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Dell UltraSharp U2713H 27” AH-IPS Monitor Review

AkG

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Dell’s new 27” U2713H is the Ultrasharp monitor many have been waiting for. It uses a high quality 2560x1440 AH-IPS panel and incorporates all of the latest technologies in order to ensure accurate color reproduction and professional-grade image quality. More importantly, Dell has implemented a number of features that should allow their latest creation to feel right at home in professional and gaming environments alike.

In order to place the U2713H, you need to understand how Dell has been gradually evolving their high end Ultrasharp lineup. The initial “gold standard” of the 27” monitor market was the U2711, a monitor which has been hanging tenaciously on since early 2010. In the world of lightning quick product cycles, three years between refreshes may seem like a lot but it is actually a testament to the U2711’s lasting appeal.

Now, some may argue that the UltraSharp U2713HM could have been considered the spiritual successor to the legendary U2711 but Dell never intended it to fill those large shoes. We actually experienced this firsthand within our review. With that being said, the U2713H will be taking over the status as a 27” flagship monitor.


Compared to the older U2711, the new U2713H has a significant advantage in both color consistency, color range and all round responsiveness. The new Anti-Glare coating is simply icing on the cake and cements this new monitor’s status as a true step above the previous generation.

The U2713H differs from its sibling, the U2713HM in a number of key areas. While screen size and resolution are identical, that’s where the similarities stop. In Dell nomenclature a model ending in ‘M’ indicates a more budget orientated version with a mere 16+ million color range while the U2713H is capable of over 1 billion colors. The next generation AH-IPS panel also grants the non-M model a quicker response time of 6ms versus 8ms. Discerning gamers should be able to pick up this differences since it will all but eliminate ghosting.


Naming convention aside, these two monitors are as different as two 27” 1440p monitors can be. The U2713H is a drool worthy 10-bit, ultra wide color gamut “PremierColor” monitor which has its sights set on the professional market. On the other side of the coin, the U2713HM is a mainstream orientated model which can offer vast real-estate to consumers who are primarily concerned with value. Both of these monitors do cover off the majority of the 27” buying public nicely but the newer model has clearly superior hardware specifications and this ability increase is reflected a stratospheric MSRP of $999.

While value may not be part of the U2713H’s lexicon, it nonetheless represents the pinnacle of modern panel design. But will it’s $300 premium really make a difference when compared directly against the less expensive U2713HM? Both may be directed towards different markets but there will certain be some overlap which will be of particular interest to some users who may not want to justify spending so much more on what may look like a similar monitor.

 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Dell U2713H

A Closer Look at the Dell U2713H



Like nearly all of Dell’s UltraSharp monitors, the U2713H follows a set of standardized design guidelines which can be traced back several years. With a two-tone black / silver color scheme it looks great without being overly garish and should effectively disappear into its surroundings. It should also be noted that Dell has equipped their latest high end 27” panel with extremely thin 20mm bezels which could make for one stunning multi monitor gaming setup.

We’re usually highly critical of stand choices since all too many manufacturers have chose to focus on aesthetics rather than actual stability. While older U2711 had solid, adaptable base which offered height, swivel and tilt options it didn’t offer a portrait mode option. Since Dell has gone with basically the same – albeit slightly enhanced- stand found on the U2412, the U2713H offers 115mm of height adjustment, 25° of tilt (+4° to – 21°), excellent swivel capabilities and also adds in the sorely lacking portrait mode.

The only fault we can find with the U2713H’s stand is –much like with the U2713HM –the lack of adequate height adjustment. In its current configuration the monitor does have a tendency to scratch the base when moved into portrait mode unless the panel is first tilted back.


The U2713H is deceptively thin and lightweight for a 27” monitor. This is mostly due to Dell’s move away from CCFL backlighting towards a W-LED edge backlight configuration. However unlike previous models we’ve seen, the U2713H uses an even more advanced version W-LED backlighting technology called “GB-LED”. GB-LED is based on W-LED but blends Green and Blue Light Emitting Diodes with a modified red phosphor coating to produce an even wider spectrum of light.

While both the U2713HM and U2713H utilize AH-IPS panels, they share very little in common from a specifications standpoint. The HM model uses an 8 bit panel with a reasonably wide color gamut that has a DeltaE of less than 5 while this newer H-series is part of Dell’s PremierColor line. As such, it uses a 10-bit AH-IPS panel which not only boasts over 1 billion colors but in this instance also has an amazing DeltaE of less than 2.

To put DeltaE into layman terms, if a program calls for a specific color to be displayed but the monitor is unable to display it, the U2713HM will be within 5 shades of the desired color. This is the industry standard and actually reflects the U2711’s rating. On the other hand, the new U2713H will be within 2 shades and in all likelihood will be only a single color shade off. For the average consumer this will mean very little – besides getting accurate colors but a minimal DeltaE could be a game changer if your job depends on color accuracy.

Even with enviable color reproduction and a 6ms grey to grey response time, the U2713H is still an expensive monitor. Dell softens the blow further by adding an interesting wrinkle to its feature set: true hardware calibration capabilities. To calibrate the U2713HM customers need to use software solutions to adjust the colors being transmitted to the monitor. On the U2713H, they can actually modify the monitor’s internal 14 bit Look Up Table. This results in a higher level of color accuracy which software calibration simply cannot match. Hardware color calibration is one of the main reasons many professionals have traditionally opted for ultra expensive NEC and similar manufactures over lower cost options like the UltraSharp line.

Dell has even included an excellent anti-glare coating which will ensure those accurate colors are a lot easier to see regardless of the environmental lighting conditions.


The outgoing U2711 was a well equipped monitor from an input perspective since it boasted two dual-link DVI outputs along with HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, component and composite ports but the new U2713H is no slouch either. Dell has opted for one dual-link DVI, one HDMI, one DisplayPort and one Mini-DisplayPort on the input side. With every one of the main HD bases covered, we doubt all but a minority of consumers will miss the analog ports. The mini DisplayPort is of particular interest since it will effectively eliminate the need for secondary adapters when using many current video cards.

Another interesting addition is the dedicated DisplayPort out connection which is used for Daisy Chaining several displays together. This may not interest to most consumers but it could keep cable clutter to a minimum when using the U2713H’s optional dual monitor stand.


Further helping to make the U2713H’s input selection more enticing is a substantial upgrade to the USB ports' abilities. Instead of U2711’s rear and bezel mounted USB 2.0 connectors with a multi-card reader, customers will be greeted to a multi-card reader and a pair of USB 3.0 enabled ports in an accessible area of the side bezel and another pair of USB 3.0 ports on the input panel. USB 3.0 adoption has certainly been slow, but the inclusion does make the UltraSharp U2713H future proof and more useful for many professional consumers.


Like the U2711, the U2713H relies upon less than optimal capacitive touch ‘buttons’ instead of the physical buttons found on the U2713HM. While sufficient and more than adequate, this could be the weak link in configuring a U2713H. Thankfully, these capacitive ‘buttons’ are more responsive than previous generations.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations


The On Screen Display of the U2713H very much follows in the footsteps of past UltraSharps, albeit with a few differences which reflect its more august pedigree. It is simple to use, putting all of the options with reach while also boasting a wealth of features specifically designed for professionals and discerning individuals alike.


The main quick access menu list consists of four main options (five if you include exit), ensuring that basic functions are housed locally. The all-important main menu, brightness/contrast, preset mode and even input selection are available via this simple mini-OSD. Most home users will never need to venture beyond this point.


If more customization is needed, the aptly labeled “Menu” option opens the primary menu system. While still missing a feature or two, this section is sure to satisfy almost anyone’s craving for image tweaking and panel configuration. We were also impressed with Dell’s decision to carry over their handy Energy Meter from previous models. It shows (in real time) the effects certain settings have upon this display’s power consumption profile.

Unfortunately, much like its predecessor, the U2713H doesn’t offer any fine tuning of the overdrive settings via its OSD. The Dell U2711 did have some occasional halo issues which were directly caused by the default overdrive being a touch too aggressive. Hopefully, this has been corrected with the U2713H’s default settings.


One notable absence is control over fine-grain Gamma correction. This OSD may be filled with a lot of advanced tweaking options but allows for only rudimentary control over gamma levels. Like the U2713HM, you only have a choice between 1.8 and 2.2. If neither hits an acceptable level, you’ll have to opt for either off-panel adjustment through the graphics settings in Windows or hardware calibration via expensive colorimeter tools. Fortunately, this monitor is factory calibrated so –in theory – its default profile should be adequate for nearly everyone

On the positive side – and unlike the U2713HM – the U2713H includes 6 axis color control and can be accessed via Color Settings -> Preset Modes -> Custom Color or Color Space -> Saturation. This will bring up a sub menu, where the R,G,B,C,M,Y can be individually corrected, though in theory the factory calibration should make these values close to perfect straight out of the box. Only when the monitor gets older and the colors start to ‘drift’ will you require this feature.


Also on the positive side, there are 8 custom modes to choose from and more than one has 6 axis color correction abilities. Both Custom Color and Color Space provide this valuable option.

The full list of preconfigured options is: Standard, Multimedia, Movie, Game, Paper, Color Temp, Color Space, and Custom Color. These intelligent and very thorough presets should cover off most consumers’ needs quite nicely.
 
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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 Used: Custom color
Brightness: 17%

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

After testing the U2713HM we did have very high hopes for Dell’s latest UltraSharp and nearly without fail, it was able to meet and exceed our wildest expectations. In nearly every imaginable way the U2713H has set the bar higher than ever before. Contrast ratio, image quality, default settings all now have a new gold standard against which all future monitors will be judged against.

Just as importantly, this monitor is as close to a ‘plug and play’ solution as we have ever come across. This is not a temperamental product which will require hours of tweaking and coaxing so most consumers will simply be able to plug it in, adjust the brightness level and use the default settings without making any adjustments.

The only issue with the default settings it the brightness level Dell has once again opted for. At its default 50% brightness level the U2713H outputs 251cd/m2 – or over double of what a professional monitor should be set to. Luckily, adjusting it down to 120cd/m2 is easy.


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.


Panel variance has been the downfall of many a monitor in our previous reviews and the U2713H's result here isn't exactly the best we've seen. The overall maximum / minimum delta is around 16% and there's a small dark spot front and center on the panel. Luckily, most consumers will never notice this but professionals looking for a constant 120cd/m2 may wish to raise the brightness levels slightly to compensate. In addition, issues like backlight bleed and clouding were completely absent.


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.



As befitting a professional grade monitor that comes properly factory calibrated, the default gamma was a perfect 2.20. This is the gold standard all professionals –and anyone who takes color accuracy seriously – strive for and it is nice to see Dell adhering to these standards.
 
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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.



The U2713H boasts the widest color gamut we've ever come across, proving that Dell's 10-bit PremierColor AH-IPS panel is able to live up to its claims. While this isn't the first professional grade monitor we have tested, no previous entrant has even come close to boasting capabilities like these.


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.



As with the gamma levels, Dell has factory calibrated the U2713H's RGB levels and while it couldn't quite hit the perfect 100/100/100 the results are well within the error ratio of our testing equipment.
 
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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.



Like nearly every other aspect of this monitor, the viewing angles are nothing short of spectacular. This is one area IPS panels have classically dominated and the U2713H shows exactly why this is true.

In both the horizontal and vertical planes the U2713H's image remained clear of noticeable contrast or color shifting until well beyond reasonable viewing angles. Only at extreme angles was there a noticeable shift and even then the change was not terrible until the panel was literally viewed edge-on.

We did notice that vertical shifts had a tendency to show more loss of brightness and contrast whereas extreme horizontal angles resulted in more color shifting. However, in every case, the shift was minor at most, allowing the U2713H to surpass every other monitor we've tested in this regard.


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.



Things just keep getting better for Dell's newest UltraSharp as it was able to post the best contrast numbers we've ever seen, by a long shot. Nothing even comes close to delivering such a perfectly balanced picture.


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.


Considering the U2713H's size and target audience, a calibrated power consumption of only 27 watts is simply astonishing. If you are using an older monitor which uses more power at 120cmd/2 than the U2713H does at its maximum brightness, this certainly will be a nice incentive to upgrade.
 
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AkG

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Gaming & Movie Perforamnce

Gaming Performance



With over 60 hours of gaming and hours of serious consideration, we can say with authority that Dell’s U2713H is one of the best looking monitors around for gaming. From Crysis 3 to simple titles like Orcs Must Die 2, it impressed us again and again with rich colors, deep yet permeable blacks and astoundingly pristine image quality.

At the expense of sounding overly enthusiastic, the color pallet and richness of images this monitor creates has to be experienced to be believed. Static images of games just can’t convey their lifelike vibrancy when played on the U2713H. This is the way games are “meant to be played” as the experience will literally suck you in with loads of time simply being spent looking around in amazement at the world Dell has created.


Even with a blazingly quick (or an IPS panel at least) response time of 6ms won’t completely eliminate ghosting, only the most discerning users will only pick it up from time to time when searching high and low. With that being said, subjectively speaking the U2713H bests its predecessor, the U2711, in this category due to the transient response time of its AH-IPS panel. The difference between the U2713H and U2713HM is even greater with Dell’s newest creation holding a significant edge in motion reproduction and fluidity.


Even PLS based products like Samsung’s 850 and the TN-equipped 140Hz ASUS VG278H just cannot compete on every level with this UltraSharp. While both hold an edge in fast action clarity, they lag significantly behind in color reproduction, contrast and many other image quality categories. Whether or not this is a worthwhile trade-off for gamers is ultimately a personal choice but we’re more than willing to put up with a 6ms refresh rate for picture quality nirvana.




Movie Performance



Typically, 1440P monitors aren’t optimal solutions for movies due to the pixel stretching which normally arises when software stretches a 1080P video to fit such an expansive surface. Not this time around. While picture quality suffers a bit from being upscaled, in our eyes, there isn’t a better 1440P monitor available for watching your favorite film. From its black gradation to spot-on color representation, the experience and level of immersion afforded by the U2713H is nothing short of shocking.

As one would expect, all of the U2713H’s strengths in the gaming category carry over en-masse into movies, especially ones which feature fast action scenes which typically devolve into a mess of ghosting on lesser IPS-based panels.


For the first ten hours of use we simply sat back in slacked jaw wonder and we felt like the baby in the photo above, political correctness be damned. In two words: gob smacked. The richness and vibrancy displayed by this monitor will literally will take your breath away and its plug and play nature makes it all the more impressive.


With high bit-rate videos it was almost like looking through open window into another world rather than at an inanimate object. When using the U2713H, one can actually understand and appreciate why there is an Oscar category dedicated to Cinematography as ‘cinematic’ movies are recreated with absolute precision here, enhancing nearly every aspect of the visual experience. Movies like “Life of Pi” come alive and even lower budget ‘indie’ movies get a noticeable boost in vitality.


With all of these platitudes being thrown around, you might wonder whether or not the nearly $1000 U2713H is worth its significant premium over a U2713HM. Truth be told, the higher end panel design of this monitor will certainly be worth its weight in gold to anyone who values lifelike onscreen images, be they from games or movies. Currently, there isn’t a competitor that can come close to matching this UltraSharp’s capabilities.

 
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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 (no other changes in the menu)
- adjusted the brightness to 17 (which resulted in a 120.00cd/m2)
- All other settings left to default levels




Since the U2713H comes factory calibrated the number of manual corrections to attain an absolute perfect balance of colors, brightness and contrast is slim to none. For most consumers the default brightness levels will be too high and should be adjusted downwards unless the monitor is being used in an extremely well-lit environment.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


The new Dell UltraSharp U2713H is not only a true successor to the U2711 but it also happens to be the best monitor Dell has ever released. Granted, at $999, this may be one of the more expensive 27” monitors around but from a picture quality perspective, you’d be hard pressed to find an alternative that doesn’t cost hundreds more.

Be it color reproduction, contrast, power consumption or motion performance, the U2713H improves upon its predecessor –the oft-mentioned U2711- in every category. Meanwhile, the anti glare coating, 6 axis color adjustment, an integrated USB 3.0 hub and excellent factory calibration allow the U2713H to also significantly outpace the U2713’s abilities as well. These factors combine to create what can only be deemed a perfect solution for professionals who have been looking for a Cinema Display alternative with a wider range of features than Apple offers.

While professionals will fall in love with Dell’s new UltraSharp, gamers and average consumers will also appreciate everything it has to offer. The amount of immersion provided here is simply astounding, regardless of its lack of a 120Hz refresh rate. You don’t just use the U2713H, you experience it.

This really is as close to professional and gaming nirvana as you are likely to get this side of the $2000 mark. Naturally, the high asking price is going to be hard to justify for many consumers who have not previously seen one of these things in action. Sales may have already brought its cost down to the $799 mark but the U2713HM can be found in $500 -$600 range, providing an interesting contrast between two Dell monitors. However, make no mistake about it: in terms of image quality the lower-priced 2713-series product just can’t compete at the same level as its sibling.

There were some very minor missteps, the U2713H's slight uniformity discrepancies being the most noteworthy. However, these were few and far between and never detracted from the overall experience.

Dell has also included one of the best warranties in the business, a feature which has quickly become a selling point for their UltraSharp monitors against inexpensive Korean-made alternatives. Their three year Premium Panel guarantee ensures that even a single dead or stuck pixel will be sufficient grounds for a full exchange of the monitor. Meanwhile, the newly introduced Advanced Exchange will see a new U2713H shipped out before your existing unit needs to be sent back for RMA purposes.

Many accused Dell of sitting back on their heels, content with the U2711 (which is still a great monitor in its own right) while other companies rolled out their next generation products. How those tunes have changed now that Dell has struck back with a ferocious broadside. The U2713H simply an amazing piece of engineering which is well priced and boasts some of the best image quality we’ve seen to date.

 
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