Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dell U2212HM 21.5 Widescreen Monitor

Review: Dell U2212HM 21.5 Widescreen Monitor.  In summary, this is a nice monitor at a good price with no complaints.  The monitor is sharp, bright, visible from wide angles.  It feels well-built and great connection options.  $230, direct from Dell.

The Dell Ultrasharp U2212HM 21.5-inch monitor with LED backlight is a fairly typical monitor with a really wide screen.  1920x1080 Full HD.

I chose this model over others because the screen rotates vertically and I thought this would be handy.

Photo: At home, rotated vertically, next to a Gateway 19.5" wide screen monitor, with a full-sized keyboard and mouse.  Even with this monitor, I still like to run with a dual monitor setup and this is my new, standard setup. 

Rotating the monitor to Landscape makes it a little too wide for a second monitor, pushing it too far to the right.  As a single landscape monitor, it would be great.

Pros and Cons to Vertical

The most obvious drawback to the vertical (portrait) position is the 1080 pixel width.  Some programs are now being designed for 1280 and admittedly, most people run this monitor in Landscape.

On reason to consider a vertical monitor is this observation:  Unless you are willing to fiddle with multiple windows on the screen, most of the width is wasted.  Consider these screen shots, which is typical with many programs running fullscreen:  The width is wasted.  But look at the glorious depth when in a vertical / portrait mode...

Spreadsheets probably like the width but they also like depth and an argument can be made both directions.

But other programs, such as photo editors, Visual Studio and other development environments make good use of wide screens, storing palette windows, toolbars and other goodies.  In a narrow orientation, these types of programs become constricted. 

In my case, this is a great reason for a second monitor -- one wide and one narrow.  I get the best of both.

Dell sells other, larger monitors, that have a (width) of 1200 pixels (not 1280) and you will have to buy a 27" screen -- which is monstrous and you might not tolerate such a large monitor on your desk. For this reason, I stayed with a dual-monitor setup.

I was undecided about which orientation to use, but after several months, the vertical proved best -- but I would only do this with a dual monitor system.  Admittedly, with bifocal glasses, the vertical orientation is challenging, but survivable.  It is nice to have the option. 

There is some humor to be found in the Windows Desktop Properties screen.  Look how I had to position the screens:

If you choose to rotate back and forth between the two orientations, you will have to fiddle with the control-panel screen positions each time. 

This is one of the few monitors on the market with movements along each axis.  The monitor's bottom edge can be dropped all the way down to the base and it can tilt -4 degrees forward in case the monitor is on a top-shelf on a factory floor.

The stand has a a cable run.  When rotating the monitor from landscape to portrait, cables have enough freedom to slip as the screen rotates.

Video Card vs Monitor

You may have a concern about your video card and memory with a 1920x1080 resolution screen.  I have a run-of-the-mill, boring $40 NVidia Gforce 210 512MB -- which is a dual-head video card.  It drives this monitor (DVI) and the Gateway wide-screen (as VGA) with no issues. 

My desktop has an HDMI video out but the monitor has a newer type of connection called a DisplayPort. With an adapter, not supplied, I could convert between the two, but this is not worth the trouble with the DVI-D port.  Besides, whenever you use a mother-board-supplied video, you are using system-RAM to drive the video and for this reason, I still prefer a dedicated video subsystem.  (In the future, CPU chips will have dedicated video processing and my attitude towards this may change.)

DisplayPorts are relatively new to the scene.  The technology is not meant to replace HDMI, instead, it has been optimized for computer tasks.  See this Wikipedia article for details.  From a laptop's point of view, here is a comparison showing the differences between the ports:

If Wishes were Fishes

When I bought the monitor, I was looking for a glossy-screen, much like I have seen in high-end laptops and on Apple desktops.  Glossy screens look sharper (even though they have the same number of pixels and the same pixel size), but Dell doesn't appear to sell such a device.  There is some argument to be made for high-gloss screens being a pain in sunlight.

I was tempted by Dell's newer line of "UltraSlim" monitors, a new line of monitors that are half the thickness, but decided while facing a monitor, all monitors appear paper-thin.  As long as it is not a CRT, the thickness is not worth a premium.  I'll revisit this belief when OLED monitors are affordable.  With the stand, the Ultra-Slim occupied nearly the same depth so nothing was gained and the monitor was not adjustable. 

Comparison with Less-Expensive Models

Dell sells a similarly-sized ST2220L 21.5 1920x1080 HD Widescreen for $140 and it has similar specifications, same resolution, same dot-pitch and brightness, but there are differences.

One difference is in the Dynamic Contrast Ratio:
The ST220 has 8M:1, compared to this monitor's 2M:1, which implies some of these numbers are a bunch of hooey.  The ST220's screen technology is an older, less-sharp "TN" technology and it has a simpler stand.  Finally, this model has an HDMI port instead DisplayPort, which may limit its usefulness over the lifetime of the monitor.

Technical Specs, direct from Dell's site:

54.6cm / 21.5" diagonal with 100% area viewable
IPS - Inplane Switching Panel
1920 x 1080 pixels, full HD
0.2475mm  (Better than many)
LED Backlit (now typical with almost all monitors)

250 cd/m2 Brightness
(typical for most mid-range monitors.  Nicer monitors can go up to 350.)

1000:1 Contrast Ratio
2M:1 Dynamic Contrast Ratio (which as near as I can tell, is mumbo-jumbo)
8ms (grey to grey) Response Time (hard to compare with other brands)
178 degree viewing angle (nice)
16M colors, 82% gamut (seems fairly typical for a mid-range monitor)

Dimensions of Interest:
Width:  20.2" Landscape
Height: 14" low to 19" extended
Depth: 7.2"

Width: 12" Portrait
Height: 21" low to 23" extended
Depth: 7.2"

DisplayPort (DP)
4 USB 2.0 downstream ports (standard USB plugs)
1 USB 2.0 upstream (hub) port
DC Power Plug for Dell SoundBar

Included Cables:
Does not contain a DisplayPort cable, but few need this.

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