Samsung S27A850D

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IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology has remained relatively unchallenged at the ‘high end’ of the monitor market and has also penetrated into slightly lower-end consumer models in the form of ‘E-IPS’. The technology is noted for its ability to accurately and consistently display a good range of colours and as such finds favour for those interested in performing colour-critical tasks. Samsung and other panel manufacturers have offered a generally lower cost alternative in the form of VA (Vertical Alignment). This offers unrivalled contrast and superior colour consistency to the ubiquitous TN (Twisted Nematic) technology but simply can’t match the colour credentials of IPS.

Samsung has developed a new panel technology called PLS (Plane to Line Switching) which is supposed to offer similar performance to the IPS panels of its rival LG Display. Although this technology is very new and isn’t particularly well-known, mature or widespread at the moment it has already found its way into Samsung’s own monitor line. We will be reviewing the first 27” monitor to make use of this technology; the S27A850D. As with modern IPS technologies it could potentially bring a lot to the table not just for work, but also play. We will be assessing the performance of the monitor from an ‘entertainment’ perspective and testing its merits and drawbacks on a technical level but also subjectively in a range of familiar game and movie titles.

The Samsung S27A850D is designed for the ‘business professional’ and as stated in the introduction is competing with monitors using LG’s current IPS panels. Notable aspects include the 2560 x 1440 (WQHD) resolution, true 8-bits per subpixel colour support and of course the LTM270DL02 PLS panel. The monitor also boasts a 5ms grey to grey response time which indicates the use of response time compensation (RTC) to boost grey to grey pixel transitions.

These figures on paper aren’t always the best indicators of real-world performance but we have highlighted the main positive and noteworthy features in blue below.

Screen size: 27 inches
Panel type:Samsung LTM270DL02 PLS (Plane to Line Switching)
Native resolution: 2560 x 1440
Colour support:16.7 million (8-bits per subpixel)
Response time: 5ms (grey to grey)
Refresh rate: 60Hz
Weight: 6.6kg
Contrast ratio: 1000:1 static
Viewing angle: 178º horizontal, 178º vertical
Typical power consumption: 71W maximum (0.4W standby)
Backlight: WLED (White Light Emitting Diode)
Typical price as reviewed: £580 ($860 USD)

More…

Features

and

aesthetics

From the front the monitor has a smart and professional angular look. Despite this it doesn’t look plain and boring and has its own identity. The base of the monitor is large and rectangular with a coated brushed metal finish. The bottom bezel also shares this finish and has a quite original tooth-like button design. As is often the case the bottom edge of the monitor bezel is the thickest (28mm) but a narrower matte plastic (20mm) can be found at the top and sides.

The screen surface uses a special glass compound which provides a low haze (‘semi glossy’) finish similar to that used on BenQ’s modern VA panel monitors. This is designed to reduce glare whilst providing improvements to image clarity and vibrancy compared to higher haze anti-glare surfaces. The slightly glossy nature of the screen surface can be seen beside a more typical Samsung screen surface (which is itself relatively light) in the image below. Note the light from the window facing the monitor screen and relatively clear outlines on the SA850. When the monitor is switched on the slight glare and reflection ceases to be an issue unless particularly strong light is shining directly onto the screen. There is still a degree of diffusion and you do get a slight ‘haze’ to whites and light colours but this is very fine and unobtrusive as we explore later.

When viewing both monitors from the side at a reasonably wide angle the differences become even more apparent with the SA850 taking on an almost mirror-like quality.

Going back to the ‘tooth-like’ buttons which you can see at the front; these control the OSD (On-Screen Display) and power operation of the monitor. As shown below the power LED glows blue to indicate the monitor is on, but the LED is small and not bright enough to be distracting.

The button design is certainly intriguing and works well as the buttons are easily pressed with good ‘clicky’ feedback. Our only real criticisms here are that the ‘select’ button is some distance from the ‘up’ and ‘down’ navigation buttons and that the volume rather than more commonly used brightness is adjusted using the up arrow shortcut key. The criticism regarding button placement can be justified somewhat as it keeps the design symmetrical – with three buttons either side of the ‘Eco’ sensors. The ‘Eco’ sensors consist of an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the luminance to suit the room’s light levels and a motion sensor which allows the screen to dim or switch off if nobody is sat in front of the monitor. The light sensor works as advertised, although we found manual adjustment of brightness according to taste more practical. The motion sensor seemed to lack the sensitivity required to pick up relatively low levels of movement, causing the monitor to switch off unexpectedly when this was activated. It is placed quite low down and faces pretty much directly forwards (unless the monitor is tilted back) so how well it works will depend on desk arrangement and any possible obstructions.

The side of the S27A850D shows the slender design, which at 22mm at thinnest point (40mm centrally) is considerably thinner than its IPS competitors. Despite this the functionality and connectivity is excellent. From the left you can see an audio input, headphone output, 3 USB 3.0 downstream ports and 1 USB 3.0 upstream port.

S27A850D left side

From the right you will find a DisplayPort input flanked by 2 DVI Dual-Link inputs and a DC (power) input. Due to product positioning and bandwidth delivery for the WQHD resolution, HDMI is not included.

S27A850D right side

Another point to note here is that like the screen itself the stand neck is quite thin – especially compared to the large base. This design offers excellent base stability and affords full adjustability to the monitor; exceptional 6 inches of height adjustment, 45° left and right swivel, 20° backwards tilt, slight forwards tilt and the ability to rotate (pivot) the screen 90° clockwise into portrait mode. The grounding of the monitor is very solid making the swivel adjustment smooth and efficient. The monitor we tested was a little wobbly on the stand, though, and the height and tilt adjustments were stiffer than the swivel. Pivoting the monitor is very smooth and due to the exceptional clearance between the bottom of the bezel and the stand base, this can be done without worrying about scraping the base – even if the monitor isn’t tilted back.

The rear of the monitor features an engraved glossy Samsung logo to the right, some way beneath which is the serial information label. The central section is dominated by the thin cylindrical metal stand and its quite sturdy-looking attachment to the monitor. This attachment plate has a coated brushed metal surface (the surrounding area is matte black plastic) and has appropriate holes for a 100 x 100mm VESA mounting once the stand is removed.

Other useful features include input and output labels, a Kensington lock and a holster at the top. The power pack clicks into place here instead of taking up floor space, which is a nifty little addition.

Power pack holster

Calibration

The default settings give a superbly ‘deep’ image but it isn’t very well balanced – overly bright whites with colours appearing too strong and noticeably oversaturated. We used familiar desktop backgrounds and icons, photographs, the Lagom website and a recent revision Spyder3Elite colorimeter to assist in optimally setting up the monitor. As far as brightness is concerned we found that lowering it to 55 makes everything a bit more comfortable to look at. Although the white luminance at this setting is rather on the high side for dim lighting conditions in particular the colours appeared dull and ‘lifeless’ at much below this setting. With contrast we found that the default value worked well as anything above quickly gave a garish look and anything below would start dulling the image.

As with most Samsung monitors you can set the gamma to one of 3 gamma modes; ‘Mode 1’, ‘Mode 2’ and ‘Mode 3’. The default (‘Mode 1’) yielded the best results and gave an average centre-point gamma of 2.4. This rose to 2.5 and 2.7 for ‘Mode 2’ and ‘Mode 3’, respectively. A gamma of 2.4 is a bit beyond the usual calibration target of 2.2. For entertainment usage the extra depth this tends to give colours can actually work well but as far as standardisation for colour-critical work goes a 2.2 target is more usual. For a monitor of this calibre you would expect a gamma of 2.2 to be achievable in some form using only hardware adjustment, if not the default settings. Nonetheless this can be achieved using a colorimeter (at the expense of contrast) and for colour-critical work the use of such a device should be a given. We were able to achieve spot on the 2.2 target across the range using an ICC profile, but for our testing purposes this was not used as it is ignored or ‘misread’ by most entertainment applications which can have undesirable consequences. Furthermore we like to see how monitors can perform using some simple hardware-based adjustments which the average user would be able to make. The settings we used as our ‘test settings’ during the review are shown below – the central white point was pretty much spot on 6500K after making these fairly minor adjustments and everything looked better balanced. Note that the default colour values are ‘50’ per channel but the variation between units means that there are no guarantees that these settings will be optimal for every S27A850D.

Brightness= 55 (adjust according to preferences and lighting)
Contrast= 75
Gamma= Mode 1

Red= 46
Green= 51
Blue= 50

Following these adjustments the image was better balanced whilst being a bit more comfortable on the eyes. Oversaturation was still apparent in places but this was tamer than under the default settings where things appeared to share some ‘unmanaged broad gamut’ colour qualities. We explore the colour reproduction in latter sections of the review and see how this works out in terms of ‘real world’ entertainment performance.

Contrast

and

brightness

We tested the S27A850D using our test settings, various presets and a variety of brightness settings. We measured the luminance of ‘white’ and ‘black’ in the centre of the screen using a KM CS-200 ‘Chroma Mater’ and calculated the resulting contrast ratios. For ‘Custom’ settings the default ‘Standard’ values for colour (50 per channel), contrast (75) and gamma (‘Mode 1’) were used but other presets will vary these settings. The results are shown in the table below with the peak white luminance, lowest black luminance and peak contrast ratio highlighted in black and the results for our test settings highlighted in blue.

Monitor Profile White luminance (cd/m2) Black luminance (cd/m2) Contrast ratio (x:1)
‘Custom’, 100% brightness 361 0.44 820
‘Custom’, 80% brightness 305 0.37 824
‘Custom’, 60% brightness 248 0.31 800
‘Custom’, 40% brightness 193 0.24 804
‘Custom’, 20% brightness 135 0.16 843
‘Custom’, 0% brightness 77
0.09 856
Test settings, 75% brightness, 60% contrast (RGB adjusted) 235 0.29 810
‘Standard‘ preset 156 0.19 821
‘Game’ preset 336 0.42 800
‘Cinema’ preset 361 0.44 820
‘Dynamic Contrast’ preset 360 <0.01 >36,000

The average contrast ratio under ‘Custom’ settings (excluding ‘test settings’ and presets) was 825:1 which is decent and on par with some of the better IPS panel monitors we’ve tested. The changes made under the ‘test settings’ were slight and yielded a quite pleasing 810:1 contrast ratio. As mentioned in the calibration section, however, a high luminance was required to prevent colours from looking dull. This yielded a white luminance of 235 cd/m2 which will be uncomfortable to some people (especially under dim lighting) and a black luminance of 0.29 cd/m2 which is a little higher than you’d want in the centre of the screen. Nonetheless the monitor can go a lot brighter still and was able hit a retina-singing peak luminance of 361 cd/m2 which comfortably surpasses the specified 300 cd/m2. The lowest white luminance obtained was 77 cd/m2, giving the SA850 an excellent 284 cd/m2 luminance adjustment range.

Samsung also includes a rapidly reacting ‘Dynamic Contrast’ mode under which we obtained a dynamic contrast ratio of >36,000:1 (limited by the 0.01 cd/m2 resolution of our measuring device). We have criticised this compromise of an operating mode enough in previous reviews so will move onto something a little more interesting – backlight uniformity. We observed moderate levels of excess backlight bleed-through in all four corners when viewing an entirely black screen in a dark room. This was particularly prevalent in the bottom right corner and was coupled with that noticeable ‘silver sheen’ that is often observed on larger IPS panel monitors in particular – we will have to call this ‘PLS glow’ for the SA850D. Both of these issues persisted after lowering the brightness to 120 cd/m2 although the excess became slightly less noticeable. The ‘PLS glow’ is perhaps a little less severe than the ‘IPS glow’ some of the monitors of this size we’ve tested, such as the Dell U2711, but it’s certainly there.

It is also important to note variation in the luminance values of other colours, which is best illustrated by studying variations in white level luminance across the screen. A Spyder3Elite colorimeter was used to measure the luminance of 9 equidistance ‘pure white’ quadrants running across the screen from top left to bottom right.

The luminance uniformity of the S27A850D was mostly good. The highest deviations occurred at ‘Quadrant 6’ (centre right), ‘Quadrant 9’ (bottom right) and ‘Quadrant 4’ (centre left) where the screen was 12%, 11% and 10% dimmer than centre, respectively. Elsewhere deviation from the central luminance of 235.5 cd/m2 was in the single digit range. The top of the screen was most closely aligned to the central region at just 2-4% brighter which is good. These deviations are also illustrated by the graphic below which illustrate both recorded and extrapolated white luminance values as a contour map.

S27A850D luminance uniformity map

To test the contrast and brightness performance of the ‘whole package’ in real-world scenarios we used a suite of some familiar (and not overly familiar) games and movie titles. The first test title we used was Battlefield 3, which will now replace the venerable Battlefield: Bad Company 2 that has served us well as a test tool on many previous reviews. As far as testing contrast performance goes the complex lighting models of the Frostbite 2 engine is a good candidate to use offering excellent dynamic range and some much darker areas than Bad Company 2. At the high end things were impressive with the sun’s glare, explosions, sparks and muzzle flashes all appearing brilliantly bright and contrasting well with the surroundings. It was during the night and in the underground tunnels of the game that the high-end luminance really shone through. Although lights didn’t quite have the luminescent purity you get from a good glossy screen surface the experience was still very dazzling and added great intensity to the atmosphere. Visibility at the low-end (i.e. detail in dark areas) was a little less impressive. This is limited in places by the high contrast design of the game and some quite deep and solid shadows. Nonetheless there was some loss of detail beyond this, particularly at the screen’s periphery where the aforementioned black uniformity issues played a role.

We tested another game with some good lighting models from a different genre; Dirt 3. During the daytime (particularly as the sun is setting) glare was suitably bright and dazzling. The purity of white here and other light colours was very good with only mild diffusion and a light haze visible. During the night car headlights and other light sources contrasted well with their surroundings. Elements such as camera flashes and fireworks were almost distractingly bright which a good sign is as sometimes they will go unnoticed. At the low end there was slight loss of detail, particularly towards the bottom right of the screen, but this was confined to the background and some dashboard elements and didn’t really affect the actual driving experience.

To round of we analysed the performance on Lagom’s LCD tests. These are good at illustrating certain weaknesses in a monitor’s performance which aren’t necessarily picked up by general use.

  • Contrast gradients showed some weaknesses at both the low and high end. The first dark blue, red and purple bands were practically invisible whilst the final two dark blue, red and yellow bands appeared to blend into one. Elsewhere distinct brightness steps could be observed.
  • The black level test performance was reasonable. The first two blocks were indistinguishable from the background and the third blended in a bit too well. All other blocks could be distinguished and there was no visible dithering to speak of.
  • The white saturation test was also reasonable. All but the final three blocks had distinctive checkerboard patterns. The third-last pattern was just about visible but you had to strain to see it.
  • The greyscale gradient was exceptionally smooth without any noticeable dithering or banding. A fine haze could be seen from the screen surface but as mentioned previously this was not very conspicuous.

 

Colour

reproduction

The S27A850D’s colour gamut (red triangle) was compared to the sRGB reference (green triangle) under our test settings using the Spyder3Elite colorimeter. This is shown in the image below:

S27A850D colour gamut

The colour gamut extends a little further than sRGB but not to the extent of a monitor with a wide colour gamut. Nonetheless when coupled with the gamma attributes of the monitor and the light haze surface it can make for some impressively rich and deep colours. A colorimeter is always an invaluable tool for any colour critical work but for this monitor it should prove essential. We examined the ‘whole picture’ using a suite of game and movie titles using our test settings. The first game title we tested is the newly released Battlefield 3 which features an excellent range of environments, objects and special effects with which to subjectively assess the merits of a monitor’s colour reproduction. The general aesthetic of the game combined with the gamma attributes, colour gamut and low haze screen surface of the S27A850D all combined to give this title an exceptionally rich and deep look. In places colours appeared a little darker and deeper than they should – for example oranges tended to appear red and some medium blues (including some areas of sky) looked like they had been laced with copper sulfate. The greens of vegetation showed impressive richness and variety without noticeable oversaturation – from deep and lush to lighter and paler shades. Certain elements in the game were also brought to life in ways that aren’t usually observed. Despite being a little on the red side the rich orange and red glow of roaring fires, sparks and explosions was quite impressive. The almost neon brilliance of the blue and orange in-game markers was also quite stunning, copper sulfate sprinkles and all. The overall look was certainly deeper, darker and more heavily saturated in places than the developers had intended but in some ways it complimented the visual style of the game quite nicely.

As with Battlefield 3 the rich and intensely saturated colours that the monitor displayed on Dirt 3 was a bit of a mixed blessing. Earthy browns on some of the tracks and tree trunks had a bit of an overdone red tint. This same red tint was quite visible in place of the usual orange and red glare at sunset. On the plus side the rich reds of the sunset and the earth beneath actually looked rather spectacular and in-place on the Kenyan rally tracks. The blues of the sky also looked slightly too deep in places but not in a copper-sulfate infused way. Thankfully green shades showed outstanding depth and variety and were in-keeping with their real-world counterparts. Given their rather ubiquitous nature in the background this is a good thing indeed. The monitor also did a fantastic job at displaying the vibrant car paintjobs. Incredibly deep blues and reds, sulfurous yellows and ‘highlighter’ greens were most impressive. The advertising around the track, fireworks in the sky and some of the blue-tinted headlights also stood out for the same reasons.

For extra variety we also tested out two Blu-ray film titles with very different aesthetics. The bold and deep colours that the monitor pumped out worked really well on Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder. This title features good solid blocks of colour and a surprising variety of shades and as such is a particularly good test of colour consistency. The character skin tones and clothing are usually tell-tale signs of weakness but appeared consistent throughout the scene which is good. Some of the neon colours and pastel shades looked a little too deep but the rather stunning depth and variety made up for this. Our second test film title, The Girl Who Played with Fire, takes place in the real world. After some of the slight oversaturation and colour depth issues experienced elsewhere it is always a worry that a film set in real world locations would be deprived of the natural aesthetic it craves. Thankfully that wasn’t the case on this film. Everything looked natural and in-place with skin tones and natural environments showing excellent variety and appropriate levels of saturation. The deep and rich reds of blood and warm yellows and oranges of fire were impressively vivid.

So overall the colour performance of the S27A850D was a bit mixed but generally very good. The screen surface, native gamma and colour gamut all combined to give an exceptionally deep and rich image. This worked well in some places and certain elements really popped out in ways that you rarely see, but in other cases it caused excessive depth and oversaturation that detracted from the experience. The variety of shades displayed was also impressive, despite them tending to edge too far into the deep end.

Viewing

angles

We didn’t notice any problems whatsoever with colour consistency on the monitor during our testing but to explore this in more detail we observed some of the Lagom LCD tests for viewing angle. These are good at illustrating even minor shifts in colour, gamma and brightness and can also be used to test ‘extreme viewing angle’ performance. The following observations were made from a central seated position:

  • The purple block appeared predominantly a rich violet with only the slightest hint of pink at the far left.
  • The red block appeared an impressively strong red throughout, which was almost difficult to look at.
  • The green block looked an impressively solid and rather deep green throughout with some minor yellow tinting towards the far left and top left.
  • The blue block appeared a rich and consistent deep blue.
  • The Lagom text appeared a blended grey throughout, with a slightly warmer look to the background towards the left of the screen. This indicates that the gamma curve of the monitor is not heavily dependent on viewing angle.

 

Overall the results of these viewing angle tests revealed excellent colour consistency when viewing the screen from a normal centrally seated position. These were largely consistent with what you would see on an IPS panel monitor of this size.

It is also useful to consider how things look from decentralised viewing angles, which is illustrated in the video below. This shows the Lagom text test and a dark desktop background from a variety of viewing angles. Note the hints of red and green that is only really apparent on the Lagom text test from quite wide viewing angles (it is otherwise blended grey). The desktop background highlights the silver bloom of ‘PLS glow’ that is most noticeable off-angle. From a normal seating position this can also be observed as explored in the ‘contrast and brightness’ section of the review.

Scaling

performance

The Samsung S27A850D features a native resolution of 2560 x 1440, which is great for the desktop due to the amount of information displayed at once. Icons on the desktop become smaller as does text and all of the buttons in your programs so you get an awful lot of room to play with. Windows also allows you to scale these things up to larger sizes should you require it but once you adjust to the high resolution it is generally very welcome. For games, however, the GPU is required to do over 1.77 times as much processing – filling up 3686400 pixels on the monitor (2560 x 1440) compared to 2073600 (1920 x 1080). The result is an inevitable and significant reduction in frame rate on any given settings within a game.

If people don’t have the graphical horsepower to run their favourite game titles at that resolution with agreeable settings then they may want to switch to a lower resolution (most commonly 1920 x 1080). The problem with this approach is that the pixels on an LCD monitor are a fixed size and shape, which is why they have a native or optimal resolution. When you run a game at a lower resolution, which will be 1920 x 1080 in this example, the monitor is required to ‘stretch’ the image over multiple pixels. Considering the difference in pixel number between the resolutions is a somewhat awkward number the ‘interpolation’ process is a little rough around the edges. The end result is an image that lacks the sharpness and clarity of an LCD monitor running 1920 x 1080 natively. The image looked quite blurry and generally sub-optimal on all of the game titles we tested using our Radeon 6950, which included; Battlefield 3, Dirt 3, Command and Conquer 4 and Portal 2. This was clear from casual glance but was strikingly obvious when comparing to a native 1080p display of identical screen size (the Samsung S27A950D). The non-native resolution looked similar to displaying a much lower resolution natively (perhaps 1280 x 720) on a similar sized screen. The practicalities of this arrangement will depend on how discerning an individual and some game titles may ‘get away with’ this more than others.

When upscaling content of a lower resolution to fit the native resolution of the display, which happens when viewing full screen Blu-rays on the SA850, the results were far more impressive. This may be partly dependent on movie software and GPU, but using CyberLink DVD 8 and our Radeon 6950 we found Blu-rays retained much of their native sharpness when displayed at the native 2560 x 1440 resolution of the monitor. The maintenance of aspect ratio (16:9) is also important here to prevent distortion of the image if it fills the screen.

Response

times

Although stated response times are poor indicators of real world responsiveness Samsung claims a 5ms grey to grey response time which is achieved using Response Time Compensation (RTC) technology to reduce the time taken for transitions between ‘similar’ shades. The S27A850D includes three response time settings; ‘Normal’, ‘Faster’ and ‘Fastest’. We assessed the pixel performance under each of these modes using PixPerAn (Pixel Performance Analyser) and a camera at high shutter speed. The ‘tempo’ of the program was set as high is it would go to help highlight the differences between the modes during rapid motion. The images show the three modes in order.

S27A850D ghosting ('normal')

 

S27A850D ghosting ('faster')

 

With response time set to ‘Normal’ a bold secondary trail and faint tertiary trail was visible which is similar to what is seen in a non-overdriven IPS panel monitor. The overdrive (RTC) setting is enabled by switching to ‘Faster’, which is the default setting. The secondary trail is now slightly less bold and the tertiary trail is pretty much gone which is an improvement over ‘Normal’. Setting the mode to ‘Faster’ introduces significant overdrive trailing artifacts in the form of a bright ‘halo’ trail which is readily visible during gameplay. Because of this we felt the ‘Faster’ mode was optimal and explored the pixel responses of the monitor further under this operating mode using our suite of games and movies.
First up was Battlefield 3 which offers a mix of slow, medium and fast-paced action and includes a good dynamic variety of colours. It is therefore a very useful test of a monitor’s response performance over a broad range of transitions. On foot there was a slight blur that was consistent and predictable, manifesting itself as a ‘short’ trailing which was not overly distracting. When turning relatively slowly in a vehicle or quickly turning the mouse this became more severe and was dizzying at times. Overall the pixel response performance of the S27A850D on this title falls slightly short of newer overdriven IPS panel monitors such as the Dell U2312HM but is an improvement over non-overdriven IPS monitors such as the NEC EA232WMi.

The more extensive blurring observed when turning vehicles carried over, perhaps unsurprisingly, to our second game test title; Dirt 3. This proved somewhat distracting as the track edges and objects around the track would lose sharpness even during relatively slow turns. Needless to say the Gymkhana mode with its sharp and rapid turns and spins was a bit too good at simulating motion sickness on this monitor. There was some respite when it came to our movie title testing, however, as no real issues regarding trailing (or ghosting, if you prefer) were visible. Again the pace of action and corresponding issues were limited primarily by the low frame rate (under 30fps) at which the films are processed and the monitor itself introduces no responsiveness issues on top of this.

To round off our responsiveness testing of this monitor we would like to mention input lag, which affects the response of a monitor to user input on the mouse and keyboard and is therefore something that gamers must consider. To obtain an absolute value of this would require equipment and expertise beyond that available to us at the time of review. We were, however, able to assess this subjectively and by using the ‘stop watch’ method explored in this review (http://www.pcmonitors.org/monitor-reviews/samsung-s27a750d). It was clear from this testing that the S27A850D did suffer from a certain degree of input lag – around 1-1.5 frames (16-24ms) on average. Many gamers will actually be quite tolerable of this level of input lag but for those who prefer faster paced games or are particularly sensitive to this it could be an issue.

Conclusion

The Samsung S27A850D is designed for the discerning business or home user who requires a large screen with superior colour reproduction and a higher resolution than the average consumer model offers. It is a demonstration of Samsung’s newest panel type; PLS (Plane to Line Switching) which is designed to take LG’s increasingly abundant IPS (In Plane Switching) technology head on. Overall Samsung has produced an ‘exciting’ product which includes a novel low haze screen surface, thin side profile, excellent variety of inputs and a unique button arrangement and nifty little holster for the power pack. The screen surface worked very well as it tamed glare without upsetting the light emitted from the monitor too much – resulting in some of the highest image clarity we’ve seen from a matte screen monitor.
Overall the performance of the monitor was a bit mixed but generally quite pleasing. In some ways it did feel a bit like a technology demonstration rather than a finished product. The most notable issue was the lack of any mode which would produce a native gamma of 2.2 which is the common standard for manipulation within the sRGB colour space. Coupled with the slightly extended colour space and low haze screen surface the colours were rich and varied but overly deep. For our testing purposes this was a bit of a mixed blessing as it produced some quite stunning elements but did cause unwanted depth and saturation at times. We also had to run the screen at a somewhat excessively high luminance to prevent the overall image looked too lifeless – this did bring some fairly spectacular whites and flashes of bright colour but was a little uncomfortable in dimmer lighting conditions.

The uniformity of the screen is something which tends to vary between individual units. The general stresses during design and manufacture are usually similar but the post-production stresses will vary – all of this can contribute to such issues. The white uniformity of our unit was quite good overall but the black uniformity was fairly lacklustre with moderate levels of excess backlight bleed-through emanating from all four corners. The unit also suffered from what we now dub ‘PLS glow’ which is similar to the silver sheen commonly known as ‘IPS glow’. There was variable loss of detail in dark scenes which was most noticeable at the peripheral sections but the contrast towards the centre of the screen was by no means poor.

We also tested the responsiveness of the monitor. This is not necessarily something that its primary market would be overly concerned with but it is something a fair few users will be interested in and is clearly something Samsung have considered. Samsung has implemented grey to grey acceleration to improve the pixel transition behaviour. This does lead to a noticeable increase in smoothness that takes the monitor beyond its non-overdriven IPS brethren, but in practice it falls slightly short of the performance of modern overdriven IPS monitors from Dell and HP in particular. There was also a moderate level of input lag which many people will be fine with but which could cause issues for some discerning gamers.

Overall the Samsung S27A850D is a pretty solid product that offers a unique combination with its innovative style, panel type and screen surface. There is certainly room for improvement but we can see a lot of potential in the PLS technology and hope to see it adopted by other monitor manufacturers.

Positives Negatives
Colours are rich, deep and varied with good consistency
Some colours appear too deep and oversaturated
Excellent high-end brightness, good luminance range and quite pleasing white purity
No hardware-based support for 2.2 gamma standard and a high luminance required to prevent many colours becoming ‘lifeless’
Low haze screen surface handles glare well without profoundly upsetting colour vibrancy or image clarity and is probably the best ‘compromise’ we’ve seen overall A light haze and mild diffusion leads to slightly inferior clarity and vibrancy compared to a glossy screen surface – you can’t use the screen as a mirror when it’s displaying black either
Unique styling with brushed metal elements, slender neck and design which retains full adjustability, excellent connectivity and VESA compatibility Black uniformity is fairly lacklustre and ‘PLS glow’ is present – some noticeable detail loss during dark scenes in our testing
2560 x 1440 native resolution offers plenty of desktop space and displays Blu-ray movies surprisingly well
Native resolution is graphically demanding during games – scaling at 1920 x 1080 is suboptimal although not a specific fault of this monitor
Competitively priced given its market position, features and performance Responsiveness leaves a bit to be desired compared to some newer IPS panel monitors from Dell and HP in particular