Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D review
The S27A850D's adjustable stand, USB3 hub and 2,560x1,440 resolution are all very good, but it's the new PLS panel, with its amazing contrast and colours, that steals the show
Review Date: 10 Jan 2012
Price when reviewed: £544
Reviewed By: Barry de la Rosa
We don't normally review monitors that cost over £500, but Samsung's S27A850D is no ordinary monitor; as well as an impressive features list - a 2,560x1,440 resolution, fully-adjustable stand and three-way USB3 hub - it's the first monitor we've seen using Samsung's new Plane-to-Line Switching (PLS) technology, which is meant to produce deeper colours, better viewing angles and stronger contrast.
It's the same screen technology that's used in Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, and in our review we remarked that the tablet's screen was incredibly bright and sharp, with excellent viewing angles. The same applies to the S27A850D, but on a screen almost four times as large. Our current Ultimate award-winner, the Hazro HZ27WC, suffers in comparison, with the Hazro screen's colours looking washed out.
Colours are almost too deep and vibrant. Reds in particular can take on an almost radioactive glow if the source image is already over-exposed: in some of our test shots of fruit, the strawberries looked fit to explode. In our more restrained test shots, the increased depth of colour meant that finer gradients of contrast were possible, giving objects more shape and depth. Our only complaint was with black-and-white shots, where Hazro's monitor still had an edge, producing better highlights and reflections.
The menu controls are clearly labelled and sit just under the screen, and the menu itself is clear and easy to follow. Unlike Hazro's stripped-down HZ27WC, the S27A850D has a full suite of image quality controls, including Samsung's Magic settings, which we don’t get on with. Magic Color blows colours out of proportion, even on the lowest (Intelligent) setting. On Full settings, normal colours become almost fluorescent, so we left it turned off entirely.
Magic Brightness works better, and merely acts as a repository for preset modes, such as Standard (which puts Brightness down to 35%), Game, Cinema and Dynamic Contrast. We had the most luck with Game mode, which brightened the image without making colours oversaturated, while Dynamic Contrast produced distracting changes in brightness. Choosing a preset disables the normal Brightness, Contrast and Sharpness controls, too, so we kept it at Custom and set brightness as required by our viewing material.
Really, you want to keep the image as free of processing as possible to show off the PLS panel. In our film tests, watching Casino Royale, Bond never looked so red-blooded - again, maybe a bit too much red - while we could still see the buttons on Le Chiffre's black velvet dinner jacket in the dark casino scenes. Gaming tests were impressive too, with the larger colour palette adding more depth and realism to Call of Duty 4's multiplayer maps.
The way the colours are described, this doesn't sound like the right monitor for photography, artwork etc.
When I source a monitor, I look for accurate colour reproduction, not enhanced as this would appear to be.
By trishahardwick on 10 Jan 2012
True, the colours are a bit over-the-top, although they can be dialled back using the menu system.
However, if you prefer less image processing, try the Hazro HZ27WC:
By bpdlr on 11 Jan 2012
Barry? - thank you for the link. I was impressed until I got to 'glossy screen' - any chance you could do a review of a LaCie 324 in their latest screen?
I have the 324 IPS panel which is not glossy, and it was worth every penny where artwork and photography are used.
Out of the box, all I needed to do was adjust the brightness - colours and contrast were perfect, and still are after almost 3 years.
Under full spectrum studio lighting, the screen is easy to view, and equally good in low light.
They use a different type panel now - hopefully, just as good.
By trishahardwick on 17 Jan 2012
Correction to my last post
I just re-read this while looking for LaCie reviews and see I'd stated IPS instead of PVA which is what the older 324 model was.
Said monitor gave up on me two weeks after the warranty ran out, so I bought the 324i which does have an IPS panel.
This was in need of a little more tweaking of the settings,but not much, and use of AMD Catalyst control, but once done it gradually settled in over the week and lost the very slight green cast reported in a couple of reviews elsewhere.
Seems a monitor can need up to 100 hours to 'settle', and mine is now excellent.(Always better once it's been on for a short while each day).
The OSD is much easier to access than the older model and now has buttons rather than the touch type access which could be a little erratic.
The blue power light has been replaced by a tiny white light that is not at all intrusive, but I actually liked the blue one best :)
As before, solid stand with good adjustment capabilities.
By trishahardwick on 12 Apr 2012
Sorry - put this in the wrong place! Should have been with the LaCie 324 review
By trishahardwick on 12 Apr 2012
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