Samsung S27B971D Monitor Reviewby Chris Heinonen on October 31, 2013 12:00 PM EST
My expectations for the Samsung S27B971D were high after seeing their demo at CES and how they calibrate displays. They increased when I opened the box and saw the calibration report with some pretty incredible numbers on it. While the initial out-of-box numbers didn’t really impress me, the post-calibration numbers made me sit up and take notice. They are the kind of numbers we hope to see in a display but so rarely do.
What I’ve been trying to figure out is where the Samsung S27B971D sits in the display hierarchy. It is a very interesting mix of features and performance that sits a bit on its own. From the post-calibration and uniformity data I’d tend to compare it to the NEC display, like the PA271W: very uniform, very accurate. But the NEC model offers the AdobeRGB gamut, much more refined on-screen controls, and a far more flexible stand; it isn’t nearly as attractive as the Samsung, but it has even better performance. Of course the Samsung also sells for $1,000 compared to the PA271W at $1,240, but Samsung lacks NEC’s initial accuracy.
Compared to a cheaper display like the Dell U2713HM, the Samsung can be more accurate but isn’t as flexible with placement and sells for over $400 more. It has a gamut that is no larger, and out of the box performance that isn’t any better. Input lag is roughly the same for gaming and the gamut is a bit worse. Unfortunately the Dell didn’t go through our updated CalMAN testing suite so we can’t compare uniformity data to see how it does. Even if the Dell is only average for uniformity, that’s a large difference in the two display prices.
What it really comes down to is if the Samsung was as accurate out of the box as it is after calibration, it would have a good target audience. People that want a highly accurate, high performance display but don’t need the AdobeRGB gamut. It would slot in just below the NEC displays that are out there. The person that this becomes ideal for is one that wants a very accurate, very uniform display and has their own calibration gear. Then you can coax this fantastic performance out of the Samsung S27B971D display and be competitive with a higher-end display. You won’t have the larger gamut, but you might not need it depending on your work.
How many people fit that narrow group? I really don’t know. I think the Samsung is an excellent performer post-calibration. It’s one of the best I’ve seen. I just think that with the pre-calibration numbers only being so-so it’s hard to recommend to either professionals, who can get the NEC, or to users without calibration gear, that can do just as well with the Dell. It feels strange to not recommend it just on the bench tests alone, but outside of a vacuum the performance doesn’t really matter if it doesn’t have a good target audience.
If you fit that small segment that would do well with the Samsung S27B971D it is a great display. I’m just not sure if that audience is very large for it the way the display ships right now. If the out-of-box calibration numbers from our testing could match Samsung's calibration report, it would be a bit easier to recommend, but if you're willing to spend $400 more than something like the Dell in order to get an accurate display, adding in another $200 to get an NEC and a wider gamut seems the way to go.