Samsung’s Series 9 (SB970) monitor is the best we've seen in 2013, and uses the company’s own PLS tech for incredibly vibrant colour and excellent viewing angles. It looks great, works well and is almost TV-like in its built-in features.
There are a few monitors on the market now that use plane-line switching technology in their monitors, like the Asus PB278Q. Samsung has used PLS for a while, and it has benefits over in-plane switching in brightness, viewing angles, and clarity that make it appealing for quality-hungry users.
Samsung has been one of the driving forces in the take-up of LED TVs around the world. It has a long history of making some of the best LCD panels, with some of the best backlighting technology available. This tech isn’t just restricted to the company’s TVs — last year we saw the Series 8 Business Monitor (a PLS panel, of course) and we loved it.
The new Series 9 monitor bridges the gap between the Korean company’s display divisions — it’s a computer monitor, but it looks like a TV, and it has built-in speakers that are surprisingly loud and a connectivity setup to rival the best TVs.
Samsung Series 9 (S27B970): Design and setup
The new Series 9 looks quite smart — it wouldn’t look out of place in an office, but it’d be equally at home in a penthouse apartment. The screen is finished in a very glossy coating, which might be annoying if you’re in a room lit by sunlight, but it also makes the entire package look stylish. The gloss is both a good and a bad thing — it makes colours look awesome, but it’s easy to see reflections and you’ll have to turn screen brightness up to compensate.
The screen’s bezel isn’t particularly thin, which is a pity — this is about our only complaint with the Series 9’s design. It’s a deep piano black, under the same glossy single-pane glass coating that the screen gets, which has the convenient side-effect of boosting contrast.
At a full 27 diagonal inches of screen size, the Series 7 is just about as big as you could want a computer monitor to be. A few companies — including Samsung, Apple, and Dell — make 30-inch screens, but we think that anything around the 24 to 27-inch mark is the perfect size. There's no swivelling base or portrait-style rotation on the screen, which is annoying, but it does at least tilt forwards and backwards over a wide range.
The base of the Series 9, which comes attached and can’t be removed, houses all the monitor’s connectors — there’s dual-link DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, USB input and a power socket. Samsung also throws a MHL-capable HDMI cable in the included accessory kit, because the Series 9 is MHL-compatible. MHL means you can easily mirror your smartphone or tablet’s screen on the Series 9, while also charging the device you’re watching from — it’s a great extra.
The base also contains the SB970’s twin 7-Watt speakers. If you connect the monitor over DisplayPort or HDMI, you’ll be able to use the monitor’s internal stereo speakers — and keep your workspace a lot cleaner than if you were using a set of desktop speakers or headphones. Disappointingly, the Series 9 monitor doesn’t have a headphone jack built-in, so if you switch between speakers and headphones often you won’t find any help here. There are two side-mounted USB 2.0 ports, so you won’t have to lean down to your computer to plug in a flash drive or cable.
We really like the design and features of the Series 9 (SB970). It’s the best all-in-one monitor we’ve come across, and we’re definitely a fan of the integrated speakers. Setting it up is the work of a few seconds — since the stand is not detachable, all you have to do is take the monitor out of its box, plug in the DC power brick (no built-in storage for this, unlike on the rear of the Series 8) and a video cable (we opted for DisplayPort).
Samsung Series 9 (S27B970): Performance and picture quality
The screen of the Series 9 uses Samsung’s plane-line switching technology, which means hugely improved viewing angles and colour accuracy over a standard IPS or TN screen. We saw the same screen on the Series 8 (SA850).
In the Series 8 from 2012, the screen was extremely detailed and clear, and the same is thankfully true of 2013’s Series 9. We’d wager that it’s even clearer and more detailed than its predecessor, since there’s no anti-glare coating on the outside of the panel to add haze and break up reflections.
With 2560 pixels horizontally by 1440 vertically, there’s plenty of detail to see — far more than with any 1080p screen on the market, and more than any anti-glare-coated 1440p screen we’ve come across until now. Lean in close and you can see each individual pixel, in a way that anti-glare screens hide — it’s a pin-sharp effect that some people like and some don’t, but if you’re watching video, playing a game or typing a text document, the Series 9’s screen looks great.
We watched the 1440p-optimised version of TimeScapes to test out the Series 9’s video performance, using both HDMI and DisplayPort to look for any difference. Showing a high-quality video in its native resolution, the Series 9 looks absolutely brilliant. Colours are rich and vibrant and well-saturated like on a good TV, and detail levels are just right — although back off the Sharpness a tad for optimum results. There’s little detail lost when the Series 9 is up-scaling 1080p video, so Blu-rays still look as good as you’d expect.
You can delve into the screen’s settings menus to optimise each input for PC or AV (with AV changing the interpolation mode for up-scaling, over-stretching any lower-resolution video slightly), but we found PC to be the best choice in all situations. Similarly, you can adjust brightness, contrast, sharpness, response time (Normal, Faster, and Fastest), and customise the screen’s white balance, with a custom setting and 500K increments from 4000K to 10000K, and colour balance with a 100-point setting for each of the three Red, Green and Blue channels. There’s enough adjustability here for most users to tweak the screen to suit their tastes.
If you don’t want to meddle, there are five presets — Standard, High Bright, Cinema, sRGB and Calibrated. If you choose sRGB or the factory-optimised Calibrated mode, you aren’t able to adjust gamma, colour or white balance, but we found sRGB to be the best-looking for Web, PC and graphics work while Calibrated is the most colour-accurate (although a little bright by default for our office).
If you connect over HDMI or DisplayPort, you can use the Series 9’s built-in 7-Watt stereo speakers. These are housed in the monitor’s base, and fire forwards — they’re not going to compare to a proper pair of speakers or headphones, and they’re a little lacking in mid-range and bass, but they’re perfectly fine for watching a couple of music videos on YouTube. We found the speakers’ sound more than loud enough to fill the small office space we tested the Series 9 monitor in, although it’s a little too sharp and tinny at full power.
Samsung Series 9 (S27B970): Conclusion
Samsung’s Series 9, although it’s pricy, ticks all the boxes that a premium monitor should. It looks very good both switched on and switched of, has a plethora of inputs and outputs, and has the added bonus of decent integrated speakers.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.