Laptop Mag Verdict
The Dell S2721DGF is a stellar 1440p, 165Hz gaming monitor for under $500 with extensive customization options that ensure all of your games look their best.
High refresh rate
Vibrant and bright display
AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync
Ports aren’t easily accessible
Disappointing SDR contrast
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Curved and ultrawide monitors are garnering a lot of attention at the moment. But that doesn’t mean traditional monitors should be left by the wayside. Case in point: the Dell 2721DGF, a remarkable 27-inch monitor that manages to outperform a number of its pricier competitors yet costs only $499. The combination of its 2560 x 1440 resolution, 165Hz refresh rate, 1 millisecond response time, HDR10 and both AMD FreeSync Premium and Nvidia G-Sync support make it a formidable mid-range option.
Unless you are swayed by 4K gaming or the curved and ultrawide trends, the Dell 2721DGF delivers an outstanding bright, vivid image. It also has the performance to match to ensure that your games don’t just look amazing when you are standing still, planning your next move, but that they maintain crisp detail even as you snap into action. While $499 isn’t a budget price, the features and performance you get from the Dell 2721DGF make it a fantastic value and one of the best gaming monitors you can buy today.
Dell S2721DGF gaming monitor design
The Dell S2721DGF design doesn’t call itself out as a gaming monitor when viewed from the front. It would look equally at home in a work environment with its all-black finish and a single white LED on the power button at the bottom right.
It features relatively minimal bezels at 0.3-inches on the top and sides, but the chin gets thicker at 0.7 inches and features a prominent Dell logo at the center that refracts different colors depending on the angle you view it at.
The stand for the Dell S2721DGF is the most unique piece of its design. Rather than achieving stability with long arms extending outward, it features a roughly octagonal shape that extends toward the front, giving it a fairly minimal footprint at just 11 inches wide and 8 inches deep.
Despite the modest base, the monitor is held solidly by the stand. Even extended to its fullest, at just shy of 7 inches, the full range is about 5 inches. Swivel adjustments are adequate as well with approximately 45 degrees movement left and right and the ability to flip it 90 degrees for portrait mode use. Tilt forward is limited to 5 degrees while you can tilt it back at up to 21 degrees. I’d appreciate a slightly higher max height, but the included stand does an excellent job of allowing you to tweak it to meet your needs and there’s the VESA mount (100 x 100) if you prefer to use a monitor arm.
Things get more interesting as you turn to the back of the Dell S2721DGF. The majority is a simple matte black, but the large venting system is outlined by a blue light that bathes your desk and whatever is behind it in a pleasant glow. You are limited to that classic Dell blue, no RGB fireworks to be had here, but it is a nice touch that gives it more personality. On the lower left, as you view the back of the monitor, are the controls, including a joystick and four buttons.
The monitor weighs 9.9 pounds by itself (15 pounds with the stand attached) and measures 24.1 x 15.5 x 7.9 inches with the stand. That’s positively ultralight status compared to some of the competition, like the ViewSonic Elite XG270, which weighs 25.6 pounds and measures 24.2 x 22.5 x 10.4 inches, or the Razer Raptor 27 at 21 pounds and 24.2 x 15.4 x 19 inches.
Dell S2721DGF gaming monitor installation and setup
While the contents of the box can look daunting when you first open it, the actual setup isn’t terribly difficult. First, you attach the base to the monitor stand by twisting the flip-out knob located at the base. The monitor itself then simply slides onto the stand and you will hear a satisfying click when it has locked into place.
You can make any height, swivel and tilt adjustments as needed from there. Moving the monitor lower requires a bit more pressure than you’d expect, but it otherwise moves freely and easily.
Dell S2721DGF gaming monitor ports, cabling and interface
The Dell S2721DGF features two HDMI 2.0 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4, four downstream USB 3.0 ports, one upstream USB 3.0 port, one 3.5mm line-out, one 3.5mm headphone jack, and an AC power port. I’d love to see a USB Type-C (Thunderbolt 4 preferably) port or two, but overall, it’s a solid collection that will likely eliminate the need for a separate USB Type-C hub for some users.
Two of the downstream USB 3.0 ports and the 3.5mm headphone jack are located on the bottom-left corner of the monitor and are easily accessible. The rest are located nearly halfway up the back of the monitor and are quite a bit more difficult to switch out. If you have a wall behind your desk, as I do, the easiest option is to slightly rotate the base and then swivel the monitor to its full 45 degrees. On the plus side, the height does make cable management clean once everything is in place.
In the box, the Dell S2721DGF comes with a power cable, an HDMI cable, a DP cable and the USB upstream cable.
Again, the controls for the monitor are all located on the back panel on the right side of the display and are, thankfully, quite easy to navigate. The joystick at the top is the primary control and pressing it in brings up a simple and intuitive menu. There are 12 preset picture modes for you to choose from including four that can be calibrated.
The three Game modes give you the most options with overdrive and dark stabilizer adjustments in addition to more standard image settings. This allows you to create perfect profiles for different game types and switch to them with just a few clicks. Whether you want to drill down and tweak all of the settings or simply want to use one of the default presets for FPS, MOBA, RPG or Sports, the UI makes the whole process very accessible.
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If you hate the blue light on the back of the monitor or the white LED of the power button, you can turn both of these off by going to the Personalize menu. This is also where you can set the default behavior for the three other buttons on the back of the monitor.
Dell S2721DGF gaming monitor performance
The Dell S2721DGF features a 27-inch, 2560 x 1440-pixel IPS display with support for up to 165Hz refresh rate with a 1-millisecond response time. Support for both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync is present. Color depth is 10-bit DCI-P3 and the monitor also offers HDR 10 support.
To test the monitor’s speed, I fired up Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and jumped into Nuketown ‘84 for some fast-paced action. The Dell S2721DGF didn’t miss a beat. When tuned to its FPS preset, I actually had to turn the brightness down a little as I found it a bit overwhelming at max. Even with the frenetic pace of the Nuketown ‘84 match, I appreciated the pop of the colors on some of the custom gun skins and the fine detail in the faded paint and graffiti located around the map.
To really get a feel for the depth of color possible from the Dell S2721DGF, I turned to the sweeping vistas of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The display was absolutely up to the task. When I climbed to the top of the nearest peak during sunrise, the colors were absolutely gorgeous from the varied foliage to the sunlight spilling through the clouds. The RPG mode pushed the colors even further while adding some additional contrast.
It’s crucial not to forget the level of granular control you have through the monitor’s settings. Anytime I found something that didn’t look quite right, a minute or two spent in the options menu straightened everything out. And if you have a game you play regularly that doesn’t look at its best with one of the presets, you can just assign one of the custom Game modes to it.
Dell S2721DGF gaming monitor benchmarks
The Dell S2721DGF held up quite well in our lab testing, although it fell shy of its claimed 400 nits of brightness, which isn’t uncommon with monitors.
It managed an average of 293.8 nits of brightness in our testing. This comes up just shy of the 295 nits achieved by the $699 Razer Raptor 27 and outperforms the slightly cheaper ($429) ViewSonic Elite XG270’s average of 277 nits.
The Dell S2721DGF fared similarly in our color range test, reproducing 144.9% of the sRGB color gamut. Once again, this bested the ViewSonic Elite XG270 (130%) and came up short of the pricier Razer Raptor 27 (162%).
If you feel like you are picking up a theme, then you are right; the DCI-P3 color gamut played out the same way. The Dell S2721DGF managed 102.7% with the Razer Raptor 27 (114.8%) in the lead and the ViewSonic Elite XG270 (94%) bringing up the rear.
Color accuracy manages to turn the tide in favor of the Dell S2721DGF, which hit an impressive Delta-E rating of 0.24. That was good enough to beat both the ViewSonic Elite XG270 (0.3) and the Razer Raptor 27 (0.27).
The Dell S2721DGF is a fantastic monitor for those who are looking for outstanding 1440p gaming performance without spending over $500. While its rather plain aesthetic may not give off immediate gamer vibes, once the screen is powered on, it will quickly win you over.
If you want the most vibrant display possible, you get otherwise pretty similar specs out of the Razer Raptor 27 for a couple of hundred dollars more. For those who demand a faster refresh rate, the ViewSonic Elite XG270 delivers 240Hz albeit at 1080p. And if $499 is just too much but you otherwise like the look of the Dell, then consider its cheaper sibling the Dell S2721HGF. At just $225, it still boasts a 1080p resolution and 144Hz refresh rate.
Overall, in the crowded mid-range gaming monitor market, the Dell S2721DGF manages to stand out with its extensive feature set and good picture quality. If this is your first foray into a true gaming monitor, it will not disappoint.
Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.