In the last year, 27” 1440p displays went from being really high end in the monitor food chain to becoming close to commodity items that you buy off EBay for cheap from random vendors. It seems that there is a bit of a shift in the high-end display market, where previously resolution was dictating the upper echelon but now as we wait for 4K displays, or retina-style PPI displays on the desktop, it’s other features that are dictating what costs more.

The newest reference display from Dell is the U3014, which takes the place of the U3011. It retains the same 2560x1600 resolution of a 30” display, but adds a few more notable features including DisplayPort MST support, USB 3.0 support, uniformity correction, and most notably it's one of the first LED-backlit displays with an AdobeRGB gamut. Looking only at the specs, this looks like a monitor aiming for the NEC and Eizo users out there, but does it reach those standards?

The LED backlighting this is one of the most interesting things about the U3014. Traditional LED-backlit monitors use White LEDs, which only allow for an sRGB color gamut at maximum. Even then they often struggle to hit the full sRGB colorspace, making LED backlighting more about cabinet looks, and possibly energy use, than about performance. There have been a few exceptions like a Dell laptop and Samsung desktop LCD that used RGB LED backlighting, but typically despite the hype and marking around it LED lighting is usually not a sign of high performance in a monitor, and often it can be a sign of the opposite.

The U3014 uses a GB-LED lighting system, where you have Green and Blue LEDs and a red phosphor that is excited by those LEDs to produce a much larger spectrum of light wavelengths, which allows for a larger color gamut. This article provides some more details and even talks about Quantum Dots, which Sony is starting to use on their TVs and you might see in a computer monitor at some point as well. To give another example of the wider gamut these can produce, here are the spectral signatures recorded in CalMAN using the Dell U3014 and the Nixeus VUE 27” and its standard White LEDs.

Looking at these two charts (which are a bit confusing, I admit), we see that the level of blue output is similar from both, which we expect with LEDs. What you see on the Dell is a much higher level of green and red spectrum available, which is what allows for the larger color gamut to be used. Previously we’ve had to rely on CCFL lamps to do this larger gamut, but now with some LED tricks and a matching red phosphor, we can have LED illuminated displays that utilize a larger gamut.

Of course you also have the assumption that more colors = better, right? Well, unfortunately that isn’t the case. If you only have a larger gamut and not software that understands how to use that gamut, what you get are colors that are further outside of the gamut than they should be. Greens are too green, reds are too red, and everything looks like a badly calibrated OLED smartphone. Anyone buying something like the U3014 is going to need to have accurate colors in any colorspace, and the Dell offers an sRGB mode as well.

In addition to the preset sRGB and AdobeRGB modes, Dell offers two custom CAL1 and CAL2 modes that their calibration software can set to any gamut and white point you want. I will look at this in a moment and cover its performance.

Design, Setup, and OSD
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  • Filiprino - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - link

    Your source of lag must be the use of HDMI.
  • cheinonen - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    HDMI and DisplayPort were virtually identical in this regard.
  • red5un - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - link

    How does the new dell stack up against the NEC PA30 color wise? Love your new testing methodology but I wish there was a way to see a direct comparison. Is there a possibility of you guys retesting some of the higher end monitors? Are LED monitors finally ready to do color critical work? We do print and commercial VFX work and the NEC's are great but recalibrating every week plus knowing the CFL's are slowly dying I'm wondering if LED will be the answer.
  • cheinonen - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    I have no idea how the NEC 30" would fare, as I only tested the 27", and that was with the older test format. Getting in an older monitor is less likely to happen, if only because manufacturers often don't have review samples of displays that are older laying around anymore. I'll see what possibility exists, though it would more likely just be a quick review with only the test data, and not the in-depth commentary, since that has been covered before.
  • soerenL - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Thanks for enlightening article!

    New to wide gamut and display profiling, have been reading a bit about it around the net, but would like know if my workflow makes any sense. Asked this in Dell forums also, apologies in advance if this is the wrong place to ask!

    My primary objective is to have accurate colors in Maya and Photoshop. Secondary objective is to have accurate colors in games.

    I should use sRGB emulation in Maya, and other non color managed applications, and adobeRGB in photoshop and firefox ?

    I should profile the display with the provided Dell UltraSharp Color Calibration software, and store a sRGB calibration profile for example in CAL1, and a adobeRGB calibration profile in CAL2. And have the Dell Display Manager switch to CAL2 when using photoshop, and to CAL1 for all applications that aren't color managed ?

    i1Profiler (the software that came with the i1Display Pro) can monitor ambient light, and automaticly reprofile based on changes in ambient light. The Dell UltraSharp Color Calibration software doesn't mention measuring ambient light at all, so I don't think the software have that capability ? Is there a way of using the hardware calibration in U3014 and ambient light measurements at the same time ? Would it be ok to install both i1Profiler and the Dell UltraSharp Color Calibration software, at the same time, do first the hardware calibration with the dell software, and then have the i1Profiler build a (software?) profile, that would mostly just reflect changes in ambient light ?

    For accurate colors in games (if at all possible) I should use the games preset (to reduce lag) and then use i1Profiler to create a profile ?
  • sherlockwing - Friday, April 19, 2013 - link

    For $1400 Dell should at least consider going up to 2880X1800 for a 16:10 monitor.
  • Zibri - Friday, April 19, 2013 - link

    I still think 2010 HP ZR30W is better than this.
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    The u2412m has higher contrast because it's e-IPS. e-IPS has a simpler pixel structure that allows more light to be transmitted. However, e-IPS monitors always come with just 6-bit color and the thin paper used in the u2412m leads to mediocre uniformity.

    Also, there isn't a single A-MVA panel in your chart which makes your black level/contrast ratio comparison lack adequate perspective. You should include the best and the poorest in your charts, to provide perspective -- especially the best. The best contrast ratio would be from A-MVA.
  • ZoeAnderson24 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

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  • Big Anonymouse - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    Great article!
    Btw, how come the lag numbers are diametrically opposite to the ones in review, where it scored with the lowest lag compared to all tested monitors (some of them tested in this article too)? Could you have perhaps resetted the "Game Mode" setting by accident, or something similar?

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