|Introduction and Specifications|
|When Microsoft launched Windows 8, the company gambled on consumers welcoming touch on the desktop, just as they had on mobile handheld devices, namely tablets and smartphones. It remains to be seen if that gamble will pay off, but in the meantime, peripheral makers and other hardware partners have stepped up with products built to take advantage of Windows 8's touch friendly interface. That includes Dell, which sent us its 27-inch P2714T Touch Monitor to test drive.
The P2714T brings support for 10 points of multi-touch input, so if you want to get up close and friendly with two hands, it won't wig out on you. Multi-touch support also means you and a friend can play touch-oriented games, and with 27 inches of elbow room, t's not only possible but feasible. Of course, there aren't a ton of games designed for two players on a single panel, but there are a few, especially with the concept of tabletop computing having already been introduced.
To be clear, the P2714T isn't really aimed at gamers, not as a primary audience anyway. This is a monitor that's optimized specifically for Windows 8/8.1, and the more time you spend navigating its interface, the more this monitor makes sense. Along those lines, it's a nimble display with up to 60 degrees of tilt action so you can both tap and type on the monitor itself, and the Plane-to-Line Switchng (PLS) panel technology (developed by Samsung) Dell opted to go with ensures a bright display with wide viewing angles.
After having spent ample time with this monitor running Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, we have a pretty good idea of its strengths and weaknesses. We'll share our thoughts on the following pages, but first, let's have a look at this panel's technical resume.
One thing we want to point out at right away is that even if you don't plan on taking advantage of the P2714T's built-in USB hub, you'll want to connect the included USB cable. You need to plug this in to enable touch support, otherwise you'll drive yourself batty trying to troubleshoot why your swipes and taps aren't registering.
Dell's Touch Monitors, which were introduced at the end of summer, come in three different sizes: 20-inch (E2014T), 23-inch (P2314T), and the 27-inch (P2714T) model being reviewed here. The larger two monitors both boast a Full HD 1080 (1920x1080) resolution and 10-point touch capability, while the entry-level 20-inch model features a 1600x900 resolution and 5-point touch support.
The first thing you'll notice about the P2714T is its sheer size. This is a big panel that takes up nearly as much physical real estate as a 30-inch monitor, though it looks decidedly sleeker thanks to its focus on touch. It has edge-to-edge glass with rounded corners and a thick black bezel that borders the display area. These design cues make it look more like a giant tablet than a traditional monitor.
Though it may look like a tablet, don't get any notions of carrying this thing around with you from room to room, even if you have multiple PCs throughout the home to connect it to. It's not that you can't lug the P2714T around if you're truly motivated, but at a little shy of 21 pounds, you'll quickly grow tired of carrying the display throughout your home.
Dell opted for a Plane-to-Line Switching (PLS) panel. This particular display offers a generous viewing angle of 178 degrees vertically and horizontally. It also features an 8,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio that's lit up by the LED backlight. It has a color depth of 16.7 million colors and a rated 83 percent color gamut.
On the right side of the monitor you'll find the on-screen display (OSD) controls. From top to bottom, they include a shortcut key for preset modes, shortcut key for brightness/contrast, menu button, exit button, and a power button that lights up when the panel is turned on.
Over on the other side and indented behind the panel are a pair of downstream SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports. These are not color coded blue (they're black), but they do both operate at USB 3.0 speeds.
The last set of connectors and ports are burrowed into the backside of the panel. Getting to these ports is less than convenient, so for initial setup, we suggest laying the front of the monitor flat on a soft surface. From left to right, the P2714T sports a power cable connector, DisplayPort connector, HDMI (MHL) 1 port, HDMI (MHL) 2 port, VGA port, audio line-out port, USB upstream port, two USB 2.0 ports, and a security cable port.
Around back gives a better view of the metal and plastic stand. This thing is pretty solid and adds to the weight of the unit, and combined with the heft of the display itself, you won't have to worry about minor bumps or low rumbling earthquakes shaking the P2714T off of your desktop.
There's not a whole lot in the way of cable routing. Once you have your cables plugged into the backside, it's easiest to guide the cables through the square opening of the stand. If you have a spare zip tie laying around, you can bunch the cables together to keep your OCD tendencies from flaring up.
It's also worth noting that you can hang this panel on your wall. Using a Phillips screwdriver, you can remove the stand by taking out two screws, plus four more that hold the back cover in place. Once removed, you can attach the panel to a VESA compatible wall mounting kit with a minimum weight/load bearing capacity of 7.11kg (~15.7 pounds).
Given that Dell designed this panel for Windows 8, the stand offers flexible tilt action. It doesn't quite lay flat for a true tabletop computing experience, but it is nimble enough to go from 10 degrees to 60 degrees, depending on what you're doing. At the lower angle, some will find it easier to use touch applications, such as mapping software and some games. It's also better suited for typing on a virtual keyboard when you have the panel tilted back at an extreme angle.
|Calibration and Controls|
Though the focus here is on Windows 8, Dell's panel comes with a generous amount of preset modes. They include Standard, Multimedia, Movie, Game, Text, Warm, Cool, and a Custom Color profile.
Somewhat surprising (in a good way) for a touch-oriented monitor is Dell's decision to forgo touch controls in favor of physical buttons. Pressing any of the buttons brings up the OSD, and from there navigating is an easy affair -- there are arrows and other corresponding commands that appear on the display next to each button. We didn't have any trouble hopping through the various options.
We're now using DisplayMate for Windows (www.displaymate.com) as part of our monitor evaluation process. DisplayMate's smorgasbord of tests allow us to root out potential problems areas, such as geometry distortion and color inaccuracies, to name just two.
Despite the reflective glass, we had no trouble using the P2714T in a brightly lit environment like any other monitor. What we really wanted to know, however, is how this panel compares to Dell's other high-end models, and professional level panels in general (the P2417T isn't marketed as a professional workhorse, but it does carry a pricing premium that raises performance expectations).
Running our usual gamut of tests, we were impressed overall with the panel's color reproduction. We didn't notice any egregious flaws in displaying accurate colors, and in DisplayMate's video bandwidth test, the panel scored a 98.8 out of 100, with 100 being a perfect (and unattainable) score. Values over 100 are indicative of overpeaking and compensation, and can lead to ringing and overshooting images. That isn't a problem here.
Where the P2417T starts to sweat is in black level performance. This is a monitor that likes to shine bright, and as a result, black levels just don't get dark enough. We also noticed a bit of temporary Moire interference, which DisplayMate says is usually due to pixel tracking and/or phase errors in LCD panels.
Photo performance was very good on the P2417T, though not quite as crisps as some other high end panels like Dell's own U3011. Professional photographers will want to pony up for a higher end monitor, though if your job doesn't depend on pinpoint color accuracy, the P2417T is certainly a better option than any of those budget TFT panels floating around. In fact, if you've never viewed a panel like the U3011, the P2417T is very likely to be the best looking panel you've laid eyes on.
While DisplayMate lays out a monitor's performance in black and white (and blue and green and red and...), we also take into consideration a subjective analysis. After all, you're not purchasing a monitor to view test patterns for hours on end. To see how the P2714T performs in the real world, we viewed a series of high definition movies and fired up a few games. Torturous, we know, but hey, you guys are worth every minute of our entertainment.
Compared to the plethora of inexpensive TFT monitors in the wild, Dell's P2714T runs circles around them all. Unlike cheaper panels, you don't have to worry about sitting directly in front of the P2714T, which uses a PLS panel. This means you and a roommate can watch a flick without jockeying for that prime spot in the middle.
As for how the P2714T compares with high-end IPS panels we've had in for review, the colors were a little more washed out, and darker scenes lacked the same level of detail. This is to be expected since Dell's stretching a 1920x1080 resolution across 27 inches of real estate. That said, P2714T is able to produce a bright image, and as mentioned above, viewing angles are just as generous. Even though the experience doesn't match what top shelf monitors offer, the overall experience is by no means bad.
Dirt 2 @ 1920x1080
Dell doesn't pitch the P2714T as a gaming panel, and if you're a hardcore gamer with multiple graphics cards (or a single beefy GPU), you're better served with a panel that offers a 2560x1600 resolution (or thereabouts). If your demands aren't quite as heavy, the P2714T is a surprisingly good fit for gaming. We noticed only minor ghosting in fast moving titles, but otherwise it was free from unwanted artifacts. The same complaints we mentioned for movie watching apply here as well, only they weren't as noticeable when playing games. We don't recommend paying a premium to pick up this monitor strictly for gaming, but if you're in need of a touch panel, it's above average gaming performance is certainly a welcome bonus.
|Performance Summary and Conclusion|
Windows 8 is clearly focused on touch computing, and if that's the goal, a monitor like the P2714T is a handy tool to have at your disposal. It's highly responsive to swipes and gestures, it supports 10 points of capacitive touch input, and it offers a large and flexible screen that tilts from 10 degrees to 60 degrees. Color reproduction is quite good on the P2714T, and we didn't have any trouble using the panel in brightly lit environments. We did notice the monitor struggle with black levels just a bit, and we also picked up some Moire interference, but otherwise the P2714T didn't sweat our DisplayMate benchmarks.
Dell's P2714T Touch Monitor Can Be Found For Just Under $530 On Amazon.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the asking price. It carries an MSRP of $700 (Dell has it marked down to $550 at the time of this writing, though you can find it for slightly less at Amazon), which is approaching 30-inch monitor territory. We don't want to act like a few hundred dollars is chump change, but if you're already spending this much on a monitor, the jump to a 30-inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel with a 2560x1600 resolution isn't a huge leap. Likewise, for around the same money (or less if you're willing to go with an off-brand) you can pick up a 27-inch non-touch monitor with PLS panel and a 2560x1440 resolution.
This is where Dell has your wallet in a vice. While you can upgrade to a bigger, better monitor for not a whole lot more (street pricing, at least), you'll lose out on touch input, which is what the P2714T is all about. That's really the bottom line here -- this is a somewhat expensive monitor that's big in size and only average in resolution, but great for touch input. If you've bought into the whole touch craze that Microsoft is selling on the desktop and you're willing to invest a few bucks to exploit Windows 8's touch capabilities, the P2714T is a very good option with a few bonuses, like MHL support and surprisingly good gaming performance. However, if you're more interested in bang-for-buck performance and are still willing to spend a chunk of change (without touch support), Dell's U3011 is a better bet.