Versus my big Dell
Next, I set up the new monitor directly next to my 30" Dell for some quick comparisons. I should say here that I had no intention of delivering a data-rich review of this thing. The guys up north have the fancy colorimeter that produces color temperature and gamut readings. Here in Missouri, I figured the hillbilly approach would do. My plan was simply to eyeball the Korean 27" versus the best display on hand and tell you what I saw.
If you're thinking it's unfair to stick a $300 monitor next to one that costs a grand and do a direct comparison, well, you're probably right. Side by side, the Dell has some strengths that make it, clearly, the better display. Although I like the smaller pixel pitch on the 27" monitor, the big Dell's larger screen area is an obvious win, as is the 16:10 aspect ratio that grants it some additional vertical pixels. Sitting at the Windows desktop with TR pulled up in a browser window, the Dell's default color tuning looks superior to my eye. Whites on the 27" panel have a little too much green or yellow in them, and no amount of tuning in the Nvidia color mixer allowed me to reach a compromise that looked as good as the Dell's defaults.
Also, to my surprise, I found that I prefer the Dell's matte anti-glare coating. I have long been an advocate of glossy anti-glare coatings for laptops, because they extend battery life and improve sharpness over matte coatings. In this case, however, the Dell very effectively diffuses reflections from the lone window and overhead lights in Damage Labs—reflections that the 27" panel shows all too clearly. I really enjoy the razor-sharp pixel clarity afforded by the glossy coating, but in this environment, the down side is hard to ignore. Of course, your mileage may vary. This is a pretty straightforward trade-off, after all, between sharpness and glare reduction.
Having said all of that, the biggest takeaway from my side-by-side comparison wasn't that the Dell was superior; it was how incredibly narrow the gap is between the two displays, given their respective prices. The 27-incher may not be as large, but it still gives you that sense of freedom that comes with expansive display real estate. And you wouldn't notice any weaknesses in the 27" monitor's color tuning or temperature without seeing the two displays side by side. When I moved the Korean monitor to another table against an adjacent wall, any sense of iffy white balance evaporated instantly.
Here's a look at the amount of backlight bleed on the two screens. The FSM-270YG has a little more white soaking through in the top right, top left, and bottom right corners. However, the Dell has more bleed overall, particularly down the center of the panel. (Please forgive the reflection in the shot of the 27" monitor. That's a small sliver of a window that's mostly covered. I couldn't get rid of it entirely, and rather than move the display around, I figured I'd leave it in as an illustration of the reflections you may see with the glossy coating.) Overall, both displays are relatively decent on this front. The Korean cheapie doesn't come out looking bad at all.
My respect for the 27" IPS panel grew when I stepped through these Lagom LCD test patterns alongside the Dell. Both monitors offered near-ideal performance in most of the patterns, especialy those intended to tease out problems caused by analog display connections or post-processing routines running on an ASIC built into the monitor. That's no surprise because both connect via DVI, and (as near as I can tell) the 27" monitor lacks an internal chip for image scaling or OSD tuning, just like my older Dell 30" does. The two monitors also exhibit generally excellent performance in the color contrast, gamma, and gray gradient patterns, with no apparent banding in the latter.
In the tests where the two displays really diverged, the FSM-270YG tended to outperform the Dell. The 27" display offered near-ideal performance in the tests of both black levels and white saturation. Differing gray levels were consistently discernible among the patterns of near-black and near-white shades. The Dell handled the black level test well, but it suffered in the white saturation test, where near-white colors tended to melt into one another.
Using a digital camera and an on-screen timer to capture differences in the response times between the two monitors in clone mode proved to be tricky. Generally, as you can see above, they looked to be approximately equal. However, not all of the pictures I took showed synced timers, despite the fact I was using a very fast shutter speed. The gap between the displays tended to vary. With some experimentation, I found that the monitor acting as the source display was usually ahead of the clone. The largest gap between the two was about 16 milliseconds, or the length of a single display refresh interval.
The fact that these two monitors are in a dead heat in response times comes as little surprise, since they both appear to lack an internal chip dedicated to scaling or other forms of image processing. Such chips enable all sorts of nice features, but they're also one of the primary contributors to input lag. We haven't measured these displays' input lag in absolute terms, but we suspect they are substantially faster than your average LCD, by virtue of the fact that they don't have an internal scaler or ASIC. (Neither one even scales up the 1920x1080 input from a single-link DVI connection to a full-screen resolution correctly.) This, er, non-feature should make them both excellent for gaming use, and the Dell 30" has definitely proven its worth on that front over the years. From what I've seen so far, this 27" wunderkind is just as good. And you won't likely miss the scaler, since Radeons and GeForces both have excellent built-in image scaling that can be controlled via software.
By the way, if you're not sold on the prospect of high-megapixel gaming, perhaps the image above will give you a sense of things. That's a shot from Trine 2 at 2560x1440, and you can click to pull up the full-sized image. Many games these days, including this one, will run fluidly at this resolution on a single, reasonably decent video card. Having a monitor like this for gaming is a massive upgrade that should last you for years.
Geoff said, in his recent article on triple-display gaming, that he'd rather have three smaller, two-megapixels displays than a single large monitor like this one. The important thing to know about his opinion on this matter is that it's wrong. He just hasn't spent enough quality time with the right Korean import.
Then again, I'm sure the multi-monitor fanatics will suggest that buying three of these 27" displays and running them in a wrap-around layout would be an even better option than a single display. Can't exactly dispute that notion.