Hardware review: Dell S2409W Flat Panel Display

The Dell S2409W 24-inch Widescreen Flat Panel LCD Monitor is a new model from Dell which has a 16:9 display ratio and runs about $350. Its native resolution is 1920×1080 pixels, which means it can display full quality HD content (1080p). It has three inputs: VGA, DVI and HDMI, which means you could connect it to your computer and to a DVD player or some other video device, and switch between the inputs as needed.

I purchased this monitor on 7/31, and it arrived on 8/21. My reason for buying it was the price. It is one of the lowest prices for a 24″ display from a reputable company, and I was also drawn to the 16:9 display ratio. I had a chance to work with it over these past four days.

I like the design of the monitor. It’s fairly thin in terms of depth, the rounded bezel is interesting, and the white power light is a very nice touch. It sits on a round base that has a sort of round indentation built-in, which I found to be a handy spot for post-it notes or a small remote control.

My computer setup is described in detail here. I have a MacBook Pro, and I do a lot of photography editing. As soon as I connected the S2409W to my MBP, I could see that fonts and curves weren’t displayed properly. There was some noticeable rasterization that took place at the edges of smaller objects on screen. I’m not sure of the word to describe it, but edges weren’t smooth, they were craggy.

I set up my MBP and the monitor in dual display mode, and I dragged windows back and forth between the two displays repeatedly, in order to compare the differences. As soon as a window made it onto the Dell monitor, things just didn’t look as good and as crisp as on my MBP’s display.

Also, no matter how much I calibrated it, I couldn’t get the contrast and brightness settings right. If the contrast was too low, then colors and shadows appeared washed out, and if the contrast was too high, the light-dark difference bothered my eyes. If I turned down the brightness, there was too little light on-screen, and if I turned it up, there was too much light, which made my eyes burn.

The next day, I brought my MBP into work and connected it to my Dell W2407WFPb monitor, another 24-inch flat panel display. This particular model belongs to the UltraSharp model line, which is higher quality. Here the colors showed up properly from the start, without calibration, and there was much less rasterization around the edges of letters and other small objects. I had to admit the S2409W display isn’t made as well as the W2407WFPb, which is understandable, since the latter model retails anywhere from $600-700.

I did one more thing: I started my XP VM on the Mac while connected to the S2409W, set it to full screen, and noticed that, at least when running Windows, the display quality was acceptable.

No matter how much I tried to adjust the display while I worked on my Mac, I couldn’t get it to work in a satisfactory manner for me. Since I do most of my work on a Mac and within OS X, the Dell S2409W won’t work for me, and I will have to return it.

Updated 8/28/08: You can read about my Dell return experience if interested. I find it very encouraging that Dell is now engaging with its customers the way they’ve done it after I wrote that post.

On a more general note, I haven’t been very successful with my monitor picks so far. I already tried using an HDTV as my computer monitor, but that didn’t work out. Now using a regular monitor hasn’t worked out either. It looks like I may need to spend upwards of $700 to get a good monitor that will work well for my needs.

Keep in mind that my needs are more demanding than those of the average user, and that I may be more critical of a monitor’s display quality than you may be. You may find the S2409W does just fine for you, particularly if you do most of your work on Windows, where it seems to work better. At $350 for a 24-inch display, it fits the bill as well.

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Author: Raoul Pop

Entrepreneur, consultant, filmmaker, photographer and watch collector

42 thoughts on “Hardware review: Dell S2409W Flat Panel Display”

  1. UPDATE to my previous review:
    The monitor is working great. It looks fabulous as I type this. The iPhoto problem I was experiencing also happens on the laptop display and is some major glitch in either the software or Snow Leopard or my computer. Also, I discovered the a lot of the display complaints go away when I operate my laptop in clamshell mode and use the monitor as the primary monitor – it looks completely different than when I was using it as the second monitor…I did not know this. So sorry for the ignorant review. I am probably going to go back to Best Buy and get the 24″.

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  2. I just purchased a DELL S2309W monitor to use with my MacBook Pro (about 3 years old as of 11/15/09). It’s connected through the DVI connection. At first I was excited, as the display looks pretty good. Not great, but acceptable. The colors are oversaturated and the contrast seems off/brightness isn’t all that adjustable. But it was only $280. So I was thinking it was a go, but I started watching trailers on it and they didn’t look very good. The deal breaker was when I switched to iPhoto. When viewing photos at full-frame, some of them look amazing. But then some just crap out and suddenly look like an Atari 2600 game from 1988. So that, given the fact that there are other smaller problems. Also the high/hard to control contrast is sort of hurting my eyes. Also the fonts have a somewhat jagged edge to them. Given all of these problems I will be returning it to Best Buy in a couple of days. Close, but no cigar! Ah well. I may try again with the Ultra-Sharp line, or buy an Apple Cinema Display, give up, or just buy a 27″ iMac. Apple wins again!!!

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  3. Back when there was a bit of a problem with the 24″ and Macs I purchased the DELL SP2309W instead. I’m really happy with it. Its no where near my iMacs 24″ quality but it works well. I only wish my iMac could accomadate a third monitor. Then I’d buy another 23″.

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  4. Hi, i was thinking of getting the Dell S2409W as a main monitor to use from my macbook pro13″.
    im studying photography at uni so the main focus of my computer is for photos. judging by this reiview it seems as if i shouldnt buy it! is it really that bad? becuase it also has a hdmi cable it seemed like it would also be able to be used for my xbox and a freeview box,

    please email me with your thoughts

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    1. Rob, if you’ll read through some of the other comments posted here, you’ll see it works just fine with Macs now. Dell pushed through a driver update which was included in one of the newer OS X updates, and that has greatly improved the visual quality of the monitor. I haven’t tested it myself though, so you’ll have to take the word of those other readers.

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  5. I bought this monitor recently at a great deal ($175) for my powermac G5 at home. I’ve been spoiled at work and use a 23″ Apple Cinema Display HD which has beautiful color but for the price I wouldn’t spend the money for the web browsing I do at home. It took a while to calibrate the Dell so that it looked close to what I was seeing on a mac display. I actually powered up my macbook and kept it on next to the Dell while working through calibration to compare. It took about an hour to get it just right. I set to 65 in contrast and 45 in brightness in the Standard color mode, then went through color calibration in OS X. It takes some work but you can get pretty close. Still not as great as the Apple Display but I’ve got color right and text displays almost the same.

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  6. I found this site searching on Dell S2409W Mac. I got a great deal on this through work, $199 US. I wanted a 1080p mostly for my PS3 but for my Unibody Macbook as well so I took a chance.

    I am happy to say it works great. It is crystal clear/sharp. As for colors its looks ok to me, but I do Sysadmin work so my judge of correct color ends at a picture of my wife and kids looking ok to me as my desktop background.

    I guess either Dell or Apple worked out the kinks.

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  7. ” Ryan C wrote:
    In late September Apple released an update labelled as a security update, which surprisingly also included colour information and display information for this monitor. Now when it is connected everything displays perfectly for me.”

    Has anyone been able to confirm this? Was there an update from Apple for this monitor?

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  8. This monitor does have component input via a vga to component cable. no conversion is required. dell didnt actually make componenent ports, but they let component input pass through the vga port

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  9. I just wanted to add that the audio ports on the s2409w are for input from a device such as a soundcard and the other is an audio output to connect speakers or a soundbar to. The monitor does actually output sound from HDMI. Depending on what display mode you are using it will take sound from either HDMI or the audio input when you are viewing in VGA or DVI mode.

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  10. Hi there. I do a lot of photo viewing/editing as i also work as a part time photographer. I read all the comments on this monitor because it also included in my short listed monitor to buy…my question;are there any alternative brand with similar price/size range you could recommend.Cheers.

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  11. Had to chime in on this one. TN panels are used in apple computers, so it’s not an apple must have better quality LCD issue; it was likely a bad panel. Read the links on folks PO’d with Macbook and Macbook Pro computers using 6 bit panels (not true color).

    Dell is notorious for using different panels (from various makers) in the same model LCD. This goes for the Ultra-sharp line as well – and some of those are TN or TN+ panels.

    There are three primary LCD panel makers producing 90+ percent of the panels used in desktop LCDs, notebook LCDs, and HDTVs.
    Quality varies between panel types, and you pay for this difference. You cannot compare a $350 TN retail panel with an apple Cinema display – it’s ludicrous. I could have a four LCD stack of this Dell for the price of your 30″ Apple display.

    This monitor is what it is: a TN panel in 16:9 aspect in the three to three hundred fifty dollar range.

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  12. Just a note for those out there: basically all monitors with TN panels have the ‘jagginess’ issue when hooked up to a mac.

    It is possible that it’s OS X, because this noticeable flaw is not present with Windows or Linux (at least not with NVDIA drivers).

    Just wanted to let you guys know, that for use in a Mac, need to get a higher quality panel. I have an older Dell, a 20 inch 2005 model(bought in 04 though), which is from the Ultrasharp family(in other words: not a TN panel) and the jagginess is not present.

    I had to sell a Sceptre monitor 24 inch with a TN panel, because I could not stand how some text displayed when plugged into the MBP.

    Brief conclusion:
    If you use Windows or Linux, and plan to watch movies and play games, this monitor does the trick quite well.

    If you are going to use it for other more serious graphic design work, or specially using it with OS X, pass on the cheap panels.

    The good news, you can buy a 22 inch ultrasharp dell minotr for around $250 these days, so that’s a better option for Mac users.

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  13. Thanks for the review, I was about to drop the cash for my mac mini. I’ll be looking for something else now.

    Cheers!!

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  14. Alex, you don’t seem to have read my review properly. I mentioned problems when connected to a Mac, not a PC. That person connected theirs to a PC, and as I clearly stated in my review, display quality on a PC was better than on a Mac.

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  15. Hey cheers for the review.. verry interesting.. i too work with my mbp and need something that will work well for my photography work… http://www.timwest.info so i would be really keen to hear what you went for as i too am in a verry similar position to you..

    thanks again

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  16. Hello Raoul,

    I’ve had this monitor for a couple of months now. I have my Macbook connected via DVI, my Xbox 360 connected via HDMI and a freeview box connected to the VGA input. These three connections are using a 5.1 surround sound system for audio. I have to say that I am very pleased with the quality of this monitor. I am not using it for anything on a professional basis, however, so that is perhaps why I have no complaint to make regarding its display.
    What I must say though, is that it did take me quite a while to get it to display well when running from my Macbook. It just seems that OSX didn’t like the display size. In late September Apple released an update labelled as a security update, which surprisingly also included colour information and display information for this monitor. Now when it is connected everything displays perfectly for me.

    Pros:
    Cheap
    Decent selection of inputs
    Full 1080p display
    Low power consumption
    Very easy to turn down brightness (useful for working late at night)
    Very nice looking

    Cons:
    Had early issues with Apple computers
    Dust-attracting case
    Poor viewing angle
    Dell logo is not properly fixed to the monitor, rather it is a sunken sticker
    I’ve had a number of instances where my Xbox 360 will not display in 1080p upon startup and I have to manually change the resolution in the settings on the console. However, I have no idea if this is an Xbox problem of an issue with the monitor.

    All in all, I would thoroughly recommend this monitor to anyone not using it for photography/graphical purposes.

    Thanks,
    Ryan

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  17. Hi Rauol, thanks for the review. I also have a macbook and it got me thinking twice before ordering this display. Did you have any problems what so ever motivating for Dell why you wanted to return it and get a refund?

    Regards,

    – Bjorn

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  18. Hi Raoul, thanks for the review. I have pretty much a similar setup as you with the macbook pro, and are thinking about ordering this display. Your post made me have seconds thoughs though… tell me, was there any problem at all returning this display to dell because of the hard-to-explain-font problem?

    Cheers,

    – Björn

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  19. Ani, I’m don’t have the monitor in my possession any more, as you could tell from the review, so I’ll have to speak in general terms.

    The monitor is just that: a monitor. It has no speakers of its own, so I’m not sure what you mean about connecting your speakers to it. The only way to get some sort of sound from the monitor itself is to buy the soundbar that attaches to it, and then connect a 3.5mm audio jack to it. This is not ideal, because the soundbar won’t give you high quality sound, but if you still want to do it, get an audio RCA (white and red plugs) to 3.5mm jack cable and hook that up the soundbar.

    If you have your own speakers, use them the same way. I don’t think the HDMI connection on the monitor will interpret the sound signal coming from the PS3. In other words, look at the monitor as a monitor, and connect some other speakers to the PS3.

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  20. Hi Raoul,

    I was thinking of connecting my PS3 to my s2409w monitor. How do you think I should go about in connecting my speakers to the monitor for game audio? Note: I’ll be using a hdmi cable to connect the ps3 to the monitor.

    Cheers

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  21. Like I say in my review, the Dell UltraSharp 24″ monitor that I have at work is pretty nice. Personally, I’m holding out for the new ACDs. I hear Apple is going to refresh their monitor line sometime soon. Either the 24″ or the 30″ should do fine for me. I’d love a 30″ monitor, because the more detail I can see in my photos, the better I can process them.

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  22. Thanks for the review, Raoul. I have a MBP also and am looking for an affordable large monitor to plug it into. At work I have a 30″ Apple monitor which is great, but I can’t see myself buying that for personal use. Have you found a better monitor option in the meantime? I do motion graphics so quality and high response time are crucial. Thanks!

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  23. The apple displays have very small pixels. This affects in a higher resolution of pixels per inch and this makes the image look sharper and smoother.

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  24. Phil, the two audio ports you see on the monitor are for the optional sound bar that you can purchase from Dell for the monitor. It’s a speaker that snaps onto the bottom of the monitor and is made specifically for it. It would output the sound received from the computer itself, not from the HDMI port, which I believe will only receive video.

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  25. I don’t know about that monitor, Avelino. It costs even less than the S2409W, so what’s the catch, right? That’s the question I’d be asking myself… Who knows, maybe it works, but realize you may end up paying a restocking fee if you try it out and it doesn’t cut the mustard, so to speak.

    #8, not sure about the font smoothing. I don’t know of a way to control it on the Mac. I know Windows has ClearType, which can be turned on and off, but the Mac renders fonts and outlines differently. Besides, if the fonts look fine on one monitor but look bad on another, it stands to good reason that the monitor where they look bad isn’t as good or as compatible with the OS/computer as the other one.

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  26. dude, your problem was probably the font smoothing.
    dell might used a pixel array that didn’t worked out good with mac font smoothing. your XP might have had different font smoothing technique or simply be disabled .

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  27. This has been on my shopping list for a while:

    http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/products/Monitors/productdetail.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=dhs&cs=19&sku=320-6095

    It’s supposed to have better color reproduction (92% color gamut), be brighter, and have a little more real estate (though not the 16:9 ratio, if I’m correct) than the S2409W.

    One of my colleagues is running the 2408WFP (an Ultrasharp) on his Mac here at work. He loves it.

    Maybe I’ll save up instead. Thanks for the review!

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  28. Hi Raoul,
    I noticed two audio-ports beside the DVI-port of the s2409w and wonder if one of them could be an HDMI audio-output, respectively what the second one could be for?

    Regards

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  29. Lucas, the display quality was better when I ran the XP VM. The fonts weren’t as craggy and the edges seemed to be smoother. It seems OS X taxes a monitor a lot more than Windows, and if it’s not a higher quality display, things won’t show up properly on it. Not sure how Linux would look on the monitor, I didn’t try it there.

    I don’t want to start second guessing myself, so I’d rather not say anything else beyond the review. I’ve already returned the monitor, so I can’t go back and double check something. My review is simply this: a Mac user who connected the S2409W to my MacBook Pro and noticed it didn’t work for me. Your mileage may vary.

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  30. Hi Raoul,

    Can you expand your experience using the WinXP VM + the S2409W ?
    Can you say that the craggy fonts were because of the MacOS + This monitor?

    I’m a linux user, with a Lenovo X61 Laptop

    Thank you for this review. I was looking at it so bad :).

    Regards.

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