Dell Alienware AW2721D Monitor Review

Tested using Methodology v1.1
Reviewed Jan 26, 2021 at 10:15 am
Dell Alienware AW2721D Picture
8.1
Mixed Usage
8.1
Office
8.4
Gaming
8.0
Multimedia
8.1
Media Creation
7.4
HDR Gaming
Size 27"
Resolution 2560x1440
Max Refresh Rate
240 Hz
Pixel Type
IPS
Variable Refresh Rate
G-SYNC

The Dell Alienware AW2721D is an impressive 1440p gaming monitor. It has a 240Hz maximum refresh rate, an exceptional response time that results in minimal motion blur, and an incredibly low input lag that makes gaming feel responsive. It also has native G-SYNC support and is compatible with FreeSync to reduce screen tearing. It uses an IPS panel with wide viewing angles, but that comes at the expense of a lower contrast ratio, so blacks look more like gray when viewed in the dark. There's a local dimming feature to improve black levels, but it's not very effective. While it supports HDR and gets fairly bright for HDR content, its low contrast ratio means that the HDR experience is only decent. On the plus side, it gets bright enough to use in well-lit rooms, although it has mediocre reflection handling, so you may have issues with glare if you place it in front of bright lights.

Our Verdict

8.1 Mixed Usage

The Dell AW2721D is a great monitor for mixed usage. Gamers should be pleased with its exceptional response time, incredibly low input lag, and VRR support. It also has a high resolution and wide viewing angles that are great for productivity. Its wide color gamut and high peak brightness make images look crisp and clear, which is great for viewing and creating media. It supports HDR, although the HDR experience is only decent, and its low contrast ratio and bad black uniformity make it less suited to dark rooms.

Pros
  • Exceptional response time.
  • Wide viewing angles.
  • High resolution and large screen size.
Cons
  • Low contrast ratio.
  • Mediocre reflection handling.
8.1 Office

The Dell AW2721D is great for office use. Its high 1440p resolution and large size are well-suited to multitasking, with enough space to open multiple windows side-by-side. It also has wide viewing angles, which makes it easier to share content with a co-worker. Despite getting quite bright, its reflection handling is mediocre, so direct light can be distracting. That said, it has great ergonomics, allowing for many adjustments to suit your ideal viewing position.

Pros
  • Wide viewing angles.
  • Great ergonomics.
  • High resolution and large screen size.
Cons
  • Mediocre reflection handling.
  • Poor black uniformity.
8.4 Gaming

The Dell AW2721D is an impressive gaming monitor. It has a 240Hz refresh rate and an exceptional response time, resulting in clear motion. It also has an incredibly low input lag, so gaming feels responsive. It supports G-SYNC and is FreeSync compatible. Unfortunately, its IPS panel has a mediocre contrast ratio, so blacks look more like gray in the dark.

Pros
  • Low input lag.
  • VRR support.
  • High refresh rate and an exceptional response time.
Cons
  • Low contrast ratio.
  • Mediocre reflection handling.
8.0 Multimedia

The Dell AW2721D is a great monitor for multimedia. Its high 1440p resolution makes images look crisp, and it's a good size for watching movies and TV on your own. Its wide viewing angles are good for watching with a friend. It performs well in bright rooms thanks to its high peak brightness, but it has mediocre reflection handling, so direct light sources might be distracting. On top of that, it has a mediocre contrast ratio, so it's not the best option if you prefer to watch in the dark.

Pros
  • Wide viewing angles.
  • Excellent brightness.
  • High resolution and large screen size.
Cons
  • Low contrast ratio.
  • Mediocre reflection handling.
8.1 Media Creation

The Dell AW2721D is a great monitor for media creation. Its large screen size provides plenty of space, and its 1440p resolution makes images look crisp and clear. It has wide viewing angles, making it easy to share content with another person, and great ergonomics, allowing you to adjust it to your ideal viewing position. It also has an outstanding color gamut, including great coverage of the Adobe RGB color space used by professional content creators.

Pros
  • Wide viewing angles.
  • Great ergonomics.
  • High resolution and large screen size.
Cons
  • Low contrast ratio.
  • Mediocre reflection handling.
7.4 HDR Gaming

The Dell AW2721D monitor is decent for HDR gaming. It has good brightness in HDR, but it has a mediocre contrast ratio and bad black uniformity, so it's not well-suited to dark room viewing. It has a local dimming feature, but it's not that effective. That said, it has an outstanding response time, so motion looks clear, and a low input lag that makes gaming feel responsive. Finally, it supports G-SYNC and is FreeSync compatible.

Pros
  • Low input lag.
  • VRR support.
  • High refresh rate and an exceptional response time.
Cons
  • Low contrast ratio.
  • Poor black uniformity.
  • Bad local dimming.
  • 8.1 Mixed Usage
  • 8.1 Office
  • 8.4 Gaming
  • 8.0 Multimedia
  • 8.1 Media Creation
  • 7.4 HDR Gaming
  1. Updated Jan 26, 2021: Updated Local Dimming box to clarify test results.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
Curved No
Curve Radius Not Curved
Weight (without stand)
14.1 lbs (6.4 kg)
Weight (with stand)
24.5 lbs (11.1 kg)

The Dell AW2721D has a sleek, gamer-oriented design, similar to previous Alienware monitors. It's mostly white with black accents and has thin borders. It also has four RGB lighting zones, including the downlight beneath the panel, the power button, the Alienware logo on the back, and the stand. It's heftier than similar-looking models like the Dell Alienware AW2720HF due to the more premium materials used in the stand.

Design
Stand
Width
18.3" (46.5 cm)
Depth
10.0" (25.4 cm)

The stand supports the monitor well, with very little wobble. It's capped in plastic, but most of the structure is metal, so it feels heavier and sturdier than previous Alienware monitors.

8.0
Design
Ergonomics
Height Adjustment
5.1" (13.0 cm)
Switch Portrait/Landscape Yes, Both Ways
Swivel Range -20° to 20°
Tilt Range -21° to 5°

The Dell AW2721D has great ergonomics. The swivel range is a bit limited, but it allows for a lot of height and tilt adjustments. It can also rotate into portrait mode in both directions.

Design
Back
Wall Mount VESA 100x100

The back of the monitor is made of plastic with an Alienware logo in the top right corner that lights up. There's a cutout in the stand for cable management.

Design
Borders
Borders
0.2" (0.5 cm)

The bezels are very thin and shouldn't be distracting, which is great for a dual-monitor setup.

Design
Thickness
Thickness (with stand)
9.1" (23.0 cm)
Thickness (without stand)
3.3" (8.3 cm)

The monitor itself is of average thickness, but with the stand, it's much thicker and requires a fair amount of desk space.

9.0
Design
Build Quality

The Dell AW2721D feels remarkably well-built. It's sturdy, with more heft than other similarly-built Alienware monitors. There's very little flex in the plastic, and the monitor feels stable no matter how you adjust it.

Picture Quality
6.1
Picture Quality
Contrast
Native Contrast
1088 : 1
Contrast With Local Dimming
1026 : 1

The Dell AW2721D has a passable contrast ratio, which is typical for an IPS panel. Blacks look more like gray when viewed in the dark. Note that the contrast ratio can vary between units.

3.0
Picture Quality
Local Dimming
Local Dimming
Yes
Backlight
Edge

The Dell AW2721D includes an edge-lit local dimming feature, but it's not especially effective. There are quite a few dimming zones, so there's not as much blooming as other edge-lit monitors, but there's still blooming along the whole height of the screen, and transitions between zones are fairly noticeable. There are also noticeable differences in uniformity when the vertical zones are lit up. That said, these issues are less noticeable with real content.

Note: While we've received reports that some people experience better local dimming on Mode 0, we chose to test local dimming using Mode 1 because it was the brightest and offered the best compromise between increased contrast and transition visibility. That said, we don't expect using a different local dimming mode to significantly affect the score.

8.6
Picture Quality
SDR Peak Brightness
SDR Real Scene
545 cd/m²
SDR Peak 2% Window
544 cd/m²
SDR Peak 10% Window
586 cd/m²
SDR Peak 25% Window
586 cd/m²
SDR Peak 50% Window
480 cd/m²
SDR Peak 100% Window
479 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 2% Window
536 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 10% Window
572 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 25% Window
576 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 50% Window
465 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 100% Window
474 cd/m²
SDR ABL
0.014

The Dell Alienware AW2721D has excellent SDR peak brightness, higher than the advertised 450 cd/m2, so you shouldn't have issues using the monitor in well-lit rooms. With local dimming disabled, the brightness is more consistent, and it gets up to 575 cd/m2 in the sustained 100% window, which is significantly brighter than what you get with local dimming enabled.

We measured the SDR brightness after calibration in the 'Custom' Picture Mode, with Brightness set to max, and local dimming (Variable Backlight) set to 'Mode 1'.

7.6
Picture Quality
HDR Peak Brightness
HDR Real Scene
562 cd/m²
HDR Peak 2% Window
698 cd/m²
HDR Peak 10% Window
788 cd/m²
HDR Peak 25% Window
621 cd/m²
HDR Peak 50% Window
481 cd/m²
HDR Peak 100% Window
481 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 2% Window
480 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 10% Window
495 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 25% Window
515 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 50% Window
467 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 100% Window
470 cd/m²
HDR ABL
0.006

The HDR peak brightness is good. Small highlights are significantly brighter than in SDR, reaching well above the advertised 600 cd/m2.

We measured HDR brightness in the 'Gamer 1' Picture Mode with Smart HDR enabled, Brightness set to max, and local dimming (Variable Backlight) set to 'Mode 1'.

7.8
Picture Quality
Horizontal Viewing Angle
Color Washout From Left
39 °
Color Washout From Right
39 °
Color Shift From Left
54 °
Color Shift From Right
55 °
Brightness Loss From Left
44 °
Brightness Loss From Right
44 °
Black Level Raise From Left
70 °
Black Level Raise From Right
70 °
Gamma Shift From Left
40 °
Gamma Shift From Right
41 °

The Dell AW2721D has good horizontal viewing angles. The image remains mostly accurate when viewed from the sides, so it should be fine for sharing content or co-op gaming.

8.4
Picture Quality
Vertical Viewing Angle
Color Washout From Below
39 °
Color Washout From Above
38 °
Color Shift From Below
52 °
Color Shift From Above
52 °
Brightness Loss From Below
42 °
Brightness Loss From Above
41 °
Black Level Raise From Below
70 °
Black Level Raise From Above
70 °
Gamma Shift From Below
68 °
Gamma Shift From Above
70 °

The Dell AW2721D has impressive vertical viewing angles, which is great if you're sitting up close or have the monitor raised. There's some slight color washout at extreme angles, but for the most part, colors and black levels remain accurate.

8.8
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
2.764 %
50% DSE
0.093 %
5% Std. Dev.
0.404 %
5% DSE
0.060 %

The Dell AW2721D has excellent gray uniformity, although this can vary between units. The sides and bottom are slightly darker, but there's almost no dirty screen effect, and dark scenes look even more uniform.

4.2
Picture Quality
Black Uniformity
Native Std. Dev.
2.769 %
Std. Dev. w/ L.D.
5.472 %

Black uniformity on the Dell AW2721D is bad, although this can vary between units. There's noticeable backlight bleed in the corners and edges of the screen. Local dimming makes clouding look more prominent in sections that are lit up.

8.0
Picture Quality
Pre Calibration
Picture Mode
Custom Color
Luminance
250 cd/m²
Luminance Settings
50
Contrast Setting
75
RGB Controls
100-100-100
Gamma Setting
No Gamma Setting
Color Temperature
6863 K
White Balance dE
1.81
Color dE
3.21
Gamma
2.09

The Dell AW2721D has great out-of-the-box color accuracy. There are slight inaccuracies in most colors and shades of gray, but they're hard to notice. For the most part, gamma doesn't follow the curve, so most scenes appear brighter than they should. The color temperature is a bit cooler than our 6500k target, giving the image a blue-ish tint. Note that accuracy may vary between units.

9.7
Picture Quality
Post Calibration
Picture Mode
Custom Color
Luminance
99 cd/m²
Luminance Settings
14
Contrast Setting
75
RGB Controls
100-97-94
Gamma Setting
No Gamma Setting
Color Temperature
6561 K
White Balance dE
0.58
Color dE
0.28
Gamma
2.19

After calibration, accuracy is incredible. Any remaining accuracies shouldn't be noticeable without the help of a colorimeter. Gamma follows the curve closely for the most part, and the color temperature is much closer to the target.

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

9.3
Picture Quality
SDR Color Gamut
sRGB xy
99.8 %
Adobe RGB xy
85.6 %
sRGB Picture Mode
Custom Color
Adobe RGB Picture Mode
Custom Color

The Dell AW2721D has a remarkable SDR color gamut. It has nearly perfect coverage of the commonly used sRGB color space and great coverage of the Adobe RGB color space used by professional content creators.

9.3
Picture Quality
SDR Color Volume
sRGB In ICtCp
98.1 %
Adobe RGB In ICtCp
88.1 %
sRGB Picture Mode
Custom Color
Adobe RGB Picture Mode
Custom Color

SDR color volume is exceptional. Thanks to its remarkable color gamut and high peak brightness, it displays colors in a wide range of luminance levels. Unfortunately, its mediocre contrast ratio means it struggles to display dark, saturated colors.

8.0
Picture Quality
HDR Color Gamut
Wide Color Gamut
Yes
DCI P3 xy
88.8 %
Rec. 2020 xy
71.8 %
DCI P3 Picture Mode
Gamer 1
Rec. 2020 Picture Mode
Gamer 1

The Dell AW2721D has a great HDR color gamut. It has amazing coverage of the more common DCI P3 color space, but its coverage of the wider Rec. 2020 is only decent.

Note that the DCI P3 coverage is lower than the advertised 98%. This is normal and is due to the way we measure DCI P3. We measure DCI P3 by sending a Rec. 2020 signal, but unlike most reviewers, we limit the colors to the DCI P3 primaries. This results in a lower, but arguably more accurate measurement.

8.0
Picture Quality
HDR Color Volume
DCI-P3 In ICtCp
88.9 %
Rec. 2020 In ICtCp
70.5 %
DCI P3 Picture Mode
Gamer 1
Rec. 2020 Picture Mode
Gamer 1

The HDR color volume is great. It displays bright colors well thanks to its good HDR peak brightness, but it can't display darker colors due to its low contrast ratio.

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 AW2721D shows no signs of temporary image retention, but this may vary between units.

9.6
Picture Quality
Gradient
Color Depth
10 Bit

Gradient handling is fantastic. There's some very fine banding in darker shades, but it's hardly noticeable.

10
Picture Quality
Color Bleed
Pixel Row Error
0.000 %
Pixel Column Error
0.001 %

There's no visible color bleed on the Dell AW2721D.

6.2
Picture Quality
Reflections
Screen Finish
Semi-Gloss
Total Reflections
7.8 %
Indirect Reflections
4.2 %
Calculated Direct Reflections
3.5 %

The Dell AW2721D has mediocre reflection handling. It uses a semi-gloss coating that doesn't adequately diffuse indirect light, so reflections may be distracting in bright rooms.

7.5
Picture Quality
Text Clarity
Sub-Pixel Layout
RGB

Text clarity is good. With ClearType enabled (top photo), diagonal lines look sharper, as seen in the R and the N, but straight lines aren't as bold, like in the T or I.

Motion
9.2
Motion
Response Time @ Max Refresh Rate
Best Overdrive Setting
Fast
Rise / Fall Time
2.5 ms
Total Response Time
6.8 ms
Overshoot Error
10.0 %
Dark Rise / Fall Time
2.6 ms
Dark Total Response Time
6.6 ms
Dark Overshoot Error
10.3 %

Overdrive Setting Response Time Chart Response Time Tables Motion Blur Photo
Fast Chart Table Photo
Super Fast Chart Table Photo
Extreme Chart Table Photo

The Dell Alienware AW2721D has an exceptional response time at its max refresh rate of 240Hz. The recommended overdrive setting is 'Fast' because it gives you the best performance, with minimal overshoot.

We also tested the response time with G-SYNC enabled and the results were virtually identical. You can see those results below.

Overdrive Setting Response Time Chart Response Time Tables
G-SYNC Fast Chart Table
G-SYNC Super Fast Chart Table
G-SYNC Extreme Chart Table

8.8
Motion
Response Time @ 60Hz
Best Overdrive Setting
Fast
Rise / Fall Time
3.8 ms
Total Response Time
12.9 ms
Overshoot Error
4.7 %
Dark Rise / Fall Time
4.3 ms
Dark Total Response Time
13.0 ms
Dark Overshoot Error
5.3 %

Overdrive Setting Response Time Chart Response Time Tables Motion Blur Photo
Fast Chart Table Photo
Super Fast Chart Table Photo
Extreme Chart Table Photo

The response time at 60Hz is excellent, although not as fast as at the max refresh rate. The best overdrive setting with the least amount of overshoot is the 'Fast' setting.

We also tested the response time with G-SYNC enabled and the results were nearly identical. You can see those results below.

Overdrive Setting Response Time Chart Response Time Tables
G-SYNC Fast Chart Table
G-SYNC Super Fast Chart Table
G-SYNC Extreme Chart Table

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

The Dell AW2721D uses 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
Compatible (Tested)
G-SYNC
Yes (Native)
VRR Maximum
240 Hz
VRR Minimum
< 20 Hz
VRR Supported Connectors DisplayPort, HDMI

The Dell AW2721D has an exceptional 240Hz refresh rate with a wide VRR range. It has native G-SYNC support and is FreeSync compatible, but FreeSync only works over a DisplayPort connection. Unfortunately, you can only get up to 144Hz with 10-bit color at native resolution. You can get higher frame rates in 10-bit if you lower your resolution or by going down to chroma 4:2:2.

Inputs
9.6
Inputs
Input Lag
Native Resolution
3.0 ms
Native Resolution @ 60Hz
12.4 ms
Variable Refresh Rate
4.3 ms
Variable Refresh Rate @ 60Hz