|Introduction and Specifications|
When you think of the "ultimate computer upgrade", visions of powerful graphics cards, a blistering fast CPU, a spacious-high density hard drive or perhaps another Gig or two of memory to feed your ever-hungry OS might come to mind. On the surface, these are all very reasonable options, and depending on your specific usage model, indeed they all might offer significant value, enhancing your overall computing experience. Though we would offer a different perspective perhaps.
If you haven't recently considered the screen you're looking at all this wonderful new technology through, you're probably doing yourself a disservice. We'd offer you should think of the modern computer monitor as a kin to your speakers in a high-end audio or home theater setup. That is to say, it doesn't matter how powerful that amplifier might be; with all the bells, whistles, and acoustic fidelity you could throw at it, your setup is still going to sound like something designed by Playskool if you don't have a solid set of speakers that can accurately and dynamically reproduce the source audio feed.
In other words, GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI with a quad-core Intel QX6700 at the helm are only going to look as good as the screen that is displaying their output. And if you're a Professional Workstation/CAD type, you know all too well that image fidelity is something that has to be maintained throughout the pipeline, from generation and rendering to display. We'd go so far as to say that a quality LCD screen should be one of, if not your primary focus, when it comes to system configuration and component selection.
So when you think of the "ultimate computer upgrade", you definitely want to have an LCD option on your holiday shopping list. In terms of an LCD panel that could be considered "ultimate", Dell's 30" wide screen UltraSharp 3007WFP that debuted earlier this year, is a can't-go-wrong choice, if you feel the need for cavernous desktop space at insanely high resolutions (2560X1600). Pricey to be sure, the 3007WFP series delivers awe-inspiring image quality and a screen area that will occasionally require you to pan your head to take it all in, if you're sitting within traditional desktop range.
And of course, technology has marched on and Dell has decided to buff this line of monster LCDs out a bit more by enhancing the color fidelity and contrast ratio of the screen. Today, we have our take on Dell's new UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC, a 92% color gamut capable LCD monitor. With a full thirty inches of screen real estate and a new W-CCFL (wide cold-cathode florescent lighting) backlight, the new HC revision of the 3007WFP is targeted at increasing image quality in an LCD that has already earned high marks in the industry.
A quick scan of the spec table above reveals a few obvious differences between the current 3007WFP and this new 3007WFP-HC model. First, the 3007WFP-HC has a 1000:1 contrast ratio versus the 3007WFP of old at 700:1. In addition, this new panel also sports a slightly faster pixel response time at 8ms grey-to-grey and 12ms black-to-black, versus the 11/14 specs of the older standard model. Lastly, the new 3007WFP-HC comes capable of reproducing 92% of the NTSC color gamut, while the 3007WFP, as well as many standard LCD panels on the market today, are only capable of 72% reproduction. We'll dig into that a bit next.
|W-CCFL Backlighting and Color Gamut|
For starters, we should note that this new Dell monitor is built around an LM3001WQ1 LCD panel from LG Philips. The key technology behind this panel is its Wide Cold-Cathode Florescent Lighting (or W-CCFL) backlight. This type of technology has historically been employed only in high end HD LCD TVs, but the Dell 3007WFP-HC is one of the first to employ this technology in a computer monitor targeted product.
Represented above is a cross-section diagram of a typical LCD panel. The backlight in an LCD panel is traditionally filtered by a diffuser that provides a consistent, even amount of lighting across the panel. As voltage is applied to the liquid crystals to generate per-pixel color through the subpixel color filter, the backlight provides the right amount of accurate luminescence to display the color properly, with good fidelity, and uniformity. Traditional, standard CCFL backlights have only been able to display about 72 - 76% of the NTSC color gamut (a US standard used to characterize CRT and TV performance).
The Wide CCFL backlight in the new Dell 3007 WFP-HC, however, is able to display 92% of the NTSC color gamut. The end result is better accuracy, especially with reds and greens, in addition to a better overall contrast ratio. Interestingly enough, this better color spectral range somewhat comes at the expense of the general brightness of the panel, since the new UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC is only rated at 300 cd/m2, whereas the 3007WFP of old is rated at 400 cd/m2. The end result in the real world isn't that significant, however, in terms of image brightness but we'll delve more into this in our LCD performance sections ahead.
|First Impressions and Construction|
The UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC, like its older sibling, is an absolute monster of a screen to behold when you first see one in action. Forget everything you've come to appreciate about your 19 or 20" panel, this panel is without a doubt, utterly huge.
For most folks sitting in front of a 30" screen typically is something you would arrange at a 10 foot distance, as in a living room, with a sofa, coffee table, and the obligatory can of beer nuts of course. However, the UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC is meant to sit on your desktop at about 2 or 3 feet away, essentially right in your face. It's OK, you can still bring the beer nuts--you're going to need to keep your strength up anyway to take this big, beautiful panel in.
The base and stand of the unit is made out of a heavy-duty cast metal material and it's substantial, weighing in at about 10lbs just for the stand alone The stand also comes with built in rubber bushing feet so it's kind to any surface it's placed on, and sure-footed as well. Together with its base and stand, the unit weighs in at 35lbs or so, which isn't as much as you might expect for 30 inches of screen area. The stand and its mounting bracket on the panel do lack a bit of range when it comes to height and orientation adjustment. In fact, those of you looking for a 90 degree vertical rotation in desktop publishing applications, are out of luck as the orientation of the panel is locked in landscape mode. Height adjustment definitely also seems a bit limited too, with just 3.5" of play, up or down, available.
Beyond that, the UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC is a well built screen with a relatively thin bezel and shallow depth that doesn't take anymore room on your desktop than is absolutely necessary. That said, again make no mistake, this panel is enormous. Be sure you have plenty of desktop area available because this LCD going to own a large portion of the air space directly in front of you.
|Inputs and Controls|
The 3007WFP-HC is fairly sparse in terms of connectivity options but we'll take you through a few of the salient points.
From a video source input standpoint, there is but one option and one single input on Dell's line of UltraSharp 3007WFP LCDs. You get DVI and DVI-only, just one thanks. Frankly, this is the one major gripe we'd levy with this panel. For such a high-end product, it certainly seems logical to us that Dell would provide more of a selection of signal input options, like HD Component, S-Video and VGA, all of which can be found on Dell's lower-end UltraSharp 2405FPW and 2407 24" panels.
Dell did carry over four USB ports, as well as their 9-in-2 Media Card Reader setup that can also be found on the standard 3007WFP. These connectivity options are a welcomed addition and do offer the user a nice convenience without the need for cluttering the desktop with an external card reader. On a side note, in testing with our 2GB CF cards, we found the reader to work flawlessly over its speedy USB 2.0 connection.
Shown here with a green test fill on the screen, you can see the UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC's user control buttons on the bottom right corner of the panel. There are three in total: Power, Brightness + and Brightness -. There are also no on-screen menus to navigate through for image adjustment or positioning. In other words, since you're going to be using the panel exclusively through a DVI connection only, there isn't a huge need to mess with adjustments anyway. Regardless, it might have been nice to have a few more options in this area as well.
Clearly, Dell saves a ton of cost without the need for on-screen controls, input selection and position controls etc., when going with a single DVI input option on the panel. The Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC is targeted at doing one thing really well; delivering a huge amount of screen real estate at an insanely high resolution with optimal image fidelity. We'll let you know if the product hits the mark with respect to this target, next.
|Comparisons and Image Quality Testing|
We put the new Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC through its paces with Everest Ultimate Edition 2006 from Lavalys. This diagnostic and benchmark tool suite allows you to test many aspects of system features and performance. Everest's Monitor Diagnostics provide a few key test patterns that allow us to evaluate various aspects such as color accuracy, uniformity and convergence.
Above we did our best to capture a side by side image of both the 3007WFP and 3007WFP-HC running Everest's LCD calibration routine. This test pattern provides gradient bars of red, green, and blue primary colors as well as gray scale. In this test, though it was hard to get both of these huge screens entirely into one frame, we were able to see how each panel reproduced colors and contrast over their DVI connections from the same graphics card. In our test system, an NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card was driving both panels from its dual-link DVI connectors. Frankly our digital camera nearly completely negated the tangible color accuracy benefits of the new 3007WFP-HC 92% color gamut capable screen. However, in our test lab environment the red band on this screen especially was noticeably more accurate, making the standard 3007WFP panel's output look a tad orange comparatively. The same held true for the green bar in this shot, although the effect was slightly less pronounced. In general, all colors were definitely more saturated, rich and accurate on the 3007WFP-HC; so much so that after a couple of weeks of side-by-side use, our eye's natural preference easily fell upon and were attracted to the updated panel's image quality.
In all of the other test patterns, the 3007WFP-HC produce perfectly straight lines for convergence and focus, with zero distortion evident even at the far corners of the screen. This 30" panel didn't even struggle with the solid color fill tests, presenting virtually perfect, uniform color on every inch of the screen. In addition, contrast tests did show a perceivable difference in output versus the older 3007WFP model, where subtle shades of square gray-on-gray patterns offered a more dynamic image quality representation.
All technical analysis aside, we then moved toward actual multimedia performance testing. We downloaded a few 1080p Windows Media clips from Microsoft's WMV HD Content Showcase site. Scaled to full screen, these clips really showcase the hardware that is processing and displaying the output.
HD Video Playback:
Though we did our best with a tripod and low light photography, these digital pictures simply are not able to capture the true image fidelity that the 3007WFP-HC is capable of rendering with a high definition video feed. Though our images here are impressive, to see the clips in action is a completely different experience altogether. These two captures were taken from The Rules of Attraction trailer clip and we were looking at two areas of detail in particular to assess the performance of this LCD, those being natural flesh tones and dark area and scene detail. Natural beauty, Kate Bosworth just glows in this close-up shot, which obviously is heavily saturated with warm backlighting, and lots of camera lens filtering. On the older 3007WFP, Kate looked fantastic (not hard for her we suppose) no question about it. On the new 3007WFP-HC the image was just a bit more saturated and defined; not in a jaw-dropping sort of way but distinct and noticeable nonetheless.
Clifton Collins Jr., aka Rupert Guest in the film, wielding something on the order of a Browning 9mm semi-automatic, shows up bright and crazed-angry in the foreground, while the background coffee colored dresser, strewn with various dark pieces of paraphernalia, is equally detailed and rich. On the 3007WFP-HC you don't miss a trick and this panel could easily double as a HDTV device with an HDTV tuner card installed.
For our fast-moving video test, we chose Adrenaline Rush, a clip that was recorded at 720p and delivers a few scenes at high speed that push the limits of the pixel response time of our panels. Frankly, we didn't observe much if any difference between the Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP and the new UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC in this test, save for perhaps more vibrant colors on the new HC version panel. In terms of pixel response time performance, both 30" LCD were more than capable of displaying the high-speed moments of this video quite easily.
Half Life 2: Episode 1 And Robo Blitz
Both games, driven from a single GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card, looked absolutely magnificent at this resolution with all the additional pixel processing turned up. Again, our standard 3007WFP responded very well with fast ghost-free response times, good contrast and vivid color. The new 3007WFP-HC however, definitely provided better contrast in darker scenes, as well as a generally more saturated and vibrant picture throughout. Overall, things just seemed to "pop" a bit more with the new UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC, if that's possible for an already eye-popping 30" LCD.
|Our Summary and Conclusion|
Performance Summary: In all of our technical and subjective testing the new Dell 3007WFP-HC performed on par with or better than its previous version counterpart, the 3007WFP; a true yardstick of measure to be sure. Though we did find ourselves turning up the brightness a bit on this 300 cd/m2 capable LCD, the panel had significantly more accurate color reproduction across the spectrum and offered better contrast throughout. The 3007WFP-HC has a slightly cooler presentation overall as well, which helps with brighter, more accurate whites but this did not take away from the panel's capability to generate very vibrant colors with excellent detail, even in darker scenes where subtle gradients are lost with lesser quality back-lighting.
At this point in time, Dell's older UltraSharp 3007WFP standard panel has a street price of around $1370. Until February '07 or so, the new UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC will only be sold with select Dell XPS systems, somewhat disappointing for some of you we're sure. You'll just have to save a few holiday pennies until mid Q1 and then we should see the new 3007WFP-HC retailing for around $1699, which is about where the first edition 3700WFP retailed for at launch.
Though we still feel Dell could have offered a few more connectivity options, as well and a bit more range of motion with its stand, it's safe to say that this gorgeous new 30" panel lives up to the rather lofty goal of refinement of the already impressive standard 3007WFP. The UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC is what we would consider the pinnacle of high-end, large computer monitor LCD screens. This LCD is up to virtually any task with an enormous amount of screen real-estate, excellent contrast, color reproduction, uniformity and pixel response. If you're looking for that "ultimate computer upgrade", come February '07, the good elves at Dell will have a new present for you. In the mean time, if you're considering an entire Dell system purchase and have a hankering for high resolutions and lots of Vista desktop area, we say go for it. We're giving the Dell 3007WFP-HC HotHardware's Editor's Choice Award for innovation and excellence.