Ever since Samsung unveiled their new line of 3D PC monitors and hybrids at CES earlier this year there has been an air of hype and intrigue surrounding these sleek new numbers. Never one to be outdone when it comes to stylish but functional products, Samsung has really gone above and beyond with the ‘head turning’ aesthetics of the new monitor line-up. With ultra-thin bezels, finger-thin screens, touches of metal and Samsung’s unique ‘Ultra Clear Panel’ screen surface there is certainly a lot to catch the eye. Equally appealing to many is the notion of a 27” 120Hz 3D monitor which is still a market rarity.
After several months of continuous delay-laden anticipation these monitors are slowly starting to reach the retail shelves. This review will be focussing on the 27” model of the ‘SA750 series’; the S27A750D. This monitor features a more conventional design than the asymmetrically-seated SA950 and lacks the DVI-D port. It offers largely identical features; built in 2D-3D conversion, a stereoscopic solution for PC games using TriDef drivers, energy efficient LED backlight, Ultra Clear Panel surface and of course 120Hz output. It is certainly an interesting monitor and there is a lot to test out – so without further ado, onto the review.
The basic specifications of the S27A750D reveal that it is built for entertainment; a large 27” Twisted Nematic (TN) panel, WLED backlight, ‘Full HD’ (1920 x 1080) resolution and a listed 2ms grey to grey response time. Also of note is the typical retail price of the monitor which is slightly cheaper than that of the S27A950D but still on the high side for a Twisted Nematic monitor. This may well reduce slightly once the monitor reaches wider retail availability and there is a lot more to a monitor than can be gleaned from some figures on paper. If that wasn’t the case then there would be no need to review it!
Positive standout features have been highlighted in blue.
Features and aesthetics
The Samsung S27A750D sports a unique, shiny and rather striking design. The stand features a shiny chrome-like metal edging and an angled glossy black face which features the monitors touch-control hub and Eco motion and light sensors. Both of these ‘Eco’ sensors seemed to work as advertised but we were particularly impressed by the motion sensor. This turns off the monitor backlight (or dims it depending on your preferences) if no movement is detected for 5, 10, 20, 30 or 60 minutes. It is one of the most sensitive and long-range motion sensors we’ve come across and even when quietly watching a movie from a distance with the ‘5 minute’ setting the monitor didn’t unexpectedly turn off. Upon entering the room and approaching the monitor from over a meter away it would instantly spring back to life and be up to full brightness.
Another point of interest is the monitor bezel which combines glossy black plastic with a flush Perspex border. At around 15mm thick including the border it is very thin and appears even thinner due to the design – given the Perspex it is slightly thicker than the SA950 series’ 10mm thick bezel.
What won’t escape your notice in the picture above is that the screen itself is also glossy. The monitor features Samsung’s ‘Ultra Clear Panel’ technology to bring extra vibrancy and clarity to the image compared with anti-glare surfaces. It is also laced with silver nanoparticles which are supposed to reduce ambient reflection. With the S27A750D switched off on a bright sunny day, with windows facing the screen, it looks like a slightly blackened mirror. However; turn it on with a window to the side and things improve. The picture below shows a mixed image at a peak brightness of around 190 cd/m2 under fairly bright conditions (ignore the weather widget, it is slow to update and the British weather really is that unpredictable) – note the significant reduction in noticeable reflection.
The image on the S27A750D also suffers much less from ‘bleaching’ under strong ambient light compared to conventional anti-reflective technologies – see the comparison drawn on the review of the T27A950 which features a very similar Ultra Clear Panel coating. When displaying darker colours (particularly black) reflections become more noticeable but not to the extent of the very first image.
When the monitor is switched on the black face of the stand comes to life – a process much swifter than that observed on the T27A950 hybrid monitor. After 30 seconds the LEDs illuminating the controls dim significantly so that they aren’t distracting in the dark and will return to full brightness once a control is activated.
The main function of this ‘face’ is to allow the S27A750D to be turned on and off and to allow certain features and settings to be activated, deactivated and modified. The OSD (On Screen Display) is well laid out in a fairly intuitive fashion and is easy to navigate through using navigation arrows. It is reasonably responsive to the touch and easier to use than the usual Samsung controls at the bottom of the bezel. If we were to change something about this layout it would be to swap the source select button (centre of navigation arrows) with the menu button in the top left as this makes more sense as a grouping. An overview of the OSD is shown in the video below; there is plenty to play with.
The monitor is exceptionally thin at around 13mm (according to our measurements). The centrepiece from the side, really, is the shiny metal stand which affords marginal forwards tilt and slight backwards tilt as the only ergonomic option. This stand is largely responsible for the sleekness of the monitor as it houses most of the electronics. Other factors contributing to its svelte appearance include the external power adaptor and border of white LEDs as a backlight. Given the integral importance of the stand it obviously can’t be removed and owing to this fact and the exceptionally thin screen design it really goes without saying that there are no VESA mounting options included.
The rear of the S27A750D is a no-frills affair. It consists of a dust magnet of glossy black plastic which isn’t quite as elegant as the nice brushed metal of the SA950 series. Seeing as it will spend most of its time facing the wall that shouldn’t really be too much of an issue. Other points to note include the Samsung logo underneath which the main information label is kept which includes manufacture details, model code and serial number. There is also a Kensington lock socket to the right and a simplified model number and description to the left.
The shiny metal that dominates the stand can also be seen from this angle, alongside the minimalistic spread of inputs (and output) that it houses; DC in (power), headphone output, DisplayPort and HDMI. The big news here is the lack of DVI input and hence; DisplayPort is the only option for 120Hz output on the S27A750D. This is an annoyance for those with many Nvidia GPUs as the DisplayPort output is quite scant in the green camp at the moment. Considering the design of the monitor it does make sense as there simply isn’t room for the extra connector and electronics in that stand.
Out of the box the monitor was blindingly bright with overpowering whites. The image looked slightly bleached with fairly washed out colours and minor gradation issues. This was evident when using the Lagom LCD tests and familiar desktop backgrounds and icons as things didn’t look as good as they should. After extensive fiddling about with every conceivable combination of ‘Magic’ setting, contrast and colour channel adjustment and confirming white point (by eye and using a new revision Spyder 3 Elite colorimeter) we finally managed to achieve a pleasing image. Very pleasing in fact, with a vibrant richness you rarely see on a standard gamut monitor and shade variety you rarely see on a TN panel monitor.
Although each individual S27A750D will differ to some extent the settings presented below will hopefully offer some degree of improvement over the default settings if these don’t please you. It is also possible to get a very vivid image by simply setting ‘MagicColor’ to ‘Full’. Unfortunately this causes noticeable oversaturation in places and a very strong red bias which can’t be corrected due to the colour channels being locked.
Brightness= 45 (adjust according to preferences and lighting or use the Eco light sensor)
‘MagicAngle’= Group View (this becomes ‘custom’ once colour channels are altered)
The settings may seem bizarre but they worked well with our S27A750D, giving a 2.2 average centre point gamma and ~6500k whitepoint. Interestingly the gamma was recorded as 1.8 without enabling ‘Magic Angle’ which is just too low. This could be increased to 2.0 by switching gamma to ‘Mode 3’ – enabling ‘MagicAngle’ uses a custom gamma mode which seemed to work better than the standard 3 gamma modes. Additionally the default contrast of ‘75’ would bleach the image unacceptably using default settings (regardless of gamma mode) but the default contrast level was optimal using the ‘Magic’ combination. Due to variation in gamma and white point across (and in particular up and down) TN panel monitors it is best to judge the overall image rather than rely on central readings. Visual inspection provided similarly pleasing results; a brilliant vivid image without unsightly oversaturation or gradation from out-of-kilter colours or gamma.
Contrast and brightness
We tested the white point luminance, black point luminance and resulting contrast ratio under a variety of settings. The readings were taken using a Konica Minolta CS-200 ‘Chroma Meter’ and are displayed in the table below. The highest white luminance, lowest black luminance and highest contrast ratio yielded under static contrast modes has been highlighted in black and the results under our ‘test settings’ in blue. The first six sets of readings were taken using default settings (contrast ‘75’, RGB ‘50’ per channel and gamma ‘Mode 1’) but the ‘MagicBright’ presets and our test settings alter these values.
|Monitor Profile||White luminance (cd/m2)||Black luminance (cd/m2)||Contrast ratio (x:1)|
|‘Custom’, 100% brightness||340||0.35||971|
|‘Custom’, 80% brightness||290||0.29||1000|
|‘Custom’, 60% brightness||238||0.23||1035|
|‘Custom’, 40% brightness||186||0.18||1033|
|‘Custom’, 20% brightness||134||0.13||1030|
|‘Custom’, 0% brightness||79||0.08||988|
|Test settings, 45% brightness, 75% contrast (custom RGB and MagicAngle)||195||0.21||929|
|Dynamic Contrast (‘Gaming’ mode)||340||<0.01||>34,000|
The average contrast ratio recorded under custom (brightness only modified) settings was 1010:1 which is a very pleasing result. Under our test settings numerous changes were made to colour and gamma and contrast did drop slightly as a result; to 929:1 which is still strong. The peak white luminance recorded on the S27A750D was an eye-watering 340 cd/m2 which easily exceeds the 300 cd/m2 specified by Samsung whilst the lowest white luminance was a reasonably dim 79 cd/m2. This gives the monitor a luminance adjustment range of 261 cd/m2 which is very good.
Contrast was also strong in the various preset modes, should you wish to make use of them. As usual the ‘best results’ under these constrained conditions could be achieved by activating dynamic contrast. The backlight was very quick to reach to extreme changes in scene brightness (i.e. entirely black to entirely white and vice-versa), yielding a dynamic contrast ratio of >34,000:1 – a value limited by the resolution of the luminance meter. The practicality of the Dynamic Contrast mode is limited by the fact that scenes are not either extremely light (i.e. white) or extremely dark (i.e. black) but a complex mixture of both of these elements with other colours in between. The common modern backlight design involves the use or a border of white light emitting diodes controlled as one and a diffuser to disperse the light across the screen. This means that under a dynamic operating mode the entire backlight is illuminated to suit the overall light/dark balance of the screen; in other words it’s a compromise. The fairly rapid changes in backlight intensity are also somewhat distracting and most people will prefer to set a comfortable and predictable luminance themselves which is often a better solution.
There is always some degree of ‘backlight bleed’ on LCD monitors under usable settings – if there wasn’t then contrast ratios would be practically infinite and you wouldn’t see any difference between static and dynamic values. Due to stresses during and after production it is very common to see relatively high levels of ‘backlight bleed’ around the peripheral sections (particularly the corners) compared to the centre of the screen. This is often termed ‘clouding’ and is simply the kind of ‘backlight bleed’ that gets people talking as it can be pretty unsightly. Now for some good news; excess backlight bleed-through on our S27A750D was virtually non-existent. There was a slight ‘light patch’ at the bottom about an inch or so from the right edge but this could only be noticed when displaying pure black in a darkened room. Even then it was not the usual ‘blue cloud’ that is associated with bleed from a WLED backlight but really just a patch of ‘dark grey’ in the surrounding ‘black’. Needless to say this was not a problem during testing.
Variation in luminance is also common when displaying other colours and is best exemplified by measuring the luminance of ‘pure white’ across different areas of the screen. Measurements were taken at 9 equidistance white quadrants running across the screen from top left to bottom right, using a Spyder3 Elite colorimeter. The results are shown in the table below.
The luminance uniformity of the S27A750D was mainly very good. The greatest deviations occurred at the top of the monitor (‘quadrant 1’ to ‘quadrant 3’) where the screen was 10-11% dimmer than centre (‘quadrant 5’). The highest recorded deviation was recorded at the top left in ‘quadrant 1’ – 174.4 cd/m2 compared to 195.4 cd/m2 in the centre. This is not a particularly significant difference and the results elsewhere were even better with single digit brightness variation. The bottom of the screen was particularly good and only marginally brighter than the centre in the middle (‘quadrant 8’) deviating by 6% and the left (‘quadrant 7’) deviating by a mere 2%. Interestingly the bottom right of the screen (‘quadrant 9’) pretty much matched the central luminance, being under 1% brighter at 196 cd/m2. Clearly the very minor excess backlight bleed observed when displaying black in this region does little to upset the uniformity of brighter colours. It should be noted at this point that due to the viewing angle limitations of TN panel monitors the image tends to appear brighter at the bottom of the screen than the top (regardless of what a colorimeter reads at a given point) – this is actually impressively subtle on the SA750 and didn’t present any issues during our testing.
The uniformity of the monitor is represented visually by the contour map below. This adds some artistic flare by combining recorded values with predicted values. The variation considered in this map and indeed the table above only relate to variations in luminance and not colour or gamma across the screen, which is explored in the subsequent section of the review.
The measured contrast and uniformity of the monitor was certainly good but that doesn’t always translate to a good performance in practice. Thankfully the S27A750D performed very well in our subjective assessment and was an excellent monitor to test out the Battlefield 3 beta with. The Frostbite 2 engine of Battlefield 3 features far more complex lighting models than the Frostbite 1.5 engine of Bad Company 2 so it was potentially a good candidate for testing contrast performance. The outside areas of the game featured exceptionally bright sun, sparks, tracers and explosions that contrasted very well with their surroundings. The whites and light colours appeared remarkably pure thanks in large part to the Ultra Clear panel surface of the Samsung. Moving into the dark underground sections of the Métro map really brought the bright elements (sparks, flashlights, explosions and other light sources) to life and made for a quite literally brilliant experience. The dark areas which are rife on the gloomy underground were displayed very well with noticeable loss of detail. Due in part to actual contrast, the design of the game engine and the perception of black on the glossy screen blacks appeared very deep and solid.
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 provided an equally dazzling experience with a good dynamic lighting range to play with. The dark areas were all appropriately lit and minor details such as cracks and crevices in rocks and tree branch structures were there in full intended detail. Glare from the sun during the day and lights from the cars, cameras and other illuminated elements were dazzling and seemed to possess a luminescent purity similar to their real-world counterparts. We didn’t spend too long studying the contrast performance on the two Blu-ray film titles we tested (The Girl Who Played with Fire and Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder) but the contrast experience was just as good here as in the game titles we tested. The star fields on Futurama really highlighted the contrast potential of the monitor very well indeed and the deep appearance of blacks and bright purity of whites was very apparent.
The contrast performance of the S27A750D was also tested using the Lagom LCD tests. These tests probe the monitor for weaknesses in contrast which may not necessarily cause any problems or even be noticeable during normal use. The web browser can also affect performance on these tests – we currently use Internet Explorer 9 for these tests but if results are similar we will consider using Internet Explorer 10 once it’s officially released.
- Contrast gradients were very good. As usual the darkest blue band blended into the black background a little too well and was difficult to distinguish but brightness steps elsewhere were distinctive.
- Performance in the black level test was also very good with all but the first square distinguishable from the background. The first square could be revealed by scrolling up so that this block was lower down the screen – indicating that the vertical viewing angle influences performance here. There was no noticeable dithering on any of the blocks which is excellent.
- The white saturation test provided some pleasing results. All but the last block had a checkerboard pattern that was distinct from the white background. This block could be revealed by viewing the monitor from a decentralised position either beneath or to the side indicating once again the viewing angle dependencies of the monitor.
- The greyscale gradient was good. There was some very minor banding at the low end but very little noticeable dithering and a brilliantly smooth medium to light grey to white transition.
The contrast performance of the SA750 was very impressive both in terms of conventional readings and qualitative assessment. The ‘Ultra Clear’ panel surface certainly helped bring out the best as far as contrast is concerned but this does call for stricter control of lighting conditions to avoid obtrusive reflections. For a monitor that is so thin and relatively fragile the uniformity of the monitor was also very good and considerably better than the TA950 we tested previously.
The S27A750D’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 colour gamut is roughly in line with sRGB as you would expect from a WLED backlight. It comprehensively covers the sRGB and actually extends slightly beyond this in some of the yellows, oranges and reds but in particular the greens. This may be partly due to the higher light transmission through the glossy polarising layer (Ultra Clear Panel) without a matte surface diffusing it and the slightly broader spectrum of the new WLED backlights. Really this just gives an indication of the potential range of colours that can be displayed by a monitor and there are many other factors at work which dictate how the monitor will handle its colour output.
The extra vibrancy and clarity afforded to the colours by the ‘Ultra Clear Panel’ of the SA750 was readily apparent during our testing. For a bit of a change we tested the beta of Battlefield 3 in place of the usual testing on Bad Company 2. We have also tested this title on a number of other monitors recently including the Dell U2312HM, various CRTs and the Apple LED Cinema Display so our expectations were elevated; the S27A750D did not disappoint. Although the environmental variety was somewhat restricted by the choice of 2 maps there was enough there to assess some of the monitor’s colour production merits. Colours appeared rich and deep with a stunning vivid clarity in places. The forest greens of Caspian Border were surprisingly deep with a decent mixed palette of lighter shades. The variety of lighter green shades was somewhat restricted by the developer’s chosen ‘art direction’ which goes for a slightly darker ‘contrasty’ look. The deep greens were displayed with a richness that was much more inline with an IPS monitor than a TN panel – we could see this by direct comparison with the nice little spread of monitors we had at our disposal. The dusty browns of exposed ground, grey-browns of rocks and neutral grey of concrete looked very much ‘in-place’ and natural without any unwanted colour cast. Certain elements within the game showed excellent vibrancy with standout elements including; the ‘neon’ blues, greens and oranges of in-game text and markers and the glorious reds, oranges and yellows of forest fires in the background. Perhaps most impressive of all was the brilliant icy blues and piercing cyan of sparks from the engineer’s repair tool, some of the underground lighting and to a lesser extent some parts of the sky.
The second game title we tested, Dirt 3, showcased some fantastically vivid shades alongside a pleasing range of natural and more muted colours. The ‘dusty’ greens and browns of the Kenyan rally track featured prominently but this was coupled with some surprisingly deep and pure greens with a good variety in between. This was much more appealing than the overly yellow-tinted greens that most TN panel monitors throw out here. The variety of earthy browns and rich sun-kissed reds that featured on some parts of the track, at dawn, are rarely displayed this well on anything less than a well-calibrated IPS panel monitor. The car paintjobs and advertising around the track also exhibited good shade variety but their headlining attribute was some of the bold and brilliant colours that really stood out here. The S27A750D produced deep blues and reds, bright oranges, neon pinks and greens and truly electric blues that were some of the most dazzling we’ve seen on this game. To be able to display such a range of natural colours alongside such eye-catching and vibrant ones with smooth transitions between is an impressive and rarely accomplished feat.
We also fired up our two Blu-ray film titles to continue the feast of colour. First up was Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder which is an animated and colourful affair that many people will be familiar with. This movie features large blocks of solid colours across a broad palette, making it a good test for colour reproduction and consistency. Due to limitations with the panel technology there was a bit of a ‘gradient shift’ in such areas (particularly noticeable on a character’s skin) but this was actually relatively subtle for a 27” TN panel monitor. Moreover; the variety of pastel shades displayed by the SA750 in this film was very impressive and not too far off your typical IPS panel monitor – we know as we had one running side-by-side at the time. The brighter and more ‘neon’ shades stood out very well on the Samsung and were gloriously vivid – the bright pinks and reds were particularly impressive but so was just about every bright or ‘neon’ shade shown on the film. The second film title we tested was a more natural-looking affair set in the real world; ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire’. Some electric blues and warm glowing fires were some of the more impressive vibrant elements shown in the film but it was the natural and varied look to the environment, skin tones and clothing that really stood out here. So two very different film titles, with very different aesthetics; both displayed beautifully by the S27A750D.
We have already explored how viewing angles can affect the consistency of colours and contrast across the screen. On a TN panel monitor this large some degree of shift is inevitable even if you are sat in a centralised position – this becomes even more pronounced if you consider decentralised or ‘extreme’ viewing angles. For our testing this didn’t present any problems but it does have an effect on the colour accuracy and because of this we would never recommend any TN panel monitor such for high level colour-critical work. The extent of colour variation across the screen we used the very insightful Lagom viewing angle tests:
- The purple block appeared purple towards the top with a hint of pink towards the bottom (particularly at the sides). There is a noticeable transition between pink and purple as you move your head.
- The red block appeared a fairly deep red at the top quarter of the screen, becoming increasingly pink further down.
- The green block appeared an impressively pure and solid-looking green for the most part with slight yellowing at the bottom.
- We had no complaints about the blue block as it appeared a good solid blue throughout.
- The Lagom ‘text test’ confirmed that the S27A750D’s gamma curve is heavily influenced by viewing angle. It appeared green at the top transitioning to orange then red whereas ideally it would appear a blended grey.
The video below shows the results of the ‘text test’ from both centralised and decentralised positions. We have found that displaying videos of the coloured blocks accentuates any shift that is occurring and tends to capture elements that aren’t seen first-hand – so we have instead included a mixed image (desktop) to help demonstrate some of the shifts in colour and contrast that can occur. Note in particular the relative weakness in vertical viewing angles compared to horizontal viewing angles – with significant contrast shifts and colour inversion after a certain point.
The monitor comes with a pair of modified Samsung SSG-3100GB active shutter glasses (model code SSG-3150GB) which are SyncMaster branded and designed specifically to work with Samsung’s latest 3D monitors. These glasses are comfortable to wear and relatively light using a CR2025 ‘coin’ (cell) battery for power and Bluetooth connectivity to the monitor’s built in transceiver. This model provides around 70 hours of continuous use from the non-rechargeable batteries which are relatively cheap and easy to replace – and this does make the glasses lighter than using a rechargeable solution.
The shutter glasses are powered on by a small rubber power button towards the top right which illuminates with a green power symbol to indicate power status. You will notice a distinct flickering which is generally less of a problem once you are engrossed in 3D content but is something that some people will find it more difficult than others to warm to. You will also notice that the image on the screen (and indeed anything else you happen to look at through the glasses) is dulled considerably and the image will lose some of its much-loved 2D vibrancy in place of extra depth.
When viewing games in 3D there are two main ways in which the S27A750D can deliver 3D content. The first method relies on the use of ‘TriDef 3D’ drivers (included with the monitors) to use the GPU to convert the image into a suitable format for the monitor and 3D glasses. On modern AMD GPUs such as the Radeon HD 6950 of our test system the ‘Frame Sequential’ operating mode is used to generate a 3D effect by splitting the image into alternate (full resolution) frames for each eye. This is generally regarded as the optimal operating mode for viewing 3D content using the Samsung system but at time of writing this isn’t supported by Nvidia GPUs – pending a driver update of some description they will use a ‘Side by Side’ mode which presents alternate images for the right and left eye on different halves of the screen. This can give a decent 3D effect but the horizontal resolution viewable by each eye is half of the monitor’s operating resolution (so typically 960 x 1080).
We were eager to test the Battlefield 3 beta using the TriDef drivers. Unfortunately it had ended by the time we got around to testing so we Bad Company 2 was used instead. The depth effects were impressive which added an extra layer of immersion to the game. This was particularly noticeable when aiming down the weapon optics – firing a rocket, missile or RPG was strangely satisfying and showed off the true ‘depth potential’ of the Samsung solution. Because the GPU has to split each existing frame into alternative samples for each eye the extra processing involved reduces the frame rate to less than half of its usual value. This has a noticeable impact on the smoothness, especially when coupled with additional input lag from the extra processing. Other problems included bullet decals appearing in the wrong plane and becoming impossible to focus on, occasional convergence issues where objects would appear to ‘double’ (crosstalk) and the dulling and flickering of the glasses. The flickering is, as we have said, a subjective thing and generally less noticeable once you are engrossed in the game. In spite of all of these issues it was a good experience in short bursts and can make for an enjoyable (re)play-through of single player campaigns on games such as Bad Company 2.
The TriDef solution was also tested on Dirt 3 but didn’t find it added so much to the experience whilst taking too much away. The depth effect was good for objects inside the car with the steering wheel, various dashboard elements and the windscreen appearing in different planes. Regardless of depth setting it didn’t seem so convincing outside the car and objects only gained proper 3D perspective when you are so close that you’re crashing into them. The cut in frame rate, dimming and flickering were not really outweighed by the benefits of 3D on this title.
We were eager to test the Battlefield 3 beta on the S27A750D using the TriDef drivers. Unfortunately it had ended by the time we got around to testing so we Bad Company 2 was used instead. The depth effects were impressive which added an extra layer of immersion to the game. This was particularly noticeable when aiming down the weapon optics – firing a rocket, missile or RPG was strangely satisfying and showed off the true ‘depth potential’ of the Samsung solution. Because the GPU has to split each existing frame into alternative samples for each eye the extra processing involved reduces the frame rate to less than half of its usual value. This has a noticeable impact on the smoothness, especially when coupled with additional input lag from the extra processing. Other problems included bullet decals appearing in the wrong plane and becoming impossible to focus on, occasional convergence issues where objects would appear to ‘double’ (crosstalk) and the dulling and flickering of the glasses. The flickering is, as we have said, a subjective thing and generally less noticeable once you are engrossed in the game. In spite of all of these issues it was a good experience in short bursts and can make for an enjoyable (re)play-through of single player campaigns on games such as Bad Company 2.
The TriDef solution on the S27A750D was also tested on Dirt 3 but didn’t find it added so much to the experience whilst taking too much away. The depth effect was good for objects inside the car with the steering wheel, various dashboard elements and the windscreen appearing in different planes. Regardless of depth setting it didn’t seem so convincing outside the car and objects only gained proper 3D perspective when you are so close that you’re crashing into them. The cut in frame rate, dimming and flickering were not really outweighed by the benefits of 3D on this title.
We used a small tool called PixPerAn (Pixel Performance Analyser) to help assess the pixel response performance of the S27A750D using a variety of settings and refresh rates. During the tests the PixPerAn ‘tempo’ was set to the maximum value (16) and a high camera shutter speed was used as this is the way to highlight any apparent differences. The images below show the results at 60Hz with the monitor response time setting at ‘Normal’, ‘Faster’ and ‘Fastest’, respectively.
The first image shows a reasonably pronounced secondary trail and is indicative of a TN panel monitor without overdrive enabled to boost grey to grey transitions – it would appear from this that the ‘Normal’ response time setting simply disables pixel overdrive. Under the ‘Faster’ mode, as shown in the second picture, the secondary trail becomes less pronounced indicating that pixel overdrive is enabled. ‘Fastest’ mode gives a similar result and this is about as good as you could hope for from a 60Hz LCD monitor.
The first image shows a fairly bold secondary trail and slight tertiary trail as the pixel transitions under the ‘Normal’ setting are unable to comfortably accommodate the increased frame rate. Using the ‘Faster’ setting yields a massive improvement and there is nothing to complain about in this test. The secondary trail is as good as gone with the minutest trace remaining. The ‘Fastest’ mode produces no ‘conventional’ trailing whatsoever but a very faint Response Time Compensation (RTC) artifact is introduced – it can barely be seen in this picture. You may conclude from this that the ‘Faster’ mode is optimal at ‘120Hz’ – but in reality things are a lot more complex with a much broader range of transitions between different colours and at various speeds. In our game testing we noticed a slight improvement, particularly during fast-paced action, by selecting the ‘Fastest’ mode. Furthermore; overdrive trailing was not visible at all. We did very occasionally notice that selecting the ‘Fastest’ mode whilst in-game could introduce a quite visible ‘rainbow trail’ at high speeds. This is not a normal artifact and can be removed by running the monitor under the default ‘Faster’ mode for a minute or so and switching back.
Before discussing our gameplay experiences we would like to give some impressions of the 2D movie performance on the S27A750D. Due to the low native frame rate at which films are shot and processed the end result is quite similar on this and most 60Hz monitors we’ve tested. On Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder there was perhaps a slight reduction in trailing during fast camera pans and the like but a slight ‘juddering’ was evident from the low frame rate. There was a slight improvement in some scenes, particularly fast-paced chase sequences, but once again the improvement was limited by frame rate.
Note: The observations below are based primarily on games running at the maximum frame rate the monitor will display (120fps).The experience still ‘feels’ exceptionally smooth at lower frame rates but trailing becomes more pronounced. As observed during the 60Hz PixPerAn tests (they run at 60fps) trailing is superior to most 60Hz monitors even at half the monitors frame rate potential but you will get the most out of the experience at higher frame rates.
It was during high frame rate gameplay where the SA750 really had a chance to shine. The Battlefield 3 beta was a super-smooth experience at any pace of action. Whilst on foot the environment remained sharply focussed even whilst strafing or running quickly past objects. Even fast-moving vehicles, jets and helicopters (and of course other soliders) retained sharp and detailed textures as they raced past – making tracking and engaging that bit easier. Whilst driving or piloting even the most nimble vehicles the same smooth experience could be felt, making the game extremely playable. Another point to note is that 120Hz monitors such as the S27A750D not only refresh the frames of the game twice as quickly, they make twice as many input response adjustments per second. This is not completely dependent on in-game frame rate so this advantage is ‘felt’ to a large degree even at around 60fps. Coupled with a low input lag (explored subsequently) this makes interacting with the game exceptionally smooth. This can be noticed by simply moving the mouse cursor around on the desktop but also by how smooth a game ‘feels’ in response to input. On Battlefield 3 this made a significant difference, even compared to a 60Hz LCD with negligible input lag (the U2312HM).
The second game title we tested was of quite a different genre; Dirt 3. The driving experience on this game was very smooth with the environment remaining relatively sharp even during tight cornering. The main mode to benefit from this was the wild and fast-paced Gymkhana mode which was a whole lot more playable than usual – but if you do find this tricky it may not be just the monitor at fault. The game does implement motion blur to simulate the natural ‘blur’ that occurs at high speed but there was no noticeable trailing on top of this which is excellent.
In simple terms monitor input lag is the delay between the GPU sending an image frame to the monitor and the monitor displaying this frame. This can be elevated by internal processing done by the monitor itself before the image is displayed and is one of a number of factors influencing how responsive a monitor ‘feels’ in relation to user input. We have already touched upon some of the other factors that contribute to this ‘feeling’ on the monitor itself, including the pixel transitions themselves and delay between frames – a further exploration of these factors can be found in this article. The most widely used method for measuring the input lag of a monitor involves the use of a stopwatch program and a clone mode setup involving the test subject (in this case the S27A750D) and a monitor of known negligible input lag (in this case a CRT known to have zero input lag). This method is not perfect as it involves some degree of interpretation of results and is at the peril of error margins created by the transition between frames – more on that in the ‘input lag’ section of this review. This method does give a good general indication of input lag rather than giving a precise value. Obtaining a precise value would require a very expensive oscilloscope or photodiode with tight environmental control and specialist knowledge that most mere mortals don’t possess.
The best way of ensuring the average value recorded by the stopwatch method is as representative in possible, as with any good science experiment, is to include as many repeats as possible. We got together four individuals who are intimately familiar with this test to take 30 readings each. This should help minimise any interpretation biases and ‘test fatigue’ (and just generally make the process less tedious) whilst providing a representative average of 120 readings. Since we don’t want people to fuss unnecessarily over a couple of milliseconds here and there we won’t be going into too much detail regarding our findings. What we will say is that our feelings regarding the general responsiveness of the monitor were matched by this assessment. The average input lag was measured at under half a frame at 120Hz (<4ms) so the S27A750D provides a well-rounded and highly responsive experience.
When it comes to exterior monitor design Samsung have always been innovators. With their SA750 and SA950 series monitors they have pushed the visual boundaries once again. The S27A750D, which we reviewed here, is somewhat more conventional looking than its 950 series counterparts but the design is still unique. The monitor has a very thin Perspex covered bezel, finger-thin screen and packs the majority of its electronics into a central base. The base itself is actually something we found quite attractive first hand with its alluring shiny metallic covering and intriguing shaped design – it looks a lot less strange when you’re sat in front of it than most product photography makes it look. Another key talking point of the SA750 is the ‘Ultra Clear Panel’ screen surface which has migrated from Samsung’s TVs to their computer monitors.
This is a glossy surface which calls for tighter control of lighting conditions than Samsung’s usual matte surface. The ‘Ultra Clear’ surface is actually considerably less reflective or prone to bleaching than any other anti-reflective surface we’ve seen and certainly has its advantages. The monitor produced some truly arresting vibrancy whilst flaunting an impressive range of distinct colour shades. The clarity of the colours and purity of whites in particular was something that most matte screen surfaces don’t come close to achieving. The ‘out of the box’ experience on our unit was far from impressive and the image did take considerable tweaking before were happy – but it was certainly worth the effort. The end result was a vivid display of colour and purity comparable to the Apple LED Cinema Display we had used very recently and certainly went beyond the usual expectations for a TN panel monitor. Whilst colour consistency was restricted by the usual viewing angle limitations of the TN panel technology the shifts here seemed somewhat less pronounced than usual for a screen of this size. Contrast and uniformity was also excellent and far exceeded our expectations set by the T27A950 in this area.
When it comes to inputs the Samsung was missing a trick with its lack of DVI port but this wasn’t a problem on our system. The other headlining ‘feature’ of the monitor is its 120Hz capabilities and integrated 3D system. We found the monitor exceptionally smooth during 2D gameplay with response time handling that ranks amongst the best we’ve seen on any LCD. 3D gameplay was not without its hitches but was an enjoyable and alternative way of playing games which made them feel altogether quite different. Some people may be interested in the 120Hz 2D experience but fairly indifferent to the 3D experience that is thrust upon them by the manufacturers. It would be nice to see a cheaper alternative without any of the 3D paraphernalia but that’s just not the current direction of things.
The S27A750D is a well-rounded monitor with an awful lot to offer – but the experience certainly doesn’t come cheap. This is especially true in the UK where the monitor retails at over £500 at time of writing. We would certainly have liked to see Samsung do a better job at setting the thing up properly in the factory which is probably the least you could expect given the price, but hopefully some units will fare better than ours did in this respect. Fingers crossed that the price will fall and availability will improve in the near future, too.
|Excellent contrast performance with deep-looking blacks, bright and pure whites and good distinction between||Bleached whites and poor distinction of dark shades under default settings
|Very thin bezel with an exceptionally thin screen and a unique aesthetic charm. Despite this thinness luminance uniformity was remarkably good||The aesthetics won’t be to everyone’s tastes and the design of the monitor limits adjustability – the stand offers tilt only and is an integral and undetachable part of the monitor
|‘Ultra Clear Panel’ allows more direct light transmission from the monitor giving greater clarity and vibrancy||‘Ultra Clear Panel’ causes unwanted reflection at times and calls for tighter regulation of the lighting environment|
|Exceptionally vibrant colours without oversaturation and an impressive shade variety for a TN panel
||Under default settings colours were washed out and shade distinction was quite poor|
|Highly responsive in 2D with integrated 3D functionality (120Hz)
||120Hz on this monitor can only be delivered via DisplayPort and the 2D-3D conversion is a bit hit and miss
|LED backlight for increased energy efficiency, lower heat output and longer potential lifetime||Price is high for a TN panel monitor – viewing angles and colour consistency is limited by this technology|