Samsung S27D390 LED Monitor Review
Who says monitors can't have swag?
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Monitors don't need to be complicated—just look at Samsung's new S27D390 (MSRP $299), a 27-inch display that's as much a fashionable desktop accessory as it is a useful tool.
These new "Samsung Simple" monitors revive the company's ToC (Touch of Color) aesthetic from years back, blending Samsung's own plane-to-line switching (PLS) panel type with colorful flair and simple extras.
At $300, the S27D390 offers users strong color accuracy, easy-to-use features, and a decent viewing angle—in other words, it's suited to most general tasks. The native 1080p resolution is a little low for this screen size, and the lack of support for the wider Adobe RGB color space confirms that this monitor is best suited for casual rather than professional use.
If you're looking for a solid general use display, but don't want to cheapen the appearance of your office or workspace, the fashionable S27D390 breaks the black-plastic mold and offers good value to boot.
Behind The Screens
Time in the lab with the blue-kissed Samsung S27D390 (MSRP $299.99) revealed competent if unambitious performance. Samsung's Plane-to-Line switching (PLS) panel technology produces accurate colors and decent contrast, but is limited by adherence to the sRGB color space, the minimum color space for modern monitors. In the same vein, the picture is not as crisp as it would be at a higher resolution; 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution is the smallest you can "get away with" on a 27-inch screen meant to display web content.
Overall, the performance here isn't amazing, but it's consistent and reliable in all the core areas.
As I said on the front page, the S27D390 adheres to the sRGB color space, which gives it roughly the same color abilities as a modern HDTV. Testing revealed that this Samsung is not hyper-accurate, but produces such small discrepancies in its primary and secondary colors (compared to the standard) that you'd never notice the difference. The colors are good enough, but don't have the same pop and vivacity as a wider color space with more saturation.
Jack-of-all-trades, master of none
The S27D390 doesn't try to be fancy—where modern monitors are concerned, it takes no risks with image quality, but also has no objective performance flaws. In a nutshell, this display performs reliably at a multitude of tasks, but specializes in nothing.
Users can expect rich, detailed color and good overall contrast. At normal viewing distances, the 1080p resolution is sharp enough for content with lots of dense text (like most websites), though picky eyes may find it a little blurry.
The S27D390 is well-suited to TV and movie content, too, providing good shadow definition and decent black levels. And, because the color standard for monitors is roughly identical to the color standard for HDTVs, content will match the hues your eyes are used to.
To simplify: This Samsung won't be an improvement over your HDTV, but if you don't already own one it's a fine stand-in—plus, it's almost definitely better than your laptop screen.
Last but not least, what about video and computer games? High-rez next-gen games will be a little cramped on this display, but the S27D390 is perfectly suited for consoles like the PS3, Xbox 360, and WiiU, where output tends to cap at 1080p@60Hz—a timing mode that this Samsung excels in. The included Game Mode function provides a fast-enough response time for most games, though it wouldn't work for anything truly competitive.
A display's grayscale comprises all of the black, gray, and white shades it produces. Displays produce grayscale elements by combining one red, one green, and one blue color filter. Uneven emphasis of the color filters, or sub-pixels, results in error within the grayscale—everything from reddish highlights to blue-tinged shadows.
The S27D390 tested with a total grayscale error (DeltaE) of 7.5, which is higher than the ideal of 3, but not so high as to cause visible tinting of neutral shades.
Design & Usability
Standing out from the pack.
Opinions may vary concerning the S27D390's appearance. However, my test unit is the black-and-blue one, and I don't personally feel that it bruises my sense of style. In fact, the S27D390 is like a breath of color in a stagnant black-plastic world.
Both the stand's neck and the panel's lower bezel are highlighted by a translucent blue that catches light and visually enhances the monitor from almost any angle, assuming you like the color, of course.
In other matters, this Samsung is indeed simple. Sparse ports—one VGA, one HDMI, and a headphone jack—live on the back of the panel. The screen tilts forward and backward by the standard +15°/-5°, allowing for a small amount of viewing flexibility, but you cannot raise/lower the screen's height or rotate it to portrait orientation.
The menu interface is equally simple. Four touch-sensitive buttons (and a power button) live to the right of the lower bezel. Touching one brings up a quick menu, of sorts. From here, you can open the full menu (for advanced image quality adjustments), turn Game Mode on or off, adjust the headphone volume, or choose between inputs.
Last but not least, there are a couple of extra software features worth mentioning. In the full menu, you'll find options for settings called Samsung MAGIC Bright and Samsung MAGIC Angle. They aren't real magic, of course, but they're still welcome extras.
Samsung MAGIC Bright contains pre-sets for various kinds of content, and will attempt to set the best contrast and luminance for when you're watching a movie versus browsing the web. Samsung MAGIC Angle attempts to optimize the screen for different viewing situations, offering pre-sets like "Lean Back mode" or "Stand mode."
Perfect for the easy-to-please
At $300, the Samsung S27D390 is not an outstanding value. In fact, that price is about average for a 27-inch display with an IPS panel. But that's not what Samsung is aiming for. Rather this is yet another design-conscious product from a very design-conscious company. The S27D390 grabs attention with its unique look and interface: It's sexier than the average monitor, and you're expected to pay a little more for that. Fortunately, in this case you don't have to pay that much more.
For general tasks—browsing the web, watching Netflix, or playing console games—the S27D390 is a perfect choice. Just keep in mind that more specialized tasks—graphic design, video editing—require higher resolution or wider color production, and are a little beyond this "simple" monitor's abilities.
A closer look at this monitor's RGB emphasis reveals that its grayscale error can be traced to over-emphasis of the red sub-pixel: Around 50 IRE, the S27D390 begins to emphasis the red filter more than the green and blue filters, resulting in growing error as luminance increases. Despite this, the overall error is minimal enough that I didn't notice any pink- or red-tinged grayscale elements, even within the brightest highlights.
Gamma (or gamma curve) is a measurement of how much luminance a display adds to the grayscale at each step. Most monitors adhere to a gamma standard of 2.2, which is suitable for a room with a normal amount of ambient light. The S27D390 tested with a gamma of about 2.4, which makes it more suitable for a darker room than a bright room, and helps preserve shadow detail during TV and movie content.