LG UltraGear 27GN950-B Review – IGNAugust 24, 2020
Design and Features
The 27GN950-B is an impressive monitor. It brings back much of what made the 27GL850 great, including the rapid refresh rate and Nano Cell-infused IPS panel, and then turns the dial. This model runs at full 4K resolution (up from 1440p) 144Hz with 10-bit color – no chroma subsampling needed, even while running HDR and G-Sync/Freesync at the same time. You’ll need a powerful graphics card to run AAA games in 4K without turning down the graphics, but pulling it off without color compression also requires a DisplayPort connection with DSC support. The monitor includes two HDMI inputs, but you’ll need to use DisplayPort to take advantage of everything it has to offer.
HDR content has also received a noticeable bump with an improved peak brightness of 600-nits, up from 400, and 16 local dimming zones, earning it DisplayHDR 600 certification. It still falls short of “true HDR” which is often considered at 1000-nits brightness or more, and the contrast ratio of 1000:1 just doesn’t compare to a full-array backlight or OLED panel. Still, even though DisplayHDR 600 isn’t cutting edge, it makes for a nice middle-ground between the masses of 400-nit monitors and the still very expensive HDR1000 options. The improvement over DisplayHDR 400 is immediately noticeable and a worthy upgrade if you can’t afford top-of-the-line options like the Acer Predator X35.
The color reproduction is fantastic, too, thanks to LG’s Nano IPS technology. Colors are vibrant and gorgeous, even when viewed at an angle. The display is infused with micro particles that promise to widen the color gamut, vividness, and viewing angles while also maintaining improved color accuracy. IPS panels are already well-loved by creatives for their color accuracy, and Nano IPS is a clear upgrade over a standard IPS screen. The usual tradeoff for these advantages is a slower response time, which can lead to ghosting, but times are changing.
It wasn’t long ago that a response time of 5ms would have been impressive on an IPS gaming monitor, but companies have been driving those times lower and lower with each passing year. The 27GN950-B is quoted as running at 1ms, putting it on par with the best esports monitors. Look closely at the fine print and you’ll see that this speed is only on the “fastest” overdrive setting, however. That raises a problem.
To test whether the monitor was as fast as LG claimed, I used BlurBuster’s TestUFO Ghosting Test. On the default “Fast” overdrive setting, the results were the best I’ve ever seen in a gaming monitor. As you can see in the picture above, there are no trails whatsoever. The “Normal” setting presented some ghosts, in line with other IPS monitors I’ve put through this test. Switching to “Fastest” caused terrible overshoot and halos around the UFOs. It’s almost as bad in games with halos appearing around moving objects. It’s technically usable, if you don’t care about image quality but there’s no reason to choose it with “Fast” being as good as it is.
I used the DataColor SpyderX Elite to dig deeper into the monitor’s performance and out of the box calibration. The SpyderX Elite sensor works in tandem with a software suite to assign a score to different sections of a display’s performance and you can see how it fared on the score card above.
The 27GN950 was well calibrated out of the box and offered great color accuracy, covering 100% of the sRGB and more than 97% of the DCI-P3 color spectrums. You could easily use this display for creative work, like editing photos or creating gameplay montages, and have confidence that what you’re seeing is accurate. It did lose some points for luminance uniformity as the left side of the screen was up to 20% dimmer in one test. This wasn’t something I was able to see with the naked eye, though, and was a complete non-issue for gaming and basic creative tasks.
Best Gaming Monitors
The UltraGear has a handful of gaming features, highlighted by Nvidia G-Sync. It’s important to note that this is a G-Sync Compatible monitor and uses a Freesync module, not Nvidia’s proprietary tech. According to Nvidia, this rating means that it’s guaranteed to play without artifacts, and in my testing, it performed flawlessly. I didn’t test it with an AMD GPU, but it is also compatible with FreeSync if you have a Radeon card.
The other gaming features include a DAS mode, which reduces input lag, and the basics which come on most gaming monitors: a black stabilizer, an on-screen reticle, and a pair of picture modes for FPS and RTS (that seem to be the same thing). There are also other picture modes, but I found setting my own resulted in the best image. Given the premium price, I expected more. When Gigabyte can deliver an entire suite of gaming features, complete with software control, it’s disappointing that LG stuck to the basics.
Turning to the physical qualities of the monitor, it’s very similar to its predecessor. Its 27-inch span is trimmed by ultra-thin bezels that make the screen feel more expansive. It comes with a sturdy stand with height and pivot adjustments to be used in portrait orientation if you choose. Around the back, there’s a stylish red ring encircling a smaller ring of bright RGB LEDs. It looks great in the dark, but requires separate software to customize and change settings. That alone is annoying, but installing the software left the light buggy, repeatedly turning itself back during conference calls after I disabling it. That said, this is the first monitor backlight I’ve encountered that’s actually bright enough to light up the wall behind it and act as a bias light.
For inputs, it features two HDMI ports and a single DisplayPort 1.4. You’ll want to use DisplayPort to make the most of its feature set, but I liked that I could easily connect my Xbox One X and swap inputs when I wanted to put my feet up. There is no built-in speaker, but there is a headphone jack with Waves MaxxAudio to tailor the sound to your headphone-type through the OSD.
I spent a good amount of time with first-person shooters to get a good sense of the 27GN950-B’s responsiveness. Playing Doom Eternal was simply a joy. The vividness and of the colors and absolute fluidity of that high refresh rate and G-Sync made ripping and tearing an absolute blast. I didn’t see any tearing whatsoever – of the screen, at least.
Trying the headphone jack with Waves MaxxAudio wasn’t nearly as impressive though, and didn’t offer the same sense of scale as my normal Logitech headset with surround sound. It’s better than basic stereo, so it could be an improvement over a budget headset, but wasn’t for me and I quickly switched back.
Coming from the same game on my big TCL TV with its full-array local dimming and 1000-nit HDR, high dynamic range content wasn’t as good, but it was still more impressive than my DisplayHDR 400 monitor or ultrawide. The game was substantially more vivid and bright than my usual 34-inch AOC CU34G2X, which made it more engaging even with the smaller screen. It’s a big enough improvement that my display feels slightly dim in comparison.
Swapping over to Call of Duty: Warzone, I was struck at how crisp the 4K visuals were. I lost some FPS in the jump from 1440p, but if you love cranked up graphics and beautiful visuals like I do, 4K is the way to play. Again, the 27GN950-B more than lived up to the promise of its specs. Even on the “fast” response time setting, I didn’t notice any latency, and as the UFO Test indicated, ghosting was never an issue. Put another way, it may not have been 1ms, but it doesn’t feel far off.
The other gaming features were a bit of a wash. The Black Stabilizer might have been helpful, especially in the dark corners and windows of CoD, but since it was hidden in a menu, actually using it wasn’t practical. The on-screen reticle is the same as most monitors: great if you need it, but best avoided in online multiplayer to keep things fair.
The “surprise” gaming feature turned out to be the monitor’s RGB backlight. Enabling VideoSync mode in LG’s UltraGear Control Center app allows the backlight to match what’s happening on the screen, projecting it on the wall behind. In a dark room, it made for a neat dynamic backlight that flowed with my game.
The LG UltraGear 27GN950-B will cost $799 when it launches. It’s currently available for pre-order on Amazon.