Dell Alienware AW2521HF Monitor Review

Tested using Methodology v1.1
Reviewed May 20, 2020 at 07:58 am
Dell Alienware AW2521HF Picture
7.7
Mixed Usage
7.9
Office
8.4
Gaming
7.4
Multimedia
7.4
Media Creation
5.7
HDR Gaming
Size 25"
Resolution 1920x1080
Max Refresh Rate
240 Hz
Pixel Type
IPS
Variable Refresh Rate
FreeSync

The Dell Alienware AW2521HF is an overall good monitor with impressive gaming performance. It has identical features as its bigger sibling, the Dell Alienware AW2720HF, just in a more compact 25 inch screen size. It has a 1080p resolution, but due to its smaller screen, it results in higher pixel density and a sharper looking picture. Its IPS panel has wide viewing angles and great reflection handling, and it can get bright enough to combat glare in bright rooms. However, dark room performance is a bit disappointing, as it has a mediocre contrast ratio and there's visible backlight bleed. It has exceptional motion handling thanks to its fast response time and 240Hz refresh rate, and it also has a low input lag as well as FreeSync support. The smaller screen size might not be the best for productivity tasks, but its great performance should keep most gamers happy nonetheless.

Our Verdict

7.7 Mixed Usage

The Alienware AW2521HF is a good monitor for most uses. The 1080p resolution is decent for its 25 inch screen, but the smaller screen size also makes it less ideal for multitaskers, as there's less room to have multiple windows open at the same time. Response time and input lag are outstanding, and color accuracy is good, although its coverage of the Adobe RGB color space may not be wide enough for content creators. It's suitable for use in an average to brightly-lit room, but dark room performance is disappointing, as there's visible backlight bleed and the low contrast ratio makes blacks look gray.

Pros
  • Exceptional response time.
  • Excellent build quality.
  • Wide viewing angles.
Cons
  • Sub-par black uniformity.
  • No HDR support.
7.9 Office

The Alienware AW2521HF is a good office monitor. It's well-suited for average to brightly-lit environments, as it has a great peak brightness and great reflection handling, and its IPS panel provides excellent viewing angles, so you can share your work easily with coworkers. The stand allows for a good number of adjustments, however, the resolution and size of the monitor make it more difficult to multitask. On the upside, it has a flicker-free backlight, which helps to reduce eye strain during those long work days.

8.4 Gaming

The Alienware AW2521HF is an impressive gaming monitor. It has exceptional motion handling and low input lag, whether you play at its maximum 240Hz refresh rate or 60Hz. It has wide viewing angles, which is great for co-op gaming, and it performs well in bright rooms, as it can fight glare easily and it has great reflection handling. However, dark room gaming is less ideal due to some visible backlight bleed and a mediocre contrast ratio.

7.4 Multimedia

The Alienware AW2521HF is a decent monitor for media consumption. The 25 inch screen and 1080p resolution are decent, however, it's not as good for watching in the dark due to its low contrast ratio and sub-par black uniformity. It does perform well in bright rooms, though, and it has wide viewing angles, allowing you to share content with others. Ergonomics are good, so you can adjust it to your optimal viewing position, and its fast response time and 240Hz refresh rate result in exceptionally smooth motion handling. That said, the lack of HDR support is rather disappointing.

7.4 Media Creation

The Alienware AW2521HF is a decent monitor for media creation. The main downside is the smaller screen and the 1080p resolution, and although its coverage of the Adobe RGB color space is good, it may be a bit too low for some. It has great viewing angles, so the image remains accurate from the side, and the stand allows for a good amount of adjustments, including rotation to portrait mode. Gray uniformity is excellent, but there's some backlight bleed and the contrast ratio is low, which is expected of most IPS monitors.

5.7 HDR Gaming

The Alienware AW2521HF doesn't support HDR.

  • 7.7 Mixed Usage
  • 7.9 Office
  • 8.4 Gaming
  • 7.4 Multimedia
  • 7.4 Media Creation
  • 5.7 HDR Gaming

Check Price

25" Alienware AW2521HF
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

Video

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
Curved No
Curve Radius Not Curved
Weight (without stand)
7.9 lbs (3.6 kg)
Weight (with stand)
15.0 lbs (6.8 kg)

The Dell Alienware AW2521HF has a modern, gamer-centric design that's nearly identical to that of the Alienware AW2720HF, except that the back is black and it has a smaller screen. There are RGB lighting zones on the back of the monitor and the stand, and the bezels are thin on three sides, with the bottom being slightly thicker.

Design
Stand
Width
18.2" (46.3 cm)
Depth
10.1" (25.7 cm)

The plastic stand supports the monitor well and there's very little wobble. The V-shaped stand is deep, but the feet are fairly thin, leaving a bit of usable desk space in between.

7.9
Design
Ergonomics
Height Adjustment
4.9" (12.5 cm)
Switch Portrait/Landscape Yes, Both Ways
Swivel Range -20° to 20°
Tilt Range -20° to 5°

Very good ergonomics, the stand allows for good height adjustment and it can rotate to portrait mode in either direction. However, the swivel range is fairly narrow.

Design
Back
Wall Mount VESA 100x100

The back of the monitor looks clean and modern. There are RGB lighting zones on the back and on the stand, which can be controlled using the AlienFX software. There's a small cutout near the bottom of the stand that serves as cable management.

Design
Borders
Borders
0.3" (0.7 cm)

The bezels are thin and aren't distracting, great for a multi-monitor setup.

Design
Thickness
Thickness (with stand)
8.9" (22.5 cm)
Thickness (without stand)
3.0" (7.7 cm)

The screen itself is of medium thickness, but the stand is quite deep and requires a fair amount of space.

8.5
Design
Build Quality

The Alienware AW2521HF has an excellent build quality. Even though it's entirely made of plastic, it feels sturdy, there are no obvious gaps in its construction, and wobble is minimal.

Picture Quality
6.3
Picture Quality
Contrast
Native Contrast
1198 : 1
Contrast With Local Dimming
N/A

As expected, the Alienware AW2521HF's IPS panel has a mediocre contrast ratio, resulting in blacks that look like gray.

0
Picture Quality
Local Dimming
Local Dimming
No
Backlight
Edge

The Alienware AW2521HF doesn't have a local dimming feature. The video above is provided for reference only.

8.2
Picture Quality
SDR Peak Brightness
SDR Real Scene
406 cd/m²
SDR Peak 2% Window
409 cd/m²
SDR Peak 10% Window
410 cd/m²
SDR Peak 25% Window
410 cd/m²
SDR Peak 50% Window
411 cd/m²
SDR Peak 100% Window
411 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 2% Window
408 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 10% Window
410 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 25% Window
410 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 50% Window
410 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 100% Window
411 cd/m²
SDR ABL
0.000

The Alienware AW2521HF has an impressive SDR peak brightness. Visibility shouldn't be an issue in most well-lit rooms and the brightness is remarkably consistent when displaying different content.

0
Picture Quality
HDR Peak Brightness
HDR Real Scene
N/A
HDR Peak 2% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 10% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 25% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 50% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 100% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 2% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 10% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 25% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 50% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 100% Window
N/A
HDR ABL
N/A

This monitor doesn't support HDR.

8.4
Picture Quality
Horizontal Viewing Angle
Color Washout From Left
45 °
Color Washout From Right
45 °
Color Shift From Left
58 °
Color Shift From Right
57 °
Brightness Loss From Left
46 °
Brightness Loss From Right
46 °
Black Level Raise From Left
70 °
Black Level Raise From Right
70 °
Gamma Shift From Left
58 °
Gamma Shift From Right
57 °

The Alienware AW2521HF has great horizontal viewing angles, making it a good choice for co-op gaming or for sharing content.

7.0
Picture Quality
Vertical Viewing Angle
Color Washout From Below
31 °
Color Washout From Above
31 °
Color Shift From Below
39 °
Color Shift From Above
42 °
Brightness Loss From Below
35 °
Brightness Loss From Above
35 °
Black Level Raise From Below
70 °
Black Level Raise From Above
70 °
Gamma Shift From Below
32 °
Gamma Shift From Above
32 °

Decent vertical viewing angles. At normal viewing distances, the image should look accurate, but the top and bottom of the screen can look a bit washed out if you sit extremely close to the screen.

8.6
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
3.384 %
50% DSE
0.111 %
5% Std. Dev.
0.445 %
5% DSE
0.049 %

Excellent gray uniformity. The sides are darker, but thankfully, there's very little dirty screen effect and uniformity is a lot better in dark scenes.

5.7
Picture Quality
Black Uniformity
Native Std. Dev.
2.227 %
Std. Dev. w/ L.D.
N/A

The Alienware AW2521HF has sub-par black uniformity. There's backlight bleed at the top and bottom edges of the screen, although this is significantly better than the Alienware AW2720HF and could also be due to panel variance.

7.6
Picture Quality
Pre Calibration
Picture Mode
Game 1
Luminance
108 cd/m²
Luminance Settings
19
Contrast Setting
75
RGB Controls
100-100-100
Gamma Setting
No Gamma Setting
Color Temperature
6202 K
White Balance dE
2.73
Color dE
3.03
Gamma
2.13

Prior to calibration, the Alienware AW2521HF has good color accuracy. There are minor inaccuracies with several colors as well as with shades of gray, and the color temperature is warm, giving the image a slightly reddish tint. Gamma doesn't follow the target curve all that well, as most scenes appear brighter than they should.

9.7
Picture Quality
Post Calibration
Picture Mode
Game 1
Luminance
99 cd/m²
Luminance Settings
24
Contrast Setting
75
RGB Controls
95-97-100
Gamma Setting
No Gamma Setting
Color Temperature
6488 K
White Balance dE
0.45
Color dE
0.45
Gamma
2.18

Color accuracy is outstanding after calibration. White balance, colors, and color temperature are almost perfect. Gamma follows the target curve for the most part, but dark scenes can appear a bit brighter than they should.

You can download our ICC profile calibration here. This is provided for reference only and should not be used, as the calibration values vary per individual unit even for the same model due to manufacturing tolerances.

8.6
Picture Quality
SDR Color Gamut
sRGB xy
97.7 %
Adobe RGB xy
75.2 %
sRGB Picture Mode
Game 1
Adobe RGB Picture Mode
Game 1

The Alienware AW2521HF's color gamut is excellent. It has near full coverage of the commonly used sRGB color space, and coverage of the Adobe RGB color space is good, although it may not be enough for content creators.

8.9
Picture Quality
SDR Color Volume
sRGB In ICtCp
96.7 %
Adobe RGB In ICtCp
80.4 %
sRGB Picture Mode
Game 1
Adobe RGB Picture Mode
Game 1

Excellent color volume. It can't display dark colors well due to its low native contrast ratio, very similar to the Dell Alienware AW2720HF.

0
Picture Quality
HDR Color Gamut
Wide Color Gamut
N/A
DCI P3 xy
N/A
Rec. 2020 xy
N/A
DCI P3 Picture Mode
No HDR
Rec. 2020 Picture Mode
No HDR

This monitor doesn't support HDR.

0
Picture Quality
HDR Color Volume
DCI-P3 In ICtCp
N/A
Rec. 2020 In ICtCp
N/A
DCI P3 Picture Mode
No HDR
Rec. 2020 Picture Mode
No HDR

This monitor doesn't support HDR.

10
Picture Quality
Image Retention
IR After 0 Min Recovery
0.00 %
IR After 2 Min Recovery
0.00 %
IR After 4 Min Recovery
0.00 %
IR After 6 Min Recovery
0.00 %
IR After 8 Min Recovery
0.00 %
IR After 10 Min Recovery
0.00 %

The Dell Alienware AW2521HF shows no sign of temporary image retention.

8.0
Picture Quality
Gradient
Color Depth
8 Bit

Great gradient performance. Banding is most visible when displaying shades of gray and there's also some banding in dark greens and dark reds.

9.4
Picture Quality
Color Bleed
Pixel Row Error
0.000 %
Pixel Column Error
0.129 %

There's some very minor vertical color bleed, but this is only noticeable when using a test pattern and shouldn't affect most regular content.

8.3
Picture Quality
Reflections
Screen Finish
Matte
Total Reflections
4.9 %
Indirect Reflections
4.6 %
Calculated Direct Reflections
0.3 %

The Alienware AW2521HF has impressive reflection handling. It should be fine for most well-lit rooms; however, direct light shining on the screen can be a bit distracting.

7.0
Picture Quality
Text Clarity
Sub-Pixel Layout
RGB

Decent text clarity. Text looks sharper with ClearType enabled (top photo), especially for diagonal lines like the ones on the 'R' and 'N.' The pixels look blurry due to the monitor's matte anti-reflective coating.

Motion
9.7
Motion
Response Time @ Max Refresh Rate
Best Overdrive Setting
Fast
Rise / Fall Time
3.3 ms
Total Response Time
6.4 ms
Overshoot Error
0.0 %
Dark Rise / Fall Time
3.9 ms
Dark Total Response Time
7.8 ms
Dark Overshoot Error
0.0 %

Mode Response Time Chart Motion Blur Photo Response Time Table
Fast Chart Photo Table
Super Fast Chart Photo Table
Extreme Chart Photo Table

The Alienware AW2521HF has an exceptional response time. The best overdrive setting is 'Fast', as it provides the best performance with no overshoot at all. The 'Super Fast' and 'Extreme' settings have significant overshoot, causing the appearance of artifacts.

9.0
Motion
Response Time @ 60Hz
Best Overdrive Setting
Fast
Rise / Fall Time
4.0 ms
Total Response Time
10.4 ms
Overshoot Error
2.3 %
Dark Rise / Fall Time
4.2 ms
Dark Total Response Time
15.7 ms
Dark Overshoot Error
6.1 %

Mode Response Time Chart Motion Blur Photo Response Time Table
Fast Chart Photo Table
Super Fast Chart Photo Table
Extreme Chart Photo Table

Response time is excellent when playing at 60Hz, much better than the Alienware AW2720HF and great for console gaming. The best overdrive setting is also 'Fast.'

10
Motion
Image Flicker
Flicker-Free Yes
PWM Dimming Frequency
0 Hz

The Alienware AW2521HF has a flicker-free backlight, which can help reduce eye strain.

0
Motion
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
No BFI
BFI Maximum Frequency
N/A
BFI Minimum Frequency
N/A

This monitor doesn't have a black frame insertion feature.

9.6
Motion
Refresh Rate
Native
240 Hz
Max Refresh Rate
240 Hz
Variable Refresh Rate
Yes
FreeSync
Yes
G-SYNC
Compatible (NVIDIA Certified)
VRR Maximum
240 Hz
VRR Minimum
< 20 Hz
VRR Supported Connectors DisplayPort, HDMI

The AW2521HF has native FreeSync support and is certified as G-SYNC compatible. FreeSync works over DisplayPort or HDMI, but G-SYNC only works through a DisplayPort connection.

We had some issues with FreeSync during testing, as the screen would black out at random when testing the VRR range using a demo as well as when testing in-game. However, the issue seems to have resolved itself the following day.

Inputs
9.6
Inputs
Input Lag
Native Resolution
2.7 ms
Native Resolution @ 60Hz
9.7 ms
Variable Refresh Rate
3.1 ms
Variable Refresh Rate @ 60Hz
12.7 ms
10 Bit HDR
N/A
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
N/A

The Alienware AW2521HF's input lag is outstanding. It's slightly higher when playing at 60Hz, but it shouldn't be noticeable for most people.

7.1
Inputs
Resolution And Size
Native Resolution 1920 x 1080
Aspect Ratio 16:9
Megapixels 2.1 MP
Pixel Density
88 PPI
Screen Diagonal 25.0 inches
Screen Area 268 sq inches

Like the Dell Alienware AW2720HF, this monitor has a 1080p resolution. However, since it's on a smaller screen, it has a higher pixel density, making images and text look sharper and with less jagged lines. The downside is that the smaller screen is less ideal for productivity tasks. If you're looking for a bigger monitor with a 240Hz refresh rate, check out the LG 27GN750-B.

Inputs
Inputs
Inputs
Total Inputs
DisplayPort 1 (DP 1.2)
Mini DisplayPort No
HDMI 2 (HDMI 2.0)
DVI No
VGA No
DisplayPort Out No
USB 4 (USB 3.0)
USB C No
Analog Audio Out 3.5mm 1
Microphone In 3.5mm No
Digital Optical Audio Out No
Analog Audio Out RCA No
Power Supply Internal

The monitor has a total of four USB 3.0 ports, including one that's powered, allowing you to charge your mobile devices even when the monitor is off.

Features
Features
Additional Features
RGB Illumination
Controllable
Speakers
No
HDR10 No
Multiple Input Display
No

The AW2521HF comes with a few extra features, including:

  • LED Bias Lighting: RGB lighting on the back of the the monitor and on the stand. These lighting zones can be customized using the AlienFX software.
  • Display Alignment: Helps with alignment when setting up multiple monitors.
  • Timer: Displays a timer on screen.
  • FPS counter: Displays an overlay showing current frame rate.

Features
On-Screen Display (OSD)
Features
Controls

The monitor's controls are located on the back-right side of the monitor. It includes four buttons and a joystick to navigate the monitor's on-screen menu.

Features
In The Box

  • Power cable
  • DisplayPort cable
  • HDMI cable
  • USB to USB-B upstream cable
  • User guide

Differences Between Sizes and Variants

We tested the Dell Alienware AW2521HF, which is essentially a smaller variant of the Dell Alienware AW2720HF, as it has identical features and similar performance, except for its smaller screen size and black finish on the back.

If someone comes across a different type of panel or if their Alienware AW2521HF doesn't correspond to our review, let us know and we'll update the review. Note that some tests, such as the gray uniformity, may vary between individual units.

Our unit of the Alienware AW2521HF was manufactured in January 2020, and you can see the label here.

Compared to other monitors

The Dell Alienware AW2521HF is an overall good monitor that has very impressive gaming performance. Compared to its bigger brother, the Dell Alienware AW2720HF, this monitor has a slightly higher contrast ratio, much better black uniformity, and it's more color accurate out of the box. You can also see our recommendations for the best gaming monitors, the best ultrawide gaming monitors, and the best 240Hz monitors.

Dell Alienware AW2720HF
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

When comparing the Dell Alienware AW2521HF with its bigger sibling, the Dell Alienware AW2720HF, these two monitors are nearly identical except for screen size and a different color on the back of the monitor. In terms of performance, the AW2521HF is a bit better, as it has a slightly higher contrast ratio, it gets brighter, and it has much better black uniformity, although the latter may be due to panel variance. Out-of-the-box color accuracy, viewing angles, and response time at 60Hz are also better on the AW2521HF; however, the AW2720HF exhibits less color bleed and its bigger screen is better for productivity tasks.

LG 27GN750-B
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The LG 27GN750-B and the Dell Alienware AW25212HF are similar monitors overall, but the Dell is slightly better for gaming. The Dell has a better response time both at its max refresh rate and at 60Hz, it handles reflections better, and its ergonomics are better. The LG is bigger and it supports HDR10, although content in that mode doesn't look much different from SDR. 

HP OMEN X 25f
Unavailable
Amazon.com

Overall, the Dell Alienware AW2521HF is a much better monitor than the HP OMEN X 25f. Although they both have the same screen size and resolution, the Dell's IPS panel provides much better viewing angles and color accuracy than the TN panel on the HP. The Dell also has better gray uniformity and ergonomics, but the HP has a faster response time, resulting in less blur trail in fast-moving scenes.

ViewSonic Elite XG270
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Dell Alienware AW2521HF and the ViewSonic Elite XG270 have a lot in common, as both monitors feature a 1080p IPS panel with a 240Hz refresh rate. The main difference is that the ViewSonic supports HDR, has a black frame insertion feature that can help improve motion clarity, and it has a bigger 27 inch screen. However, the Dell has a better build quality, a significantly better black uniformity, and its response time is faster, resulting in less motion blur.

Acer Nitro XV273X
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

Despite having different outer design, the Dell Alienware AW2521HF and the Acer Nitro XV273X are very much alike in terms of performance. Both feature a 240Hz refresh rate on an IPS panel, and they also perform similarly when it comes to contrast ratio, peak brightness, and response time. The main difference is that the Acer supports HDR, has a far more color-accurate sRGB mode, and it has a black frame insertion feature to reduce motion blur. On the other hand, the Dell has a better build quality and it has better reflection handling.

Samsung T55
SEE PRICE
BestBuy.com

The Dell Alienware AW2521HF is much better than the Samsung T55, mainly due to its 240Hz refresh rate. It has an exceptional response time, both at its max refresh rate and at 60Hz. The Dell also has wider viewing angles, a lower input lag, better ergonomics, and it gets brighter. On the other hand, the Samsung has a better contrast ratio because of its VA panel and it also displays a wider color gamut.

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