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Dell S3221QS 32-inch 4K monitor review

If you want bang for your buck on a 32-inch 4K monitor, the Dell S3221QS is well worth considering.

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Last updated: 22 December 2020

CHOICE verdict

The Dell S3221QS is a solid 4K, 31.5-inch curved monitor for its affordable price tag. Colours are accurate, edges are sharp and there’s no screen tearing in videos or gaming, even with FreeSync turned off. The curve means less travel distance for the eye across the large display, making it comfortable at a viewing distance of 60–70cm. But viewing angles are so poor that dark websites and videos are brighter close to the corners unless you tilt the screen upwards. It can also wash out dark scenes in games or movies, which becomes more obvious in low-light rooms.

Price: $748.99
Contact: www.dell.com/en-au/shop

The Dell S3221QS has little competition around its $748.99 price tag, as you’ll usually find that similar curved, 31.5-inch, 4K displays tend to cost north of the $1000 or $1500 mark, if not more. 

Unsurprisingly, Dell has made some compromises to be this affordable, but fewer than you might expect.

Specifications

  • Screen size: 31.5 inches
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Resolution: 4K (3840 x 2160)
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Response time: 4ms
  • Panel: LED-backlit LCD, Vertical Alignment (VA)
  • Brightness: 300 cd/m²
  • Contrast: 3000:1
  • Colour: 99% sRGB and 90% DCI-P3
  • HDR (high dynamic range)
  • AMD FreeSync/Adaptive Sync
  • Audiovisual input: 2x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort (all capable of 4K at 60Hz)
  • Speakers: 2x 5-watt
  • USB hub: 1x USB 3.0 upstream, 2x USB 3.0 downstream
  • Stand: height adjustable, no tilt or pivot
  • Weight: stand = 3.1kg, monitor = 7.4kg
  • Dimensions (with stand): 70.92cm x 20.7cm x 44.81cm
Dell-s3221qs-lifestyle-official

Sturdy yet slim, the Dell S3221QS is height adjustable and can tilt up and down.

Design and build quality

The plastic shell of the Dell S3221QS isn't going to turn heads, especially with its dull, black fascia. 

But where a monitor this size could easily crowd a room, the slim bezels, white back panel and silver stand reduces its visual impact – although a white stand would've better matched the monitor's aesthetic.

The stand is sturdy and weighs about 3.1kg. It doesn't wobble easily and holds the monitor firmly in place. It's height-adjustable, although anyone taller than about 180cm or six feet will need to prop it up on something else (a common complaint of a tall person). 

It can tilt up and down – an important feature to fix its viewing angles – but doesn't swivel and only pivots about five degrees, so no portrait mode.

Removing the stand reveals a VESA-compatible (100 x 100) mounting area on the back for attaching a different stand or monitor arms. But keep in mind that not all arms can handle this monster's 7.4kg weight.

Image quality

Brightness, contrast and colour accuracy are the three strengths of the S3221QS. 

It supports 99% sRGB and 90% DCI-P3 colour, making it an affordable, if imperfect, option for professional video and image editors. The panel shows no light bleed and colours are consistent across the whole area.

Fast-paced motion in video and gaming is smooth, objects are clearly defined, and there's no screen tearing or artifacting. But at times panning camera shots can introduce some noticeable stutter.

The onscreen blacks are a mixed bag. By default, a "Dark Stabilizer" setting is turned on, which appears to turn the gamma up in dark scenes of video games and movies, ruining the picture. Once this setting is off, black tones are much darker, but still not comparable to a more expensive professional display or an OLED panel.

The main weakness is in the viewing angles, which show noticeable variation across the screen depending on how close you sit to the monitor. The sweet spot is about 60–70cm, but some people might find this annoying and it could hinder delicate design or editing work.

Tilting the screen slightly upwards helps this significantly. But if you plan on buying monitor arms, keep in mind that some might struggle to hold its 7.4kg weight at a tilted angle, even if they're rated to carry more.

Display Manager

Dell's downloadable Display Manager app for the S3221QS is a must-have. 

Among its many features is the Easy Arrange menu, which lets you customise which areas of your screen let windows snap to them. This is great to see on such a big screen where Windows 10's default half- and quarter-size zones might be bigger than you need.

The app is easy to launch with shortcut keys (such as ctrl + shift + D) and lets you quickly adjust settings and features such as brightness and contrast, as well as others that aren't available via the standard menu buttons.

Display manager windows-2

The Display Manager app allows you to customise the way you use your S3221QS, including easy window arranging and brightness adjustments.

By default, the colour mode is static and needs to be changed manually. But set it to auto and the colour mode changes to one you've chosen based on the type of app you're using. 

This is useful for full-screen apps, but causes problems when switching between various windowed programs that are snapped to different areas of the display.

A handy inclusion for those with two devices plugged into the one display is a customisable input switch shortcut key. This allows you to set your display to switch between devices by pressing ctrl + shift + L, or another combination of keys.

Gaming on the S3221QS

The S3221QS isn't designed for gaming. But that doesn't mean your average professional or casual user doesn't want to settle into a welcoming and graphically beautiful experience at the end of the day. 

And, for a non-gaming screen, the S3221QS handles itself well enough.

Pros:

  • FreeSync/Adaptive Sync
  • No screen tearing (even with FreeSync disabled)
  • Smooth movement
  • Well-defined characters and objects
  • Colours appear accurate
  • The combination of 4K with a 32-inch display.

Cons:

  • Refresh rate is only 60Hz
  • Response time of 4ms
  • It doesn't handle HDR gaming well
  • Dark scenes are sometimes washed out, even with Dark Stabilizer turned off.
Senua P3 HDR comparison

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice with HDR off (top) and HDR on (bottom). The image was scaled to 1200px width before uploading.

The PC gaming world can be derisive about 4K screens because they tend to be limited to 60Hz. While it's true that 120Hz and above is much better for gaming, firing up a graphics-heavy title on a 32-inch, 4K display still looks stunning. Coupled with reliable colour accuracy and contrast, it's an enjoyable experience.

Surprisingly, we didn't experience any screen tearing or artifacting, even with FreeSync/Adaptive Sync disabled. The edges of characters and objects were always well-defined without any jagged edges.

But using HDR on the S3221QS for gaming is a problem. Blacks either become even more washed out – as if Dark Stabilizer were turned on – or too dark and lose detail, colours become oversaturated, and exposure is too high.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE
We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE