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Samsung Series 8 SyncMaster S27A850T review: Samsung Series 8 SyncMaster S27A850T

Samsung's SyncMaster S27A850T is an incredibly pretty, thin monitor, which proves that PLS is a viable IPS alternative. We did find some banding in gradients, and the HDMI movie performance isn't great, but for beautiful sharp imagery and high-level computer use, it's incredibly appealing.

Craig Simms Special to CNET News
Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.
Craig Simms
7 min read
Update: Samsung's website is misleading — when you click on the S27A850, it points to the A850D rather than giving options for both the A850D and the A850T. Be aware that while the D has USB 3.0 ports, the T is limited to USB 2.0, and retailers often do not discriminate.

Samsung is definitely providing something different with the S27A850T. For a start, it's a Plane to Line Switching (PLS) panel — not IPS, not TN, not VA. Samsung claimed way back in 2010 that PLS is an evolution of IPS, offering better viewing angles and screen brightness. The specs speak to identical viewing angles as IPS, but with slightly different panel behaviour. We've asked Samsung for more information on how PLS works, but have yet to hear back.


Samsung Series 8 SyncMaster S27A850T

The Good

PLS proves itself as a viable alternative to IPS. Incredibly thin. Good blacks. Power-saving features. Energy frugal. Incredible height adjustment. Allows 90-degree vertical rotation.

The Bad

Pricey compared to the competition. Some banding and discolouration in gradients. HDMI port doesn't cope well with interlaced content or judder.

The Bottom Line

Samsung's SyncMaster S27A850T is an incredibly pretty, thin monitor, which proves that PLS is a viable IPS alternative. We did find some banding in gradients, and the HDMI movie performance isn't great, but for beautiful sharp imagery and high-level computer use, it's incredibly appealing.

The screen itself is semi-matte, and some readers will be happy to know that it doesn't sparkle anywhere near as much as Dell's anti-glare coating.

The panel housing is also exceptionally thin for a monitor of this size, going from approximately 2cm at its thinnest to 4cm at its thickest. It helps that the power supply has been broken out into its own brick, but even this isn't imposing. If you're so inclined, you can attach the brick to the back of the panel, or leave it free hanging.

Samsung SyncMaster SA850T front

The Samsung monitor is all business, and we like it.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Specs at a glance

Size 27 inches
Resolution 2560x1440
Aspect ratio 16:9
Pixel pitch 0.2335
Panel technology PLS
Viewing angles
(10:1 contrast)
H: 178°
V: 178°
Response time 5ms GTG
Max vertical refresh 60Hz
Connections DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI, 4xUSB downstream, 1xUSB upstream, 3.5mm line out
Accessories DVI, power cables

Stand and ergonomics

Samsung's rectangular base is utilitarian plastic, dressed in faux brushed-aluminium styling. The screen does wobble a bit after adjustment, but nothing too bad, considering the thinness of the panel. Tilt, swivel, 90° vertical rotation and height adjustment are available, with height adjustment in particular being impressive, ranging from 7cm off the desk to 22cm. A loop of plastic is on the neck to allow for cable management.

Samsung SyncMaster SA850T stand

Impressively, for a 27-inch, Samsung's stand allows vertical rotation.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)


Samsung SyncMaster SA850T inputs

From the left: one USB upstream, four USB 2.0 downstream and a 3.5mm audio jack.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Samsung SyncMaster SA850T inputs

From the right: power jack, DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Buttons and on-screen display (OSD)


Functional and easy to use.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Samsung front mounts its buttons, and although they aren't back-lit, a context-sensitive UI goes some way to assisting navigation in dark scenarios. Hit any button except the power button, and the general menu will pop up before performing any other functions, further aiding use.

Samsung SyncMaster SA850T OSD

Context sensitive and with front-mounted buttons. The only way it could get better is if the buttons lit up when being used.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

At the first stage of the OSD, Samsung prefers to keep things hidden and simple, with access to a deeper menu, its image presets, brightness, input switching and eco modes initially available.

Samsung calls its image modes "Magic Bright" and "Magic Color", and as usual we suggest that you leave them set to standard. If you intend to calibrate, set it to your own custom profile.

Thankfully, full colour, brightness, sharpness and contrast controls are provided in the deeper menu section, also allowing you to set HDMI black levels. Gamma and colour-tone options are also available for further tweaking.

The S27A850T does not support 1:1 scaling — only aspect stretch (auto) and full-screen stretch (wide).


By default, the Samsung has a yellow colour cast, unless you opt to use Samsung's Full Magic Color preset, so some tweaking will be required to get things in a calibrated state. Setting colour tone to custom and turning off Samsung's Magic presets is a good start.

Without a doubt, blacks are impressive out of the box, although sharpness did need to be increased from default levels to ensure that text wasn't blurry.

Lagom.nl LCD tests
After calibrating to a target brightness of 140cd/m² with an
X-Rite i1Display 2, Eye-One Match 3 and tweaking with HCFR, the SA850T was run through the Lagom.nl LCD tests.

Image tests
Contrast Sharpness Gamma Black level White saturation Gradient
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Banding at the dark end of the scale, slight purple discolouration

The Samsung makes it through almost everything, although it has noticeable banding on gradients.

Inversion pixel walk tests
Test 1 Test 2a Test 2b Test 3 Test 4a Test 4b Test 5 Test 6a Test 6b Test 7a Test 7b
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Flicker

Most monitors fail up to four of the pixel walk tests; Samsung only shows a weakness on one, happily passing even the harsh 4a and 4b tests.

Input lag
Measured against a Samsung SyncMaster 975p CRT, and using a Canon 40D set to a shutter speed of 1/320, an average of over 60 photographs were taken using StoppUhr. With a lag time of less than 34ms in the fastest response time mode, the Samsung isn't fast, serving up images 2.04 frames behind the CRT. In practice, we didn't pick up any issues, but competitive gamers sensitive to input lag may wish to look elsewhere.

Colour accuracy
ΔE is the measurement of how far a measured colour deviates from its expected value, allowing us to determine the colour accuracy of a monitor. While a ΔE value of one is considered perceivable, as long as it's less than three, the shift shouldn't be too obvious. HCFR was used to determine ΔE for the monitor, in tandem with an X-Rite i1Display 2.

Measured levels (Standard mode)
Contrast ratio 886:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.285
White level (cd/m²) 252.622
Gamma 2.19
Greyscale ΔE
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
55.5 6.8 16.2 18.1 19.3 17.8 18.2 16.1 15.4 13.6 10.9
Colour ΔE
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
10.3 13.3 10.9 12.5 11.3 7.2

Samsung SyncMaster SA850T chart

The little white dots, our greyscale reference points, should be on the curved line.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

Out of the box, the screen had a yellow cast. While the blacks seem subjectively better than most IPS monitors, they can't match the VA depths of the BenQ XL2410t. We've only got control over RGB here, so we can really only correct our greyscale values — let's see what a little calibration can do.

Measured levels
Contrast ratio 692:1
Black level (cd/m²) 0.212
White level (cd/m²) 146.727
Gamma 2.28
Greyscale ΔE
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
53.4 13.0 4.4 2.8 2.9 1.3 1.5 1.3 1.1 1.3 1.7
Colour ΔE (compared to sRGB)
Red Green Blue Yellow Cyan Magenta
7.6 13.4 3.9 11.8 2.9 15.7

Samsung SyncMaster SA850T CIE chart
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

With a little calibration, the yellow cast is corrected, and our shade transitions are made better. Frustratingly, Samsung's RGB adjustments in its OSD appear to increment randomly by either one or two, making precise calibration difficult. Above, we've done the best we can to keep everything under a ΔE of three for best picture representation.

HDMI performance
While a monitor might have an HDMI port, there's no guarantee that it'll display images as expected. We hooked up a PlayStation 3, and checked for 24p capability and judder, as well as running the HQV Blu-ray test to see how well it coped with an interlaced source and noise.

24p capable Understands YUV Mission Impossible III
scene 11 judder test
Mission Impossible III
scene 14 judder test
Yes Yes Judder Judder
HQV noise
HQV video
resolution loss
HQV jaggies
HQV film
resolution loss
HQV film
resolution loss —
stadium score
Total score
out of 100
0 0 0 0 0 0

You'd better only want to pipe progressive content into the Samsung; not only does it have no noise reduction on HDMI inputs, it also doesn't cope with interlaced very well at all, as evidenced by the HQV tests. Given the judder present in our Mission Impossible: III tests, it's probably best suited to gaming via PS3 or Xbox 360, and not much else.

Viewing angles
Viewing angles were taken with a Canon 40D in spot-metering mode, with only shutter time adjusted to obtain a good exposure.

Samsung SyncMaster SA850T viewing angles

Clearly, PLS has decent viewing angles, and is a viable alternative to IPS.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

Light bleed
There was no obvious light bleed on our sample, although curiously, PLS tech suffers from the same white glow on a black background as IPS does; that is, as you move your head around, a white glow will shift about the place on a dark screen.

Power consumption
We measured power consumption using a Jaycar mains digital power meter. It's important to note here that due to limitations of the meter, measurements are limited to values of 1W and greater, and are reported in 1W increments.

All measurements, screen brightness and contrast were set to 100 per cent, and a test image displayed.

Juice Box
Maximum power draw 32W
Power-saving mode <1W< td="">
Off <1W< td="">

For the size, Samsung does very well, even properly putting the screen into power-saving mode. It's worth noting that Samsung also has a movement sensor that you can turn on. If it detects no movement after a user-set period of time, it dims or turns the monitor backlight off.


Samsung covers the S27A850T with a three-year warranty, and provides a pick up and return service. It has a zero dead pixel guarantee.


Samsung's SyncMaster S27A850T is an incredibly pretty, thin monitor, which proves that PLS is a viable IPS alternative. We did find some banding in gradients, and the HDMI movie performance isn't great, but for beautiful sharp imagery and high-level computer use, it's incredibly appealing.