Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D review: Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D

Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D

Eric Franklin

Eric Franklin

Senior Managing Editor / Mobile

Eric Franklin leads the CNET Reviews editors in San Francisco as managing editor. A 20-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, at the movies, or at the edge of his couch with a game controller in his hands.

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8 min read

For those of us without disposable incomes, spending more than a couple hundred dollars on a monitor requires a little justification. When it comes to expensive monitors, there's usually a professional justification, as professional graphics artists require precise image clarity. The S27A850D is decently priced for a professional monitor of its size, but does it offer enough in performance and features to really make for a good investment? Keep reading to find out.

Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D - LCD display - Super PLS - 27"

Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D

The Good

The <b>Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D</b> delivers great overall performance, and has a useful assortment of connections, including three USB 3.0 ports. The monitor's stylish but practical design provides many ergonomic options.

The Bad

Compared with other professional monitors, the S27A850D lacks a few OSD configuration details. Also, HDMI would have been useful.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D is a well-designed, stylish, professional monitor with great options and performance.

Unlike most professional monitors, the S27A850D has a relatively thin panel. Actually, even compared with many smaller LED-based monitors, the profile is thin, at least in its initial depth. The connections portion does add a bit more depth.

Design and features
The Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D is a 27-inch monitor meant for professional graphic artists, with its high, full-HD resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels. The S27A850D is the first Samsung monitor to employ the company's Plane Line Switching (PLS) panel technology. The panel tech is a lot like the In-Plane Switching (IPS) tech seen in many current monitors, but according to Samsung PLS is capable of even higher brightness at a lower cost in power consumption. Check the power consumption section below to see how true that is.

Samsung includes a power brick holder on the back, especially useful if you're wall-mounting the monitor.

The right side holds 2 DVI ports and 1 DisplayPort. The connection at the top is for the power adapter.

The monitor has very sharp corners while retaining a sleek aesthetic. The LED-lit panel itself is 25.2 inches wide and the initial depth is less than 1 inch thick; however, there's a section in the middle of the back (housing the connection options and power brick holder) that extends back about another inch. So, while technically the panel is 2 inches deep, it hides its size well. On the right side of the back section, aligned vertically, are two DVI ports, a single DisplayPort, and the power adapter port. On the left side, also aligned vertically, are three USB 3.0 downstream ports, one USB 2.0 upstream, audio in, and a headphone jack. There's also an alcovelike cubbyhole on the back of the panel where the display's power brick can be concealed; helpful if wall-mounting your display, a feature the S27A850D also supports.

Three USB 3.0 ports come in quite handy, as does the single USB upstream port. Also seen here are the audio in and headphone jack.

The neck is a long, thin cylinder with a cable router on the back. The height is adjustable by 5.7 inches and the bottom of the panel is 7.8 inches and 2.1 inches above the desktop at its highest and lowest heights, respectively. The foot stand is one of the widest we've seen, measuring 14 inches wide by 9 inches in depth, and as expected with such a wide foot stand, the monitor hardly budges when knocked from the sides.

In addition to height adjustment, the S27A850 also allows a 90-degree pivot, 45-degree left and right swivel, and a 20-degree back tilt.

The side bezel measures a thin 0.8 inch and the bottom bezel curves outward slightly, adding a touch of flair. The OSD array is located on the middle of the bottom bezel and consists of six buttons aligned horizontally: Menu, Eco/Down, Source/Up, Enter, Split Screen, and the power button. In the middle of the button array are a proximity sensor and an ambient light sensor, allowing the monitor to turn off when no one is in front of it and to automatically adjust its brightness depending on the brightness of the room it's in.

The OSD follows Samsung's typical aesthetic and functional design and includes a features like Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, RGB color controls, six different color temperature options, overdrive, gamma controls, and five different presets, which are Custom, Standard, Game, Cinema, and Dynamic Contrast.

Eco Mode is your one-stop shop for all things power-saving. Here you can switch on the motion timer, which puts the monitor to sleep if it doesn't sense movement after a user-specified time, and the ambient light sensor. However, my absolute favorite Eco feature is the tree icon, which grows larger with more and more leaves the more Eco Mode features you use to save power. It even gives you an estimated "trees saved" number.

Build quality feels fairly high, but the plastic neck and overall thin design make it feel a bit flimsier than most monitors this size. Still, as it weighs only 15 pounds, it's quite easy to move around.

Design and feature highlights
Connectivity DVIx2, DisplayPort
Ergonomic options 90-degree pivot, height adjustment, 20-degree back tilt, 45-degree swivel
Resolution 2,560x1,440 pixels
Aspect ratio 16:9
Audio Headphone jack and audio in
VESA wall-mount support Yes
Included video cables DisplayPort, DVI
Backlight LED
Panel type PLS
Screen film Matte w/AG coating
Number of presets 5
Overdrive Yes
Picture options Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness
Color controls RGB and 6 color temperature options
Gamma control Yes
Additional features Eco Mode

We tested the Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D through its DisplayPort input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using the included DisplayPort cable. The display posted a composite score of 97 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.

The merits of antiglare (AG) screen coating are much debated these days. Some viewers prefer the coating not be applied at all, while others favor only a limited amount. And others are completely indifferent. AG coating doesn't adversely affect quality and its merits or lack thereof are strictly a question of preference.

That said, there is light antiglare coating on the S27A850D's screen, reducing potential reflections while keeping some of the pop that glossy screens enjoy. A full glossy display can increase the perceived contrast of a monitor screen--which some people prefer--but can also be difficult to see in direct sunlight.

DisplayMate: The S27A850D displayed light gray up to level 253. Every level between 255, which is considered white, and 1 is a variation of gray. Once calibrated, the monitor could not distinguish between 255 and 254; matching the white-level saturation performance of the Dell UltraSharp U2711, which also topped out at 253. The S27A850D's performance here indicates the display will likely not be prone to washing out light colors. As for dark gray, the S27A850D displayed it down to level 2 while still maintaining a very deep black, so the display should be capable of a very low black level.

The monitor performed excellently in our Color Tracking, which looks for evidence of tint and hue problems, which we found only slight traces of, with very little red and no green hues visible in the grayscale. In our Dark Screen test, the monitor faltered, showing very apparent backlight bleeding in the top left corner and in the bottom middle of the screen.

Text: Black text on white looked clear, without any obvious color tint problems. Fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8 size.

Movies: We tested the Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." The Cinema preset provided the best overall experience, displaying richer colors and deeper blacks than the U2711 did. There was no trace of the green push that is fairly typical with some monitors when displaying movies.

Games: When evaluating the look of games on a monitor, the two most important features to consider are vibrancy and color. If the monitor can display games with a bright and vibrant cleanness, this goes a long way. If colors can also pop with fullness and depth, games can usually look great.

Torchlight on the Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D in the Game preset had high vibrancy with colors that popped as well as we've seen on any monitor. Both the Game preset and our calibrated settings were suitable for games on the display.

To test refresh rate, we used DisplayMate's motion graphics tests and stared at a number of colored blocks as they moved around the screen at various speeds. The S27A850D displayed noticeably less streaking than the U2711 during the test.

Photos: When showing faces and light-colored hair, the S27A850D's colors sometimes dip ever so slightly into a greenish hue compared with the U2711, but the bright colors of clothing and environments pop vibrantly.

Recommended settings: We used SpectraCal's CalPC to calibrate the Samsung S27A850D for bright-room viewing. The following settings are what the monitor was adjusted to after calibration.

Attribute Setting
Preset Custom
Brightness 91
Contrast 68
Color temperature Normal
Color Settings R-95

If you find these settings are still unsatisfactory, try the different presets, as they're well-suited for their appropriate tasks.

Viewing angle: The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a quarter of the screen's distance down from the top. At this angle, you're viewing colors as the manufacturer intended. Most monitors aren't designed to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on a monitor's panel type, picture quality at nonoptimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when not viewed from optimal angles.

The S27A850D uses a PLS panel, Samsung's newest panel technology that's very similar to IPS. The monitor's panel has a viewing angle as wide as the U2711, which houses an IPS panel.

Power consumption: The Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D showed poor power consumption, with a Default/On power draw of 51.3 watts. Still, that's lower than the Dell U2711's 93.72 watts in the same test.

In our Sleep/Standby test, the S27A850D pulled 0.87 watts and the U2711 pulled a higher 1.19 watts. Based on our formula, the S27A850D would incur nearly half the annual power cost of the U2711 with a per-year pull of $15.91, compared with the U2711's much higher $28.78 per year.

Brightness in cd/m2
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D

Contrast ratio
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
LaCie 324i
Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D
Asus PA246Q

DisplayMate performance tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Juice box
Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D Average watts per hour
On (default luminance) 51.3
On (max luminance) 51.3
On (min luminance) 24
Sleep 0.87
Calibrated (200 cd/m2) 34.3
Annual power consumption cost $15.91
Score Poor

Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.

Service and support
Samsung backs the SyncMaster S27A850D with a three-year parts-and-labor warranty that covers the backlight. It also offers support through a 24-7 toll-free number, as well as 24- to 48-hour turnaround e-mail and Web chat support.

While it doesn't offer as many customization options for graphic artists as a few other pro-grade monitors do, the S27A850D's options should more than satisfy most users. Full ergonomic support, a USB 3.0 hub, and an overall stylish, but thoughtful design makes it a great choice for those looking for a pro monitor that offers more than most, but doesn't go over the $1,000 price barrier.

Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D - LCD display - Super PLS - 27"

Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Performance 8Support 8