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Dell UltraSharp 24 USB-C Hub Monitor (U2421E) Review | PCMag

The $449.99 Dell UltraSharp 24 USB-C Hub Monitor (U2421E) is all about enhanced connectivity, putting it in the same arena as two PCMag Editors’ Choice-winning productivity monitors, the HP E24d G4 FHD Advanced Docking Monitor and the Philips Brilliance 272P7VUBNB. The Dell shares several key features with them. One is an Ethernet port, uncommon among monitors, that lets you connect to a LAN even if your laptop lacks an RJ-45 jack. Plus, you can power and charge a laptop from the monitor over a single USB-C connection, even while you’re pushing a display signal to it. Add a few downstream USB ports, DisplayPort multi-panel daisy-chaining, and a smattering of other ports, and this panel can act as a USB-C hub or docking station. Our only quibbles are the lofty price for a 24-inch panel of its resolution, and its subpar measured brightness level.

The Measure of a Monitor

The U2421E is a 24-inch (measured diagonally) IPS panel with WUXGA (1,920-by-1,200-pixel) resolution. This resolution works out to a 16:10 aspect ratio that gives you more vertical real estate for the same width than the much more common 1080p (1,920 by 1,080 pixels). Its pixel density comes to 94 pixels per inch (ppi), which is more than adequate for general office use at this screen size. Although WUXGA resolution is far less common than it was a decade ago, it’s still around—witness the UltraSharp and the new Acer ConceptD CM2241W.

The panel is seated in a black frame, surrounded by minimal bezels. The base, shaft, and back of the monitor are silver-colored. The base has a compact 10-by-7-inch footprint, but despite the size it feels stable and sturdy enough. You can snake cables through a hole near the bottom of the shaft.

Dell UltraSharp 24 USB-C Hub Monitor (U2421E) rear view

Counting the stand, the U2421E measures 14.3 by 20.9 by 6.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 8.8 pounds. When the cabinet is fully raised, the height increases to 20 inches. In addition to height adjustment, the U2421E supports adjustments for pivot, swivel (45 degrees in either direction), and tilt (from 5 degrees toward the user to 21 degrees away), for a full complement of ergonomic features.

A Glut of Connectors

The unusually wide range of ports is the signature feature of the U2421E. The panel has two USB Type-C ports; one is for connecting to a laptop, which it can power and/or charge—providing up to 90 watts of USB power delivery—while simultaneously receiving a data or video signal. The other, a downstream charging port, can supply up to 15 watts. These USB-C ports, coupled with three downstream USB 3.2 Type-A ports, earn the Dell its moniker of “Hub Monitor.”

Dell UltraSharp 24 USB-C Hub Monitor (U2421E) ports

Also available to you are an HDMI port, an audio-out jack, and two DisplayPort 1.4 connectors, one upstream and one downstream. The latter supports the DisplayPort Multi-Stream Transport (MST), which lets you daisy-chain up to three monitors together, a feature we first saw on the Dell 27 USB-C Monitor (P2720DC). It’s also found on the Mac-centric LG UltraFine 4K Display (24MD4KL-B), as well as the HP E24d G4 mentioned earlier.

The RJ-45 Ethernet jack can help provide connectivity in situations where a laptop lacks an Ethernet port and Wi-Fi reception is sketchy. The U2421E supports several network-management features: PXE Boot, Wake on LAN (WoL), and MAC address pass-through. PXE stands for “Preboot eXecution Environment,” and it allows a computer to boot directly from the network. WoL enables a computer to be woken up remotely from a low-power state, while MAC address pass-through lets the laptop bypass the monitor/dock’s MAC address so it can be uniquely identified on the network with its own MAC address. The HP E24d G4 offers a similar set of management features.

Dell UltraSharp 24 USB-C Hub Monitor (U2421E) onscreen display

The onscreen display (OSD) is well designed and easy to navigate thanks to a mini-joystick controller in back. Navigation is intuitive, with a minimal learning curve. Preset modes include Standard, Movie, and Game.

Dell UltraSharp 24 USB-C Hub Monitor (U2421E) controller

Testing the U2421E: Fine sRGB Color Coverage, Ho-Hum Brightness

I tested brightness, contrast ratio, and color accuracy using our standard test equipment: a Klein K-10A colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G signal generator, and Portrait Displays’ CalMAN 5 calibration software.

Dell rates the U2421E at 350 nits (candelas per meter squared) of luminance, but it fell well short of that—248 nits in my testing. But while it doesn’t have the dazzling brightness of the Philips 272P7VUBNB, which lived up to its Brilliance label at 396.6 nits, it bested the HP E24d G4’s 209 nits. The UltraSharp also fell a little short of its rated 1,000:1 contrast ratio, tallying a 921:1 score. (See how we test monitors.)

According to Dell, the U2421E comes factory-calibrated for 99% sRGB coverage. Our test unit did a smidge better, covering 99.6% of sRGB (see the graph below), the color space used for web-based art and numerous other applications. As the monitor doesn’t have preset modes for sRGB or other common color spaces such as Adobe RGB or DCI-P3, I did our color testing in Standard mode. The Philips covered just 92.7% of sRGB, and the HP E24d G4 didn’t do much better, covering 93.1%.

Dell UltraSharp 24 USB-C Hub Monitor (U2421E) sRGB gamut

In ad hoc testing, I viewed selections from our suite of test photos, and was very happy with their appearance. Colors seemed vivid and true to life. The video clips I watched looked crisp, with accurate and bright colors.

If the U2421E’s screen size is too small and its maximum resolution too low, you might consider the Dell UltraSharp 27 USB-C Hub Monitor (U2721DE), which is basically the same display with a larger (27-inch) panel and higher QHD (2,560-by-1,440-pixel) resolution.

A Well-Connected Monitor

The Dell UltraSharp 24 USB-C Hub Monitor (U2421E) is a worthy addition to the small but growing niche of USB-C hub/docking station business monitors. Its nifty range of features includes the ability to charge or power a laptop while viewing or streaming content from it, and the ability to daisy-chain multiple monitors. And as the name suggests, the connectivity is the real draw: an Ethernet port to connect your laptop to a LAN, plus USB ports galore. Its specs are largely similar to those of the HP E24d G4. It lacks the high brightness and UHD resolution of the Philips 272P7VUBNB.

Dell UltraSharp 24 USB-C Hub Monitor (U2421E) angle view

The one thing it has that those two don’t is top-notch sRGB color coverage—although the Dell is a corporate productivity monitor not specifically geared to creative professionals, it did very well in displaying color in video and photos. It’s good to have great coverage of such an important color space, and the UltraSharp could prove a perfect fit for employees whose work at least occasionally involves photos or graphic art.

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