Being the world’s largest supplier of displays, Dell has a luxury of trying out new technologies and be the world’s first in many cases. The company was first to release a 31.5-inch OLED monitor and first to launch a 31.5-inch 8K IPS LCD. This week Dell introduced the industry’s first 31.5-inch display with a Mini LED-based full-area local dimming (FALD) backlighting featuring 2,048 zones. Its price is way higher than Dell’s traditional ‘firsts.’ (via Dell)
Modern Technologies for High-End Displays
Nowadays there are multiple competing display technologies that offer different kinds of advantages and disadvantages for consumer and professional use.
There are OLED monitors that offer deep blacks and therefore very high contrasts. They also feature a very low response time as well as wide horizontal viewing angles, but which do not offer the highest luminance levels and have a number of drawbacks like wear out, not very accurate colors, and limited vertical viewing angles. To top everything off, these displays are expensive to make using currently available technologies used for mass production.
By contrast, various IPS and VA-based LCDs featuring backlighting modules enhanced with quantum dots and sometimes with a full-area local dimming (based on LEDs) tend to offer rather high brightness, good contrast ratio levels, and high color accuracy. Yet, these monitors still have all the peculiarities that the IPS and VA technologies have, so deep blacks are not quite there, but good contrasts are achieved by increasing brightness levels.
Backlighting modules featuring thousands of Mini LEDs promise to offer extremely high brightness levels that are common for high-end TVs (think about 1,400~1,600 nits in HDR mode) and contrast levels comparable to those of OLEDs.
FALD backlighting modules based on LEDs and Mini LEDs tend to be very expensive, so they are used primarily for high-end monitors that have other premium features. As a result, such displays are reserved for those with deep pockets, but these are the only monitors available today that can offer both high brightness and good contrasts.
But even displays with FALD do not have a pixel-by-pixel control of backlight intensity, something that is needed for reference displays that retail for tens of thousands of dollars. Such monitors may use special light-modulating cells that permit pixel-by-pixel control of backlighting, they are extremely expensive to make and are generally very rare.
The Dell UltraSharp UP3221Q Display
Given all the peculiarities that the OLED technology has, various makers of professional and reference monitors have preferred to use IPS panels and equip them with the best backlighting they have at hand. Dell is clearly not an exception here as it is the first company to use a backlighting module with 2K mini-LED direct backlit dimming zones (which probably means 2,000 or 2,048 Mini LEDs) with its UltraSharp 32 HDR PremierColor Monitor (UP3221Q).
The display is based upon a 31.5-inch 10-bit IPS panel features 4K (3840x2160) resolution, 350 nits brightness in SDR mode, a 1,300:1 contrast ratio, a 8 ms GtG response time, a 60 Hz refresh rate, and 178°/178° viewing angles. The monitor is VESA DisplayHDR 1000 certified, so it is supports 1,000 nits peak luminance and various HDR transports.
The UltraSharp 32 HDR PremierColor model UP3221Q can display 99.8% of the DCI-P3 color space, 83% of the BT2020 color gamut as well as 93% of the Adobe RGB color space, so it can be used both for video postproduction as well as for photo editing.
The monitor comes with a Calman Powered colorimeter and is factory-calibrated to a Delta <1 accuracy for different presets, including DCI-P3 D65 and sRGB D65, just like most of its competitors.
As far as connectivity goes, the UltraSharp 32 HDR PremierColor model UP3221Q has a DisplayPort 1.4, two HDMI 2.0, and a Thunderbolt 3 input. In addition, there is a dual-port USB 3.2 Type-A hub and another Type-A port for external colorimeters on the front.
Other features yet have to be disclosed by Dell, but we do know that the monitor will also come with a stand that can adjust its height, tilt, and swivel as well as a shading hood to ensure consistent colors in different environments.
At this point, the Dell UltraSharp 32 HDR PremierColor has only two direct competitors: the Apple Pro Display XDR and the ASUS ProArt PC32UCG. There is also the Eizo ColorEdge Prominence CG3146 that offers even better characteristics, but this one is designed for different applications and is priced accordingly.
The displays from Apple and ASUS use a full-area local area dimming (FALD) backlighting enhanced with quantum dots (or other methods in case of Apple), but have different resolution. The Apple display supports a 6K (6016x3384) resolution, whereas the ASUS display features a 4K (3840x2160) resolution. Furthermore, Apple uses 576 LEDs in its backlight, whereas ASUS uses 1,152 Mini LEDs. So at least as far as the number of LEDs in the backlight is concerned, Dell’s UltraSharp 32 HDR PremierColor wins with its 2,000 Mini LEDs.
Apple positions its Pro Display XDR primarily for content creators with color-critical workloads, so it supports 11 reference modes and various color profiles right out of box. ASUS aims its Mini LED monitor at game developers who might need a 120-Hz refresh rate, but the LCD also supports 13 different presets and a variety of color gamuts for those working on photo as well as video content. Being designed for professionals, these monitors are factory calibrated to a Delta <1 accuracy.
Eizo’s ColorEdge Prominence CG3146 is actually a reference 4K DCI-P3 monitor for HDR content that offers a pixel-by-pixel control over backlight intensity, an unmatched image quality, and rich connectivity for plugging-in professional equipment.
The price of Dell’s UltraSharp 32 HDR PremierColor UP3221Q display is arguably its main drawback as the company plans to charge a rather whopping $4,999.99 when it becomes available on November 5.
This is the price of Apple’s Pro Display XDR display without a stand, so professionals who need accurate colors can now choose whether they need to have a 6K resolution, but a backlighting with ‘only’ 576 Mini LEDs, or a 4K resolution, but a backlighting with over 2,000 Mini LEDs.
ASUS plans to make its ProArt PA32UCG available this December, but it has not yet revealed its price. As for Eizo, its model CG3146 is now available for $30,895, which makes Apple’s and Dell’s flagship LCDs look like a bargain at $5,000.