Ultra High-Definition, or UHD, has been official since it was announced, and demoed, at CES 2012, although it had existed more than ten years prior. Three years on, and many South Africans aren’t aware of the display tech, let alone be in a position to afford any of the currently available units in the country. For a quick refresh, UHD is offered in two resolution variants, 4K, which has a 2160p (or 3840x2160px) resolution and 8K (7680x4320px), supporting 4320p resolution. To put this more simply, 4K has four times the pixels, whereas 8K has 16 times the pixels over the current 1080p resolution standard. Initially, UHD displays were meant for larger screened devices, often in excess of 100”, but recently made its way to screens as little as 21”.
Samsung, one of the leading contributors to the tech, has released a few of its own products sporting UHD displays. The UD970 is a 32” UHD monitor (U32D970Q LU32D97KQSM-EN) that we have available for review this week. While this unit is aimed at designers, video editors, and other professionals, the large 32” screen (or 31.5” to be exact) means that the unit can easily double up as smaller TV for the living room…and let’s not forget how amazing it would be for gamers.
Build and Design
Being a 32” UHD monitor, it wouldn’t be wrong to expect a heavy, extravagant, and complicated design and build. The UD970, however, isn’t anything of the sort. In fact, the design is fairly simple, while, at the same time, remains elegant. Often enough, manufacturers design monitors to look good in its surroundings, which sometimes miss the mark when it comes to actual performance. The UHD970 defies the norms with its straightforwardness. Even before turning the monitor on for the first time, one can only imagine that the performance has to be something special given its minimalist finish.
The screen has a matte finish, housed within a thin, although not borderless, plastic bezel. This matte finish provides protection from strong light focused on the screen, making it easier to view, while, in addition, also resists fingerprints and smudges much better than its glossy counterparts. The panel is mounted on a seemingly thin stand, but, at the same time, comes across as very robust, and not once demonstrates any fragility. The stand allows the panel to adjust its height by 13cm, starting at roughly 5cm from the surface, swivel left and right by 30°, tilt back and forward from -5° to 20°, and rotates 90° from landscape to portrait view.
Setting up the UD970 is quite an easy process. Just plug in the power cable, using a standard C13/C14 plug, the same standard used on almost every PC power supply, connect the source cable (HDMI, DP, etc.) and you’re all set. The stand comes pre-attached to the base, so no additional connectivity is required during setup. After you’ve completed the once-off calibration, by means of a step guide, you’ll be able to enjoy 4K UHD viewing.
Performance of the UD970 display has quite a lot more to offer than its maximum 4K resolution. One of the standout features on the unit is its PBP (Picture by Picture) option, which allows you to simultaneously view up to four input sources. Given that 4K is four times the resolution of 1080p, what you’ll be viewing are four 1080p screens when evenly split. When I say evenly split, it is worth noting that the PBP option has the ability to resize each of the four windows on display. Although a good to have feature, the clumsy button configuration makes it sometimes tricky to manipulate, and is best to leave it as evenly displayed. Speaking of inputs, there are four viewing inputs, HDMI, x2 DisplayPort and Dual Link DVI. These are coupled alongside four USB 3.0 ports for super-charging, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
The display has a 178°/178° viewing angle, with bright, true colour output. Samsung suggests that the UD970 accurate colour gradation, along with clear colour in grayscale and white balance. In addition, the unit is preconfigured with 99.5% Adobe RGB gamut. The monitor also has a 16-bit lookup table (LUT), which allows for more detailed tonal transitions, along with 10-bit colour depth with 1 billion colours. While all this is just numbers to many, the combination of both the 4K resolution and wide range of colours make for very, very pleasing viewing, overwhelming the senses.
As stated earlier, being a monitor designed for professionals, it supports enhanced multitasking, offering dual colour mode. This allows users to use two different colour modes to be displayed on the screen at once, offering a view of the same image in two colour palettes, for example. For gamers, however, things aren’t quite a refreshing. While there’s no doubting the superior visuals derived from the full colour palette and the enhanced resolution, the drop in frame rate experienced does cause some concern to the trained eye. While I cannot claim the latter myself, using a few tools indicates the drop, most likely as a result of underperforming graphics cards, or the firmware used to power it. The other alternative is to use the standard 1080p resolution and let the monitor upscale to 4K using the on-board chip. This provides something of a middle ground between 1080p and 2160p without too much of the same plagued reduced frame rate.
Considering any 4K monitor is to weigh performance and content against that of the overall price. In our current market, there are very few 4K content providers out there, with only a few YouTube videos to keep you interested for a little while. Although the gaming field is capable of supporting 4K output, the graphics cards aren’t exactly equipped right now to deal with it. At a dollar price of $1699, with the Rand price expected in the region of R25,000, there are quite a few LED TVs with quite a lot more to offer, apart from the obvious 4K capabilities.
Unless you’re a true professional with a requirement for multitasking across different windows, the prospect of combining this all into a single monitor is quite appealing. And this, currently, is one of the only reasons to own the Samsung UD970 32” UHD Monitor. For all other forms of use, it’s best sticking to the current line of 1080p displays that are better supported to get the job done well. Until the price decreases as the market matures, we wouldn’t expect many prospective buyers as yet. But, with all that said, the unit performs superbly, and if you are able to afford one, you won’t be disappointed at all.
Samsung has confirmed that the unit carries a RRP of R29,999 in the South African market.