About a month ago I bought a new monitor to replace still very good 20″ LCD (ViewSonic 2030b), which was getting a bit small for me. For common work the older resolution of 1600×1200 is enough, but for retouching photographs and watching movies/TV the larger monitor surface is always better. My choice was a 30″ monitor with resolution 2560 x 1600 pixels. After a long time deciding between several brands and monitor types I finally went for Dell 3008WPF wide-gamut monitor, due to pretty good review on other sites. I have an A03 revision – Dell started with A00, so this is the fourth revision available. I am now using this monitor for several weeks in various applications and I would like to share my findings here.
You probably already know the specifications – the dimensions, resolution, frequency, that a Dual-Link DVI connection is required etc., spec sheets are available elsewhere.
But there are no practical information.
It is possible to use such a huge space efficiently? Won’t the system performance decrease when processing all those 4 Megapixels? Won’t my hand on the mouse be strained when travelling those 30″ / 75 cm several times in a row? What is an ideal working distance to see the full screen?
Also, the Dell site doesn’t list some of the possibly less flattering information. Is the background lighting really even? What about the wide gamut – it is always a good thing?
I will try to answer these and some others questions in the text below.
Dual-Link DVI seems to be supported by almost any newer graphic card, so I had no problems connecting the monitor. I tried to calibrate it using Spyder3Elite calibrator, which was a complicated process (more on this later).
After calibration I tried to measure the brightness of the monitor in various spots using the calibration device and the difference between the left and right was about 10 candelas. However, because of the size of the monitor, this cannot be noticed by eye, so for me it’s basically a non-issue. I also tried to measure the *color* of a white patch on a different spots on the monitor and even the it changes slightly. So, it is not perfect, but again, this is only measurable by the colorimeter, not by an eye.
Another issue is that when sitting in front of the monitor the corners are under such an extreme angle to the eye, that there is a brightness shifting. Fortunately, this is only visible on a black background, which turns distinctly lighter in corners. On a typical Windows desktop it is not a observable at all. When editing photos, I usually have toolboxes there, so it is not noticeable either. (One would have to work with almost completely black photo to notice it anyway.)
This monitor advantage is my biggest COMPLAINT – the software (and calibration hardware) is not fully ready for this technology yet. I would be very happy with common sRGB monitor, but this monitor can display much more colors – noticably more saturated green tones and almost radioactive reds. While this is a good thing in theory, it brings many problems in reality.
Firstly, (of course) the monitor still receive colors as a triplet of three values ranging from 0-255 for red, green and blue respectively. [0, 0, 0] means black, [255, 255, 255] means full white. But, [255, 0, 0] which means red on “normal” monitor results in almost radioactive red on this one. The correct red color would be (let’s say) around [180, 0, 0] here.
This means several things:
- If you want to do any serious work, you have to use color management in all application. Sadly, for full comport all applications must support it, which is not the case of today’s software. Fortunately, most graphic programs support it as well as Firefox 3 and newer.
- As I understand it, because the range from black to red is not 0 to 255, but 0 to 180, there are less steps and banding in gradients will be more visible with color management used.
- Turning color management on in some programs means slowing them down – this is usually a case of simple image viewers and it is even very hard to find one that supports color management.
- At this time there are no color-managed versions of some applications, most notably movie players. You can switch the monitor to sRGB or different mode for the playback, force the player to simulate the correct output or just live with the wrong colors… sometimes it even looks good.
You might ask, why I didn’t switched the monitor to sRGB mode and live with that setting – well, I planned to do so even before buying the monitor, but life is not that simple. The sRGB don’t look completely correct when compared side-by-side to my older hardware calibrated Viewsonic 2030b. According to the Spyder3 the default color temperature is 8000 K, which is way higher than the sRGB standard 6500 K (why?) and gamma is close to 1.8, instead of the common 2.2 (good for Macs, not so good for PCs). And unfortunately, the Spyder3 isn’t able to calibrate it properly. So, for now I am working with the wide-gamut preset and I can live with that, even though it is not perfect.
Here is what I found when using the monitor for different purposes.
Amazing :) No color irregularities are visible. In the Adobe Lightroom, even with tool panels visible, the photo is huge and with landscapes you have the feeling that you are on the spot! Also, it is easier to check the focus just with the main view. In Lightroom you might need a faster computer though, otherwise it takes some time to render almost four-megapixel preview. Working with panels alongside the photo is also much simpler as you can see much larger part of them and don’t need to hide them to see more of the photo in the center.
Quite good, but there is no color-managed video player, so expect more saturated colors. There is a way of transforming the colors to get a more realistic view, but it is complicated at this time (i.e. usage of pixel shaders in Media Player Classic Home Cinema – for more information see this or this). However, to tell the truth, I even liked the saturated colors sometimes and most of the time it is not a problem. But I am not a very demanding viewer, so your mileage may vary.
With a TV Tuner in my computer I am also using it as a TV set, so the monitor size pays off again.
A single “normal” application will not exploit such a screen space. But you can place several application on the screen at one without overlapping. I got into habit of having web browser in the left part of the screen and another two smaller applications in the top right and bottom right parts. I am using GridMove with a custom temple to quickly snap windows at the desired positions. There is also an alternative called WinSplit Revolution.
I would be grateful for a Vista theme close to the original one, that makes a distinct difference, between active and not-active window. Using a slight change in color (and a shadow for Aero users) is not enough for finding the right window!
Somewhat surprisingly for me, it is easy to move the mouse across the 2560 pixels horizontally, no strain on my hand.
This monitor is said to have a relatively high input lag – the time between receiving the signal from a graphic card and actually displaying it (i.e. this is something different then response time). I was doing my own unscientific research by setting a milisecond timer, which would display its number on two monitors – this one and ViewSonic P227f, an older CRT monitor. I took a several photograph, which clearly show different time on both monitors. It was not done using a display cloning, but with an independent multi-display configuration using a single dual-head graphic card. This was an attempt to use the native resolution on the LCD to avoid the hardware scaler. (Scaler is used to interpolate signal with different resolution into a native one – with big monitors this processing takes more time than with smaller ones.)
The difference on the photographs was ranging from 33 to 60 ms, with majority of the photos under 35 ms. This is not good, it’s one of the worse monitors in this regards, but I found that it does not bother me, even when playing a first person shooter game (compared to playing on the ViewSonic 2030b LCD monitor).
I am unable to detect any lag using my eyes only, whether in a game or in the desktop.
For the record, I tried to compare the Dell 3008WFP and ViewSonic 2030b side-by-side and the ViewSonic had the input-lag smaller almost always by exactly 16 ms. This is probably related to monitor frequency, which was 60 Hz (1 second / 60 = 16.666… ms).
I am happy with this monitor, but I would be even happier with one with an ordinary sRGB-gamut. Input lag could be improved too, though I cannot detect its negative consequences.
On the other hand, photo editing and even photo viewing is an impressive experience. Movies and TV look great bigger and large screen estate can be utilized in desktop too.
Final words: Recommended, if you do not fear the color management (and don’t mind the price).
I would be pleased to read any comment that you might have, whether you have any experience with big and/or wide-gamut monitor, with monitor calibration or you are just thinking about buying some of these :)