When getting into the 4K game, even Dell has enough options to be rather confusing to the average buyer. But there’s a reason the U2718Q 27-inch UHD monitor made my list. It hit in all the right spots.
Dell is a top name in the monitor business, but much more so on the consumer end and less as much in the high-end photography space. But that has also changed in the last several years as Dell, similarly to LG, has released a lineup of factory-calibrated, wide-gamut, color-precise monitors. For Dell, that’s the PremierColor line of monitors that features full sRGB and Adobe RGB (and 97.7 percent P3) coverage.
[This article has been updated with an added note at the end.]
Nearly three times the price of the standard, non-wide gamut versions, these are a tough sell for anyone that doesn’t really need it. So to see if it’s worth it, I took a look at the lower-end version that covers only 75 percent of the Adobe RGB color space and 99.9 percent sRGB.
The U2718Q is a 27-inch 4K monitor that, above all else, looks fantastic. Admittedly, that is something I wanted out of a monitor, as it was going to be in the living room. Bringing an ultra-thin, nearly bezel-less display into our living space certainly helped sell it to the girlfriend. But I’ll admit part of me just wanted that for a clean setup, too. And it really does look better than any other (non-Apple) monitor I've had.
This monitor has plenty of I/O ports as well in terms of serving as a USB dock, but I think most professionals will prefer having access through whatever hubs they most likely already use that are easier access, as I’ve only ever used monitor ports for permanently attached devices (i.e. calibration light sensors, Wacom tablets, and printers). All of these are for devices with low requirements, so I just don’t put as much weight on this as others might anyway. For me, all the data goes through a separate Thunderbolt dock, and the monitor goes into that.
The U2718Q has a mix of reviews. Some love it without question and think it’s the best thing in the world. Others complain about the greens. And sure enough, when I first took it out the box and connected it, I was rather appalled by the lime green. Until I calibrated it, nearly every green on the entire screen was somewhere between positively key lime and highlighter green.
Thankfully, calibration helped, but even that needed fine-tuning. I still pulled the greens back. Calibration always wants to dim the monitors past my taste. And while that may be slightly more accurate, I usually push it back up a bit. This monitor took a little more turning up, though — likely because the software was just: “Less of that. Oh my God.”
Now, hopefully that hasn’t completely turned you off of this monitor because, honestly, it’s been pretty spectacular ever since. For anyone not doing a lot of printing, the 99.9 percent sRGB coverage is plenty. And the screen is sharp. There’s also extremely good uniformity and no visible backlight bleed — this is built well. But to be fair, that’s about where it ends. And if you really do color-critical work, you may want to consider something with more coverage. Adobe RGB coverage is nowhere near where it should be for the discerning pro. And the greens, although acceptable, are still far from workable for color-critical work.
What I Liked
- Looks incredible
- Great resolution
- Works/connects reliably again and again without issue
- Good menu system with nice, discrete buttons
- Superb for non-color-critical or non-print work
- Price is pretty good
What I Didn’t Like
- Color (or lack thereof) is the biggest issue, here. 75 percent Adobe RGB just isn’t enough. And those greens…
- Even with the lacking color coverage, the greens should not be so vibrant
- It does take just a couple more seconds to load the computer's image when connected (but that's more the computer processing the change onto a 4K monitor)
Although I actually haven’t had actual issues since the calibration when it comes to printing, the U2718Q is certainly lacking when it comes to color. If I had to do it again, I would have gotten the BenQ SW2700PT I also recently reviewed because color still matters to me a little more than I planned (but then no one plans for greens to be that bright, either). The BenQ does not have the 4K resolution or the ultra-slim profile (though it’s not bad), but it does have superb out-of-the-box color that hardly shifted after a calibration. It also covers all your color spaces adequately enough for any professional printing setup. And the QHD resolution is actually plenty (I discuss why I actually would not go for 4K for photography work in that review as well). For me, 4K actually produces elements that are still a bit too small when considering the distance I'm sitting away from the monitor. And getting a 30-inch or larger monitor is seriously just too much to look at (you're literally turning your head just to see from one side to the other).
The best part about the BenQ is its price. It’s only $150 more than the U2718Q and provides so much more for the working photographer. That said, for video work that is only ever consumed on a screen, this Dell makes more than enough sense. Of course, the other option is upgrading to Dell’s UP2718Q (note the “P”). But that PremierColor version costs a staggering $1,342 compared to the $449 of its cheaper counterpart and doesn’t look nearly as sexy (obviously, the price is the concerning part). And that’s why I think the SW2700PT hits that sweet spot well. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another monitor that covers all of those bases at its $599 price.
For those that decide they don’t need the best color around and absolutely want 4K (or if video is your main gig), I can still definitely recommend the U2718Q. At the time of this writing, there’s actually a used one on B&H for $313.95 that I would have jumped on had I seen it. That’s cheap. Otherwise, you can pick it up regularly for $449 with free expedited shipping.
[UPDATE]: It was brought to my attention that there was a firmware update for this model. I had at first wrongly assumed mine would not need it, as I purchased it quite a bit after this update. However, it turns out that my monitor did have the old firmware and was also part of an earlier production run compared to the latest ones. In updating the firmware, I since discovered a separate, unrelated issue and am in the process of getting a replacement with a newer model with updated firmware and a later production date. This article will be updated when I have something to report once I replace the monitor with the new one, but the update is said to fix the terrible green cast issues.
[UPDATE 2]: After inquiring about this, it did turn out that my monitor needed updating, as expected. However, the USB issues prevented me from being able to update, so a replacement was sent. And indeed, this is what should (and will) happen in any similar situation. Amazingly, my replacement arrived the next day with complimentary overnight shipping. I just put the old one in the box the new one came in and sent it back. Easy! And the minute I started it up, it was obvious there was a major difference. I really am the type of person that hates to complain. But even then I know the original monitor was off — at least a little bit. This new version confirmed everything: it's a night and day difference. And I can now fully recommend it. Dealing with having to replace this was a hassle, but a mild one considering that's just the way life is sometimes. I still think 4K isn't really necessary for photo editing (makes much more sense for video). It's just a tad overkill. But the colors are great, and I'm still very happy with the purchase.