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Dell S2740L 27” IPS Monitor Review

AkG

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Somehow, even with the competition regularly breathing down their necks, Dell has managed to remain the go-to source for quality monitors. Regardless of whether gaming, image editing or movies is the focus of a purchase, chances are Dell will have something that either meets or exceeds expectations. Their new creation, the S2740L, is supposed to continue this tradition but at the same time inject a “cool” factor into an otherwise drab lineup.

While most consumers searching for a new monitor are mainly concerned with price, performance and connectivity (typically in that order), there is a smaller but highly passionate group who demand electronic devices look as good as they perform. This halo product should will look great and spark conversations while simultaneously fitting into people’s increasingly minimalist but highly connected and networked lifestyles. By no means are these shoppers elitists; like many of us, they just don’t want to spend money something that will simply blend in with its surroundings. The S2740L was designed from the ground up to cater to this growing market and Dell has incorporated several features and design additions which enhance its appeal.

In the past, if a consumer wanted an ultra thin, non-utilitarian looking monitor they had to be willing to sacrifice some performance. However, turning a blind eye to image quality faults in an effort to up-sell a modern design could become a thing of the past with the S2740L. Instead of using a TN panel as their basis, Dell has stepped things up by using an IPS based design this time around.

This $369 monitor may feature a 1080P 27” LED backlit IPS screen but it also adds high end exterior design features like an all glass front and ultra thin profile that boasts a thickness of only a few millimeters. Every feature has been crafted with one purpose in mind: to seamlessly blend performance and aesthetics in order to create an entirely different computing experience.

 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications








 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Dell S2740L

A Closer Look at the Dell S2740L



With its razor sharp lines, classic but avant-garde piano black finish, full edge to edge glass fascia and a panel profile that’s thinner than most people’s index finger, the Dell S2740L is built to impress the ‘fashionista’ in all of us. It is truly meant to be a functional conversation piece and one that is sure to garner numerous double takes from even the most jaded of consumers. The design makes nearly every other competing solution look bulky and quite bland by comparison. Simply put, the S2740L is beautiful.


Unfortunately, this ultra thin design does come with some rather significant tradeoffs. The most obvious is the removal of physical buttons in favor of a touch sensitive interface. This in and of itself is not necessarily a negative point the capacitive buttons do tend to present a major hurdle when trying to properly configure OSD settings.


While the downright waifish dimension of this IPS monitor is very impressive, the number of input options had to be minimized order to retain a compact layout. There is one analog “VGA” port, one DVI input, one HDMI connector and a pair of USB 2.0 ports. Between the three main input options most consumers’ needs should be adequately satisfied, but we do wish that a DisplayPort had also been included for those that want to do away with the clunky DVI connection. USB 3.0 compatibility would have been a great addition for a new monitor series as well.

The slim design has necessitated the use of a bulky external power brick which certainly isn’t an optimal solution but as we said: some sacrifices were made on the road to great looks.


The silver and glossy black base certainly provides a perfect contrast against the monitor itself, but it falls short in several key areas. Dell’s Ultrasharp lineup boasts some of the best, most adaptable stands around but their elements haven’t been carried over onto the S2740L. Dell has severely limited their new monitor’s capabilities by removing swivel and cutting out height adjustment altogether. Luckily, the panel can be tilted from +4° to -21°.


The reason for the unique looks is due in large part to the full pane of glass covering its front which allows for a clean distinctive and stylish look. Unfortunately, this design feature also carries some baggage along for the ride: reflections. In a well-lit environment the mirror-like glass can cause significant amounts of eyestrain and will likely lead to distractions as well if you don’t sit perfectly still. Having a surface covered in glass does cut down on the number of environments suitable for the S2740L but Dell does offer many other alternatives if a glossy screen isn’t to your liking.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations


While the On Screen Display’s layout may be slightly different from those found on other Dell monitors we have looked at, the one found on the S2740L is extremely intuitive and easy to use. More importantly it will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with the Ultrasharp or Professional series.

With a simple press of any button – besides the power button - a quick access menu pops up which consists of Color Mode, Brightness / Contrast and Main Menu shortcut options. This allows for a direct link to the most used submenus without first digging through the main OSD section. Most consumers will never need to venture further than this area once the monitor properly calibrated.


If there’s a requirement for more in-depth options the primary menu system is sure to satisfy almost anyone’s craving for image tweaking and panel configuration. We were also impressed to see that Dell carried over a handy Energy Meter from previous models. The simple to understand meter shows (in real time) the effects certain settings have upon this display’s power consumption profile.


Unfortunately, while the S2740 has inherited many well respected traits from Dell’s more expensive lines, some weaknesses are carried over as well. Certain fine grain tweaking abilities have been buried awfully deep in sub menus, making them a chore to access. Beginners not used to the OSD may find it difficult to locate the advanced image options without resorting to the online only manual.


On the positive side, Dell allows RGB values to be corrected individually and once someone understands the logic behind the menu layout, every modification becomes quite easy. More importantly, these fine grain control features are usually accessed once for the initial setup and then left alone.

While the RGB values can be calibrated to your heart’s content, the S2740L’s gamma is oddly is fixed at a set value and Windows’ built in correction abilities will have to be used to get the optimal picture quality. Dell may have seen fit to include eight preset modes which should cover most consumers’ needs but none of them have gamma correction abilities.


Also missing are the Adobe RGB and sRGB modes found on other Dell IPS panels. This was likely done in order to keep some separation between the various monitor lineups in Dell’s stable. There are however eight presets to choose from so most home users should be satisfied with the options which include Standard, Multimedia, Movie, Game, Text, Warm, Cool, and the aforementioned Custom Color.


Overall, this simplified OSD with its intelligent presets should be easy to navigate and control for first time consumers.
 
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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: 35%

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.

Based on previous experience with Dell IPS based monitors we had extremely high expectations for the S2740L but there were some initial concerns over the glossy front panel design. Fortunately, while the default color profile left a lot to be desired, the panel itself did prove to be very capable and quite power efficient as well.

With a maximum output of 275 cd/m2, the S2740L can certainly push out bright images and compensate for its glossy screen in well lit environments. It is also easily adjustable down to a more precise 120 cd/m2 thanks to an intuitive OSD.


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.


These are rather mixed results for a number of reasons. On the one hand a panel variance of about 15% is perfectly acceptable for a backlit LED design. Unfortunately while single digit variances are rare, the majority of this unit's uniformity drop-off comes from one dark spot which becomes quite obvious in some situations.

It is also obvious that the LED backlight's output is concentrated in the lower left hand corner. Luckily, while our testing instruments picked up this detail, it will be unnoticeable to the naked eye since our S2740L didn't exhibit any backlight bleed or flashlighting.


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.



With the OSD's lack of gamma control, we were hoping Dell had preset this value to an acceptable level. That didn't quite happen. While a result of 2.08 certainly isn't terrible, anything below the 2.15 mark will cause a degradation of on-screen detail. In this case most end users will notice a washing out of images and should take the time to correct for this with the necessary software controls provided by graphics processor manufacturers (NVIDIA, Intel or AMD).
 
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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 manufactures (and not waste resources displaying colors we can’t see) a color space was mathematically described and 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 which won’t be as rich, vibrant or as correct as it should be.



Color saturation excellence is one of the defining features of IPS panels and Dell's S2740L proves this once again. It manages to hit nearly every corner of the spectrum and doesn't exhibit any of the blue shift that normally characterizes LED backlit displays.


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 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.



To be honest, these results were not all that unexpected. This is a 27” IPS monitor with a sub $400 price tag and as such we were not expecting factory color calibration. While the panel itself is more than capable of delivering accurate colors, the default profile is not even close to being correct. Luckily, Dell has given us the tools to correct this.
 
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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 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.



Dell's S2740L features acceptable viewing angles that are better than any TN panel currently on the market but in some respects, it struggles. In a completely dark room, contrast and color reproduction remained quite faithful until the monitor was viewed from extreme angles. Due to its glass fascia, this aspect naturally degrades as ambient light increases and reflections start entering into the equation.

Dell hasn't bonded the front glass covering directly to the panel itself which results in a ~1/4" gap between the two materials. This actually causes minor secondary reflections when viewed off-angle, even when the monitor is used in an otherwise dark room.


Maximum Contrast Ratio


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 this cannot always be done.


Once again the SL2740L remains a middle of the pack solution that delivers acceptable contrast levels but it lacks the abilities of higher end offerings.


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.


Power consumption may not be a huge selling point for anyone looking for a higher end monitor but Dell's SL2740L is simply the most efficient monitor we have ever come across. Its max number of just 25W is simply stunning.
 
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AkG

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Gaming & Movie Perforamnce

Gaming Performance



Pre-calibration


Post-calibration​

As can be seen above, the S2740L’s default color profile required a good amount of calibration in order to pass muster. Luckily, the combination of a noticeable reddish tinge alongside a washed out image can be overcome by using the OSD and Windows-centric software.


With its glossy, artistic design Dell hasn’t focused the S2740L’s features on enhancing in-game experiences but a price of $400 does put it into premium territory. This should lead to a wide range of capabilities that include gaming, movie watching, word processing and other disciplines while allowing for adequate performance in every sector.


While we can’t recommend this monitor for gamers, as a jack of all trades it performs admirably. The IPS panel allows it to mask most of the issues which we have come to associate with 1080P 27” monitors. This leads to the S2740L producing surprisingly crisp images without any of the dot pitch problems normally tied to a resolution of 1920x1080 being stretched over such a large area.


Make no mistake about it; as with all IPS monitors in this price range, Dell’s newest model does exhibit a minor to moderate amount of ghosting but it never detracted from our overall gaming experience. If your game genres of choice run towards RTS rather FPS then there’s truly nothing to be concerned about here. Input lag was also nonexistent, particularly when using the Game Mode which enhances pixel response times at the sacrifice of some image fidelity.



Movie Performance



Pre-calibration


Post-calibration​

When viewed straight out of the box, there’s just no way anyone would be satisfied with this monitor’s HD movie playback performance. Once again, fixing the rather poor default colors will result in a much better overall experience when watching movies, provided you remain mindful of the S2740L’s potential for massive amounts of glare. Luckily, most people prefer to watch their movies in a darkened environment so the glare and reflection prone screen can be largely overlooked in this instance.


The S2740L is perfectly suited for movies. It provides a relatively large viewing area, an absence of ghosting, deep blacks (once calibrated of course) and good viewing angles. Most importantly, a 1080P resolution ensures onscreen images won’t be stretched and remain in their native state. Unfortunately, in some situations, particularly when there were uniform scenes (for example, a sandy beach or hockey rink), we did see the dark spot mentioned within the uniformity section.


Throughout these tests, the S2740L’s color depth and image clarity once again impressed us, despite its surprisingly thin profile. It certainly won’t compete with the likes of Dell’s higher priced UltraSharp U2713 but for the price, there is a lot to like here. When properly calibrated and placed in a reflection free environment, this monitor makes for a very good multimedia experience.

 
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AkG

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Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results

Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results



In a perfect world either 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 Mod 0 eyeball to fix any imperfections with 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 given monitor using only 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 “custom color” mode
- adjusted the brightness to 36 (which resulted in a 122.13cd/m2)
- adjusted Red to 88
- adjusted Green to 104
- adjusted Blue to 93
- All other settings left to default levels
- gamma was adjusted via the NVIDIA control panel



Since this monitor comes with a relatively straightforward and intuitive OSD, moving away from its horrible default color profile proved to be quite easy. After a few minutes of adjustments, we were able to achieve some excellent results which allowed the IPS panel to truly shine.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


At first glance some may erroneously assume that Dell’s new S2740L is geared towards people that put form before substance. Well we’ve got news for you. It may feature an achingly beautiful design and a sleek profile but this new monitor series sure has some performance chops backing up those supermodel looks.

The S2740L is able to run with many of the best monitors but it takes some work to get decent image quality. This isn’t a plug and play product by any stretch of the imagination and the bezel-mounted capacitive control buttons can be infuriating to use. Nonetheless, an intuitive OSD allowed for just the right amount of tweaking and the end result was a color profile befitting much more expensive IPS-equipped competitors.

Typically, we find glossy screens to be the antithesis of what anyone could want from a viewing experience. When used in anything but a completely dark environment, they promote glare and tend to cause an undue amount of eyestrain. Due to a fascia design that predominantly consists of glass, Dell hasn’t been able to overcome these shortcomings but the potential negatives have been largely tempered by a high quality IPS panel. Make no mistake about it though; IPS panel or not, using the S2740L in a brightly lit room can be frustrating. Uniformity on our sample wasn’t quite up to our expectations either.

In order to hit a lower price and keep some points of differentiation between it and higher end monitors, some features had to be cut from the S2740L. The first things to go were the stand’s height and pivot adjustments along with factory color calibration. DisplayPort and USB 3.0 were also kicked to the curb. None of these items are game changers since Dell has included HDMI if a DVI connector is too bulky for you, USB 2.0 still provides adequate I/O functionality and additional position adjustments likely won’t be needed. Normally, we’d also take issue with the panel’s 1080P resolution but this is a sub-$375 27” monitor and it actually does a great job of covering up any dot-pitch falloff. The one item we really do miss is the 3 year, zero dead pixel guarantee of Dell’s higher echelon offerings.

As one of the market’s newest 27” contenders, the S2740L is supposed to strike a delicate balance between design, performance, resolution and price. By leveraging the falling cost of IPS panel technology and implementing a simple yet striking design, Dell succeeded admirably in all of those areas. Their S2740L provides a phenomenal value while neatly avoiding most of the pitfalls normally associated with budget conscious monitors but the mirror-like panel covering certainly doesn't make it the right choice for everyone.
 
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