Dell UltraSharp U3014 review

Pros

  • Outstanding picture
  • 2,560 x 1,600 IPS panel
  • Excellent viewing angles
  • Impressive feature set

Cons

  • No pivot adjustment

Once again the Dell monitor team has a winner on its hands. Their latest addition to the UltraSharp line of desktop monitors, the Dell UltraSharp U3014, picks up where the U3011 left off and brings a few new features to the table, including LED backlighting, USB 3.0, and a slightly faster pixel response.

This wide gamut In-Plane Switching (IPS) monitor is a stellar performer, offering accurate colour and greyscale reproduction and great off angle viewing. It also features a 14-bit LUT (look up table) and comes pre-calibrated from the factory. Ports are abundant, and the (mostly) ergonomic stand lets you position the massive panel for optimal viewing, although it doesn't rotate the panel. Of course, you pay a grand for all of this big-screen goodness, but the U3014 is well worth that asking price.

Design

Design-wise, the U3014 is similar to the Dell U3011. The 2,560 x 1,600 IPS panel sits inside a matte-black cabinet sporting a brushed silver band around its perimeter. The use of LED backlighting allows for a 2in thick cabinet, whereas the CCFL backlit Dell U3011 measured 3.7in thick. The panel is framed by thin (20mm) matte-black bezels with rounded corners, and the bottom bezel is home to a shiny Dell logo.

There are five small touch buttons and a power switch on the right side bezel. As with the Dell U3011, they are proximity sensitive. If you put your finger close without touching anything, the lower button will flash. Touching the flashing button lights up the remaining buttons and launches an on-screen menu labelling scheme for each button. I love this type of navigation system as it makes it very easy to tweak settings without trying to read poorly labelled buttons, and it works great in a darkened room.

The 7.3kg cabinet can be hung on a wall using the four VESA mounting holes, or it can be attached to its stand (included), which consists of a black rectangular base with a curved back edge and a 14in mounting arm. The arm has a sliding hinge that gives you about 3.5in of height adjustability and approximately 25 degrees of tilt. It spins at the base to provide easy one-handed swivel manoeuvrability. The only adjustment not available on the U3014 is pivot, or panel rotation, which was also the case with the Dell U3011 and the UltraSharp U2711 models. A panel of this size is a bit too large for pivoting anyway. On the other hand, the 27in Dell UltraSharp U2713HM does support panel rotation.

Dell outfitted the U3014 with the latest I/O technology and did away with some of the legacy ports. The VGA port and secondary HDMI and DVI ports found on the Dell U3011 are gone. Instead the U3014 is equipped with a full-size DisplayPort input, a mini DisplayPort input, a DisplayPort output, a single HDMI input, and a single dual-link DVI input. The DisplayPort output is used for Multi-Stream Transport (MST), which allows you to daisy-chain multiple monitors. It also offers five USB 3.0 ports (one upstream, four downstream) in place of the slower USB 2.0 technology. Two of the USB ports are conveniently mounted on the left side of the cabinet, along with a 6-in-1 card reader slot. Rounding out the I/O ports are an audio output and two power jacks, one for the monitor and one for an optional Dell Soundbar attachment.

The U3014 is loaded with picture setting choices. It has eight picture presets optimised for specific applications including Standard, Multimedia, Movie, Game, Paper, Colour Temperature, Colour Space, and Custom Colour. Paper mode loads brightness and sharpness settings that are optimised for reading text, while Colour Space mode allows users to choose the Adobe RGB or sRGB colour space, or one of two user calibrated settings (the U3014 comes with calibration software that works with the X-Rite i1Display Pro colorimeter, which must be purchased separately).

Custom Colour lets you manually adjust RGB values and has individual settings for gain, offset, hue, and saturation. In addition to brightness and contrast settings you can adjust gamma, sharpness, noise reduction, and aspect ratio (the native aspect ratio is 16:10). There's also a Uniformity Compensation setting that uses the centre of the screen as a reference, and adjusts brightness and colour over different areas of the screen to ensure a uniform picture, if necessary. The U3014 also supports PIP (picture in picture) and PBP (picture by picture) and offers settings to adjust size, position, and contrast level for the window.

Performance

The U3014's IPS panel performed wonderfully on the DisplayMate 64-step Greyscale test, displaying every swatch of grey cleanly from light to dark. Shadow detail in my test photos was excellent with no trace of crushed blacks, and there was no obvious tinting anywhere in the scale.

Colour quality was equally impressive. Full-screen colour samples were uniform and well saturated, and colour accuracy was outstanding. On the CIE Chromaticity chart below, the closer the red, green, and blue dots are to their corresponding boxes, the better the colour accuracy (ideally each dot will be inside the box). As you can see, the U3014 is pretty much spot-on, which is not surprising considering the monitor is calibrated before it ships.

Any IPS panel worth its salt will deliver wide viewing angles, and the U3014 is no exception. Colours remained vibrant and true even when viewed from a far side angle, and the picture remained bright as well. Small text from the DisplayMate Scaled Fonts test was clean and legible even at 5.3 points (the smallest font on the test).

The U3014 doesn't target gaming enthusiasts but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some after-hours fun. The 6-millisecond (grey-to-grey) pixel response did an admirable job of handling fast motion video and gameplay. Burnout Paradise, a street racing game for the PS3, played smoothly without any noticeable lag, and the action looked awesome on the massive screen. You'll have to supply your own speakers though, as the U3014 does not have any.

The 30in IPS panel used 60 Watts of power during testing, which is significantly lower than the U3011’s power draw (97 Watts). That's one of the big advantages of using LED backlighting. The Energy Smart feature will help lower that number but it uses dynamic dimming, which changes depending on screen content. For example, the monitor measured 60 Watts while displaying our website with Energy Smart disabled; enabling it lowered that number to 48 Watts.

Verdict

Robust accurate colours, solid greyscale performance, and wide viewing angles are critical to designers and content creators, and the Dell UltraSharp U3014 delivers on all fronts, which is why it is the company's flagship monitor.

Yes, it is expensive, but 30in pro-grade monitors don't come cheap, especially when they are packed with as many features as this big boy offers. With dual DisplayPort inputs as well as HDMI and dual-link DVI ports, the U3014 can handle any digital signal you can throw at it, and its built-in four port USB 3.0 hub brings speedy transfer rates to your desktop.

There's not much missing from this beauty other than a pivot hinge, but that's a minor gripe and doesn't prevent the U3014 from earning our Best Buy award.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model Dell UltraSharp U3014
Native Resolution 2560 x 1600
PC Interfaces Dual-mode (DVI-I), HDMI, DisplayPort
Video Inputs DVI, HDMI
Diagonal Screen Size 30in
Aspect Ratio 16:10