Review: Samsung SyncMaster T27A950

Our score: 5/5
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June 27, 2011 11:28 AM
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Published: June 26, 2011 11:00 PM
By Alexandre Botella / Pierre-Jean Alzieu
Samsung has allowed us to test the most advanced monitor in its current collection.  It's much more than a display for your desktop computer, and represents the very best of the manufacturer's current technological know-how.  Its ultra-slim form factor has a very striking design and boasts a TV tuner, a wide range of inputs and outputs, 2D-to-3D conversion, a media player and Motion Plus filters.

Design: plenty of connectivity and features galore

The stand—which tips back a few degrees but doesn't allow any other movement—houses all of the connectivity options, including two HDMI inputs, a SCART socket and component video.  Watch out, though, because the ports are a little bit strange: one of the HDMI ports is labelled as DVI and doesn't carry audio.  The SCART socket and component video inputs, meanwhile, use proprietary adaptors that Samsung supplies.  They take away from the sexy brushed aluminium look of the rest of the case, but most users will probably manage without them. 

 
There's a line in for carrying audio signals when you're using the HDMI (DVI) port.  If you're not happy with the results produced by the 2 x 7 W speakers, you can also send the audio to some external speakers, either via the line out or the optical audio output, both of which are also at the back.


Like any decent TV—monitor hybrid, Samsung's latest glossy 27'' display comes with a remote control.  It can't match the aesthetic qualities of the T27A950 itself, but it makes using the menus a breeze.

Multi-source flexibility

One of the main advantages of 'multi-source' monitors is the wide range of devices you can connect.  The T27A950, for example, can handle anything from a VCR connected to the SCART socket to a Blu-ray 3D player using the HDMI 1.4 port—as well, of course, as a computer.

Consumers still want more, though, so manufacturers are adding extra features which were previously only available on televisions.



That's one of the reasons Samsung has added a media player that's compatible with devices formatted using NTFS or FAT32.  During our tests, the majority of HD videos in the AVC format (x 264) and those encapsulated as MKV files worked without a problem.  On the other hand, the M2TS and MTS formats still aren't handled. Subtitles work fine if they're in a separate file to the video itself.  If you put them in a container, though, you won't get them on screen.

More impressive still is the inclusion of filters like Motion Plus, which improves the fluidity of fast-moving scenes.  Our TV expert took a look and thinks it's as effective as the one Samsung includes on its D8000 range of TVs, which is certainly a compliment.

Another feature is designed to reduce the amount of electronic noise in video.  If you use the input designed for a computer, listed as the HDMI (DVI) port, neither of these features is available and both become greyed out in the onscreen menu.

Samsung's new 27'' monitor is compatible with version 1.5 of the DLNA standard and includes new online services, including the ability to search for a video either on your home network or via a video-on-demand service.  You can also browse the web without needing to use a computer, with support for Flash 10.1.  Not all online video works.

To use these network features, you need to connect the monitor using an RJ45 cable.

2D-to-3D Conversion

Because there isn't much native 3D content available just yet, Samsung has joined other manufacturers in adding on-the-fly 2D-to-3D conversion.  The results are pretty impressive and more than watchable, but it still feels like you're getting a vague impression that you're watching in three dimensions rather than the real depth of a genuine 3D source.  Some viewers are also prone to feeling a little queasy after watching it for too long.  To turn the conversion on (or off), all that's needed is a single button on the remote.


The T27A950 is as good as a TV at upscaling SD content, but it still can't hope to beat the Sony PlayStation 3.

3D Glasses

Every viewer will need his own pair of 3D glasses to enjoy the three dimensional experience, and Samsung includes a pair of its cheapest glasses in the box.  They're battery-powered but you can't recharge them.  If you want to invite some friends over, you'll need to invest in some extra pairs of glasses.  The version included here costs around £70, with rechargeable glasses costing a little extra.

Colours: adjust those settings!

With the default settings, not only is the colour reproduction not accurate enough (deltaE: 5), but the contrast ratio is so low we thought we were dealing with a laptop display (150:1).  Fortunately, tweaking a few settings improves things drastically.

The first step is to adjust the Gamma from 0 to -3, which brings the gamma curve—which describes how well luminance is distributed between different shades—back to a more acceptable level.  Once you've done that, changing the Black Levels option from High to Low produces much better results.


deltaE before and after adjusting the settings

 
The deltaE score should now be closer to 2.4, an excellent result that comes in under the famous 3.0 bar.  The contrast is also much better, with the contrast ratio climbing to 730:1, which although not quite as high as the average figure of 850:1 found on other monitors, the black levels are a huge improvement on the pale grey that was the order of the day previously.


Ghosting Time Too High: Crosstalk in 3D and Ghosting in 2D

Responsiveness
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This graph shows the ghosting time, measured in ms, that the monitor takes to entirely remove the previous frame. The shorter the time, the more fluid moving images will appear


We were hoping for an ultra-responsive monitor like the Acer GN245HQ, but the T27A950's test results put in the same category as a plain old desktop monitor with a 5 ms TN display.  It won't do a better job than the Acer HN274H in either 2D or 3D.


To put things simply, the T27A950 isn't fast enough for gamers, and when it's showing a video game or movie in 3D, it suffers from crosstalk, interference between the video feeds designed for the left and right eyes which leads to viewers seeing double.  Samsung has used a backlight sweep to try and prevent the previous frame remaining visible, and although it doesn't get rid of crosstalk in 3D, it does reduce the amount of ghosting in 2D.

Finally, one last point: we really think that Samsung's engineers should concentrate on reducing input lag.  According to our tests, it's 43 ms, or two whole frames.  That might well be invisible to the naked eye, but it's still 30 ms more than the average found on other monitors of around 16 ms.
5/5 Samsung SyncMaster T27A950 DigitalVersus 2011-06-27 00:00:00

Pros

  • Media player
  • Design and finish quality
  • 2D-to-3D conversion
  • Accurate colour reproduction after adjustments
  • Innovative TV-style features

Cons

  • Crosstalk visible in 3D
  • Below average contrast
  • No way of playing at 120 Hz in 1080p

Conclusion

There's no two ways about it: the Samsung SyncMaster T27A950 is the best TV-monitor hybrid we've ever tested, and it's almost as good at faking 3D as it is at showing genuine 3D content. That said, its competitors still have an advantage in certain areas.

OUR SCORE 5/5
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