There are plenty of multimedia or designer monitors on the market and quite a few aimed at imaging, but rarely have the three been combined. Yet that is essentially what the Samsung Series 9 S27B970D offers.
It’s a 27in PLS monitor with a factory-calibrated 2560 x 1440, 10-bit panel that should be good for graphics, photo editing or other colour-sensitive work. It sports a design incorporating metal and glass to give it a stylish, premium look. And last but not least, there’s plenty of connectivity to hook up a computer, laptop, console or even mobile phone, and speakers are integrated to give a full multimedia experience.
We were impressed with Samsung’s first monitor to use its PLS panel tech, the S27A850, but can this significantly more expensive screen do as well?
The monitor comes completely assembled, so setup is as easy as taking it out of the box and plugging it in. All the adapters and cables are neatly bundled in a separate box, which again is a nice touch. There’s a DisplayPort cable, MHL-HDMI, dual-link DVI, and USB to hook up the monitor’s inbuilt hub. All that’s missing is an HDMI cable, but these are plentiful and inexpensive.
The S27B970D is one of the most attractive monitors around. Possibly the only 27in rival that outshines is Apple’s Thunderbolt/Cinema display, and even then that’s a matter of personal taste.
Lacking the super-slim bezel seen on many of Samsung’s TVs like the Samsung UE46ES7000, this Series 9 monitor makes a feature out of its wide, glossy black bezel, which harmonises nicely with its seamless glass front. The thick aluminium surround offsets both to great effect, and adds a sense of solidity that’s further enhanced by the metal-clad stand. While this monitor is not particularly slim, again the seamless metal surround and slightly tapering back panel ensure it’s still a pleasure to look at from the side.
The stand is one of the most unique visual aspects of the S27B970D, looking futuristic and slim. The cut-out glossy black section with the screen’s white-backlit touch controls enforces the Sci-Fi feel, while the base’s concentric ring pattern both looks good and keeps fingerprints or other marks from being visible. The final touch is that the stand’s black underside gives the attractive impression that the monitor is ‘floating’ when put on a dark-finished desk. Last but not least, the plastic rear sports a brushed-metal texture that looks just like the real thing.
Build and Adjustability
Build quality is an odd mix of superb and slightly disappointing. The stand and leg could be used as a self-defence weapon, and feel just as solid as they look. Likewise the glass front and metal surround give no reason for concern whatsoever. However, the plastic back presses in a little too easily when making adjustments, displaying some flex and creak. While not necessarily a durability concern, this does dent the S27B970D’s premium imago.
Adjustability is very good for a designer monitor. While most limit you to tilt, this Series 9 is fully height adjustable too. This really helps it to stand out from the crowd, and while pivot is absent, on a monitor with a 2560 x 1440 resolution it’s not as frequent a requirement. All adjustments are relatively smooth and easy enough, though again there’s more creak than the metal-heavy design would suggest.
The S27B970D has pretty much every video connection you might want. Dual-link DVI and DisplayPort are joined by HDMI which lets you plug in consoles and other external devices. It’s also one of the first monitors to offer MHL (Mobile High definition Link), a standard found on mobiles and some tablets from Samsung, LG and HTC. Since this not only acts as a full video and audio link but also charges your phone or tablet while it’s at it, it’s a genuinely useful addition if you own or intend to buy a compatible device. It can even be used to charge a non-MHL phone with microUSB port, leaving the monitor’s twin USB 2.0 ports free for other uses.
While it’s great to see a USB hub integrated, it would have been nice to see more than two ports, and even nicer to have USB 3.0 here. After all, Samsung’s S27A850 managed it - so why relegate this more expensive, premium model to using older tech?
This brings us to another, and far more serious, disappointment: the S27B970D doesn’t offer any kind of audio output. Even the business-focused SA850 managed to provide for audio, but it’s missing on this Series 9 - where one might have expected both analogue and digital audio outputs. Admittedly the S27B970D has some very impressive speakers by monitor standards, but they’re simply not good enough to replace dedicated solutions, not to mention owners who might want to use headphones to prevent disturbing anyone. This is a real downside in a display that bills itself as a complete entertainment solution.
On the positive side, all the connectivity the S27B970D does have is neatly integrated into its base. While this isn’t as convenient to get at as the ingenious side connections found on the S27A850, it does look a lot better and prevents cables getting tangled – overall an elegant and aesthetic solution, especially since all the video inputs are slightly recessed to partially obscure unsightly plugs.