Dell 27 Curved Gaming Monitor S2721HGF ReviewDecember 17, 2020
Gamers looking for a budget gaming monitor are spoiled for choice. Dozens of attractive options sell between $200 and $300. Dell’s entry in this packed arena, the S2721HGF, is a 27-inch, 1080p display with a 144Hz refresh rate, a curved screen, and an MSRP of $279.99 (commonly discounted to $224.99).
None of these specifications, not even the curve, stand out. Instead, Dell hopes its reputation for consistent, reliable performance will lean you towards the S2721HGF. Is it enough to fend off cut-throat competition from Asus, AOC, Gigabyte, and others?
Dell 27 Curved Gaming Monitor S2721HGF Review
Dell 27 Curved Gaming Monitor – Design and features
Dell’s gaming monitors have settled on a simple but effective design language that combines matte black plastic with vents surrounding the stand. More expensive Dell gaming monitors throw in LED lighting and a more premium gunmetal look, but the cheap-and-cheerful 2721HGF can’t budget for extra flair.
Still, the Dell 2721HGF is sturdy. I’ve handled monitors priced three times as much that feel less durable. It’s handsome, as well, with slim bezels and small touches that provide character. I like the hexagonal stand and the cosmetic vents that line both the stand and the display’s rear.
The stand attaches to the curved gaming monitor’s VESA mount, providing 100mm of height adjustment and 26 degrees of tilt. This is better than some alternatives, like Spectre’s C275B, but not quite as good as the AOC C27G1, which offers up more height adjustment and swivel.
Unfortunately, the stand is too light to keep the monitor grounded, and the entire monitor weighs in at a meager 19 pounds. Furious typing is a recipe for wobble if you, like me, have a desk from Ikea. Its lack of heft might be due to the lack of extra features. The 2721HGF doesn’t even include speakers.
Settings are managed with a joystick-style control and several buttons found on the monitor’s right flank. Pressing the joystick opens the monitor’s main menu, which you then navigate by moving the joystick up, down, left, or right. It’s a simple and intuitive system that makes adjustments a cinch. Basic settings, like brightness, can be accessed even more quickly by hitting the buttons below the joystick.
Dell offers a wide range of color customization across Gain, Offset, Hue, and Saturation. This is great to see in a gaming monitor. Better still, the monitor has three Game Mode settings, each of which can be customized with its own color customization and response time settings. While color is open to calibration, the monitor doesn’t include gamma or color temperature customization. That does limit calibration. Still, the S2721HGF offers a lot of choice for a monitor not built for professional, color-critical work.
A few special features are thrown in for gamers. Response times can be adjusted across four levels, from the default Fast to “Moving Picture Response Time,” the fastest mode. There’s no built-in reticle, but you will find a black stabilizer to draw out details in dark games, a frame rate monitor, and a timer. These features work, but they’re common on gaming monitors at every price point.
Connectivity spans two HDMI 1.4 ports, one DisplayPort 1.2, and a headphone out jack. You won’t find USB connectivity, so you can’t reduce wire clutter by using the S2721HGF as a hub for a wired mouse and keyboard. Most affordable gaming monitors share this shortcoming, though Gigabyte’s C27FC bucks the trend with two USB 3.0 ports.
Taken together, the Dell S2721HGF’s design and feature set is robust, but limited. Most monitors in this category cut out one or two features, like speakers or USB connectivity, but this monitor drops nearly everything. It instead prioritizes attractive design and an intuitive settings menu. I can understand Dell’s thinking, but it does feel lacking next to competitors like the Gigabyte C27FC, which offers a more adjustable stand, more ports, and built-in speakers.
Dell 27 Curved Gaming Monitor – Productivity performance
27-inch, 1080p monitors are controversial. Stretching 1080p across a panel this large results in a pixel density of about 82 pixels per inch. That’s as low as you’ll find on any modern monitor.
The Dell S2721HGF handles this problem well. Fonts suffer visible aliasing, and small interface buttons, such as the reply button in Slack, look a bit rough. However, the S2721HGF remains usable and at times, enjoyable. Fine text can show sawtooth edges, but the monitor’s large panel and high contrast make text readable without strain.
An anti-glare coating prevents glare in most situations, though it works no better than usual. The monitor’s maximum brightness, which I benchmarked at 358 nits, is high enough to make glare a non-issue unless you’re gaming directly across from a sunlit window.
The screen’s noticeable 1500R curve may be a problem if you use the monitor for precision work, since it can change your perspective on an image. Dell also makes no claims about the monitor’s color accuracy or gamut, so this monitor isn’t a good pick for photo or video editors. That, however, is typical of any gaming monitor sold below $500.
Dell 27 Curved Gaming Monitor – Gaming performance
The Dell S2721HGF is an outstanding monitor for gaming with excellent contrast, vibrant color, and motion clarity that will satisfy all but the most discerning players. Your eyes will tell you it’s worth more than you paid.
It uses Vertical Alignment (VA) technology. VA’s greatest strength is contrast, as monitors using this technology can display deeper shades of black than those using TN or IPS technology. That advantage is instantly noticeable in the S2721HGF. It displays deep, inky shadows and provides an excellent illusion of depth. This does wonders for Diablo 3, which has plenty of grim scenes.
The S2721HGF also has vibrant, rich color. This is not a wide gamut display, but it does cover 99% of the sRGB color space. That’s an excellent result for any gaming monitor. I also appreciate the monitor’s warm tone. Gaming monitors often lean towards an overly cool image that can lead to sickly skin tones in characters, or disappointing depth in sunlit scenes, but that wasn’t a problem here.
You could spend a lot more for a monitor and not see a significant improvement. I compared the S2721HGF side-by-side with Dell’s Ultrasharp U3421WE, a cream-of-the-crop ultrawide built for color critical work that retails at $1,199. While the U3421WE undeniably delivers more accurate color, the Dell S2721HGF looks no less attractive in most games. I also compared it to Acer’s XFA240, a popular TN-panel option, and it’s no contest. The Dell is clearly superior at even a moment’s glance.
As mentioned, the S2721HGF packs just 82 pixels per inch, which can lead to problems anywhere aliasing is a concern. The trees in Final Fantasy XIV shimmered in the distance as I flew across zones to find gathering materials. You can combat the issue with super-sampling. Still, this is a flaw you’re certain to notice in a wide variety of games.
On the other hand, you’ll be impressed by the monitor’s black and gray uniformity. I noticed minor clouding in all-black test images, particularly at maximum brightness, but the problem is rather tame. That’s great news in dark games, where bright spots can become a constant annoyance. Gray uniformity was solid, too, with only minor variance on the middle left and right-most portions of the display.
Overall, the S2721HGF stands tall on the strengths of its VA panel. However, VA panels are not without flaws. The most dreaded is “black smear,” which causes darker portions of the image to show excessive blur in motion.
Thankfully, I found it difficult to find the problem in games. I saw it, barely, in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands while panning the camera rapidly but, at that point, conventional blur seemed the more obvious issue.
On that point, the Dell S2721HGF performs well but isn’t outstanding. The 144Hz refresh rate provides a solid leap in both motion clarity and responsiveness when you can drive frames to the monitor quickly enough to maximize its potential. In this respect, the panel’s 1080p resolution can be an advantage.
However, again comparing the S2721HGF side-by-side with the Acer XFA240, a 24-inch monitor with a TN panel, the Dell was a step behind. Fast-moving objects looked less defined on the S2721HGF, and fast camera pans create enough blur to be distracting. The S2721HGF is a huge upgrade over 60Hz, but behind top-tier 144Hz monitors.
Dell includes a black-frame insertion feature, labelled MPRT. Black frame insertion adds blank, black frames between standard frames, which drastically cuts back motion blur. It can improve clarity but, in this case, it also introduces a doubling effect to fast-moving objects, and significantly dims the display. I don’t think you’ll prefer playing with this feature on.
Viewing angles are a downside of the S2721HGF, as true of all VA panel monitors. Desktop monitors are typically viewed straight-on, which makes this irrelevant to most owners. However, you should keep this in mind if you plan to use a monitor as a TV alternative in a small space. No monitor with a VA panel will perform well in this situation.
Last, and certainly least, is the curve. There’s no missing it. Still, you’ll forget the curve once you load a game. It’s a bit of flair that makes the display look more unique on your desk, but that’s all.
Overall, the Dell S2721HGF’s delivers outstanding image quality for its price. Budget VA panel monitors typically punch above their price in image quality, but this Dell steps ahead of the pack with beautiful color and good uniformity.
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