The new Dell 32 Curved Gaming Monitor is a bit of a Trojan horse. It looks every bit the quintessential business monitor — slate grey finish, clean lines and absolutely no RGB. In fact, the only thing that might give away it’s gaming nature is the 1800R curve of the massive 32-inch, 1440p panel. In fact, if you were to look at it from the rear, you’d think it’s just another boring monitor.
But boring it most certainly is not. This monitor has everything and the kitchen sink. Just to rattle off a few, it has a 165Hz refresh rate, a 4ms response time and even HDR. Alas, even though the S3220DGF doesn’t look like a high-end gaming monitor, it still costs as much — AUD $999. At that price, you have plenty of options depending on your particular need. So should you buy this Dell monitor? That’s a tough one.
Dell 32 Curved Gaming Monitor S3220DGF Review
Like I’ve already mentioned, the S3220DGF looks every bit the standard Dell office monitor. It’s a slate grey colour and a triple bezel-less design. The stand is sturdy with a nice, space-saving base. Setting it up was easy with everything clicking into place with no need for a screwdriver. The S3220DGF as the name suggests is a curved panel which makes it feel a little narrower in reality than it is.
One gratifying design choice on the S3220DGF is the lack of power brick. The monitor has a three-pin port for the power cable and that’s it. It’s a small thing but it means one less messy adaptor to deal with. I can’t understand why monitors have external power bricks to begin with. It’s not like they are super slim devices, so yeah.
Now you won’t find a hint of RGB anywhere on the S3220DGF. The only colour comes from the blue Dell logo on the stand and on the front bottom bezel. It’s actually a smart looking monitor and quite refreshing from the usual gamery designs. It’d be great for corporate settings where you don’t want to draw attention to your illicit gaming breaks.
All your ports are hidden at the back and you get two HDMI 2.0, a DisplayPort 1.4 and Thunderbolt 3. Plus there’s USB 3.0 upstream and two USB 3.0 downstream ports which makes the S3220DGF one giant USB hub. Oh, yeah and there’s a headphone port too which is especially helpful if you keep your PC under a desk.
Dell has done away with the ubiquitous OSD nipple — that little control joystick most gaming monitors have at the back. Instead, your controls are a row of buttons on the bottom edge of the display. These are more convenient to reach than fiddling around the back of your monitor. The buttons change function depending on where you are at in the OSD menu. However, this can get irritating and tedious when digging deep into the menu. A button may change from up/down to enter or something entirely different. The nipple just might be preferable.
Thankfully, you can also use the Dell OSD software to navigate the settings with the convenience of your mouse. It lives in the Windows Taskbar and is far easier to use than the OSD. The app lacks all the controls that the OSD does, letting you change basic things like brightness, picture profile or windows management tools. If you want to do some serious picture tweaks, you’ll have to suffer through the OSD and tons of annoying button presses.
Dell has equipped the S3220DGF with a fast VA panel that has a 165Hz refresh rate and 4ms response time. Resolution is a crispy, sweet 2560 x 1440p which is nice balance for clarity and performance on a 32-inch panel. 4K would look even sharper at this size but cost would quickly get prohibitive. However, the large physical space and 1440p resolution is perfect for multitasking work. Spreading four full-sized windows across the display works well without any loss of clarity.
The panel exhibits great colours thanks to an excellent 90% DCI-P3 coverage and 3000:1 contrast ratio. Colours are vibrant and punchy in almost all content and Dell provides a number of colour profiles to suit your need. I tested it in a variety of content and was pleased overall. It doesn’t hold a candle next to the Razer Blade 15 with a 4K OLED screen. The infinite contrast of the OLED panel simply outclasses anything the Dell can offer even with its VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification.
But then again, that HDR isn’t anything special to talk about. Now I’ve been blessed to review a few DisplayHDR 400 monitors and none of them have impressed. Unfortunately, neither does the Dell S3220DGF. To get good high dynamic range on at this level, you need at least full-array local dimming (FALD). This allows a display to brighten or darken individual sections independently and the more zones the better.
The S3220DGF doesn’t have FALD and relies on its bright 400 nits edge-lit display. The result is blown out highlights in bright areas like sunny skies and detail loss in the darker areas. The panel just can’t vary the light across the picture enough to do HDR properly. These results were consistent whether I was playing games or watching HDR content on Netflix and YouTube.
The S3220DGF also has Smart HDR which is meant to automatically adjust the dynamic range depending on the content you are viewing. You can set it to Desktop, Game, Movie or Display HDR; none of which made any noticeable difference despite how beady eyed I looked. In the end, you are better off sticking with SDR.
Now pushing aside the lacklustre HDR quality, the S3220DGF performs excellently in gaming. The 165Hz refresh and 4ms response working with FreeSync Premium(which is the bourgeoisie FreeSync for HDR monitors) gives a smooth gaming experience. And even though it’s not officially listed, I ran NVIDIA G-Sync without any issues.
I played a number of games using the delightful Dell G5 with an NVIDIA RTX 2070 SUPER that easily pushed games to 165fps with medium to high settings. Fortnite’s cartoon vibrancy looked great and ran effortlessly at 150fps. Call of Duty Warzone flew along fluidly and the same for CS:GO and Valorant which both ran in excess of 200FPS.
As a bonus for Xbox owners, the S3220DGF works at 1080/ 120Hz or 1440p/ 60Hz. Annoyingly, the Xbox doesn’t recongnize the Dell monitor as HDR capable which really sucks. I tried using the Smart HDR but there was no improvement to the SDR picture.
The Dell S3220DGF is an all round great monitor but at $999, it’s not enough to be great. You need to be exceptional and the Dell isn’t. It feels too safe, restrained even a little dull. At this price I expect damn fine HDR, a 240Hz refresh 4K panel — hell, maybe some synchronised RGB lights. But the Dell is just…fine. It covers the basics well but nothing beyond that to justify its hefty price. Sure it’s a good-looking device with Dell’s usual quality build but you can do better for the price.
Dell Australia loaned the Dell 32 Curved Gaming Monitor to PowerUp! for the purpose of this review.