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If performance is your only concern, you've got nothing to worry about with the Samsung SyncMaster S27B970. It sports a superhigh XHD resolution, a high contrast ratio, and deep, accurate colors.
Aside from one glaring but negligible design gaffe, price is the only real problem here. At $1,200, the S27B970 prices itself out of the reach of most, but people willing to pay for it will not be disappointed.
Design and features
With its minimalist design, the 27-inch S27B970 takes some very apparent design cues from the Apple Thunderbolt Display. The S27B970 sports a clean aesthetic, with smooth rounded corners, a glossy screen, and a combination of metal and plastic finish (cleverly altered to resemble metal).
The panel is fairly thin, extending back about 0.8 inch in depth. The screen and bezel sport highly reflective and glossy surfaces, with the left and right side bezel measuring 0.9 inch in width. The screen is 25.4 inches wide with a plastic silver trim that runs entirely around the edge of the panel. The back of the panel is devoid of any connections but has an embossed silver Samsung logo on the left side. The surface is matte black plastic, finished to somewhat resemble black wood.
The panel attaches to a metallic chrome neck that stretches 16.8 inches from the foot stand to its peak. The top of the neck is flattened off, ledgelike, with a plastic silver top. The neck attaches to the panel via a hinge that allows for 10-degree tilt and 4 inches of screen height adjustment, a feature the Thunderbolt Display failed to include. At its lowest height, the panel sits 2.4 inches from the desktop, and 6.4 inches at its highest.
Much to my disappointment, there's no built-in swivel mechanism and no pivot feature. The Thunderbolt Display skipped out on swivel as well, but its smooth metallic finish allowed it to easily slide around on smooth surfaces. Thanks to the rubber attachments on the bottom of the S27B970's foot stand, it won't be doing much sliding.
Speaking of the foot stand, the flying-saucerlike silver plastic stand resembles something out of a '50s sci-fi movie, lending a kind of art deco vibe to the monitor's aesthetic. However, the top of the foot stand can be peeled off with a bit of effort, although you can't actually remove it. It's not a huge beef, but with a $1,200 monitor, you expect a bit higher of a quality standard. The stand itself is a wide 9.7 inches in diameter, which keeps the monitor well-grounded with the panel at its lowest height, but unfortunately it wobbles like a Weeble when at its highest.
There is one key design issue that really annoyed me. And by "annoyed me," I mean drove me stark-raving batty. The DisplayPort input is embedded too deeply in the foot stand. This isn't a problem when plugging it in, but DisplayPort requires that you press a button on the cable in order to unplug it. The problem is that the space between that button and the underside of the saucer section is a lot smaller than most human fingers, making it nearly impossible to disconnect DisplayPort without using a tool like a screwdriver (I used an old CD). In fact, one of our DisplayPort cables didn't survive the ordeal. This kind of design faux pas is really inexcusable, especially from a design veteran like Samsung.
Getting back to connections, in addition to DisplayPort, the S27B970 houses HDMI, DVI, and a USB upstream port on the back of the foot stand, with none of these ports presenting the same problem that the DisplayPort did. On the right side sit two USB downstream ports, and on the bottom edge of the panel are two speakers.
The OSD array sits on the bottom of the neck, with each button and touch sensor emitting a bluish-white LED light. The array consists of an Enter button, a Menu button, and up and down navigation buttons that double as volume and preset shortcut buttons, respectively. The power button sits below these, in the middle. While the buttons are responsive, they're also small, requiring you to be more precise with your button presses than on most monitors.
The OSD itself has most of the options I expect from a Samsung OSD, like five different presets: Standard, High Bright, Cinema, sRGB, and Calibration. Brightness, Contrast, and Sharpness controls, as well as Red, Green, and Blue adjustment options, are also included. There are controls for response time adjustment, gamma, and an impressive 13 different color temperature settings. However, Eco savings options aren't as cool or thoughtful as on recent Samsung monitors, as you can only change the brightness to 50 and 75 percent.
|Design and feature highlights|
|Connectivity||HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI|
|Ergonomic options||10-degree back tilt, panel height adjustment|
|VESA wall-mount support||No|
|Included video cables||HDMI, DisplayPort|
|Number of presets||5|
|Picture options||Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness|
|Color controls||Color temperature: 4,000K-10,000K|
|Additional features||USB downstream x 2, USB upstream x 1|
I tested the Samsung Syncmaster S27B970 through its DisplayPort port input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using the included DisplayPort cable. The display posted a composite score of 98 in CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.
DisplayMate: The S27B970 displayed light gray up to level 254, the highest possible (pure white is 255). At the lower end of the grayscale, the monitor succeeded in showing dark gray down to a level of only 3 (black is 0). Which indicates low, but not extremely low, black levels.
In Color Tracking I noticed a slight red hue in the grayscale when using the Standard preset; however, adjusting the red down to 39 alleviated this problem.
When viewing DisplayMate's Dark Screen test, which consists of a plain black screen, there was obvious backlight bleedthrough in the middle of the left and right edges of the screen.
Movies: I tested the S27B970 using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." The Cinema preset presented the movie with slightly too much blue, but dark detail like braided hair in one of the nighttime scenes could easily be seen.
Overall, the movie looked vibrant while keeping more than enough dark detail to retain a satisfyingly cinematic look.
Games: I prefer monitors that display games with vibrant color and highly contrasting blacks and whites. When colors also pop with fullness and depth, games will usually look great. Dragon Age II is a game that can look pretty drab at times, but definitely benefits from rich, bright, but still accurate colors. I looked at the game on the S27B970 in the High Bright preset, which turned out to be the best setting to get a high vibrancy without oversaturating the colors.
To test refresh rate, I used DisplayMate's motion graphics test, which moves a box of colored blocks around at various user-controlled speeds. Each block leaves an impression of itself behind as it flies across the screen. The longer the streak left by the blocks, the more image blurring you'll likely see when the monitor shows quick movements, as when playing a first-person shooter. The effect can be subtle, but noticeable to those really looking for it.
Also, PLS and IPS monitors typically display more streaking than on TN displays, so it's not surprising that the blocks in this test left fairly long streaks behind them. Not the worst I've seen, but significant nonetheless. As I said, however, the difference between a monitor with a fast refresh rate and a slow one is really subtle and most people would not notice it.
Photos: Faces in photos looked healthy and showed no signs of that annoying sickly green hue that plagues many monitors. Clothing and other objects looked natural with accurate color, comparable to what you see on high-end monitors like the HP LP2480zx.
Viewing angle: The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a third 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 any other angle suffers. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when not viewed from optimal angles.
The S27B970 uses a PLS panel, so it can be viewed from many different directions while retaining its color quality, sharpness, and correct gamma value. However, since the screen is very glossy, direct sunlight will have an noticeably adverse effect.
Power consumption: The S27B970's power consumption earned a rating of Fair, with a Default/On power draw of 43.6 watts; the Dell U2711 drew 93.7 watts in the same test.
In our Sleep/Standby test, the S27B970 drew 0.46 watt and the U2711 pulled a higher 1.19 watts. Based on our formula, the S27B970 would cost $13.33 per year, whereas the U2711 would cost $28.78 per year.
Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.
Service and support
Samsung backs the SyncMaster S27B970 with a three-year parts and labor warranty that covers the backlight. This matches the best monitor warranties out there, like Dell's. 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.
The Samsung SyncMaster S27B970's $1,200 price will definitely give some pause. And at that price, the S27B970 should have included Samsung's Smart Hub, which provides streaming video, games, and apps, including Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, and Twitter. This would have been a great way to usher in the company's first consumer PLS display.
People looking for incredible performance and beautiful design, and don't mind taking out a second mortgage to get it, will not be disappointed with the S27B970. If the monitor's XHD resolution appeals to you, but the features and design (and price) don't, the HP ZR2740w is a great, much cheaper alternative.