Grayscale, Gamma & Color
The AW2518H has 11 color modes, four of which offer calibration options. Custom Color unlocks the RGB sliders for white point adjustment while Game 1-3 opens up a color management system. None include gamma adjustments.
Our grayscale and gamma tests are described in detail here.
The AW2518H comes out of the box in Standard mode which isn’t too far off the mark for grayscale accuracy. Whites run a bit warm and the red tint increases as you get brighter. This should be acceptable performance for many users.
The FPS mode is much the same with warm whites that increase with signal level. If you wish to calibrate, or if you simply want the best fire-and-forget mode, Custom Color is the way to go. Most of the brightness range has little to no error. You can’t really see a problem until 90%, where things go slightly blue.
Adjusting the RGB sliders produces professional-grade accuracy, but there’s a caveat. The contrast slider is set too high by default which produces clipped highlights and a blue tint at 100%. We lowered it 10 clicks to 65% and achieved perfect tracking, but gamma became skewed, reducing dynamic range and rendering the brightest areas of the image a little dull. 69% is the compromise setting. You’ll still have a slight blue error at 100%, but contrast is maximized and color saturation tracks better.
The AW1518H is a premium gaming screen with a premium price. As such, we expect better out-of-box accuracy than we’re seeing here. A 4.52dE average isn’t bad but there is room for improvement. If you dial in our recommended settings from page three, you’ll see a significant gain in quality. Our score of 1.07dE is on the high side of average for the gaming category.
Our initial gamma measurements quickly revealed that Alienware has decided to conform to the BT.1886 spec rather than 2.2 power function. This is unusual but not necessarily a problem. Nearly all video content is mastered to BT.1886 as are many games. It’s not a huge difference from 2.2 power. The reduction in luminance targets takes place in the mid-range, which improves perceived contrast. You might say it’s the picture’s sweet spot. Most content falls in between 30 and 80% brightness. BT.1886 also improves shadow detail with slightly higher targets below 20%. All told, this should be a boost for gamers. And if you need even better visibility in dark areas, just reach for the Dark Stabilizer control.
Our focus was on removing the big dip seen at 90% output. That indicates clipping from the too-high default contrast setting. Dropping it to 69% leveled out the tracking, but in the end things got a tad darker than we’d like. Upping the brightness helps as does the accurate color tracking, which we’ll be showing you in the next section.
Gamma tracking is as tight as the best monitors we’ve tested with an excellent .22 range of values. The deviation chart accounts for our BT.1886 reference. The AW2518H’s 9.58% score (2.63 actual) is compared to a value of 2.4 rather than 2.2 like the rest of the screens. While we applaud Alienware’s attempt to evolve by supporting the latest gamma specification, it would be nice to have a 2.2 preset available. Not all content benefits from the darker presentation.
Color Gamut & Luminance
For details on our color gamut testing and volume calculations, please click here.
We made sure to use the BT.1886 gamma reference in our color tests. This affects both saturation targets and luminance levels. Since the AW2518H has relatively low contrast, Alienware has upped both parameters to prevent the picture from becoming murky. And in real-world content, we believe it has succeeded.
Standard and Custom Color both offer decent accuracy with some slight over-saturation in the three primaries and tiny hue errors in the secondaries. FPS bumps up the vivid factor quite a bit with its high luminance levels. Calibration pulls the saturation points closer to their targets but reduces luminance somewhat. Overall picture quality is improved, however, because it’s easier to see fine color detail.
We’ve made some nit-picky comments about color thus far, but when the numbers come in, the AW2518H looks pretty good. It’s not quite in the top tier but comes very close. An average error of 3.16dE is barely visible to the naked eye. We stand by our recommendation to calibrate this monitor. The gains are visible and will improve image quality with more natural color and better clarity of detail.
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