LG 27EA83-D Review
LG's graphics monitor looks good on paper, but fails to do the only thing it really needs to.
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The modern computer monitor is becoming quite specialized. With hyper-thin laptops all the rage, many consumers think of a monitor-and-tower combo as something from ye olde '90s. The LG 27EA83-D ($999) is not your standard office display, however.
The high-price might befuddle at first, until you remember that this 27-inch WQHD monitor is a professional tool. Architects, printers, and graphic designers in particular require color accuracy, high resolution, and a flexible panel. Unfortunately, tests revealed that this graphics display is something of a dull blade: Out of the box, its color accuracy is quite poor.
While you could potentially tweak the 27EA83 to perfection using the on-board calibration software, it might be easier to simply buy one that's properly calibrated already—similarly priced options exist from ViewSonic and Samsung.
Sturdy and matte-finished
The LG 27EA83's panel is held aloft by a tall, thin neck that's capped in a glossy silver. The rest of the display is matte, however, describing tones between bright steel and burnished iron. The rear of the panel is a textured plastic, and the perimeter of the screen is wrapped in gray.
The first thing you'll probably notice is the rectangular pedestal that supports the display. Like a dunker's nightmare donut, the base has a giant hole in it. Why? Just 'cause. Fortunately, the 27EA83 is flexible for its size: Users can change height, tilt, and rotate to portrait.
Rotating the display to portrait orientation requires raising it to full height and tilting it back fully. This is perfect for viewing certain content (especially for designers), but it is also the best way to access the 27EA83's ports. Included are inputs for HDMI, DisplayPort, and DVI-D. There's also a USB 3.0 Hub (3 down, 1 up), a 3.5mm input for headphones, and AC in for the display's power source. Five touch controls line the front right side of the 27EA83's lower bezel; their functions change depending on whether the menu is on screen or not.
In a pleasing show of innovation, LG engineered an attachable bracket to hold the display's power brick. This allows the thicker power cord to serve as the point of tension, rather than the smaller adapter. The panel still slides easily along the neck, tilts, and rotates even with the power brick attached. Packaging includes the manual/driver disc, power cord, AC adapter, and DVI-D/A-B USB/DisplayPort cables.
ScreenSplit and True Color Pro
Like many professional monitors, the LG 27EA83's driver disc includes a few extra goodies: ScreenSplit and True Color Pro—software unique to LG. On our test laptop (Windows 8), neither of these programs were initially responsive, but after a bit of updating from LG's website, we were able to get them working.
Once downloaded from the driver disc (and potentially updated), the ScreenSplit icon will appear on your desktop. Double-clicking it splits up the screen in four different patterns: Full, halved, 2:1:1, and 1:1:1:1 ratios. You can then drag windows (such as pictures or blueprints) into the segregated areas, and they will automatically resize to fit. This feature isn't mind-blowing, but some professionals may find it useful. Rotating the display to portrait orientation even allows A4 standard ratio boxes.
True Color Pro is LG's on-board calibration software. To get the most out of True Color Pro, you'll need to have a calibration device to measure the screen's output—something serious graphic design professionals should have access to.
Once installed, True Color Pro will initialize and boot up. The 27EA83's USB hub houses a port specifically for receiving data from an on-screen calibrator. It's even marked... wait for it... "calibrator." True Color Pro will then send the monitor's picture data to the calibrator and adjust itself to user specifications. The ability to change light output, grayscale gamma, and color temperature prior to calibration is possible, but the 27EA83 defaults to the international ideals already.
Inconsistent and imperfect
If there's one place we're going to judge a graphics monitor harshly, it's performance. Numerous tests against both the sRGB standard color gamut and the Adobe RGB expanded color gamut—the one favored by graphics displays—revealed that the LG 27EA83 struggles to meet requirements for saturation and hue.
Against sRGB, this LG is able to saturate colors close to the necessary coordinates, but the hues of those colors are wrong. Not just secondaries, but primary colors as well are skewed away from their proper coordinates. Further, the monitor's RGB balance when displaying in the sRGB pre-set is quite awful for a graphics display: Primaries move unevenly across the signal intensity range, creating an imbalanced grayscale.
What's worse: The LG27EA gets close to the Adobe RGB standard, but cannot fully meet it. This is especially egregious, as graphic designers are going to require point-for-point color accuracy when transferring a client's work to print format. The 27EA83 saturates blue to its proper location, but its green, red, magenta, cyan, and yellow points are off—not by a huge amount, but fairly noticeably.
It looks as though buyers will want to invest in a calibrator, too, and make sure to put the 27EA83 through its paces before using it for professional work. Its pre-set sRGB and Adobe RGB modes are not accurate, even if they're close.
A strong physical product with one big inner flaw
From the outside, the LG 27EA83 appears perfectly sound. For $999, you're getting a flexible, highly specialized display with a large screen and high resolution. Unfortunately, testing revealed that the LG 27EA83 has some flaws with its natural, pre-set color production.
We think this display could prove a valuable companion to professionals, but only if they take the time to install True Color Pro, buy a calibrator, and tweak the 27EA83's color output. Out of the box, it falls short of Adobe RGB, and has trouble even with sRGB. For what you're paying, if anything should be guaranteed, it's color accuracy.
Behind the Screens
Lab time revealed that the LG 27EA83 is not the pinnacle of color accuracy it claims to be. While it's certainly capable of coming close to the sRGB and Adobe RGB standards, its native presets are either undersaturated or skewing into the wrong hues. Further, both pre-sets revealed a poor RGB balance across the grayscale. While the 27EA83 might work out with some serious tweaking, it's not a plug-and-play solution.
Close, but no cigar
The sRGB gamut is the color standard for monitors. It dictates that red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow should be displayed at just such a hue, with a certain amount of saturation. Our signal generator pushed those colors to the screen, and we watched as the 27EA83 completely missed the mark on almost all of them.
Adobe RGB Gamut
Falls short where it matters most
Adobe RGB is a much more expanded color space than sRGB, and represents a level of color saturation that only certain displays—like graphics monitors—are expected to meet. The ability to hit 99% or higher of Adobe RGB's color saturation is the 27EA83's claim to fame, but tests revealed that it is incapable of doing so right out of the box. While it might be able to get there with some calibrating, that's not an appealing prospect when you're already paying a grand.
Dumb and dumber
RGB balance refers to the way a display mixes red, green, and blue when creating its grayscale. For a graphics monitor, it should be a cakewalk. Unfortunately, the 27EA83 struggled to keep an even RGB balance in both its sRGB and Adobe RGB presets.
In the sRGB preset, things got even worse, with blue and red shifting wildly in opposite directions across the signal input as the monitor approached peak white. I would expect this kind of behavior in a "dynamic" mode, but it's almost unheard of in a color mode meant to adhere to standards. Designers, beware!