At the 2013 CES Samsung made a point to demonstrate the excellent accuracy of their monitors. They had an example of the automated calibration routine they go through at the factory. Using a Konica Minolta CA-310 meter, 25 points on the screen are measured to ensure uniformity and accuracy in every high-end monitor they produce. Included in the box of the S27B971D model that I am reviewing, there is a sheet of results showing the accuracy of the display. Very few vendors have displayed this level of confidence in their monitors, or commitment to calibration, so seeing how well Samsung can live up to their words is something I wanted to find out.

Samsung is one of the very few vendors making their own panel today. Most 27” WQHD panels out there are IPS models from LG. Some vendors use higher quality panels than others but they almost all come from the same source. Samsung produces their own PLS panels and one is used in the S27B971D display. PLS claims lower power consumption and lower manufacturing costs, than a comparable IPS panel. I can’t verify the latter, but we can check the former later in the review.

One thing that is true of the Samsung displays that I have reviewed is that they look stunning. The S27B971D is a gorgeous piece of industrial design with nice metal touches, curved lines, and an overall stunning look on the desktop. This design comes at a price however: the display lacks pivot or swivel functionality, and there are no VESA mounting holes for a different stand. As the base has all the electronics built into it this would be an impossibility anyway. You can adjust the height and a bit of tilt, but you’re stuck otherwise. Given the base design I’m unsure why they couldn’t have integrated at least swivel into it, but it is missing.

Another Samsung hallmark are the touch-sensitive controls. My last experience with these was a disaster as they would ignore commands and made even changing inputs a challenge. These are much better behaved, but they still sometimes miss a finger press or two. It makes the monitor look great, but I’d rather have buttons I can actually press and get a tactile response. Perhaps integrated into the front of the base, or much larger touch sensitive controls in the base, would work better.

When they do work the OSD that Samsung provides is well laid out. Navigating the menus is easy and the choices are intuitive. If the controls worked 100% of the time then the OSD would be one of the best on the market. As it is it responds at least 90% of the time, but the missed ones really can get to you (particularly if you use the OSD regularly, as I'm apt to do in a monitor review).

There are five preset modes in the S27B971D display: Standard, High Brightness, Cinema, sRGB, and Calibrated. Using standard you have access to all the controls including brightness and contrast, white balance and gamma. Using sRGB or Calibrated locks those down. You can still adjust the brightness in sRGB mode but in Calibrated everything is disabled. If you wish to adjust the Calibrated settings you can do so using the Natural Color Expert software from Samsung and a meter. They are then locked away so they can’t be adjusted by yourself or anyone else. High brightness pushes the maximum light output past 300 cd/m^2 but at the expense of accuracy while Cinema is designed for Blu-ray players and such over HDMI.

On paper the S27B971D looks like a nice display, and according to the included calibration report it should be really accurate. I needed to test to find out for sure.

Samsung S27B971D
Video Inputs DVI-DL, DisplayPort, HDMI
Panel Type PLS
Pixel Pitch 0.2331mm
Colors 16.7 Million
Brightness 220 cd/m^2 (standard), 300 cd/m^2 (bright)
Contrast Ratio 1000:1
Response Time 5ms GtG
Viewable Size 27"
Resolution 2560x1440
Viewing Angle (H/V) 178/178
Backlight White LED
Power Consumption (operation) 63W Max
Power Consumption (standby) 0.5W Typical
Screen Treatment Anti-Glare
Height-Adjustable Yes
Tilt Yes
Pivot No
Swivel No
VESA Wall Mounting No
Dimensions w/ Base (WxHxD) 25.4" x 18.4" x 9.7"
Weight 16.5 lbs.
Additional Features 7W stereo speakers
Limited Warranty 1 Year
Accessories Power cable, power brick, DVI cable, DisplayPort cable, USB cable, MHL cable
Price $990

 

Brightness and Contrast
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  • Bateluer - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Meh, the DisplayPort and HDMI are nice, but I paid less than that for two 27in WQHD displays a year ago. Samsung, get this to a 4K resolution and you'll have buyers in 2014. Reply
  • TridenT - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Typo in your second graphic: 1iPro Reply
  • Lolimaster - Friday, November 1, 2013 - link

    And fix the awefull contrast, 500:1? What a joke.

    Minimum 1000-1100:1
    Reply
  • cheinonen - Sunday, November 3, 2013 - link

    The lower contrast will hurt performance for games and movies, yes. Typically on a display like this that is the trade-off to have a more uniform overall screen with a more controlled backlight. For many environments (graphic design, photography) the uniformity and color accuracy are both more essential than the contrast ratio. Reply
  • lkuzmanov - Friday, November 1, 2013 - link

    Does anyone know why displays aren't being factory calibrated? Surely it must be technically possible. Reply
  • cheinonen - Sunday, November 3, 2013 - link

    It is. Look at the recent NEC PA242W for an example. However that is a 24", 1920x1200 display that sells for over $1,100, so you are paying for that calibration. Reply
  • DaveGirard - Friday, November 1, 2013 - link

    This looks like a great display for CG people where colour profiles are still AWOL with apps like ZBrush, Mudbox, etc. They assume you're using sRGB. But you still want a high-quality display. That said, it is a bit pricey compared to the dual Dell U2713HM monitors that I'm running quite happily. Reply
  • abhijeeth - Friday, November 1, 2013 - link

    This is indeed slotted in a narrow niche: would have been so much better if it had support for AdobeRGB.

    The NEC PA271W can be purchased new at B&H Photo for $859 (no Spectraview + Calibrator bundle). But it is so good out of the box that you don't need an external calibrator. Downside is that is is CCFL and some units have an audible high pitched whine when high contrast images are displayed.

    The NEC PA272W is just launched and will be available in the US on Nov 18th for $1299. LED Backlight, wide gamut coverage takes care of Adobe RGB requirements. Good warranty and dead pixel policy.

    There is also the ASUS PA279Q for around $850 (wide Gamut). Pre Cal numbers aren't outstanding out of the box (dE < 2 claimed) but cleans up after post calibration. Has overshoot ghosting though.

    Then there is the ViewSonic VP2772 for $990 (wide Gamut support).

    In the 30inchers, the Dell U3014 is frequently on sale for $940ish. Can get a refurb directly from Dell for $640. Have to get Rev A03 though ;-)

    There is the new HP Z30i (wide Gamut) for $1299.

    All the new ones use LG's new semi glossy (satin/pearl finish) coating and not the grainy coatings of old 1st gen panels (the PA271W falls into this category unfortunately)

    Having considered all this, the Samsung is indeed overpriced for what it offers. Stiff competition all around.
    Reply
  • Alan G - Friday, November 1, 2013 - link

    This monitor is dead in the water for anyone doing photography who needs an expanded color gamut. There's a reason why NEC monitors are the goto here. I don't care about how easy it is to use the OSD; I'm using software calibration. Reply
  • abhijeeth - Friday, November 1, 2013 - link

    Alan,
    Agreed. By software calibration - are you using software to write to your video card LUT or the 14bit 3axis LUT inside the monitor. The interface bit depth is different (8 or 10bit per color depending on interface used) to the internal bit depth for storing the color info.
    Using the monitor internal LUT has significant advantages for Color Management. ( you may be already aware of this, so, sorry if this is redundant). Just thought it might be worth mentioning.
    Reply

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