Samsung S27B971D 27-Inch QHD Monitor, Reviewed

Samsung's S27B971D is a refreshed flagship 27-inch QHD monitor selling for $200 less than last-gen's model. It certainly looks impressive on paper, with its factory calibration and internal look-up table capability. Does it measure up in our lab, though?

A little more than a year ago, I wrote VP2770-LED Vs. S27B970D: 27" Monitors At 2560x1440, reviewing Samsung's flagship S27B970D at $1200. It offered high-end luxury, slick styling, a large feature set, and factory calibration. After a handful of tweaks and a $200 price reduction, the follow-up S27B971D is ready for our suite of display tests.

QHD monitors, with a native resolution of 2560x1440, are becoming more commonplace on enthusiast desktops, despite the fact that they still start north of $600. There are a few gray-market exceptions. For example, Auria's EQ276W remains a terrific value at around $400. At the other end of the spectrum, a few manufacturers distance themselves from the pack by adding features and improving performance at a correspondingly higher price point. Atop the price ladder sits the Samsung S27B971D.

Any display selling for four figures needs to offer lots of pixels, a long feature set, or, preferably, both. Top-end performance goes without saying. The only other screen we’ve tested that includes a factory calibration is Asus’ PA279Q, which also boasts a CMS and selectable color gamuts. The PA279Q sells for $850. So, we want to know how Samsung justifies that extra $150.

Brand
Samsung
Model
S27B971D
MSRP
$1000
Panel Type
PLS
Backlight
W-LED, edge array
Screen Size
27-inch
Max Resolution
2560x1440
Max Refresh Rate
60 Hz
Aspect Ratio
16:9
Response Time (GTG)
5 ms
Brightness (cd/m2)
300 High Bright, 220 Standard
Speakers
Yes
VGA
-
DVI
1
DisplayPort
1
HDMI
1
Audio In
via HDMI or DP
Headphone
-
USB
1 up, 2 down
Panel Dimensions
W x H x D w/base
25.4 x 18.4-22.3 x 9.7 in
645 x 467-567 x 247 mm
Panel Thickness
.9 in / 23 mm
Weight
16.5 lbs / 7.5 kg
Warranty
Three years

On paper, the S27B971D's specifications don't necessarily explain why the display is so expensive. It’s not terribly bright, nor does it have the higher refresh rate that would make it attractive to gamers. What we can see is that it's aimed squarely at graphics professionals. Samsung touts factory calibration and out-of-box accuracy as the main selling points. And there's one feature it offers that no other company does: the ability to interface a calibration instrument directly with the monitor’s internal look-up table.

We’ve discussed LUTs in the past. This is best way to add functionality to a monitor’s OSD so you can arrive at a more precise calibration than would be possible otherwise. Samsung eliminates the need to add expensive software and pattern sources to your graphics toolkit. Its application, Natural Color Expert, is included in the package, along with support for all meters commonly in use today like the X-Rite i1Pro and Display2 products. Not only does this software address the usual calibration parameters, but it adds screen uniformity correction to the mix.

During the course of today's review, we'll run through NCE’s entire process. You'll also see us calibrate using more conventional steps. Samsung isn't a company we know to cut corners; however, our tests will show whether it comes up short in any particular metric to achieve that $200 price reduction.