The menus of the Dell monitors I'm discussing today are all designed in the same way but differ in functionality, i.e. in setup opportunities. So, I will first describe its appearance and then will talk about the differences.
Pressing any of the control buttons (the junior models in the series have four and the senior ones have five such buttons) opens up a quick access menu which allows to change the video input, adjust Brightness and Contrast, choose one of the predefined image modes, or go to the full-featured menu. The Menu and Exit items are always the same whereas the functions of the top two (in the U2211H and U2311H) or three (in the other models) buttons can be redefined.
There are six to 10 predefined image modes, depending on the particular monitor model. I don’t think that many users will utilize more than two or three of them, though. The list of modes includes everything here: typical image enhancement technologies (Multimedia and Game), color temperature and even color gamut (for the senior models; the U2211H and U2311H only support sRGB).
Unfortunately, there are no predefined modes that would simply change the monitor’s Brightness and Contrast without touching anything else. Thus, if you don’t need to “enhance” your onscreen image, you will hardly find these modes useful.
The mini menu for regulating the monitor’s screen brightness looks standard enough. There are two sliders that run from 0 to 100.
The full-featured menu contains eight tabs with a lot of setup options in each. I don’t think it is necessary to describe them all in detail because most of them are quite obvious.
As I mentioned above, two or three control buttons, referred to as Shortcut Keys in the menu, can be redefined by the user. Each can be assigned one of the following functions: choosing a predefined image mode, Brightness & Contrast adjustment, automatic adjustment for analog input, Picture-in-Picture mode (if the monitor supports it), and switching between video inputs.
The following table makes it easy to compare the setup opportunities and functionality of the different models.
- Shortcut Keys is the number of control buttons the user can redefine.
- Input Color Format is the color coding format (it’s unclear what the models without a component video input need YPbPr for).
- Gamma is the gamma adjustment option (it is limited to 2.2 (PC) and 1.8 (Mac) with each monitor).
- Preset Modes is the number of predefined image modes. The senior models allow choosing between sRGB and AdobeRGB color spaces and have an additional image enhancement mode.
- sRGB and AdobeRGB means the opportunity to choose a color gamut to use. The two junior monitor models have a standard color gamut and do not support AdobeRGB.
- Wide Mode means image interpolation variants at nonnative resolutions.
- Sharpness is, obviously enough, image sharpness.
- Noise Reduction is a technology for making dynamic images look sharper. It is available in the Game, Multimedia and Movie presets.
- Dynamic Contrast is available in the Game and Movie presets only.
- Line Out Source means audio sources for line output. These monitors do not have analog audio inputs.
- Audio Configurations are the possible configurations of an external speaker system connected to the monitor. I want to remind you that these monitors can only get multichannel audio via digital interface (HDMI or DisplayPort) in PCM format.
- Picture-by-Picture is when video content from two different video inputs is displayed side by side on the monitor.
- Picture-in-Picture is when video content from two different video inputs is displayed one on top of the other.
The table makes it clear that the senior models in the series differ in the functionality of their firmware. The larger (and the more expensive) a monitor is, the more firmware-based capabilities it offers. I mean the number of image interpolation variants, the number of presets, etc.
The U2410 is the only product in the series to feature Picture-in-Picture mode. The senior models can work with two video inputs simultaneously as well, but only by showing their content side by side.
Each model with support for PIP and PBP lets you select different combinations of simultaneously active video inputs. The D-Sub, DisplayPort, component and composite inputs can be used together with any other but the available DVI and HDMI ports can only work one at a time. In other words, if you have a DVI connector as the main video source, you will not be able to choose HDMI as the secondary video source for PBP mode.
The menu is overall user-friendly and quite functional for any everyday task. The biggest downside I can see is about the preset image modes. You cannot quickly change the level of screen brightness without affecting color accuracy (many users do not like the various “enhancements” that come along with preset image modes). Besides, some features, like dynamic contrast, can only be used with specific presets. So, if you like dynamic contrast but do not like what the Movie mode does to colors, you have to either give up the former or put up with the latter.
I keep on saying in my reviews that Samsung has long invented the handiest implementation of quickly selectable predefined image modes. Samsung monitors (not all of them, unfortunately) offer multiple presets that differ in Brightness and Contrast only and do not affect color reproduction otherwise. And they also have a separate preset for dynamic contrast. All color-related options, including various “intelligent color enhancement” technologies reside in a different location of Samsung monitors’ menus. I really wish that other monitor makers followed Samsung's example.