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Tom's Hardware's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide: Part 2, Last-Minute Luxury

Monitor: Dell UltraSharp U3011
By: William Van Winkle

If you’re going to dream during the holidays, dream big. Really big. Dell’s 30-inch U3011 is one of the most impressive pieces of glass to ever hit the desktop PC monitor market. For starters, you’ve got a 2560 x 1600 (16:10) native resolution backed by a three-year guarantee against even a single bright pixel defect. That same three-year period is also covered by Dell’s Advanced Exchange Service, which ought to be mandatory when you’re dropping 15 C-notes on a screen.

Other basic specs, such as a 1000:1 contrast ratio and a 370 cd/m2 brightness are less relevant, given the fluid nature of contrast measurement and the fact that few people will want a calibrated brightness beyond even 140 cd/m2. We asked our elves to calibrate and measure the U3011, but they declined, perhaps fearing to get too close to anything that overpowering and awesome. As it turns out, though, this request was largely unnecessary, since Dell ships the U3011 with a factory calibration report.

However, a 7 ms gray-to-gray refresh rate means no ghosting on fast-moving images. More important for color-sensitive professionals is the U3011’s 100% coverage of the sRGB gamut standard, 99% coverage of AdobeRGB, and 117% coverage of CIE 1976. Interestingly, Dell kept CCFL backlighting on this model rather than taking to the more energy-efficient LED path. Being an in-plane switching (IPS) design, you get exceptionally crisp detail, best-of-breed color reproduction, and 178-degree viewing with very little discoloration at the extreme angles. Dell’s anti-glare coating also doesn’t have a bad case of the sparkles as on some other panels.

Dell’s stand is excellent, providing smooth vertical movement and sharp lines without seeming too bulky or unattractive. You do sacrifice the ability to pivot 90 degrees into portrait mode because the screen is just that big. On the other hand, the U3011 is a veritable cornucopia (not to mix holiday metaphors) of connectivity, featuring two HDMI, two DVI-D, one DisplayPort, one VGA, and component video ports. You’ll also find four USB 2.0 ports and a 7-in-1 flash card reader.

We’d also like to give credit to Dell’s on-screen display controls, now found across many of its newer monitor models. This is a pet peeve of ours. Why its so hard to make decent OSD controls is anyone’s guess, but Dell’s touch-sensitive implementation, complete with legible fonts and downright intuitive icons, is among the best we’ve ever seen. That’s really good news if you’re a display perfectionist prone to changing settings based on content and environmental conditions.

Bottom line: The U3011 may cost enough to buy half of a tree farm, but it’s guaranteed to be the gift that keeps on giving for years.