkle effect kills this monitor just like U2711 or NEC PA series which I returned back after 2 minutes as it's same GARBAGE - even on the image above you can see smudges and dirty grain...

  • NeBlackCat

    NeBlackCat

    "The visuals are great, I don't notice any sparkle at all, but I've been unable to get it to receive audio over DisplayPort (only HDMI) and am starting to suspect it isn't supported. Though that wou..."

  • BillyNYC

    BillyNYC

    "Juist got two of them..."

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