Dell SE2716H review

Dell’s curved 1080p monitor has us wondering if resolution really matters

Dell’s curved SE2716H makes 1080p look so good, you might pass on more pixels.
Dell’s curved SE2716H makes 1080p look so good, you might pass on more pixels.
Dell’s curved SE2716H makes 1080p look so good, you might pass on more pixels.

Highs

  • Solid construction
  • Great color and contrast
  • Immersive curve

Lows

  • Middling brightness
  • A bit expensive for the resolution

As resolutions and screen sizes rise faster than ever, those who are stuck with, or prefer, 1080p are running out of high-end options. Enter the Dell SE2716H which, despite its lack of catchy name, is actually a memorable 1080p LCD with a 27-inch curved panel, impressive specs, and very few competitors.

In fact, the only real competitor is Samsung’s SD590C, a curved display with 1080p resolution and an almost identical price of $400, although both are available closer to $300 at publishing time. That’s not unreasonable for a nice 1080p screen, but it’s also the starting range for 2,560 x 1,440 monitors.

Which begs the question of what’s a better value — high-end 1080p, or entry-level 1440p? How this Dell performs will certainly sway that debate one way or the other.

Sturdy and simple

Build quality is a high note for this Dell. Unlike a number of monitors that have passed through the Digital Trends test bench, the SE2716H doesn’t sway or jiggle excessively when the desk it sits on is bumped. Unfortunately, the tradeoff is that there’s only one axis of rotation built into the stand, allowing it to lean back and tip forward. That issue is compounded by the lack of a VESA mount.

The thin black bezel is attractive and simple, with a semi-gloss finish that doesn’t distract or cause excessive glare. Dell claims it’s the narrowest bezel found on a 27-inch curved display, and that’s hard to verify, it certainly looks beautiful.

This Dell’s standout feature, however, is its curved screen. It doesn’t have the serious scoop to it that larger 34-inch monitors have, but it’s still an improvement on the flat design of most screens. The slight curve makes the monitor a conversation starter, and improves immersion in movies and games.

Hateful buttons

Controlling the Dell is a bit of a pain, thanks to the exclusive use of five buttons underneath the right side of the monitor. With the exception of the power button on the far right, which is lit only when the monitor is actually turned on, the rest of the buttons can be tricky to find.

The monitor excels by every metric aside from resolution.

The far left button brings up a menu to select from a number of preset monitor modes including standard, multimedia, movie, game, paper, warm, cool, and custom color. The second button from the left allows for quick volume adjustment for the monitor’s built-in speakers. The third button brings up the main menu, with a number of submenus underneath.

Brightness and contrast controls are the first you’ll find. There’s an automatic adjustment feature, but it’s not clear what effect it has beyond “optimizing the display settings for use with your particular setup,” and it’s only available over VGA. The color menu allows for inputting color information in YPbPr or RGB, as well as selecting from the preset color modes listed above. Under display, there are menu items for aspect ratio, boundaries, sharpness, pixel clock, phase, dynamic contrast, response time, and an option to reset everything to default.

Dell SE2716H monitor
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

It’s worth noting that depending on settings and inputs, some options may be unavailable to set manually. The audio menu has both volume and source selection, and the energy menu just has one option to change when the power button is lit, but only between being off all the time, and being on when the monitor is turned on.

Double the HDMI, but no DisplayPort

Ports are appropriate, if not a little dated, for a newer display. Two HDMI ports with MHL and a single VGA make up the video-in selection, while a microphone-in and headphone-out port add to the suite. The Samsung SD590C offers a similar selection, but swaps the second HDMI for a lone DisplayPort. That would’ve been nice to see on the Dell as well, but those with older machines looking for a monitor upgrade will be pleased to find VGA instead of DVI.

Charming out-of-the-box

While the SE2716H’s 1,920 x 1,080 panel isn’t the highest resolution around, it managed to score well in most of our benchmarks. The maximum brightness of 272 lux isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s enough to ensure clarity even in brightly-lit office spaces. Color gamut is strong, covering 98 percent of the sRGB spectrum and 74 percent of the AdobeRGB spectrum, plus good contrast with a 790:1 ratio at max brightness. Color accuracy is sharp with a 2.3 average deviance (lower is better) although gamma is a bit off the mark at 2.1.

Calibration enhances the strong points of this already impressive display.

The uncalibrated Samsung offers much higher brightness than the Dell, for what it’s worth, but loses out in almost every other area. Its gamma is actually further off at 2.0, color accuracy is slightly worse, and the color gamut is about the same. The big difference is in contrast, where the Dell smashes the Samsung’s uncalibrated contrast ratio of just 540:1 at full brightness.

The Dell’s excellent results mean a display that looks and runs great right out of the box. The issues it has are minor, and aren’t noticeable unless you’re looking for them. Dark scenes look deep and true, colors seem bright and vivid, and the maximum brightness, while low, is still perfectly adequate unless your office is on the surface of the sun.

The good gets better

Like aerating a wine, calibration serves to enhance the strong points of this already impressive display. Gamut sees a slight bump, up to 99 percent sRGB and 76 percent AdobeRGB, and contrast and black levels improve very slightly. Most noticeable are the gains to color accuracy, which see the average deviance improve from 2.3 to 1.26 (again, lower is better). Any deviance below one is considered generally unnoticeable to the human eye, so this is an excellent result.

Those changes make a difference in the visual quality of the monitor, particularly in colorful scenes. The differences between shades were more pronounced after calibration, with light-soaked blues and greens looking less washed-out and faded than before.

On the whole, the SE2716H’s image quality is perfect for multimedia use. Its high contrast ratio creates a sensation of depth, and its color accuracy provides lifelike details. Both photo editors and gamers will appreciate these traits, but the benefits are noticeable even while watching YouTube or browsing photos on Facebook.

Listen up

The Dell has a pair of speakers totaling nine watts of power built into the back of the display. Monitor speakers usually aren’t very impressive, and the SE2716H is no exception. The volume of the speakers can rattle the case of the monitor. That means the speakers are clear at low volume, but become buzzy when the volume is kicked up.

Long live the warranty

Dell includes an abnormally long three year limited warranty. That’s much longer than the one year warranty on the Samsung, and better than average for monitors in its price range.

1080p to remember

Dell’s SE2716H doesn’t offer the best value for a 1080p screen, nor does it sport any groundbreaking new features that will change monitors forever. What it does do is smack the objective targets for a competent display right on the head, and add a curve that makes the monitor an (almost) unique proposition.

When put up against its only direct competitor, the Samsung SD590C, the Dell looks even better. It offers better visual quality, and calibrating the screen boosts its already great out-of-the-box picture. Both monitors sell for around $300, so there’s no question the Dell is a better choice, unless DisplayPort is an absolute must-have.

While many PC enthusiasts have moved on to 1440p or even 4K, it’s understandable that not everyone is ready. 1080p is more affordable, and requires less powerful hardware. Curve aside, the SE2716H isn’t cutting-edge, but it’s a good pick if you’re not ready to upgrade to a higher display resolution.

Highs

  • Solid construction
  • Great color and contrast
  • Immersive curve

Lows

  • Middling brightness
  • A bit expensive for the resolution
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