I managed to snag a Dell U2713HM monitor for about $450, with a combination of discounts. The retail price for this 27″ 2560×1440 monitor is $799. While you can find many detailed reviews on the web about this monitor, I’ll give you my bottom line.
The display quality is outstanding. It’s super sharp, with vibrant color, vivid whites, and fairly dark blacks. The anti-glare coating is barely noticeable, unlike previous generations of Dell’s IPS displays. It’s great not to see any grain.
Unfortunately, Dell and this monitor get major dings.
Dealing with Dell’s customer support is generally a painful experience. My U2713HM came with two defective pixels, so I wanted to exchange it. Arranging the exchange took about an hour and a half. After dealing with a phone menu tree and getting routed to incorrect departments, I was eventually routed to a first level support group in India. No matter how much training they’ve received to deal with Americans, it hasn’t helped much. It seems as if they are working off a script. Michael Dell should try speaking with these departments incognito to see what the experience is like. On top of that, I was disconnected twice. Eventually I reached someone in second level support (not in India) who was very helpful and took care of my exchange.
While my replacement monitor has no pixel defects, it has another issue that plagued a 24″ Dell monitor that I bought a few years ago. Because the monitor is very plasticky, its parts expand as it warms up. As I’m typing this, I can hear a popping sound about once a minute emanating from the monitor. It’s somewhat maddening in a quiet room. If the popping doesn’t subside, I might have to return it. I don’t think I’ll exchange it again, because playing the panel lottery is not fun, especially with Dell’s support team.
The raises the question: Can this monitor be considered a reasonable alternative to the Apple Thunderbolt Display? I think it boils down to several factors. If my U2713HM didn’t make popping noises, it would be a no-brainer at the price I paid. My Mac Pro doesn’t have a Thunderbolt port, and even if it did, it’s not a critical feature in a monitor. Then there’s the glossy/matte screen decision. I think that the U2713HM’s anti-glare coating is so unobtrusive, that it might be preferable to Apple’s glass screen. As far as fit, finish, and build quality goes, the Thunderbolt Display wins hands down.
I’ll update this post after living with the monitor for a week or two.
Update 1/19/2013: I bit the bullet and exchanged the popping monitor for another replacement. Not only did the third monitor make popping noises, it also came with a defective pixel. I sent the third monitor back to Dell, and have been using the second monitor for a few weeks. It pops much less than when I first got it. I believe it was a combination of the cold weather and parts settling in that caused the popping noises. Overall, I’m happy with the U2713. Like other reviewers, I have noticed the subtle criss-cross pattern visible on light, solid backgrounds, presumably due to the anti-glare coating. I can live with these minor issues given the price I paid.