First, some background.
I spent a lot of time in my youth and as a young adult gaming on CRT monitors. I was never happy with the motion clarity of LCDs, although I didn't really understand the problem until my friend pointed me to Mark Rejhon's excellent Blur Busters blog. On the advice of that person and a few other friends, I picked up an ASUS VG248QE 144Hz gaming monitor and was blown away by the motion clarity enabled by the Lightboost strobe mode.
However, I wasn't really satisfied with the overall picture quality of the VG248QE. It's a relatively high-end TN panel, but even still there was a readily observable gamma shift from the top of the screen to the bottom without even moving your body or head. That, combined with the poor contrast and color reproduction of the display led me to aggressively seek display options that could give me the smooth motion I had become accustomed to on my Asus in combination with the great contrast and consistent colors afforded by my VA side monitors.
Here's my list of qualifications in descending order of importance:
- Scanning backlight or black frame insertion for blur reduction
- 120-Hz or higher refresh rate
- At least a 3000:1 static contrast ratio
- True 8-bit-per-channel color
- At least 350 nits maximum brightness
- Near-perfect viewing angles
- At least 100% coverage of sRGB colorspace
- The ability to toggle strobing without software
- Curved for improved immersion in first-person titles
- No larger than 24" diagonal
- Greater-than-1080p resolution
So the CFG70 actually ticks all of the boxes above except the last one. It uses an SVA panel in 1920x1080 resolution with an 1800R curvature, coupled with a "QLED" (quantum dot + LED) "impulsive scanning" backlight that is synchronized to screen refreshes. Its scanning backlight can be disabled, or set to "Faster" or "Fastest" modes, adjusting the length of the strobe and accordingly the motion clarity and final perceived brightness. It has a DisplayPort and two HDMI inputs, and it has a great joystick-type control mechanism for the OSD. 1080p resolution isn't great, but my graphics card (a hand-me-down R9 290X) can't drive higher resolutions all that well anyway.
I ordered the CFG70 in early February, but I didn't really get to play with it until the end of the month due to personal stuff going on. When I finally did get it set up, it just completely blew me away. I mean this sincerely—as someone with a lot of experience across a wide range of displays, including high-quality CRTs, various types of IPS and VA LCDs, and even OLED TVs, it completely knocked my socks off. I did a quick-and-dirty "calibration" using Lagom.nl's LCD test images, and after dialing in the brightness, contrast, and gamma settings, it looked better than any monitor I've ever seen. It looks so good that when my aforementioned friend saw it, she immediately went home ordered one herself.
I'm not kidding, it feels like a true next-generation display technology. It feels like moving from mono to stereo audio. It's the feeling I was expecting (and didn't get) from OLEDs. Colors are incredibly saturated and vibrant, yet there's no banding or dithering in gradients, nor any loss of detail in colorful areas. It almost looks oversaturated, but none of the details are lost; it's not "blown out". The contrast is outstanding, too. Even when viewing games with bright, glowing elements alongside darker, obscured areas, I could make out every fine detail. Aside from the relatively low resolution, I had not even a nitpick to make.
Using the CFG70 made games so much more enjoyable. One of the first things I loaded up on it was last year's Doom, and playing it on the new Samsung was so much better than on the old Asus. It's difficult to even describe the difference. I've loved Id's Megatexture technology since it debuted in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, and it is put to great use in Doom. Having the high contrast and rich colors of the CFG70 really let me appreciate the hard work of the game's art team. I also played perennial favorite Phantasy Star Online 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, both games full of bright colors and fast action. Here, too, the CFG70 excelled.
You might notice I've made nary a mention to this point of the CFG70's Freesync function. To tell you the truth, aside from a brief test I never used it. You can't use the strobing backlight at the same time as Freesync, and that essentially means I don't get to use Freesync. I have used Freesync and G-Sync before, and while I appreciate them, I don't think they have any place on a serious desktop gaming setup where there's little reason not to push for the (in my opinion!) obviously superior blur reduction modes. Your mileage may vary of course.
Anyway, less than a month after I unboxed the thing I was grinding away in PSO2 and abruptly noticed a weird blue or purple discoloration in a dark area of the screen. As I moved further into a dark place in-game, the discoloration began to affect more and more of the screen. I finished the quest I was on, at that time suspecting my (very old) graphics card. However, when I alt-tabbed out of the game, I noticed it was affecting my desktop background. Fearing the worst, I switched inputs to my Wii U that was connected to one of the CFG70's HDMI inputs and immediately noticed the same discoloration in Zelda.
I shut everything down, reset the monitor's settings, changed cables, changed ports, and finally had to conclude that the monitor had simply failed. I was less than a week outside of my 30-day return period from Newegg at this point. I went through the lengthy process to create a support ticket on Samsung's website only to be given a ticket number and told that I would have to call in to the phone support line. I did, and the person on the other end gave me surprisingly little trouble as they created a repair order and sent me the shipping label electronically. I boxed up the monitor in its original box and mailed it off to be repaired.
There were a few things about this process that I found unusual. First of all, I wasn't sending it to a Samsung location, but instead a company called "Creative Vision Electronics" in New Jersey. Creative Vision emailed me to let me know they had received the monitor and e-mailed me again to let me know that they had replaced the control board and that they would be shipping it off. I actually appreciated the frank disclosure of the repairs that were done, but not as much as I would appreciate it later.
When the monitor came back some two weeks later, I unpacked it and hooked it up, and all seemed well, at first. After around an hour of using the monitor I noticed some serious flickering rainbow artifacting in the top 2% or so of the display. I immediately tested it using the Wii and confirmed that it was, again, a fault in the monitor. I at first resolved to ignore it, because it was pretty minor, but either it quickly got worse or I quickly became more sensitive to it. After a few hours, I got on the phone with Samsung again.
You cannot be serious
This time, I reached a real moron. He couldn't find a record of my last call, he didn't understand the problem, and he didn't understand the implications of the testing that I had done and was doing with him on the phone. On the web form, when you submit a service request, there's a place to upload image or video files to show the problem. However, this idiot insisted that they never accept images or video from customers because they could be a virus.
I should have hung up and called back, which is what I usually do when I get an aggressively ignorant customer service representative. I didn't though, because after 15 minutes of going around with this guy he finally said "well I'll just create a new service order for you." Except he forgot to send me the shipping label. I had to call back and talk to someone else to get that created. Thankfully he DID give me the reference number so I was able to move through the process quickly.
But I know that this guy didn't understand the problem because two weeks later I got the service report e-mail from Creative Vision and it listed the problem as "appearance item defect" and the resolution was "inspection." Oh, hell no. Because I had no way to contact Creative Vision directly, I called Samsung and spoke to a very nice lady who immediately understood the problem. However, as it was late (~3pm Central) on a Friday I wasn't sure she could do anything about it. Oh no, she assured me, she would get the site manager for the repair company on the phone and make sure it didn't get shipped out.
I was impressed, but skeptical. I've been promised great things by low-level support staff before. She put me on hold for about 15 minutes and finally came back and said that she didn't get ahold of the manager but that she left him a voice mail. I told her that I also had a video of the problem (9MB). She gave me an e-mail address (with a sea.samsung.com domain; I guess Samsung's monitor support is in Southeast Asia somewhere) for me to send my video to, and promised that she would forward it along to the manager at Creative Vision as long as I e-mailed it within the next hour. I said "Ma'am it's already in your inbox," and she said "oh it's not my inbox but I will have it checked right away." Sure, whatever.
All quiet on the Western front
As you no doubt already expect, I received no further communication from Samsung until the monitor showed up on my doorstep the next week. I rapidly unboxed it and found that it was absolutely filthy. I mean, it was literally covered in dirt. The back of the monitor was all scratched up, and the baseplate was so dirty that when I took it out of the box and tilted it over a sheet of dirt (or dust) slid off of it. Well, whatever, it's dirty. I'm dirty, I don't care. The surface of the display itself is fine and I don't care if the back of it is scratched up. What I DO care about is whether it was actually fixed. I hooked it up, and it was immediately obvious that it was not fixed. In fact, the problem had gotten worse. Now the upper ~10% of the screen was flickering rainbow colors. Furious, I immediately called Samsung.
Now let me give you some background here. While I can be a little blunt at times, overall I'm a really nice guy. I've worked phone customer service and tech support before. I've also worked retail sales and food service for a decade. I know what those kinds of jobs are like, and I don't give anyone a hard time that doesn't deserve it. All of this is simply to say that I am usually much more polite when speaking to customer service people than they deserve.
So when I called up, furious, I spoke quietly and calmly to the young man on the line. He said "what's the deal?" and I said "man, I'm not even sure where to start with this," to which he replied "well tell me the whole story, I don't get off for 5 hours." So I did. After around 10 minutes of me going on about the debacle he was like "so I'm gonna escalate you to a supervisor, because this ain't right." Great, I thought. Maybe I can finally get a working monitor. Keep in mind that I placed my order at Newegg on February 9th, and it was at this time the second week of May.
Except as it turns out, Samsung doesn't do escalations the usual way. Instead of waiting on hold to speak to a supervisor, or "level 2" service tech, you have to wait for a callback. When does the callback come? Who knows! What number will it come from? No idea! The nice kid I was talking to gave me the option of excluding certain time periods or dates from the valid callback times -- wait, dates?! Yes, that's right, it could be up to a week before they get back to me. Really?!
Well alright, whatever it takes to get this resolved. Sure, they can call me anytime. It's fine. So I waited a week. No call. After seven days had gone by, I called back in on the 8th day. I said, yeah, I'm waiting for a callback from escalations and I haven't heard a thing. The girl I spoke to at that time literally told me "I don't see anything about that in here." I was not pleased. I told her, "I'm not angry with you, you've done nothing wrong at all. But, I want to talk to your boss. The person directly over you." She, perhaps detecting the carefully-moderated tone of quiet lividity in my voice, said "o-okay" and put me on hold.
After a few minutes she came back to profusely apologize saying that this is highly irregular and that her boss will speak to me, but it might be a while, because he's busy. Would I accept a callback? No. I'll wait. Thanks. All in all it took him 20 minutes to get to me which I suppose gave the girl a nice little break (even if she probably did get in trouble due to my actions. Sorry Merdet.)
When her boss finally got around to talking to me he sounded like the absolute stereotype of the free-wheeling manager who "doesn't have time to sweat the small stuff." You know this guy. I asked him if he had my information there in front of him and his response was a very flippant "sure I got it, what's the deal?" Man, I laid into this dude. I won't go into the full details of what I told him but in the end he told me he was going to walk over to the office of the escalations people "and lay [my file] on their desk." I said "what, like you printed it out?" and he says "yeah!" Man, whatever.
He left and came back after another 5-10 minutes and assured me that I would get a callback within 24 hours. I told him, "dude, if I don't get a call by this time tomorrow I am gonna be so hot." His response? "Yeah, I'm sure." But I let it go, I was too hot under the collar already; didn't want to say something I would later regret. So I thanked him for his time and he apologized perfunctorily and we disconnected with at least the illusion of courtesy. And thus, the waiting game yet again.
I know all there is to know
If you're still reading by this point you have probably already guessed what happened. Or rather, what didn't happen. That is, I didn't get a callback within 24 hours. I even gave him an extra day. On that second day, I got an e-mail saying "Reminder - Please ship your product for repair." WHAT? I never got an airbill, I never got an incident reference number, or anything! I called back, and when the lad asked me "what can I help you with today?" I asked him, "well, can you see my file there?" and his response after a few seconds and audible keystrokes was a very alarmed "ooh" like he'd just watched someone face plant on concrete. I said, "can you tell me what the last thing you see there is?" and he replied "well, you're waiting on a call back from our escalations department?" and I said "yeah. It's been a week and a half. Please transfer me there now. I refuse to wait for a callback that is never coming."
He put up a token resistance, but I was firm, and shortly he did agree to transfer me to the escalations department after cautioning me that I might be on hold a very long time. I was on hold for a little over an hour. The person that finally picked up the phone was very polite, if unsympathetic. That's fine with me, I don't need you to care, I just need you to DO SOMETHING. He apologized for the wait time and explained that they normally do callbacks so that customers don't have to wait on hold for an hour. I snarked "you'd rather them never get their issues resolved?" To his credit, he side-stepped that and asked me to tell him the whole story again, which I did (another 15 minutes), and after all that he has the gall to say "well do you think you could let us try to repair it again?"
I just laughed. At this point the entire experience had been so ridiculous that I just laughed aloud. He started laughing too. Finally I said "yeah man, sure. Send me another label and let's repair it, but if it isn't fixed properly this time, and it doesn't STAY fixed, I want a different monitor or a refund." He said "yeah, that definitely will be an option." So alright, one last try. He sent me the airbill and I had it mailed out that day.
I got the e-mail alerting me that Creative Vision had recieved my monitor on May 22nd, and then early on the 23rd I got an e-mail from "Karen". (Name changed to protect the guilty.) Her e-mail signature identifies her as a Samsung Care Administrator from Samsung's Enterprise Business Division, and her e-mail address includes the string "samsungb2bsupport". I'm not a business customer, but sure, let's roll with it.
"Karen" informs me that my "model l LC24FG70FQNXZA serial number [redacted] has been apprroved for exchange" [sic] and asks for my physical address so they can send me a replacement unit. I guess they decided to give up on repairing it. I had a bit of a dilemma at this point, because when I said "a different monitor" I really meant "a different model", not "another one of these." That's because researching on the web had led me to the conclusion that this problem is rather widespread on this model. Just search for "CFG70 purple pixel issue".
Still, this seemed like progress—if nothing else I strongly prefer e-mail interactions with support personnel over phone interactions. I replied to her with my address, and then heard nothing at all for 8 days. So, I e-mailed her again asking for an update. The next day she replies that my "order" has not been sent, and that she's going to look into it. In another e-mail just minutes later she says that her "team reached out" and that my "order" is now being processed, and should be delivered by "the middle of next week" (although she couldn't give me a tracking number.) So that means that she or someone else in the chain forgot to send out my replacement monitor and that if I didn't check up on it it would have never been sent. Grand.
That was on June 1st. On the 7th (this past Wednesday), I recieved the monitor in mint condition, an unopened retail package. It included the color calibration report (my new unit had a much worse max deltaE than the original unit) and everything. I noticed that the plastic used on the casing for the monitor's arm was much lower quality, and that the screws for attaching the base to the arm were much larger. These things, along with the much later (sequentially) serial number, gave me the impression that it must be a new revision.
Hopeful, I made space at my battlestation and hooked up the new monitor. After another ghetto calibration at Lagom.nl, it was working perfectly. I loaded up Phantasy Star Online 2, played a bit, then loaded up my latest game du jour, Black Desert Online. Almost exactly seven hours after I unboxed it, at 12:30 AM on Thursday, it abruptly failed in the exact same way as the first unit. I was almost in tears. I did test to make sure it was the monitor, but I (and likely you) already knew the answer.
The end of patience
I e-mailed "Karen" immediately, at around 1:00 AM on Thursday morning gently explaining that I was very upset and that I will need a refund. I also included some pictures and a couple of videos. Unsurprisingly, I got no reply. Recalling my earlier experience with this person, I e-mailed her this past afternoon to ask if she received my previous e-mail. She replied a few minutes later informing me that she did not receive my previous e-mail, but that she would escalate the issue to get approval for my refund. Riiight.
All of this has been an enormous waste of time. It would be so easy to just blow it off for so many other products, but the monitor is so damn brilliant! It makes this experience all the more bitter every time I get to briefly use my monitor and enjoy the best picture quality I have ever been able to game on. Further twisting the knife is that there is no other monitor on the market with this featureset. Samsung not only has the monopoly on QLED-backlit 144Hz VA monitors with blur reduction, but they only sell one model (well, two, counting the C27) with this featureset.
So that's where I'm at. I'll post in the thread when my "Care Administrator" gets back to me. Assuming that happens without me having to prod her again. Heh.