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Samsung Series 9 S27B970D review

Home OfficeReviews
8/10
by John R. Delaney, 13 Nov 2012Reviews
Samsung Series 9 S27B970D review

Samsung has been producing slick looking monitors for years, and its latest effort, the Samsung Series 9 S27B970D continues to impress. With edge-to-edge glass, chrome accents, and a unique base, this 27in monitor is a beauty to behold whether it's on or off. More importantly, it delivers outstanding colour and light greyscale quality, deep blacks, and wide viewing angles. However, its £730 price tag will give most users a good case of wallet shock.

Design and features

The Series 9 S27B970D is a beautifully designed monitor. The 27in panel is housed in a slim 30mm brushed aluminium cabinet with a shiny silver band of trim wrapped around the perimeter. The screen and glossy black borders are protected by a single sheet of edge-to-edge glass that gives the Series 9 an elegant look but is reflective, especially when the screen is dark or displaying a very dark background.

The cabinet is supported by a silver metal-clad round base and arm assembly that provides 100mm of height adjustability and a 20 degree tilt radius. The panel does not swivel, nor does it have a pivot hinge like the Dell UltraSharp U2713HM we recently reviewed. The base contains all of the I/O ports; at the rear are DVI (dual link), DisplayPort, HDMI, and USB (upstream) connectors. On the right side of the base are two USB downstream ports, but they are of the 2.0 variety rather than the speedier 3.0 ports found on Dell’s U2713HM.

There’s no audio-in jack for when you use a DVI signal, which is odd considering the Series 9 touts a pair of relatively powerful 7 Watt speakers. Granted, you can bring audio in via an HDMI or DisplayPort signal but it just doesn't make sense to omit one of the most widely used audio connectors. As a result, if you're using your PC's DVI output you'll have to rely on an external speaker source.

The Series 9 is one of a handful of monitors that supports MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) technology, which allows you to connect an MHL-compatible device, such as a smartphone or tablet, to the display's HDMI port. The HDM-MHL cable carries full HD (1080p) video and digital audio to the display while simultaneously charging your portable device.

There are five touch buttons (including the power switch) built into a small panel on the front of the mounting arm, just above where it meets the base. The panel has a glossy black finish and the buttons have white LED backlighting, making them easy to see in a darkly lit environment. Three of the buttons act as hot keys for adjusting speaker volume, selecting an input source, and selecting one of five colour (picture) presets. The fourth button launches the OSD menu system where you can take advantage of the ample picture settings.

In addition to the usual Standard, Cinema, and Dynamic (bright) picture modes, the Series 9 offers an sRGB mode and a Calibration mode. The Calibration mode stores settings that you define when using the Natural Colour Expert software (included) and a calibration hardware device such as the i1Display Pro (calibration hardware is sold separately).

Picture settings are generous and include brightness, contrast, dynamic contrast, sharpness, and response time, which provides three settings to help smooth out fast moving images. There's also an HDMI black level, which lets you adjust how dark the darkest parts of the screen appear. There are individual red, green, and blue settings, 13 colour temperature settings ranging from 4,000K to 10,000K (as well as a custom setting), and 12 gamma settings ranging from 1.6 to 2.7. Other settings include three Eco Saving modes (off, 50 per cent, and 75 per cent) and an Auto Off timer.

The Series 9 ships with a CD containing the above mentioned Natural Colour Expert software, a user guide, and drivers. It also comes with an HDMI-MHL cable as well as DisplayPort, DVI, and USB-PC cables. The monitor is covered by a three year warranty that includes parts and labour.

Performance

As with the Dell U2713HM (an IPS monitor), the Series 9 S27B970D has a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1440, which is often referred to as WQHD (Wide Quad High Definition). However, the Series 9 uses Samsung's new PLS (Plane to Line Switching) panel technology, which is similar to IPS (In Plane Switching) tech in that it offers rich colour quality and wide viewing angles. PLS technology is said to deliver more accurate colours than IPS technology, and offers a much brighter picture as well.

Pre-calibrated at the factory, the Series 9 delivers bright, vibrant colours and very dark blacks. It aced the DisplayMate Colour Scales test, displaying well saturated, uniform colours across the scale. There was no tinting or banding and skin tones appeared natural. The PLS had no trouble displaying every shade of light grey on the 64-step Greyscale test but it struggled a bit at the dark end, displaying the darkest two shades of grey as black. Still, shadow detail in my test photo was relatively sharp with only faint clipping in very dark areas of the photo.

Off-angle viewing was superb. There was no loss of luminance when viewed from any angle and colour fidelity remained intact. The panel's 5 millisecond (black-to-white) pixel response delivered blur-free motion while I played a few rounds of Assassin's Creed II on the PC, and Burnout Paradise on the PS3 console.

The Series 9 S27B970D drew 48 Watts of power during my tests, which isn't terrible but it also isn’t what you would consider energy efficient, especially when compared to today's big TN panels. By way of comparison, the IPS-based Dell U2713HM used 32 Watts and it’s also a 27in monitor – and TN-based 27in panels can sip power in the 20 Watts range.

Verdict

The Samsung Series 9 S27B970D is arguably the sweetest looking big screen monitor to hit our labs, but that's only part of its appeal. It uses PLS panel technology to deliver bright, bold colours that remain intact from any angle, and it offers three digital inputs and a USB hub. It has a little trouble displaying the darkest shades of grey but handles light greys with aplomb, and if you're a gamer, blurring is not an issue.

The lack of an audio-in port is a glaring omission, and its £730 price tag is a bit over the top, but if money is no object and you can live without a dedicated audio input, the Series 9 is a solid choice for a big screen monitor. That said, the Dell U2713HM edges the Samsung effort out – it costs £200 less, offers impressive performance, and features a fully ergonomic stand, a non-reflective screen, and a more generous selection of ports, including a four port USB 3.0 hub.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Device

Samsung Series 9 S27B970D

Native Resolution

2560 x 1440

PC Interfaces

Dual-mode (DVI-I), HDMI

Video Inputs

DVI, HDMI

Diagonal Screen Size

27in

Widescreen

Yes

Aspect Ratio

16:9

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