Samsung UD970 review

Ultra-high definition monitors are a boom to creative professionals and well-heeled enthusiasts, and this 32-inch model from Samsung is one of the highest-quality displays we’ve ever tested. Here's our Samsung LU32D97KQSR review. See also: Best monitors available in the UK 2015

Featuring a 3840 by 2160 pixel resolution, the LU32D97KQSR, known to its friends as the UD970 or U32D970, offers the equivalent of four full-HD monitors rolled into one, allowing you to scrutinise your images in the finest detail, but this display is about much more than resolution. Covering 100 percent of the Adobe RGB colour gamut, the UD970 is capable of displaying a massive range of colours; going far beyond what standard monitors can reveal and matching the capabilities of professional digital cameras.

Samsung UD970 review: Build and Design

The UD970 avoids the bulky, and frankly ugly, look of many professional grade monitors, featuring instead a subtle two-tone metallic grey finish with gentle, sweeping curves. There’s plenty of plastic on show, it’s no iMac, but the overall finish is rather harmonious for a display of this size which could otherwise look rather imposing.

The panel comes in a matt finish and is fitted to a fully height-adjustable stand which also swivels and pivots into landscape format. Inputs include 1x dual-link DVI, 1x HDMI 1.4 and 2x DisplayPort. You also get a headphone socket and a four-port USB 3.0 hub. The display is capable of displaying the full 4K resolution at 60 Hz using DisplayPort 1.2 Single-Stream Transport (SST) mode.

Samsung UD970 review ports

Users of Intel Integrated graphics should be warned that the 4 K/60 Hz resolution doesn’t work in Multi-Stream Transport (MST) mode on the UD970, so Intel’s Collage Mode cannot be used. This limits 4K operation to 30 Hz on Integrated graphics solutions found in Haswell and older processors.

A row of seven control switches lines the bottom right of the display, operating an on-screen menu system which is both clear and easy to use, despite the complexity of its many functions.

The panel itself features Samsung’s Super PLS (Plane-to-Line Switching) technology, which delivers IPS-like performance including wide ‘178 degree’ viewing angles horizontally and vertically. It also delivers excellent colour reproduction and, in this regard, the performance of the UD970 is nothing short of phenomenal.

The monitor is capable of storing custom calibration data internally and the UD970 ships with a printed calibration report in the box demonstrating that each particular model falls within Samsung’s stringent specifications.

See also: The best budget displays available in the UK 2015.

Samsung UD970 review: Performance

It’s no surprise then, that our own measurement tests reveal the best colour accuracy results we’ve ever tested. The very worst error reported is a Delta E of only 1.57, with an overall average of only 0.57 Delta E. But, it gets even better than that. We ran Samsung’s own Natural Color Expert software in conjunction with our Datacolor Spyder4 Elite calibrator before re-running our tests. The colour accuracy results improved still further to a maximum delta E of 0.91 and an average delta E of 0.38. A Delta E of 1.0 is defined as a ‘just noticeable difference’, so the UD970 is essentially perfectly accurate after calibration.

Samsung UD970 review design

It’s a similar situation with screen uniformity. Poor monitors can vary quite considerably in colour and brightness response across the surface of the screen. Variations in brightness of up to 20 percent are not uncommon on consumer displays, even on decent models. The Samsung UD970 on the other hand never exceeded 6 percent brightness variation and generally kept the colour uniformity error in the region of around 1.0 Delta E, the worst example being a Delta E of 2.9.

One problem with wide-gamut displays like the UD970 is that, unless you’re working in a properly colour-managed environment, colours can look oversaturated and unnatural. The UD970, however, can masquerade as a standard sRGB display or any of a wide selection of other standards via the built-in menu or under the control of Natural Color Expert. You can even split the screen down the middle and have different calibrations on either side for proofing purposes.

If the UD970 has an Achilles heel, it’s in the area of contrast. The monitor can display delicious-looking images, aided by its excellent colour rendition, but switch to watching movies and you’ll notice it doesn’t deliver the punchy deep blacks of a decent TV. We measured a maximum contrast ratio of 490:1 which falls well behind many much less expensive displays and is actually the worst contrast score in this group test.

That said, gaming on this display is in no-way disappointing. In fact it’s very exciting and immersive, but you’d be channelling a considerable amount of money into features you don’t need if this is your main reason for buying a UHD display.

Samsung UD970: Specs

  • 31.5in
  • 3840 x 2160, 140 ppi
  • PLS
  • 10-bit
  • matt anti-glare
  • 2x DisplayPort 1.2
  • 1x HDMI 1.4
  • 1x DVI-D (dual-link)
  • 5 press buttons, under screen bezel
  • 4x USB 3.0
  • full height adjustable with portrait mode
  • VESA 100 mm
  • 728x427x62mm
  • 10.3 kg
  • Colour gamut sRGB: 100 %: Colour Adobe RGB: 100%
  • 490:1 contrast ratio
  • Delta E min: 0.08
  • Delta E max: 0.91
  • Delta E avg: 0.38
  • 31.5in
  • 3840 x 2160, 140 ppi
  • PLS
  • 10-bit
  • matt anti-glare
  • 2x DisplayPort 1.2
  • 1x HDMI 1.4
  • 1x DVI-D (dual-link)
  • 5 press buttons, under screen bezel
  • 4x USB 3.0
  • full height adjustable with portrait mode
  • VESA 100 mm
  • 728x427x62mm
  • 10.3 kg
  • Colour gamut sRGB: 100 %: Colour Adobe RGB: 100%
  • 490:1 contrast ratio
  • Delta E min: 0.08
  • Delta E max: 0.91
  • Delta E avg: 0.38

OUR VERDICT

The Samsung UD970 is a pricey display which never feels too expensive for the phenomenal image quality it delivers. Its 4K UHD resolution, combined with almost impossibly accurate colour rendition and flexible display modes make it an excellent choice for photographers and graphic artists. However, if you’re after a gaming or multimedia display, you’d be better off saving some money and going for something with better contrast.

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