Buying a monitor? Please refer to this post before purchasing.
April 18, 2020 at 3:46 pm #59049VAIsKing
It started back in Autumn last year. I wanted a new monitor, and the 27GL850 was the dream monitor that was gonna satisfy me, according to everyone. After having had it for a while, I found myself irritated by the IPS glow, the oversaturated colors, but mostly the bad black levels (not being able to distinguish details in darker scenes).
It went back, and I tried the 32GK850G instead, which made me realize deep blacks / good contrast ratio is something I really value. I would have kept it, but no matter what brightness I set it at it gave me eye strain. Not sure if it was the size or something else. That said, I felt almost no difference in terms of response time with this vs the GL850. Some other minor things that I didn’t like was that it felt a little grainy and the pixel structure + 90 PPI made the text feel a little blurry.
So I tried a 27 inch VA instead, the Aorus CV27Q. Having been spoiled by the response time of the 32GK850G, this one was for sure a lot slower, both in black transitions and non-black transitions. I would have kept it, but returned it because it had some faulty pixels and a lot of backlight bleed. It didn’t quite work right as g-sync compatible either, as it tended to flicker quite a bit.
Third time’s the charm? Nope. Tried the VG27WQ, which had no reviews at all at the time but was heavily discounted. It was very similar to the CV27Q, except that it was even slower. More smearing, more blur, and more overshoot at high refresh rates. It had the same kind of flickering as the CV27Q. It also seems to suffer from pretty bad black crush, so a lot of dark detail felt lost; same sort of thing that pissed me off about the GL850.
Having gone through this, I know exactly what I want but no idea what monitor can deliver it. I watch a lot of tv/movies and play a few games, none of which are very fast, so what I want is simply:
1. Good contrast ratio (2500+)
2. Something that’s not terrible in terms of response times (32GK850G is perfect in this regard, CV27Q is acceptable but about as low as I can go)
3. Good black levels so I can distinguish dark details. Running the Lagom black test, both the 27GL850 and the VG27WQ performed bad here, as almost the entire top row felt crushed together no matter what gamma settings I try. The 32GK850 and the CV27Q allowed me to distinguish almost all of the boxes.
As long as those 3 things are met, I’m gold. If I get to be picky, I would also want no/minor flickering with g-sync/g-sync compatible, as well as a normal pixel structure that doesn’t make the text feel blurry. This hasn’t been a huge issue with the 27 inch VA’s I’ve tried but still feel’s a bit off sometimes.
What monitor do I get? I’ll add that I won’t go under 1440p or 120hz.April 18, 2020 at 4:38 pm #59053PCM2
This is a difficult one and I can certainly sympathise with the frustration you’ve experienced. I would say I’m not personally a huge fan of the current 27″ WQHD VA options. You’ve highlighted some of the reasons why already, including issues with responsiveness and Adaptive-Sync implementation. Plus dark uniformity issues. I’d also extend that based on my own sensitivities to include the fact that ‘interlace pattern artifacts’ (example) are common, uniformity issues on brighter shades are common and the screen surface is always a bit too grainy for my liking.
I’m afraid that a lot of these issues are down to the panels themselves, which are common to these models. The flickering you observe under Adaptive-Sync is a common issue on high refresh rate VA models, due to voltage sensitivity during refresh rate fluctuations. It’s most common where there are significant drops or rises (or sudden fluctuations) in frame rate which lead to rapid refresh rate variation. They can take a little while to stabilise from such issues. Some models are a bit better than others in that respect, as you identified, but they all have such issues to varying degrees. The pixel responsiveness issues are also common to the panel type and none will perform as well as the LG 32GK850G, which you were perfectly content with. Some are stronger than others, as you’ve identified – but again some weaknesses will always persist.
The responsiveness of the 32GK850G always impressed me and the overall uniformity was comparatively good. The G-SYNC module helps smooth out voltage regulation during refresh rate fluctuations, making flickering episodes much less likely. The 27″ models always seem to have moderately high VA glow in comparison, too. And dark uniformity issues (backlight bleed and clouding) will exacerbate this further. It’s possible that the flat models (such as the MSI MAG272QP/QR which you’ve looked into) are generally a bit better for dark uniformity. Although I’ve used the AOC Q27G2U (flat version) and CQ27G2U (curved version) side by side and wouldn’t say the difference was all that profound. There was still a slight edge with the flat model, though. And this was only one sample of each under lighting conditions that weren’t under my control, so not ideal by any means.
So I don’t think there’s any model currently out there that really ticks your boxes. There’s nothing that’s a direct 27″ version of the LG 32GK850G, which in my view would be a very nice product if it did exist. With respect to the Lagom Black Levels test, you shouldn’t be able to distinguish the first few blocks from the background if the monitor correctly tracks the ‘2.2’ gamma curve. But the third box should be faintly visible and the fourth and fifth should stand out a bit more – but they shouldn’t be super-distinct. And you’ll need to observe in a room that’s not too bright, otherwise they will just appear quite blended.April 18, 2020 at 8:39 pm #59054VAIsKing
I have looked into the MAG QR/QP monitors, and according to some impressions I’ve read they both seem to have banding issues, and black crush on the QP.
Accepting that none of the options will get me close to the 32GK850G, out of the 27 VA monitors you have tested, which one do you think is least annoying when it comes to response times?
There is another issue which I didn’t mention with the CV27Q and VG27WQ, I’m not sure if it’s overshoot I’m seeing, but for certain scenes with a lot of details (woods commonly), when you slightly move the camera a lot of details disappear at once and because of that you get the impression that the brightness fluctuates, which is very annoying. The Witcher 2 had this effect almost all the time.April 18, 2020 at 8:42 pm #59056PCM2
The MSI models likely had poor gamma calibration, from what you describe. I’ve had other users report this as well. The best 27″ 144Hz VA model I’ve used in terms of pixel responsiveness is probably the Samsung C27HG70, but it certainly doesn’t compare favourably to the 32GK850G. The disappearing of fine details is due to weaknesses in pixel responsiveness for those transitions. Not overshoot, but rather pixel responses that are sufficiently slower than optimal that the darker shades mask the brighter shades during movement. Even the 32GK850G exhibits this behaviour for some transitions – but it’s not as widespread as on the 27″ models.April 19, 2020 at 7:04 am #59057VAIsKing
I wrote the C27HG70 off because the stand apparently measures close to 40cm when it’s at its lowest, which is kind of a deal breaker with my desk setup. Got any others?
Also, if I were to give IPS monitors another chance, what would be my best bet? I remember last year looking at reviews that the AD27QD performed better than most others when it came to contrast ratio, but it seemed pretty bad when it came to response time. Are there better options now?April 19, 2020 at 7:13 am #59059PCM2
You can VESA mount the Samsung, so you don’t need to use the included stand (which is annoyingly deep). Regardless, I don’t think you’d really be happy with that or the other VA options for reasons already covered.
You should probably give one of the better-tuned models with that Innolux AAS (IPS-type) panel a go. The Gigabyte FI27Q(-P) which we’re currently reviewing is a good bet. I’m not going to say more about that here ahead of the review, although there’s plenty of commentary elsewhere in the forum on that and similar models.
What I would say more generally is that you shouldn’t expect a monitor to be “perfect” in terms of backlight uniformity. It would be nice and you may get a very good sample, but if that’s your expectation then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. You need to prepare yourself to return and replace with another sample of the same model a few times if you want to try to play the uniformity lottery. It’s not ideal and not for everyone, but it’s just how things are. If you get a model like the Gigabyte with good uniformity, the perceived contrast is rather pleasing for the panel type. And in some respects better than what you’d see on your typical 27″ VA alternative. The moderate ‘VA glow’ (potentially brought out even more by backlight bleed) and static contrast that’s hardly wonderful by VA standards doesn’t really bring out the best from the panel type. The more recent content on this thread and the journey of forum contributor ‘luisdent’ comes to mind here.April 19, 2020 at 7:36 pm #59071VAIsKing
The FI27Q-P doesn’t seem to be available where I live; most stores seem to have had it at the start of the year but now no one sells it anymore.
I did find another VA monitor that looked somewhat promising: the AOC CQ27G2. According to one review I watched it’s on average about 1.5 ms faster than the CV27Q, while reaching as low as 5-6ms at 60-100hz, which I could live with. If you or anyone else here have tried it do let me know if there are any pitfalls in regards to the things I care mostly about. The review I watched didn’t cover whether or not it had gsync flickering or if the black levels were good.April 19, 2020 at 7:40 pm #59073PCM2
I mentioned the AOC CQ27G2(U) in my first post to you on this thread. I only had some brief hands on time with it, but there was really nothing special about it and it didn’t stand out amongst other similar 27″ VA models I’ve used. Dark uniformity was pretty unimpressive and there was a moderate amount of ‘VA glow’. The room was fairly dimly lit, this stuck out pretty well – I’d never suggest using any LCD in such dim lighting if it can be avoided. Average response times aren’t really a useful metric to focus on in this case and neither are the faster pixel responses. The issues are those troublesome transitions which are significantly slower than optimal and I saw first hand that they’re very much there on that model. Reasonably widespread ‘smeary’ trailing for darker shades, although not horrific by VA standards. I couldn’t test for flickering in a variable refresh rate environment, but as I said VA models are prone to it and I see no reason this one would be an exception. I’m not trying to put you off trying it here, I’m simply trying to set realistic expectations about the AOC CQ27G2(U).April 19, 2020 at 8:59 pm #59074VAIsKing
Oh, I must have totally forgot reading that in your first reply since I didn’t have that monitor on my radar at the time. Was there any difference in pixel response between the flat and curved model? Was the flat model more prone to de-saturation in the corners since you’re sitting at a greater angle vs the curved?April 19, 2020 at 9:04 pm #59078PCM2
The only clear difference during the limited testing I did was geometric – the physical presence or absence of the curve. The colour consistency was largely similar, at least it appeared so with the brief time I had with both monitors. The flat model perhaps had slightly more dulling of some shades (e.g. bright, saturated reds and rich browns) towards the sides, but nothing substantial. It wasn’t easy to assess this given how they were set up. I was standing above them which isn’t representative of a normal viewing position and they weren’t directly beside one another (i.e. there was a gap between them). So it was difficult to get right in the middle at a height that would represent a normal seated viewing position. They were also calibrated slightly differently, despite things being tweaked in the OSD to get as close a match as possible. Pixel responsiveness appeared very much comparable, but again this wasn’t a comprehensive test.April 20, 2020 at 6:15 am #59083VAIsKing
Did you get any sense of the kind of subpixel structure that was used?April 20, 2020 at 6:21 am #59087PCM2
I was forced to run a game title I wasn’t familiar with, so that was difficult to say. And the subpixels are not too bad on the 27″ WQHD models anyway, but to me the (C)Q27G2(U) appeared very similar to the others I’ve used. I observed a bit of static interlacing and some of the text looked just a touch soft, but it could’ve very easily been how it’s supposed to look in that (racing) game.April 23, 2020 at 6:02 am #59111VAIsKing
About the lagom black level tests, are you sure that the first two are not supposed to be distinguishable with 2.2 tracking monitors? Under normal lighting conditions (fairly dim room with a light next to the monitor), all first 4 boxes look the same with my current monitor. If I turn off all lights and let me eyes adjust for 30 seconds or so, I can very faintly make out the third.
Searching around the internet, a lot of people are saying all should be distinguishable. Doesn’t it also stand to reason that on VA’s it should be especially easy due to its superior contrast ratio? Two reviews done by a member of this community was able to distinguish all the boxes on two of the monitors that he tested:
https://forum.pcmonitors.info/topic/1440p-high-refresh-rate-monitor-tn-vs-ips-vs-va/page/12/#post-57562April 23, 2020 at 6:09 am #59113PCM2
To be clear, the first row of boxes on the Lagom black levels test represents grey levels of ‘1’ to ‘5’. Those are very dark greys. Under the ‘2.2’ gamma curve, there’s a very slow progression and therefore the first 2 or 3 blocks should be well-blended (which doesn’t mean ‘invisible’, if viewed in a dark room) and certainly not clearly visible. Some models have a modified gamma curve which is similar to sRGB but boosts up more quickly at the very low end, meaning these first blocks are much more visible than they should be. As in, they look more like shade levels ‘6’ to ’10’ or so (second row of the Lagom text) should look.
Some users will report all blocks being visible either because they’re faintly visible (which is fine) or because their monitor’s gamma is setup such that they’re brighter than intended. VA models having high static contrast doesn’t help reveal detail that’s masked by ‘black crush’. The visibility of the blocks is highly viewing angle dependent, as covered in our reviews. If you were to look at the test on a monitor with ‘2.2’ gamma curve and amazing OLED-level contrast, the blocks would still appear well-blended. Again, that doesn’t mean they’re invisible, just that they’re not clearly distinct from the background.April 30, 2020 at 5:42 am #59146VAIsKing
Got around to returning my VG27WQ. I think I want to give VA 1 more try, and if the next one keeps bothering me in the same ways as the last ones, then hopefully by then there will be some good IPS options like the FI27QP more available here.
@ PCM2 I wanted to ask something about your review of the AOC AQ273QCX. It says while using gsync: “The ‘Overdrive’ setting did not function with Adaptive-Sync enabled on our Nvidia GPU. All settings behaved as ‘Off’.” Am I correct in interpreting this as overdrive not working at all when you’re using g-sync, or simply the options menu not working? Unless this has been fixed in newer firmware, that’s a huge deal breaker. Considering it also seems to have a lot of flickering issues, I think I’m gonna avoid it.
I also keep reading about Interlace pattern artifacts, both in your reviews and by others, and either the monitors I’ve tested so far haven’t had them, or I don’t notice them. It’s kind of hard to imagine what they look like from description alone, do you know of any good images or videos that demonstrates the effect? Do you remember if the CQ27G2 had this?April 30, 2020 at 5:57 am #59149PCM2
Your literal interpretation of that sentence is correct. Which is the reason I specifically said it “behaved as ‘Off'” (inverted commas and capitilisation intended) rather than stating the control was greyed out or something similar and expanding on what level it performed at. 🙂
Interlace pattern artifacts manifest in different ways on different models and are very hard to accurately capture on a camera. There are static interlace patterns which all of these models suffer. If you notice them you’ll know about it, otherwise don’t worry yourself about them. It’s a characteristic of the subpixel layout. As for ‘Dynamic Interlace Patterns’, they’re related to voltage regulation and aren’t universally observed with these models. We didn’t see them on the AG273QCX. They’re more eye-catching than static patterns but again not everyone notices them or finds them bothersome. I did notice them on the CQ27G2 with textures breaking up into a honeycomb mesh as described with the Samsung C27G70. This looks like a moving version of the below, which was taken on the ViewSonic XG2402. It’s actually a faint pattern which is why not everyone will notice and why I don’t generally like including images of the issue even if I can – because it tends to exaggerate it.April 30, 2020 at 9:42 am #59153uncia
The AOC CQ27G2 uses the same Samsung panel as the Space and the MSI Optix MAG272QP, doesn’t it? If so, the voltage must be handled differently with MSI’s model because I didn’t notice patterns like that. There were no static interlace patterns either. It’s possible I just didn’t test it out long enough to see dynamic interlacing if there was any, but I really don’t think it was an issue. However, there were drawbacks to that model.
It isn’t natively 10 bit as far as I could tell. It seems to rely on the GPU to do dithering. It also doesn’t show up as 10-bit unless you lower the refresh rate when hooked up via DP 1.2. Unfortunately, its HDMI ports can only handle 144Hz instead of the maximum 165Hz. Then you can have 10-bit, but again it only works up to a certain refresh rate. It was really very finicky. Nor did I notice any difference between 8 and 10-bit. The colours were somewhat dull, muted, and less appealing than even my 11-year-old IPS. That’s not to say they were bad, but they weren’t quantum-dot level. Even with “10-bit” processing and the full, wide gamut colours were duller than a cheap IPS monitor. I do graphic and photography work, so it wasn’t suited to my use. I usually clamp things down to sRGB in that regard, and it definitely was dull when limited to that colour space.
I think Samsung is working on improving their flat VA panels, so perhaps a better one will come out in time. I wish they’d put a little more time and refinement into it, perhaps offering a quantum-dot backlight. Right now, I wouldn’t recommend it myself. My biggest issue being the VA glow. It ruins the perceived contrast and makes black look less black than on IPS monitors. I had it side-by-side with the LG 27GL850, and it was noticeably less black when displaying a solid black screen.
Everyone has to make some compromises, I suppose. So it might be worthwhile to some users. It’s not a bad monitor, but I don’t see paying the kind of money it costs when a cheap IPS looks better with better black production. Neither MSI’s or AOC’s model is going to be a great option here if they do indeed share that panel. It lacks colour production, black levels, and has lots of smearing. So I’m not sure what the use case they’re going for here. Having a flat VA is a good idea. I’d hoped for it to be a good option. I really wanted it to be because I am caught in the no-good-answer scenario myself.
Now, going back to the curved VA panels. Those that I tried had static interlace patterns, and it was both distracting and ruined the experience. It doesn’t bother most people, but it was a terrible quality from my perspective. I didn’t test the specific AOC model noted, but the Acer I did try had the same CELL from Samsung, as far as I know from the current product range with that refresh-rate VA design.April 30, 2020 at 9:51 am #59156PCM2
Have you noticed ‘dynamic interlace patterns’ on any monitors before? As I said, not everyone notices them – but I appreciate you probably would have given your sensitivity to certain other issues. On the AOC (C)Q27G2(U) they were actually very faint and brought out by the fact I was relatively close to the screen, the room was dim and the monitor very bright (when I first noticed them). Those monitors you listed do indeed use the same CELL, but the backlight is different which can affect voltage regulation. Different pixel overdrive implementations can affect things as well. To make things more complicated, there seems to be inter-unit variation with this sort of thing as well. It’s not straightforward trying to assess which models do and don’t suffer from them or how badly they suffer, it’s just something these 27″ WQHD VA models are generally prone to. And I want to stress, again, they aren’t something most users will notice or should concern themselves with either. The differences in colour reproduction, pixel responsiveness and screen surface vs. IPS-type alternatives are all more readily noticed by the wider user base.
With respect to colour reproduction, the MSI seems to have some clear gamma issues from what users have reported to me. And no gamma settings in the OSD, which is an annoying oversight. Banding issues, things appearing more muted than they should and visibility beyond what it should be in Lagom’s black levels tests all point to this. I also know from other models that MSI are rather inconsistent with their calibration, they seem to be more focused on pumping out a large number of very similar monitors than making sure each one makes the best use of the panel used. The use of a Quantum Dot backlight wouldn’t change any of this, that’s simply an alternative way to achieve a relatively wide colour gamut. It could help expand the colour gamut further and aid vibrancy, but it wouldn’t improve colour consistency or reduce saturation losses and perceived gamma changes. Likewise it wouldn’t aid help subdue the ‘VA glow’, which I agree is often an issue with these models as I highlighted earlier. This is brought out more strongly by backlight bleed or patchiness (clouding) issues which are not at all uncommon on these models either.May 3, 2020 at 1:02 pm #59188uncia
Yes, ironically my old IPS has always had them. It’s only noticeable up close, and while it’s annoying I don’t find it nearly as bad as static interlacing patterns. It seems pretty common on the old 19-inch style monitors. Am I strange for still liking that aspect ratio for some purposes? It’s probably why I’ve considered getting an ultrawide, because it’s a bit like having two 4:3 monitors in one, yet with the freedom to adjust window sizes for different applications.
If the dynamic interlacing is that mild on the AOC, I’m curious how their higher-end model using the same CELL is. Perhaps it’s just dependent on the implementation of that panel. I wish AOC would bring the AG273QX to the States. Though the asking price is a little steep for a VA when you can get the LG 27GL850 for the same amount. Of course, that’s when it was in stock.
I’d not heard that about the MSI MAG272QP. It’s interesting that they did such a bad job with it. The build wasn’t bad. The menus weren’t bad. So why did they skimp out on the actual display characteristics? I didn’t notice banding, other than mentioning they might or might not have been visible in some video content. You surmised it was more likely the video itself had banding due to compression, etc. Colours were definitely muted though, and the gamma was indeed off with no means for adjustment. I will say, however, that there was a warm quality to the display I preferred over the 27GL850. I noticed this same quality with the Gigabyte FI27Q-P. I forgot to mention that the dynamic lighting issue I had was not resolved with the firmware update, and it was incredibly annoying. It’s difficult enough to get enveloped in video content with all the IPS glow and BLB, but then to have it randomly adjust brightness to wash out all of the black in dark scenes was jarring.
If we weren’t in the middle of the human malware mess, and a company were to come out with an OLED option in a suitable size that isn’t a TV, I’d seriously consider paying $1,500 USD as the estimate is for the upcoming 48-inch model from LG. That’s just too big to be practical. But considering even professional-grade mini LED models start at $3,000, I don’t think $1,500 for an OLED in the 27-32 inch size range would be unfair. I’ll probably always be wishing for OLED though.May 3, 2020 at 1:07 pm #59191PCM2
Very odd that you observed that forced Dynamic Contrast behaviour on the FI27Q-P even after updating the firmware. Just to double-check, this was under SDR? Do you remember what other settings you were using or at least the preset mode you were using? I didn’t notice this on my unit after updating to the latest firmware, but oddly I did notice it on the CV27F with the latest firmware that was available at the time, even though that was supposed to have fixed it. I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but I believe you were testing the F02 firmware whereas I used the F03 firmware which was released on 16th March this year (a few days after you were testing the monitor if I recall correctly). Maybe they didn’t properly fix it in the F02 and stealth fixed it in the F03, perhaps not listing it as a fix as that would be kind of embarrassing. Just speculating. Gigabyte certainly needs to work on their backlight control as there are now multiple models which have shown this kind of behaviour. And if it affects some units but not others even with firmware updates, it’s yet another odd quality control issue to consider. And I think users have enough of those to worry about, in general.
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