Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW) review: An excellent widescreen monitor for multitasking

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Ultrawide monitors aren’t for everyone. Not only are they big, but they can be heavy as well. These big boys are intended for those with multitasking needs, and that generally trumps size and weight. Dell makes great lightweight monitors for general use, but the Dell UltraSharp 38 is for power users who need multitasking ability.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

I’ve used Dell ultra wides in the past, and honestly, I love them. I supposed that sort of spoils the rest of the review. Maybe not, because not all is perfect on the Dell UltraSharp 38, but it almost gets there. Read on for the full review of the Dell UltraSharp 38.

Specifications

The Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW) has the following features and specifications:

  • Screen Size: 37.52″
  • Device type: WLED-backlit LCD monitor / TFT active matrix
  • Panel type: In-Plane Switching Technology
  • Native resolution: WQHD+ 3840 x 1600 (DisplayPort: 60 Hz, HDMI: 60 Hz, USB-C: 60 Hz)
  • Brightness: 300 cd/m² (typical)
  • Response time: 8 ms (normal) ; 5 ms (Fast) – (gray to gray)
  • Screen Coating: Antiglare with 3H hardness
  • Aspect ratio: 21:9
  • Pixel pitch: 0.234 mm x 0.234 mm
  • Contrast ratio: 1000:1 (typical)
  • Color support: 1.07 billion colors
  • I/O: 
    • DisplayPort (ver1.4)
    • 2 x HDMI (ver 2.0)
    • USB-C (Alternate mode with DP1.4, Power Delivery uptp 90W)
    • Super speed USB Gbps, Type – B upstream port
    • 3 x Super speed USB 5 Gbps downstream port
    • Super speed USB 5GBPs with BC 1.2 charging capability at 2 A (Maximum)
    • AUX port
    • RJ45 port
  • Adjustability:
    • Tilt: -5° to 21°
    • Swivel: 30°/30°
    • Slant: (4°/4°)
    • Height: 120mm
  • Dimensions with stand (WxDxH): 35.21 inches x 9.89 inches x 17.47 inches~22.20 inches
  • Weight: 19.40 lb

What’s In The Box

  • Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW)
  • Stand
  • Power cable
  • DisplayPort Cable
  • HDMI Cable
  • USB-C Cable
  • Manuals and Documentation

Design

Alright, I’m coming out swinging on this one. I don’t particularly appreciate that nearly all monitor makers put the sockets (I/O) behind the stand and tucked under. This isn’t only Dell; this is everyone. I am sick of it, and it needs to change. How? I don’t know how for sure, but these companies have plenty of design and engineering resources, and I think they can figure it out. Please, move the sockets to a place that’s easier to access without turning the monitor upside down.

Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW) Stop it with the I/O sockets tucked under

That all being said, the placement of the I/O sockets is really my only complaint about the Dell UltraSharp 38. There’s also not much to say about the rest of the design. Dell has stayed with its typical ultra-wide design here, and most of what you get here isn’t very new. That’s not a bad thing, Dell is sticking with a proven design, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The bezels all the way around aren’t super slim, but they are thin enough. The Dell logo is the bottom center, and the stand is big. I like that they made a stand beefy enough to support the weight of this monitor. The stand has a nice cut-out to feed your cables up to that pesky I/O array.

Speaking of I/O, while it’s hard to get to, there are plenty of options here. Taking a look at the image below, you’ll see the placement of the I/O with a numbered map.

1. Security lock slot | 2. Power connector | 3. HDMI port (2) | 4. DisplayPort | 5. USB-C upstream port | 6. Audio line-out port | 7. Super speed USB 5 Gbps (USB 3.2 Gen 1) Type-B upstream port | 8. Super speed USB 5 Gbps (USB 3.2 Gen 1) Type-A downstream port (3) | 9. RJ45 port | 10. Super speed USB 5 Gbps (USB 3.2 Gen 1) Type-A downstream port with power charging | 11. USB-C downstream port | 12. Stand lock

Honestly, there is way more I/O here than I can use. But for those using this monitor as a hub, it sure is amazing to have this many options. The stand mount is also on the back, and I appreciate that it’s the slip and lock type and not the type that requires you to screw it in. The stand base is screw in but comes with a wing, so you don’t need to use a screwdriver. So putting the Dell UltraSharp 38 together is fairly straightforward.

One area Dell hit the nail on the head is with the adjustment options. This monitor gives you tilt, swivel, and height adjustment. Height adjustment is huge, and some monitor makers miss the mark with this one. However, I’m still not a fan of the joystick controls mounted on the back. I prefer some buttons along the front for that, but it’s not a huge deal.

Overall, the design isn’t far off from the previous generation Dell ultra-wide monitors. The only real major beef I have here is the damn I/O sockets are a pain to get to. Maybe someday they can figure out a better way to mount those.

Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW)
The front of the UltraSharp 38

Display

First, let’s get the idea that this is a gaming monitor out of the way; it’s not. Can it be used as a gaming monitor? Sure, I suppose if you wanted to. But bear in mind that it’s not going to perform the same as a monitor designed for gaming. The 60Hz refresh rate is probably not conducive to gaming, but I am sure you can get by for short spurts or games that aren’t too intense. I do not game on my Mac, so other than a few Apple Arcade games, I didn’t use this for any serious gaming.

That aside, the display on the Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW) has a lot of real estate for some great multitasking. You could fit three windows in the 37.52″ space, but really, two windows fit the best. I found three windows open cut off some areas too much. Still, two good-sized windows open at once is great for multitasking.

If you’re using this monitor for spreadsheets and office work, you’ll be pleased. In the same vein, those of us who use monitors like this for video editing will be happy as well. It was very nice to see much more of the DaVinci Resolve timeline, making editing much more convenient. Using this for photo editing is equally convenient. Especially when having multiple photo tabs open.

Basically, there’s a ton of space here, and it’s well suited to those who need such expansive spaces for multitasking workflows.

The colors on the Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW) are bright and natural, not oversaturated or deep. Whites are clean, and blacks are good, probably not as deep as other monitors but still good enough. Brightness is also decent here, clocking in at 300 cd/m², which is good enough for indoor use, though I still would have liked it a bit brighter.

Overall, the display on the Dell UltraSharp 38 is fantastic. It’s especially outstanding for multitasking work and particularly for content creators. Colors are accurate out of the box, though some users will likely want to calibrate it to their own tastes.

Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW)
The back of the UltraSharp 38

Speakers & Features

The speakers are fine on the Dell UltraSharp 38. They’re by no means its strong point, but people aren’t buying this for its speakers. Most users will already have speakers connected to their computers, so it’s unlikely that they will ever get used. Still, they’re fine, thin-sounding as expected, and not very good for editing video/sound. But in a pinch for YouTube and Podcasts, perfectly fine.

With all of the included inputs on the Dell UltraSharp 38, you have yourself a bona fide productivity hub on your hands. I admit the only things I need on any monitor are the power and monitor out cable. I already have a nice hub for my Mac mini M1. But for those who don’t have a hub, this could serve as one for you.

With RJ45 and USB-C, this monitor delivers stable Ethernet and up to 90W of power delivery, allowing you to power your compatible laptop or mobile device. Dell also says that you can; “connect to a variety of devices with a wide range of connectivity options, including DP1.4, HDMI and USB-C: a single-cable solution that transmits data and video while delivering up to 90W of power to charge a wide range of laptops. Plus, quick-access USB-C and super speed USB 5Gbpsi ports conveniently located at the front enable fast connection to peripherals, such as storage devices and mobile phones, with a charging capability of up to 15W (via USB-C).”

MAC Address pass-through, PXE Boot, and Wake-on-LAN are also built into the Dell UltraSharp 38. And Dell says you can “connect two PC sources to the monitor—our intelligent Auto KVM feature detects the second connected PC and seamlessly switches controls over. View content from both PC sources with Picture-by-Picture (PbP) and Picture-in-Picture (PiP). KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) allows you to control both PCs with a single keyboard and mouse.”

The Dell UltraSharp 38 is much more than a monitor and with the extra features, many users should have everything they need for a great office setup.

Dell monitor
Yes I have another monitor to the right of the Dell. LOL!

Price/Value

The Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW) is priced at US$1,539.99 on Dell’s website but is currently marked down to US$1,229.99. That is a lot of money. But for users looking for a multitasking powerhouse with a productivity hub built-in, this is a great value.

Wrap Up

The Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW) isn’t for everyone. It is honestly expensive. For the common consumer who wants a widescreen monitor but doesn’t want to pay this price tag, there are options like the Dell S2422DW, which is US$449.99, much more affordable but may lack some of the finer points of the UltraSharp 38.

We’d recommend the Dell UltraSharp 38 to business multitaskers and content creators who need ample space to do their work efficiently. The added productivity hub gives users a versatile platform to complement their workflow.

Just make the I/O sockets easier to get to Dell.

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Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW) review: An excellent widescreen monitor for multitasking

Last Updated on July 27, 2021.

Dell UltraSharp 38 (U3821DW)

MSRP US$1539.99

Design

9.0/10

Display

9.5/10

Speakers & Features

9.0/10

Price/Value

9.0/10

Nailed it

  • Spacious with plenty of multitasking room
  • Great resolution perfect for video and photo editing
  • Decent speakers for a monitor
  • Competitive price when on sale
  • Ability to use the I/O as a hub

Needs work

  • Please stop mounting the sockets where it's so hard to reach them
  • Brightness could be better
  • Joystick control is fine but I'd rather have controls on the front bottom bezel.
Dell UltraSharp 38 Feature Techaeris
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