One Year Review: The Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved Monitor Is Nearly Perfect For Creators

The Dell UltraSharp 40 monitor. Dell

Until recently, curved monitors have primarily targeted the gaming market, with its need for high frame rates and wider displays delivering more immersion. While some 49” curved ultrawide displays exist for productivity, their aspect ratios in the 21:9 and 32:9 ballpark make creation challenging, aside from some simpler video and audio editing. Additionally, there’s considerably less screen space on many of these displays due to the aspect ratios. However, the Dell UltraSharp 40 (U4021QW) Curved Monitor is a different situation. After using it for a year, I believe it is an excellent choice for creators and those looking to get more productivity out of their PCs. 

This review will compare my experience with the Dell UltraSharp 40 alongside my other curved ultra-wide monitor, the Odyssey G9 from Samsung. While both monitors serve very different purposes and have very different specs, I think they complement one another nicely. I’m ultimately looking for a monitor that allows me to do content creation, gaming and productivity on the same system, and I can say the Dell UltraSharp 40 delivered. 

The Specs

The Dell UltraSharp 40” Curved Monitor is unique right off the bat because of its size—smaller than the 49” curved monitors and bigger than many of the bulk of 34” curved monitors. It also sports a considerably higher resolution (5120 x 2160 at 60 Hz) and a more productivity-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio than others on the market. In fact, it’s one of the highest resolution monitors out there, though it’s worth noting that the only 8K monitor on sale is also a Dell (UP3218K).

Schematic of the Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved Monitor’s I/O. Dell

The Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved Monitor also doubles as a laptop dock, which is great for any user looking for a single cable solution for attaching their laptop to a bigger screen. This is made possible by the Thunderbolt 3 port on the back of the monitor (cable included). All said and told, the UltraSharp 40’s I/O includes an RJ45 jack for wired ethernet connectivity, two HDMI ports, a DisplayPort, USB-C up and down stream, four USB 10 Gbps (3.2 Gen 2) ports and a 90W Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port. The monitor also has an automatic KVM feature that enables a user to switch between PCs while controlling them with a single keyboard and mouse configuration. You can even run both PCs in tandem in PiP and PbP configurations.

While I believe this configuration was the best configuration available when it shipped last year, I think it will be due for a major update with USB 4.0 and Thunderbolt 4, hopefully later this year, if not next. 90W is a fairly limiting wattage for high performance laptops. USB 4.0 and Thunderbolt 4 would at least give it 100W watt charging, which is nice, even if it still falls short of the 130W we see in most high-performance laptops these days. The new USB-C 2.1 standard presents another possible option, since it allows for non-standard power delivery up to 240W. Dell already ships 130W USB Type-C power adapters for its laptops, so hopefully it can do the same for the updated version of this monitor.

The Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved Monitor’s panel comes from LG. It features a 2500R curve, a typical 300-nit brightness and a 100% sRGB, 100% Rec. 709 and 98% DCI-P3 color gamut, which is great for content creation. That said the fact that the display can only reach 300 nits of peak brightness seems like a waste—it essentially disqualifies it from reaching any sort of HDR spec, even VESA’s lowest HDR400. Even though the competition has effectively the same brightness on this panel and claims some sort of HDR although, it also does not even meet the minimum spec of VESA’s HDR400.

My experience

I have done a considerable amount of work on this monitor over the past year, and I highly prefer using it for productivity and photo editing over the Odyssey G9. Using Photoshop on a 49” 32:9 ultrawide with an overly saturated color gamut simply isn’t the same. Additionally, the Odyssey G9 only has a 5120 x 1440 resolution. The Dell UltraSharp 40 has roughly 50% more pixels in a slightly smaller surface area. I did appreciate the fact that the Odyssey G9’s 5K and 32:9 aspect ratio enabled me to see an entire waveform while editing a podcast and lots of a video timeline in Adobe Premiere but it also limits the size of the preview windows. For me, the 50% more pixels and higher pixel density were demonstrated best in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom where I spend most of my creative time. Still, aside from its 1000 nit peak brightness, I didn’t feel like the Odyssey G9 was superior to the Dell UltraSharp 40 for creation or productivity. 

The Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and overall USB connectivity experience has been great—it’s allowed me to tidy up my desk cable situation. That said, I did not use the UltraSharp 40 much as a dock for my XPS 17. It worked great when I did, save for the fact that it doesn’t fully power my laptop to 130W. For that reason, I hope that Dell updates this monitor with a higher power spec and the new USB 4.0. While 90W may be enough for many 13.3” and 14” laptop users, I think this product is targeted more towards power users who are more likely to carry around laptops with 130W+ power adapters.

The 50% increase in vertical pixels also makes productivity far more enjoyable on the UltraSharp 40 monitor, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to hyper-multitask. There have been scenarios where I split my two monitors and displayed 3 different documents simultaneously on each, for maximum, head-down productivity. The Odyssey G9 originally replaced my triple 27” monitor configuration, but after a while, I realized it was inadequate for my productivity needs. The UltraSharp 40 was the perfect solution. Yes, this means that I have no more room for monitors on my desk. However, it also means that I have 89 inches of total monitor workspace on my desk—18 million pixels, with only two displays.

My personal advice for those who use their desktops for both gaming and content creation is to have separate monitors for each. Though I realize not all users can afford this, I do believe it’s the optimal setup until there’s a monitor on the market that can truly do both well.

The competition

There is really only one other curved monitor marketed for the creator space and it comes directly from the maker of the UltraSharp 40’s panel, LG. The LG 40” Curved UltraWide® 5K2K Nano IPS Monitor features a slightly upgraded Nano IPS display with the same 300-nit brightness, 72Hz refresh rate and support for Thunderbolt 4 (increasing USB power delivery from 90 to 96W. The LG version sells for roughly the same price as the UltraSharp 40, around $1,800. However, it is a much newer display and therefore is able to capitalize on newer technologies. I hope that LG’s new monitor encourages Dell to update the UltraSharp 40 Curved Monitor to better compete on that front. 

That said, the LG model does not offer remotely as much connectivity or KVM functions. There have also been some strange marketing attempts by LG to sell it as a gaming monitor, which, at only 72Hz, it is not. Dell also has a much more comprehensive warranty, including a premium pixel exchange and three years of advanced service exchange to ensure that your monitor is in great shape and functioning with the least downtime. I really like Dell’s premium pixel exchange policy—all it takes is a single dead pixel and the company will swap out the whole display for the duration of its 3-year warranty period. Dell’s warranty and service generally tops LG’s limited 1 year warranty with no advanced exchange or premium pixel policy. In fact, neither LG’s website nor its warranty page ever even mention or state any kind of dead pixel policy. This simply shouldn’t be the case for a monitor advertised to creators that costs $1,800.

Conclusion

The Dell UltraSharp 40 is a very good content creation display and helps to bring the beauty of curved monitors (albeit not much of a curve at 2500R) to content creation. It does not have many competitors other than the brand-new LG and even that monitor doesn’t necessarily match Dell’s in terms of warranty and support. I really hope that Dell can come out with an updated version of this monitor with more brightness and updated connectivity to deliver over 100W of power and a true single cable docking solution. I have truly enjoyed using this monitor over the last year and it has become a staple of my content creation, especially in photography with its high resolution and great aspect ratio and deep color gamut support. While this monitor is still $2,000 on Dell’s website today, I can absolutely see the value in it—I am hopeful subsequent versions will up the ante on brightness, power and connectivity.