Dell Alienware AW2721D and AW3821DW More Specs, Information and G-sync Ultimate Discussion

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Over the last couple of months some early information has appeared online about a couple of new models planned in Dell’s popular Alienware line-up for high end gaming. The new 27″ AW2721D and 37.5″ ultrawide AW3821DW displays. This was followed more recently by a pretty vague press release, although we at least got sight of expected release dates and pricing. We have searched around to provide the latest information, specs and details we can get our hands on in this news piece and we also want to discuss the NVIDIA G-sync Ultimate certification that Dell are heavily promoting in more detail.

AW2721D

This model is 27” in size and with a 2560 x 1440 resolution “Fast IPS” panel. We have some more detailed specs for this model now and there is even a Dell.com US product page. This has a “true 1ms G2G response time” spec apparently although this is stipulated to be in the “Extreme mode”, which is likely to lead to a lot of overshoot we expect. Maybe it can “truly” get to 1ms G2G, but can it do it without introducing a load of overshoot and artefacts, or would a more sensible and modest spec be more appropriate? Time will tell on that one. We know a bit more about Dell’s position on this spec from the AW3821DW user manual discussed below in the section about that screen, so the same applies here.

There is a 240Hz refresh rate maximum over DisplayPort 1.4 (144Hz over HDMI 2.0 at native resolution max) and variable refresh rate support (VRR) from at least NVIDIA G-sync graphics cards. See the section below for our discussion about the level of NVIDIA G-sync certification and thoughts about AMD FreeSync support as that is a somewhat confusing area with this screen.

The screen also carries the DisplayHDR 600 certification which means it must feature some form of backlight local dimming (edge lit, unsure on number of zones). We know from the spec that it can also support the necessary 10-bit colour depth and wide DCI-P3 colour space, and must also be able to reach peak brightness in HDR content of at least 600 cd/m2.

In other specs the screen has a 1000:1 contrast ratio, 450 cd/m2 brightness, 178/178 viewing angles, 1.07b colour depth (expect this to be 8-bit+FRC) and a wide colour gamut covering 98% of the DCI-P3 reference (131.3% sRGB coverage).

The screen has a 4-side “InfinityEdge” borderless design and the stand offers a full range of tilt, height, swivel and rotate adjustments.. An ambient light sensor is also build in to the screen for controlling the brightness based on your room conditions. There is also Dell’s AlienFX customisable RGB lighting on the back of the stand and underside of the panel.

For connectivity the screen offers 1x DisplayPort 1.4 and 2x HDMI 2.0 for video, along with 4x USB 3.2 downstream ports, an audio out and a headphone jack. Some of these are easy access and have fast-charging capabilities as you can see from the above pictures.

The AW2721D expected to be available in the UK on 26th November, starting at £699 GBP although full details on Dell.co.uk have yet to appear, apart from some support pages. There is a Dell.com US product page now available where the screen is listed at $1,099.99 USD.

AW3821DW

This model is 37.5” sized screen with a 3840 x 1600 resolution and a 2300R curved format “Fast IPS” panel. This has a 1ms G2G response time spec, again in the ‘extreme mode’ so take that with a pinch of salt like the AW2721D discussed above. Some further information can be gleaned from the user guide document that is available on the Dell.com support page, and the main product page too. Dell actually say in the user guide for this model that while the 1ms response time is for ‘extreme mode’, they would rate it as 2ms G2G in ‘super fast’ mode, and 3ms G2G in ‘fast’ mode. Dell go on to say about the 1ms figure:

“The 1 ms gray-to-gray mode is achievable in the Extreme mode to reduce visible motion blur and increased image responsiveness. However this may introduce some slight and noticeable visual artifacts into the image. As every system setup and every gamer’s needs are different, Alienware recommends that users experiment with the different modes to find the setting that is right for them.”

So on the one hand they are being specific about where the figure came from and being honest that it might introduce overshoot artefacts, but on the other hand promoting the screen with this spec as the headline and talking about it as a “true 1ms G2G response time”. We’d still rather see a sensible real-use spec than marketing headlines to be honest.

There is a 144Hz refresh rate and variable refresh rate support (VRR) from at least NVIDIA G-sync graphics cards. See the section below for our discussion about the level of NVIDIA G-sync certification and thoughts about AMD FreeSync support as that is a somewhat confusing area with this screen as it is with the AW2721D.

In other specs there is a 1000:1 contrast ratio, 450 cd/m2 brightness, 178/178 viewing angles, 1.07b colour depth (expect 8-bit+FRC) and wide 95% DCI-P3 colour gamut (130.6% sRGB coverage).

This model also carries the DisplayHDR 600 certification which requires local dimming of some sort (edge lit), 10-bit colour depth support and wide DCI-P3 gamut coverage. There is also a peak brightness of 600 cd/m2 quoted.

The stand will offer tilt, height and swivel adjustments. For connectivity there are 1x DisplayPort 1.4 and 2x HDMI 2.0 ports. There are also 4x USB 3.2 ports, one with fast charging capability. There are also an audio out and a headphone jack available. Like the AW2721D there is also an ambient light sensor built in and AlienFX RGB lighting system.

The AW3821DW It’s expected to be available in the UK on 26th November, starting at £1,299 GBP although again there’s not even an official Dell.co.uk product page yet that we could see. It is listed on Dell.com in the US with a retail price of $1,899.99.

Are these new screens really G-sync Ultimate?

The current information, user guide information on Dell.com and the early press release for the new displays suggests that the screens will feature the coveted “G-sync Ultimate” certification. There seems to be a distinction with these model and others in the Alienware range that are listed specifically as “G-sync Compatible”. We know that those other models use VESA adaptive-sync to support VRR from both AMD and NVIDIA systems, but is there something different going on here with the AW2721D and AW3821DW? Have they really earned the ‘G-sync Ultimate’ badge and what does this mean?

At first it looked like the new AW2721D and AW3821DW must surely feature a hardware Native G-sync module which is, in our understanding, necessary for this certification level. Now we have more specs and info, we are not so sure. Even if they did feature a Native G-sync module it is also still likely that they could still support AMD systems via the latest NVIDIA firmware, but with the module being used this could bring about benefits in terms of VRR performance and features like variable overdrive and super low input lag.

We also understood that G-sync Ultimate requires the current v2 G-sync module, which is logical as that would be needed anyway to offer DisplayPort 1.4 and support the bandwidth necessary for the high resolutions at 240Hz/144Hz refresh rates respectively.

However the use of this certification badge has caused some confusion with consumers, and with ourselves to be honest. NVIDIA also now list both these models on their G-sync page as “G-sync Ultimate” which further strengthens the view that these will indeed carry that certification. However, something doesn’t add up here!

As well as needing to use the G-sync hardware module, NVIDIA list on their own website that the current requirements for that certification also require the inclusion of ULMB for motion blur reduction, and support for HDR, but to the HDR 1000 level. So far this has been used for the top end FALD backlit screens as well, so for truly top end LCD HDR performance.

Having scoured the information that is currently available we do know that these new models would feature the lower HDR 600 certification (only needing edge lit local dimming and a lower peak brightness) so either NVIDIA are going to relax their “Ultimate” certification a fair bit, or maybe these won’t truly reach that coveted G-sync Ultimate certification after all. We also cannot see any mention in the user guides and manuals of any ULMB/blur reduction mode, so that’s not included it seems (certainly not on the AW3821DW anyway). Finally, the provided connections on the screen go beyond the current capabilities of the hardware G-sync module v2 as well! That module can support 1x DisplayPort 1.4 and 1x HDMI 2.0 only, but these new screens have a second HDMI 2.0 port as well. So it looks like the screens might not even feature a Native hardware G-sync module. It’s really not clear.

So perhaps no Native G-sync (TBC), HDR 600 only and no ULMB?! Yet they are still being marketed as G-sync Ultimate. We are seeking some further views from NVIDIA on this topic, but its also possible that these new screens will be like other ‘G-sync Compatible’ displays. They could use adaptive-sync to support VRR from both NVIDIA and AMD systems, and also support HDR too (at HDR 600 level). Perhaps they have gone through additional levels of testing and validation by NVIDIA, and perhaps they’ve impressed NVIDIA enough in their performance and image quality to earn the badge. Maybe NVIDIA are relaxing the criteria relative to our current understanding (and their own website) and using that as a second tier for G-sync Compatible certification. Maybe they are Native Gsync and are using some new updated module for the first time. We will try and find out more.


Update 17/11/20 – some early user reports seem to confirm that the new screens do feature a small fan, albeit what appears to be a quiet one. This would suggest further that both models feature a Native G-sync hardware module, as a fan is needed to keep that chip cool. NVIDIA have confirmed to us that the “G-sync Ultimate” certification DOES stand here and has been earned by the screens as well. So this seems to confirm two things:

1) there is a new updated G-sync module, adding support for a second HDMI 2.0 port alongside previous 1x DisplayPort 1.4 and 1x HDMI 2.0 options. Perhaps we will refer to this as the “v2b” module given it’s not a major step-change to the previous v2 module.

2) NVIDIA must be relaxing their certification standards for “G-sync Ultimate”. Although they never specified that a screen must have FALD backlight or even specifically mentioned the VESA DisplayHDR 1000 standard, they did previously say that the screens should reach over 1000 cd/m2 peak brightness under this certification (as shown above), which clearly these screens can not.


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