Samsung caused quite a stir if not a bit of a storm when they unveiled their new 3D monitors and hybrids at CES 2011. Most entertainment monitors released recently generally look quite similar with some minor aesthetic tweaks here and there. More often than not they consist of glossy black plastics for the bezel, a central stand with a flat base and a matte screen. The SA750 and SA950 series 3D monitors (and the ‘TA’ series hybrids) were refreshingly different by offering ultra-thin bezels, brushed metal stands and some in the case of the SA950 and TA950 in particular a rather audacious fashion statement of a neck and stand. They are also the first PC monitors to showcase Samsung’s ‘Ultra Clear’ panel technology that has thus far been reserved for their TVs – touting reduced reflections compared to conventional anti-reflective technologies and superior image vibrancy compared to matte screen surfaces.
But it isn’t all about the looks. The monitors offer an integrated 3D solution driven by a pair of Samsung stereoscopic 3D glasses and the included TriDef PC software. The ‘SA’ series monitors also have another trick up their sleeve in the form of true 120Hz output. The ‘TA’ series hybrid monitors, on the other hand, forgo this capability and instead offer integrated digital TV and a host of other related features.
This review focuses on the high-end 27” hybrid model – the T27A950. We will be testing it out on our usual compliment of games, movies and other applications to ascertain whether the beauty of this monitor runs deeper than the surface. We will also be running additional testing without the PC – seeing how it performs as a standalone HDTV.
The basic specifications of the T27A950 reveal nothing exceptional as far as 27” hybrid monitors go. At the rudimentary level get the usual Twisted Nematic (TN) panel, WLED backlight and a 1920 x 1080 ‘Full HD’ resolution. The response time is listed as 3ms grey to grey which is a slight improvement on the 5ms that is common amongst hybrid monitors but marginally higher than the 2ms listed for the S27A950D. As any accomplished monitor reviewer or computer user should know these figures rarely paint an accurate picture of the real-world performance.
A number of additional features such as the ‘Ultra Clear’ panel, DVB-T2 capable digital tuner and 7W stereo speakers are beyond the scope of these basic specifications.
In ‘real life’ the T27A950 looks just as unconventional as it does in pictures but perhaps a little less bizarre. The monitor consists of a large flat ‘foot’ at the base with four circular rubber pads at the bottom for extra grip. The bottom of the base is matte plastic with stereo speakers neatly tucked away and angled slightly downwards at the front – making them practically invisible. The base is topped with a large layer of brushed metal, with the neck of the monitor sprouting up on the right side.
As you can see in the picture above, the monitor bezel at the top and both of the sides is exceptionally thin; exactly 1cm wide according to our measurements. What is even more palpable is the extent of background reflection on the screen itself. This monitor employs a similar ‘Ultra Clear’ panel coating to that found on many of Samsung’s modern TVs. The principle behind this, according to Samsung, is to combine the outer polarising layer with a thin film of silver nanoparticles in order to reduce unwanted reflection without affecting image clarity.
In practice the level of ambient reflection on the T27A950 is slightly lower than glossy screen surfaces employing more traditional anti-reflective coating but can still be a problem in certain light. The photograph below shows a comparison between the TA950’s UltraClear screen surface and the Dell TrueLife coating of an XPS15 laptop, with both screens switched off. Dell’s TrueLife coating is fairly typical of a modern anti-reflective coating and is actually one of the better ones for reducing unwanted reflection. The photograph was taken in the early afternoon on a bright summer’s day – but remember this is British summer, so no direct sunlight was shining onto the screen.
You can hopefully see the reflection on the Samsung appears a little ‘duller’ and less intense than on the Dell. Note in particular the clarity of the wall and door on the Dell compared to the Samsung and the intensity of the reflected red chair – obviously the rear of the laptop is reflected on the Samsung rather than the chair. The picture below shows the results, in similar lighting, when both screens are switched on and set to a brightness of 160 cd/m2. Note in particular the more obvious reflection of the door and the mysterious photographer’s arm and camera on the Dell. The image on the Samsung is more vibrant in any light but the difference becomes even greater due to ‘bleaching’ from the sunlight which the Samsung doesn’t seem as prone to.
From the side of the monitor you are greeted with not a lot really. You can see just how thin the SA950 series monitors are; a mere 12mm according to our measurements, which is thinner than some people’s fingers. You can also see the hinge between the neck and the stand which affords a slight amount of backwards tilt to the monitor as the only ergonomic adjustment.
A large part of this ‘elegance’ is down to the edge-lit white LED backlight, external power converter and the containment of the ‘monitor brains’ within the base. The area that the base covers can be best seen from the back – at 515 x 805mm (W x L) it creates a footprint which could prove too large for some desk spaces. The rear of the screen itself is rather attractive if you like brushed metal, but unfortunately this will probably be shown off to the wall behind the monitor.
At the back of the base you will find an extensive selection of inputs, including; component (audio and video) inputs, LAN, optical out (TOSLINK), ‘service’, another audio input, a headphone jack, DC in (power), Common Interface, EXT (RGB), two USB ports, two HDMI ports and antenna in. Despite this rather impressive array of inputs there is no DVI or DisplayPort on this one so it is very much limited to a 60Hz refresh rate rather than 120Hz.
This input line is shown in the video below which seemed to be the best way of showing them all.
Swivelling back around to the front now to that intriguing asymmetrically-placed neck. This is not only a part of the design and the connection between screen and base – it is also the monitor’s control hub. This houses a touch-sensitive power button and OSD area as well as a small PIR (Pyrolectric Infrared Ray) or ‘Eco Sensor’ to detect a user’s presence. Once switched on the ‘control panel’ becomes fully illuminated with a soft white glow, as shown in the video below. This reveals; a menu button, a source select button surrounded by menu navigation (and +, -) buttons, a 3D button (for 3D viewing using the supplied glasses) and the power button. After around 30 seconds the glow drops to become much more gentle and unobtrusive.
The organisation of these, in particular the menu navigation, seemed intuitively organised and unlike previous touch-sensitive iterations from Samsung were pretty responsive. The OSD itself was quite extensive but was generally laid out too sparsely with large texts, flashy graphics and other TV-like features. This screamed out style over substance but it does make everything highly visible from a distance and the whole navigation system is nice and responsive.
Being a hybrid monitor with HDTV functionality it is only natural that Samsung supplies a remote control with the T27A950. They have opted for an ‘AA59-00445A’ which is the fully-featured backlit remote control they include with many of their 3D TVs. Everything on the remote is nicely organised with key buttons suitably large, labelled and colour-coded. It makes navigation of the on-screen display an absolute breeze.
We used the auto-tune feature to search for digital TV channels and radio stations. This process took around 4 minutes (may vary depending on region) and could only be described as effortless. Another nice bonus is that with its integrated DVB-T2 tuner the monitor is also able to pick up Freeview HD channels in the UK (and a broad selection of digital channels elsewhere).
For those who are used to the usual contrast, brightness and RGB level controls, the T27A950 adds an unnecessary level of complexity to the process with its distinctly TV-like adjustments. ‘Brightness’ on most monitors alters the luminance level (i.e. the intensity of the backlight) but on this monitor, like most TVs, it alters the overall level of ‘white’ in the image. If this is set higher than the default level of ‘45’ everything becomes washed out and black level luminance is raised. If this is set much below the default level of ‘45’ everything becomes dull – despite the backlight pumping out lots of light and the black level remaining pretty much static. There is a separate setting labelled ‘Backlight’ which controls the luminance but it only allows 16 stages rather than the usual 100.
The image on the TA950 we tested was pretty reasonable out of the box but there was certainly room for improvement. Things were a bit too bright with overpowering whites and the monitor was certainly in need of some colour rebalancing. Using the Lagom LCD tests and familiar desktop backgrounds and icons we were able to ascertain an optimal contrast level of 82 (default 100) but found the default backlight setting of ‘15’ to work quite nicely once the contrast was lowered.
To help refine the white point we used a reliably calibrated Spyder3Elite colorimeter (version 4.0.2). By default there was a slight blue push which could be rectified by switching ‘Colour Tone’ in ‘Picture Options’ to ‘Warm 2’. This then introduced a slight excess of green which could be removed with some slight colour rebalancing as shown in the image below. The controls include ‘gain’ and offset’ rather than just a single control – reducing the green gain and offset to 21 (default 25) provided nicely balanced colours and a white point in the centre of the screen of 6498K which is very close to the desirable 6500K daylight white point.
Thankfully the gamma at the centre of the screen was spot on 2.2 after these adjustments so there was no need to fiddle with the strange gamma controls which go from -3 to 3 (default 0). As with the white point there is fairly significant variation in gamma (and indeed colour) across any large TN panel monitor such as the T27A950, as we explore in the subsequent sections of the review. Nonetheless with just a minor contrast and colour balance adjustment the image produced by our review sample TA950 was very pleasing.
The table below gives luminance readings, in cd/m2, under various settings for ‘pure black’, ‘pure white’ and the resulting contrast ratios. A Konica Minolta CS-200 ‘ChromaMeter’ (highly accurate luminance meter) was used to record values in the centre of the screen. The lowest black luminance, highest white luminance and highest contrast ratio recorded under non-dynamic modes have been highlighted for convenience. Unless explicitly mentioned assume default settings were used – a contrast level of ‘100’, brightness of ‘45’ and default RGB values (25, 25, 25 gain and offset) for the purposes of this section.
|Monitor Profile||White luminance (cd/m2)||Black luminance (cd/m2)||Contrast ratio (x:1)|
|‘Standard’, Backlight 20
|‘Standard’, Backlight 15
|‘Standard’, Backlight 10||154||0.2||770|
|‘Standard’, Backlight 5||88||0.12||733|
|‘Standard’, Backlight 0||21||0.03||700|
|Test settings, 42% brightness, backlight 15, 82% contrast (RGB adjusted)||152||0.22||691|
In our testing a peak contrast ratio of 781:1 was recorded, with the backlight on full (‘20’). This is pretty reasonable really and we won’t criticise Samsung for misleading and overly optimistic figures as they don’t officially specify a static contrast ratio. The peak brightness recorded under these settings was a very bright 289 cd/m2 – 295 cd/m2 was recorded using ‘Entertain’ mode with the slightly different colour settings probably explaining the difference. This is very close to the 300 cd/m2 specified by Samsung and is significantly brighter than most people would need in normal viewing conditions.
As explored in the calibration section of the review we rebalanced the colours and reduced the contrast to achieve a better-balanced image to form our test settings. A reduction in contrast ratio was inevitable – but at 691:1 the reduction was fairly minor and this shouldn’t make a perceptible difference. In the interest of our testing a very low black level of 0.03 cd/m2 could be achieved by reducing the backlight to its lowest setting of ‘0’. At 21 cd/m2 peak luminance the resulting image was far too dim to be of much use to in any light but this does mean the T27A950 has a luminance range of 274 cd/m2 which is excellent. Interestingly there seemed to be no way to enable dynamic contrast when the monitor was connected to a PC, despite this working in TV mode. Given our experiences with this mode on other monitors it was probably a blessing in disguise.
Obviously there is some degree of backlight bleed-through on any LCD monitor under usable settings otherwise contrast ratios would always be practically infinite. With the T27A950 reviewed here there was some excess backlight bleed, particularly at the right edge and bottom right of the screen. This was only evident in a dark room when staring at an entirely black screen and during normal use blacks appeared quite deep. This is probably due in part to how black is perceived on a ‘glossy’ screen’. Nonetheless it is important to consider the uniformity of the backlight as it affects whites and other colours and not just blacks.
All of the luminance values considered thus far have been based on readings from a central section of the screen. LCD monitors will always show some degree of luminance variation beyond this so it is worthwhile measuring the uniformity of luminance across the screen. Variation here is usually best exemplified by measuring differences in the luminance of ‘pure white’ at different sections of the screen. Absolute white luminance values are given (cd/m2) in the table below in addition to the % difference in luminance compared to the centre. Readings for this table are again taken using our test settings with a Spyder3Elite colorimeter. Measurements were taken at 9 equidistant ‘100% white’ quadrants, which run across the screen from top left to bottom right. These are numbered consecutively.
The luminance uniformity of the T27A950 was moderately good overall with the top of the screen being the most problematic. The maximum deviation from the central (‘quadrant 5’) luminance of 165.5 cd/m2 was measured at ‘quadrant 1’ towards the top left of the screen. A luminance of 136.4 cd/m2 was measured here which is 18% lower than the central luminance. ‘Quadrant 2’ (top central region) showed a similar deviation of 18% whilst the top right (‘quadrant 3’) was marginally better with a 14% deviation.
Elsewhere deviation percentages were in the single figure range which is pretty good. Interestingly the bottom right (‘quadrant 9’) appeared 9% dimmer than the centre of the screen, despite the excess backlight bleed-through noted here previously. The ‘bleed’ only seems to affect the far right edge and very bottom corner of the screen to which ‘quadrant 9’ is slightly up and to the left of.
The uniformity of the monitor is represented visually by the contour map below. This adds a bit of artistic license to the recorded values by way of extrapolation and should only be used as a guide. It is also important to note that this map and the figures in the table above highlight white-point luminance variations and not deviation in colour and gamma across the screen. Such variation is analysed in the subsequent section of the review.
Our subjective testing of the T27A950’s contrast performance gave some very pleasing results. Despite the recorded black levels being nothing to write home about blacks were perceptively quite deep, as mentioned previously. This was best demonstrated in one of the Blu-ray film titles we tested – Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder. The distinction between the black of the star fields, the white of stars and the swirling intermixing colours was excellent. There were no problems at the dark end in either of the two game titles we tested, with all areas showing an appropriate level of detail.
The high end luminance was rather impressive on these titles as well. On Battlefield: Bad Company 2 whites were outstanding bright with sun causing dazzling glare and explosions having a certain ‘blinding’ nature about them – all of this from a white level luminance of a mere 152 cd/m2. Snowy environments on Bad Company 2 appeared extremely bright and clean-looking which gives an alternative use for the ‘cool shades’ bundled with the monitor. In some areas the whites were a tad overpowering, leading to some minor detail loss through bleaching – but the grainy effect of the snow was visible in most instances and for once this wasn’t down to an anti-glare coating.
Dirt 3 proved to be an equally dazzling experience on the T27A950 with glare from the sun and artificial lights in the dark really standing out well. Whites were particularly noteworthy once again but lights of other colours (such as purple and blue) also appeared to possess luminescent qualities that are shared by their real-world counterparts.
Back to the slightly more artificially constrained testing now and scrutiny of the TA950 based on the Lagom LCD tests. These tests are designed to illustrate any weaknesses in a monitor’s performance, including those that aren’t picked up under normal circumstances such as those explored above.
- Contrast gradients were pretty good with distinctive brightness steps in most cases. The darkest blue band was difficult to distinguish from the black background and the top two red bands appeared to blend into one but no problems elsewhere.
- Performance in the black level test was very good with all squares distinguishable from the background. This was influenced by vertical viewing angles as scrolling down so that the top row is near the top of the screen would cause the first 3 blocks to disappear. There was also some very minor temporal dithering on some shades but this was very difficult to see and clearly handled exceptionally well by the T27A950.
- The white saturation test results were reasonably good with the final block indistinguishable from the background and the second-last block very faint. Again this was influenced by vertical viewing angle as scrolling up so that the bottom row was near the bottom of the screen would cause the second-last block to disappear and the third-last block to disappear.
- The greyscale gradient was good. Only faint banding could be seen at the low and no visible dithering was present.
Despite the conventional luminance readings suggesting ‘reasonable’ performance, but no more, the TA950 truly excelled when it came to providing a nice and bright (but suitably varied) entertainment experience. This really does go to show that the overall experience of a monitor is about so much more than a string of readings taken from a little dot in the centre of the screen. We are under no illusion that the ‘Ultra Clear’ panel coating is partly to thank for this – and on the flipside ambient lighting must be better controlled for an optimal experience.
The T27A950 ’s colour gamut (red triangle) was compared to the sRGB reference (green triangle) using our test settings and the reporting functionality of the Spyder3Elite.
The use of white LEDs in a monitor’s backlight restricts the screen to roughly the sRGB colour space. Due to the diffusion of light through the common matte outer polarising layer the gamut is often reduced slightly below complete sRGB coverage. The ‘Ultra Clear’ panel coating of the TA950 series uses a glossy polarising layer which allows more direct transmission of light. The colour gamut therefore covers sRGB pretty comprehensively and actually extends slightly beyond in green and yellow shades.
In practice colour reproduction is about a lot more than just a reported colour gamut – but the advantages offered by the ‘Ultra Clear’ panel coating became immediately apparent during our subjective testing as well. In Bad Company 2 colours were fantastically vibrant without looking oversaturated. Map markers and on-screen labels had the kind of intended neon look about them whilst certain elements in the environment were brought to life in ways not encapsulated by most monitors. Beautiful golden oranges and reds of autumn leaves, lush forest greens and glorious orange fires were particularly impressive. Some of the fires raging in the backdrops of some levels were almost distractingly awe-inspiring.
Despite this vividness the variety of subtle shades was still quite impressive, particularly for a TN panel. Although you don’t get the same level of distinction and delicate variation that can be picked up by a decent IPS monitor (for example), the range of greens and reds was pretty impressive. There was certainly a sufficient range of pastel shades to add nice variation to the image and compliment the natural look.
This variation continued on the Blu-ray film titles we tested. First up was The Girl Who Played with Fire which called for (and received) a natural look for the most part with skin tones and vegetation appearing appropriately (un)saturated. Vibrant elements were also apparent throughout the film, including roaring flames that were almost warming to look at and some brilliant sapphire blues. Our second film title tested was Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder. This is a particularly good test for colour reproduction and indeed offers an illustration of the potential limitations of Twisted Nematic panels when it comes to colour consistency. The S27A950 produced some gloriously vibrant colours on this title. Bright pinks, deep purples and reds were particularly vivid, although most shades had a good rich quality to them.
This movie also features pastel shades with some subtle colour variations that most monitors won’t adequately distinguish between. IPS panel (and similar) monitors and to a lesser extent VA panel monitors are generally quite good at displaying such shades distinctively but TN panel monitors are not. As noted in the game titles we tested the colour consistency of the T27A950, due predominantly to the underlying panel technology, is far from perfect. Large blocks of a given colour, most noticeable on a character’s skin, will vary slightly depending on the position on the screen. This means that what is supposed to be a single shade will end up becoming several shades in a kind of gentle gradient – and you get overlap between very similar shades which will lose their distinctive characteristics. Nonetheless the range of pastel shades that were displayed distinctively on this film by the TA950 was very impressive for a 27” TN-panel monitor.
The Samsung T27A950 provided a very colour-rich experience in our ‘real world application’ testing. The ‘Ultra Clear’ panel coating really does allow the monitor to show its true colours and makes a substantial difference to its colour output.
The colour consistency issues touched upon previously and most notable in Futurama are down to the viewing angle limitations of TN panel technology. These apply even if you are sat stationary in front of the monitor but obviously become more extreme if viewing the monitor from other angles. This variation did not prove particularly problematic in our entertainment testing but it does affect colour accuracy – and as such we would never recommend any TN panel monitor such as this for a colour-critical workflow. To demonstrate the extent to which these variations affect the image we used the Lagom viewing angle tests:
- The purple block appeared purple on the top half, particularly in the centre. Elsewhere it appeared pink with noticeable shifts if viewing position was altered.
- The red block appeared a fairly deep red at the top quarter of the screen, becoming increasingly pink further down.
- The green block was actually quite impressive, appearing green throughout with slight yellowing at the bottom.
- The Lagom ‘text test’ confirmed that the gamma curve of the TA27A950 is significantly influenced by viewing angle. It appeared mainly red with a slight green tint at the top – it would appear largely a blended grey on a decent IPS panel, for example.
The results of the red block and Lagom text tests are shown in the short video below. This does tend to exaggerate the colour shifts quite significantly due to the image capture and processing of the camera but shows how ‘extreme viewing angles’ can affect colours:
The excellent vibrancy of the T27A950’s colours became readily apparent whilst operating the monitor as a TV but again things needed a little tweaking. Using the default settings, reds were a little overpowering at times, giving many skin tones an unnaturally blushed look. You would think that perhaps switching the MagicBright setting to ‘Natural’ would help mute these colours a bit – but it actually made things worse. Selecting ‘Movie’ fixed the skin tone issue but made things look too muted overall so some further tweaking of ‘Standard’ mode was in order instead.
After fiddling about for a while in the jungle of picture settings we discovered that despite the MagicBright setting being set to ‘Standard’ rather than ‘Dynamic’, dynamic contrast was in fact on. Switching this from the default mode of ‘medium’ to ‘off’ massively improved the skin tone saturation without upsetting vibrancy elsewhere. As a result the TA950 was able to display some truly electric-looking blues, pinks, purples and brilliant cherry reds. The overall image was still nicely balanced with plenty of more muted greys and minty greens (for example). Deep reds such as red wine and blood were also displayed nicely with plenty of richness.
As mentioned in the ‘features and aesthetics’ section of the review the T27A950 has two speakers at the front. Despite ‘Dolby’ and related logos stamped all over the rear of the monitor you should be under no illusion that the little speakers that are practically invisible and squashed in at the front of the rather flat base are not the best. At 7W they are not the most underpowered speakers you will find on a monitor or hybrid monitor and they do offer some good treble clarity. When it comes to the mid-tones and base they certainly leave a lot to be desired compared to dedicated external speakers – and Samsung do offer plenty of options for connecting external speakers. There are actually many sound options to play around with on the TA950 and perhaps a deeper and fuller sound could be achieved by tweaking these. Unfortunately we didn’t really have time to test these out and the focus was on picture quality not sound quality.
The monitor comes bundled with a pair of Samsung SSG-3100GB active shutter glasses. These are light and comfortable to wear, connecting to the monitor via Bluetooth and using a single CR2025 coin (cell) battery for power. Although the batteries are not researchable, this system provides 70 hours of continuous before the battery will need to be replaced. Some people may have preferred a rechargeable solution but this would add extra weight to the glasses – these cell batteries are very light and quite cheap to replace.
Once the shutter glasses are activated by pushing the rubbery power button at the top right you are presented with a noticeable flicker. This is something which you eventually become slight more accustomed to and is how the glasses operate, but it is something that people can find distracting and perhaps uncomfortable. The image is also dulled noticeably and regardless of the monitor settings will lose much of its vibrant lustre.
When using the glasses to view normal TV channels in 3D the T27A950 relies on its built in on-the-fly 2D-3D conversion technology. The effect is quite subtle and although you do get some added depth the effect is much better in some scenes than others. A great degree of additional 3D depth can be provided during gameplay on the PC by utilising the included TriDef 3D drivers. These include two main operating modes, one of which (Frame Sequential) should provide a superior 3D effect but is currently not available to all modern GPUs.
We tested out Bad Company 2 using the Frame Sequential mode on our Radeon 5850 and found the results to be quite mixed. On one hand the 3D depth effect itself was quite good, especially when firing the RPG. There were some pesky issues including some overlapping textures – a faint ‘ghost’ displaced to the side of objects such as tree trunks and boxes even when completely stationary. Another issue was the presence of crosstalk which manifested itself as certain ‘juddering’ textures as well as an overly sluggish feel to the controls. This is surely exacerbated by the reduction in the maximum frame rate to 30fps due to the way the technology works – the 120Hz capabilities of the ‘SA’ series monitors would undoubtedly offer improvements in this area.
It is also possible to use the native 2D-3D conversions in any game title, including Bad Company 2. This gives a much weaker 3D effect but you don’t get any significant texture overlap, crosstalk or sluggish input issues and still get a bit of added depth. This was the only apparent option on our second test title, Dirt 3, which the latest TriDef drivers didn’t seem to support on our system. Again the 2D-3D conversion offered a little extra depth but it wasn’t really worth it for the reduction in image vibrancy and the additional flickering from the glasses. It is nice that the T27A950 offers 3D support on a wide variety of applications straight from the box – but it certainly isn’t without its flaws.
PixPerAn (Pixel Performance Analyser) is a useful little tool that is used for highlighting differences in pixel responses between monitors. For the image below a camera was used at high shutter speed and the PixPerAn ‘tempo’ was set to 16, the highest value. To capture the image below, a high camera shutter speed was used with the ‘tempo’ of PixPerAn set to the highest possible value, 16. As far as this type of PixPerAn testing goes this should be considered the worst case scenario.
In image above you can see a reasonably distinct secondary trail but tertiary trail or negative pixel overdrive-related artifacts such as inverse ghosting. This is indicative of a TN panel monitor with relatively mild grey to grey acceleration – the 3ms response time quoted by Samsung also reflects this.
Due to the extra functionality and image processing that goes on with most hybrid monitors and TVs (and is rarely bypassed, unfortunately) it is common for input lag to be slightly higher than for pure PC monitors. We did not explicitly measure this as we lack any accurate means of doing so, but we would classify the input lag of the T27A950 as moderate. That is to say it will be noticeable to those who are particularly sensitive (probably around the 1-2 frame mark, or 16-33ms). Our subjective opinion that the input lag is ‘moderate’ reflects the total latency felt when using this monitor. This is down to a wide combination of factors beyond simple ‘input lag’ from the monitor and includes pixel transitions themselves and the delay between frames (as explored in this article). As far as TVs and hybrid monitors go the TA950 isn’t particularly bad and it shouldn’t be a cause for concern for the majority of users but input lag is something that avid fast-paced games fans will want to consider.
As we move onto our subjective film testing now it should be noted that these are generally not the best indicator of a monitor’s responsiveness as they are limited by the low frame rate at which they are shot. Unless a frame interpolation technology is employed, which leads to a ‘smoothing effect’ which not everyone likes, they will appear to ‘judder’ slightly in places. Nonetheless trailing can sometimes be picked up in certain scenes that can be explained by relatively slow pixel transitions rather than other underlying issues. With the T27A950 this was not a problem and it performed very well throughout both of our film titles; Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder and The Girl Who Played with Fire. This was evident in a variety of specific scenes in both of our film titles that some less responsive monitors will struggle with.
The T27A950 offers an alternative and rather audacious approach to the hybrid computer monitor market. It is certainly one of the most intriguing looking hybrid monitors launched to date and many people would consider it more a piece of art than a monitor. With its exceptionally thin bezel, finger-thin screen, copious amounts of brushed metal and glossy ‘Ultra Clear’ screen it certainly catches the eye.
This same eye-catching ‘Ultra Clear’ screen coating is also largely responsible for the deliverance of some truly vivacious colours and visible contrast between shades which would be physically impossible for most monitors to output. The monitor did take a fair bit of tweaking before the image was properly balanced, but once this was done the variety of shades (both vivid and subtle) was exemplary for a TN panel. An obvious drawback of the ‘Ultra Clear’ panel is that ambient reflections can become problematic under certain lighting conditions – but to the TA950’s credit these are reduced compared to more conventional anti-reflective (glossy) screen coatings.
The T27A950 also offers some additional attractive features such as a plethora of different inputs, DVB-T2 tuner capable of picking up many digital TV channels (including Freeview HD channels in the UK) and integrated 3D capabilities complete with on-the-fly 2D-3D conversion. Whilst offering a very pleasing performance in 2D and breathing an extra layer of life into games and movies, the 3D performance of the monitor was a little less inspiring. The glasses were comfortable to wear and nice and light but they introduced a layer of flickering and dulled the image – thus negating a lot of what made the monitor’s 2D performance so pleasing.
The 3D implementation through the TriDef drivers, which can be used on some game titles, was also a bit hit and miss. Due to the limitations of the panel and bandwidth of its inputs it is limited to 60Hz – and during 3D this means you are limited to a rather restrictive 30fps per eye. Crosstalk, sluggish response, image dulling and flickering were all suffered through for the sake of some 3D depth. Whilst the 2D-3D conversion technology can be used to give a more streamlined experience the 3D effect lacks any sort of real depth.
So whilst the headline feature of the T27A950 (its 3D capability) may be a bit of a disappointment the monitor itself has a lot more to offer. This is undoubtedly one of the best-performing hybrid monitors available – but the real question to ask yourself is whether the style and immersive 2D entertainment experience is really worth the rather steep asking price.
|Outstanding brightness and perceptively very good contrast with deep looking blacks and very bright whites||Actual measured black depth and screen uniformity was less inspiring|
|Super thin bezel, slender screen and unique styling is something that many people will find endearing||The asymmetric stand design is not to everyone’s tastes, the physical footprint is large and ergonomic adjustability is limited to a slight backwards tilt of the screen|
|‘Ultra Clear’ coating allows more direct transmission of light from the monitor compared to a matte surface||‘Ultra Clear’ panel coating reflects ambient light and is unsuitable for use in certain lighting conditions.|
|Exceptionally vibrant colours with good subtle shade variation for a TN panel (after fine-tuning)||Viewing angles and colour consistency are limited by TN panel technology|
|A good selection of inputs, integrated DVB-T2 tuner and 3D capability for a broad entertainment experience||No 120Hz output and 3D technology is a little hit and miss
|LED backlight for increased energy efficiency, lower heat output and longer potential lifetime||High retail price and limited availability at present|