The UltraSharp 2405FPW's design is pure Dell, which is to say sturdy, circumspect, and unimpeachably up-to-date. In this case, it works well because the display's casing and stand seem to melt into the background, leaving the 24-inch-diagonal screen to carry the show. The dark-gray plastic bezel is a narrow 0.75-inch wide on all sides, and the six small, round buttons embedded in the bottom-right corner are unobtrusive enough for us to tolerate their being visible at all. The buttons power up the display, switch between inputs, launch the picture-in-picture window and menu, and navigate through the onscreen menu (OSM). Tiny numbers (one through five) in a row next to the buttons light up to help you navigate the settings.
Along the back panel are easily accessible DVI, VGA, composite, component, and S-Video inputs, along with a 12V audio jack to which you can connect optional 14-watt Dell Sound Bar speakers that clip to the bottom bezel of the display. You'll also find an upstream USB port and two downstream USB ports for connecting peripherals. Hidden on the left edge of the bezel is an array of card slots for all of the popular flash-card formats, as well as two more downstream USB ports. To use the card slots, you must connect the upstream USB port to your PC (a USB cable is included). Once you do, Windows will recognize the slots as drives in My Computer, and you can view their contents or save data to them.
An LCD this big and heavy (22.1 pounds), with such a multitude of connectivity options, needs two things: a cable-management system and a sturdy neck and base. The Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW has both. Cable containment is achieved with a rubber half-tube attached to the back of the neck. The tube is split down the middle so that you can cram cords into it to keep them out of sight. The UltraSharp 2405FPW's solid neck telescopes smoothly from a low of 3.5 inches to a high of 7.75 inches above the desktop. The heavy half-circular plastic base doesn't wobble when you tilt the panel, swivel it from left to right, or pivot it between Portrait and Landscape mode. You'll need two hands to perform these adjustments, but only because the monitor is so big. All movements are extremely smooth to execute, and if you choose to attach the display to a VESA wall mount, the panel pops off at the press of a button.
The Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW's OSM is easy to navigate, with all submenus arranged in a column. In addition to the usual adjustments for color temperature, brightness, and OSM position, there is a zoom function that lets you zero in on details in an image. The image looked quite blurry when we tried this, but it might come in handy if you're a movie extra trying to find yourself in crowd scenes. We were also impressed by the picture-in-picture (PIP) menu of the OSM. Not only can you choose from three sizes for the PIP window, you can also adjust the brightness, the contrast, and the hue. The display does picture-by-picture, which lays two equal-size screens side by side.
The UltraSharp 2405FPW's maximum resolution is 1,920x1,200 pixels, so you will need a powerful, state-of-the-art graphics card to get the best performance. At this setting, the display performed quite well on CNET's DisplayMate-based tests. We were impressed by the sharpness of the image, especially when viewing text, which looked crisp, with good contrast. The Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW also performed well on the grayscale tests. True black was very dark, white looked pure and untinted, and the display was able to reproduce subtle gradations of very light and very dark gray, something many LCDs cannot do. We saw some color in the midgrays, but where many LCDs produce myriad colors, the UltraSharp 2405FPW picked up only a subtle reddish hue. Colors were bright and clear, and screen uniformity was average, though the picture looked slightly lighter in the corners. DVD playback was mediocre, with visible streaking and ghosting; however, the UltraSharp 2405FPW rendered details well, even in darker scenes.
Dell backs the UltraSharp 2405FPW with a three-year warranty on parts and labor. Toll-free tech support is available 24/7, and Dell's Web site offers e-mail support, community user forums, driver downloads, documentation, and FAQs.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)