Who spends a thousand dollars on a single PC monitor? There are two answers: gamers and digital artists. As with the rest of the Ultrasharp series, the Dell U3818DW is for the latter. Its massive 38-inch, ultrawide curved screen and 3840×1600 resolution are great, but artists will especially love that it’s paired with a super-accurate IPS screen panel.
The U3818DW (just “Ultrasharp” from here on out) is an expensive upgrade for almost anyone, but it’s laser-targeted at those who want to get work done, and need at least fairly good color accuracy across its massive panel. If you’re okay with paying a premium, and you prefer one combined workspace to two, it might be worth the upgrade. Others will be better served by a dual monitor setup.
With that caveat in mind, I can absolutely recommend this Ultrasharp for those who want a single, unified workspace, or want a massive monitor to plug a USB-C laptop into. Fitting it into your budget is your own problem.
We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Desk
This 38-inch monitor isn’t the biggest on the market, in terms of either raw size or resolution. But it’s still, as the kids say, a chonk. At 35 inches wide by 22 inches tall, you might have trouble fitting it on any desk that also has a desktop to deal with. You’ll need a pretty big area for the included base as well.
If you’d rather use your own monitor stand, or you can (somehow!) fit it into a multiple-monitor array, Dell’s Ultrasharp line is easy to work with. It includes a standard VESA mount in the same hollow as the included monitor stand, no messy or expensive adapters necessary. I’m also pleased to see the power converter integrated into the display, so a standard three-pronged power cord is all you need.
As big as this monitor is, it isn’t trying to be anything else. The bezels are thinner than some, but not “invisible” by any means, and you’ll need eight inches of clearance from the front to the back with the included stand. Those looking for a svelte display to fit into a designer office probably won’t be impressed.
In, Out, Shake it All About
The Ultrasharp has the now-familiar inputs: one DisplayPort, two HDMI ports, and outputs for both standard USB-A 3.0 (four ports, two in the back and two on the side) and audio-out for connecting to external speakers or headphones. The display has two nine-watt speakers, but they’re best used only in an emergency, barely better than laptop speakers.
The display is also somewhat future-proof, thanks to USB-C in for video, data, and audio. The port also delivers power, but only at 60 watts. Most ultraportable laptops and tablets will be fine with that, but if you’re dealing with a bigger, more powerful MacBook Pro or anything with discrete graphics, it might not be able to charge it completely off of the one USB-C port.
I would have liked to have seen a second DisplayPort option and 100 watts down for USB-C power, but between the four video inputs I am more than satisfied. Anyone spending this much on a monitor should be able to connect three to four machines with ease. Managing the inputs and anything connected to USB would be more tricky.
The 3840×1600 panel in the Ultrasharp is a beauty. It’s warm and accurate, without the over-saturation you’d see in cheaper displays trying to pump up the colors for retail customers. When using it with Photoshop I was able to see the details and clarity I was used to from my own Ultrasharp monitors (from way back in 2012) with minimal adjustment.
For media consumption, the super-wide monitor is great for 21:9 movies, less so for just about everything else. 16:9 video leaves unsightly bars on both sides, and managing windows to effectively show off smaller videos is difficult, even with Dell’s included software. Gamers might be impressed by the resolution, but a pedestrian 60-hertz refresh rate and slow 8ms response time won’t give you any advantage in multiplayer.
Software and Tools
The window management advantage of a huge screen and higher resolution is obvious, but you miss some of the dedicated monitor tools if you combine everything into one panel. Dell tries to make a few accommodations here. With the Dell Display Manager software, you can easily set up virtual monitor zones, moving windows to dedicated areas easily.
It’s…okay. Speaking as someone who’s used to DisplayFusion, I find the tool pretty crude, even if its interface is much friendlier. I’d recommend DisplayFusion to anyone who wants to set up a regular working environment across multiple monitors, or even one massive one. But as a cheap way to assign windowing zones, it’s fine.
I wish I could say the same for the options Dell has built to display multiple PC inputs at once. I spent about an hour using the picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture modes (a common tool in ultrawide monitors). I couldn’t get a satisfactory split, each one either covering parts of one machine or leaving huge areas of blank, black panel.
The monitor also couldn’t effectively share a mouse and keyboard between the two (a claim made by Dell’s marketing), at least in my experience. I found it easier to just switch manually between both machines in fullscreen mode. The on-screen display, aside from the problems with picture-in-picture mode, was serviceable.
Worth It, But Only for Some
The U3818DW costs about a grand from Dell, but it’s currently going for under $900 street price. If you want a massive, super-wide monitor that can handle color-dependent graphics production when you need it, and a crap-ton of windows when you’re doing more general work, it suffices. It’s also great for watching movies at a theater-style aspect ratio.
While the monitor can handle multiple inputs just fine, look elsewhere if you want something that can handle inputs from multiple machines on the screen at the same time. Gamers, and those looking for a big screen on a budget, will also be better served by other, cheaper options.
Here’s What We Like
- Gigantic screen panel
- Good color accuracy
- USB-C support is nice
And What We Don't
- Very pricey
- PIP and PBP support is poor
- Dell's management software could be better