|Introduction and Specifications|
|In case you didn't get the memo, the 4K Ultra HD revolution has begun. What's been remarkable about the ongoing transition from Full HD 1080p to 4K Ultra HD is that hardware makers and content creators didn't get stuck in a 'chicken and egg' scenario. Typically when new technology emerges, hardware makers wait for software developers to come out with content that can take advantage of the new capabilities, while software developers are reluctant to code for new hardware until there's a big enough userbase to justify the investment. In this case, we're talking about monitor manufactuerers and 4K video producers, both of which have been willing to take a leap of faith.
On the content side, services like YouTube and Netflix are already serving up 4K streams, while hardware makers like Dell are stepping to the plate with displays that can playback 4K video in all its native glory. The latter is what we have here for review -- a Dell UltraSharp UP3214Q monitor with a 31.5-inch panel built by Sharp.
In addition to having four times as many pixels to play with compared to a 1080p monitor, the UP3214Q boasts wide color coverage including 99 percent AdobeRGB and 100 percent sRGB, along with wide viewing angles (176 degrees vertically and horizontally). Short and sweet, Dell is positioning the UP3214Q as a high-end workhorse for professionals and enthusiasts alike. The question is, can it deliver? That's what we aim to find out.
Like pretty much all high-end 4K monitors, the UP3214Q uses an IGZO (Indium gallium zinc oxide) panel. Sharp was the first (and as far as we know, the only) manufacturer to mass produce IGZO panels, which by their nature allow for much higher pixel densities with lower power consumption than traditional LCD monitors based on amorphous silicon (a-Si). IGZO's main advantage over amorphous silicon is much higher electron mobility. If you want to dive more into the technical details (and advantages), Sharp does a decent job going over the highlights on its website.
The UP3214Q is Dell's largest 4K monitor, though it's not the only one the company carries. Dell also offers a 28-inch model (P2315Q) and a 24-inch model (UP2414Q). Both the 24-inch and 31.5-inch models are higher quality monitors with Dell's "UltraSharp" designation, whereas the 28-inch model doesn't boast the same level of color accuracy.
You'll need a big desk to accommodate the UP3214Q. It's wider than Dell's U3011 by about a couple of inches, though the panel portion is actually slightly shorter. It's also thinner, though overall the two monitors are comparable in size, with the UP3214Q taking up a bit more space because it sports a 31.5-inch panel compared to the U3011's 30-inch screen.
We already talked about the UP3214Q using an IGZO panel, though one thing we didn't touch on is that it appears to be a newer revision that what Asus or Sharp have used in their 31.5" 4K displays. Either that, or Dell found some other way to offer improved visuals compared to earlier IGZO-based monitors. Even compared to to Dell's own 28-inch 4K display referenced above, the UP3214Q offers superior color accuracy, and it does so right out of the box -- the UP3214Q comes factory calibrated.
Depending on what you're using the monitor for, you can calibrate the UP3214Q even further using Dell's UltraSharp Color Calibration Solution software with the optional X-Rite i1Display Pro colorimeter, a piece of equipment that's sold separately for around $250 street. That adds to the bottom line, though many professionals would consider it a necessary expense for mission critical applications. There's also a user-accessible hardware look-up tablet (LUT) that's typically only found on professional-grade monitors.
A top-down view gives a better glimpse of the UP3214Q's comparatively slim profile. Granted, this panel isn't going to give some of the ultra-thin monitors on the market a run for their money, but as far as large screens go, this one's pretty svelte -- the panel itself is less than 2 inches thick. Including the stand, the UP3214Q measures 19 ~ 22.5 inches (H) by 29.5 inches (W) by 8.4 inches (D). The panel itself weighs 20.33 pounds, in case you're planning to use the VESA mounts to stick it on your wall.
Around back you can see the metal stand that holds the panel upright. One thing we really like about the stand is that it attaches to the backside without any tools -- it just pops into place. To remove the stand, you just press a button on the back of the monitor to free its grip and it will come right off.
This is a height-adjustable stand that also supports tilt and swivel functions, though it doesn't rotate, meaning you can't spin the panel upright for portrait mode. There's a hole in the back to route cables, and though not shown, Dell includes a lid you can attach over the I/O section. We prefer to keep the lid off for easier access to the ports, though it's a nice option to have if you want dress up the looks a bit.
The majority of the UP3214Q's I/O ports are hidden behind a removable panel on the back of the monitor. From left to right you'll find the AC power connector, DisplayPort input, Mini DisplayPort input, HDMI connector, USB upstream port, and three SuperSpeed USB 3.0 downstream ports.
Sitting outside of the I/O foxhole are a couple more ports -- on the left is a security lock slot and on the right is another SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port, which also happens to be the only one that supports battery charging.
Finally, you may have noticed two rectangle outlines on the silver portion of the bezel in the picture above. Those are Dell Soundbar (sold separately) mounting slots. The UP3214Q doesn't come with built-in speakers, but if you need audio to be a part of your monitor, there's your solution.
We're still waiting on the market to deliver affordable large-screen 4K monitors with refresh rates higher than 60Hz, but in the meantime, Dell's UP3214Q offers a 60Hz option at 3840x2160 for users who have all their ducks in a row. To run at that refresh rate, here's your checklist based on Dell's documentation:
To enable the feature, use the On-Screen Display (OSD) buttons to navigate to Display Settings > DisplayPort 1.2. Change it from Disabled to Enabled and you're good to go. This option essentially configures the monitor for MST (Multi-Stream Transport) rather than SST (Single-Stream Transport)
Note that you can still run at 3840x2160 using an HDMI cable, but you'll be limited to 30Hz, which can result in stuttering and lag, even at the desktop (mouse cursor movements are noticeably choppy). Your best bet is to use the included DisplayPort cable and run in MST mode, even if it means upgrading your graphics card.
|Calibration and Controls|
There are several preset modes to toggle through when using the UP3214Q. They include Standard, Multimedia, Movie, Game, Paper, Color Temp, Color Space, and Custom Color.
Like the U3011, Dell went with a combination of touch sensitive buttons to navigate the OSD along with a physical power button. The touch sensitive buttons glow white when you tap them. We found the controls to be responsive and better than most touch sensitive controls, some of which have a tendency to outright ignore finger taps or exhibit lag.
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.
Starting with the negatives, we noticed a bit of jitter in DisplayMate's pixel tracking tests, which later reared its head during the Moire test. Black levels performance could have been better too, which you can adjust somewhat using the brightness and contrast controls, sometimes at the expense of color accuracy. However, light leakage wasn't a problem with our unit.
On the flip side, white level performance is excellent, and we also found gray-scale performance to be above par. The UP3214Q is able to splash vivid and crisp colors across the screen that are comparable to some of the highest end monitors we've reviewed, which is especially important if your livelihood depends on photography or a related field.
DisplayMate includes a handful of photos to cycle through, plus we use our own collection. The UP3214Q handled them all with aplomb, especially high resolution photos where details are everything. Given what we've seen from other IGZO monitors, we were a bit surprised the UP3214Q did as well as it did, in terms of passing muster for professional use case scenarios.
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 UP3214Q 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.
The few issues we noticed in DisplayMate didn't seem to affect real-world performance while watching movies. Brightly lit scenes popped off the screen, and dark scenes were detailed without being washed out. The real challenge is finding 4K content -- there's not a ton out there, though you can find some videos on YouTube that run at 4K, as well as some other places.
Gaming performance was a pleasant surprise for the most part. Dell doesn't advertise the UP3214Q as a gaming monitor, which would be a tough sell with an 8ms response time. However, it performed fairly well in our tests. We didn't notice much ghosting or trailing images at 60Hz, though there was a bit of screen tear as objects flew by, which was obviously more pronounced when switching over to 30Hz.
The real downside to gaming on a 4K panel is that you need a meaty graphics card (or two) to drive that kind of resolution, especially in more demanding games.
The bulk of our testing was performed using the included DisplayPort cable connected to a Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Ti graphics card. DisplayPort 1.2 (DP 1.2) can run this panel at 60Hz because it supports Multi-Stream Transport technology, which enables multiple monitors to be used on a single DisplayPort connector. What does that have to do with 60Hz?
Well, it's a trick that display makers use to enable a 60Hz refresh rate on this current generation of UHD screens. It's accomplished by dividing the display in half and having each of the two sections run at 1920x2160. Using MST technology, supported video cards can merge the two tiled sections for a single 3840x2160 display at twice the refresh rate (60Hz). This is how all current 4K displays work, and unfortunately, things can get wonky.
In our testing, the display would sometimes go black or fail to return to the correct setting after going into sleep mode. There were also times when only half the screen was visible. These anomalies weren't constant, nor are they unique to Dell, but they do pop up every now and then when running 4K monitors. There is still plenty of work to do on the firmware and driver fronts, and a myriad of non-VESA compliant DP cables also permeate the market, which can cause a host of other issues.
For the best possible experience at this time, be sure to use a compliant DP cable (a list of known good cables is available here), along with the latest drivers for your graphics card, the latest firmware for the monitor and graphics card.
|Performance Summary and Conclusion|
Once you experience a 4K monitor, it's terribly difficult returning to a pedestrian 1080p display, or even a 2560x1600 monitor, especially when you play around with one that performs as well as the Dell UP3214Q. Unlike some earlier (and lower quality) 4K monitors that use IGZO technology, the UP3214Q uses a high quality panel with superb color reproduction. We were especially impressed with its white and gray level performance, and were pleasantly surprised to see it could even handle gaming.
Dell's UltraSharp 31.5-inch UP3214Q 4K Monitor Can Be Found For Just Over $2,700 On Amazon.
For office workers, photography buffs, content creators, game designers, and power users in general, Dell's UP3214Q is the go-to 4K monitor. The only caveat (other than price) is you'll want to make sure you're equipped to run it at 60Hz, which offers a much smoother experience than 30Hz, even when just navigating Windows. It's a pricey panel, but you also have to keep in mind that you're paying a premium for several coveted features, including the 4K resolution, factory calibration, built-in LUT, USB 3.0 connectivity, and a swank advanced exchange warranty that lasts 3 years.