Back in the mid-2000s, owning a 30-inch monitor was the (expensive) dream. Our collective thirst for larger panels hasn't dampened since then, and if you're not considering splashing out on a TV-sized 40-inch 4K monitor, you might be weighing up a cinematic ultra-wide offering like the Dell UltraSharp U3415W.
The curved, 34-inch Dell UltraSharp U3415W sports a pixel-resolution of 3,440 x 1,440 (WQHD), lending it a "cinematic" aspect ratio of 21:9. Compared to the first wave of ultra-wide monitors from 2013-2014 that used a much narrower 2,560 x 1,080 pixel-resolution, WQHD feels much less like peering into a brightly lit letterbox.
The resolution also feels more familiar if you've used a 2,560 x 1440 (QHD) monitor before. The U3415W has the same amount of height as Apple's (non-Retina) 27-inch iMac, for example, only with 440 extra horizontal pixels bolted onto each side.
It means that you get tons of real-estate on the desktop for using multiple browsers at once, watching Hollywood blockbusters in their native 21:9 aspect ratio or playing games in massive detail — if you've got a beefy graphics card (or two) required to push the pixels.
The U3415W is particularly worth considering at this moment in time due to being given a price drop by online retailers, some of which are offering it for just short of £600 (US$849, which is around AUS$1,188), versus Dell's RRP of £789 ($1,449, around AUS$1,219).
It's going up against several other 34-inch ultra-wide monitors, including the LG 34UM95, AOC 3477PQU, and the Samsung S34E790C, which also has a curved display.
The U3415W sports a sensible design that's suitable for homes or offices thanks to its neutral, classy two-tone black-and-grey colours. Aside from an inconspicuous Dell logo located on the bottom of the display's thin bezel, you won't find any unsightly stickers getting in the way.
Viewed from a side, it's not the bulkiest monitor we've ever seen, but it's not suitable for desks lacking depth — if you want to avoid getting sore eyes from sitting too close. The display is slightly curved at the edges which makes it a bit easier to see what's being displayed at either end of the screen, and you feel more surrounded by the monitor. It also looks cool to boot.
For a big slab of plastic, the U3415W is incredibly easy to setup and can be done in a mater of minutes with minimal fuss.
One benefit of the monitor arriving in a gigantic box is that the stand comes pre-assembled, so all you have to do is lay it flat on its front and slide the teeth at the top of the stand into the connecting holes at the back of the monitor. Once locked into place, it's impossible to disconnect the stand without pressing a button that releases it, allowing you to slide it out easily.
Featuring a heavy-duty stand, the U3415W is well-balanced and sturdy. It has a generous height adjustment of around 115mm, in addition to tilt and swivel capabilities.
In the box
In the box you'll find the monitor, stand, power cable, DisplayPort to mini-DisplayPort cable, USB Upstream Cable, a cable cover and user documentation. There's a dearth of ports on the U3415W, although you'll have to swing your head under the rear of the panel to access them.
There you'll find x1 HDMI connector, x1 MHL connector, x1 Mini DisplayPort, x1 DisplayPort (v.1.2), 1x DisplayPort out (Multi-Stream Transport), x1 Audio Line out, x4 USB 3.0 ports and x2 USB 3.0 ports (Upstream).
One of the USB ports is located around the back to the right-hand side. Although it's easier to get to than the USB ports on the underside, it's still awkwardly positioned if you're used to using side-mounted USB ports, which are usually easier to access.
The U3415W's sheer size is a feature in itself, providing the same amount of pixels as four 1,720 x 720 pixel-resolutions monitors stuck together. Most of the time you'll find windows floating around as if they're in space, such is the amount of real-estate on offer.
If you're the organised type, the U3415W is perfect for cascading windows and snapping them to different corners. You can browse a website while writing a document while keeping one eye on Skype and another on Facebook, for example.
Better yet, at 34 inches, the U3415W's 3,440 x 1,440 pixel resolution lends it 109ppi (pixels-per-inch), so there's no need to alter Windows' or OS X's scaling settings to make text and menus readable. That's a huge reason to opt for Dell's monitor over a 4K panel if your main concern is having tons of screen real-estate without having to effectively magnify parts of the desktop.
A row of capacitive touch-sensitive buttons are used to navigate through the U3415W's menus, which allow you to adjust the brightness, colour, audio levels, view energy usage, switch inputs and change what the shortcut button on the bezel does. It also lets you activate its picture-in-picture mode, which lets you display two input sources at the same time.
How well it works depends on what input sources you're displaying and what resolutions they're running at. For example, connecting a games console (in this case the Wii U) and a laptop running at 2,560 x 1440 will give you two 16:9 images on each half of the panel, leaving big black horizontal bars above and below the image.
The sheer size of the U3415W means that it wasn't such a problem playing Mario Kart 8 even sat 1.5 metres away from the monitor. However, it was nearly impossible to use the laptop's desktop as everything looked tiny.
Adjusting the laptop's resolution to 1,024 x 768 vastly reduced the space on the desktop, but it at least allowed me to comfortably browse web pages, stream video and do other single tasks while sat a distance away from the monitor.
Oh, and be warned: although the U3415W has decent speakers that are easily loud enough to fill a small room, it can only output volume from one input at a time. That shouldn't be a problem if you use the monitor to ouput sound from a console, and then use the laptop's speakers separately if you need to.
The capacitive menu buttons aren't as easy to use as physical ones, occasionally requiring a second tap to register a press. Neither are they labelled, so you'll have to learn what each one does and which action you have the shortcut button set to perform if you choose to re-assign it.
Sound isn't the primary reason you're going to buy the U3415W, but its two 9W speakers provide loud and clear audio, even if they're not going to shake the room with pounding bass. They're easily up to the task for streaming television, music or gaming.
The Dell's AH-IPS panel produced excellent colours and impressive image quality out of the box. Measured with our X-Rite iDisplay Pro calibrator, it reached 298.32 cd/m2. The U3415W also produced inky blacks, with back levels reaching 0.26 cd/m2.