Dell U4021QW – Dell’s ultrawide monitors are well-regarded in the design and engineering industry. Al Dean takes a look at the latest product, which targets the home worker who needs that little bit extra when it comes to screen real estate
The way we look at our computing hardware has changed in the last 12 months. After all, many of us now find ourselves more regularly interacting with others through a screen, rather than face to face – plus we’re stuck working in our own homes.
With these limitations in mind, the idea of being hunched over a laptop screen isn’t appealing, even one of those 17-inch display screens. It’s just not good for our working practices, or our spines.
As a result, the idea of a display device that supports better posture, gives you a lot more pixels to play with and which doesn’t look like it’s been mandated by a corporate IT department, is appealing.
This is where Dell’s new UltraWide U4021QW has some real strengths to offer. Having personally spent the last two months in close contact with it, I can give you a rundown of what day-to-day life is now like.
Dell U4021QW – Set up
But first, let’s look at getting this big old beast set up. Once you’ve extracted it from the box, got the stand attached and sat in position (it’s height- and tilt-adjustable), you’ll need to figure out connectivity. Here, you have a number of options, depending on your needs. There’s a USB-C (or Thunderbolt); two HDMIs; as well as a DisplayPort connector. While the ThunderBolt and DisplayPort options give you the full 60hz refresh option, it’s worth noting that this steps down to 30hz for HDMI.
My personal configuration of choice was to use the DisplayPort to connect to my trusty desktop monster under the desk, then use the powered USB-C port to connect to my MacBook Pro – the benefit of the latter being that I don’t need to have a separate power cable, as it draws under 90W.
While most mobile workstation-class laptops will be way over this, for those working with desktops alongside a smaller form factor or lower powered USB-C mobile, this might be ideal – and will save you from yet another pesky cable making the place look untidy.
Now it’s time to get it switched on. Right from the off, the set-up process is pretty slick – with one caveat (one that says more about the author of this review than it does about Dell’s user experience team).
When the monitor is first set up, the options are scrolled through on a small menu to the lower right of the screen – but you need to recognise there is a power button and a small joystick that correspond to the options on the screen. I completely missed the joystick, so spent a good 15 minutes switching the monitor on/ off and jabbing what I already knew was not a touchscreen device. You have been warned!
Once you’ve updated your resolution settings and installed the Dell Display Manager application, you can then start to explore what the 5120 x 2160, 40-inch screen feels like to use.
Personally, I also like to calibrate a new display every week or so for the first month or two, just to ensure that the panel is as close to accurate as possible. I use DataColor’s Spyder device for this.
Dell U4021QW – In use
My usual set-up is two 27-inch monitors, both running at HD, rather than 4K. By comparison, and in terms of screen real estate, the Dell U4021QW is the equivalent of 1 and a half, but it’s the 5K2K resolution that really makes it sing. It’s clear, crisp and represents colour pretty accurately. The calibration I ran only had to tweak the settings a little.
Compared to running two monitors, I don’t miss the separation of the two displays and found that window management wasn’t a concern, even if you’re essentially losing half a monitor. If you’re accustomed to using a single display, then this is going to feel incredibly expansive.
If you’re a Windows user, then the Dell Display Application is useful for zoning up your display and having application windows snap to known positions. You can set this up, then save it as a preset so that your work environment is always the same. I only wish there were a similar tool for Mac OSX.
Managing two machines
Where modern, well-designed monitors (rather than consumer-grade displays) come into their own is how they tackle the needs of professional users.
An excellent example is how this system manages inputs. For example, I often run both the Mac and the Windows machines at the same time, so having quick options to switch inputs completely is very useful, without too much pressing of cryptic buttons, rather using the onscreen menu and rear-mounted joystick/button combination.
There are also some nice options to explore split-screen and picture-in-picture (PnP) capabilities. This means you could split the screen into two halves, with each machine represented in its own half.
The PnP option also means you can have the bulk of your screen showing one machine, and a smaller quarter or eighth of the screen showing what’s going on in your other machine.
The Dell U4021QW is a pretty useful display. Whether you’re looking for a replacement for a single or dual-monitor set-up, or perhaps replicating it at home, then it’s got pretty much everything you need in terms of aesthetics.
In other words, it looks pretty slick compared to many, but also offers flexibility of inputs, window control and more.
Ultimately, the quality of the display is what makes or breaks this hardware, and on this count, it’s a winner. Clear, crisp, represents the full colour range accurately.
To be honest, Dell might need to send around the heavies if the company wants this screen back from me.
Dell U4021QW – Specifications
» 40” LED-backlit LCD curved monitor
» 21:9 Aspect Ratio
» WUHD 5120 x 2160
» Pixel Pitch 0.1815 mm
» Frequency 60 Hz (via DisplayPort) / 30Hz (via HDMI)
» Brightness 300 cd/m²
» Inputs 2 x HDMI, DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3
» 100mm x 100mm VESA Mount
» Height Adjustment 120 mm
» Swivel 60
» Tilt -5/+21
» Dimensions: 946.6 mm x 248 mm x 457.8 mm (including Stand)
» Microsoft Windows 10 Professional 64-bit
» 13.8 kg
» 3-Year Advanced Exchange Service and Premium Panel Exchange to on-site £1,610 (Ex. VAT)
5K2K monitors: What other options are available?
Screen Dimensions: 34 inches
Notes: LG has been a favourite of mine for a while, having spent years with a trusty 28-inch LG CRT back in the day. The is 34-inch ultrawide, but still manages to pack in 5120 x 2160 pixels, but strangely comes in 7kg heavier than the Dell.
Lenovo ThinkVision P40W-20
Product: ThinkVision P40w-20
Screen Dimensions: 40 inches
Price $1,699 (available in June)
Notes: When we tested out an early variant of this (the ThinkVision P44w), it really impressed, so we have no reason to doubt that fitting this form factor out with a 5K2K display will rock. A few tweaks, such as the phone stand in the base) are pretty nice too.
MSI Prestige PS341WU
Product: Prestige PS341WU
Screen Dimensions: 34 inches
Notes: MSI describes this as a display for creators (Read: We made it in white). It looks stunning and a decent colour gamut (98% of DCI-P3) means it should display colours accurately. Whether it’ll be that colour in two years’ time remains to be seen.