A "budget" high-end LCD monitor might sound like a contradictory statement, but that is exactly what the Dell UltraSharp U2311H is. With a 23-inch screen and an IPS panel (In-plane Switching) that can display colors better than most others, this Full-HD monitor offers a display resolution of 1920x1080 (1080p). This means it features a 16:9 wide-screen aspect ratio which is good for watching movies in full-screen mode without horizontal black bars.
Design and Features
The viewing angle is good to prevent color shifts when you “pivot” the screen by 90 degrees to view it in vertical “portrait” mode.
The Dell U2311 is unassuming, and feels at ease with any desk. Like most of the Dell UltraSharp series of monitors, it is styled to be sober yet stylish. Colored in black with dashes of metallic grey color, the bezel surrounding the matte screen is fairly thin in proportion to the monitor’s display size, and the monitor as a whole is just a bit thicker than normal ones. The screen itself is recessed slightly from bezel level as usual. A 12V power output is present there, meant for attaching the Dell SoundBar (though the monitor does not have audio out). The rectangular base of the Dell Ultrasharp U2311 is sufficiently heavy to hold the monitor in place. The stand offers cable management, and adjustment of the display – height, tilt (up/down), swivel (left/right) and pivot (portrait/landscape) are all offered.
With this monitor, Dell again uses the nice system of attaching the monitor to the stand without needing any tools and detaching it with just a single button-press. The U2311 supports VESA mounting of course, so you can use a wall-mount too. Input ports are at the rear facing downwards, including 2 USB ports. Available input ports are VGA, DVI and DisplayPort (even though you can use a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, the HDMI port should have been included). At the left side, there are two more USB ports to let you easily plug USB devices into the system.
Controls for the monitor’s OSD are button-based with four buttons placed at the bottom-right corner just above the power button. The buttons need to be pushed a bit hard, which is unfortunate since the entire monitor frame shakes whenever you are adjusting monitor settings or powering it on/off. Thankfully the OSD buttons do not "beep" when pressed, unlike the touch buttons found on the U2711 and OptX 2210 monitors. The OSD navigation system is simple and intuitive, and could be understood quickly, more than could be said for some other monitors we have seen. The upper two buttons can be used as “shortcut keys” to access your most-used settings quickly.
As with most of their higher-end monitors, Dell’s U2311 uses CCFL backlighting with an IPS panel. Dell claims it offers a color gamut of 82% (on the CIE1976 standard most monitors achieve just 72%) which is a good thing for those who need good color reproduction (graphics creators). It offers a viewing angle of 178 degrees both horizontally and vertically, which becomes particularly good to prevent color shifts when you “pivot” the screen by 90 degrees to view it in “portrait” mode vertically instead of the usual horizontal/landscape mode. The OSD also supports rotation to the pivoted mode, to remain comfortable to use even when the display is spun around. To be easy on the eyes, the brightness and contrast were set to 75 per cent by default. Typical power consumption is rated at 33W while active and less than 1W during standby/sleep, these numbers exclude any additional power drawn by speakers/USB devices attached to the LCD monitor.
The Dell UltraSharp U2311H LCD monitor claims a dynamic contrast ratio (DCR) of 10,000:1 which is fine for movies and games. However, we disable DCR to measure its true contrast ratio, claimed to be 1000:1 which was then measured by our Chroma meter to be 904:1 which is really good. We measured brightness of 224 cd/m2 and a black level of 0.27 cd/m2, both of which are very good. We run a battery of tests including those from Lavalys Everest, Lagom, and DisplayMate, measuring them with a Chroma meter. It scored well as expected, for more details see the "Performance" tab of this review. In brief, the color accuracy, brightness, and contrast were all good.
Color Space graphs: GamutVision showing the area of the sRGB color space that can be displayed on the U2311, and its chromaticity based on the CIE1936 standard. The U2311 exceeds the base in both cases.
Our subjective tests consisted of browsing and productivity apps, viewing photos, movies and playing games. The colors were vibrant and felt “true”, screen was sharp and the color consistency was good across the screen but not perfectly even (this is still better than most normal CCFL-backlit monitors). Importantly for movie watchers, the depth of the black levels was good. We saw minute amounts of backlight bleeding, but still within acceptable levels considering the U2311’s positioning. The horizontal and vertical viewing angles were as expected for an IPS-panel monitor, the colors were close to their original from every angle in front of the screen. Thus you can even lie down on the floor and watch a movie just as comfortably with colors not too different from their original, very much like they’d look when you’re seated on a chair. There were no dead/stuck/colored pixels on the unit that came to us for review, as confirmed on 5 uni-color screens (completely dark, white and the 3 primary colors). Input lag (partially influenced by “response time”) usually cripples many displays that use an IPS panel, and while the U2311 was not bad at all with audio still in sync while watching movies, there was an almost imperceptible mouse lag in fast-paced FPS games (they remain very playable). It is not quite a "gaming" monitor due to TN-panels being better suited for the purpose, nor is it a "professional" graphics monitor due to slight banding seen during tests.
We wish we could have said that the U2311 monitor is a cut-down version of the 27-inch Dell U2711, or the 24-inch Dell U2410 but it is closer to the Dell 2209WA really. All four monitors in the previous sentence do use an IPS panel, but the panel used is not quite the same. This monitor is thinner than the U2711 and differs on a few other counts such as not having an >10-bit LUT or 30-bit deepcolor. The display is not factory calibrated, memory card reader is absent, and there is a yawning gap in the input ports section, where the U2410 excels. It offers fewer scaling options - only Fill and 4:3 modes - the 1:1 and Aspect Ratio modes are not present. The missing scaling modes mean that any content (movies, desktop resolution, etc) you output to the monitor which is not already in the 16:9 or 4:3 ratio, will end up being stretched on display. You can work around it by tasking your graphics card and video/movie player to do the scaling, as long as your hardware/software allows you to set the scaling.
Yet for a casual higher-end user or an enthusiast, this is still one of the best performing monitors, where the desired visual quality and price converge at sweet spot on the value graph. Keep in mind that it is head and shoulders above most monitors out there, to get a better product could cost twice as much! When you pivot the screen to portrait mode, logon to Gmail with multiple inboxes enabled, and find yourself able to view and deal with 200 e-mails simultaneously, all of the nit-picking above recedes into the background and a pure "feel good" factor takes over.
The Dell UltraSharp U2311H is a steal at this price, desktop PC enthusiasts better gear up for this monitor which offers great value. This Full-HD (1080p) 23-inch monitor has an IPS panel for better color reproduction than other monitors that use TN-panels. With this monitor, Dell has once again managed to pick a niche where competition is low and the U2311H turns out to be the most economical in its segment.
This monitor is more of a general "one size fits all" type that tries to appeal to everyone, and thus is very good indeed. But it does not score over products specialised for the purpose of graphics designers and gamers, two constituencies that sometimes have diametrically opposite requirements.