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Dell Professional P2412H 24” Monitor Review

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AkG

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As photography professionals and computer enthusiasts flock to the banner of IPS technology, the business arena is still ruled by TN monitors. After all, these lower end panels meet most businesses' needs but typically sport a lower cost. Business consumers usually have four main priorities: energy efficiency, performance, ease of setup/use, and value. However, finding a panel with all of these aspects rolled into one package has become harder and harder. The all new TN-based Dell P2412H on the other hand has been designed from the ground up to give business users exactly what they want without any budget busting extraneous gimmicks or gadgets.

To help the P2412H meet the specific needs of the business market, Dell has included many features not usually seen in the sub-$300 category. The most important of these is a power sipping LED backlight that promises to deliver above average display capabilities with few of the negatives usually associated with LED technology. The P2412H’s power efficiency has been combined with physical input buttons and a portrait and landscape capable stand, as well as Dell’s signature integrated USB ports.

These features should help make the Dell P2412H a suitable choice for home and office users alike. However, the P2412H is first and foremost a business class monitor. To be considered a truly successful business class display, the P2412H will have to succeed in all four of the priority areas mentioned above—including value. With such a high asking price—$299 for a 16:9 TN monitor—it is going to have a tough time justifying its IPS class pricing. Nevertheless, value is not the same as initial cost. If this monitor can prove outstanding in efficiency, performance, and ease of use, that $299 outlay may in fact offer exceptional long-term value.

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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications


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AkG

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Closer Look at the Dell P2412H

A Closer Look at the Dell P2412H


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With its distinguished dark color scheme, the new Dell P2412H is obviously meant for the business environment. Much as Hawaiian shirts and cowboy hats are frowned upon in the majority of workplace scenarios, so too are red racing stripes and clear Lucite bezels considered a bit flamboyant for contemporary office settings. Basic black is the de facto standard, and while it does make the P2412H very conservative in appearance, it also means that this monitor will blend easily into a wide array of home and professional environments. It may not be flashy, but it exudes a sense of elegance and confidence that will appeal to no-nonsense aesthetic sensibilities.

Dell_P2412_back_sm.jpg

The only dash of color on the P2412—besides the silver Dell logo on the front—is on the integrated stand. In fact, if you think that this stand looks suspiciously similar to the one that accompanies the UltraSharp U2412M we reviewed recently, you’re absolutely correct. This is in fact the same stand, which should be compatible with a range of Dell displays—including the UltraSharp and Professional series 24” models.

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While the silver highlights do contrast somewhat jarringly with the blackness of the base and screen bezel, this minor annoyance is more than made up for by the fact that the stand boasts abilities well above average among TN displays.

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To be precise, it offers 45° of center-axis swing, 25° of tilt (from +4 to -21) and 130mm of height adjustment, as well as allowing for landscape- to portrait-mode rotation. These are necessary components a work environment since displays are routinely adjusted to compensate for sub-optimal lighting conditions.

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In taking a closer look at the capabilities, features, and overall design of this TN monitor compared to the IPS U2412, many areas of overlap between the two designs become apparent. The largest of these is that Dell has opted for physical buttons in the exact same layout as those found on the U2412. We love physical buttons and thus consider this to be a blessing.

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The next feature that pops out as a dead ringer for the U2412 is the integrated dual-port USB hub found on the side of the monitor. There may not be any card reader slots, but the USB capabilities will still prove useful for many.

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One area where these two models differ significantly—to the detriment of the P2412H—is in input options. As you can see, these are extremely limited. In grand total you can use either a DVI or an analog VGA cable. There are no HDMI or DisplayPort inputs on this unit. Considering the competition in its price category, this is a significant miss for the P2412H but only to potential home users as business environments still typically use one of the two aforementioned options.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations


As with the physical design features, the Dell P2412H’s onscreen display is virtually identical to that of the U2412. We consider this to be a great thing, as its UltraSharp sibling has an intuitive and easy-to-navigate interface.

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Just like on the U2412 (and on the U2410 before it), hitting the menu button brings up a small three-option menu (four if you include exit), which acts as a quick access list to the various higher level functions.


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This layout is excellent and quite straigthforward since the most used options are available in a few simple clicks instead of being buried under countless submenus. Basic commands such as changing the preset color mode and brightness/contrast can be accessed here. If more tweaking is needed, the third “Menu” selection brings you to the main menu, which is once again loaded with tweaking possibilities labeled in terminology that should be easy to understand even for first-time Dell monitor users.

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Sadly, some of the more fine-grain tweaking abilities of this monitor are buried deep in the submenus. Since it doesn’t come factory calibrated, you will in all likelihood have to dig for the RGB color calibration submenu. This is found only under Preset Mode -> Custom Color. On the positive side, much like every business-oriented Dell we have seen, each of the three main colors is individually adjustable, which makes tinkering to hit that perfect 100/100/100 calibration a fairly easy task. Unsurprisingly this TN monitor does not have six color axis control but for its class, individual RGB correction still makes it a cut above.

Dell has also included a handy Energy Meter which tells you in real time what kind of effect your settings have on the display’s overall power consumption.

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Unfortunately while there are indeed eight Preset Modes to choose from (one more than the U2412’s seven), not a single one offers gamma correction. For a product not aimed at professional photographers or image adjustment specialists, this missing gamma option is more acceptable than it was with the U2412. However, as we will see later, the default gamma is not even close to perfect and the gamma does need correcting though software means.

Even when adjusted, as the panel ages, colors and the like do have a tendency to “drift,” and further corrections will need to be made. If this is important to you, you will want to invest in a colorimeter.

Also missing are Adobe RGB and sRGB modes. In their place you get a Movie preset along with Standard, Multimedia, Warm, Cool, Game, and Text modes. Considering the less-than-wide gamut of this TN panel, the missing Adobe RGB mode is understandable, but the Movie mode is an odd inclusion given the missing HDMI connector.

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Overall, this simplified OSD with its intelligent presets should be easy to navigate and control for most consumers, but it will leave advanced users craving a bit more.
 
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AkG

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Image Quality (Uniformity / Gamma)

Image Quality (Uniformity / Gamma)


Calibrated Settings

Please remember that the settings below have been calibrated for our specific environment and your viewing conditions may differ from ours.

Mode: Custom Color Mode
Brightness: 40%

All other settings left at standard defaults.

Notes:
- All tests done at default settings at 120 cd/m2.
- Unless otherwise noted, the tests were carried out via DVI.


When judging the image quality of TN panels, we have become accustomed to lowering our expectations. Surprisingly, the Dell P2412H does not require lowered expectations in order to impress. This monitor may be based on inferior TN technology and not MVA, IPS, or PLS, but the overall image quality is nevertheless very good. It may not be able to compete directly against IPS panels but it does come close.

It is interesting to note that Dell goes out of their way to state that the P2412H “is the ideal blend of productivity-boosting performance, long-haul comfort and energy-conscientious” when the out-of-the-box configuration uses a 75% brightness output. At 75% of its maximum brightness (the P2412H is rated for 250cd/m2 and our sample hit 267.8 at 100%), this equated to an overly bright 223.1cd/m2 which is slightly too much, even for a well lit office environment. However, due to this monitor’s excellent menu system it just takes a of couple seconds to lower this brightness to a much easier on the eyes 120 to 140 cd/m2. Lowering the intensity of the display’s backlight also has the benefit of greatly reducing power consumption.


Panel Uniformity


In a perfect world, a screen’s brightness output would be equal throughout the entire panel. This is not a perfect world, but the lower the variation the less chances you will notice overly bright or dark sections on the screen. For the consumer LCD marketplace a variance of 10% is our gold standard, but anything below 15% can be considered excellent as we doubt anyone will notice a -7.5 to +7.5 variation. A variation above 15% but below 24% can be considered adequate, but anything above this does not meet our basic minimum standards.

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With the center set to 120 cd/m2, the Dell P2412H displays a moderately low panel variance of 14%, only 1% worse than what our U2412M exhibited. In other words, this panel is acting more like a budget IPS than a “budget” TN panel.

More importantly, the majority of the variance is located not in the center of the screen—as it was with the U2412—but in the upper left- and right-hand corners. If past patterns hold, this should make its moderate variance even less noticeable in real world usage scenarios.


Gamma Performance


Gamma correction is one of the hardest terms to explain. However, for our purposes the gamma correction of any electronics device is how bright or dark an image will be displayed on a screen.

All PC devices now use 2.20 gamma as the default. Any variance from this will result in an image being either underexposed, which will create black crush and underexposed shadow detail, or washed out with too little black level detail (aka being over-exposed).

While 2.20 is the gold standard, a minor deviation of 0.10 will in all likelihood never be noticed by anyone other than professional photographers. Higher levels of deflection, however, will be noticed by just about everyone.


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While the Dell P2412H’s panel variance may indeed be as good as its slightly higher-priced IPS counterpart, the same cannot be said of the default gamma results. The U2412M may not have been perfect, but it was well within tolerances. Conversely, the P2412’s results were not the absolute worst we have seen, but they still place this monitor in the bottom four. Unless you are a dedicated “old school” Apple user who prefers—and knows how to properly use—a 1.8 gamma, the resulting image is going to appear very, very washed out. Even if you make no other adjustments, we strongly recommend calibrating the gamma in your display driver settings.
 
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AkG

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Colour Saturation Levels / Default RGB Levels

Colour Saturation Levels


While there are numerous colors the human eye can’t “see,” the human color space confined to three primary colors and combinations thereof. To make things easier for manufacturers (and not waste resources displaying colors we can’t see) a color space was mathematically described. While various models do exist, the CIE RGB color space is the de facto standard.

In the below image, the dark triangle which isn’t highlighted is the sRGB color space while the overall CIE color space is displayed as the background colors. Meanwhile, the white triangle with highlighted color represents the results of what a given monitor can display. No monitor can display the entire CIE color spectrum but a good monitor should be able to display the sRGB spectrum of possible colors as this is usually used as the standard for image encoding.

A monitor which uses the “wide color gamut” moniker can display more than the sRGB spectrum and is considered primarily for professional use. If a monitor cannot cover off the entire sRGB triangle, the resulting image will appear “off” to an observer. The end result is a picture displayed on the panel that won’t be as rich, vibrant or as correct as it should be.


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These are quite easily the best results we have seen from any TN-based panel reviewed to date. Just missing the green by a smidge, it may not be able to hit all three corners of the sRGB spectrum, but its results are still very respectable and they are even able to give PLS and some IPS monitors a run for their money.


Default RGB Levels


An LCD or LCD LED-backlit panel relies on accurately blending Red, Green, and Blue pixel clusters to create an overall image. So the closer to each of these colours is to a “perfect” 100 output, the better and more accurate the default colors will be.

In this case, we have a low tolerance for anything less than perfection since any color shift can be noticeable even to untrained eyes and will require a color correction be applied at the software level to overcome a monitor’s stock output. We do however consider a minor variation of only a few points per color to be acceptable.


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While both the Red and Green results are well within tolerances for all but the most demanding of consumers, the default Blue levels are touch low. In all likelihood this will result in a very “interesting” color profile which will look overly warm to some while others may pick up a slight shift to green.
 
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AkG

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Viewing Angles / Contrast Ratio / Power Consumption

Viewing Angles


Unlike CRT displays, the manner in which LCD panels create an image can result in one large weakness: the image can lose contrast when viewed off angle. While we do not recommend watching an LCD at anything besides perfectly straight on, the reality is that this cannot always be done.

To help give you a glimpse of what a panel will look like when seen from either above the horizontal or vertical plane we have taken pictures at fairly extreme angles.


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Since this is a TN monitor it comes as no surprise that the viewing angles fall on the narrow end of the spectrum when compared against IPS and PLS technologies. However, when evaluated alongside other TN panels, these results are very decent.

The off-vertical-axis image this monitor creates is above average for a TN monitor as is the off-horizontal, but if you need to view the P2412H from an extreme angle for extended period of time, we recommend turning the screen. Despite its sometimes misleading image quality, this is still a TN-based panel and as such the angle does not need to be all that extreme before a large color shift happens and a noticeable degradation in sharpness and contrast occurs. The end result is that while the P2412’s picture quality is above average for a TN-based product, when compared to many monitors in its price range—i.e. IPS-based panels—the results are disappointing.


Maximum Contrast Ratio


While manufactures love to throw around “maximum” contrast ratios in the millions, the fact of the matter is that to get these high numbers they have to use "dynamic contrast" which—at best—results in overly optimistic specs. With DC turned off, the number of shades between purest white and blackest black a given monitor can display is usually in the low hundreds rather than the thousands.

The higher the contrast ratio, the better the monitor will display shades of dark and light. For IPS monitors, anything below 450:1 is unacceptable, with 500:1 or above considered optimal. For TN anything above 120:1 will be considered “good enough” for most consumers.


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This monitor may not be able to stand toe to toe with IPS panels, but for a TN monitor the results are in a different league than what we have come to expect from this “inferior” technology.


Power Consumption


To obtain the maximum number we set the monitors brightness to 100% and the contrast to 100%. The calibrated results are taken at 120 cd/m2 with the contrast set to the default level.

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Thanks to its LED backlighting, the P2412’s maximum power draw is downright miniscule. This really is the first combination TN/LED monitor to impress us both in its efficiency and overall picture quality. It is noteworthy that while the maximum power consumption varies greatly from that of the U2412, both of these monitors consume basically the same amount of power when calibrated to reasonable levels. We have to wonder how much they share internally as well as externally.
 
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AkG

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Gaming Performance / Movie Performance

Gaming Performance


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Pre-calibration

g_correct.jpg

Post-calibration​

It goes without saying that with a default gamma as poor as the P2412’s, calibration will be needed in order to get an optimal experience. Out of the box, games look washed out, and with the default color palette they just don’t look “right.” Luckily it takes all of a few moments to correct this.

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When the panel has been properly calibrated, the gaming results are good but not great. A 5ms response time is downright slow for a TN panel and is more in IPS territory. It appears that in order to make the display as compelling as it is in other areas, gaming performance had to be sacrificed. Of course, in its intended usage as a business monitor, ghosting is unlikely to be an issue with the P2412H. But if you are gaming on company time, a little unwanted motion blur will probably be the least of your worries……

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With that being said, 5ms is still more than enough for most gaming scenarios. Not that many years ago, 5ms was considered “gaming grade,” and as such you will have to be paying close attention to notice the streaking, blurring and general ghosting that occurs. In our estimation, the amount of artifacting is not significant enough to be jarring in most scenarios, but if you are into fast action games where small details are important to your overall experience, then this is probably not the monitor for you. Most gamers will be too immersed in their game to notice the minor amount of ghosting.


Movie Performance


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Pre-calibration

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Post-calibration​

As with gaming, the largest concern we have with the default image profile is not the color palette (which is only moderately poor) but rather the abhorrently bad gamma levels. Movies will appear washed out and lacking in crispness. Whether you like a cold or warm palette, we strongly recommend adjusting the gamma ASAP.

m1.jpg


With the gamma and colors adjusted, the end result is an extremely watchable movie experience. We would go so far as to say it was one of the more pleasant experiences a TN panel has provided us. The Dell P2412H may not be as ideal as what a PLS or IPS monitor can offer, but for a TN panel the results are very, very good. This, coupled with its native 16:9 format makes movie viewing—about the only scenario where it isn’t preferable to have a 16:10 aspect ratio—quite enjoyable since there are no annoying black bars at the top and bottom of your screen. It may not matter much, but some people do find “letterbox” distracting.

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Overall, the 5ms response time is not an issue when it comes to movies, and we could honestly not tell the difference between the P2412’s results and that of a 2ms TN panel in all but the fastest action sequences. You would have to be pretty darn obsessive to notice any difference. The fact of the matter that is movies are filmed at 24 (42ms) to 60 frames per second (17ms), so having a response time often in excess of three times faster than this makes for generally good performance. The P2412 would not be our first choice for fast action sports—hockey, for example —but outside of this niche it is an excellent option for watching videos.
 
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AkG

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Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results

Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results


In a perfect world every monitor would come factory calibrated to perfection, or every single consumer would own a decent colorimeter. We don’t live in such a world, and as such most consumers simply use the old Mark 1 Eyeball to fix any imperfections in the stock colors of their new monitor.

In order to gauge how easy this is to do for a given monitor, we have included a new set of tests. These tests will be carried out before any of our standard tests and will consist of us using a combination of the free online LCD Monitor Test Images (found here LCD monitor test images) and then if necessary the free Hex2Bit Monitor Calibration Wizard (found here Hex2Bit - Software by Mike Walters). The goal of these tests is to not only gauge how easy it is to accurately calibrate a monitor using just the onboard monitor tools, but to see how closely we can come to what a Spyder3 Elite can do.


To obtain these results we did the following
- used the “Custom Color” color mode
- ensured dynamic contrast was off
- lowered the brightness to 41 (which resulted in a 121.7 cd/m2)
- lowered Red to 89
- lowered Green to 88
- lowered Blue to 95
- adjusted Windows gamma setting to correct for gamma
- left all other settings at default levels

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gamma_man.jpg


Thanks to Dell’s use of real buttons and a marvelous onscreen display, manually adjusting the P2412’s output is a simple and painless procedure. In less than seven minutes we had the colors close, and within an additional five minutes we had the results shown above. It’s a shame that we had to resort to using Windows’ built in adjustment to correct the gamma, but this is not really that big of a hassle.

When you combine a practical interface with an intuitive OSD, the end results make these few moments of effort more than worthwhile. We still prefer to use a colorimeter, but if all monitors were as easy to adjust as the P2412, we would have had a much harder time justifying the price premium that a Spyder commands.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


In many ways this new TN-based Dell P2412H reminds us strongly of Dell’s entry level IPS-based U2412M. With its highly adaptable stand, built in USB controller, real buttons, and excellent OSD, for many parts of this review it was a very pleasant—as Yogi Berra famously exclaimed—“déjà vu all over again!” experience. Because of all this overlap with the U2412, this new 24” TN panel was able to impress us like no other TN LED-based panel before it.

This overlap of features and benefits between the various business-oriented series is no coincidence. When Dell finds a winning formula, they reuse it—and with just a few minor changes, the design trickles down from the higher “flagship” models to more entry level models. This in turn allows a great design to appeal to a wider range of consumers and enterprise customers.

Unfortunately all the overlap does come at a cost for the manufacturer: with very few things to distinguish the various models, performance and price become the only benchmarks upon which they can be judged. In the case of the P2412H, being compared to the U2412 is to its detriment. While the panel is indeed very good and has well above average performance in all scenarios except gaming, the fact remains that it is a TN panel, and even a 6-bit IPS panel like the one found in the U2412 is vastly superior. In addition, this monitor’s 16:9 aspect ratio isn’t optimal for most office-oriented tasks due to the limited amount of vertical viewing space.

To be fair, the P2412 may not be a great performer when put up against its UltraSharp brethren, but when compared to other TN monitors, it really does shine. The very fact that we keep comparing and contrasting the P2412 against any IPS monitor is in and of itself telling of how good this monitor really is. Unfortunately, when for a mere $30 you can get all the great features of the P2412 and a much better panel, there are few compelling reasons not to spend the extra couple of dollars. If Dell were to reduce the price of this monitor by just $30 or $40, it would become an excellent value, but as it stands right now this is not the case. That, unfortunately, is the crux of the matter.

The Dell P2412H may be a great example of what can be done with TN technology, but at the end of the day it is still a TN-based product that’s priced more like an entry level IPS monitor. Unless find something truly compelling here, there are simply too many better displays to be found in this price range.


Pros:

- Very power efficient
- Great stand
- Good OSD
- Easy setup
- Physical input buttons

Cons:

- Price
- Limited input options
- Less than wide viewing angles
- Default color and gamma need major adjustment
 
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