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Samsung SyncMaster 27A850D, 27” PLS Monitor Review

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AkG

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For today’s professionals 24” is simply not enough screen real-estate to be truly efficient but stepping up to a 30” monster is usually constrained by a large footprint. Meanwhile, most gamers aren’t quite as desk space limited but simply don’t have the disposable income necessary for a 30” purchase. So here we have two distinct market niches which are essentially looking for the same type of product and several manufacturers have stepped up to the plate by offering high resolution, wide color gamut 27” displays. Until recently these 27” displays fit into one of two categories: IPS-based products that cost almost as much as their 30” siblings or poor quality 1080P monitors which did nothing other than stretch a limited number of pixels over a huge amount of real estate.

Earlier this year Samsung tried a path less travelled with their 27” Central Station monitor, but it really wasn’t designed for a particularly demanding clientele. On the other hand, their brand new SyncMaster 27A850D could be what professionals and other demanding users have been waiting for. It is designed and marketed directly towards the business class consumer but this also means there’s plenty to like for gamers, photographers and even those who are less technically inclined but just want drop dead gorgeous picture quality.

Like many other products market to the professional crowd, no expense has been spared when it came to packing this monitor with features while ensuring that ridiculous marketing jargon and unnecessary frills didn’t get in the way of excellence. You won’t see boasts of 240Hz or even 120Hz abilities here nor are there look-at-me racing stripes or clear Lucite front fascias. Even boasts of “1080p” capabilities have been thrown into the gutter. What we have here is a panel meant for serious work at an ultra high resolution of 2560 x 1440 with full 100% sRGB coverage and a response time of 5ms.

For the past couple of years IPS panels have been the de-facto standard for picture quality aficionados, but this new 850 takes a different approach. Rather than rely on an In Plane Switching panel, Samsung as taken their PLS – or Plane to Line Switching – technology which has been made famous on some tablets and is using it as the basis for their latest backlit LED creation. PLS may be a newer – and proprietary – technology but it does have some tangible benefits over IPS like enhanced viewing angles with noticeably less brightness degradation when viewed at extreme angles. This coupled with the fact that PLS can offer just as wide a color gamut and just as rich and vibrant a picture as IPS means on paper the SyncMaster 27A850D may just be able to woo consumers away from other options.

Unfortunately, monitors that have such lofty expectations in such a demanding market often command a premium and the 27A850D is no exception. A price of around $800 places it firmly outside the reach of anyone looking for an inexpensive big screen monitor but among the limited 27” IPS-totting competition the price of entry certainly isn’t outrageous. There may not be all that many competing products but considering Dell’s U2711 hits $925 and HP’s HP ZR2740w routinely goes for $750, the new 850 series will live or die by its performance.

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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications


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Samsung_27850_specs2.jpg


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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Samsung SyncMaster 27A850D

A Closer Look at the Samsung SyncMaster 27A850D


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Unlike every other professional monitor we have reviewed, the Samsung S27A850D is a mere 1.6” deep. While this waifish design may not instill confidence in professionals who are used abnormally chunky designs, the new PLS technology coupled with LED backlighting simply does not require an ultra thick housing. The only area which highlights its professional pedigree is the thick central zone where the electronics are housed.

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While the thinness of this monitor may give some ultra conservative customers pause, the subdued design with its black bezel is par for the course. Much like the UltraSharp series, the 850D’s bottom bezel is rather thin for this class of monitor but unlike Dell’s design, Samsung has installed the input control buttons in a sensible location centered with the bottom edge. It is also worth pointing out that all of the user inputs on the S27A850D are real buttons, something the Dell U2410 eschewed in favor of touch sensitive zones along the monitor’s edge.

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The stand which accompanies this monitor may be rather bland and utilitarian but gets the job done by being completely stable – something the last Samsung 27” monitor had some serious issues with. Unlike other Dell or Asus professional monitors we have looked at the past, the stand which graces the S27A850D has excellent 45° left and right swivel abilities, an impressive 27 degrees of tilt (-2° to +25°) and 90° rotation along with a ton of height adjustment capabilities. This combination should allow anyone – regardless of personal preference – the ability to adjust their SyncMaster 27A850D to a perfect viewing angle.

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Though we are not overly impressed by the odd external power brick, at the very least Samsung has implemented it in a sane and rational manner. Not only does it connect directly to the back of the panel, but when the brick isn’t attached its housing can pull double duty as an integrated carrying handle. Under normal conditions this rather small handle wouldn’t be able to carry a 27” monitor’s significant weight but the 850D weighs just 14.5 pounds.

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While the stand, dimensions and even buttons are all well designed for this market niche, the Samsung SyncMaster 27A850D does fall a bit flat when it comes to input options. It has a 3.5mm stereo port and dual DVI inputs (as you can connect two monitors at the same time in a split screen mode) along with a single Display Port connector but no analog or HDMI input capabilities to speak of.

We were quite pleased to see a professional monitor which finally included a USB 3.0 hub but Samsung has failed to properly implement it. Unlike Dell or most other companies which include USB ports along the bezel’s side, the 27A850D has its USB 3.0 ports sequestered on the panel’s back, on the opposite side of the input connectors. This decision was obviously made to ensure that the S27A850D was as thin as possible, but it does make these USB 3.0 ports very hard to access. No one likes having to blindly reach behind their monitor to plug something in.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations


For anyone accustomed to Samsung’s typical On Screen Display the one on the LS27A850 will seem both familiar and refreshingly new.

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As with previous Samsung monitors we have reviewed, to enter the OSD you simply press the MENU button on the front bezel which brings up the main menu. It may not be the best Menu layout we have used, but it still is very good and quite intuitive for first time users.

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Sadly, some of the settings such as gamma are extremely limited in their customization abilities and scope. In fact, trying to fine tune the panel’s gamma is next to impossible. Samsung has once again only included a few presets and no real fine grain control over this crucial feature. Luckily, you can change this in Windows itself and the SyncMaster 27A850’s is very close to perfection out of the box, so it is a bit of a non-issue to begin with.

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While gamma settings are limited to only minor adjustments, 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 every one individually as each features different default settings. Thankfully, adjusting the colors to a resemblance of what they should be is a relatively quick and painless endeavor but true 6 axis color correction is MIA and has been replaced with simple Red, Green and Blue controls. Luckily each can be independently adjusted and are grouped together on the same sub-menu.

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One thing worth pointing out is this model does not have “MagicAngle” listed under the Magic sub-menu. Samsung is so sure of the PLS technology’s viewing angles that this set of angle shaping abilities shouldn’t be needed.

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One major step forward from past generations the 850D’s advanced power saving abilities which are aptly labeled “eco”. Many monitors come with the ability to reduce the backlighting after a certain amount of time and can even adjust when the monitor will “time out” and enter sleep mode but Samsung has taken these defaults to a whole new level. In this case, there is nothing passive about eco saving since it can actually take an active role in reducing overall power consumption due the monitor’s built in motion and ambient light sensor. At the bezel’s mid point, neatly bisecting the control buttons into two distinct groups is a small sensor suite and much like any common motion detector this sensor knows when someone is near the monitor. Therefore, when you leave the room, the monitor will power down and then bring itself back up to its normal mode upon your return. It can also adjust the brightness level of the screen based on ambient light conditions to further help save energy.

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While we are mainly ambulant about the whole auto brightness adjustment, the motion sensor idea is certainly intriguing. Even though we did have to tweak the time out period to keep it from powering down when were still at our desk but not moving much (e.g. when proof reading a review), we did find it to be fairly practical and easy to use. To further help underscore how much power saving you have done, the monitor displays the results in “trees saved” which “grow” as time goes by and the amount of energy saved increases. This certainly is a bordering on hyperbole, but for a business environment - where there could conceivable be hundreds of monitors in use - this new feature could be very beneficial to the bottom line.
 
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AkG

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Image Quality (Uniformity / Gamma)

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: Custom
Brightness: 20%

All other settings left at standard defaults.

Notes:

- All tests done at default settings at 120 cd/m2.
- Unless otherwise noted, the tests were carried out via DVI.

PLS technology may be making its big screen debut with the SyncMaster 27A850D, but you would never know it by looking at this panel. This is truly is a professional-grade monitor with an overall picture quality which is downright impressive and in some cases as good and maybe even better than any high grade IPS monitor we have seen to date.

With a maximum output of 330 cd/m2, it certainly is bright but was easily adjustable down to a more precise 120 cd/m2. It is always nice when a company is overly conservative in their specifications as this monitor is only rated to 300cd/m2. Of course for professionals, anything over 120 – 140 is wasted on most computer monitors and very few people will leave it set to its default (100%) 330cd/m2 level.


Panel Uniformity


In a perfect world a screen’s brightness output would be equal throughout the entire panel. This is not a perfect world, but the lower the variation the less chances you will notice overly bright or dark sections on the screen. For the consumer LCD marketplace a variance of 10% is our gold standard but anything below 15% can be considered excellent as we doubt anyone will notice a -7.5 to +7.5 variation. A variation above 15% but below 24% can be considered adequate, but anything above this does not meet our basic minimum standards.

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While there is indeed a variance of about 14% across the entirety of this panel and it exhibits an almost unnoticeable dark zone in the bottom two corners, the overall uniformity is actually very good and well above average for even this ultra finicky consumer niche. We truly were expecting to see a much higher variance than this based on personal experience with 27” monitors and are pleasantly surprised by the results. There have been some anecdotal reports of backlight bleed but our sample didn’t display any worrying amounts.


Gamma Performance


Gamma correction is one of the hardest terms to explain. However, for our purposes the gamma correction of any electronics device is how bright or dark an image will be displayed on a screen.

All PC devices now use 2.20 gamma as the default. Any variance from this will result in an image being either underexposed which will create black crush and underexposed shadow detail or washed out with too little black level detail (aka being over-exposed).


While 2.20 is the gold standard, a minor deviation of 0.10 will in all likelihood never be noticed by anyone other than professional photographers. Higher levels of deflection however will be noticed by just about everyone.


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While the SyncMaster 27A850D’s default gamma is indeed off by a minor amount, a 0.02 offset is not large enough to worry about nor is it noticeable in real world scenarios. Even most professionals will consider these results to be more than acceptable. Anyone who requires even more precision will in all likelihood own a colorimeter and will be creating their own custom ICM color profile for their particular monitor.
 
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AkG

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Colour Saturation Levels / Default RGB Levels

Colour Saturation Levels


While there are numerous colors the human eye can’t “see”, the human color space confined to three primary colors and combinations thereof. To make things easier for manufactures (and not waste resources displaying colors we can’t see) a color space was mathematically described and while various models do exist, the CIE RGB color space is the de facto standard.

In the below image, the dark triangle which isn’t highlighted is the sRGB color space while the overall CIE color space is displayed as the background colors. Meanwhile, the white triangle with highlighted color represents the results of what a given monitor can display. No monitor can display the entire CIE color spectrum but a good monitor should be able to display the sRGB spectrum of possible colors as this is usually used as the standard for image encoding.

A monitor which uses the “wide color gamut” moniker can display more than the sRGB spectrum and is considered primarily for professional use. If a monitor cannot cover off the entire sRGB triangle, the resulting image will appear “off” to an observer. The end result is a picture displayed on the panel which won’t be as rich, vibrant or as correct as it should be.


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While it may not have the largest color gamut we have seen, this monitor boasts a fairly wide reach which will be more than adequate for all but the most ardent of professionals. More to the point, this is more than the 100% sRGB coverage professionals demand and is more than what this monitor is rated for. This monitor is rated for “only” 100% sRGB coverage and it is always nice to see a company be overly conservative with their specifications, even if only by a moderate amount.


Default RGB Levels


An LCD or LCD LED backlit panel relies on accurately blending Red, Green and Blue pixel clusters to create an overall image so closer to each of these colours is to a “perfect” 100 output, the better and more accurate the default colors will be.

In this case, we have a low tolerance for anything less than perfection since any color shift can be noticeable even to untrained eyes and will require a color correction be applied at the software level to overcome a monitor’s stock output. We do however consider a minor variation of only a few points per color to be acceptable.


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While the Red spectrum is indeed off by a moderate amount, the Green and Blues default levels of 99 are darn close to being perfect. To be perfectly candid this is the first Samsung monitor we have seen in a long while with a default color that is even remotely close to being correct. By the same token these numbers do highlight the fact that Samsung is not taking the time or effort to factory calibrate their new SyncMaster 27A850 line which is a shame.
 
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AkG

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Viewing Angles / Contrast Ratio / Power Consumption

Viewing Angles


Unlike CRT displays, the manner in which LCD panels create an image can result in one large weakness: the image can lose contrast when viewed off angle. While we do not recommend watching an LCD at anything besides perfectly straight on, the reality is this cannot always be done.

To help give you a glimpse of what a panel will look like when seen from either above the horizontal or vertical plane we have taken pictures at fairly extreme angles.


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The only way to best summarize the viewing angles on the Samsung SyncMaster 27A850D is to say that they are “insanely good”. The above photos just can't do justice to the wide range this new PLSA technology affords you since for all intents and purposes this monitor can be viewed almost edge on with no noticeable degradation in picture quality. This really is the new gold standard upon which viewing angles will be judged from now on.


Maximum Contrast Ratio


Unlike CRT displays, the manner in which LCD panels create an image can result in one large weakness: the image can lose contrast when viewed off angle. While we do not recommend watching an LCD at anything besides perfectly straight on ,the reality is this cannot always be done.

To help give you a glimpse of what a panel will look like when seen from either above the horizontal or vertical plane we have taken pictures at fairly extreme angles.


contrast.jpg


With an impressive 597:1 contrast ratio, the Samsung LS27A850 is easily the best monitor we have tested to date in this category. There really isn't all that much more to say on this front.


Power Consumption


To obtain the maximum number we set the monitors brightness to 100% and the contrast to 100%. The Calibrated results are taken at 120 cd/m2 with the contrast set to the default level.

Samsung_27850_power_graph.jpg


As with the viewing angles, these numbers are simply stunning. Considering this is a 27” monitor in amongst 24” models, having a post calibration power consumption of only 28 watts is impressive and even the full power 100% power consumption numbers are great for this size of monitor. This really is one of the few monitors which sacrifices neither picture quality nor power efficiency.
 
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AkG

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Gaming Performance / Movie Performance

Gaming Performance


Samsung_27850_game_uncorrect.jpg

Pre-calibration

Samsung_27850_game_correct.jpg

Post-calibration

Usually when dealing with a business class monitor we would preface the results by stating that lowered expectations are required as these types of products are simply not built for gaming. However, in this case the Samsung 27A850 actually performs quite decently. While we did need to tweak the colors a bit to get rid of the noticeable red shift, the intuitive menu system meant achieving the right blend was simple to do. More importantly, we didn’t notice any major ghosting or judder even though there was the occasional, nearly unnoticeable hitch every now and then.

To be blunt, this new PLS based monitor is simply the best business class monitor we have ever tested for gaming. The ultra high resolution coupled with such a rich, vibrant and almost lifelike picture is a true joy to use and the near lack of ghosting is just icing on the cake. It really has spoiled us and to be perfectly we’ll be hard pressed to go back to using 24” IPS or TN monitors as this new PLS SyncMaster offers – almost - the best of both worlds.

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The only caveat worth pointing out is with such a high resolution panel you will need an extremely powerful GPU to meet the minimum 30 fps most people use as their mandatory minimum for gaming enjoyment. Even our GTX 580 struggled from time to time in some highly demanding games to provide a smooth experience.


Movie Performance


Samsung_27850_movie_uncorrect2.jpg

Pre-calibration

Samsung_27850_movie_correct2.jpg

Post-calibration

Movie testing on larger, non-native 1080P monitors usually results in less than optimal viewing conditions as the picture is scaled up to a larger resolution. Movies are –at best – encoded at a 1920 x 1080 resolution and if you use DVD source material the quality is much, much lower. This is why we had such reservations on using such a large 2560 x 1440 as up-scaling can cause serious issues in some cases.

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Luckily, we were pleasantly surprised by the 850D’s results in our movie testing. While using Standard Definition source material did result in less than optimal results, even 720p source material looked damn good on this monitor. It may not have been the absolute best picture we have ever seen, but the richness and vibrancy this amazing PLS panel has to offer makes even bad movies at look good.

It goes without saying that this immersive experience was only obtained after tweaking the default colors. With this being said the SyncMaster 27A850’s default colors do create what is best classified as an overly “warm” pallet with a shift towards red, especially in skin tones.
 
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AkG

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Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results

Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results


In a perfect world every monitor would come factory calibrated to perfection or every single consumer would own a decent colorimeter. We don’t live in such a world and as such most consumers simply use the old Mark 1 Mod 0 Eyeball to fix any imperfections with the stock colors of their new monitor.

In order to gauge how easy this is to do for a given monitor we have included this tests. These tests will be carried out before any of our standard colorimeter-enhanced calibrations and will consist of using a combination of the free online LCD Monitor Test Images (found here) and then if necessary the free Hex2Bit Monitor Calibration Wizard (found here). The goal of these tests is to not only gauge how easy it is to accurately calibrate a given monitor using only the onboard monitor tools, but to see how closely we can come to what a Spyder3 Elite can do.


To obtain these results on the 27A850D we did the following:
- used custom mode
- ensured dynamic contrast was off and magicbright was off
- lowered the brightness to 22 (which resulted in a 126 cd/m2)
- lowered Red to 42
- Green and Red were left at the default of 50
- Left windows gamma setting to its default levels
- All other settings left to default levels

rgb_man.jpg

gamma_man.jpg


When all is said and done the Samsung S27A850D is extremely easy to adjust to well within what we consider to be nearly perfect. We may have only been able to get the RGB to 99/100/100 but this minor variation from 100/100/100 is negligible. The default gamma appeared close enough to a perfect 2.20 so we felt it wasn’t necessary to correct. There was also no need to adjust contrast or sharpness, as both default levels were more than good enough. Samsung’s factory default settings may indeed leave a lot to be desired, but the OSD capabilities do provide more than enough tools in a user friendly interface to quickly satisfy all but the most finicky of consumers.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


Trying to design a product that appeals to a large cross section of potential consumers usually results in a jack of all trades, master of none approach. Monitors that promise high efficiency routinely fall flat in picture quality tests while excellent colour reproduction usually necessitates the inclusion of a power hungry CCFL backlit panel. There are also some panels that safely stride between these two extremes but they have fallen by the wayside in other crucial categories as well. It’s because of this rocky history that we initially went into this review with a sense of apprehension but boy did Samsung prove our assumptions wrong.

Simply put the Samsung 27A850D is a shinning tribute to what is possible when a company takes expert engineers and allow them to think outside the box. It breaks from tradition and uses a power sipping LED backlight along with an all new PLS panel to create a monitor which sets a new benchmark for high resolution 27” displays. This is one of the only professional-oriented monitors that combines efficiency, accurate colour reproduction, great motion performance and a fair price into one package.

What Samsung has done here is actually quite eye-opening from a number of perspectives. They have leveraged tablet-oriented technology to create an entirely new subset of monitors which have the picture quality professionals crave but include fringe benefits that will appeal to gamers and non-professionals as well. Granted, an $800 (or more) entry cost will likely cause many to shy away from the 27A850D but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better monitor for less than $950.

While the new Samsung S27A850D isn’t perfect, it goes without saying that minor issues such as its USB 3.0 port location are far outweighed by the benefits it has to offer you. Excellent picture quality, forward looking power saving features which are based off of motion detection algorithms and all round excellent performance truly make it a jack of all trades, master of all. Is it enough to woo many consumers away from more classical IPS based choices? We’d certainly hope so.


Pros:

- Great viewing angles
- Wide Color Gamut
- New power saving features are innovative and work well
- High resolution
- Reasonable Price for this category
- Well laid out on screen display
- Surprisingly thin design
- Totally adjustable stand
- Built in carry handle
- USB 3.0 ports
- Supports Dual computer setup in split-screen mode
- Very low power consumption


Cons:

- Less than optimal implementation of USB 3.0 ports
- Somewhat limited optimal input options
- External power brick
- Split screen mode button is too close to enter button and you will hit it a lot at first

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/27850/di.png" border="0" alt="" /> <img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Monitor/27850/dam_good.jpg" border="0" alt="" />


http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/display-units/48679-samsung-27a850d-27-pls-monitor-review.html
 
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