There's a lot to like about the Dell Crystal monitor. Priced around £850, however, this 22-inch LCD is clearly not aimed at the general consumer. Does its design and performance make it a worthwhile investment?
The Dell Crystal can most easily be described as a normal 22-inch LCD with a 4mm thick glass overlay. The glass facing extends over the edges -- 76mm on each side and 25mm on the top and bottom -- and houses the speakers and the control buttons for the onscreen display. The glass overlay makes for a good first impression, but it's easily smeared and attracts fingerprints fast.
The display rests atop three metal legs. The foot on each leg is narrow, which raises the potential for an accident; make sure you have the Crystal set up on a desktop or stand with lots of room. The three-legged stand also does not allow for any height adjustment. The only adjustment option? You can rotate the screen back 30 degrees.
Two speakers are embedded into the glass overlay on each side of the display. The circuitry required to connect the speakers to the display is nicely hidden as two lines coming out of the screen and into the speakers.
The OSD has an elegant and simple interface that we hope Dell incorporates into its mainstream displays. With one press of the menu button, you are brought into the controls that most people want to adjust first -- brightness and contrast. The colour settings include six presets and separate settings for video and graphics.
The video mode lets you also change colour and saturation in addition to just choosing the presets. We really liked the capability to turn off the confirmation beep you usually get when pressing any of the buttons. Another useful touch is the capability to adjust the volume of the speakers simply by pressing the up or down arrows whenever the OSD is not open.
Dell went for a simplified one-cord solution for the cables. The cord is more than 1m in length before it splits into four smaller cords: HDMI (there's an adaptor included for DVI connection), USB for the webcam, an audio connection for a subwoofer and power. The 2-megapixel webcam is almost hidden on the top bezel and is very easy to miss.
Branding is kept to a minimum. A large Dell logo sits in the middle of the back of the display, illuminated by a bright blue LED. Another blue LED lights up a smaller transparent Dell logo beneath the screen on the front of the monitor.
In keeping with the sparse design, Dell went for simplicity over abundance with the Crystal's features. The one cable system provides an HDMI or a DVI connection. We're more than willing to sacrifice VGA or composite video connections, but at its price, we expected to see component video jacks.
The Dell Crystal offers HDCP support for displaying high-definition copyright-protected content, but this screen has a native resolution of 1,680x1,050 pixels, which means it will need to scale to display 1080p content. A 24-inch Crystal model would provide a 1080p-friendly 1,920x1,200-pixel native resolution and perhaps go a little further in justifying the high cost.
The Dell Crystal performed very well in our DisplayMate-based performance tests. Its composite score of 90 has been matched only by the Dell SP2208WFP and the Dell 2408WFP. In particular, it excelled on all five of our colour tests.
Most monitors struggle on DisplayMate's colour tracking test, which evaluates a display's capability of properly balance the RGB channels' intensities in signal-level changes. In other words, it looks for the appearance of red, green or blue when looking at the greyscale. Most displays exhibit some colour on this test, but the Crystal reproduced the greyscale with absolutely no hint of the colours.