Introduction, design and features
Back in the mid-2000s, owning a 30-inch monitor was the (expensive) dream. Our collective thirst for larger panels hasn’t dampened since then, and if you’re not considering splashing out on a TV-sized 40-inch monitor, you might be weighing up a cinematic ultra-wide offering like the Dell UltraSharp 3415W.
The Dell UltraSharp 3415W sports a pixel-resolution of 3,440 x 1,440 (WQHD), lending it a "cinematic" aspect ratio of 21:9. Compared to the first wave of ultra-wide monitors from 2013-2014 that used a much narrower 2,560 x 1,080 pixel-resolution, WQHD feels much less like peering into a brightly lit letterbox.
The resolution also feels more familiar if you’ve used a 2,560 x 1440 (QHD) monitor before. The 3415W has the same amount of height as Apple’s (non-Retina) 27-inch iMac, for example, only with 440 extra horizontal pixels bolted onto each side.
It means that you get tons of real-estate on the desktop for using multiple browsers at once, watching Hollywood blockbusters in their native 21:9 aspect ratio or playing games in massive detail — if you’ve got the beefy graphics card (or two) required to push the pixels.
The U3415W is particularly worth considering at this moment in time due to being given a price drop by online retailers, some of which are offering it for just short of £600 (US$849, which is around AUS$1,188), versus Dell’s RRP of £789 ($1,449, around AUS$1,219).
It’s going up against several competing 34-inch ultra-wide monitors, including the LG 34UM95, AOC 3477PQU, and Samsung S34E790C, which also has a curved display.
The U3415W sports a sensible design that’s suitable for homes or offices thanks to its neutral, classy two-tone black-and-grey colours. Aside from an inconspicuous Dell logo located on the bottom of the display’s thin bezel, you won’t find any unsightly stickers getting in the way.
Viewed from a side, it’s not the bulkiest monitor we’ve ever seen, but it’s not suitable for desks lacking depth — if you want to avoid sore eyes from sitting too close, that is. The display is slightly curved at the edges which makes it a bit easier to see what’s being displayed at either end of the screen, and you feel more surrounded by the monitor. It also looks cool to boot.
For a big slab of plastic, the U3415W is incredibly easy to setup and can be done in a mater of minutes with minimal fuss.
One benefit of the monitor arriving in a gigantic box is that the stand comes pre-assembled, so all you have to do is lay it flat on its front and slide the teeth at the top of the stand into the connecting holes at the back of the monitor. Once locked into place, it’s impossible to disconnect the stand without pressing a button that releases it and allows you to slide it out easily.
Featuring a heavy-duty stand, the U3415W is well-balanced and sturdy. It has a generous height adjustment of around 115mm, in addition to tilt and swivel capabilities.
Owning quite a low desk, in a bid to get more height, I turned a plastic bucket upside down (don’t try this at home) and placed the monitor on top. Though it’s not a recommended way to raise the display, the U3415W’s even balance meant that it was in no danger of tipping over.
In the box
In the box you’ll find the monitor, stand, power cable, DisplayPort to mini-DisplayPort cable, USB Upstream Cable, Cable cover and user documentation. There’s a dearth of ports on the U3415W, although you’ll have to swing your head under it to get to see them easily.
Under there you’ll find x1 HDMI connector, x1 MHL connector, x1 Mini DisplayPort, x1 DisplayPort (v.1.2), 1x DisplayPort out (Multi-Stream Transport), x1 Audio Line out, x4 USB 3.0 ports and x2 USB 3.0 ports – Upstream.
One of the USB ports is located around the back to the right-hand side. Although it’s easier to get to than the USB ports on the underside, it’s still awkwardly positioned if you’re used to using side-mounted USB ports, of which there are none here.
The U3415W’s sheer size is a feature in itself, providing the same amount of pixels as four 1,720 x 720 pixel-resolutions monitors stuck together. Most of the time you’ll find windows floating around as if they’re in space, such is the amount of real-estate on offer.
If you’re the organised type, the U3415W is perfect for cascading windows and snapping them to different corners. You can browse a website while writing a document while keeping one eye on Skype and another on Facebook, for example.
Better yet, at 34 inches, the U3415W’s 3,440 x 1,440 pixel resolution lends it 109ppi (pixels-per-inch), so there’s no need to alter Windows’ or OS X’s scaling settings to make text and menus readable. That’s a huge reason to opt for Dell’s monitor over a 4K panel if your main concern is having tons of screen real-estate without having to effectively magnify parts of the desktop.
A row of capacitive touch-sensitive buttons are used to navigate through the U3415W’s menus, which allow you to adjust the brightness, colour, audio levels, view energy usage, switch inputs and change what the shortcut button on the bezel does. It also lets you activate its picture-in-picture mode, which lets you display two input sources at the same time.
How well it works depends on what input sources you’re running and what resolutions they’re running at. For example, connecting a games console (in this case the Wii U) and a laptop running at 2,560 x 1440 will give you two 16:9 images on each half of the panel, leaving big black horizontal bars above and below the image.
The sheer size of the U3415W means that it wasn’t such a problem playing Mario Kart 8 even sat 1.5 metres away from the monitor. However, it was nearly impossible to use the laptop’s desktop as everything looked tiny.
Adjusting the laptop’s resolution to 1,024 x 768 vastly reduced the space on the desktop, but it at least allowed me to browse web pages, stream video and do other single tasks while sat a distance away from the monitor. So if you want to let somebody play on a console game on one half of the display while streaming a sports match or catching up with the latest news, picture-in-picture is a bit clunky but works well enough.
Oh, and be warned: although the U3415W possess decent speakers that are easily loud enough to fill a small room, it can only output volume from one input at a time. That shouldn’t be a problem if you use the monitor to ouput sound from a console, and then use the laptop’s speakers separately if you need to.
The capacitive buttons aren’t as easy to use as physical ones, occasionally requiring a second tap to register a press. Neither are they labelled, so you’ll have to learn what each one does and which action you have the shortcut button set to perform if you choose to re-assign it.
Sound isn’t the primary reason you’re going to buy the 3415W, but its two 9W speakers provide loud and clear audio, even if they’re not going to shake the room with pounding bass any time soon.
The Dell’s AH-IPS panel produced excellent results. Out of the box, the monitor reached 298.32 cd/m2 when measured with our X-Rite iDisplay Pro calibrator. The panel produced inky blacks, with back levels measured at a healthy 0.26 cd/m2.
If you need ample space on your computer’s monitor for apps, games and movies, and don’t want to worry about the scaling issues that come with 4K monitors, Dell’s U3415W is well worthy of your consideration.
Its easy setup, excellent build quality and impressive pictures out of the box make it a hassle-free way to get acres of space. You might need a bigger desk to take advantage of them, though.
The 3415W really is a sight to behold on any desk – just make sure yours is big enough to accomodate it. With great picture quality, plenty of features and plug-and-play appeal, it’s a hassle-free way to get a massive amount of real-estate without worrying about software quirks.
The size of Dell’s monitor is also its worst enemy. Its 34 inches could prove disorientating if you’re sat too close to it for long periods of time. Despite its price reductions at certain retailers, it still costs double the cost of budget 4K monitors on the market – so you’ll have to think twice about whether it best fits your needs.
If you’ve been looking to swap your current monitor (or monitors, if you have several in your setup), the Dell UltraSharp U3415W is a solid offering. It looks great and serves up plenty of features that make it great for one person or several in the room. If you want more real-estate from your monitor without having to play about with scaling settings in software, the Dell UltraSharp 3415W is elegant, effective and would do the job for years to come.