Samsung SyncMaster T27A950 3D Display Review

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Samsung SyncMaster T27A950 3D Display Review

Impressive looks; less-than-impressive performance

WHEN SAMSUNG DEMOED the T27A950 for us a few months back, we got excited. This 27-inch, 120Hz display looks sleek and sophisticated, and it offers a long list of features, including an onboard digital HDTV tuner, picture-in-picture capability, DLNA-compliant networking, Samsung’s collection of smart TV apps, and active 3D. We couldn’t wait to get it in the Lab for a better look.

It didn’t take long for our excitement to ebb. The unconventional stand that makes the monitor stand out from the crowd severely limits the panel’s range of movement. You can tilt it forward and back by a few degrees, but you can’t adjust its height, pivot it into portrait mode, or mount it to a wall or any alternative stand.

Samsung’s T27A950 is a versatile 3D display, featuring DLNA-compliant networking via hardwired Ethernet or a user-provided USB Wi-Fi dongle. It has two HDMI inputs and an optical digital audio output, and it can host a USB thumb drive.

The capacitive touch controls for the onscreen menus deftly eliminate ugly mechanical buttons, but they didn’t always respond to our first touch; and while they disappeared when inactive, our smudgy fingerprints did not. Fortunately, Samsung provides an infrared remote control, so you don’t need to touch the shiny bezel. The onscreen menus themselves are a mixed bag. We appreciated the context-sensitive explanations that pop up, but having to press the volume-up control to choose menu categories, instead of the menu or source control, had us repeatedly pressing the wrong button.

Adjusting the T27A950’s picture to achieve good performance in DisplayMate (www.displaymate.com) proved to be a major struggle. Although this monitor produces exceptional detail and texture, its colors are under-saturated and its black level became washed out unless we turned the LED backlight down very low. But as you might expect, substantially reducing the backlight renders the entire image too dim, even after cranking the brightness.

We were never able to achieve a satisfying balance using these two controls, so it should come as no surprise that this monitor also delivered poor performances on DisplayMate’s dark-screen, dark-gray, and grayscale compression tests. We detected substantial backlight leakage on the dark-screen test, and the monitor had difficulty producing smooth gradations from the deepest black to the lightest gray.

The T27A950 also delivered subpar performances on DisplayMate’s 256 Intensity Level Color Ramp and Gray Scale Range tests, producing visible streaking, jumps, and skips. We detected objectionable moiré patterns in our Blu-ray (V for Vendetta) and game (Batman: Arkham Asylum) tests, too. The monitor’s 3D performance in games and movies was, on the other hand, surprisingly good. Samsung licensed DDD’s TriDef technology and an emitter built into the monitor synchronizes the display to Samsung’s active LCD shutter glasses (the monitor comes with one pair).

The one area in which the monitor excelled was rendering text, which surprised us considering this is a 27-inch display that’s limited to a TV-like 1920x1080 resolution. When all is said and done, this would be a better small TV than a large computer monitor if not for one issue: its $800 price tag.

Samsung SyncMaster T27A950 3D Display

PLAY-DOH

Sleek design; easy 2D-to-3D conversion; networkable; great detail.

D’OH!

Pricey; highly reflective; difficult to calibrate; fancy stand offers few adjustments.

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