Gear Review: Dell UltraSharp 4K UP2720Q - Jack Fusco Photography

I'll start this by admitting that it didn't take much for me to be very excited to check out the new Dell UltraSharp 27" 4K UP2720Q when my friends at Dell asked if I'd be interested. The first few features I learned about it were the types of things that just made you say, "why hasn't this happened yet?!" 

I'll also admit a few other things.

First off, I really love gear and I love technology. However, I don't love having a lot of it. I prefer just having what I need and not having to store or use a bunch of extra equipment for no reason. I'm sure a lot of people can relate to at least part of that? Who doesn't love gear and cool tech?

Second, color space and color profiles were a nightmare of mine for quite a while. I'll get in to this more a bit later on, but I feel like this is one that almost every photographer / artist will be able to feel my pain on.        

This monitor definitely has a lot of features that cater toward photographers and people in the design field. So, is this THE monitor for photographers then? Let's take a look.

Tech Specs - All The Details 

As with any time I talk about gear, I'm not going to dive too deeply in to a ton of the technical side of things. I really prefer to focus on the reasons why I find something to be useful or some cases not useful. But, it's still important to at least have an overview of the full gear specs, so here we go. If you look close, you might be able to spot the things that got me excited when I first learned about the UP2720Q

Model Number UP2720Q

Diagonal Viewing Size 684.7 mm (27 inches)

Horizontal, active area (23.49 inches) 335.66 mm

Vertical, active area 596.74 mm (13.21 inches)

Maximum Resolution 3840 x 2160 at 60 Hz

Pixel Pitch 0.1554 mm x 0.1554 mm

Pixel Per Inch (PPI) 163

Aspect Ratio 16:9

Brightness (typical) 250 cd/m²

Color Support Color Gamut (typical): CIE1931 Adobe RGB 100%, CIE DCI-P3 98%, CIE BT.2020 80% Color depth: 1.07 billion colors (True 10 Bit)

Color Calibration Accuracy Delta E < 1 (average)

Dell Monitor SDK Support Yes

Color Calibration, Management Software Yes, CalMAN® Ready for Dell (sold separately), Dell Color Management, Dell Calibration Assistant

Color Calibration with Internal Colorimeter Yes

Color Calibration with External Colorimeter Yes (with compatible colorimeters)

Contrast Ratio (typical) 1300:1

Viewing Angle (typical) 178°/178° (vertical / horizontal)

Response Time 8 ms (normal mode); 6 ms (fast mode) - (gray to gray)

Panel Type In-Plane Switching Technology

Backlight Technology White LED Edgelight System

Dell Display Manager Compatibility Yes

Display Chain Availability Yes

Picture-by-Picture (PbP) 2 modes - AA, AB mode

Display Screen Coating Anti-glare treatment of the front polarizer (3H) hard coating

Connectivity

Connectors 1 x DP 1.4 (HDCP 2.2), 2 x HDMI 2.0 (HDCP 2.2), 1 x Thunderbolt™ 3 Upstream port (DP 1.4), 1 x Thunderbolt™ 3 Downstream port (DP1.4), 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Downstream port, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Downstream port (1 x BC 1.2 charging capability at 2A (max))

Alright! I mentioned a few things that got me super excited about this monitor right away and they're buried in with the rest of those details. Any guesses?

Before I get in to the things you may not immediately expect, let's take a look at some key take aways.

Resolution: 3840x2160 Ultra HD 4K resolution and a high pixel density of 163ppi 

Contrast ratio: 1,300:1 - This means dark colors, look like they should, dark! 

Anti-Glare Coating: I had no idea how much I would appreciate this. It does an amazing job at cutting the glare almost completely.

Uniformity Compensation: This acts to reduce irregularities in brightness across the screen. Something like this is key for editing images and was particularly of interest to me since I'm often working with darker tonal ranges that are often impacted by light pollution. I can make sure that I'm correctly balancing the sky in my image and not have to worry about changes in brightness due to the display.

Thunderbolt 3 Ports: I'll talk about these more, but these ports are awesome for data transfer and allow you chain together multiple monitors with ease. They also allow one of my favorite things about this monitor, but you'll have to keep reading for that!

Included Monitor Hood: Another nice touch that helps keep your monitor glare free. I've gone my whole life without using one of these, but the fact that it was included made me finally give it a chance. Now, I'm not sure I can go without using one.

Full 4K 3840x2160 Resolution in Adobe Photoshop

Color Space I - A Lesson from Frustration and Defeat

Anytime I ask a room full of photographers about color space or monitor calibration, it's often  greeted by a number low and often dismissive grumbles. I get it. I really do. There are literally entire books on the subject. It's super important, but we're photographers. We just want to take pictures, right? 

Early on in my picture taking journey, I took some star trails that I absolutely loved. I wanted a copy for myself and I wanted to bring some extra to bring to a weekend art fair. I signed up for an online print service, uploaded my image and waited for it to arrive. Days later, I opened the package and was very...underwhelmed and disappointed. The awesome blue sky in my photo looked dark and way more purple than anything resembled the blue I thought it would look like. I didn't know the difference between the colors my monitor would display and how the file sent off to print should be prepped. 

Different color spaces, like RGB, sRGB, AdobeRGB, CMYK, CIE 1931, all work a bit differently and are intended for different purposes. That's not even all of the color spaces. You can check this Wikipedia for a bit more of a list and their common uses.

What likely happened in my star trails print was a combination of things. My monitor may not have been displaying accurate colors and/or I didn't convert or correctly edit for the color space the print lab was using. Either way, it was an early lesson in why, as frustrating and initially overwhelming it can be, color profiles and color spaces were important.

I took this as a lesson learned. If my monitor wasn't displaying colors correctly, it didn't just mean my prints might look off, but possibly every photo I uploaded for the world to see.

"If you've taken the effort to switch your camera to capture images in a RAW format, you should have no excuses to why you're not then viewing them on a capable monitor."

Color Space II - Redemption & Solutions

Typically, as a photographer, you want to edit in a color space that has the most amount of available color, This relies, and can be limited, by the device that you're using. If you're using Photoshop and let's say you're editing in the AdobeRGB color space, but your display (whether that be your monitor, laptop, or mobile device) can only display 80-90% of that color space, you're limited right off the bat. That's why certain monitors are better than others for editing. 

As listed in the specs above, the Dell UP2720Q covers 100% of the AdobeRGB range and 98% of the CIE DCI-P3 range. That allows us to view and edit our images how they should be seen and worked on. All the tones in the sky, in the subtle colors in the foreground all look exactly how I think they look. Modern displays, can so commonly be oversatured in their colors and lead to producing images that actually look very flat and colorless when viewed on a properly calibrated display. The UP2720Q comes factory calibrated to an incredibly degree of accuracy and is ready to go out of the box.                  

This is something that so many photographers take for granted, but honestly can be just as important as shooting RAW vs. JPG. One format allows you to capture and view more colors than the other. If you've taken the effort to switch your camera to capture images in a RAW format, you should have no excuses to why you're not then viewing them on a capable monitor. 


Color Space III - Keep It Up

Unfortunately, just making sure your monitor covers the range of a color space, you need to make sure it continues to do so. Years back, I started using different monitor calibration devices. Basically, these are external devices that you plug in, load software and then hang in front of your screen. It helps ensure that over time the colors are continued to be displayed correctly. Unfortunately, this does require you to set reminders and take the time to do this every few weeks.

This leads me to one of those key features I was VERY excited about. Not only is the Dell UP2720Q the first monitor to ever come with a built in colorimeter, you can actually use the Dell Calibration Assistant software to schedule and run automated color checks!!! No more forgetting, no more not remembering where my calibration device is, no more "I'll calibrate after I'm done typing this up" 

This was one of those things that I read and thought, "why hasn't this happened before?"

"Not only is the Dell UP2720Q the first monitor to ever come with a built in colorimeter, you can actually use the Dell Calibration Assistant software to schedule and run automated color checks!"

The Best Tech Makes Life Easier

A quick bit of background for those that don't know. I do quite a bit of travel and editing with my Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 9575. Even if I'm shooting within a few hours of home, I normally bring my 2-in-1 with me and load images on to it after I swap out memory cards in my camera. I love being able to grab my laptop, edit in my living room, in a coffee shop, or somewhere completely random while I'm traveling. That means it's not uncommon for me to be part way through an edit when I'm at home. Although I've completed a huge chunk of work from start to finish without ever sitting at my office desk, there are some images, timelapse clips, or videos, that just need a bit more attention. 
That brings me to one of the things that I was very excited about for the UltraSharp 4k Up2720Q. I'm able to plug my 2-in-1 right in to the monitor to edit AND have it charge my laptop battery  through those Thunderbolt 3 connections!  No docking station, no moving cables from room to room.


I don't have to move files from computer to network storage to computer, or from computer to computer and worry about which file is the latest or decipher file names like "DSC_9777-Coast_MilkWay_NewEdit-Newer-AlmostDone-Foreground".

It just lets me start and finish editing off my laptop. Not only is that a huge convenience for someone that edits on more than one computer, it's a huge advantage for someone that only edits on a laptop. 
It may not seem world changing to not have to unplug a cable from a wall and carry it to another room, but, honestly, it's a feature that I absolutely love and will continue to take advantage of on a daily basis.  

Picture in Picture - Separate Color Profiles

This is one of the features I was super excited for  as soon as I read about it. Remember how I had that issue with my edited file not looking like my printed file? Although I now know that my files sent to print, or even web, need to be saved with a different color profile, there's still the process of getting those colors to match. 

Remember, different color profiles display different amounts of color. What the Dell UltraSharp 4K UP2720Q can do is display two different color profiles side by side on your screen! No more switching back and forth and trying to get something that looks as close as possible. I can have my editing workspace, AdobeRGB, and then my workspace for web,  sRGB, right next to each other. 

It's so common for people to wonder why their images Facebook or Instagram look off once they upload them. This is very often the reason. Converting to sRGB will often make your image look desatured. Colors won't seem as rich or as vibrant. Being able to using Picture in Picture to see exactly how your image will display on the web will make sure your presenting your images to the world exactly how you want them to be seen. That, in my opinion, is incredibly valuable.

Illustration demonstrating Picture in Picture: AdobeRBG vs sRGB

In Conclusion

The Dell 27 UltraSharp 4K UP2720Q definitely took me by surprise. Anytime a piece of tech can have features that make you question how you lived without them, is a pretty solid sign that it's more than worthwhile. Moving forward, I plan on using the monitor to hook up my laptop for extended edits and as a second display, but my main displaying for editing, on my office workstation.

Keep an eye on my Instagram for an announcement on a live stream with some editing sessions that I'll be working on soon!

         

  • Mark Jacobs

    on January 16, 2020

    Great overview Jack. There seems to be some really compelling features for creative professionals based on your review. Thanks for taking the time to put it together!

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