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Tom's Holiday Buyer's Guide 2008, Part 1

Dell 3008WFP Ultrasharp 30"
By: Ed Tittel

Those in search of a big, beautiful monitor for gaming, video, and desktop use will definitely want to include the Dell 3008WFP on their short lists. As with other high-end, big-pixel-count monitors—this one supports 2560x1600 resolution—this monitor comes at a pretty steep price. But those with the gumption or the means to plunk down a couple of grand for a monitor will reap some considerable benefits in exchange for that hard-earned cash.

All of the 3008WFP’s specification details naturally lead to superlatives. We’re talking about a rated 3000:1 contrast ratio, which produces darker blacks for sharp images, crisp text, and greater detail in HD content—especially Blu-ray. At its rated resolution, 1920x1080 represents only 77% of the horizontal resolution and 67.5% of the vertical resolution. The 3008WFP also supports 117% of the NTSC color gamut, which makes for richer, more saturated color that can be calibrated for accurate color representation. This device even supports the Adobe 98 color standard and offers a snappy 8 ms pixel refresh interval suitable for gaming and motion-oriented video content.

A monitor is useless without input connections and the 3008WFP has them in great profusion. In addition to the standard VGA and DVI-D, this unit also supports HDMI (with HDCP), S-Video, component video, and composite video, along with DisplayPort inputs. In fact, you need dual DVI-D inputs (and a graphics card to match) to drive all the pixels on this device. That gives both HDMI and DisplayPort an edge, because both technologies support sufficient video bandwidth to permit a single cable to drive this behemoth.

DisplayPort is interesting because it packetizes data to transport it from one device to another (DVI-D uses an RGB and time clock model at 3.3V that requires A-to-D and D-to-A conversion to transport signals across the wire). This lets the same cable that ferries video from sender to receiver also ferry audio in the current 1.1 version of the DisplayPort specification. A new version (1.2) of this open, royalty-free standard is nearing completion—it not only passes USB traffic over the same cable as audio and video, it also permits daisy-chaining multiple monitors from a single DisplayPort output.

Dell thoughtfully bundles a DisplayPort cable with the 3008WFP. Dell video engineer Bruce Montag informed me that whereas both HDMI and DVI-D cables must be selected with great care and often at significant expense, any DisplayPort-compliant cable can handle the full 10.8 Gbps maximum bandwidth that this technology supports. Finally, DisplayPort circuitry is designed for low-voltage, fine granularity applications (like circuit processes at 90 nm and smaller) so that it lends itself readily to incorporation on motherboards, graphics cards, monitors, AV receivers, and even TV sets (Philips and Pioneer both offer DisplayPort on select products). With more PC graphics adapters adopting DisplayPort, we expect to see this connection put to good use with the 3008 WFP. Too bad USB support isn’t included in this version!

Although the size of this device—its dimensions are 27.43" x 23.74" x 18.98"—will make it hard to hide before Christmas, we can’t think of any computer user who wouldn’t be thrilled to get one. Granted, $2,000 is a lot to spend on a Christmas gift, but those who luck out will consider it the gift of a lifetime.