- Huge screen size and 4K resolution
- Professional-level features, including optional hardware calibration
- Excellent image quality
- Premium price tag
- High-end graphics card and DisplayPort connection required for 4K resolution at 60Hz
- Text is very small and can be hard to read unless scaled up
In December, Dell unveiled a pair of professional-level UltraHD monitors, both with '4K' resolutions of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels: the 24-inch UP2414Q and the flagship 31.5-inch UP3214Q (£2,299 ex. VAT, or $3,500), reviewed here. Then at CES in January, Dell announced the 28-inch P2815Q at just $699 (£424): to achieve this price point, Dell equips the P2815Q with a reduced feature set, including a less capable TN-type panel.
If you're spending over £2,000 on a monitor, you're entitled to expect exceptional image quality, solid build, a professional-level feature set and good usability. So how does the UltraSharp 32 UP3214Q shape up?
For a (very) large monitor, the UltraSharp 32 UP3214Q cuts a relatively trim figure on the desktop — although, of course, you'll still need a fair amount of real estate to accommodate it. The 31.5-inch (viewable image size) panel itself weighs 9.22kg, and with the solid tilt-, swivel- and height-adjustable stand measures 48.3-57.2cm tall by 75cm wide by 21.4cm deep. The design is businesslike, with a black and silver livery and unobtrusive Dell branding on the front and rear.
From the front, the matte, anti-glare-coated LCD panel obviously dominates. There's a Dell logo in the middle of the roughly 2.5cm-wide bezel, at the bottom, with the power switch and touch-sensitive OSD (on-screen display) buttons off to the right. On left-hand side, sitting in an otherwise unbroken cooling grille, is a card reader for SD-compatible media.
Video connections at the back are HDMI (1.4), DisplayPort (1.2a) and Mini-DisplayPort, with a Mini-DP to DP cable supplied in the box. There are also five USB 3.0 ports — four downstream one upstream. The video connections, the upstream USB port and three of the downstream ports are in a recess, while the fourth downstream port is on the back of the chassis — an easier location for plugging in a USB stick, for example.
The LCD panel itself is a Sharp-manufactured IGZO-TFT with in-plane switching (IPS). IGZO stands for indium-gallium-zinc-oxide, a semiconductor that, according to Sharp, can support bigger, higher-resolution panels than traditional amorphous silicon displays, with lower power consumption. The screen has an unobtrusive matte coating, so you shouldn't be troubled by reflections in brightly-lit workplaces. And because it's an IPS panel, viewing angles are very good in both horizontal and vertical planes.
As noted above, the 31.5-inch panel has a '4K' native resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, giving a very good pixel density of 140ppi for a monitor of this size. With a DisplayPort connection, the refresh rate at native resolution is 60Hz, but this drops to an unacceptably low 30Hz if you use the HDMI link. Even with a DisplayPort connection, many graphics cards will only achieve 60Hz with Windows treating the UP3214Q as though it were two tiled 1,920-by-2,160 displays. In this mode, you'll have to ensure that they're in the correct orientation, with any ICC profiles applied on both halves.
Some AMD and Nvidia cards allow you to create a merged display at 60Hz, and if you're prepared to drop the refresh rate to 30Hz, you'll also see a merged 3,840-by-2,160 display with lower-spec video cards. These compromises reflect the cutting-edge status of 4K displays, and will hopefully be resolved before long.
The contrast ratio is quoted as 1,000:1, with brightness of 350cd/m2, and a pixel response time of 8ms. Viewing angles are 176 degrees in horizontal and vertical planes, and the pixel pitch is just 0.182mm. Dell's power consumption figures are 100 watts in typical use, 170W maximum and 'less than 1.2W' on standby.
An optional feature of interest to professional users will be the hardware calibration, courtesy of X-Rite's i1Display Pro colorimeter, to ensure that colours output on-screen are a true reflection of colours input through the rest of the digital workflow. We didn't have a colorimeter, but Dell supplies a factory calibration report for every UP3214Q monitor, which showed acceptably low deviation between desired and displayed colours (DeltaE<2) in both sRGB and Adobe RGB colour spaces, along with good brightness and colour uniformity.
Although it's impressive to have such an enormous amount of screen real estate at your disposal (four document windows side-by-side on-screen is no problem), it's arguable that this monitor is overkill for mainstream business workloads. Type is tiny at native resolution, for example, and many people will have to increase the DPI scaling in Windows to make text and user interface elements more readable. That reduces your real estate, which is basically what you're spending a lot of money on, and you may also find that applications vary in how well they scale.
That leaves the kind of customers you might expect for an expensive and cutting-edge large-screen monitor: specialist content creators, scientists and engineers with a need for high-resolution visualisations of one kind or another. In this restricted market, Dell's UltraSharp 32 UP3214Q looks a good choice, coming in slightly cheaper than the similarly specified Asus PQ321Q for example.
If you're a mainstream user and are determined to get your hands on a 4K monitor, you might want to consider one of the more affordable 28-inch options announced at CES, such as Lenovo's ThinkVision Pro2840m, the Asus PB287Q or Dell's aforementioned P2815Q. Be aware, though, that type will be even tinier at native resolution on a 28-inch 4K monitor with a pixel pitch of 0.16mm.