Of course, once you turn the HG281DJ on, you’re unlikely to pay much more attention to its awkward controls or how its chassis looks. I had been using a 24in model till now, so wasn’t expecting the extra inches to have this much impact. But even I was blown away by how much bigger everything became. There is nothing quite like playing a game of Unreal Tournament 3 on a 27.5in display, except maybe playing it on a 30 incher. The advantage that the Hanns.G has over larger 2,560 x 1,600 displays is that you don’t need a monster of a gaming PC to run games at the panel’s native resolution.
To my surprise, initial subjective impressions of image quality were quite positive, with bright – but not oversaturated – colours and good viewing angles. Getting into some serious testing, I’m glad to say the Hanns.G HG281DJ continued to impress, considering its budget nature. Horizontal viewing angles are indeed above average, with a minimum of the colour and contrast shift usually found on TN panels. Unfortunately it betrays its nature with truly terrible vertical ones.
Backlighting is fairly even, though there is some moderate backlight bleed at the screen’s bottom. As you would expect, the Hanns.G was unable to distinguish between the lightest and darkest tones in our greyscale test – but even here it outperformed quite a few equally expensive 24in TN models. Text at 9pixels was reasonably sharp and easy to read, and there was only some barely noticeable banding across dark colour gradients.
In terms of image quality, there’s very little to complain about during everyday use. And if you’re willing to sacrifice just a little bit of shadow detailing, and don’t mind sources being shown without any processing to reduce noise and artefacts, this monitor makes for a reasonable entertainment device. However, the one biggest and inexplicable omission is a 1:1 pixel mode. This unfortunately means that if you hook up a 1080P console like the PS3 or Xbox360, everything will be stretched.
Unsurprisingly, the integrated speakers are a spot of further bad news. Though they’re a tad less terrible than on most monitors, you still wouldn’t want to use them for entertainment. Thankfully Hanns.G had the good sense to include an audio pass-through system (3.5mm in and out), meaning you can hook up external sources when not getting a feed through HDMI.
27.5 inches of decent display quality for under £260 is a bargain by any measure, especially when you throw in some unexpected touches like height adjustment and an HDMI-DVI cable. It’s a great shame that a complete absence of aspect ratio controls makes the Hanns.G HG281DJ less than ideal for console gaming.