4K No Way: Liking my Dell UltraSharp U2715H

With 4k/5k displays on the way in, why buy a new monitor with technology that’s on the way out? Because we’re at a time when 4k is still on the bleeding edge. Most computers don’t have what it takes to drive a 4k display properly, so whether you end up with inscrutably tiny fonts, a fuzzy image, or just slow performance from HDMI/Thunderbolt ports struggling to keep up, 4k monitors are bad news.

Even a relatively recent Mid-2012 Retina MacBook Pro has a hard time with 4k, but its onboard Nvidia 650M will run a sweet display like the new U2715H just fine: a perfect balance of high-resolution real estate, performance and compatibility. On Windows, this monitor is plug-and-play, but on a Mac, there are a couple of things to consider.

Unless you have perfectly pristine vision, a 2560×1440 WQHD display can result in too-small text. Apple and Microsoft take different approaches to solve this problem. Apple uses scaled HiDPI modes which can work well with the Dell display, except they are normally disabled on all but the built-in Apple Retina (R) displays. Here’s a list of 3rd party apps that look like they might solve this problem but don’t, one that will, and some notes:

App HiDPI on External Monitor with Retina Macbook Pro
DisplayMenu No
ResolutionTab No
SwitchResX Yes* for ~$20 USD
QuickRes Yes**
RDM Yes**

*1280×720 (720p) requires an unintuitive workaround.
**Not at 1280×720 until the free version of SwitchResX was installed and configured.

Windows uses a different approach to font sizing and it looks great at WQHD resolution. No restrictions or nonsense. Just change the font size in Control Panel.

After font scaling, the other thing to consider is that the Dell U2715H can accept passthrough audio over the display cable, which reduces cable clutter. Windows accommodates this without any issues, but Apple doesn’t provide any way to control the volume in this scenario. Soundflower (a.k.a. Soundflowerbed), now maintained by the badasses at Rouge Amoeba, solves this problem. When installed, it allows volume control with the media keys and the menu bar slider.

With SwitchresX and Soundflower, the U2715H works painlessly* with Mac OS X. It looks better than a Thunderbolt display at about half the cost. With Windows, it just works and looks fantastic. Sure, there are cheaper WQHD displays on the market, some with thick shiny plastic bezels, curious stands or funky design choices that might leave you scratching your head, but remember that a monitor sits in front of your face for many long hours. Other monitors are cheaper, but they are not the Dell UltraSharp U2715H: cutting but not bleeding edge.

* Update:  Full pixel-doubled 1280×720 is the best way to go for WQHD.  Also, the newer, smaller U2515H is curiously nicer at native resolution and at 720p than the U2715H.  As for Soundflower, it may or may not be the cause of some coreaudiod issues in my system log.  Bottom line, I switched to using a USB sound adapter that does support volume control in OS X instead of using the monitor passthrough with Soundflower.

14 thoughts on “4K No Way: Liking my Dell UltraSharp U2715H

  1. Hi, thank you for sharing your experience with U2715H. After looking around, I seriously consider getting U2715H. There’s this one thing that bugs my mind tho: does it require any connector to connect to Macbook Air 13″ (early 2014)? Or does it provide necessary cable (mini displayport to displayport) included in the box?

  2. Yes, the miniDP cable is included. Another interesting monitor you might consider is the P2416D recently released. Slightly smaller and less expensive.

  3. I’m wondering if where you say “Unless you have perfectly pristine vision, a 2560×1440 WQHD display can result in too-small text”, you wanted to say “UHD” instead of “WQHD”. I’m saying that because 1440p is pretty good for reading IMO.

  4. I have a MacBookPro mid 2012 (non retina) and I’m willing to get a Dell P2715Q, or in general an IPS 4k capable. I am aware I won’t be able to use the max resolution of 3840×2160 at 60hz. What I wanted to ask you is if with my specs – Intel HD Graphics 4000 and Thunderbolt 1, I can get a 2560×1440 (WQHD) at 60hz refresh rate over just 30hz. Would it make a sense?

  5. Hi Alex. I’m struggling with font size, icons, images, etc. being too small on my Dell U2715H connected to a MacBook Pro Retina (Mid 2012) via Thunderbolt / Display Port. I’ve installed SwitchResX, but I can’t seem to figure out how to increase the size of elements on the page, while preserving the sharpness of everything on the screen. Any way you could help me out? You can connect with me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/arkhanguelski.

  6. I’ve got 2x U2515H, run both at 2560×1440 on MacBook Pro 13inch early 2015 and I am very happy. Not 4K but fantastic experience and quality.

  7. I have just connected o Dell U2715H to a 15″ MacBook Pro – Mid 2015. If I connect it to a PC it´s very nice with small icons, small and sharp text. When I connect it to my MacBook the icons are large and the text is large and Blurry ?

  8. Hi! Like you, I find text on a Dell U2715H a bit too small to read when running it at a native 2560×1440 resolution on a mid-2015 Retina Macbook Pro. I tried getting HiDPI resolutions by installing Quickres, but that just resulted in a weird, interlaced image on the monitor. Is it absolutely necessary to install SwitchresX in order to get HiDPI resolutions?