Samsung S27E650C

Author: Adam Simmons
Date published: November 26th 2015

 

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Introduction

Samsung in particular are trying to promote the idea of ‘curved displays’. By bringing the edges of the screen closer to the eye and providing a more uniform viewing experience, a slight concave curve to the screen is supposed to promote better viewing comfort. Having tested some 34” UltraWide models such as the S34E790C with gently curved screens, we certainly found it to be a subtle but welcome addition. The S27E650C is a 27” 16:9 display with gentle curve, so it will be interesting to see what if anything this adds to the experience. And of course how the monitor fairs in other areas.

Specifications

This model features a 60Hz 27” SVA (Vertical Alignment) panel, with a gentle 4000R curve to the screen. True 8-bit colour is supported and a 4ms grey to grey response time is specified, which should be approached with caution. Some key ‘talking points’ of the specification have been highlighted in blue below.

Screen size: 27 inches

Panel type: Samsung SVA (Vertical Alignment) LCD Panel

Native resolution: 1920 x 1080

Typical maximum brightness: 300 cd/m²

Colour support: 16.7 million (8-bits per subpixel without dithering)

Response time (G2G): 4ms

Refresh rate: 60Hz

Weight: 9.62kg

Contrast ratio: 3,000:1 (Plus ‘MEGA’ Dynamic Contrast)

Viewing angle: 178º horizontal, 178º vertical

Power consumption: 20.6W typical

Backlight: WLED (White Light Emitting Diode)

Typical price as reviewed: $380


Features and aesthetics

The screen has a modern home-office design, with brushed metal effect matte plastic used throughout. The top and side bezels are fairly slender at around 12mm (0.47 inches) whilst the bottom bezel is thicker, at 23mm (0.91 inches). You don’t feel cheated when you turn the screen on, either. There is nothing other than a tiny sliver of inner panel border – this is not a ‘dual-bezel’ or ‘cinema screen’ design in that respect and what you see is very much what you get. The screen surface is light matte anti-glare, helping to preserve vibrancy and clarity better than some matte screen surfaces. The screen itself also has a subtle (4000R) curve to it, with the effect that both this and the screen surface has on the viewing experience explored a little later. Apologies for the strange colourful bands on the last image – these are moiré from the camera and were not visible on the monitor.

A modern look

Displaying an image

The OSD (On Screen Display) and power state of the monitor is controlled by tactile buttons towards the far right of the bottom bezel. These are forward facing with a rounded design. The power button has a small illuminated power symbol in the middle. This glows dark blue when the monitor is on and flashes when the monitor is on standby (assuming the power button is not pressed to turn the monitor ‘off’). The following video highlights the functionality of these buttons and the OSD of the monitor.



From the side the monitor uses a titanium-coloured brushed metal effect plastic for the screen itself. The rear part of the stand uses plain matte plastic of a similar colour. You can see how robust the included stand is from this angle, too. It not only looks (and feels) rather solid, it provides strong ergonomic flexibility; tilt (5° forwards and 20° backwards), height adjustment (130mm or 5.12 inches), swivel (30° left and 30° right) and pivot (90° clockwise rotation into portrait). At the left side there is a 3.5mm headphone jack and 2 USB 3.0 ports, too. The screen is 25.40mm (an inch) thick at thinnest point, bulking out centrally where the stand attaches. The stand depth is 257mm (10.12 inches) according to our measurements. With the screen at lowest height the bottom edge clears the desk by around 54mm (2.13 inches) with the top of the screen 431.80mm (17.00 inches) above the desk.

A side view

Portrait viewing

The rear of the screen uses a quite fetching combination of brushed metal effect matte black plastic with a central region of titanium-coloured matte plastic. As noted previously, this colour is used for the back of the stand as well. Towards the bottom of the stand is a cable tidy. Towards the bottom right of the screen itself there is a Kensington security lock socket. There are also slots for the optional Samsung SPU10 sound bar to attach. The included stand attaches using two M3 screws to the bottom two holes of a 100 x 100mm VESA mounting area. An alternative VESA 100 stand or mount can be used instead, if preferred.

Some nice touches at the back

At the bottom of the titanium-coloured central region there are down-firing ports. To the left of the stand is an AC power input and to the right are the remaining ports; DP, HDMI, DVI, USB 3.0 upstream and 2 further USB 2.0 downstream ports (4 total). The included accessories vary by retailer and region, but will always include a power cable and usually a USB 3.0 cable plus at least one display connection cable.

The ports

Calibration

Subpixel layout and screen surface

As mentioned previously, a light matte anti-glare screen surface is used on this monitor. The haze value appears to be marginally higher than that used on some modern AMVA+ panels such as that used for the BenQ EW2750ZL. The surface texture of the Samsung is fairly smooth, though, so it provides an image free from obvious graininess whilst retaining good glare-handling characteristics for external light. There is still a bit of a hazy look in places (some matte screen surfaces give an even smoother look to whites and light colours) but it is much better than your typical TN panel and Full HD IPS matte screen surface.

Subpixel layout

The subpixel layout of the monitor is the common RGB (Red, Green and Blue) stripe, shown above. As this is the usual layout, there is no need to run ClearType on Windows or worry about text fringing as a MacOS user. You may still wish to run ClearType to fine-tune according to preferences, however. You may also notice that the pixels are a bit squatter than usual with relatively thick gaps above and below pixels. This becomes clearer if you compare the structure to something like the EW2750ZL (below).


Subpixel layout

Due to a combination of the pixel density not being particularly high and perhaps some other factors not identified here, you can actually see the effects of this sub-optimal structure if you’ve got fairly keen eyesight or notice this sort of thing. From our normal viewing distance we could make out faint interlacing patterns on some medium and light content, as the pixel gap appears as very thin horizontal stripes that are slightly darker than the content displayed. For darker content the gap is indistinguishable from the content itself. This isn’t something that all users will notice and isn’t hugely obtrusive, but worth noting as it would be nicer if the pixels were arranged in a way that prevents this effect. The squat pixels don’t contribute to a noticeably lower sharpness than you might expect from a 27” Full HD monitor with such a screen surface, however. There is perhaps a subtle difference – one which no sharpness control adjustments or ClearType adjustments will effectively counteract.

Testing the presets

There are a few ‘MagicBright’ presets to choose from; ‘Custom’, ‘Standard’, ‘Cinema’ and ‘Dynamic Contrast’. There are also various other settings available in the OSD, including ‘Gamma’ and ‘Color Tone’ settings. There is also an ‘Eye Saver Mode’, designed to promote the most relaxing possible viewing and a ‘Game Mode’. We explore these two modes alongside various other OSD settings in the following table. General observations are included alongside some readings from a Datacolor Spyder5ELITE colorimeter. The monitor was kept in its ‘plug and play’ state with no additional drivers or ICC profiles loaded. The test system used Windows 10 and an Nvidia GTX 970 connected to the monitor via DisplayPort. Unless otherwise stated assume settings not mentioned were left at default, with the exception of the ‘Test Settings’ where various changes were made.

Similar observations were made when connected to a system with an AMD GPU. Note that if you’re connecting the monitor to a PC using HDMI, you should ensure the colour signal is corrected as detailed in this article. In addition to ensuring the graphics driver is doing the right thing, there’s an additional setting in the ‘Picture’ menu of the monitor’s OSD called ‘HDMI Black Level’ to pay attention to. Once you’ve got the graphics driver using the correct ‘Full Range 0-255 RGB’ signal you should ensure ‘HDMI Black Level’ is set to ‘Normal’ rather than ‘Low’. Games console users should refer to the section of this article under the heading ‘How do I set up my monitor for console gaming’.

Monitor Profile
Gamma (central average)
White point (kelvins) Notes
Gamma = Mode1 (Factory Defaults) 2.2 6453K The image is very much on the bright side but well balanced otherwise. Shades look quite vivid overall, but due to the viewing angle behaviour appear less saturated towards the flanks and bottom of the screen.
Gamma = Mode2
2.4 6453K As above, but extra depth to shades. Some users might like this look, but it greatly increases perceived ‘black crush’, which we explore later. This essentially causes many darker shades to simply blend into each other.
Gamma = Mode3 2.7 6459K As above, but things now look much too deep and the shade distinction at the low end is very poor due to excessive ‘black crush’.
Color Tone = Warm2 2.2 4105K The image appears warm in this setting, as you’d expect from the name. Blue light output is reduced significantly (more so if you also lower the brightness), making it suitable for relaxing viewing in the evening. This is a very effective ‘Low Blue Light’ setting which maintains good contrast and allows full control over brightness.
Eye Saver Mode 1.8 4385K This mode is an alternative ‘Low Blue Light’ setting. It not only significantly reduces brightness (non-adjustable) and reduces the blue colour channel massively, it also purposefully reduces the contrast ratio to a small fraction of its usual value. This provides a flooded look to the image but some users may find this more comfortable to view.
Game Mode 2.4 6484K As is usual for this setting, it hugely over-saturates and over-sharpens the image. Things do not look as the creators of the content will have intended with this setting and the shade variety is hugely reduced with shades blending into one another due to them being bunched up closer to the edge of the colour gamut.
Test Settings
(modified as below)
2.2 6476K As per ‘Gamma1’ with a fair reduction in brightness. The strong overall balance is maintained but the screen is more comfortable to use.

Straight from the box the image on the S27E650C was surprisingly well balanced, with strong central gamma tracking and excellent white point balance for the usual ‘6500K’ target. The colorimeter liked what it was seeing and to the eye the image was overly bright but otherwise quite rich and varied. Due to the viewing angle restrictions of the panel type, some saturation was lost peripherally. Shades generally appeared their richest towards the central region of the screen and further up, from a normal viewing position. This was not as pronounced as you’d see on some VA models of this size, particularly when comparing the centre to the edges of the screen. Really it looked fairly comparable in this department to some of the newer ‘AMVA+’ models such as the BenQ EW2750ZL. It was possible to gain even richer shades with more depth, if that’s your thing, by changing the ‘Gamma’ mode. As you do this, though, the effect of so-called ‘black crush’ is increased markedly and you lose a lot of low end distinction. So it’s really a trade-off based on preferences – and the default ‘Gamma1’ was by far the best in this regard.

There were a few additional settings of interest. There was the usual unwelcome addition of ‘Game Mode’, which does a good job of upsetting the image balance and making it look wholly unnatural. You can see from the second gamma curve below that things are extremely funky – the most bizarre gamma behaviour we’ve seen, possibly. Compare this to the top image that shows gamma tracking for our ‘Test Settings.

Gamma 'Test Settings'

Gamma 'Test Settings'

Gamma 'Game Mode'

Gamma 'Game Mode'

Also worth a mention is the ‘Eye Saver Mode’, which we do actually see the utility in. This is a very effective ‘Low Blue Light’ setting which, amongst other things, hugely reduces the contrast ratio of the screen. This is designed to reduce the time spent by the eye accommodating changing light levels – assuming light in your viewing environment remains the same as well. We certainly found this setting pretty comfortable to use in the evening or other times we wanted a more relaxing viewing experience, but preferred the ‘Warm2’ setting for our ‘Low Blue Light’ needs. Importantly, this doesn’t destroy one of the key advantages of this monitor – contrast. Furthermore, as explored later on the monitor is not ‘flicker-free’ in ‘Eye Saver Mode’ because the brightness level that you’re forced to use is low enough that PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) is employed. The images below show gamma curves for our ‘Test Settings’ and ‘Game Mode’, respectively.

Test settings

Our test settings simply used the factory defaults with reduced brightness. This provided a strong balance to the image without introducing excessive depth, overbearing black crush or unwanted tints. It was very pleasing to see such a good default colour setup, something which is quite rare to see to this degree on VA models. User preferences and indeed individual units do vary, so these settings are just to be used as a reference rather than something which must be copied verbatim.

Brightness= 42 (according to preferences and lighting)

Response Time= Faster



Contrast and brightness

Contrast ratios

We used a KM CS-200 light meter to measure white and black luminance levels. Using these readings, static contrast ratios were calculated. The following table shows these readings and calculations using various settings, including some mentioned earlier in the review. Assume that settings not listed are left at default, with the exception of the ‘Test Settings’ where various adjustments were made. Black highlights on this table indicate the highest white luminance, lowest black luminance and peak contrast ratio recorded. Blue highlights indicate the results under the ‘Test Settings’.

Monitor Profile White luminance (cd/m²) Black luminance (cd/m²)) Contrast ratio (x:1)
100% brightness 322 0.11 2927
80% brightness 267 0.09 2967
60% brightness 215 0.07 3071
40% brightness 159 0.05 3180
20% brightness 109 0.04 2725
0% brightness 66 0.02 3300
Gamma = Mode2 321 0.11 2918
Gamma = Mode3 321 0.11 2918
Color Tone = Warm2 231 0.11 2100
Eye Saver Mode 83 0.95 87
Game Mode 321 0.11 2918
Test Settings 166 0.06 2767

The average contrast ratio with only brightness adjusted was a strong 3028:1, just as specified for the panel. This kind of contrast ratio is sufficient to give black text and deep shades quite an ‘inky’ look and helps bright elements stand out nicely against darker surroundings as we explore later. Because our ‘Test Settings’ involved adjustment to brightness only, contrast remained much the same. 2767:1 was calculated here, lower only due to the effect of rounding down the black luminance (measuring instrument precision only 2 DP). With the ‘Color Tone = Warm2’ setting, contrast was reduced due to the significant colour channel adjustments. At 2100:1, it remains quite strong however. The ‘Eye Saver Mode’, on the other hand, intentionally reduces contrast massively – to just 87:1, which is not a typo. As mentioned earlier this can potentially reduce the amount of time the eye spends accommodating fluctuating light levels. However; its effectiveness depends on the ambient lighting and not everyone would find it any more or less relaxing than using an alternative ‘Low Blue Light’ setting such as ‘Warm2’. And for those users, why would they nullify one of the main advantages of the monitor unnecessarily?

The peak luminance recorded was 322 cd/m² and the lowest white luminance was 66 cd/m². This isn’t as dim as some models will provide but should be sufficiently low for most users. If not it can be reduced further by altering colour channels and/or contrast as well, at the expense of static contrast. The luminance adjustment range is therefore 256 cd/m². There is also a ‘Dynamic Contrast’ setting, specifically as a dedicated ‘MagicBright’ preset. As is usual for such a setting on a Samsung monitor, the backlight rapidly adjusts to the changes in the relative ‘light’ and ‘dark’ on screen at any one time. The backlight is controlled, as with all current LCD monitors, as a single unit and therefore it can only compensate for the overall picture. This tended to overdo the brightness for our taste during mixed images, even if there were a lot of dark elements within it. It did dim effectively for particularly dark images or scenes, but we much prefer manual control of brightness and the fairly strong static contrast of the monitor instead.

PWM (Pulse Width Modulation)

The monitor uses a hybrid dimming solution. It does not use PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) as long as the brightness is kept below ‘30’ in the OSD. Above this brightness level, DC (Direct Current) modulation is used and therefore the backlight is flicker-free. At brightness levels of ‘30’ or lower, PWM is used with a cycling frequency of 180Hz. As mentioned previously this means that the ‘Eye Saver’ setting is not flicker-free as it forces the use of PWM. That makes the ‘Warm2’ alternative ‘Low Blue Light’ setting seem even more appealing, as the backlight doesn’t flicker provided brightness is kept at ‘31’ or above. For reference, as it wasn’t covered in the contrast table earlier, a brightness of ‘31’ provided 133 cd/m² centrally on our unit with other settings at default and 97 cd/m² using ‘Warm2’.

Luminance uniformity

Whilst observing a black screen in a dark room there was no obvious backlight bleed. There was perhaps just a little touch of clouding towards the bottom left, but nothing of concern. It should be noted that individual units may vary in this regard, but as the best light blockers VA panels do tend to be relatively strong in this area. The image below was taken from a couple of metres back to eliminate something we’ll call ‘VA glow’. This silverish-purple glow appears most noticeably from decentralised viewing angles, as demonstrated a little later on. From a normal viewing position it has a mild effect towards the bottom of the monitor, particularly towards the corners. It is in a different league to ‘IPS glow’, which many users will have heard as a common complaint for IPS-type panels, as it is nowhere near as intense or noticeable.

Monitor displaying black in a dark room

The Spyder5ELITE was used to analyse the uniformity of lighter colours. 9 equidistant white laid out across the screen from top left to bottom right were analysed using the colorimeter. The table below shows the luminance recorded at each quadrant alongside the percentage deviation between a given quadrant and the brightest point recorded.

Luminance uniformity table

Luminance uniformity table

The luminance uniformity of the screen was decent overall. The brightest point recorded was ‘quadrant 5’ in the centre of the screen (164.4 cd/m²). The greatest deviation from this occurred at ‘quadrant 3’ towards the top right (142.6 cd/m² which is 13% dimmer than centre). A 12% deviation was recorded at ‘quadrant 7’ towards the bottom left (145.1 cd/m²). Elsewhere brightness was between 5-10% of the central value. The contour map below represents these deviations graphically, with darker greys representing lower luminance and therefore greater deviation from the central point than lighter greys.

Luminance uniformity map

Luminance uniformity map

The consistency of colour temperature was also measured using the same 9 quadrants. For this, deviations are assigned DeltaE values, which shows the deviation between each quadrant and that closest to the 6500K (D65) daylight white point target. Higher DeltaE values represent greater deviation from this target, with any value > DeltaE 3 considered significant deviation that some users would readily pick up by eye.

Colour temperature uniformity map

Colour temperature uniformity map

The results here were excellent. No significant deviation was recorded, with DeltaE 1.5 towards the top left being the highest deviation. Elsewhere deviation was under DeltaE 1.0 which is outstanding. Note that you can expect a degree of variation between individual units and there can also be deviation beyond the 9 points measured. Furthermore, there can be some slight shifts in perceived colour temperature based on viewing angle related weaknesses on panels of this type.

Contrast in games and movies

The contrast performance was excellent on Star Wars Battlefront. The inhospitable icy planet of Hoth showcased the strong contrast performance of the monitor nicely. The contrast between the bright white snow areas and dark objects such as rocks was excellent. The level of detail on these rocks and the walls and objects found within dark caves here was also excellent, allowing even minor details to stand out nicely. There was just the slightest hint of black crush towards the upper central region of the screen (or wherever level with your eyes is) but even here the level of detail was excellent so it’s barely worth complaining about. Explosions and gunfire (or particle beam energy from blasters, if you prefer) lit up these dark interiors very nicely indeed. Whites and other lighter colours did not have obvious graininess to them, only quite a faint texture from the screen surface.

Dirt Rally also highlighted the strong contrast performance of the monitor, particularly when driving at night. Bright elements such as car lights stood out brilliantly in the surrounding darkness, with the darkness itself appearing with good depth throughout the screen. The level of detail in these dark areas, whether inside the car or outside, was also excellent. There was little detail lost to ‘black crush’ nor did dark shades appear artificially brightened as they do on some monitors. Coupled with the lack of ‘IPS glow’ or anything of that nature, the monitor captured an appropriate atmosphere in these dark scenes. Bright elements had only a slight lack of smoothness to them and were not obviously grainy in appearance.

On the Blu-ray of Skyfall the contrast performance was excellent. Due to the ’16:9 letterbox’ format of this film, there are black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. These did indeed appear a lot blacker than they would on monitors with other LCD panel types. The most subtle details were all visible, including small creases on clothing in fairly dark scenes. Shadows were also nice and dark, which gave various objects a very distinct structure – cracks in buildings, strands of hair and folded materials for example all stood out in a natural way. Brighter elements such as bright neon lights and candles stood out very nicely against darker surroundings. The overall atmosphere in this film was certainly enhanced by the strong contrast and lack of potentially off-putting glow.

Lagom contrast tests

The Lagom tests for contrast allow specific weaknesses in a monitors contrast performance to be identified. The following observations were made.

  • The contrast gradients were excellent, with distinct brightness steps in all cases. The darkest blue block was slightly darker than it might ideally be from a normal viewing position, becoming more visible if you raise your head or lower the position of the block on the screen slightly.
  • Performance on the black level tests was excellent. All blocks were visible, although the first block blended in slightly from a normal viewing position. You would actually expect the first few blocks to blend into the background according to the standard ‘2.2’ gamma curve, but visibility seems slightly improved here. There certainly isn’t the extent of ‘black crush’ that you’d usually observe on a VA monitor. The blocks did lighten or darken to a degree if you moved your head, with a sort of ‘oil slick’ quality to them. This behaviour is typical for a VA panel. There was no noticeable dithering.
  • Performance in the white saturation test was very good. All checkerboard patterns were visible against the background, although the final block was not as distinct as it could be. There wasn’t an obvious grain from the screen surface masking it, though, which is good.
  • The greyscale gradient appeared very smooth without obvious banding or any observable dithering. There was some very faint banding in places at the low end, but this is typical for a VA panel and wasn’t obvious at all.



Colour reproduction

Colour gamut

The Samsung S27E650C’s colour gamut (red triangle) was compared to the sRGB colour space (green triangle). As per the representation of the gamut below, there is pretty comprehensive coverage of the sRGB colour space. There is a touch of under-coverage in the green and blue region of the diagram and a little over-coverage between the green and red regions. In practice this means the monitor can reproduce shades within the sRGB colour space with decent saturation. A little weaker than some models with more generous colour gamuts (and not necessarily ‘wide gamut’ models) but still decent.

Colour gamut test settings

Colour gamut test settings



Colour in games and movies

On Star Wars Battlefront the monitor game the Star Wars universe the sort of look it craved. Whilst some shades weren’t as bold or vibrant as we’ve seen on monitors, particularly those with slightly more generous colour gamuts, some shades really did stand out with an excellent vivid quality. The greens of vegetation on the forest planet of Endor, for example, were lush and varied overall. There was a bit of weakening saturation towards the bottom of the screen (and a lesser extent the flanks) due to viewing angle related inconsistencies, however. This also made the earthy browns appear more clay-like in those regions of the screen whilst desert sands on other maps lost some of their already subtle golden-brown quality. There were some very moments of colour where light shades were set against a much darker background, with the excellent contrast performance coming into play. The red and green tracer-like fire from the weapons of the game, for example, had quite a brilliance to them.

On Dirt Rally the colour reproduction was pleasing overall. The general vividness and subtle variety of shades was pleasing. There were many closely matching shades of green and brown, for example, which helped enhance the look of vegetation. It also helped give the different forested areas of the game (i.e. different countries) their own distinctive identity. There was some loss of saturation further down the screen, most noticeably, but not to the extent that you’d see on a TN panel. The loss of saturation at the flanks was about as low as we’ve seen from a VA panel of this size. There were plenty of good vibrant shades showcased on car liveries, most notably when lighter paint shades were combined with darker shades. The contrast there really helped bring a nice ‘pop’ to the brighter shades.

On the Blu-ray of Skyfall shades appeared much as they should. Skin tones and environments appeared appropriately saturated and showed a pleasing subtle shade variety. The black bar at the bottom also masked the area of weakest saturation on the screen, meaning that shades appeared quite rich throughout on this film. The remaining weakening saturation towards the flanks was really rather subtle and didn’t detract from the overall look of the film. It’s also worth noting that the scenes where fireworks and flames were surrounded by a dark night’s sky appeared rather spectacular. This was largely down to the contrast but it was also clear that the monitor was capable of producing some reasonably well saturated colours as well, ones that stood out quite nicely when required.

On the Blu-ray of Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder the shade representation was pleasing overall. There were some very impressive bright neon shades, such as greens and pinks. These were most impressive where the background was dark (for example in space) as the strong contrast really came into play. There were some good strong deep blues, yellows and greens as well. This title is also an excellent test for colour consistency, as large sections of the screen are sometimes filled with an individual shade. This allows you to appreciate that the saturation does indeed weaken a bit lower down the screen and also for some shades towards the far left and right edges. This effect is much more subtle than you’d see on a TN model of this size and also better than some VA models as well. As a result of this, the monitor was still be able to provide closely matching shades with a distinct ‘identity’, for example the different skin tones of characters. This distinction was not as strong as on IPS-type models due to the slight saturation/gamma shifts but was certainly stronger than on TN models.

Viewing angles

Lagom’s tests for viewing angle tests were used to help reinforce our observations on colour consistency and further explore viewing angle performance. The following observations were made from a normal viewing position, eyes around 70cm from the screen. Overall this was one of the best performances we’ve seen from a 27” VA panel on these tests.

  • The purple block appeared a good lavender colour for the most part, with hints of pink towards the bottom and also towards the bottom corners, at the sides. This pink hue shifted along with head movement.
  • The red block appeared a fairly rich red throughout, lightening slightly further down but not appearing pink.
  • The green block appeared a slightly yellow-tinted green throughout with just a bit of an extra yellow tint towards the bottom of the screen.
  • The blue block appeared rich blue throughout.
  • The Lagom text appeared blended grey for the most part, with a bit of red striping towards the bottom (particularly towards the corners). This was actually less pronounced than you’d generally see on a 27” VA panel and vastly better than any 27” TN panel would show. The image below shows how this test appeared from a normal viewing position.


Lagom Text Test

The following video shows the results of this text test from a variety of viewing angles, alongside a mixed and dark desktop background. The dark desktop background shows the aforementioned ‘VA glow’ as it appears from off-angle – notice how it doesn’t ‘bloom out’ to anywhere near the extent of ‘IPS glow’.



Responsiveness

Input lag

Using a sensitive camera and small tool called SMTT 2.0, we compared the latency of the S27E650C with a range of monitors of known latency. By taking over 30 repeat readings using this method, we measured 6.10ms (around 1/3 of a frame) of input lag. This value is influenced both by the element of input lag that you feel (signal delay) that you see (pixel responsiveness). This value indicates a very low signal delay that shouldn’t inhibit the gaming experience.

Perceived blur (pursuit photography)

In this article we explore the key factors that contribute to the responsiveness of a monitor. Amongst these is the very important concept of perceived blur and that the movement of our own eyes contributes heavily towards this. The idea of ‘pursuit photography’ is also explored, a method which uses a moving camera to capture motion on a monitor in a way that quite accurately reflects what the eye would see. This includes not only perceived blur due to ‘eye’ (camera) movement but also shows any weaknesses caused by slower than optimal pixel responses or inverse ghosting (overshoot) due to overly aggressive pixel overdrive (grey to grey acceleration).

The images below are pursuit photographs taken on the UFO Motion Test for ghosting, with the test running at the default speed of 960 pixels per second. Such a speed is practical for taking such photos and highlights any issues on the test nicely. The first column shows results with the dark cyan background whilst the second column shows the medium cyan background (top and middle row of the test, respectively). All response time settings on the monitor were tested as well as a capture with the monitor running at 72Hz, which this monitor will also do comfortably as we’ll come onto later. The bottom image shows a ‘Fast 60Hz reference’, which is a Samsung S27A750D set to full brightness (forces DC dimming, without flicker) and 60Hz using its ‘Faster’ response time setting. This reference shows how things should look in this test at 60Hz where motion blur due to eye (camera) movement is the only real limiting factor.

Perceived blur with various settings

Perceived blur with various settings

Using the ‘Normal’ setting, you can see a fair degree of blur behind the object, particularly with the dark cyan background. This is trailing from slower than optimal pixel responses. Using the ‘Faster’ setting appears to improve things a little for the dark background, whilst for the medium background things remain much the same. This is certainly not the most extensive trailing you’ll see on a VA panel and in fact for the particular transitions shown here with the dark background, it’s actually fairly tame. Using the ‘Fastest’ setting appears to reduce the trailing a bit more for the dark background, but there is actually a bit of overshoot (inverse ghosting) introduced here as well. It isn’t clear on the image, but behind the yellow UFO cockpit in particular there is a dark shadow-like trail that’s darker than the background colour. For the medium background you can see some overshoot here as well.

Considering a broader range of pixel transitions than those shown here is quite important on VA panels in particular where there can be significant variation depending on the shades involved in the transition. This test does seem to suggest that the ‘Faster’ response time offers the best balance of acceleration but that there are some weaknesses, particularly for the darker background. In practice there is some overshoot here and there as we’ll come onto later, that isn’t apparent on the particular transitions shown here. There is extremely noticeable overshoot in places using the ‘Fastest’ mode, though, so we avoided that setting.

Having established the default ‘Faster’ setting to be optimal, we took captures at 72Hz as shown here. You can see that the object itself appears more compact, but that the trailing behind the object remains much as it does at 60Hz. That is because the motion blur related to eye (camera) movement is reduced in accordance with the increased refresh rate, but the pixel responsiveness remains unchanged. Again the differentiation here is explained more clearly in our responsiveness article. How does this work out in practice? Well, whilst running the monitor at 72Hz with 72fps content instead of 60Hz with 60fps content, you can notice this slight decrease in overall motion blur. But there are some slower pixel responses that give trailing on top of this regardless of the increased refresh rate – the trailing there is much the same. You also get a slightly more ‘connected feel’ due to a decrease in the delay between frames on the monitor – with up to 1.2 times as much information displayed by the monitor every second. This is of course all quite subtle compared to running at a much higher refresh rate such as 144Hz, but some users will see it as a nice bonus nonetheless.

Running a custom resolution (overclocking)

The monitor will comfortably run at up to 72Hz at 1920 x 1080. With this we mean the monitor will run at this refresh rate without implications for image quality (changes to gamma, contrast, colour temperature etc.) and without skipping frames. Regardless of the input used, the monitor refuses to run higher than this at 1920 x 1080 due to a built-in safeguard. A ‘Not Optimal Mode’ message will bounce around the screen if you attempt to run beyond this regardless of any timing adjustments you may have made. To run the monitor at 1920 x 1080 @ 72Hz you must create a ‘custom resolution’. There is no need to modify timings, so the process is quite simple. The video below runs through how this can be done using the Nvidia Control Panel, or for AMD users, using a tool called CRU (Custom Resolution Utility).


Bumping up this monitor to 72Hz is what we consider to be a ‘mild’ overclock, which the screen handles very comfortably. There is minimal risk involved and in all likelihood the monitor will last for its useful life in much the same way as if it was run at its native 60Hz refresh rate. Despite this, you must be aware that overclocking is something which you do at your own risk. The risk may well be very low, but we accept no liability should anything happen to the monitor which may or may not be due to running it at an increased refresh rate. For purposes of the review, including the testing below, we kept the monitor running at 60Hz as normal.

Responsiveness in games and movies

On Battlefield 4 it was clear that eye movement was the key (although not sole) contributor to the overall perceived blur on this monitor. Many of the transitions actually occurred rather quickly – quickly enough, in fact, to provide an optimal experience within the confines of the 60Hz refresh rate. This was certainly one of the faster Vertical Alignment models we’ve used and it is quite a distant experience from the smeary mess that slower VA models can produce. Having said that (and as identified by earlier testing) there was some additional trailing in places to add to the perceived blur. In most instances there was sometimes a fairly faint whiff of trailing from slower than optimal pixel responses, adding just a subtle touch of extra blur in places. This was most noticeable when cornering in a vehicle, adding a little extra to the dizzying sensation some users might experience at times. Other users would be hard pushed to notice this even in a side-by-side comparison with a faster monitor, however.

Where very dark shades were introduced into the mix, this trailing increased – but not to the extent of ‘smearing’ as you see on many VA models. It was clear that very effective grey to grey acceleration was being employed. That wasn’t entirely without its consequences, though. There was a moderate degree of overshoot in places, most noticeable where there were very light objects with a much darker background shade. Where you moved past tan-coloured vehicles against a deep blue sky, for example, you could see a sort of shadowy blue that was darker than the sky colour. This is shown in the video below. And likewise when looking through thermal objects with white hot objects against a ‘cool’ dark grey background, there was a trail that was darker than even the background colour. Again, not all users would notice this when playing and it was far from the most obtrusive overshoot we’ve seen. Still worth noting, though.


Dirt Rally provided a similar experience. For the most part the 60Hz refresh rate and movement of the eyes were really the thing holding back the visual responsiveness. This was a far cry from the smeary ‘smoke-like’ trails that grace many VA models and even the slightly extended trailing that some of the newer ‘AMVA+’ models still suffer from. Even when driving at night the experience wasn’t spoilt by the extent of trailing you’d usually see on ‘high-contrast transitions’ between light and dark shades. Again, there was certainly some trailing beyond what you’d ideally see on a 60Hz LCD but nothing too obnoxious. There was also some overshoot visible in places, perhaps most noticeable at night as it stands out a bit better when it is lighter than either the object or background colour. When driving past trees in the dark with the night sky above, for example, there was a trail of a brighter shade of blue than the sky itself. When moving past telegraph posts that appeared a slightly lighter shade than these trees, with the same night sky in the background, you could see a sort of semi-transparent ‘snail slime’ trail.

Overall this is one of the more competent VA monitors we’ve used for gaming, as it doesn’t impede the experience with smeary trails or a huge degree of overshoot. There are still some weaknesses in places and a bit of overshoot as well, but nothing like we’ve seen on some models. On the subject of weaknesses in responsiveness, none cropped up when watching our Blu-ray film titles. We didn’t see any obvious overshoot (perhaps small traces here and there) nor any obvious trailing from slower than optimal pixel responses. These titles run at 24fps, so the requirements for ‘optimal performance’ and the overall influence of pixel responses is quite different.

The curve

Samsung are keen to stress the idea that having a slight concave curve to the screen can enhance viewing comfort by bringing the edges of the screen closer to the viewers eyes, reducing eye movement and creating a more uniform and ‘natural’ viewing experience. We’ve previously explored what the slight (3000R) curve brings to the table on models like the Samsung S34E790C. The curve on this model is even gentler at 4000R – and of course as the screen itself isn’t as wide it is far more subtle. It is so subtle in fact, that it was barely noticeable. Even if you were viewing straight lines (for example, in Excel), there was no distortion or anything like that. You could tell the monitor was curved by carefully scanning your eyes across the screen and comparing what you can see in the centre vs. the far edges – but it really doesn’t jump out at you when viewing normally. The following images show an Excel spreadsheet and website, respectively. These are mainly for illustrative purposes and don’t really capture what it is like to see the monitor in person. Apologies for the curved bands, which are not visible on the monitor itself and are purely moiré from the camera.

The take home message is essentially that we find the ~32” screen size to be something of a sweet spot for the UHD resolution. It provides a comfortable viewing experience without scaling for us from our preferred viewing distance of ~70cm – although mileage may vary according to preferences, eyesight and preferred viewing distance. This provides a large working area both in terms of physical space but also, importantly, useful work area. Text and image clarity is excellent and you can fit a lot on the screen at once, as demonstrated by the images below.

A website

An Excel Spreadsheet

It certainly didn’t change the viewing experience for us when gaming or watching movies. The effect was quite subtle as it is on the 34” UltraWide models with their 3500R and wider screens. Enough to add just a little bit of extra depth and perhaps make the viewing a bit more comfortable. On the S27E650C, though, it was really quite easy to forget you were even gaming or watching a movie on a curved screen. That can be considered either a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. It makes the general experience of using the monitor quite familiar to those that have used 27” monitors before and doesn’t cause things to look ‘weird’ or anything like that. But it doesn’t really add much to the experience, by the same token. The images below are purely for illustrative purposes and don’t capture what the monitor was actually like in person. Sorry again about the camera moiré.

Dirt Rally

Star Wars Battlefront on Hoth

Star Wars Battlefront on Endor

Conclusion

The Samsung S27E650C arouses much curiosity due to the fact that it has a gentle curve to it. It also uses the Vertical Alignment panel type, which is less ubiquitous than IPS in particular these days but offers an attractive alternative for users who value contrast and low likelihood of uniformity issues during dark scenes. The curve on this monitor is subtle and, when coupled with the size of the screen (which doesn’t really take advantage of that fact to the degree that an ‘UltraWide’ model might) it is difficult to notice. It’s certainly not something we’d use as a deciding factor if you’re considering purchasing this monitor or a similar model.

Curve aside, this monitor did get a lot of things right. Aside from the high default brightness, which is fully expected from a modern monitor, the out of the box image setup was excellent. Gamma tracking was pleasing and white point was right where most users would want it if they’re targeting the common 6500K ‘daylight’ white point. There was some loss of saturation further down the screen in particular, and to a lesser extent the flanks, but this was as subtle as we’ve seen on a 27” VA panel. The overall image was rich with good variety. The colour gamut was not as extensive as you’d see on some models, particularly higher resolution models with extension beyond sRGB in all sectors. However; coverage of the sRGB space was still good and there was some extensions in the green region for a little extra vibrancy.

Contrast is of course the main strength of VA panels and in that respect the monitor didn’t disappoint. Static contrast was right where you’d expect it to be based on the specifications – around 3000:1. This provided a fairly deep and inky look to text and other dark elements, with bright elements standing out with quite some brilliance against darker surroundings. Other pleasing aspects related to this included the lowest level of ‘black crush’ we’ve seen on a VA model and a screen surface that wasn’t obtrusively grainy. We did notice that the pixels are a bit squat on this monitor, though, with slightly larger gaps above and beneath pixels than is ideal. This caused visible interlacing on various shades. Although this was very faint and not something everybody would notice, it could certainly irk some users.

The Achilles heel of the VA panel is responsiveness. In this respect the monitor actually faired rather well. There were some weaknesses here and there, including a bit of overshoot in places and some transitions that were slower than optimal for the 60Hz refresh rate. Giving a bit of extra trailing. But these issues were both far more subtle than we’ve seen on many other models and in many respects this was one of the most useable VA models we’ve tested for gaming. Input lag was also nice and low, which shouldn’t pose a problem even for users who are sensitive to it. The monitor also overclocked quite happily to 72Hz – which may not sound like much to some people, but did give a nice little boost in responsiveness. It didn’t change the pixel response behaviour, but it did add to the ‘connected feel’ a bit when gaming and reduced perceived blur a touch as well.

Overall the S27E650C ticks a lot of boxes. In fact, if it wasn’t for the faint interlacing patterns that our keen eyes noticed, we’d quite happily recommend this model quite openly. We’re also aware that Samsung have a number of other curved 27” models including the S27E510C and S27D590C. Dell also have the SE2716H. This review should give a rough idea of what to expect from those models, as they use the same (or in the case of the S27E510C, a similar) panel and it is clearly quite capable in some areas. Some of those models are more widely available and cheaper than the S27E650C, too. It is worth mentioning the overall design of this monitor and the range of ports, though, which is a potential advantage over many of the other 27” curved models.

The bottom line; this monitor offers a strong performance in many respects, but don’t buy it for the curve as it’s such a subtle addition that it generally goes unnoticed.

Positives Negatives
Strong gamma tracking and white point straight from the box, with a light matte screen surface helping to aid the clarity and vibrancy. A rich image with plenty of shade variety
Some gamma shift and loss of saturation in some regions as expected for a VA panel – but as little as we’ve seen from a 27” VA panel in this regard. Faint interlacing patterns due to pixel structure
An excellent contrast performance overall with strong static contrast and just the right atmosphere given in dark scenes – with as little ‘black crush’ as we’ve seen on a VA panel so that subtle details don’t get drowned out PWM is used to regulate the backlight below a setting of ‘31’ in the OSD, and this ironically includes with the ‘Eye Saver Mode’ where brightness is fixed below that value. Some users are sensitive to this flickering, so would want to stick to a higher brightness if possible
Surprisingly good responsiveness for a VA panel in many respects – some snappy pixel transitions and very little input lag. Also the ability to overclock comfortably to 72Hz
A bit of overshoot and extra trailing in places, although not to the extent we’ve seen on some other VA models – so a pretty reasonable balance for responsiveness overall
Ergonomically flexible with an aesthetically pleasing (in our eyes) design and quite a good selection of ports
Price and availability at time of writing could put some users off

PC Monitors score – 85%

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Samsung S27E650C