Of course, no matter how good a monitor is in other regards, image quality is still the primary consideration. So how does Samsung’s 27in PLS hold up? Well, despite a few relatively minor negatives, overall it’s frankly spiffing.
While contrast isn’t quite as good as on the best PVA-based displays, blacks are reasonably black and whites are pure. There is some noticeable contrast shift, which can, for example, make it appear that there is backlight bleed when viewing a black screen in a dark environment (there isn’t, as backlighting is impressively even with no visible bleed). However, while this issue is slightly worse than on the best IPS monitors we’ve seen, and can become a little bothersome once you start noticing it, PLS has advantages too - and from here on the news with our S27A850D is only good.
Contrast might not be the best, but it’s certainly sophisticated, thanks to a dynamic contrast system that actually works and a light sensor that dims or brightens the display according to its environment. Dark detailing is also on a par with the best of the rest, as you would expect from a premium panel.
Colours, meanwhile, pop off the screen with such vibrancy they almost look oversaturated, though they’re actually quite accurate after minimal calibration. The semi-matt finish helps prevent too much reflection.
Unlike with contrast, colour accuracy remains perfect no matter how far to the side you sit, and with this in mind viewing angles do actually appear superior to IPS as Samsung indicated. Though it’s a difference that might not affect real-world usage too frequently, it’s nonetheless impressive, and simply the best performance in this regard that we have seen from an LCD display.
Overdriven to 5ms GTG (overdrive is adjustable and can be turned off), it’s also fast enough for all but hardcore gamers, though if you want the best performance in this regard, a quick TN panel like that found in the BenQ XL2410T is still the way to go - the one area where that cheaper panel tech is superior.
Overall then, if you can live with the slight contrast shift issues and average black level, this is a stunning monitor. There’s not even the slightest hint of banding or other artefacts to detract from a very strong overall performance.
It’s also worth noting that, unlike CCFL-backlit displays, the S27A850D stayed nice and cool, emitting almost no heat, nor did it suffer from the mild buzzing that’s an annoyance on some monitors. Energy use is concurrently lower too, with its 60W average putting it into the same class as the LED-backlit Hazro HZ27. Its extensive Eco modes aside, the S27A850D also sports a proximity sensor that can put the display into standby if it doesn’t detect anyone nearby – a neat feature for large businesses.
Where value is concerned, Samsung has hit the nail on the head, with its 27in display retailing for around £540. This is competitive for a 2,540 x 1,440, IPS-equivalent monitor, and when you throw in the superb adjustability, multiple digital video connections and USB 3.0 hub, it’s actually excellent value – especially with the current price likely to go down once it becomes widely available.
Hazro is undoubtedly Samsung’s biggest competitor here. Apart from the aforementioned budget Hazro HZ27, the company also offers a ‘professional’, fully-adjustable 27in IPS display with a matt finish in the shape of the HZ27WB. However, it does only have one DVI input, offers no resolution scaling or even an OSD, though you do get all-metal construction, a thinner 16mm bezel, a wide colour gamut (a stonking 110 percent NTSC thanks to its extended CCFL backlighting) - and it’s available for a mere £491. Moreover, we haven’t reviewed it yet so can’t say whether it’s a great alternative (keep an eye out for a review soon).
Though it’s not quite the perfect evolution we were hoping for, we’re still impressed by Samsung’s brand-new 27in PLS-based monitor. It’s slim and fairly well-built, and has generous connectivity, class-leading adjustability and innovative features galore. On that all-important image quality front its 2,560 x 1,440 panel holds up very well indeed against rival IPS, with only increased contrast shift tarnishing an otherwise excellent showing.