Thursday, January 3, 2008 10:19 AM
The $1999, 30-inch Dell 3008WFP beats other monitors to the punch as the first display equipped with the new DisplayPort connection. But its graphics performance, though respectable, trails that of other similar-size monitors. (For our look at other large displays, see "The Wide World of Monitors.")
As of this writing, no graphics cards yet have a DisplayPort. (New boards are expected to be available from nVidia and AMD in the first or second quarter of 2008.) Still,in our testsconducted with a dual-link DVI connection, the monitor earned a Very Good rating for text; Excel spreadsheets and fonts in general looked extremely sharp. Graphics tests yielded mixed results. Though the 3008WFP handled Web pages with aplomb, it proved an average performer on colorful pictures, such as a photo of fruit slices and a portrait of a group of people. As a result, it received a Good rating for graphics.
In size and shape, the digital DisplayPort connector looks similar to an HDMI port (which the display also has). Dell thoughtfully provides a DisplayPort cable, useful when a system with such a connector becomes available. The company touts DisplayPort as a future-proof digital connection, one approved by the video standards body VESA. Like HDMI, it can handle high data rates (up to 10.8 gigabits per second versus HDMI's 10.2 gbps) of video and audio with the same cable, potentially positioning the new technology as a multimedia or home theater connector.
The 3008WFP comes with a bounty of other analog and digital connections too, including component, composite, and S-Video for devices such as DVD players and cable boxes. It also offers one upstream USB port and four downstream USB ports, which accept peripherals such as Webcams and MP3 players.
The monitor's design is attractive and subtly understated thanks to its brushed gray aluminum bezel. It features a forward-looking industrial design: a glass and metal base, double-hinged height adjustment, and high-quality materials. The 3008WFP also swivels and tilts, but the height adjustment is particularly impressive for its smooth mechanism.
Six on-screen display (OSD) control buttons, which activate and let you navigate the easy-to-use display adjustments, reside in the lower-right corner of the monitor. The second OSD button is dedicated to the picture-by-picture function, which produces side-by-side screens and allows users to view a second source, such as a DVD player. Such a large monitor would have benefited from a picture-in-picture function as well, a curious omission for a display that offers so many connections. A convenient flash card reader built into the side of the display supports popular formats such as CompactFlash, SD Card, and Memory Stick.
To test the 3008WFP's capabilities as a movie screen, I viewed selected scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. I found the monitor's renditions of colors a bit inaccurate, the saturation somewhat over-the-top. Reds on uniforms were extremely bright, but verged on bleeding. Skin tones had too much pink, creating ever-blushing or red-faced light-skinned characters. Even Jack Sparrow, normally a tanned buccaneer, looked as if he had applied a rose bronzer to his skin. The monitor handled motion admirably, however: Scenes of running soldiers, and others involving quick camera panning, showed no signs of ghosting.
The Dell 3008WFP offers a desirable collection of features, though it ranks last in a group of high performers. To date, it's also the most expensive 30-inch display. Its DisplayPort connection offers a glimpse of what monitor ports we may be using in the future. But for the present, which DVI- and VGA-enabled PCs dominate, other monitors, such asSamsung's 30-inch 305T($1179), offer better performance and value.