Great for the office, or battlefield.
Alienware recently entered the giant gaming monitor space, and its AW3418DW is mighty sweet (read our review), but at around $1,200 on sale it’s a bit expensive for the average gamer. Luckily its parent company Dell is still putting its name on some of the best computer displays available, and its own 34″ curved offering is substantially cheaper at just $700 (street).
The Dell U3417W (US: See it on Amazon or Dell.com) / (UK: See it on Amazon) offers a 34-inch curved In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel, a 3440 x 1440 resolution, and a 1000:1 contrast ratio. But while this monitor has plenty of features to get excited about, there’s a reason it’s less expensive than the Alienware. It has a standard 60Hz refresh rate, a 5ms response time, and no G-Sync or FreeSync support. I spent some time with this ultra-wide monitor to see if it’s worth the investment.
Design and Features
Dell released a very similar 34-inch curved monitor, the U3415W, a year or two before the U3417W. The major upgrades include side-mounted USB ports, a better-looking chassis, and 1440 vertical resolution (as opposed to the U3415W’s 1080 resolution). Contrasting its head-turning size, this monitor has a classic aesthetic with dark, matte finishes and an extremely simple—but well-constructed—base and stand. Clearly, it’s a far cry from Alienware’s spaceship-inspired, gamer-centric offerings with RGB lighting, but the lack of sharp angles and lights certainly has its appeal, too. The slim bezels and understated accents look great on pretty much anyone’s desk.
Amazingly, despite its huge size, this monitor does an exceptional job of preserving desk real estate. Most ultra-wide monitors require huge, protruding legs, but the U3417W nails it with an unobtrusive, low-profile stand. Size notwithstanding, the IPS panel in this 34-inch behemoth looks fantastic. Dell has a history of using high quality panels in its UltraSharp monitors, and the U3417W is no exception. The color reproduction is exceptionally accurate, and while this IPS display and its 5ms response time aren’t as quick as some modern Vertical Alignment (VA) panels, it generally looks fantastic.
The U3417W curves at 1900R, a steep angle which offers a high level of immersion and is equally proficient when you’re looking at multiple windows in productivity situations. The top and sides of the display have extremely thin bezels, with the lower edge just a half-inch strip of black plastic tall enough for a Dell logo. With the screen turned on, the bezels are unobtrusive enough that they seem to fade away, and the ultra-wide presentation really comes forward. The 1000:1 contrast ratio isn’t the highest in this monitor category, but as I’ll discuss in my testing, black levels on the U3417W look excellent.
On the rear of the monitor, you’ll find I/O ports including a DisplayPort 1.2, mini DisplayPort 1.2, an additional DisplayPort 1.2 out, two HDMI 2.0 ports, and 4 USB 3.0 ports. There’s an additional two USB 3.0 ports on the monitor’s side, too, making the U3417W one of the most USB friendly monitors I’ve ever reviewed; a nice thing for anyone using a bunch of peripherals. All of the ports are fairly easy to access, as Dell has mercifully stayed away from using any weird covers or oddly recessed ports.
There’s two 9-watt speakers in the U3417W, and honestly they’re not too bad as far as monitor speakers go. They’re still fairly worthless for gaming, so you’ll need another set of better speakers or a headset, but they’re decent enough for watching videos. The on-screen display is handled by four small buttons underneath the right side of the monitor. The buttons are easy to use, and stand out enough that I never found myself screwing up the navigation through various menus.
As usual, I used the Lagom LCD test pages to take a deeper look at how the Dell U3417W performed under a number of tests including contrast, black levels, color, and response time. As mentioned above, the U3417W has excellent sRGB color accuracy and during my tests there were no signs of color banding or tones blending together. Colors were easily identified across the spectrum, and gamma sat perfectly in the Windows-standard 2.2 range. Thanks in no small part to its IPS panel, the U3417W does a great job of displaying deep blacks, with only the very darkest tone blending in a bit into the black background in the test. White saturation performed equally as well, although the lightest tone on the test chart did disappear a little bit into the white background.
Dell lists the U3417W as having a 5ms grey-to-grey response time, which is typical for an IPS display. To test response time, the Lagom test uses a series of pixels, flashing quickly back and forth between light and dark tones. The more flashing relative to its place on the grayscale, the longer the response time, in effect, for the transition between dark and light. In my tests, the 5ms response for grey-to-grey appeared to hold true, although response times do dip a bit with the more difficult black-to-grey transitions. 5ms isn’t particularly great—or horribly bad, either—for a gaming monitor, but this will be more pronounced in darker scenes. I would compare the response times on the U3417W fairly close to what I saw in my testing with Acer’s similarly-sized Z35P display.
I also took a look for any possible ghosting issues with the U3417W by heading over to Blur Buster’s motion testing pages. Ghosting is a phenomenon wherein digital artifacts will appear left behind fast-moving objects on the screen. This Dell monitor performed extremely well in these tests, with no real discernible ghosting using Blur Buster’s handy UFO test.
There’s no denying the Dell U3417W is a fantastic monitor for productivity. The ultra-wide panel means you can open about three different documents at once, or look at an obscenely wide spreadsheet with ease. But when it comes to gaming, some minor faults with this display do come to light. Namely, there’s the issue of the 60Hz refresh rate, meaning you’re not going to get more than a 60 frames-per-second speed out of your games unless you don’t mind a bit of frame tearing. Granted, it’s important to note 60Hz is still a the standard for “excellent” in the console world, but these days most PC gamers are growing more accustomed to 100Hz+ refresh rates. That said, I had zero issues holding a 60fps speed at very high or ultra settings in any game I threw at the U3417W, with my GTX 1080 rig.
Also, the U3417W doesn’t utilize any variable refresh rate technology, such as Nvidia’s G-Sync or AMD’s FreeSync. Sometimes, this can lead to screen tearing, but thankfully this didn’t appear to be a major issue with through many hours of playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Destiny 2, Overwatch, and Battlefield 1. I did get the sense that motion in fast-paced gaming scenarios could have been somewhat smoother with variable rate tech on board, but overall it didn’t seem to really detract from my gaming.
Games look sharp and vibrant on the 3440 x 1440 screen, and the 21:9 aspect ratio is really great for wide-open shooters like PUBG and Battlefield 1. The 1900R curve pulls you into the game more than any 16:9 display, although you will encounter the occasional game which doesn’t play well with a 21:9 panel. More often than not, even compatible games will end up with black bars on the side of the screen during pre-rendered cutscenes.
The Dell U3417W has a list price of $1,099 but it is virtually never sold at that price. It is more commonly found online for around $700: