Dell E176FP Monitor

May 7, 2009 by Noah
Update (1/5/12): At work now I have a Dell E198WFP (1440x900) monitor, and have discovered that it has exactly the same problem. I noticed that in my Thunderbird, I could barely see the alternating striped background in the inbox window, so I moved the window to the Hanns-G monitor and figured out that this monitor also has color and contrast issues (here is a picture I took a couple years ago that shows this).

I compared the settings between this monitor and the Hanns-G... the Hanns-G has 100 for brightness/contrast and for R/G/B; the Dell has 67 for brightness/contrast, and maxing them out whitewashes the entire image and makes the contrast even more horrible. So I'm at the conclusion that probably all Dell monitors have this issue, so I don't think I'll ever buy one for personal use.

Here is a new picture of an LCD monitor test page viewed on both monitors simultaneously. It very clearly shows the difference, and no, the Dell monitor can't be reconfigured to show the contrast correctly. dell-white.jpg (caution: 4000x3000 pixel resolution).

Now the original blog post follows.

Here's a rant I've been wanting to go on about the Dell E176FP LCD monitors.

These monitors suck!

My college used these monitors everywhere, because they bulk ordered cookie-cutter Dell machines to use as every workstation in every lab in the entire campus. And all of these monitors were just terrible.

I first realized how terrible they are at campus because the brightness on every monitor was set very dark, and this annoyed me. But I couldn't do much about it. Yes, the brightness and contrast was only at 75%, but if I upped those, the screen would become "too" bright -- everything would be white-washed. Subtle changes in gray, such as the status bar on Firefox compared to the white background of a web page, would blend together and there would be no distinguishable separation at all. And, if the Windows machine happened to have the Classic skin, you couldn't tell where status bars ended and the task bar begins.

A white-washed monitor is not usable by any stretch of the imagination.

And then, the monitor I had at my workstation at the office was one of these terrible Dell monitors. Fortunately, I didn't have to deal with it for very long, because all the engineers soon got NVIDIA cards and second monitors, to make us work more efficiently. These new monitors were Hanns-G, 1440x900 pixel LCDs.

I run Linux at my workstation, and with the second monitor, I decided that I'd run a virtual Windows XP machine full-screen in one monitor, and keep the other monitor dedicated to Linux for development. I chose the new Hanns-G monitor to run the Linux half, and the Dell monitor to run the Windows half.

I still kept noticing the color quality differences in the monitors, though. I'd use Windows almost exclusively to test our front-end web product, but every now and then I'd also test it in Linux. On the Hanns-G monitor, the web pages were so bright and colorful, compared to on the Dell monitor. It was like taking off your sunglasses after wearing them for half the day and being amazed how bright the world is.

But this still wasn't too bad.

Some time later, I configured Linux in an interesting way on my laptop, having it run the GNOME desktop environment but use XFCE's window manager. I had all kinds of semi-transparency effects on it, like having the menus be see-through as well as the window decorations. I took a screenshot to send to one of my friends, and I previewed this screenshot in Windows on this crappy Dell monitor, and this is where I officially started to hate this monitor.

Screenshot comparing the monitors

The Dell monitor, being SO terrible with color quality, was NOT able to display the transparency in the popup menu there! The menu was probably 10% transparent. Now mind you, this is a screenshot. I wasn't asking the monitor to render semi-transparency. It only had to display what had already been rendered. And it failed!

The menu bar has a solid gray background, not transparent at all. The panel and window borders were still see-through, because I gave them higher transparency levels, but even then the panel looks a bit more milky-white on the Dell monitor.

So, I swapped the monitors; now Linux uses the crappy color-challenged Dell monitor, since I primarily use the Linux half for development in text-based terminals, and the Windows half gets the Hanns-G monitor where I can see everything in their full colors.

Since the monitor has nothing to do with how the colors actually are to the computer, I couldn't just take a screenshot to show you the difference. So, on the Hanns-G monitor, I opened the screenshot in Photoshop and applied +20 contrast to it, which made it look pretty darn close to the same screenshot viewed on the Dell monitor.

Here are links to the full-size PNG screenshots, so you can see all the differences yourself. Note that if you have such a Dell monitor, and these screenshots look pretty much exactly the same, you're verifying my point. These Dell monitors are crap!

  • Hanns-G - This is how it should look on every monitor that doesn't suck
  • Dell - This is how it looks on a crappy Dell monitor which has horrendous color quality and the contrast sucks too
These monitors are crap. You can't use them for anything. You can't design on them. Could you imagine trying to design on these things? When you finally get your design looking good on your monitor, every effect you applied to it turns out to be grossly overkill on any other monitor. For instance, 10% transparency is usually perfect for most designs... it's enough to see the transparency, but any more and it would make things unreadable. But on these Dell monitors, 10% is equal to 0%, and you need 20% or more transparency to see the same effect. 20%+ transparency on any good monitor is grossly overkill and makes things look terrible and unreadable.




There are 3 comments on this page. Add yours.

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Wondermike posted on June 19, 2010 @ 19:30 UTC

Dell Monitors DO NOT SUCK! You are not dumb for not knowing, its when you think you know and don't know that's dumb. The proper setting is Brightness - 75 Contrast - 75 Color Settings Red - 90 Green - 90 Blue - 90

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Noah (@kirsle) posted on June 21, 2010 @ 19:19 UTC

No, they do suck; I set my Dell monitor to the settings you prescribed. It does help a little bit, but still I quickly found an example of why this still isn't very good:

Pictured: a Thunderbird window spanned across my Dell monitor and the Hanns-G monitor. In one monitor you can clearly see the alternating striped background of my inbox window; in the other the background is a solid white color with no striping whatsoever. Guess which one is the Dell monitor. Hint: it's the one that sucks.

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baconizer posted on January 7, 2013 @ 14:54 UTC

I use this same monitor at work at it is absolute ass. I am having the same issue as you. I can't get any contrasting items to show on this monitor - I drag them to across to the non-dell monitor and everything is beautiful. I posted on amazon about this piece of shit. I don't how they get away with selling these things - they seem defective.

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