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Dell UltraSharp U2412M 24” IPS Monitor Review

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AkG

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The UltraSharp monitors have traditionally been one of Dell’s top selling series for four simple reasons: size, quality, customer service and price. These are usually the go-to screens for discerning individuals and the new U24 models continue to offer up the same winning combination.

By offering a reasonably large, high quality 16:10 IPS panel at a price point which is infinitely more palatable than the U27 or U30 series, the U24s have always been considered a great value. This perception of value is further enhanced by the Dell monitor customer service department known for their commitment to excellence. The all new U2412M, hopes to continue this enviable tradition by offering exactly what first time professional consumers want, at a price which undercuts many other IPS-based offerings.

Rather than revolutionary changes, Dell prefers to take the UltraSharp line through a slow but steady evolution and when something works, they stick with it. This is exactly what they have done with the U2412M since it has many points in common with the U2410 we reviewed but it is geared towards a completely different market niche. Hence why the U2412M will reside alongside the U2410 rather than replace it at the top of the U24 series food chain.

Much like the U2410, the U2412M uses a 1920x1200, 16:10 IPS based panel with a native contrast ratio of 1000:1. However this new model is LED backlit for increased efficiency and relies on an e-IPS screen instead of the U2410’s p-IPS panel. The implementation of “enhanced-IPS” technology means this new monitor has a slower response time (8ms vs. 6ms) and reduced maximum brightness of 300 (versus 400 cd/m2) when compared to its sibling. All this should – in theory – make the U2412M less power hungry while still offering most of the colour accuracy and excellent viewing angles which made previous U24 models so appealing to certain individuals.

With an online asking price of between $340 and $400, consumers searching for a high quality screen without the U2410 cost may just find the U2412 to be a great deal. Assuming this model has enough performance and features to justify the jump up from the TN price range, we may be looking at a new benchmark for low cost IPS monitors.


 
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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 UltraSharp U2412M

A Closer Look at the Dell UltraSharp U2412M



Unlike the UltraSharp U2410, the new U2412M is not what we would call utilitarian in appearance. It may lack red racing stripes or a clear Lucite front fascia, but the silver and black does work very nicely in showing off the shapely curves this new model boasts. It certainly isn’t the thinnest monitor we’ve seen, but the LED backlighting has certainly helped the U2412 trim down to a svelter cruiser weight form.


Further helping to make the U2412M better looking than its brethren is the much improved stand. With its nicely contrasting silver and black color scheme coupled with graceful curves it is a significant step in the right direction but still doesn’t come close to Dell’s v-shaped bases of a few years ago. However, to be perfectly candid, the previous square stand which graced the U2410 was just plain ugly.



While more artistically pleasing, this stand is still geared towards professionals and not only retains the excellent range of motion its predecessors were known for but actually slightly improves upon them with slightly increased axis swing and height adjustment. Both new and old models offer 45° off center axis swing, but this one has 25 degrees of tilt (from +4 to – 21) and 115mm of height adjustment whereas the 2410 has 24 degrees of tilt and only 110mm height adjustment.


While we were very pleased to see the thickness of the monitor and its stand had been given an upgrade, we were down right impressed to see the capacitive touch buttons which marred past models have been replaced with much more sensible – for the professional consumer – physical buttons. Unlike many other current generation UltraSharps, these respond instantly to your input and you always know exactly when they have been activated. So there’s no guessing or wasted time fiddling around with invisible buttons.


When Dell slimmed down the dimensions of the U2412M one thing they did sacrifice was the built in USB card reader. Since the U2410 was missing Compact Flash card reading abilities this is a minor loss at best for the U2412M and its potential customers.

Luckily, Dell did carry over the pair of much more useful USB 2.0 ports along the side of the monitor. We would still prefer to have seen USB 3.0 capable ports, but given the value focused price of this model, we can understand why this decision was made.



Unfortunately, the input options on the U2412 could be better. In grand total you get a single Display Port, single DVI port, single VGA port and another pair of USB 2.0 ports. HDMI is conspicuous by its absence and could have been left out to ensure this monitor hits a certain price point but we really wish it was included.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations




While this monitor is not priced like your typical professional grade panel, you would never know it by looking at the On Screen Display. While simplified –thanks to its reduced input options – the menu layout along with it’s built in fine tuning controls is absolutely perfect for anyone who wants to tweak the U2412 to their heart’s content. Much like on the U2410, hitting the menu button brings up three options (four if you include exit) which act as a quick access list to various high level functions.

For most users, this layout is excellent since the most used options are available within a few simple clicks instead of being buried under countless submenus. Basic commands such as changing the preset color mode and brightness/contrast controls can be accessed here. If some more tweaking is needed, the third (aptly labeled “menu”) brings you to the main menu which is once again loaded with useful sections.



The layout of the main menu is for the most part easy to use and fairly intuitive. Sadly, some of the more fine grain tweaking abilities of this monitor are buried awfully deep in sub menus.

While true 6 axis color control isn’t included, color temperature correction can be accessed via Color Settings -> Preset modes -> color temp. This will bring up a simple selection where the color temperature can be adjusted down to 6500K from – in our sample’s case - nearly 7000K. You will also get individual R,G,B color correction under preset mode -> Custom Color which will also allows for RGB setting modification to hit that perfect 100/100/100 value.

Dell has also included a handy Energy Meter which tells you in real time what kind of effects your settings have upon this display’s power consumption.



Sadly, while there are 7 custom modes (down from the U2410’s 8) to choose from, not a single one offers gamma correction. It is indeed possible to choose between “PC” and “Mac” gamma correction (i.e. 2.2 and 1.8) but fine tuning past this point just can’t be done.



Since this is considered a less expensive product missing gamma option is more acceptable with this model than it was with the U2410 as it is a more value orientated panel. However, as we will see later, the default gamma was not perfect and as the panel ages, colors and the like do have a tendency to “drift” and corrections will need to be made. If this is important to you, you will want to invest in a colorimeter.


Also missing are the Adobe RGB and sRGB modes. In their place you get a Movie preset to go along with Multimedia and Text mode. Considering the less than wide gamut of this panel, the missing Adobe RGB mode is understandable but the “Movie” mode is an odd inclusion considering the missing HDMI connector.

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

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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: Standard
Brightness: 34%
Red: 46
Green: 53
Blue: 46


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 HDMI (when possible) or DVI.



Image Quality


As befitting an IPS panel, the overall picture quality of the Dell UltraSharp U2412M is very good but is not as impressive as most other IPS monitors we have looked at in the past. This is due to its use of an E-IPS panel instead of a higher quality P-IPS unit. With that being said we have yet to find a TN-based monitor that can come anywhere close to matching the U2412M’s picture quality.

With a maximum output of 309.25 cd/m2, the U2412M is certainly bright but was easily adjustable down to a more precise 120 cd/m2. It is always nice when a company is overly conservative in their specifications as this monitor is only rated to 300cd/m2. Remember, anything over 120 – 140 is wasted on most computer monitors and very few people will leave it set to even its default (75%) 220cd/m2.


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.



With the center set to a more reasonable 120 cd/m2, the Dell U2412 displays a moderately low panel variance of only 13%. This is nearly half the variation our U2410 displayed (22%) and is certainly befitting of a monitor of this caliber.

Sadly, while the overall variances are much improved, the U2412M still shows a disturbing tendency to have sudden – and massive - shifts within a few inches of center. Even with the ultra crisp nature of the ISP panel, the upper right hand corner is noticeably darker than the majority of the screen.


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.





Much like the U2410 before it, the U2412M’s default gamma level is only slightly above 2.20. This minor variance is certainly accurate enough for most people’s needs and even the needs of most professionals. Unfortunately, additional fine tuning isn’t possible due to this monitor’s menu limitations so any additional calibration will need to be done within the Operating System.

One thing worth pointing out is while the gamma was nearly close to being perfect the default color level of 6997 Kelvin instead of 6500 is not as impressive. This is certainly something you will need to be careful of, but thankfully it is also fairly easy to adjust.
 
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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.




Since the U2412’s specifications state that it offers only 82% coverage, these results are in line with expectations but we were still disappointed considering its IPS panel. Of the three corners of the full “normal” color spectrum the Dell UltraSharp U2412M is only able to hit the blue on its nose which isn’t surprising considering the LED backlighting. However this shift towards blue results in the whole monitor exhibiting overly cool colours regardless of how much calibration is done. It also causes a large deviation in both the red and green ends of the spectrum. Needless to say this is nowhere close to being what the U2410 could achieve.


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.




Measuring the R/G/B levels using our SpyderPro and HC-FR program, we found the colors to be nowhere close to perfection. In a perfect world, all three of the RGB values would have 100 ratings. Neither the Red, Green nor even Blue were close enough to be considered “good enough”. Luckily the Dell UltraSharp U2412M requires only a minor amount of tweaking via it excellent menu to become flawless.

Overall, this is not a monitor meant for true connoisseurs, be they gamers or photographers. Rather, this is a “jack of all trades” product that seems to have made some sacrifices in fidelity to hit a certain price point. It can perform adequately in numerous environments but will be outclassed by other, more expensive options. There is a lot to be said for this design philosophy as few people have requirements high enough to justify the somewhat extreme MSRP of the U2410.
 
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AkG

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Viewing Angles / Maximum 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.



Off horizontal axis

Straight On...........Off Vertical axis


Even though the Dell UltraSharp U2412M sports an IPS panel, its viewing angles –particularly in a well-lit room- left much to be desired. The image degrades much quicker on the U2412 then on any other IPS panel we have ever seen before. This may in part be due to the less than stellar panel uniformity or just simply because of the particular e-IPS panel used.

In either case, the viewing angles here are still better than any TN based panel and can easily be consider more than good enough for most consumers.


Maximum Contrast Ratio


While manufactures love to throw around “maximum” contrast ratios in the millions, the fact of the matter is to get these high numbers they have to use "dynamic contrast" which -at best – results in an overly optimistic number. 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 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 being considered optimal. For TN anything above 120 : 1 will be considered more than “good enough” for most consumers.




As is becoming the reoccurring theme of this review, the Dell UltraSharp U2412M’s contrast ratio is indeed lower than any other IPS based model we have reviewed. However, it is still is eons better than any TN panel. This monitor really is shaping up to be a nearly perfect “everyman” monitor; one that may not be the best in any one area, but provide more than good results at a an inexpensive price point.



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 at default.



Traditionally IPS based monitors are power hogs, yet with a maximum power consumption of only 33 watts and a calibrated level of barely 18, Dell’s new U2412 is amazingly power efficient. There is absolutely no need worry about power bills even if you don’t want to use the highest brightness levels. The LED back-lighting really does make a difference since these power figures are simply phenomenal.
 
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AkG

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Gaming Performance / Movie Performance

Gaming Performance



Pre-calibration


Post calibration

Before we being let’s preface the results by saying the U2412M is not meant for professional gaming. With an 8ms response time, the Dell can certainly be used in this area but it exhibit an occasional dropped frame or “hiccup”. This is the nature of the IPS beast but it will rarely –if ever- be noticed by the end user. To our eyes there is very little difference but you may feel differently, and we strongly recommend trying one before buying as some people are more sensitive to this kind of issue than others.


In terms of absolute gaming performance the Dell UltraSharp U2412M is a bit of a mixed bag. The out of the box colors are subtly off and it can be a tad distracting at times. For example skin tones, appear pinkish, grass looked a tad washed out and some reds are over exaggerated. Some shadows were bit darker than they should have been and some highlights were a tad muted and muddy. However, with only minor tweaking this minor color hiccup was easily resolved.

What wasn’t easy to solve was the U2412’s tendency to display noticeable ghosting in many fast paced games. Even when in game mode, it occurred from time to time. It was never enough to be distracting and unless you are actively looking for it you may never notice it. So in return for deeper, richer colors you get the occasional hiccup which isn’t usually present on TN-based panels.


Movie Performance/h2]

Pre-calibration


Post calibration


Much like our gaming impressions, the UltraSharp U2412M provides very good picture quality when watching movies but still exhibits ghosting every now and then. With the default colors corrected it provides a rich and immersive experience which was well beyond what a TN panel could provide. As long as the movie’s color pallet has not been “artistically enhanced” the colors will be deep and true to life but if there are any video transfer inaccuracies these too will be faithfully reproduced.

The only thing which became conspicuous by its absence was “warm” and “cool” preset color modes. The Dell UltraSharp U2412M may indeed have a Movie mode, but many movie buffs have strong preferences for either one of these two extremes and there is no fast and quick way to change from one to the other. You can set up a custom color pallet to get what you prefer, but this is a less than optimal solution as you only get one custom color preset and we prefer to leave this in reserve for more important things than movies. You can also see from some of the above images that even when calibrated, the monitor’s blue shift did creep in every now and then.

 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


Before getting to far into this conclusion, let’s get one thing out in the open: the U2412M just can’t compete against Dell’s own U2410 or many other 24” IPS-based displays on the market, nor was it ever meant to. We consider it to be bridge between high fidelity, expensive professional grade monitors and the run of the mill panels that use TN technology. In this respect, the U2412M succeeds regardless of its shortcomings.

When people hear the word “IPS” they’re immediately transported to a world of near-perfect colour spaces, and excellent viewing angles but the U2412M didn’t quite deliver in either of these areas. Its colour saturation performance in particular was far from optimal and luckily a well designed swiveling base overcame the off angle viewing issues. One of our main concerns stemmed from the fact that the LEDs used for backlight tended to push every image towards the blue end of the spectrum, even after calibration. Panel uniformity certainly wasn’t the worst we’ve seen but it’s obvious that manufacturers are still having some issues taming LED backlighting. We would also hesitate before recommending the U2412M to professional gamers since it does display some ghosting and skipped frames from time to time.

All of our statements above may make it sound like the U2412M is a sub-par monitor but that couldn’t be further from the truth. After calibration it showed us some flashes of absolute brilliance with very good contrast ratio performance, rich, vibrant images and decent RGB levels. It may take a bit of massaging to get this monitor to play nice but the class leading menu layout allows even first time users quick access to a wide variety of image settings. Also, while the LED backlight may have contributed to a few misses in the image quality department, it allows the U2412M to post efficiency numbers that beggar other IPS-totting monitors.

Before buying the U2412M we recommend you be cognizant of its limitations but also keep in mind the phenomenal value its combination of size, 16:10 format, post calibration image quality and price bring to the table. Yes, sacrifices had to be made in order to slap a sub-$400 sticker price on this monitor. But in our books Dells has made worthwhile tradeoffs in order to bring a monitor to market that can run circles around many TN-based models without costing all that much more.

Pros:

- High efficiency
- Price
- Good contrast performance
- Excellent calibration options lead TN-beating picture quality
- Menu layout is easy for beginners buttons
- Matte screen
- Improved stand

Cons:

- Slight blue shift even after calibration
- Relatively high real world Gray to Gray latency
- Occasional ghosting in gaming and movies
- Poor Default RGB color settings
- No HDMI input

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/U2412/DGV.gif" border="0" alt="" />


http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...arp-u2412m-monitor-review-comment-thread.html
 
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