Samsung S27B970 WQHD LED Monitor

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OBTAINING WQHD RESOLUTION

It's helpful that Samsung included three different video cables with the S27B970D. To achieve the native 2560 x 1440 resolution requires a bit of care, however, and perhaps some Plug & Pray luck. This holds true for all WQHD monitors, AFAIK. It was enough of a challenge that I felt a rundown of the options that worked and those that didn't will prove helpful to readers.

DisplayPort: On paper, DisplayPort to DisplayPort should allow WQHD screen resolution without fail. In reality it depends on which version of DP is implemented in the video card, and whether the latest spec cable is used.

1. Fail was what happened when using DP between this monitor and an Intel Pentium G2120 CPU on an Intel DQ77KB mini-ITX board running Windows 7-64. That is, the combination failed to provide WQHD resolution, topping out at HD. The Intel board apparently has DP v1.1a, which should support WQHD but its specifications promise support only up to 1080p.

2. An ASUS P8Z77-V Pro board running a Sandy Bridge CPU was tried next, and 2560 x 1440 resolution was achieved with onboard graphics using the included DisplayPort cable. The ASUS board uses DP 1.1a, and its maximum resolution is stated to be WQHD.

3. On another recent PC, DisplayPort to an ASUS HD7870 graphics card allowed 2560 x 1440 resolution without issues. The HD7870 employs DisplayPort 1.2 with max resolution of 4096 x 2160 per display.

Mini-DisplayPort: It should allow WQHD screen resolution, like DP.

1. Mini-DisplayPort from an AMD HD6850 video card in a modern system worked fine. The Radeon HD6850 employs DisplayPort 1.2 with max resolution of 2560 x 1600 per display.

2. Mini-DisplayPort from the integrated graphics in the recently reviewed Intel NUC super-SFF computer sample worked fine. The Mini-DP port on the NUC is also a Thunderbolt interface, but its video details are not detailed by Intel. The Intel HD 4000 graphics is simply described as providing "High-Definition content at up to 1080p resolution.

Dual-link DVI: Standard DVI provides a maximum resolution of 1915 × 1436. Dual-link DVI-D is a variant that doubles the effective bandwidth, which allows WQHD resolution. A cable using Dual-link DVI-D connectors, which differ by having 24 main pins instead of the usual 18 pins, is included with the monitor.

1. DVI-D Dual-link was tried with a recent system running an AMD HD6850 video card, and WQHD resolution was achieved without issue.

2. DVI-D Dual-link on the ASUS P8Z77-V Pro system (mentioned above) failed to achieve WQHD, giving us just HD resolution. A close look at the ASUS board specs revealed that its DVI port supports only up to 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz. As noted above, on DP, WQHD was achieved with this board.

3. DVI-D Dual-link on an ASUS HD7870 graphics card allowed 2560 x 1440 resolution without issues.

Summary: Achieving WQHD
PC / Graphics Card Video Out Monitor WQHD
ASUS P8Z77-V Pro

DVI-D Dual Link

DVI-D Dual Link 1080p
AMD HD6850 DVI-D Dual Link DVI-D Dual Link yes
ASUS HD7870 DVI-D Dual Link DVI-D Dual Link yes
AMD HD6850 mini-DP DP yes
Intel NUC mini-DP DP yes
Intel DQ77KB DP DP 1080p
ASUS P8Z77-V Pro DP DP yes
ASUS HD7870 DP DP yes

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Samsung Syncmaster S27B970D 27" LED Monitor is very much a high end product, but rather than appeal to just imaging professionals, Samsung has targeted a broader market: The well-heeled tech consumer who is into digital photography, all the umpteen video entertainment that streams into computers these days, and/or gaming as well. The sleek modern style has broad appeal, and the beauty is much more than skin deep; its overall performance is excellent.

The factory calibration assures good color accuracy for the non-professional, while the built-in calibration engine gives imaging pros a tool for tweaking and maintaining accuracy. Straight out of the box, the monitor provides excellent performance, with vibrant colors, high contrast, great uniformity, sharp text, and great viewing angles. The ergonomics and physical adjustment capabilities are well integrated into the attractive design. The energy efficiency in normal use is very good at 34~36W, and the total absence of electronic noise is delightful!

For quibbles, I'd ask why only two USB 2.0 ports and no USB 3.0? (The cheaper Samsung S27A850D 27" LED Monitor, also WQHD, offers USB 3.0.) Also, since there are built in speakers, how hard would it have been to offer a built-in headphone jack? Some will also bemoan the absence of a built-in web cam. None of these are serious issues, in my view, but the thousand dollar price is a bit on the steep side. Samsung would probably point out that similarly spec'd NEC and Eizo monitors run 15~30% higher, but these are more firmly in the pro imaging camp... without the Samsung's decor-friendly style. The $999 Apple IPS 27" Thunderbolt has more connectivity, and there are a handful of competing WQHD IPS and PLS 27" monitors between $700 and $1,000 from Dell, HP, ASUS, and the aforementioned Samsung S27A850D.

The Samsung S27B970D deserves a recommendation for its excellent performance and style, and they'll have to work hard to pry this loaner sample off my desktop, but there's a fair bit of competition out there.

Our thanks to Samsung Canada for the sample.

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Articles of Related Interest
Low Power Monitors from Samsung and Lenovo
Samsung SyncMaster XL20 LED-backlight monitor

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Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.



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