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Reviewing Dell UltraSharp U4919DW Ultrawide Monitor: Six Months In as a Developer

To save you some time, most of this review only applies to using it with macOS. On Windows, it’s quite different due to the Dell Display Manager app, which doesn’t exist yet for macOS, Dell promises to release it by early 2021.

I was hesitant to get such a massive monitor. But when I read that this monitor was two 27″ monitors stuck together, I decided to go for it, given that’s exactly what I had before it. Same setup without two bezels right in the center? Count me in!

Naturally, down the road, I realized that there are a few tradeoffs I didn’t anticipate. I’ll share these with you.

Looks

This monitor looks absolutely spectacular. Almost seven months in and I still occasionally look at it in awe. It looks absolutely perfect.

Photo by Techspot

You can take a look at the review from Techspot for more photos. I won’t say much about how it looks, but the general feel of this monitor is amazing, it’s around 17KG, very stable on its base, and its base is great to put small gadgets on.

Experience

Sadly, it’s hard to come across good ultrawide footage. So you won’t get to enjoy watching your favorite things on this monitor. I couldn’t find many great quality videos for it except content made to promote ultrawide monitors. Although, when you get to watch a video on it, it’s very easy to forget that it’s a monitor, you feel like it’s a window into another dimension. It covers a significant portion of your field of vision including peripheral vision, and this feels significantly different from normal monitors. Probably the slight curve helps too.

Technical Side of Things

Connections

There is a single USB-C cable on my desk that transfers video to the monitor and charges the Mac (up to 90w). I love this feature the most. The monitor itself gives you three USB-A ports to connect your webcam, your headset or whatever you want. So you won’t need to have a USB-C convertor if you have an MBP 16″. Super neat and clean. It also supports Picture by Picture, meaning it can pretend to be two monitors side by side, although sadly, only one of the monitors can be USB-C. The other must be DP or HDMI, this one was a bummer for reasons I explain below.

Using with Mac

This monitor is designed with Mac in mind, which is important when buying a monitor for Mac. But I learned that macOS is not designed with ultrawide monitors in mind at all. Since the menu bar is stuck to the top of the screen, not the top of the window like in Windows, you’ll have to travel all the way from the right side to the left most side to access the menu. And if you choose to have two windows side by side for say styling and previewing, you’ll have one menu and it will represent the app in focus, only. This is a small but constant nuisance for me. See picture:

This problem doesn’t exist in two-monitor setups. Because then each screen will have its own menu.

Full screen means full screen

In such monitors, you almost never intend to maximize a window to fill the screen, what you mean, rather, is to fill half of the screen. But macOS doesn’t see this and won’t hesitate to fill your screen with a black terminal if you clicked the green button. You’ll need some app to maximize your windows to half of the screen. I use SizeUp and it’s great.

This also means you can’t utilize half of the screen for watching something on the side, because when you click “full screen” it would fill the screen. I couldn’t find a solution to this.

Screen sharing

Sharing a window of an app is as you’d want it, but sharing the whole screen is almost useless, your teammates will see a thin horizontal strip on their screens, and they won’t be able to read any code. Luckily, Zoom supports sharing a portion of your screen, but Google Meet doesn’t. My trick when I have to use Google Meet is to enable Picture By Picture in the monitor settings, this will cut the monitor by half and I’d have a single normal-size monitor during the call. Meaning, you’ll have a black half that you can’t utilize.

I did experiment with a USB-C to HDMI convertor to convince the laptop that it’s two separate monitors, and all the problems above disappeared, but text became very small on the HDMI side, and when I tried to scale my text in System Preferences, the text became quite blurry. I didn’t investigate this much, but I have to say that my adapter was rather cheap and lousy and I didn’t want to sacrifice the single cable setup, so I dropped it.

Adjusting brightness

One more caveat I didn’t anticipate is the single brightness setting for the whole monitor. When I’m coding in dark mode, and live previewing the app in light mode (which is the default in most cases), my eyes get tired shifting between light and dark between the two halves. Because one of them is annoyingly bright, and once I adjust the brightness, the other side becomes too dark or vice versa.

Using a webcam

This is not an ultrawide issue per se, but putting the webcam on top of this huge monitor makes it look like CCTV, putting it below it gives not-very-flattering angle of you, given you’ll have to look up all the time to access the top menu, the angle becomes pretty bad at times. When I had two monitors, I made a contraption and put the webcam right in the center between them, it was nice.

5K is misleading

Usually, 5K usually implies a higher PPI (pixels per inch), because most screens are 16:9, 5120 pixels wide usually means lots of pixels. This monitor is indeed 5K, but with such width, 5120 pixels isn’t a crazy PPI value. So if you’re after the Retina experience, this monitor won’t give it to you. In technical terms, this monitor has 108 pixels per inch, the LG UltraFine 5K, has 218, which is expected because the LG is half as wide. This is not an issue at all for me. But it’s worth mentioning.

Gaming

Out of curiosity, I tried a couple of games on this monitor and it’s absolutely wild. The peripheral vision plays such a big role in the experience. You don’t need to look on the sides using game controls, you actually turn your face on the side and see what’s happening. This is amazing and much more natural.

Conclusion

I know the feeling of just wanting an answer to decide if you want to buy this, in my case I would buy it again for sure. It’s beautiful, reliable, picture quality is perfect for my use case. And my desk is always clean or easy to clean.

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