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Dell UP2414Q: A Little Less Screen For a Lot Less Cash

Dell UltraSharp 24 Ultra HD Monitor: The $1300 UP2414Q
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When we received the UP2414Q for review, we expected a monitor that was identical to the UP3214Q except in size. That is mostly true. However, we picked up on a number of differences, too.

Visually, both displays exhibit a high degree of fit and finish, resulting in excellent build quality. When you’re paying four figures for a monitor, it’s reasonable to expect a solid metal base and some high-end trim pieces. It’s reasonable to expect a factory calibration. And it’s reasonable to expect a level of accuracy and functionality that should typify a professional-grade tool.

To meet this design goal in a 24-inch form factor, Dell uses an GB-r-LED part from LG, if only because it’s the only panel this size that’s both Ultra HD and Adobe RGB-compatible. That becomes the source of performance differences we measured throughout today's review.

In the fixed Adobe RGB and sRGB Color Space modes, Dell's 24- and 32-inch 4K screens achieve a high level of accuracy without calibration. Dell claims errors of less than two Delta E, and the company delivers. When you decide to calibrate yourself, however, the larger monitor is clearly superior. It allowed us to create a custom Adobe RGB gamut that was not only near-perfect, but it was accompanied by equally precise grayscale and gamma tracking. When we tried the same trick with the UP2414Q, we came up short.

If you work in traditional color spaces, that's not a problem. But if you need to use a less common standard like DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative), then you might have to look elsewhere for a reference display. Ultimately, a professional-grade monitor needs to support multiple color spaces and have the ability to adjust all of them. High performance out of the box is great. However, long-term precision requires dialing-in changes. You simply don't have enough flexibility with Dell's UP2414Q. 

Today, most of the discussion about Ultra HD monitors centers on price. Paying more than a grand for a 24-inch monitor is a lot. And although this will change over time, manufacturers are operating on thin profit margins, so downward pressure is likely to be slow. Just look at the prices for 27-inch QHD screens last year. They barely moved. We have two such displays in the lab now: ViewSonic's VP2772 and NEC's EA274WMi. Both are currently selling for over $800.

Another hurdle that must be overcome is the infrastructure. With HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.3 still unavailable to PC enthusiasts, first-gen 4K displays must either do 30 Hz over HDMI 1.4 or achieve 60 Hz through a DisplayPort 1.2 MST connection (we're going to ignore dual HDMI inputs for the time being). There are many Internet forum threads dedicated to the challenges of getting everything working together. Ultra HD on the desktop is simply ahead of its time. Power users are still the only ones able to wrangle the hardware and software.

Speaking of software, if you think text looks small on a 32-inch screen at 3840x2160, it's downright microscopic on a 24-inch panel sporting the same native resolution. DPI scaling is a must if you want to avoid eyestrain. While this improved going from Windows 7 to Windows 8 (and even Windows 8 to 8.1), clarity still suffers when you make things larger. As with any hardware purchase, you have to decide what technology and feature set is right for your application.

If you work primarily in graphics, and you don’t mind the smaller display, Dell's UP2414Q can save you 70 percent compared to a UP3214Q or Asus PQ321Q. Alternatively, you might want to wait for Dell’s 28-inch Ultra HD TN model coming soon for $700, providing you don't need the Adobe RGB color gamut. Whichever screen you choose, know that you’re still buying into a first-gen product. From our experience so far, these 4K monitors work well, but still have some maturing to do.

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