As its name implies, the $1,999.99 Dell UltraSharp 27 4K PremierColor (UP2720Q) is a 27-inch 4K monitor that is all about color accuracy and image quality. Unlike the vast majority of monitors, and even most displays geared to creative pros, the UP2720Q has a built-in colorimeter that you can use not just to measure the monitor’s color accuracy in a range of color modes, but to calibrate the monitor itself. To this end, it seamlessly integrates with Portrait Displays’ CalMAN display-calibration software. From the monitor’s settings, you can also schedule regular calibrations to ensure that the monitor retains its excellent color accuracy. This powerful tool, plus conveniences like two Thunderbolt 3 ports, makes this UltraSharp model our latest Editors’ Choice among professional monitors.
Dell is not the first manufacturer to include a built-in calibration tool in a monitor of this kind. Eizo has integrated a similar tool into several of its high-end professional displays. With the UP2720Q, though, Dell makes easy calibration available to a wider audience. You pay more than you would for a monitor without this feature, to be sure, but for many photographers and photo editors, graphic artists, and film editors, its presence may well be worth the higher price.
Built for Creative Pros
The 27-inch IPS panel packs in 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, which is UHD (a.k.a. 4K) resolution, at a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. Pixel density is a very healthy 163 pixels per inch (ppi), the same as the Editors’ Choice ViewSonic VP2785-4K, another monitor for creative professionals, which offers the same screen size and resolution as the Dell. All else being equal, the higher the pixel density, the sharper the text and other fine detail in an image will appear.
The panel is set in a cabinet that is black in front and gray in the back. It has quarter-inch bezels at the top and sides, and on the bottom an inch-thick bezel, the bottom third of which is beveled and houses the control buttons and a bay from which the colorimeter emerges when needed. The UP2720Q also includes a shading hood that can be attached to block stray light, though it can be used only when the monitor is in landscape mode.
With its stand extended to its full height, the UP2720Q measures 22.2 by 24.1 by 8.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 31 pounds. The monitor feels sturdy on its rectangular base, which has a 10.2-by-8.2-inch footprint. The shaft that connects the base to the cabinet has a round hole about four inches from the bottom, through which you can snake cables.
The Dell has strong ergonomic cred, with a 5.1-inch range of height adjustment, a tilt range from 5 degrees downward to 21 degrees upward, the ability to swivel up to 45 degrees to the left or the right, and to pivot 90 degrees from landscape to portrait (and back) in either direction.
All of the ports are in back, facing downward. This arrangement is commonplace although often problematic on monitors, but with the UP2720Q you needn’t worry about the ports’ awkward placement because you need only pivot the monitor, so that the ports are facing you, to easily access them.
They include one DisplayPort 1.4 connector, two HDMI 2.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports (one upstream, one downstream), a hub consisting of four USB 3 ports, and an audio-out jack. The Thunderbolt 3 connection provides up to 40Gbps of throughput and supports up to 90 watts of power delivery to charge an attached laptop.
Monitor Calibration, Simplified
The UP2720Q’s onscreen display (OSD), controlled by six small physical buttons on the slanted edge of the bottom bezel, is intuitive. When (virtually) identified as up, down, right, left, return, and enter keys, the buttons make it easy to navigate through the OSD. You can change color space, luminance, input source, and a host of other common parameters, and you can also launch or schedule calibrations (at a given time, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis). This is a great feature for a design or video-editing studio, to regularly calibrate its monitors without the need for staff to intervene or even be present during the process.
The tools we traditionally use for our luminance, color, and contrast testing include a Klein K10-A colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G test-pattern generator, an X-Rite i1Basic Pro 2 color profiler, and Portrait Displays’ CalMAN 5 software. I used them all in testing the UP2720Q, but I also ran CalMAN’s AutoCAL routine using just the Dell’s built-in calibration tool, a sensor on a small bar that swings up from the bottom of the monitor to a vertical position when activated. Once CalMAN identified the monitor and the (in this case, internal) meter, I selected the color space to read and calibrate, set the software to save the results, hit a button, and it ran through its AutoCAL routine.
In truth, it took some troubleshooting to get it to that point (compounded by the fact that the quick-start button in CalMAN didn’t respond when pressed). A couple of times the meter failed to deploy or I neglected to check a box to save the results. (Along with saving the raw data, you can save a PDF report with before-and-after charts of the monitor’s grayscale and color accuracy at factory default.) But once I got over these hurdles, the process became routine. (Read more about how we test monitors.)
Let’s Compare True Colors
The measure of color accuracy, Delta E, numerically represents the difference between the hue of a displayed color and the input that the monitor received. (The most recent standard is Delta E 2000 or dE2000, which I will simply refer to as dE from now on.) The dE figure that appears in monitor specs is the average of a large number of individual color readings from across the spectrum; the lower the value, the more accurate the color. Many professional monitors tout a dE of less than 2; exceptional panels produce figures of less than 1.5.
Pre-calibration dE values using the Dell colorimeter were 0.8, 2.3, and 2.4 for sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3, respectively. Below is the pre-calibration report for sRGB.
After running the calibration routine in CalMAN for each of those color spaces, they turned in values of 0.5, 0.4, and 0.6. Below is the sRGB post-calibration report.
I also tested the post-calibration dE using our combination of Klein meter, XRite profiler, Murideo signal generator, and CalMAN’s ColorChecker. I measured the dE for sRGB at 1.27, Adobe RGB at 0.98, and DCI-P3 at 1.31. Although these are not quite at the rock-bottom levels measured in CalMAN using the Dell colorimeter, they are still excellent figures.
Both the Dell calibration procedure and our normal process with Klein, Murideo, and XRite produce color-gamut reports in CalMAN. Below is our standard report, in this case for sRGB, measured post-calibration with the Klein combo. The color-gamut coverage of 98.3 percent is close to the 99 percent shown in the post-calibration report’s color-gamut chart (above). Our test results also yielded 97.9 percent coverage of Adobe RGB, and 92.6 percent of DCI-P3.
Rated luminance and contrast ratio are 250 nits (candelas per meter squared) and 1,300:1, respectively. The luminance (which the UP2720Q either hit or came within 10 nits of in all three tested color spaces) is low for a pro monitor; the ViewSonic VP2785-4K is rated at 350 nits. The UP2720Q did not come close to its rated contrast ratio, at best turning in a mere 840:1 in Adobe RGB mode.
In addition to our quantitative and color-quality testing, I did some ad-hoc testing of photos, videos, and other content. In viewing and editing photos from our usual selection, colors seemed true, and contrast and dynamic range were good. In viewing samples from our assortment of test video clips, colors looked rich, and a few artifacts that I have frequently seen when testing other monitors were barely visible.
Outstanding Color Quality, With an Edge on Ease
Few monitors have a built-in colorimeter, and the Dell UP2720Q is the first such panel we have tested, but this 27-inch 4K professional panel makes a good case for itself even without it. Its main downside is its price, and you will still have to buy CalMAN Ready for Dell or a more comprehensive CalMAN version if you don’t have it already.
If you have your own colorimeter and software, you can buy a less expensive monitor such as the ViewSonic VP2785-4K and calibrate it yourself. But the UP2720Q is simplicity incarnate. Not only is the calibration routine automatic and easy to master, but through the monitor’s OSD you can schedule automatic calibrations at daily, weekly, or monthly intervals. For this convenience, the UP2720Q is worth the premium you’d pay for it, and becomes our latest Editors’ Choice professional monitor.