If the TV-monitor hybrid seems strangely familiar, that's because we had it in our monitor testing lab just last week, where we decided to award it five stars because its far and away the best in its category. Today, though, we're putting it up against other TVs, which is a whole different story.
Build Quality and DesignThe T27A950 might be a well-featured monitor, but it's not quite up to scratch for a modern TV. The stand doesn't turn around, so you can't line the TV up with your sofa. The connectivity options include two USB ports, an Ethernet port, two HDMI inputs, a SCART socket and a composite video input. The last two, however, are rather unusual in that they need special proprietary adaptors. That shouldn't affect too many users, though, as neither connection is particularly common these days.
Samsung has used the same media player for this hybrid as on its ordinary TVs. That opens the door for support for NTFS storage devices and the majority of HD video formats that we tested—including AVI, DivX, MKV, MP4, M2TS and WMV files—all 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.
One big weakness is the glossy finish on the display, which might as well be a mirror! Even with the lights turned down, it's easy to spot your own reflection. It might be handy if you want to get ready in a hurry, but if you're watching a film, you better be sitting in the dark.
The chunky remote with a rather old-fashioned design doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the design. At least it's easy to use with handy backlighting on the buttons.
The glossy screen picks up reflections
Image QualityThis is, at heart, a multi-source monitor with a TN display, and not only is it incapable of reproducing colours accurately, its contrast ratio doesn't get above 600:1. To put it another way, there's little difference between black and grey.
Colour reproduction in Cinema mode: average deltaE: 3.4
Happily enough, it's not too hard to fix the problem by switching to Cinema mode and then tweaking two additional settings: set brightness to 41 and then backlighting to 16. These adjustments bring the deltaE down from 7.2 to 3.4, which is good without quite being perfect, even it is close to the magic figure of 3.0. The gamma curve is more or less normal, with an average gamma of 2.2, and the colour temperature is around 6200 K—all of that is a lot better!
The T27A950 is a pretty decent job with movies. The default setting for sharpness is 20, which produces a rather jagged picture. Things are much easier on the eye with it at 2. Set up this way, HD content looks great, while SD also looks better than you might expect because the screen is so small.
Disappointingly, the LED backlighting around the edge of the screen leaks light onto the edges of the picture. This particular type of clouding is especially annoying in the black bands above and below films.
Ghosting and Input Lag
We might be able to praise the T27A950 for only having 33 ms of input lag, but we were less impressed by its ghosting time. Unlike other 3D monitors, it really doesn't have a very responsive display. We measured an average ghosting time of 14.5 ms, which puts in below the average of 12 ms we've found on other monitors. Such a slow display also left us worried about potential problems with crosstalk in 3D.
Image Quality: 3DAnd as we suspected, Samsung's latest flagship isn't free from crosstalk. With 3D content like Blu-ray 3D discs or 3D games, crosstalk—interference between the signals for the left and right eye that leaves viewers seeing double—is particularly noticeable in frames which contain a light object against a light background. Unlike the other types of LCD display used in some TVs like ASV, IPS, MVA or PVA, the TN panel used here doesn't show crosstalk when light objects are against a darker background. As annoying as it is, though, crosstalk doesn't prevent viewers from getting a sense of depth of field or seeing objects leap out of the screen.
Here's what we saw when looking through the glasses (Samsung T27A950 above, LG LW5500 below):
To make up for the current lack of 3D content, Samsung has included a 2D-to-3D conversion function that you can activate by pressing the 3D button. 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.
So you can enjoy 3D from the moment your new TV arrives, Samsung includes a pair of its cheapest 3D 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.
Audio QualityThe 2 x 7 W speaker system really is lacking in detail. Treble is clearly audible, and perhaps a little too much as we would have preferred to hear more from the mid-range and bass. The speakers will do if you have nothing else, but even the cheapest set of external speakers will do a better job.
Energy ConsumptionAlthough it only needs 0.1 W on standby, the T27A950 can't hope for a fifth star in this section because of the 50 W it uses while switched on, which is as much energy as much larger TVs would need.
- Low input lag: 33 ms
- Design and finish quality
- Good NTFS compatible media player
- Contrast ratio a little weak for a TV (620:1)
- TN panel, so poor vertical viewing angles
- Crosstalk is visible in 3D
- Panel responsiveness below average
There's no two ways about it: the T27A950 is one of the best hybrid 3D monitors of the moment—if you want to use it more as a monitor. But if you compare it against the standard of today's TVs, it doesn't come close, with limited features, poor contrast and crosstalk in 3D all holding it back.