Gaming monitors don’t need to be flashy or expensive, or excel in every single screen-quality aspect, to be good players. The Dell 27 Curved Gaming Monitor (S2721HGF) shows that you can get stellar gaming performance for a very reasonable price. The $299.99 display (on sale for $229.99 at this writing) features a 27-inch 1080p (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) panel with a peak 144Hz refresh rate. It doesn’t break any records for contrast or color, but between its very low measured input lag and Nvidia G-Sync/AMD FreeSync smoothness, it is sure to satisfy PC gamers looking for a solid midsize screen on a tight budget. For that, it earns an Editors’ Choice award as our favorite budget gaming panel so far in 2021.
A Basic Design Lets the Game Stand Alone
The Dell 27 looks very plain compared to its more pricey, Alienware-branded siblings like the Alienware 25 and Alienware 34. The curved screen is framed with a simple black band and a narrow black bar flush with the active display on the top and sides, with a slightly wider bottom bezel holding the Dell logo. It mounts onto a similarly plain black stand with a hexagonal base that holds the monitor steady. The stand can slide and tilt up and down (vertical height 15.5 to 19.4 inches, vertical angle -5 to 21 degrees), but it doesn’t rotate from side to side.
A tiny power button sits on the right side of the monitor’s bottom edge and lights up when turned on. (You can turn off the glow if it distracts you.) A four-direction joystick and four additional buttons occupy the display’s right rear and control the onscreen display (OSD).
All of the monitor’s connections face downward from a recess at middle rear, flanking the neck of the stand. The power connector sits to the right of the neck, while two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort sit to the left.
A Look at the Color and Contrast
The 27-inch screen is a vertical alignment (VA) TFT panel with a 1500R curve. As mentioned, it has a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels and a refresh rate of 144Hz. In a nice move for a budget panel, it supports both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync adaptive-sync technologies for the prevention of screen tearing.
We test monitor luminance and color performance with a Klein K-80 colorimeter, a Murideo Six-G signal generator, and Portrait Displays’ Calman software. Out of the box, in Standard mode with maximum brightness set, the Dell showed a peak brightness of 338.01 candelas per square meter (nits) and a black level of 0.135 candelas per square meter, for a contrast ratio of 2,504:1. This is in line with the display’s advertised 350 nits and 3,000:1 contrast ratio, and surprisingly beats out the more expensive Alienware 25 in brightness, black level, and contrast (1,036:1).
While the Dell 27 shows better contrast performance than the Alienware 25, It lags a bit in color-gamut coverage. The chart below shows the monitor’s color levels measured against sRGB. It can cover 92.6% of the sRGB gamut, slightly less than the Alienware 25’s 96.8%. (See more about how we test monitors.)
This next chart below shows the Dell 27’s color levels against the DCI v1.2 digital cinema color gamut, of which it only covers 74.9%…
This is a fair bit less than the Alienware 25’s 81.1% gamut coverage. Fortunately, even within the more limited gamut, individual colors are generally accurate, and don’t skew in any given direction. The worst complaint is that whites are a bit warmer out of the box than ideal.
Testing the Dell 27 Curved: Gaming Performance
For an affordable monitor, the Dell’s input lag is impressively low. Testing with an HDFury Diva HDMI matrix, we measured an input lag of 1.7 milliseconds (ms) with a 60Hz signal. Converted to the monitor’s native 144Hz refresh rate, that’s an input lag of 0.7ms.
The Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition benchmark looked very good. Colors appeared natural and well-saturated, from green grass to the blue skies. Hues weren’t particularly vibrant, but their look was well-balanced. Fine details showed well both in sunlight and shade, with the cut and contours of black costumes distinguishable against the darkness of the campfire scene.
I also did some trials of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) to see how a popular esports classic feels. The game performed excellently; I saw no discernable screen tearing no matter how frantically I spun around. This surprised me, because the monitor’s costlier Alienware siblings showed some choppiness in this game. The Nvidia G-Sync seemed to work flawlessly, and motion was consistently smooth.
The Dell 27 also worked well with non-gaming content. It displayed our 4K Costa Rica test footage (displayed at 1080p60) accurately, with vibrant, natural colors. The reds of parrot feathers and flowers really popped but didn’t look cartoonish or oversaturated, and the greens of plants and lizards looked bright and accurate. This is a sharp, colorful picture that should satisfy gamers who want to watch anything on their monitor.
Verdict: A Budget Powerhouse Panel
The Dell 27 Curved Gaming Monitor is a surprisingly high-quality display at a low price. Its contrast isn’t outstanding, but you’d be hard pressed to find any gaming monitor under $300 with excellent contrast. Its colors are balanced and natural, its motion is smooth, and its input lag is extremely low. It ticks all the boxes for a satisfying and very affordable gaming monitor, and easily earns an Editors’ Choice award for its class.
If you crave better performance or higher resolution, you can expect to spend around twice as much for a quality monitor like the 1440p ViewSonic Elite XG270QG or the 360Hz-refresh-capable Asus ROG Swift PG259QN. In its price range, however, the Dell 27 Curved is one of the best.