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Samsung C27A750 27” Central Station Wireless Monitor Review

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AkG

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Ladies and gents, welcome to the wonderful world of wireless communications. In what seems like a never ending cycle of cable clutter and frustration, as technology progresses so too does our insatiable need for more connections between our audio / video equipment. This has led to some standardization in the form of all-in-on interfaces like HDMI but cable clutter is still a concern for anyone attempting to set up a new PC or HDTV. It’s actually ironic that we’re talking about cable free connections in a monitor review since all previous efforts to produce a wireless display have failed in spectacular fashion. But Samsung has now integrated cutting edge high bandwidth connections into an HD-ready monitor in an effort to right past wrongs.

Upon first glance, Samsung’s brand new C27A750 looks like almost every other “designer” 27” monitor. It boasts a typical TN based panel and a few extra flourishes that allow it to stand out on retailers’ shelves. Yet the true potential of this monitor lies beneath its clean lines: it can be connected to an input source wirelessly via a special Ultra Wide Band wireless USB 2.0 dongle. This wireless ability is certainly intriguing and it will be interesting to see if the relatively narrow USB 2.0 bus offers is wide enough avenue to handle true 1920 x 1080 @ 32bit colour depths.

Meanwhile the whole “Central Station” concept revolves around the possibility of connecting this monitor to an ultra portable laptop or tablet so it can act as a primary hub for all of your input and output needs. As a primary means of accomplishing this centralized compatibility, it can be connected via HDMI, D-sub, USB 3.0 or the aforementioned wireless USB dongle. As an added bonus, the C27A750 also comes with a built in 3.5mm jack so “desktop” speakers plugged can be plugged in, a four port USB hub (two of which are USB 3.0 enabled) for additional peripherals or external drives and a LAN jack for network access. In addition, the wireless dongle can also interface with other wireless USB peripherals. This all means what could have been a straightforward monitor into an almost universal docking station which can be used for anything from wireless mice to printers.

Since the C27A750 has some powerful features built into its thin frame and boasts one of the larger panel sizes available for the PC market, it does get a bit pricy. With an asking price of about $599, it is not overpriced compared to many other 27” TN-based panels but its success or failure very much hinges upon the innovative features Samsung has added. Could this centralized approach be the future of display technology? Let’s find out.

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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications

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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Samsung C27A750

A Closer Look at the Samsung C27A750


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With its all black panel and clear Lucite covering the ultra thin bezel, the SyncMaster C275A750 is one good looking monitor. These sophisticated aesthetics are further aided by the fact that its black and clear colour scheme contrasts nicely with the base’s silver and black.

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One of the more interesting facets of the C275A750 is its unique profile. The panel is recessed within an extremely thin bezel frame which makes the whole screen design look like it’s almost floating in thin air. Samsung has also kept the panel’s thickness down to a minimum by incorporating most of the electronics into the base.

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Samsung was able to pull this feat off by simply moving the input controls from their normal position on the bottom bezel to the front of the base. This is certainly an interesting design but it does tend to place the touch sensitive “buttons” just above the surface level of your desk and directly in the path of any errant object. Luckily, Samsung has foreseen this issue and has made the sensor buttons much less reactive than most.

Reducing the responsiveness of these buttons will certainly cut down – but not eliminate – erroneous input commands but it also makes them tedious to use. With patience (and a good dose of “one Mississippi, two Mississippi”) you can overcome this issue and get used to their less than responsive nature. Unfortunately, result is still a clunky user interface experience that doesn’t jive all that well with such an advanced piece of hardware.

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Truth be told, this no ordinary monitor since Samsung has literally turned it into an all in one tech station and connectivity hub. However, its most interesting feature – the Wireless USB capability- is meant to remain hidden from prying eyes. When used in wireless Ultra Wide Band mode, you need not connect any video cables from the monitor to your system. All that’s needed is to install the included wireless USB adaptor (seen above) on your PC, laptop, tablet or netbook and sync it up with the monitor.

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If you choose to run in wired mode, the SyncMaster C275A750 only offers two other standard wired monitor options: HDMI and D-sub. Luckily, this should cover off most users’ needs but if it doesn’t a USB 3.0 or 2.0 cable can be used as the “video” input. In principle his seems to be an interesting concept and the added bandwidth a USB 3.0 bus can offer should make for an extremely smooth viewing experience.

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The other feature this versatile monitor boasts is a built in LAN connector, which runs via the single USB 3.0 (backwards compatible to 2.0) input port. While it doesn’t support full gigabit Ethernet speeds from this network port unless there are USB 3.0 connectivity options on the host system, it is one less cable you will have to worry about. In addition all of the USB ports are powered so when configured properly, they can even be used to charge your electronic devices.

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Sadly, while this monitor seems to be impressive and the cutting edge features crammed into its base are interesting to say the least, there is one glaring flaw to the design: a lack of stability. In their infinite wisdom, it appears that Samsung has simply reused the same base on both the 24” and 27” versions which to the larger version we received being much too top heavy for the relatively thin base. We actually experienced a few situations where the monitor tipped on its side when bumped the wrong way.

Sadly, while Samsung is well aware of this issue, they feel the added weight in the base adds enough stability for any situation. In our talks with them, no interest was shown in rectifying this design flaw by making the base wider, as it would take away from its sleek and stylish look. Unfortunately, this truly stinks of design taking precedence over proper engineering.

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On the positive side, the “HAS” stand offers a good amount of tilt and a height adjustment of 75mm (27mm to 102mm above a work surface). This should allow it to be used as a secondary “extended” screen for a laptop or as a true main screen. Unfortunately, there is no lateral swing adjustment, nor does this stand have the ability to change the panel’s orientation from portrait to landscape mode. It is also worth pointing out that when the monitor is at its lowest height, the majority of the base’s touch sensitive buttons are hidden behind the panel.

Before we move on, there is also one more large and glaring issue we need to address: 1080p resolution of the panel. To be blunt, 1920 x 1080 is less than optimal for a 24” monitor but it is downright atrocious for a 27” product due to a limited number of pixels being stretched over such a large surface area. This is a monitor instead of some “HDTV hybrid” and as such the unusually large pixel dot pitch is going to be apparent when sitting at normal distances from it. This will make text slightly blurry and certain images will appear like they’ve had Vaseline rubbed over them.

We assume this low – for its size – resolution is a direct result of the Central Station’s wireless USB abilities and their apparent bandwidth limitations. Remember, even wired USB A/V solutions such as DisplayLink certified devices cannot pump out anything better than 1920x1080 @ 32bit color depth.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations


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The Menu and OSD are fairly well laid out and once you get used to the input lag, you will be able to get your monitor fairly well set up and adjusted without resorting to a color calibration device. Though we do recommend Rogaine to help you re-grow the hair you’ll have most likely pulled out in the process of navigating through the menus.

If you are familiar with other Samsung PC monitors the layout and the menu themselves will feel very familiar and will feel very much like slipping on a pair of worn in shoes. It may not be the best Menu layout we have used but it still is very good and quite intuitive.

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With that being said, some of the settings such as gamma are extremely limited in their customization abilities. In fact, fine tuning the gamma setting is next to impossible as Samsung only give a few presets and no real fine grain control. Luckily, you can change this in Windows itself so it does become a bit of a non-issue.

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While gamma makes due with only minor adjustment abilities, there are five very well defined preset modes (including custom) which should handle most viewing situations. This assumes you are willing to take the time to tweak each one individually as each features different default settings. Thankfully, adjusting the colors to some remote resemblance of what they should be is relatively painless.

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Since this particular monitor has some impressive features, the Menu is more advanced than many other Samsung products. For example there is full user control over how the Wireless USB feature will act – including the ability to turn it completely off. USB device charging options are also included.
 
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AkG

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A Central Station Technology Deep Dive & Wired Testing

A Central Station Technology Deep Dive & Wired Testing


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The crown jewel of the SyncMaster C275A750 is of course the technology and advanced features which Samsung have put under the umbrella of “Central Station Technology”. What is Central Station Technology and why is such a big deal that we are dedicating an entire page to it? To be honest, it is both unique and ultimately very appealing for the market niche which this monitor is targeted towards. While larger monitors are rarely designed around portable computing needs, Samsung is looking to turn this niche on its head while forging a new direction for their upcoming product generations.

In short, CTS allows this monitor to fill in as a universal docking station (sans laptop battery recharging abilities) for almost any mobile device with a USB port. With most docking stations isn’t necessary to plug a laptop into an expensive dock which grants access to a secondary monitor along with a bevy of connection options like as wired LAN and USB ports. Docks are wonderful devices that allow quick productivity without the need for plugging in ton lot of individual cables. This single port connection literally acts as a bridge allowing a mobile device access to peripheral devices and accessories.

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There is however an issue with many docks: for the most part they propriety and very few - if any – even approach the term “universal”. They also tend to be expensive. Their force multiplying feature is however extremely useful for business clients, power users and most any laptop user who wishes to use their device in a handy desktop replacement role. This really is the crux of why the SyncMaster C275A750 exists.

Samsung took a long hard look at the state of docking stations and decided to create a universal one which connects to your laptop via USB and interfaces with an integrated screen. The “Central Station” terminology is simply there as an indication that certain Samsung monitors and devices can now act as centralized I/O hubs with almost universal compatibility.

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This is all very well and fine in theory, but does not exactly tell you what Central Station Technology consists of and does for you. As mentioned in the previous section, this monitor can be connected via wireless (UWB) USB, or a USB 3.0 wired connection. In return for plugging in a single cable and installing some additional software, up to four USB devices (two of them being USB 3.0 / 2.0 compliant as well) can be attached to the monitor and can also be charged through either of the USB 3.0 / 2.0 ports. Naturally, standard monitor connections like HDMI can be created as well but the Central Station experience hinges upon the USB interface as a primary means of communication.

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In testing with only a single USB 3.0 cable connection between our ASUS laptop and the SyncMaster C275A750, we were able to use this combination for things like typing up this review and editing the photos while still being able to enjoy multimedia like Youtube videos. Surprisingly, we were even able to watch high definition movies without a single hitch, while playing audio from stereo speakers which were plugged into the C275A750. All tasks were as smooth as silk there really was no way of telling the difference between running tasks through a dedicated USB 3.0 cable and HDMI connectivity.

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Thanks to the fairly wide bus USB 3.0 affords devices, we were able to have a wireless keyboard, a mouse, a trackball and our printer connected and running while video signals were being run to the monitor. We were also able to use our internet connection via the SyncMaster’s RJ45 port.

To be honest, we tried our best to make things slow down or give away the fact all of this was connected to our system via one lone USB 3.0 cable. But that didn’t happen. High definition video was pushed across the network from a NAS to Windows Media Player while a 50 page report printed and again, not one single hitch was detected. This is damn impressive to say the least, since we’ve used DisplayLink products in the past to get a single monitor hooked up via USB and massive amounts of input lag always reared its ugly head. No this time though. This Central Station Technology not only works, but works flawlessly when used via USB 3.0.
The only caveat worth pointing out was our inability to use this setup for hard core gaming due to a miniscule amount of lag however; gamers aren’t the focus of this monitor anyways. This is meant for getting work done while granting seamless multimedia integration and in this respect, it exceeded our expectations.

A bit later in this review, the C275A750’s wireless abilities will be put under the microscope.
 
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AkG

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Wireless USB Setup & Performance

Wireless USB Setup & Performance


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Installation of the Wireless aspect of this monitor is simple and actually quite painless since a built-in guide automatically loads when the installation process begins. Much like the wired USB setup, drivers and software need to be installed in order to help along compatibility.

After the step by step guide is completed, the system will reboot, you’ll need to plug in the wireless USB adapter and make sure Samsung’s lightweight Wireless Connection Manager is running. Much like a wireless Ethernet connection, you should now see both the monitor and wireless strength in the connection dialog box.

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Unfortunately, this is where we ran into one small but significant hitch. Much like a primary wireless network connection Windows’ Network Manager, the monitor itself must be set as a default wireless connection in this program. Otherwise the two devices will not always initiate a handshake will never communicate with one another whenever either is rebooted or wakes up after being in sleep mode

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When it comes to wirelessly syncing the banal day to day tasks which make up the majority of most people’s computing experience, the SyncMaster C275A750 is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the difference between wireless and wired operation when in full screen mode is infinitesimal at most and we’re willing to bet most people won’t even see a difference. Everything from Office applications such as PowerPoint and Excel to Firefox simply ran as smoothly as it would when using a standard connection. Even watching HD YouTube videos was smooth sailing with this device. This last bit was especially impressive as most wireless USB based A/V adapters (such as DisplayLink based devices) have a long list of eccentricities and can become downright annoying when streaming HD content.

Sadly there is a large “but” when it comes to day to day uses and the SyncMaster C275A750. While each window’s contents were smooth with no overtly noticeable change in framerates –regardless of what was displayed in that window - the same can’t be said of the overall experience. Things as simple as opening a window, or closing a program were noticeably slower in wireless mode. It really was like watching stop motion photography in action as the window closing sequence was slowly and painfully carried out in “real time”. What should have been a smooth and almost instantaneous transition from a full screen program to the desktop became anything but fluid.

The culprit behind this hesitation is a bit of a mystery but we can tell you it wasn’t due to some hardware bottleneck as the CPU usage never hit about 30%. It is also worth pointing out that when connected via USB 3.0 this issue was not prevalent and it only reared its ugly head when the wireless USB connectivity option was used. Samsung has assured us this is only a short term issue and not a widespread one at that. Based on the smoothness of Flash and HD video while in wireless USB mode, we are confident that the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of software. Thus in all likelihood it will be rectified quickly.

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The other crucial area which makes this a less than optimal day to day monitor is the rather large dot pitch. When you couple a large 27” screen to a native resolution which isbetter suited for (at most) 24” panels the result is text which is less than razor sharp. This issue is fatiguing on the eyes as you are almost instinctively straining to make the text come into focus.
 
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AkG

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Image Quality (Uniformity / Gamma)

Calibrated Settings


Please remember that the settings below have been calibrated for our specific environment and your viewing conditions may differ from ours.

Mode: Standard
Brightness: 36%
Red: 53
Green: 50
Blue: 40

All other settings left at standard defaults.

Note: all tests done at default settings.

Note: Unless otherwise noted the tests were carried out via HDMI


Image Quality (Uniformity)


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The Samsung SyncMaster C275A750 is rated for a maximum output of 300 CD/m2 and in testing we found it to have a real world maximum of 301.4 cd/m2. It is always nice to see a conservative specification rather than marketing mumbo jumbo and while this well within tolerance levels, anything above a given rating is a nice bonus.

The intensity level does vary from one mode to another but the most commonly used Standard Mode is set to a whopping 245.3 nits by default. Luckily, modifying this panel is extremely easy and it took lowering the brightness level to 36 to get to the 120 cd/m2 gold standard.

Sadly, while the SyncMaster C275A750 is more than capable in the output department, the same just can’t be said of its panel uniformity. With the center of the panel set to 120 nits the variance ranged from +15% to – 18% for a whopping delta of 33% from one section of the monitor to another (in this case between the upper left and lower left corners). This is in fact one of the worst showings we have ever seen from a monitor. Some of this increased variance is because of the sheer size of the panel (it is a 27” monitor after all), but this is no excuse for such an excessive variance.


Image Quality (Gamma)


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If we were less than impressed with the SyncMaster C275A750’s uniformity – or more specifically its lack thereof- we were extremely disappointed with the default gamma setting. In its default Gamma mode of 1, the out of box gamma rating is only 1.53. This is not even remotely close to our reference benchmark of 2.2. Once again this monitor may have some impressive advanced features, but it seems that Samsung forgot about the basic features which make a monitor palatable on every level. Thankfully, it is fairly easy to tweak this via the OS.
 
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AkG

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Colour Saturation Levels / Default RGB Levels

Colour Saturation


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With the SyncMaster C275A750 set to factory defaults, the panel exhibits a reasonably decent ability to hit most of the viewable colour spectrum. While the red and blue are a touch off, the green is darn close to what we like to see in a TN based panel. Since this is a TN based monitor this lack of a wide colour gamut is pretty much par for the course and can actually be considered a bit better than some of its immediate competition.


Default RGB Levels


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As you can see, the long and “proud” tradition of Samsung TN panels suffering from a severe blue shift is still alive and well. To put it bluntly, this monitor came with absolutely horriblt default RGB levels. In a perfect world the C275A750’s results should be a flat line at 100. Instead of having 100/100/100 this panel’s defaults are 97 (red), 99(green), 118 (blue) which makes the picture look very, very cold.

It is our opinion that the first thing you should do is run calibration tests on this panel to correct the execrable blue shift and gamma defaults.
 
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AkG

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Viewing Angles / Contrast Ratio & Power Consumption

Viewing Angles


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Off horizontal axis

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Off Vertical axis

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Straight On

When it comes to viewing angles, the Samsung SyncMaster C275A750 has pretty average abilities for a TN panel. This is to say it is mediocre at best. TN panels are great for certain things, but this is not one of their best attributes. You will get image darkening (or lightening) when not viewing it close to perfectly straight on.

Since you can use Samsung's MagicAngle to adjust for off angle viewing this is not big deal. Of course, if you plan on viewing the monitor off center on a routine basis you are better off simply turning it than resorting to workarounds like MagicAngle.


Maximum Contrast Ratio


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For TN panels we have considered 120:1 to be our own personal mandatory minimum for years now as anything less than 120 shades between the monitor's whitest white and blackest black simply results in less than optimal contrast. With a contrast ratio slightly above this, the C27A750 may not be perfect but is more than sufficient for most viewing environments and is actually better than the Asus TN based panel we reviewed not that long ago.


Power Consumption


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With a maximum power consumption of 43 watts and a calibrated level of 25 watts this 27” monitor is actually very efficient for its size. It may not seem all that great compared to 24” TN monitors, but this is a much larger panel with a lot more chips to power inside it (thanks to its amazing Central Station technology). This small increase in power consumption is more than a fair tradeoff when approached from this perspective.
 
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AkG

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Gaming & Movie Performance

Gaming Performance


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Pre Calibration Image​

As you can see in the image above, the incorrect default gamma value coupled to a rather significant blue colour shift does give this panel a washed out and slightly cold appearance prior to calibration. This picture was taken from Fallout New Vegas and unfortunately, this game comes with a “rust” bias to its colour pallet which actually results in a decidedly ugly purple tinge to every scene.

Thankfully, it is relatively easy to fix these balance issues and even just “eye balling” calibration with the help of free online color calibration pages will result in a much more natural looking picture:

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Post Calibration Image

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With calibration complete, this TN panel does make for a fairly enjoyable gaming setup from a colour reproduction standpoint. Sadly, the overly large pixel dot pitch absolutely destroys image clarity and sharpness. Text can appear “fuzzy” at times and any images with angular shapes will appear to be in desperate need of anti-aliasing. The result is a monitor that we just can’t recommend for gaming.

Sitting further back from the monitor does diminish the perception of somewhat so treating the C27A750 like a normal HDTV may be in your best interest.


Movie Performance


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Pre Calibration Image​

While the blue tinge to things isn’t detrimental to most movie watching experiences (as many people prefer a “cool” colour pallet for movies) the same can’t be said of the atrocious default gamma levels. To be blunt a cool colour pallet coupled with a washed out appearance results in absolutely terrible image quality. Once again though, calibration comes to the rescue…

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Post Calibration Image

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As with gaming performance, getting things up and running with a few simple calibration steps leads to a fairly enjoyable movie watching experience. Unlike gaming where the sub-optimal resolution was a major hindrance, watching HD videos was a joy on the C27A750 simply due to the 1080P video resolution being faithfully picked up by the monitor. With its 2ms response time eliminating any ghosting or judder that may have occurred, quick moving scenes were perfectly fluid as well.


Wireless Movie and Game Performance


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This device in not meant for gaming when in wireless USB mode and as such its failure to do so really can’t be held against it. Luckily, the wireless movie experience was for all intents and purposes the same experience as it was when connected to HMDI. That is to say it was a perfectly decent experience once the C27A750 had been colour calibrated. There was the occasional compression artifact here and there but these can be easily overlooked.
 
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