Early on we said that 30-inch monitors are now relatively affordable, and we want to qualify that statement. If you were to shop Dell's U3011, you'd end up spending anywhere from around $1,000 (street price with the occasional coupon code) to $1,400 (MSRP). That's not cheap, and we don't mean to suggest otherwise. Our point is that graphics professionals and enthusiasts with the requisite coin can viably shop a 30-inch monitor, whereas just a few short years ago, these were high-luxury items with exorbitant price tags to match their elite status. Even still today you can find 30-inch monitors that cost more than twice as much (we're giving you the stink-eye, NEC). So, relatively speaking, a 30-inch panel like the U3011 is affordable.
Maybe you agree with that line of reasoning and maybe you don't. Either way, Dell's UltraSharp U3011 is a superb 30-inch monitor with flexible connectivity and a feature-set that belies its price tag. Compared to HP's ZR30w, the U3011 allows you to do more. There are more ports than a sailor can shake a stick at, including two HDMI 1.3a ports, so you can hook up your Xbox 360 and Blu-ray player simultaneously and switch between the two on a whim. When it's time to work, you can fire up your PC that's connected to one of the two DVI-D ports or the DisplayPort. And that's not to mention the multi-panel support offered over DisplayPort expansion. If you need that type of flexibility, then the U3011 is the obvious choice over the ZR30w, which just comes with a single DVI-D port and DisplayPort.
In terms of overall display performance, we give the slight edge to the ZR30w, though not by much (we felt that color reproduction on HP's panel was ever-so-slightly better, and light diffusion was less of an issue). By all means, the U3011 is an excellent monitor that's absolutely fantastic for watching movies, playing games, editing photos or rendering high-end workstation imaging requirements, right out of the box. It's also tweaker-friendly with robust OSD controls, which is not something that can be said about HP's panel.
So, if we had to choose between HP's ZR30w and Dell's UltraSharp U3011, which one would we choose? As with most decisions, it all depends. The ZR30w is a marginally better panel, and cheaper to boot. On the other hand, Dell's U3011 is also excellent and offers far more connectivity options, which we feel is worth paying a little extra for. Put a gun to our head (figuratively, folks) and we'll choose the U3011.