Samsung is set to expand it’s PLS display line-up with a high-end model which is called, somewhat confusingly, the S27B970. This brings it across from ‘Series 8′ (which includes the previous PLS models) to ’9 series’ – currently containing very different monitors entirely. What immediately separates this model from the S27A850D are the aesthetics and ergonomics. The SA850 series offered consumers a low haze matte anti-glare surface in place of the rather high haze matte surface on almost all of LGs ubiquitous IPS panels. This improved the clarity and vibrancy of the image and brought it closer to what can be achieved on glossy models such as the Apple LED Cinema Display. The 970 takes a leaf from Apple’s book and uses an edge-to-edge glass surface for the screen and brushed metal elements on the stand. The result is a rather attractive and high-end-looking piece of kit that should provide a stunningly vibrant and clear image. The downside is the potential reflectivity of the glass, which can be quite an issue on the likes of the Apple LED Cinema Display. Samsung claims the glass is ‘anti-glare’ (presumably anti-reflective); we don’t expect it to match the performance of the future solutions explored in this article but some improvement over existing glass-fronted solutions would be welcome. This should become clear (pun intended) during CES in the very near future.
Another potential downside to the new look is that Samsung has (in their own words) ‘streamlined’ the design in such a way that alternative mounting solutions will not be an option. Unlike the ‘Series 8′ PLS but like the current ‘Series 9′ TN solutions the electronics have been moved to the base so the screen itself should be very thin but fixed on the stand. This does limit the potential adjustability of the monitor, too, although the screen can be tilted and height adjusted by just under 4 inches.
The basic specification of the monitor is largely the same as the current S27A850D with a 27″ screen size, WLED (White LED) backlight, PLS (Plane to Line Switching) panel, 2560 x 1440 resolution, 300 cd/m2 rated luminance, 5ms grey to grey response time, 178/178 degrees viewing angles and 300 cd/m2 rated luminance. As you can see from the specifications below; there are some differences to note aside from the design, ergonomics and screen surface. Samsung have included additional hardware colour processing on the monitor dubbed ‘Natural Color Expert’. Part of this includes the ability to display (software and workflow permitting) 1.07 billion colours (10-bit) which was lacking on the SA850 but is nothing new in itself. The press release also talks of ‘hardware calibrations within the monitor’ without going into explicit detail, which likely means some form of programable Look-up Tables (LUTs) for direct calibration of the monitor rather than graphics card. The Series 9 PLS monitors will also be fine-tuned by Samsung engineers to ensure good representation – hopefully a native gamma of 2.2 will be achievable using the OSD this time, as this is important for many workflows.
Other new features of the monitor include a MHL (Mobile High Definition Link) port and dual 7W stereo speakers built into the base. The MHL port allows direct connection of the monitor an MHL-capable Android smartphone. You can charge the phone, view its contents and rapidly stream media without the need for a computer. Perhaps of broader use is the inclusion of an HDMI port specifically for connection to non-PC devices. For PC-specific use there is a a DVI Dual-Link port and DisplayPort. 2 USB 3.0 downstream ports and 1 USB upstream port has also been included – so you’ve lost one USB port and one DVI port and gained an MHL port and HDMI port. It isn’t clear whether any additional audio ports (headphone jack for example) have been included. The recommended retail price of the monitor is set at $1199.99 (UK price TBC) with March availability slotted in provisionally. We say provisionally as there were significant setbacks with Samsung launches last year. The price should be a little lower than this once the monitor reaches full retail availability, but it is clearly being touted as a premium product with a price-tag to match. If Samsung have been able to iron out on the black uniformity issues that plagued the SA850 and can deliver a reasonable level of reflection reduction from that glass-fronted panel covering then this could be one very interesting screen indeed. It is also possible that a smaller SB970 (S24B970) could pop up in the future, but that’s pure speculation at this time.
CNET’s Eric Franklin has posted some preliminary thoughts on a preproduction model of the monitor. They were generally quite pleased with the image performance of the monitor noting a good level of vibrancy without oversaturation – although they will reserve the full quantitative assessment for the final model. There were some negative points raised relating to the overall construction quality with some particular issues surrounding the accessibility of the DisplayPort input and some fairly weak elements at the base of the stand.