For around £210, the 23-inch Dell SP2309W monitor bundles good performance; VGA, DVI and HDMI connections; a high 2,048x1,152-pixel resolution; an intuitive and uniquely designed on-screen display; 360° screen rotation; and five USB ports.
Compared with the £500, 24-inch Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP, the SP2309W comes up slightly short in terms of overall performance and connection options. For £220, the Dell S2409W offers an inch more screen real estate than the SP2309W, but lower resolution, few ergonomic options and slightly worse performance. The SP2309W hits a sweet spot.
The SP2309W's bezel is a striking, glossy black that reflects everything, but it also attracts many fingerprints. The bezel measures a short 0.75 inches long on all sides, and the middle of the bottom bezel has a slightly raised silver Dell logo on it. In the centre of the top bezel is an integrated 2-megapixel camera. The panel is nearly an inch deep. By comparison, most 24-inch models we've tested have a panel depth of more than an inch. A thin, 1cm strip wraps around the outer edge of the panel, bringing the panel width to 22.1 inches -- average for a monitor of this screen size.
The circular footstand measures 10.25 inches in diameter and does a good job in providing stability. We saw only minimal wobbling when we knocked the display from the sides.
Although it costs around £10 less than the S2409W, the SP2309W includes some extra features.
Firstly, the display provides 360° screen rotation via a swivel mechanism on the footstand. Secondly, the neck of the display is designed with a hinge at its base and the top. This lets the screen tilt all the way back so that it is facing directly up -- not a particularly useful feature, since this monitor doesn't have a touchscreen.
The screen height is adjustable by nearly 4 inches, and the monitor includes five USB ports (four downstream and one upstream). Two of the downstream ports are on the left side of the monitor, with the rest on the back, to the right of the video connection options.
The SP2309W's connection options include VGA, DVI and HDMI. Although the VGA and HDMI ports are easy to reach, the DVI port sits directly behind the display's neck, making it fairly awkward to connect the cable.
The SP2309W's on-screen display has a unique, labelless design. Five small buttons line the lower right-hand corner of the bezel. Pressing the blinking bottom button brings up the on-screen display, which pops up parallel to the button array, each OSD option corresponding to one of the five buttons. For example, pressing the button next to 'input source' on the OSD brings up a menu for changing the input source. Once a new menu comes up, the function of the buttons change dynamically, as the top two buttons become the up and down arrow buttons used to navigate through the menu.
It takes a few minutes to get used to navigating the OSD, but we found it easier to use and more useful than the S2409W's impressive OSD. Since the buttons light up when they have a function and the button labels are actually on the screen, calibrating the display in a dark room is painless.
OSD options include the mainstays: brightness, contrast and various colour options. There are a number of presets to choose from, including 'standard', 'multimedia', 'game', 'warm', 'cool', 'sRGB' and 'custom'. The presets do not change anything other than the red, green and blue colour balance, and how well each setting works will, therefore, be subjective.
The SP2309W's 16:9 aspect ratio supports both a 2,048x1,152-pixel native resolution and the 1,920x1,080-pixel 'Full HD' resolution.
We tested the SP2309W with its DVI connection. The display posted a composite score of 90 on our DisplayMate-based performance tests. We compared it with the 2408WFP, which also scored a 90, and the S2409W, which scored 87.
The SP2309W has some problems with screen uniformity, which indicates that the display may have some difficulty achieving uniform backlighting -- a finding supported by the dark-screen test, in which the Dell revealed plenty of backlight bleeding along the bottom.
We also noticed a slight colour-tracking error in the intensity and greyscale test. A colour-tracking error occurs when the intensity of red, green and blue colours does not adjust identically with signal-level changes, resulting in slight tints of colour (usually red) where only grey should be seen.
Otherwise, the SP2309W performed well, especially on the low-saturation-colours and 64-256 intensity-colour-ramp tests, which look for noticeable compression or expansion at the dark and light ends of the scale. The SP2309W displayed one of the smoothest colour ramps we've seen.
The SP2309W posted a brightness score of 297cd/m2, according to our test -- near the 300cd/m2 maximum claimed by Dell. This beats the S2409W's 243cd/m2 brightness score, but the 2408WFP crushes that number with a 452cd/m2 brightness rating.
Our tested contrast ratio was lower than we expected, coming in at 648:1, compared with the 2408WFP's 891:1 and the S2409W's 1,001:1. While the SP2309W's tested brightness and contrast ratio are relatively low, this does not, however, translate into bad picture quality.