How do curved PC monitors stand up to TFT, 4K and even G-Sync models? PCR editor Dominic Sacco tests out a 27-inch display from Samsung.
At PCR Boot Camp last month distributor Northamber had a selection of curved PC monitors on show after signing a deal with Samsung. And while they seemed impressive on the day, like any new piece of tech you need to spend a bit of time with it to get a decent feel for it.
I tested out the 27-inch Samsung SD590C curved display, which is priced at £249.99 and aimed at individuals wanting to use their PC for personal or professional use.
With 4K and G-Sync/FreeSync monitors getting a lot of interest at the moment from consumers for their high resolution and stutter-free visuals, I'm intrigued to find out what curved monitors can bring to the table.
Having previously viewed large curved TVs at past trade shows, and been blown away by their lifelike visuals, I wanted to know if this could be replicated on a smaller PC monitor. The short answer is yes it can, but it of course depends what the consumer is using their PC for. If they're using it for playing games, editing photos and watching videos, then they will get more out of a curved monitor. If they're an infrequent user who wants a PC mainly for web browsing, word processing and listening to music, for example, then probably not so much.
This curved monitor is all about making your image look great. The curve is very subtle - you only really notice it when getting the monitor out of the box or viewing it from its side. When facing the screen, it appears to be a usual flat monitor, but a slight curve is barely noticeable around the edges.
When viewing it face on, the monitor gives the impression it's slightly sloping down towards you, even though it's not (probably due to it being curved). I actually felt this improved my posture and helped kept my back straight - no doubt something that will be beneficial for professionals and workers who may be using their computer for long periods of time.
While the monitor is really quick and simple to set up, I have to say I'm not a huge fan of Samsung's monitor stands. The monitor wobbles a little if I accidentally knock my desk, which may be a minor annoyance for workers using it for editing pictures, video or word processing. But it's a rare occurrence and probably says more about my old IKEA desk than it does the quality of Samsung's products. The display does support 100x100 mm VESA standard brackets for wall or table mounting too, which would solve that problem.
The monitor really comes into its own when watching a video or playing a game. Samsung says "the curvature of the S27D590C improves the viewing experience in comparison to traditional flat screen monitors, as the screen boasts nearly uniform viewing distances from the centre of the screen to its edges."
"This curve of the screen matches the natural curve of the human eye and makes it easy for viewers to completely immerse themselves in games and films. Additionally, the screen’s curve creates a wider field of view and greater sense of depth, which enables viewers to enjoy a panoramic experience and gives the screen a 3D-like effect."
While it's true it does improve the viewing experience, making you feel more immersed in a game or movie, I have to say the 3D-like effect it mentions is minimal. What it does is provide an effect that I would describe as widescreen-plus. You notice a bend at the top, bottom and corners of the screen, which can make a large game environment like World of Warcraft's or Far Cry 4's seem to expand further, making it look even more beautiful.
In terms of customisation options, you can choose from a range of 'cool' and 'warm' colour tone settings, as well as the default, plus there's a ton of other customisable colour options and a 'Game Mode', which turns up the contrast/hue and aims to make faster movements smoother.
While it's no FreeSync or G-Sync (I did notice some minor screen-tearing in graphics intensive games like Assassin's Creed Unity and Watch Dogs - bearing in mind I was running this with an Nvidia 970 GTX graphics card using max HD resolution and video settings), but it did make the games more colourful and engaging than usual, and for the most part incredibly smooth.
Looking at the connectivity options, having an HDMI and standard VGA as well as Display Port is good for connecting multiple devices to your monitor, for example your PC via VGA and your games console via HDMI. HDMI is obviously better for watching Blu-rays and VGA for using the desktop and other standard programs. It's a shame there is no DVI compatibility, and that the monitor only comes with a single HDMI cable, but for the price you can't complain. Personally I prefer using a Display Port cable which provides a good quality picture in games and across the desktop.
Large web videos like YouTube clips or Twitch streams are a little grainy when connecting via HDMI, though using the Samsung Magic Upscale feature (Mode 1 or 2) improves the quality a little.
The monitor also comes with an audio lead and 5w built-in speakers, which do the job well, but can get a little tinny at higher volumes so I would recommend using a speaker set.
Another big advantage of having a curved monitor is when viewing and editing pictures. Whether you're looking at a photo album or using Photoshop, the screen adds a bit more oomph to images, bringing them to life, and the wide screen makes it easier for working or tweaking with multimedia.
Overall, for £250 this is a very strong alternative to more expensive 4K and G-Sync/FreeSync monitors out there, which, in comparison cost from around £400 at least if you're looking at a decent display. And while this doesn't truly compare to Samsung's £1,000-plus curved TVs (the sheer size of them makes the curved display more impressive), the 27-inch SD590C is ideal for gamers, students who like their entertainment and small home office users on a budget such as up and coming freelancers or photo and video editors, giving it a large pool of potential customers.
Having to choose between a 4K monitor for ultra high-definition gaming, a FreeSync/G-Sync with super smooth gameplay or a curved monitor with expansive and more immersive visuals will come down to the preference of the user. All are equally viable with their own stand-out strengths - and for the price a curved monitor more than stands up to the competition.
Now, when are those curved 4K FreeSync monitors ready, Samsung...?