Samsung's CFG70 Monitor Is Nice, Apart From The Deal-Breakers

Image: Samsung

With perhaps the most flexible stand of any gaming monitor on the market and a sleek design, Samsung's 27-inch curved CFG70 screen certainly stands out. For a first attempt at bringing quantum dot technology into the gaming monitor market, it's not a bad attempt. But while there's much to like, there's also some key flaws - some of which might be deal-breakers.

What Is It?

Samsung's CFG70 is a 27-inch curved monitor that retails for between $718 and $749, with a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz and a 1ms response time. The actual panel is VA with a quantum dot layer, resulting in a screen that covers the entirety of the sRGB colour gamut, and then some. (If you want to limit the monitor to just 100% of the sRGB colour space, there's an emulation mode in the monitor settings that will let you do that.)

The monitor has an 1800R curvature, which is tighter than a lot of curved screens. It's quite natural for games, although it might take some adjusting for those who use spreadsheets a lot and do graphical work that involves a lot of straight lines.

The key feature of the monitor is its stand, which is a dual-hinge arm that supports a fairly wide range of movement. The CFG70 will pivot a full 90o into portrait mode, and it also supports 15o of swivel left or right. The whole unit can be lifted up and down around 140mm, and the stand hooks into neat, unobtrusive circular base.

If you'd rather mount your monitor though, there's support for a VESA plate on the back. As far as inputs go, there's 2x HDMI 1.4 ports, DisplayPort 1.1/1.2a support. Both support adaptive sync as well, and if you don't have a better solution there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the back as well. AMD users will get the most out of this monitor thanks to FreeSync support.

Like most Samsung monitors, the OSD has options for Standard, Fast and Faster response rate timings. The setting basically activates a strobe backlight, although it can't be used when FreeSync is enabled. The flickering also gets quite intense on the highest settings, so it's only really worth using if you have a machine capable of maintaining 144fps or more - a frame rate more common in competitive games like Counter-Strike or Overwatch, but not so much in Ghost Recon: Wildlands or The Witcher 3. It's also worth pointing out that the CFG70's brightness will be locked if either the Fast or Faster response times are selected, resulting in an image that is brighter than what most gamers would enjoy in the late evening.

What's It Good At?

The most visibly different thing about the CFG70 is the dual-hinge, and it works real well. It's not completely without fault: the design makes the monitor fairly sensitive to movement, resulting in a lot of shakes and jitters. But that's not a bad price to pay for how flexible the chassis is.

Samsung's big pitch with the CFG series is the quantum dot technology, the benefits of which come across most vividly in the contrast and colour. Blacks are deeper and colours are richer than what you would typically get from a VA panel, and the CFG70 is quite bright with a maximum quoted brightness at 350cd/m2.

Navigating through the monitor settings is done via a joystick-like controller on the right hand side of the CFG70's back panel. It's reasonably large and easy to use, both of which are strong pluses. There's also three buttons towards the front that switch between different colour presets.

Something I didn't expect to become accustomed to was the tight curve. I've traditionally preferred flat-panel screens, as curved screens tend to be more useful for screens with ultrawide resolutions. But the curvature ended up becoming quite handy in games where peripheral vision is a huge advantage, as is the case with Battlegrounds.

One feature that Samsung really deserve props for is how fast the panel is. VA panels aren't quite as fast as their TN brethren when it comes to gaming. But the CFG70's 1ms response time is quick enough that it holds its own in twitch shooters like Counter-Strike and Quake Champions, without looking washed out and dull in movies.

What's It Not Good At?

Image: Samsung

The biggest drawback with the CFG70, particularly if you're buying the larger 27" model, is the resolution. The maximum output is only 1080p, which loses a bit of sharpness and clarity when stretched over a 27" screen. The curvature helps a little in this regard, but it can't completely mitigate the lower DPI.

Another nagging issue stems from the monitor's performance at 144Hz. If you intend to game at the fastest possible response rate with the highest refresh rate, you'll have to become accustomed to a flicker at the top and bottom of the screens. It's something that was noticeable in every facet of using the monitor for me, from gaming at 144fps and beyond in titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Overwatch, to Photoshop usage and general web browsing. I eventually resorted to only using the monitor in 120Hz mode, mirroring the same refresh rate on my 23.5" Eizo Foris monitor.

The CFG70 also loses out in terms of future-proofing. Apart from the resolution, there's no HDR support and only the HDMI 1.4a standard is supported. There's also no added USB or USB-C ports on the back, functionality that manufacturers have started to offer in monitors at this price range. Users might also get annoyed by the stand: while it looks great in pictures and the flexibility is fantastic, it's also supremely annoying to see the screen wobble whenever the table moves even a fraction.

As an example: I'm typing on a keyboard right now, no different to how I would any other day, and it's still moving slightly. On top of that, not having a flat back panel means you'll also have to have the CFG70 further forward on your desk than other monitors - and if you're using the faster response settings that enforce higher brightness values, that could make the experience far less comfortable than you'd like.

Should You Buy It?

Images: Samsung

There is an awful lot to like about the technology of the CFG70. The idea behind the hinge is great, even if it falls a little short in the execution. The quantum dot technology is an absolute winner, with a richness and level of detail in colours and blacks that surpasses a lot of other monitors in its price range.

The CFG70's chief problem, really, is one of size. The 27" model is really too large for what it does: while the image quality is quite nice, spreading a 1080p image over so much real estate diminishes the overall effect. The 24" monitor is a different story, mind you, and it's also a couple of hundred dollars cheaper.

What Samsung have here, then, is a reputable first effort. It wouldn't take a great deal of tweaks to have a truly superb 27" monitor on their hands - the technology is already there. And the company has already shown their hand with the C27HG70, a 27" screen with the same VA panel and quantum dot technology - but with a native resolution of 1440p, a USB 3.0 hub, FreeSync 2 and HDR support. It's also got a revised dual-hinge stand that resolves some of the CFG70's problems, too.

That monitor is due out later this year, and if you're after a 27" screen it seems like an absolute no-brainer to wait for that model instead. If you like the idea of a VA panel with 144Hz refresh rate and you don't mind a maximum resolution of 1080p, the 24" variant of the CFG70 seems far more logical. The smaller chassis helps with the shaking, as well as the sharpness, and you get the same vivid colours and blacks for cheaper. The curve is a little superfluous at that resolution, but it's so tight that it won't detract from the experience.

Nonetheless, the CFG70 is a good indication that Samsung are taking the gaming monitor market seriously again. When LCD technology was new amongst gaming monitors, Samsung was one of the most beloved brands for their refresh rate, performance and image quality. The CFG70's qualities show that Samsung can make their presence felt in the sector again - and the announced improvements in the HG70 are proof that they're worthy of serious consideration.


Comments

    points for not giving it any gaudy 'gamer' accoutrements.

    but I'm at a stage in my life that I'm not getting a 27" monitor with less than 2560x1440, even if we're still a ways off getting 144hz and 1ms out of one of those for less than a $1000

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