Dell S2716DG review

Dell’s budget friendly gaming monitor finds a new way to make enemies

The Dell S2716DG wins a few battles, but ultimately loses the war.
The Dell S2716DG wins a few battles, but ultimately loses the war.
The Dell S2716DG wins a few battles, but ultimately loses the war.

Highs

  • High refresh rate
  • Solid construction
  • Versatile stand

Lows

  • Poor black levels and contrast
  • Inaccurate gamma
  • Bland color
  • Too expensive for its mediocre performance

DT Editors' Rating

Refresh rate has become important for gaming monitors. The higher the better – and they have to throw in adaptive display tech, too. Based on that criteria, Dell’s new S2716DG is a top competitor. The 27-inch 1440p panel boasts a 144Hz refresh rate, with Nvidia’s G-Sync technology ensuring smooth, tear-free gameplay. Plus, a one millisecond response time means you’ll never feel slowed in a game of Counter-Strike.

But is speed and agility all gamers want out of their screens? Deep black levels are a huge part of convincing graphics, and colors have to be vivid – if they’re not, everything else is a moot point. Dell makes no promises about gamut or contrast on the S2716DG’s information page, which is worrying.

This Dell technically has an $800 sticker price, but is actually available as little as $400. That’s not as frugal as the cheapest 1440p screens, but it falls a couple hundred below the most advanced gaming displays. Is this a gamer’s dream monitor, or is it bound for the clearance rack?

What’s old is new again

There are no surprises when it comes to Dell’s monitor design. The screen is fitted with a glossy black bottom edge, and a recessed bezel that’s only about a quarter inch thick when the screen is powered up. Despite the familiar look, the Dell actually has a bit of a fat lip. There’s a definite gap between the panel where the buttons are mounted and the front of the bezel, and the power button light shows through the panel when pressed.

We’ve seen the stand before, as well. It’s a common Dell model, with a circular hole for running cables. It holds the screen firmly in place, and allows it to rotate, tilt, lift, and swivel. That’s better than most screens offer, and it’s VESA compatible for easy wall-mounting. The glossy back panel is a slight departure from the typical matte finish, but it’s not a change that’s going to upset most users.

Plug it in

Connectivity is always a strong suit for Dell monitors, and this is no exception. The display features both DisplayPort and HDMI connections, and four USB 3.0 ports — two on the side, and two on the back. There’s audio pass-through for HDMI connections as well.

Real buttons

A lot of manufacturers have switched to touch sensitive on-screen display controls which, while futuristic, can also be a righteous pain in the ass. Instead, Dell’s on-screen display controls are physical buttons with distinct bumps, and they require a fair bit of pressure to activate. That makes it easy to run a finger along the bottom of the panel to find the right button, without shutting off the monitor by accident.

Dell’s monitor design is solid, but never surprising.

Speaking of on-screen displays, the actual options on the Dell aren’t particularly expansive. Brightness and contrast can both be adjusted from zero to 100, and there are warm, cool, and custom RGB color profiles. There’s also the option to switch between normal and fast response times, but that’s where the picture settings end. The rest of the on-screen display controls deal with shortcut keys, on-screen display sleep times, and letting you reset the monitor to factory defaults.

You win some, you lose some

Right out of the box, the Dell S2716DG’s image quality is mixed. And it’s competing with excellent screens like the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q and Acer XB270HU, which are both more expensive than the Dell, but competing for the same desk space.

Maximum brightness is a solid 335 lux, which is above average, but doesn’t quite reach the competing PG279Q’s 391 lux, and tails just behind the XB270HU’s 342. Contrast ratio is decent, offering up 600:1 at full brightness. That’s better than most, but falls short of other dedicated gaming displays, like the Acer XB270HU and the Asus PG279Q, which both break 700:1.

Color accuracy is middling at 3.01, where a lower score is better, and a score under one is best. Once again, the Acer and Asus both beat out the Dell with scores of 1.61 and 2.17 respectively.

The Dell only produces 93 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which might sound like a lot — but even cheap displays typically reach into the high 90s, and both 1440p gaming monitors mentioned above produce 100 percent right out of the box. AdobeRGB coverage is 69 percent, while the Asus and Acer both reach the high 70s.

Gamma is too low, coming in at 2.0 instead of an ideal 2.2, which is perhaps the worst problem. Low gamma means the middle tones of the image are rendered too brightly, which in turn causes a number of issues that are detrimental to the viewing experience. Colors are muted, contrast is poor, and black levels aren’t as deep as they should be. Gamma is the only area where the Dell really falls behind its competitors, but it drags the screen down, producing a lifeless viewing experience.

“Should” being the key word

Unfortunately, calibration didn’t do much to solve some of the more prominent issues. Contrast is slightly improved, moving up to 630:1 at full brightness. Color accuracy improves to a healthy 1.23 as well, where any score under one is generally considered undetectable by the human eye. These were already stronger points for the screen, however, and the practical effect of the upgrade isn’t significant.

Dell S2716DG
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Color gamut improves a few points on each side, up to 96 percent sRGB and 72 percent AdobeRGB. It won’t win any awards for those scores, but they’re more competitive than they were before. Black levels hold firm, still not reaching an ideal zero with the brightness turned all the way down.

Most frustrating of all, gamma remains low at 2.0, and that’s a change that the calibration tool typically makes easily. Like before, this one setting dulls a lot of the improvement we saw in other areas. The image isn’t as convincing or lifelike as we’d like, especially for a gaming monitor.

But wait, there’s more

The good news is this panel is equipped with Nvidia’s G-Sync, which is enabled when using an Nvidia GTX 650 Ti Boost, or better, over a DisplayPort connection. It keeps the refresh rate of the monitor and GPU locked so there’s no tearing or stuttering, as frames are loaded to the buffer and displayed as they’re ready.

Off-target gamma means a lifeless viewing experience.

The feature works perfectly, and is most effective when a system can’t maintain a constant framerate with the settings cranked up. Most systems aren’t going to be able to take advantage of the Dell’s 144Hz refresh rate, at least at its maximum 1440p resolution, so this is a nice compromise.

If you’re not on the green team, or your setup is beefier, the Dell includes an Ultra Low Motion Blur mode. It works at 120Hz, and reduces backlight brightness and refresh in order to reduce motion blur to an absolute minimum. It works best on machines that can hold a constant 85 or 120 frames per second in games, and is incompatible with G-Sync, which has to be turned off before enabling ULMB.

Warranty

The Dell includes a three year limited warranty on its hardware. Following a phone troubleshooting session, Dell will replace or repair the monitor. That’s on the long side for displays, which usually offer one or three years, depending on price point.

Not the best, but priced in reach

Gamers are a tough crowd to market monitors for. Not only is the golden combination of features changing constantly, but the audience knows exactly what they want in a display, and won’t mind telling you if you’ve done something wrong. The low gamma is a serious bottleneck on an otherwise decent monitor, and its effect permeates the viewing experience.

The typical advantage of a TN panel is price, though, and that’s where this monitor shines. Today, it sells for between $400 and $500. Competitors like the Asus PG279Q, or the Acer XB270HU, are often priced at several hundred more. The Dell S2716DG is particularly inexpensive for a major brand-name monitor with G-Sync support. You can find alternatives on the same budget, but only from lesser known brands like Agon and AOC.

The Dell S2716DG doesn’t perform well enough to earn our recommendation. Still, if you want G-Sync support and simply can’t afford its better peers, you could do worse than settling for it.

Update 12/1/2017 by Matt Smith: Updated to reflect current pricing. Due to price drops, we have increased the score from 2.5 to 3 stars. 

Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.
Computing

Dell XPS 13 vs. Asus Zenbook 13: In battle of champions, who will be the victor?

The ZenBook 13 UX333 continues Asus's tradition of offering great budget-oriented 13-inch laptop offerings. Does this affordable machine offer enough value to compete with the excellent Dell XPS 13?
Deals

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for January 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Computing

Tiny bezels and HDR rule our 5 best laptops of CES 2019

Dell, Asus, Huawei, and Lenovo have some new laptops coming soon that leverage tiny bezels and HDR to fit excellent displays into the smallest chassis. In fact, they've introduced the five best laptops at CES 2019.
Computing

The Asus ZenBook 13 offers more value and performance than Apple's MacBook Air

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 is the latest in that company's excellent "budget" laptop line, and it looks and feels better than ever. How does it compare to Apple's latest MacBook Air?
Computing

AMD Radeon VII will support DLSS-like upscaling developed by Microsoft

AMD's Radeon VII has shown promise with early tests of an open DLSS-like technology developed by Microsoft called DirectML. It would provide similar upscale features, but none of the locks on hardware choice.
Computing

You could be gaming on AMD’s Navi graphics card before the end of the summer

If you're waiting for a new graphics card from AMD that doesn't cost $700, you may have to wait for Navi. But that card may not be far away, with new rumors suggesting we could see a July launch.
Computing

Is AMD's Navi back on track for 2019? Here's everything you need to know

With a reported launch in 2019, AMD is focusing on the mid-range market with its next-generation Navi GPU. Billed as a successor to Polaris, Navi promises to deliver better performance to consoles, like Sony's PlayStation 5.
Computing

Cortana wants to be friends with Alexa and Google Assistant

Microsoft no longer wants to compete against Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant in the digital assistant space. Instead, it wants to transform Cortana into a skill that can be integrated into other digital assistants.
Computing

Microsoft leans on A.I. to resume safe delivery of Windows 10 Update

Microsoft is leaning on artificial intelligence as it resumes the automatic rollout of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update. You should start seeing the update soon now that Microsoft has resolved problems with the initial software.
Computing

Stop dragging windows on your Mac. Here's how to use Split View to multitask

The latest iterations of MacOS offer a native Split View feature that can automatically divide screen space between two applications. Here's how to use Split View on a Mac, adjust it as needed, and how it can help out.
Computing

It's not all free money. Here's what to know before you try to mine Bitcoin

Mining Bitcoin today is harder than it used to be, but if you have enough time, money, and cheap electricity, you can still turn a profit. Here's how to get started mining Bitcoin at home and in the cloud.
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. This list of the best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.
Computing

What is fixed wireless 5G? Here’s everything you need to know

Here's fixed wireless 5G explained! Learn what you need to know about this effective new wireless technology, when it's available, how much it costs, and more. If you're thinking about 5G, this guide can help!