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After Owning the U2711 for 6 Months, the U3011 Is the Clear Winner
on August 7, 2012
Before the U2711 fans start flinging their darts, I do agree that image-wise the 2711 is a stunning monitor, and for the 6 months I owned it, I was ecstatic with the image quality and I know the new owner will be also. But here's a few thoughts for those trying to decide between U2711, U3011 and the HP ZR30W. Those are the three I researched starting 6 months ago, and now have a happy answer and ending. But first let me mention where I'm coming from because when I searched for reviews, they mostly covered gaming attributes. If you're a gamer, continue your search elsewhere, I can't help you there. For the photo and video editor who also does printing and works with a calibrated display (I use the Spyder3Elite), this review is for you. I use the Adobe Production Premium Suite mainly with this monitor, so my review will be weighted on that experience. Let's quickly cover the big questions:
The HP uses S-IPS panels versus the Dell's older H-IPS panels. The newer S-IPS is arguably more accurate on paper, but I don't see it. The Lamborghini Aventador is arguably faster than the Aston-Martin V12 DBS Coupe, but at that level of precision, does it matter? The big push for monitors is for LED, but if you do image editing, I dare say the CCFL Dells will calibrate better and more accurately. Also, the HP has only two inputs, and a few years down the road I may get a new monitor and have plans for the U3011, and I'll certainly want the AMAZING array of inputs on the Dell. So, the HP is out at least for me.
(UPDATE, 10-22-2012: I got a reply on this review from RAN today that said the Dell's H-IPS panel is actually the newer technology. I checked it out and they were right! One more plus for the Dell. Thanks for pointing that out!)
(UPDATE, 3-6-2013: good reply from Tracy Bolte who pointed out that latency specs are better on the HP if you do gaming, and that the HP might use a CCFL backlamp after all. I researched HP's site and they don't actually specify the type of back lamp. Will research further. If anyone knows for sure, please reply. Retailers' specs are NOT always accurate!)
White Sparkle/Anti-Glare Matte Finish
This subject is as controversial as global warming, but there is a fairly easy answer. Yes, the matte finish does introduce a sort of grainy filter that's noticable where whites show. Obviously whites would be gorgeous white without that, but to survive with a glossy monitor you really need a scenario where there is NO bright light source behind you. Great scenario if you have that! Anyway, some people say they don't see it, others say it's gross. I discovered that as you make the monitor brighter, the dirty goes away. For photo and video editors in a darkened studio (how I work), lowering your brightness is a given, but there's a threshold where if it gets too low your whites will get a bit yucky. My U2711 was that way: it came set at a brightness of 50 out of the box, but my calibration unit wanted it set at 17 based on ambient light. After calibration my colors on that U2711 were spot on, but whites were not so great. I pushed brightness up to 27 and then it looked very good, to the point where you don't really notice, and other than snow scenes and B&W high-key portraits, how much pure white do we have in an image? As for my new U3011, this was a big advantage over the U2711, the whites are cleaner and brighter. After calibration the software wanted my brightness down to 12, and leaving it there it looks great, like the U2711 after pushing it up to 27 to achieve the same clean whites. Don't get me wrong, the U2711 is equally great once adjusted and for most that's no problem. But if you do large format printing at home like me, a monitor set brighter than the suggested level at calibration will give you darker prints, so you have to compensate (not difficult, just another step to perform). So the U3011 wins here, looks great without boosting brightness. Side note: if you like a really bright monitor, the "sparkly dirty whites" are a moot point, you probably won't see it.
Image vs Text
I got the U3011 and sold the U2711 for two reasons: I do like a 16:10 ratio of the 3011 over the 16:9 ratio of the 2711. Photoshop and Premiere Pro need all the real estate they can get (and RAM!), so 16:10 on the U3011 is a clear winner. But also, the U2711 has a 109 pixels per inch where the U3011 has 101 pixels per inch. That means that images on the U2711 will be the most incredible because of having the most pixels per inch, but that makes text incredibly small. Squinting and leaning forward to read text on a web page gets a little old. Younger eyes will probably be fine, plus you can always boost Text Size in Windows and Mac, but if you do graphics with text and web layouts that can cause some issues. The U3011 with its 101 pixels per inch makes the text just right. I was concerned if that would make images look any less great, but it's only an 8% decrease in resolution, and you do NOT see any less quality on screen. The U3011 wins there again.
Uneven Screen Colors/Hues
I see complaints from time to time on that, but both my former U2711 and my new U3011 are even and gorgeous to my eye. I imagine that this technology is difficult to master but it seems by 2012 we've gotten it down pretty good. Therefore it's best if you get a U3011 that's the latest Rev A07 because it's the older units that many seem to have issues with. I ordered my straight from Amazon and the sticker on the back says A07, MFG date, July 2012. Doesn't get much newer than that and it helps that Amazon moves a lot of stock, therefore always getting new units in.
Wide Gamut and Calibration
If you do a lot of post production work, no doubt you use a colorimeter and will want to calibrate the U3011. There are factory presets that will set the monitor up quite nicely for those who don't calibrate, this thing looks amazing right out of the box. But for post production where we need to ensure Pantone 2747 blue really is that hue, calibration is necessary. I made the mistake initially with the U2711 of cal'ing it after Resetting All Settings in the OSD like we normally do. The calibration looked horrendous afterwards, and I've seen several people complain about that in reviews. That's because resetting to Factory Defaults installs the "Standard" profile, it does NOT remove it! Therefore, after the global reset, then go to Presets and set it to Custom Color. A Type Choice box pops up after you do that, just close and ignore it. But now you'll be in custom mode which allows calibrating to work properly.
I started a Chat with Dell Customer Service and asked them about the 3-year warranty, because I'm buying it here, not Dell directly. Turns out the warranties are in Amazon's name when they are shipped to Amazon's warehouse. The Dell CS rep then transferred the warranty into my Dell account, done! So, make sure you head to Dell's site and start a Chat and request the transfer of Warranty after you get the monitor delivered and are sure all is well. Another reviewer claimed it's only 12 months but that isn't the case, just start a Chat and Dell will transfer it. Right after the transfer, my account showed the monitor right away, but it did say the warranty remaining was 365 days, so while still on the Chat I asked about that, and she said to let the system update, it should show within 24-48 hours. Well, I just looked even though it's only been 12 hours, and sure enough, the full warranty is there. In fact, they gave me an extra 100 days, it expires in November 2015. BTW, while on the chat, I asked if I could transfer my original U2711 warranty to the person who bought it, and they took care of that too, all they needed was address and phone number. SO, make sure you hop on and get your transfer going if you get this monitor.
After working with the Dell 2405, U2711 and now the U3011, I'm totally pleased with Dells' image quality for post production work (and overall gorgeous imagery!). The HP models are surprisingly limited with input options which is no small thing these days. If you do all image editing or you do that and other work and have great vision, the U2711 is a superb choice. But if your budget allows and you hit the right sale (got mine for 1078), the U3011 is the clear winner, no contest IMO. It has it all, and the only con that actually matters to me is sticker shock, but once you pull the trigger and actually see this drive-in movie screen on your desk and experience the image quality, you'll heal quickly, lol.