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Samsung C27HG70 Monitor UK Review: The first HDR gaming monitor

Written by  Aug 29, 2017

Samsung’s latest gaming monitor claims to have a response time of just one millisecond, the C27HG70 is also the world’s first HDR gaming monitor.

 

Design, features and build quality

A new monitor rarely raises eyebrows but the C27HG70 is an exception. Tiny bezels surround the 1800R curved panel, and the wide, almost claw-like stand holds the monitor with the double-jointed arm design. It's not just about looks but practicality: it provides full height, tilt, pivot and swivel adjustments for getting the monitor in the perfect position.

Connectivity is excellent too. There’s a single DisplayPort 1.4 input alongside two HDMI 2 ports; a 3.5mm audio output jack; and the two USB 3 ports are capable of delivering up to 1.5A per port when the fast charging mode is enabled through the monitor’s onscreen display (OSD). As mentioned in previous articles, the Samsung’s OSD is so easy to use: the joystick found on the bottom-right-hand corner of the monitor makes it quick and easy to dive in and change settings, and the clear, through the straightforward menu system.

One of the more unusual features of Samsung’s gaming monitors is the addition of “Arena Lighting” a strip of LED lights provides a gentle blue glow behind the monitor. It's a clever touch: bias lighting is proven to reduce the eye strain caused by viewing a display in darker lighting conditions, and can also improve the perceived depth of blacks and darker greys.

Image quality

The Samsung C27HG70’s 2,560 x 1,440 VA panel uses quantum dot technology to reproduce a wider range of colour. In our tests, the panel is capable of reproducing 99.5% of the sRGB colour gamut. As you’d hope, colour accuracy is a high point too – a measured average Delta E of 1.75 is an excellent result. If you want a gaming monitor that can also turn its hand to photo or video editing, the C27HG70 will cope comfortably.

A maximum brightness of 400cd/m2 in the monitor’s Standard response time mode will prove bright enough for pretty much any lighting conditions. However, this figure drops substantially when set to either of the “Fast” or “Fastest” modes and the maximum brightness dips down to 250cd/m2. This, to me, is too dull to be used in a brightly lit room – so you’ll need to dim the lights to take full advantage of the monitor’s fastest modes. The quality of the backlighting passed our brightness-uniformity tests admirably.

High contrast ratios are par for the course with VA panel technology, but nevertheless the C27HG60 acquits itself well with both SDR and HDR sources. With an SDR source, the combination of high brightness and a 0.16cd/m2 black level produced a high 2,524:1 contrast ratio.

 

Gaming performance

You’d expect a 144Hz monitor with a quoted 1 millisecond response time to keep up with the very fastest gaming action, and it does. Enabling the “Fast” or “Fastest” response-time settings and the “Low Input Lag” mode works really well for competitive gaming. After hours of gaming on the C27HG70, I was consistently impressed by the monitor’s ability to control unwanted visual artefacts.

AMD FreeSync support is back on the feature list, and the C27HG70 now supports AMD FreeSync 2. Set up a Radeon RX series card with the latest Polaris architecture, and you can enjoy crystal-clear, HDR gaming at the highest frame rates. Nvidia users can still take advantage of the monitor’s 144Hz refresh rate, but they are limited to using standard V-Sync – which does cause lag.

HDR performance

High dynamic range (HDR) is what it's all about, and this is the first time that the technology has made its way to Samsung’s gaming monitors.

A display’s ability to produce a high maximum brightness is the key to great HDR performance, it doesn't quite achieve the peak brightness of TV's. But given how close you sit to a monitor compared to a TV, there should be enough to provide pleasingly intense highlight detail.

Using the C27HG70 with HDR-enabled consoles such as the Xbox One S is simple. Just plug in the HDMI cable, load a 4K HDR Blu-ray in the drive, and you’re away. The console detects the monitor as an HDR-enabled panel, and passes all of Microsoft’s checks in the Xbox settings menu. If you’re looking to playback HDR content through a PS4, the Samsung C27HG70 will be able to display the content without any issues – but not at its native 4K resolution. HDR and Windows 10 is a different matter. You’ll need to make sure you’ve got a compatible graphics card before you start.

If your PC contains an unlisted graphics card that isn’t listed, it can be a bit and miss. You’ll encounter similar problems with any graphics cards that don’t support the DisplayPort 1.4 standard required for HDR compatibility. Upgrade to one of the supported cards, and you can use either connection type.

The first time you enable HDR through the Windows display settings, you might wonder if something’s gone horribly wrong. As the Windows desktop, and most apps for that matter, don’t support HDR natively, you’ll be presented with a dim, washed-out image. Don’t panic, though: it’s not until you fire up an HDR-enabled game that you’ll notice the benefits.

Currently, only a handful of titles actually support HDR. At the time of writing, you can take your pick from the seven games listed below.

• Shadow Warrior 2
• Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
• Hitman (2016)
• Resident Evil 7
• Mass Effect: Andromeda
• Obduction
• Paragon

Shadow Warrior 2 provided a perfect demonstration of the benefits of HDR. Colours become more lifelike thanks to the more natural transition from dark shadows to intensely bright highlights, and reflections or sunlight glinting off objects such as swords or guns suddenly look far more realistic. Look up to the sky and you’ll see an intensely bright sun alongside the clear outline of delicate, wispy clouds – the kind of detail that becomes bleached out almost entirely in SDR mode.

HDR still isn’t a plug-and-play experience on PC, however. In Shadow Warrior 2, I had to reduce the in-game gamma level from 1 to 0.8 to stop images looking washed out – you’ll need to spend a little time experimenting with different games’ settings to achieve the best visuals.

Price and competition

Scanning through the Samsung C27HG70’s specifications is like reading through a gamer’s monitor-buying wishlist. This is a 27in, 144Hz gaming monitor with HDR, a 1800R curved panel, AMD FreeSync 2 technology (which is also backwards compatible with FreeSync 1), and the VA quantum-dot panel promises more than just quick response times – it’s also capable of displaying a wider range of colour than standard VA panels.

At £600 in the UK, the Samsung C27HG70 certainly isn’t a cheap gaming monitor.

As the only HDR gaming monitor currently available, the Samsung has little in the way of direct competitors. There are plenty of excellent non-curved, non-HDR 144Hz displays out there, though. If £600 is beyond your means, then you can take your pick of the Acer XF270HUA at around £480 with an IPS panel, the AOC AGON AG271QX at around £430 with a TN panel, and the ASUS ROG PG279Q at around £690 with an IPS panel and Nvidia G-Sync.

Verdict

Despite the HDR niggles, the Samsung C27HG70 is a superb gaming monitor. Class-leading colour accuracy, response time and input lag would be enough to win many gamer’s hearts, but those traits combined with the Samsung’s other talents – the gorgeous design, HDR and curved panel – go a long way towards making the price look reasonable. Given that the larger 32in model only costs £50 more, that makes the CHG70 look like even better value.

Be in no doubt, though, that you’re paying a premium for HDR. And while the C27HG70 works perfectly with the current crop of HDR-enabled consoles, Windows 10’s implementation is still a long way from the plug-and-play experience delivered by its console cousins. Clearly, this isn’t Samsung’s fault but, as ever, being an early adopter has its downsides.

If you’re happy to spend time tweaking in-game settings to get HDR just so, however – and you don’t mind paying a premium for top-notch performance – then there’s no question about it: the Samsung C27HG70 delivers the kind of visual fireworks that no other monitor can.

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