The IT industry loves technical jargon, complex acronyms and rules for demonstrable trends or recurring events. These can highlight the industry’s constant evolution, especially products at a market’s leading edge. But, many are applied selectively, like Moore’s first and second Laws are to semiconductor development. Plus, second generation or mature technologies tend to be left out of these discussions.
That may reflect the industry’s obsession with shiny new things but it’s also a pity since its ignores the profound benefits that mature products offer to mainstream consumers and business customers. I was reminded of that point when Dell sent me an evaluation unit of its updated 34-inch UltraSharp Curved UltraWide Monitor (U3417W). Following are a few thoughts on my experiences in the heady world of “immersive” monitors.
Dell UltraSharp rocks CES 2015
Dell introduced its first 34-inch UltraSharp curved monitor at CES 2015 where it rocked the competition by winning a coveted CES Innovation Award. Other accolades followed, including PC Magazine’s Best Monitor of 2015, RedDot’s Best of the Best and Digital Trends’ Best Professional UltraWide Monitor. That recognition helped strengthen Dell’s market standing in professional monitors and bolstered its efforts in high-end graphics and immersive technologies.
That said, Dell is taking a substantially different approach to curved monitors than other vendors. While all such products trumpet the “immersive” qualities of display curvature, most vendors tailor their solutions to enhance gaming, entertainment and multimedia performance via high refresh rates, quick response times and dynamic technologies, such as NVIDIA’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync.
Immersive monitors and the workplace
In contrast, Dell believes the immersive effects of curved, ultra-wide (21:9 aspect ratio) monitors can enhance a wide variety of professions and business processes. In fact, the company cites a study it sponsored with International Data Corp (IDC) on the benefits that accounting, finance and creative task professionals can capture with these devices.
Accordingly, both Dell’s latest U3417W monitor and the previous generation U3415W model offer a 60Hz refresh that’s primarily suitable for workplace applications. That’s perfectly fine for most office tasks but a far cry from the 100Hz normal and 120Hz overclocked rates offered by solutions like Dell’s own Alienware 34 Curved GSync monitor.
In addition, the new UltraSharp 34’s curvature is significantly more pronounced than the 2015 version (1900R in the U3417W vs. 3800R in the U3415W). According to Dell, that allows users, like those who rely on heavy multitasking, to use just one display instead of employing two or more flat screen monitors. Additionally, that saves desktop space and improves power consumption and other environmental factors.
My immersive Dell monitor experience
So how did Dell’s UltraSharp 34 measure up in my own office? Quite well in most every way. The size of the unit seemed overwhelming at first, but at 31.5 inches wide, it fits comfortably on my 42-inch-wide desk. The stand is formidable, but its height adjustment mechanism is effective and simple to use. Set-up was easy, including installing Dell’s Display Manager software which allows the desktop to be sliced/diced in various configurations.
Display Manager also includes special “fast mode” response rates (compared to the 8 ms standard rate) for improved multimedia, movie and gaming performance. Add in better than average quality audio and though Dell clearly doesn’t intend for the U3417W to compete directly with gaming-specific monitors, like the Alienware 34, you can fully experience and enjoy movies, multimedia and numerous games.
Between the UltraSharp 34’s size and its 3440 × 1440 native resolution, images can be stunning. Plus, there’s more than enough real estate to effectively support and manage day to day tasks, including keeping open multiple browser tabs while running productivity applications and files. Plus, if a single UltraSharp 34 isn’t enough for your needs, it offers one DP 1.2 output with MST to for daisy-chaining to another display.
What about the points I mentioned at the beginning of this review about ature technologies? Consider that when Dell introduced the UltraSharp 34 at CES 2015 it’s list price was $1,199. The updated U3417W model released in late 2016 was list priced $100.00 less. Today, both models can be purchased through online retailers, including dell.com for hundreds of dollars less.
Those prices are likely impacted by numerous factors, including holiday sales and CES 2018. But those issues, as along with constant technological evolution means that there’s never been a better time for consumers and businesses to investigate and invest in what are now mainstream curved, immersive solutions, including Dell’s 34” UltraSharp Curved UltraWide Monitor.