Dell are a long-standing manufacturer of very good multi-purpose monitors, with their UltraSharp series being popular for over 20 years now. They’ve diverged their gaming screens in to other product lines now including their Alienware brand, and the UltraSharp range remains focused primarily on office and general uses, colour critical work and enhancing user productivity. With us now for review is their latest 31.5″ sized screen from their 2023 range (they always release these about 6 months prior to the year actually starting) which is the U3223QE. It has a 4K resolution and a range of connectivity features designed to make the screen super convenient to use including USB-C and a built in KVM switch.
Perhaps most interesting of all though is the use of a new generation of IPS technology from LG.Display, dubbed “IPS Black”. This promises deeper blacks, improved contrast ratio and improved off-angle viewing of dark content (i.e. less IPS glow). This is actually the first display released to market based on IPS Black, so a big part of this review will involve full analysis of how that performs, and how it compares to other competing IPS-type technologies.
Key Specs and Features
- 31.5″ sized, flat format
- 3840 x 2160 “4K” resolution
- “IPS Black” technology panel from LG.Display
- 2000:1 contrast ratio spec (yes, from an IPS!)
- 5 – 8ms G2G response time and 60Hz refresh rate
- Wide colour gamut with 98% DCI-P3 coverage
- USB type-C connection (90W power delivery, data and DP Alt mode)
- DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0 connections
- Quick access USB 3.2 port and 1x USB-C port (10Gbps and 15W power delivery)
- RJ45 connection with MAC Address pass-through, PXE Boot, and Wake-on-LAN conveniently built in
- Auto KVM feature
- PiP and PbP support
- Fully ergonomic stand with tilt, height, swivel and rotate adjustments
Design and Features
The U3223QE comes in a familiar Dell UltraSharp design with a light silver finish. There is a 4-side “borderless” panel with a thin black edge around all 4 sides which looks nice and makes the display suitable for multi-screen setups if needed. This measures ~7mm along the sides and top, and ~10mm along the bottom edge.
The rear of the screen is encased in a matte light silver plastic. The stand attaches in the middle via a quick release mechanism, but can be removed for VESA 100mm mounting if you like. The connections are all tucked vertically beneath the stand attachment and are pictured in a minute in more detail. There is a cable tidy hole in the back of the stand’s arm, which is made of metal and provides a strong and sturdy support for the panel. The foot is a reasonable size as well and provides a good support, although there is a bit of wobble to the screen as you move it around.
There is a full range of ergonomic adjustments on offer here with tilt, height, swivel and rotate provided. All of these are smooth and easy to use, and this is a decent and flexible stand included here.
You may also notice the power on/off button and OSD control joystick on the back left hand side of the screen (when viewed from the rear). The OSD menu is split in to 9 sections down the left hand side, with the available options shown on the right. There’s a good range of settings to play with overall, and navigation was quick and intuitive thanks to the joystick. Our only gripe is that it’s not always easy to find the joystick as you reach behind the back of the screen, but once you get used to where it’s located, it’s fine.
There’s a good range of connections on the back of the screen including DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0 and USB type-C (with 90W power delivery, data and DP Alt mode), a DisplayPort output for daisy chaining, an audio output and a USB-C upstream port (back to PC). There are also 4x USB 3.2 10Gbps data ports on the back of the screen along side an RJ45 LAN connection. On the right hand side of the photo above you can also see the ports on the bottom edge of the screen for quick access, these are USB-C (10Gbps with 15W power delivery – no DP Alt mode) and another USB 3.2 port.
IPS Black Panel
Before we get in to the rest of the review, the most interesting aspect of this screen is the new “IPS Black” technology. Dell advertise a 2000:1 contrast ratio spec here and it’s expected to offer improved off-angle black rendering, and reduced IPS glow as well. To provide a full coverage of what IPS black is, how this screen performs in comparison with other IPS-type technologies, you can watch our video here:
The U3223QE offers a wide colour gamut backlight which provides vivid and saturated colours well suited to modern multimedia, games and HDR content. If you like that more colourful appearance then the screen does nicely here with a particularly wide colour space. It’s also potentially more useful if you’re working with wide gamut content for photography and colour accurate work. However, for a lot of normal desktop uses actually you want to work with a smaller sRGB colour space and that can be more difficult on a wide gamut screen. We will see how this screen handles that usage scenario shortly.
We first want to measure the accuracy of the default out-of-the-box setup relative to typical sRGB content, while also examining the screen’s suitability and accuracy for common wider colour gamut spaces such as Adobe RGB which is used in the professional and photography markets quite often.
By default the screen is set in the ‘standard’ preset mode. It’s quite bright out of the box but not too bad at 221 cd/m2. The backlight can be adjusted between 41.5 cd/m2 and 447.4 cd/m2 which provides a nice wide range, including a suitable minimum luminance for darkened room conditions. The colour temperature felt pretty well balanced as well but you could see with the naked eye that the colours were more saturated than normal sRGB screens, because of the wide gamut backlight which was operational in this default mode.
Gamma was decent overall with a 2.12 average measured, being a little low in mid to light grey shades. This is good news as Dell don’t actually provide any gamma settings in the OSD menu at all. If you were wanting to work with other gamma curves such as 1.8, 2.4 or 2.6 perhaps then you would need to be able to calibrate the screen yourself in most cases. 2.2 (or close to it) should be suitable for most users though and is typical for a desktop monitor.
The colour temperature was a little cool across the greyscale, with 6966K average measured (7% deviance from our target). The white point was a bit closer to our 6500K target, measured at 6709K and being only 3% too cool. This means whites look pretty accurate on this screen. The variation in RGB balance and gamma led to some moderate to high errors across the grey scale though with a dE average of 3.7. Perhaps of most interest is the default contrast ratio which we measured at an impressive 1983:1, thanks to the new IPS Black panel which was very close to the advertised 2000:1. Make sure to watch our video above for full testing and comparisons on IPS Black.
From a colour point of view we measured the screen relative to the normal sRGB colour space (top), as well as the commonly used Adobe RGB colour space (bottom). From the top left CIE diagram you can see there’s some fairly high over-coverage of sRGB, especially in red and green shades which leads to over-saturation of those colours and a more vivid appearance to the screen compared with an sRGB-only display. We measured a 132.5% relative coverage of sRGB here. Because the screen is operating in wide gamut mode, the accuracy of sRGB colours is moderate at best (top right), but that’s typical for a wide gamut screen. We will see how the included sRGB emulation mode performs in a moment, as well as calibration results and profiling of the screen back to the sRGB colour space.
In the bottom section you can see a comparison against the Adobe RGB colour space, often used for photography and photo editing. The gamut of the screen doesn’t cover this colour space that well though sadly, being short in green shades (and leading to 93.6% Adobe RGB coverage only) and over-covering in red shades. The accuracy of Adobe RGB colours is therefore also not great, moderate at best. Because the total coverage of Adobe RGB isn’t particularly good, this screen isn’t really well suited to that particular reference space. It is much closer to DCI-P3 (98.8% absolute, 105.6% relative coverage) which is useful if you are wanting to work with content in that colour space.
The U3223QE comes factory calibrated by Dell, with a report provided in the box for your specific unit. You can see our report below (click for larger versions) which shows that the sRGB, Rec.709 and DCI-P3 colour gamut modes have been calibrated for gamma, greyscale and colour accuracy. This should give some re-assurances around performance in case you don’t have your own calibration tool, although we will validate the results in a moment.
The U3223QE provides an sRGB emulation mode in the OSD that can allow you to restrict the colour gamut back to the more common sRGB reference space. This is useful if you want to avoid the over-saturation in the native wide gamut mode or specifically work with and view SDR content. According to the factory calibration report this should be calibrated to 2.2 gamma, 6500K colour temp and with a colour accuracy dE <2.
The gamma looks to actually be configured to the sRGB gamma curve, as opposed to 2.2, which is fine for this kind of mode and very similar to 2.2 overall, just with a lower gamma near black – but why list 2.2 on the factory report? Here is the gamma curve relative to sRGB instead:
The colour temp and white point are very good here, being very close to the 6500K target and with only a minor deviance which results in decent rendering of greys and whites at the correct colour temp. The balance of the RGB channels was also very good and this resulted in a nice accurate greyscale tracking with dE 1.9 average. Contrast ratio remained strong thanks to the IPS Black panel, at 1943:1. Thankfully in this mode you still have access to the OSD controls for the brightness so you can turn that to something more comfortable. Some sRGB emulation modes on other screens will lock this control, so it’s good to see that’s not the case here. There’s no access to any gamma or colour controls though in this mode which is a bit of a shame, but it’s well set up for 6500K and sRGB gamma curve so most people wouldn’t need to worry about it anyway.
We were very impressed by the colour performance in this sRGB mode as well. There was a really nice accurate clamping of the native colour space back to sRGB as you can see on the left. This resulted in an excellent colour accuracy with dE 1.0 average. This was a very usable and well configured mode for sRGB / SDR content and work and a strong factory calibration.
We also tested the DCI-P3 mode which is a common colour space for cinema content creation. This mode has a factory calibration target of 2.6 gamma which is commonly used for cinema/theatre (as opposed to ‘display DCI-P3’). White point has been factory calibrated to the common D65 (6500K) and a colour accuracy dE <2 again according to the report.
In this mode the default brightness is set at 15, resulting in a luminance of ~46 cd/m2. This is because 48 cd/m2 is the target luminance for DCI-P3 content, but you can still change the screen’s brightness setting if you want something higher. The gamma was indeed pretty close to 2.6, with a 2.51 average measured. While the colour temperature average across the greyscale was very good at 6469K (0% deviance), and the white point only slightly too warm at 6340K (2% deviance), the balance of the RGB channels in the middle graph was poor, and this resulted in some high errors with greyscale rendering. Contrast ratio took a small hit in this mode as well down to 1765:1, but was still impressive for an IPS-type panel.
This emulation mode did a very good job again of clamping the native display gamut back to the target of DCI-P3, with 98.1% total coverage measured, and only very minor over-coverage to 99.5% relative. The colour accuracy of DCI-P3 colours was unfortunately poor in this mode, which was odd as we’d seen good results from the sRGB emulation mode and its factory calibration. If you want to work with DCI-P3 content then this emulation mode does a decent job of clamping the colour space and setting you close to 2.6 gamma, but you would ideally need to profile the screen to correct the colour accuracy further.
Calibration and profiling can produce very good results if you have a suitable calibration device and software. This was profiled to 2.2 gamma, 6500K white point and to the sRGB colour space. The screen was left in its native wide gamut mode, but this profile will be used in colour-aware applications (e.g. Photoshop) to map back to sRGB in this instance. You can see the recommended OSD settings above that go along with this profile. If you want you can also try our calibrated ICC profile out.
One of the key features of this screen is its high 3840 x 2160 Ultra HD (“4K”) resolution. This 4K resolution is possibly still a bit too high to use at native scaling (100%) on a screen even of this pretty large 31.5″ size although some people may find it ok. Text is small but if you’ve got good eye-sight and are up close then it’s still reasonable and does provide you then with a massive screen real estate and very sharp picture. It’s certainly viable unlike on a 27″ model like previous 4K 144Hz screens. Other people will probably want to use operating system scaling to ensure fonts and text are a more sensible and readable size though. 150% is unnecessarily large, with 125% scaling offering a nice balance on a screen of this size we think. That gives you comfortable text size which is very similar to a 27″ 1440p screen, but does give you the equivalent desktop real-estate area of a 3072 x 1728 resolution. So that’s quite a nice jump up from common 2560 x 1440 resolution screens in this approximate size range. The extra pixel density of the 4K resolution will provide a very sharp and clear image for all uses including office and general applications. Just make sure that your software will support scaling effectively as it can sometimes be a bit difficult to get it right.
The light AG coating of the panel is fine, and much better than the grainy and dirty appearance of older IPS panel AG coatings. Thankfully LG.Display have retained this coating approach for their new IPS Black panels. The wide viewing angles provided by this panel technology on both horizontal and vertical planes, helps minimize on-screen colour shift when viewed from different angles. Viewing dark content from an angle still showed some pale IPS glow but it was somewhat improved compared with other competing IPS-type technologies. See our full analysis and testing video on IPS Black here.
The out of the box setup was reasonable with the screen operating in its full native colour space. The gamma was pretty good which was useful as Dell have neglected to provide any specific gamma settings in the OSD menu. We were impressed by the contrast ratio of the IPS Black panel, being very close to the advertised 2000:1 and showing significant improvements compared with other IPS panels. There’s a really well configured and factory calibrated sRGB emulation mode which is great to see, with excellent colour accuracy and thankfully the flexibility to still change the brightness if you want. This makes the screen well suited to working with sRGB/SDR content if you need, while still being able to enjoy the benefits of the wide colour space for other applications, multimedia and perhaps some casual gaming. The native colour space isn’t really wide enough to offer full support for Adobe RGB content (93.6% coverage) and there’s no emulation mode provided for that space. You might be ok if you have your own colorimeter and can profile the screen properly back to this space, but ideally you would have a screen with a ~100% Adobe RGB to support this better for any content based around that gamut.
The brightness range of the screen was very good, with the ability to offer a luminance between ~42 and 447 cd/m2 which gives you good flexibility in brighter conditions, as well as in darker room and low ambient light conditions. A setting of 32 in the OSD brightness control should return you a luminance close to 120 cd/m2. The backlight control does exhibit some low amplitude oscillation as shown below:
At 100% brightness there is a constant voltage applied to the backlight and a flat line on the oscillograph.
At all brightness levels below 100%, a very low amplitude oscillation is present, the above graph is at 50% brightness with the same vertical scale as the 100% brightness graph above it. This operates at a very high frequency as well of ~1830 Hz and because the brightness fluctuations are very minor, this should not present any real issues to users. It is certainly not using Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and should still be considered flicker-free as advertised.
We measured the spectral distribution of the screen at a calibrated 6500K white point which is shown above. The blue peak was measured at 454 nm wavelength which puts it right at the edge of the supposed “harmful” range according to Eyesafe which is 415 – 455nm. This means it is not part of the Eyesafe certified range of products. There are no blue light filter modes on this screen, which seems like an odd omission for a display focused on office use. There is a ‘Color Temp’ preset mode which allows you to switch to other defined colour temp levels, with the warmest mode being 5000K and delivering a pretty accurate 5071K in our measurements. So if you want a warmer mode for lots of office work or night time viewing, that is one option.
A wealth of connectivity options and productivity enhancements
One of the main benefits of the U3223QE for office and general uses are the wide range of connectivity options and all the extras Dell have crammed in to the screen to enhance your productivity and user experience. You can streamline your workspace with extensive connectivity ports including USB-type C including 90W power delivery, 10Gbps data transfer and DisplayPort Alt mode. This makes single cable connectivity simple and easy. There is also an integrated RJ45 Ethernet port allowing you enhanced manageability with MAC Address pass-through, PXE Boot, and Wake-on-LAN conveniently built in.
You can connect to two PC sources and Auto KVM will seamlessly switch controls over to the second connected PC. You can use the KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) feature to control both PCs with a single keyboard and mouse. You can also view content from two PC sources with Picture-in-Picture (PiP) and Picture-by-Picture (PbP) support and a range of different modes. Daisy chaining two displays is also possible if you need. The ‘power sync’ feature on this monitor can also enable start up and wake-on-demand on compatible Dell PCs and laptops.
We liked the additional quick access USB-C (up to 15W of power charging) and super speed USB 10Gbps ports on the bottom right hand edge of the screen as well. The stand was also very flexible and easy to position which was great. Dell have done a nice job of including all these extras and features and making it a comprehensive office and productivity monitor.
The U3223QE is based on an IPS Black panel from LG.Display (LM315WR6-SSA1) and Dell quote an 8ms G2G response time in normal mode, reduced down to 5ms G2G in fast mode. This is accessible via the OSD menu as shown.
This is obviously not a screen aimed at gaming at all, and it also only offers a low 60Hz refresh rate which means far inferior motion clarity and gaming performance than modern high refresh rate displays. There’s no support for adaptive-sync VRR here either, so from a gaming perspective it’s very limited in capabilities.
A summary of the U3223QE gaming features and performance is included here for quick reference, but is discussed in a lot more detail below.
Response Times and Motion Clarity
Important note: Before we get in to the measurements we wanted to highlight that we are in the process of switching all our response time measurements in these sections over to an improved ‘gamma corrected’ method. You may want to read through our article from Feb 2021 about Response Time Testing – Pitfalls, Improvements and Updating Our Methodology which talks about this a lot more. Basically this is an improved method for capturing G2G response times and overshoot, providing figures in these tables that are more reflective of real-world visual results. The measurements take in to account actual RGB changes and are closer to what you would see visually helping to analyse the visual performance more closely. The overshoot measurements are also improved dramatically, again to be more reflective to what you see visually. Our article linked above talks through why this is better and how we arrived at this improved method in much more detail.
We have been using this method for the last year but only really for our main measurement section (optimal refresh rate and overdrive mode) in the gaming part of our reviews, as taking the measurements was extremely time consuming and complicated. The other measurements in these sections where we examine the different overdrive modes and the different refresh rates were instead based on the “traditional response time” method, which is quicker and easier for us to capture considering there are loads of modes to measure. This is fine for quick comparisons and evaluation, and something that had been used for many years in the market, but not as “corrected” as the updated method.
We are in the process of switching over to using a new measurement device and software which helps massively to automate these measurements and calculations for us and makes it possible to now use this improved gamma corrected method for all the measurements. We will write a separate article about the new device and software in the future, but we have been testing and validating it against our existing equipment for the last 6 months and are happy with the accuracy and results it is producing. We will of course continue to provide pursuit camera photos which will help give you a view of real-world perceived motion clarity, to be compared alongside the device measurements.
Anyway, on to the measurements…
First up the screen was measured in the ‘normal’ response time mode which Dell state has an 8ms G2G spec. We found this to be true when using the “legacy” measurement approach (8.6ms G2G) but when taking in to account gamma correction the average was 10.7ms G2G. You can see some particularly slow transitions down the left hand side where the colours are changing from light shades to black, which results in some pale smearing on moving content. 10.7ms G2G isn’t terrible for a 60Hz-only screen that isn’t even aimed at gaming in the slightest, but of course it can’t compete with modern high refresh rate gaming panels at all. The response times are at least mostly capable of keeping up with the slow refresh rate of 60Hz, with 87% refresh rate compliance. There was also no visible overshoot in this ‘normal’ mode too which was pleasing, so no distracting pale or dark halos to worry about.
The ‘fast’ response time mode pushes the response times further, now achieving 6.8ms G2G average with our gamma corrected approach. Unfortunately this mode produces a lot of visible pale and dark halos and artefacts as the overshoot is now a problem. We would not recommend using this mode at all, stick to ‘normal’.
The input lag of the screen was also high at 16.25ms total display lag, and as we said earlier the screen in 60Hz only and doesn’t even support any form of VRR. The U3223QE is probably ok for some light, non-competitive RTS/RPG type games if you want, but gaming really shouldn’t be a consideration when looking at this screen.
The Dell UltraSharp U3223QE fits the target market nicely, with an impressive spec sheet and feature set which is likely to be very useful in office and working environments. It’s large screen size, 4K resolution and generally well set up preset modes make it an attractive option for these uses. We liked the wide range of connectivity options, and built in extras to enhance usability too, Dell have done a nice job there.
One of the main reasons we wanted to test this screen was to see how the new “IPS Black” technology performed and we were impressed on the whole with this new generation. There’s no doubt there’s some great improvements in black depth and contrast ratio, basically doubling what was available before from a wide range of IPS-type panels, from a range of different manufacturers. We would have liked a bit more of an improvement with off-angle viewing of dark content, and further reduction in the IPS glow, but there was some modest improvement there at least.
While the default mode and sRGB emulation option were decent, the screen lacks full support for Adobe RGB content which is a shame, mostly down to the slightly limited colour space coverage. The DCI-P3 mode could also do with a bit of work to improve accuracy, but was perhaps useful to some users anyway with a bit of tweaking or user calibration. Gaming is of course not the target market at all, and it’s probably not a surprise to see limited performance here in terms of response times, refresh rate support and lag. Obviously what would be great in the future is if IPS Black could be worked in to the high refresh rate panel space, to offer the contrast improvements along with decent gaming experience.
All in all it’s another solid outing from Dell’s UltraSharp range, and a pleasing first entry in to the new world of IPS Black panels. The screen is available from Dell direct, and also from Amazon in USA and Canada so far. You can check availability and pricing for your region on Amazon here (affiliate link).
|IPS Black panel offers decent improvements to black depth and contrast ratio||Would have liked to see further improvements with IPS Black off-angle glow levels|
|Wide range of connections and extras for enhancing productivity||Limited if you want to work in Adobe RGB colour space and DCI-P3 mode also not very accurate|
|Decent setup including reliable and accurate sRGB mode||Poor performance for gaming, although obviously not a target use case anyway|
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