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Introduction

Philips have recently released a new line of large but affordable screens in their wide range of desktop displays. Not ones for simple product names however, their full part ID's can become quite confusing. It's easier to think of their screens as being part of certain lines in their range. We spoke in May about the release of several new 27" sized screens which caught our attention, as while they remain low priced, they are a step away from the normal TN Film technology screens, and a move into AMVA panel technology. Philips released two models in their E-line range which are designed for home users, and one in their P-line for office users. We have with us today one of the E-line, the 273E3QHSB/00, to give it its full name. Philips have combined an AMVA panel from AU Optronics with the ever-popular W-LED backlighting in this screen and it offers some impressive specs in the latest generation of these technologies.

Philips' website states: "experience super high contrast images on this AMVA LED display. Large in size, with a wide-viewing angle and bright, vivid pictures it's ready to entertain you."

 


Specifications and Features

The following table gives detailed information about the specs of the screen:

Monitor Specifications

Size

27"WS (68.6 cm)

Panel Coating

Anti-glare (matte)

Aspect Ratio

16:9

Interfaces

D-sub, DVI-D (with HDCP), HDMI

Resolution

1920 x 1080

Pixel Pitch

0.311 mm

Design colour

Very dark grey / silver coloured

Response Time

6ms G2G

Ergonomics

-5 ~ 20 Tilt only

Static Contrast Ratio

5000:1

Dynamic Contrast Ratio

20 million: 1

VESA Compatible

Yes 100 x 100mm

Brightness

300

Accessories

audio cable, DVI cable, VGA cable, power cable

Viewing Angles

178/178

Panel Technology

AMVA

Weight

Without stand: 6.5 Kg
With stand: 8.2 Kg

Backlight Technology

W-LED

Physical Dimensions
 

(WxHxD with stand)
642 x 440 x 227 mm

Colour Depth

16.7 million (8-bit)

Colour Gamut

Standard gamut (~sRGB, ~72% NTSC)

Special Features

Integrated 2x 2W stereo speakers, audio out connection

The 273E3QHSB offers a decent enough range of video and audio connections which is great to see considering it is a lower cost E-line screen. There are HDMI, DVI-D and D-sub provided for video interfaces and with the screen only offering a 1920 x 1080 resolution they are all capable of supporting this. Philips have opted not to provide the increasingly popular DisplayPort connection though. It's nice to see at least there is an HDMI interface here which is very widely used for external devices. The digital interfaces are HDCP supported for encrypted content.

The screen comes packaged with DVI and VGA cables, as well as an audio cable for connecting from PC into the back of the monitor. This would then allow you to use the integrated 2x 2W stereo speakers, which are also able to play sound from the HDMI input. Note that no HDMI cable is provided with the screen. The 273E3QHSB features an integrated power supply and so only needs a standard kettle lead to power it. Sadly there are no other extras such as USB ports which are often very useful I think.

Below is a summary of the features and connections of the screen:

Feature

Yes / No

Feature

Yes / No

Tilt adjust

DVI

Height adjust

HDMI

Swivel adjust

D-sub

Rotate adjust

DisplayPort

VESA compliant

Component

USB Ports

Composite

Card Reader

Audio connection

Ambient Light Sensor

HDCP Support

Touch Screen

Integrated Speakers

Hardware calibration

Uniformity correction



Design and Ergonomics

 
Above: front views of the screen. Click for larger versions

The Philips 273E3QHSB  comes in an all dark grey design with an almost semi glossy bezel and stand. The bezel measures 20mm thickness along the sides and top, and up to 31mm along the bottom edge where it gets slightly thicker towards the middle. This is where the silver Philips logo and power LED / OSD buttons are located. In the top left hand corner is a small feint "273EQH" logo in a subtle grey font, and in the top right is a similar "AMVA LED" logo.


Above: front views of the screen. Click for larger versions

The screen looks fairly simple and plain but is in a nice finish and looks pretty good on the desk.


Above: back views of the screen. Click for larger versions

The back of the screen is a smoothly rounded black plastic, with a large Philips logo at the top and a curved grill for heat dissipation. There are screw holes to allow you to easily VESA mount the screen which is nice. The stand connects to the back of the screen as shown above.


Above: back and front views of the screen. Click for larger versions

The front features the 5 OSD control buttons with a subtle white power LED just underneath the power button. This glows gently during normal use and is off when the screen is in standby. The buttons are labelled in a small grey font which is not intrusive.


Above: Side views of the screen. Click for larger versions

The 273E3QHSB offers very limited adjustments from the stand which is something which has been cut back in order to keep production and retail costs down. There is only a basic tilt adjustment available allowing for a range of ~ -5 to 20. This is quite stiff to manoeuvre back and forth and you really have to grip the sides of the screen firmly to re-position the display. The screen is quite wobbly as well on its small rounded base and so as you move the screen around it doesn't feel very sturdy. The tilt adjustment does afford you a reasonable range of angles which is good and so you should be able to get a comfortable setup at least. You will see that the screens profile is also quite thin from side on.

Sadly there is no height adjustment available which is very useful in day to day use. Side to side pivot is lacking and so could be a limitation for those perhaps wanting to use the screen as a multimedia display / TV and who need to re-position the angle of their view frequently. Given that the screen is very light though it's easy enough to just move the whole screen anyway to an alignment which suits. Rotation of the display between landscape and portrait is not available but not really missed on a screen this size.

A summary of the screens ergonomic adjustments is shown below:

Function

Range

Smoothness

Ease of Use

Tilt

-5 ~ 20

Smooth

Stiff, difficult

Height

n/a

-

-

Swivel

n/a

-

-

Rotate

n/a

-

-

Overall

Limited adjustments with only tilt available. Screen is a bit wobbly when moved and tilt is stiff.

The underside of the back of the screen features the various interface connections available. With no height adjustment it can be a little tricky trying to connect and disconnect cables as they are quite low down and not easily accessible without picking up and tilting the whole screen manually.

The materials used are of a reasonable standard and build quality feels decent enough, if a little 'plastic-y' and light. There is a no audible noise from the screen even if you listen closely. It also stays very cool during use thanks to the use of W-LED backlighting.

The screen coating is a traditional anti-glare (AG) solution. Unlike modern IPS panels though, which are often criticised for their aggressive, grainy coating, this is quite smooth. AU Optronics have kept the AG coating quite light which means that you won't pick out any 'dirty' feel when viewing a lot of white content. The screen coating is not a full glossy solution however.

 

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OSD Menu

 
Above: view of OSD operational buttons. Click for larger version

The OSD menu is accessed and controlled using a set of 5 buttons located in the middle of the lower bezel. These are labelled in a fairly subtle light grey font and are touch sensitive buttons. These work well with minimal effort needed to activate them.

The buttons give you quick access to the 'SmartImage Lite' presets, input selection and volume control. These pop up on the screen in small boxes as shown in the above photos. The other two buttons are for powering the screen on and off, and accessing the main menu itself.

The Philips SmartImage Lite menu offers 3 preset modes for differing uses. Not sure really why they have stuck only with 3 as usually where provided, manufacturers like to include other options for movies and photo. Anyway, they are there if needed.

The menu is divided into 7 main sections down the left hand side, with the right hand section then showing you the options available in each section. The menu font and design is fairly basic and looks quite big and blocky, and not very fancy. It does the job well enough though.

The first section is the 'input' menu, allowing you to switch between the VGA, DVI and HDMI inputs as shown. These are also accessible quickly via one of the control buttons without going into the menu. The second 'picture' section offers a whole host of controls which you might use quite regularly. There are the normal controls over brightness and contrast, and the screen also offers control over the gamma preset mode here. The 'picture format' option offers you control over the screens hardware aspect ratio control with options for 'widescreen' and '4:3' available. There is also control over the 'SmartResponse' technology to allow you to control the level of overdrive being applied to the pixels. We will test this later on in the review. The Dynamic contrast ratio control is also available here under 'SmartContrast' and there's also an option for Philips' 'Pixel Orbiting' technology which seems to be a method for helping reduce the effects of image burn in.

The audio menu is pretty self explanatory as shown above. You can also control the volume level with one of the main control buttons as a quick access option. The 'Color' menu allows you to change between a few options. There are pre-defined modes for 6500k and 9300k in the color temperature option, an sRGB mode, a 'user define' mode which allows you to control the RGB levels yourself and an 'original' mode which reverts you back to standard settings.

The language menu allows you to switch between a whole host of options as shown above. If you then scroll down the left hand side of the OSD you are presented with 2 extra sections of the menu. In fact in the images above you will see a third which is the hidden factory menu section. The 'OSD settings' section allows you to control the behaviour and position of the OSD as shown above.

 

The 'setup' menu allows you to control a few features relating to the analogue input, not available here as we were using DVI. There is also an information section which confirms your serial number, active resolution and refresh rate.

There is also a hidden factory section in the OSD menu. This can be enabled by holding down the down arrow (far left) and 'ok' (far right) buttons while turning the power of the screen on. You can then just enter the OSD menu as normal where the factory section should be visible at the bottom. This factory menu confirms the panel part being used in this model is an AU Optronics M270HW02 V1 AMVA panel. You are also able to turn off the 'Philips' boot logo if you want here. Use this menu at your own risk!

Overall the OSD menu was pretty detailed with plenty of options to play with. It was not the most intuitive to navigate and you do find yourself switching from side to side trying to find the relevant button to drill into a setting and then back out. The labels on the buttons helped but it was a little annoying sometimes trying to find your way around. The actual interface looked quite basic and old-fashioned as well.

 


Power Consumption

In terms of power consumption the manufacturers spec states typical usage of 25.5W when using the 'EnergyStar 5.0 test method". In standby the screen apparently uses <0.5W and when turned off, <0.3W (although wouldn't you think this would be 0.0W?)

State and Brightness Setting

Power Usage (W)

Factory Default (100%)

37.0

Calibrated (29%)

21.5

Maximum Brightness (100%)

37.0

Minimum Brightness (0%)

15.6

Standby

0.7

We tested this ourselves and found that out of the box the screen used 37.0W of power while at its default brightness setting which was 100%. At the lowest brightness setting, power consumption was reduced to 15.6W. After calibration the brightness had been set at 29% to achieve the desired luminance and this returned a power consumption of 21.5W. In standby the screen used 0.7W of power. When the screen was powered off it still used 0.7W.

I have plotted the results of these measurements on the graph below:


 



Panel and Backlighting

Panel Manufacturer

AU Optronics

Colour Palette

16.7 million

Panel Technology

AMVA

Colour Depth

True 8-bit

Panel Module

M270HW02 V1

Colour space

~sRGB

Backlighting Type

W-LED

Colour space coverage (%)

~ sRGB
~72% NTSC

The Philips 273E3QHSB utilises an AU Optronics M270HW02 V1 AMVA panel which is capable of producing 16.7 million colours with a true 8-bit colour depth. The 273E3QHSB uses White-LED (W-LED) backlighting producing a colour space approximately equal to the sRGB reference. This means the screen is considered a 'standard gamut' backlight type. For reference this covers approximately 72% of the NTSC colour space which is widely used for comparison with other wider gamut solutions. A wide gamut screen would need to be considered by those wanting to work outside of the sRGB colour space of course.
 

PWM Flicker Tests at Various Backlight Brightness Settings

100%                                                50%                                                      0%

Pulse Width Modulation Used

Yes

Cycling Frequency

~245Hz

Possible Flicker at

 

100% Brightness

No

50% Brightness

Yes

0% Brightness

Yes

We tested the screen to establish the methods used to control backlight dimming. Our recent article talks in more details about a common method used for this which is called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM). A series of photos was taken using the method outlined in the article. These were taken at 100%, 50% and 0% brightness settings. This allows us to establish 1) whether PWM is being used to control the backlight, 2) the approximate frequency at which this operates, and 3) whether a flicker may be introduced or potentially noticeable at certain settings.

A thin white line was shown on an all-black background and a photograph was taken at a slow shutter speed of 1/8 second (in this example) as the camera was scanned left to right in front of the screen. This produces a series of white lines which can be used to identify the frequency of the PWM and how quickly the backlight is cycled on and off. The higher this frequency, the less likely you are to see artefacts and flicker. The duty cycle (the time for which the backlight is on) is also important and the shorter the duty cycle, the more potential there is that you may see flicker. Please remember that not every user would notice a flicker from the backlight but it is something to be wary of. It is also a hard thing to quantify as it is very subjective when talking about whether a user may or may not experience the side effects. We are able to at least measure the frequency of the backlight using this method and tell you whether the duty cycle is sufficiently short at certain settings that it may introduce a flicker to those sensitive to it.

The 273E3QHSB showed a cycling frequency of ~240Hz (30 lines at 1/8 second shutter speed) in the initial tests shown here. A further test at an even slower shutter speed allowed us to more accurately record the cycling frequency at approximately 245Hz (49 lines at 1/5s shutter). At 100% brightness there should be no flicker evident as the backlight is not cycled on and off using PWM. At lower settings PWM is used and the duty cycle becomes progressively shorter. Given there is a relatively low frequency of the PWM cycling compared with some other displays (e.g. PWM of 300Hz+) and the use of W-LED backlighting, there is a chance that flicker may be evident to some users as you lower the brightness setting. The PWM frequency was a little higher than other models we have tested recently which seem to be ~180Hz in many cases.

 


Testing Methodology

An important thing to consider for most users is how a screen will perform out of the box and with some basic manual adjustments. Since most users won't have access to hardware colorimeter tools, it is important to understand how the screen is going to perform in terms of colour accuracy for the average user.

I restored my graphics card to default settings and disabled any previously active ICC profiles and gamma corrections. The screen was tested at default factory settings using the DVI interface, and analysed using an X-rite i1 Pro Spectrophotometer (not to be confused with the new i1 Display Pro colorimeter) combined with LaCie's Blue Eye Pro software suite. An NEC branded and customised X-rite i1 Display 2 colorimeter was also used to verify the black point and contrast ratio since the i1 Pro is less reliable at the darker end.


Targets for these tests are as follows:

  • CIE Diagram - validates the colour space covered by the monitors backlighting in a 2D view, with the black triangle representing the displays gamut, and other reference colour spaces shown for comparison

  • Gamma - we aim for 2.2 which is the default for computer monitors

  • Colour temperature / white point - we aim for 6500k which is the temperature of daylight

  • Luminance - we aim for 120 cd/m2, which is the recommended luminance for LCD monitors in normal lighting conditions

  • Black depth - we aim for as low as possible to maximise shadow detail and to offer us the best contrast ratio

  • Contrast ratio - we aim for as high as possible. Any dynamic contrast ratio controls are turned off here if present

  • dE average / maximum - as low as possible. If DeltaE >3, the color displayed is significantly different from the theoretical one, meaning that the difference will be perceptible to the viewer. If DeltaE <2, LaCie considers the calibration a success; there remains a slight difference, but it is barely undetectable. If DeltaE < 1, the color fidelity is excellent.

 


Default Performance and Setup

Default settings of the screen were as follows:

Monitor OSD Option

Default Settings

Brightness

100

Contrast

50

RGB Channels

n/a

Color Temperature

6500k

Gamma

2.2


Philips
273E3QHSB - Default Factory Settings

  
 

 

Default Settings

luminance (cd/m2)

289

Black Point (cd/m2)

0.11

Contrast Ratio

2599:1

 

The out of the box performance of the 273E3QHSB was fairly reasonable overall. You may note that the default color mode was at 6500k which is designed to be close to the target we aim for in these tests. In this mode, you do not have individual control over the RGB channels. Default brightness was 100% which immediately felt too bright for any prolonged use. Colours did feel a little 'plain' at default settings as well.

 

The CIE diagram on the left confirms that the monitors colour gamut (black triangle) matches the sRGB colour space (orange triangle) reasonably closely. It extends a little past the sRGB space in some greens and blues in particular in this 2D view of gamut, but does fall a little short in some areas.

 

 

Default gamma was recorded at 2.2 average, leaving it only 1% out from the target of 2.2 which was pleasing. The gamma was a little too high in lighter grey tones where it ranged up to 2.22 maximum. Still, a good default gamma setup from the screen which was good news. White point was reasonably close to the target, being recorded at 7047k and being 8% out. It was a little too cool out of the box. Note that we are using a spectrophotometer to make these measurements which is not sensitive to the W-LED backlight as some colorimeter devices can be. When using a standard gamut colorimeter not designed to work with modern backlighting units like W-LED, there can be a typical deviance of 300 - 600k in the white point measurement which is why some sources may refer to a different white point in this test incorrectly.

 

Luminance was recorded at a high 289 cd/m2 which is too bright for comfortable use. At this high 289 cd/m2 luminance, the black depth was a very impressive 0.11 cd/m2. This gave us an excellent static contrast ratio of 2599:1. This was of course very high for a static contrast ratio, and much higher than modern TN Film, IPS and PLS panels can offer. However, we'd seen even higher figures from some other AMVA (and Samsung cPVA) panels we had tested, and we were frankly hoping for a little more here, especially given this is supposed to be a later generation AMVA panel with a specified 5000:1 static contrast ratio. Still 2599:1 is very good and not to be grumbled at.

 

Colour accuracy was mediocre at default factory settings with an average DeltaE (dE) of 3.3, ranging up to a maximum of 10.0. You will want to make some adjustments if possible to optimise the screen, particularly if you want to find a slightly warmer colour temperature nearer to 6500k and a more comfortable luminance.

 


Testing Colour Temperatures

 

 

The 273E3QHSB features a range of colour temperature presets within the OSD 'Color' menu. We measured the screen with the X-rite i1 Pro spectrophotometer in each of the preset modes to establish their colour temperature / white point. All other settings were left at factory defaults and no ICC profile was active. The results are recorded below:

 

Selected Preset Mode

Measured Colour Temperature

Deviance

6500k

7118k

618k

9300k

10,900k

1600k

sRGB

7126k

-

User Define

6362k

-

 

The colour temperature modes labelled specifically at 6500k and 9300k were a reasonable way off their desired white point. The 6500k mode had shown a deviance of 618k from the target and was a little too cool. The 9300k mode was even cooler still than its target being measured at 10,900k. The sRGB mode was pretty much the same as the 6500k preset at 7126k, which begs the question why you'd really need it. The User define mode gave you access to the RGB channels individually, and here they defaulted at 100, 100, 100. At this setting, the user define preset actually gave us the closest setting to the 6500k target and was only 138k out. This would be the best starting point for the screen for any calibration aiming for 6500k colour temperature, not to mention that it will then allow you access to the RGB channels.

 

Calibration Results

 

I wanted to calibrate and profile the screen to determine what was possible with optimum settings and profiling. I used the X-rite i1 Pro spectrophotometer combined with the LaCie Blue Eye Pro software package to achieve these results and reports. An NEC branded and customised X-rite i1 Display 2 was used to validate the black depth and contrast ratios due to lower end limitations of the i1 Pro device.


Philips
273E3QHSB - Calibrated Settings

Monitor OSD Option

Calibrated Settings

Brightness

29

Contrast

50

RGB Channels

100, 88, 100

Color Temperature

User Define

Gamma

2.2

 

Calibrated Settings

luminance (cd/m2)

120

Black Point (cd/m2)

0.05

Contrast Ratio

2412:1

 

I first of all reverted to the 'user define' mode in the color section of the OSD menu which would allow me access to the individual RGB channels. We had also determined that by default this mode was closest to the 6500k target white point. Adjustments were also made during the process to the brightness control and to the RGB channels as shown in the table above. This allowed me to obtain an optimum hardware starting point and setup before software level changes would be made at the graphics card level. After this I let the software carry out the LUT adjustments and create an ICC profile. The screen does not feature a hardware LUT calibration option so other than the OSD alterations, the rest of the process is carried out at a graphics card level in profiling the screen.

 

The calibration was a success. The slight gamma discrepancy that we saw before of 1% had been corrected now to leave us with 0% deviance and an average gamma of 2.2. White point was also corrected to 6505k, bringing it basically spot on to the target. Luminance had been reduced to a much more comfortable 120 cd/m2 thankfully after the adjustment of the OSD brightness control to 29%. Black depth was a very low 0.05 cd/m2 which left us with an excellent calibrated static contrast ratio of 2412:1. Colour accuracy was also improved massively with dE average now only 0.5 and maximum only 1.2. LaCie would consider colour fidelity to be excellent overall.

 

Testing the screen with various colour gradients showed fairly smooth transitions on the most part. There was some gradation and 'stepping' in darker tones which is common from a lot of screens really. There was a very small amount of banding introduced in darker tones but it was very slight. Not a problem for a normal average user but if you're working with a lot of gradients type content it's something to be aware of.

 

You can use our settings and try our calibrated ICC profile if you wish, which are available in our ICC profile database. Keep in mind that results will vary from one screen to another and from one computer / graphics card to another.

 

 

 

Calibration Performance Comparisons

 

 

I've provided a comparison above of the 273E3QHSB against some of the other screens we have tested. Out of the box average dE was 3.3 which was mediocre really. It offered more accurate colours out of the box than the other 27" AMVA model compared here, that being the BenQ EW2730V (6.5 dE average) which is more aimed at multimedia and video use. The recently tested Samsung S27A850D had performed similarly to the Philips screen in this measurement (3.6) and is a screen based on Samsung's PLS panel technology.

 

The 27" Hazro HZ27WC and HP ZR2740w have W-LED backlighting and IPS panels, and offered a good factory calibration with a default dE average of only 1.5 and 2.4 respectively. The professional grade 27" NEC PA271W and SpectraView Reference 271 were better still at 1.1 dE and 1.5 dE average respectively. The TN Film based ViewSonic VX2739wm was also at a similar level of accuracy to the Philips model in terms of default colour accuracy with an average dE of 3.4.
 

 

Once calibrated the dE average was reduced to 0.5. This would be classified as excellent colour fidelity by LaCie. It was not quite as low as some of the other screens here which reached down to 0.2 average, but in practice you would not notice any difference here. Some of the professional range models from NEC are even more accurate. Professional grade monitors like the NEC PA series and P241W also offer other high end features which separate them from some of these other models, including extended internal processing, 3D LUT's and hardware calibration. These comparisons are based on a small selection of tests, so it should be remembered that other factors do come into play when you start talking about professional use. For further information and tests of a high end professional grade screen with hardware LUT calibration, you may want to have a read of our NEC SpectraView Reference 271 review.

 

 

 

The calibrated black depth and contrast ratio of the Philips 273E3QHSB were excellent, with a very impressive static contrast ratio of 2412:1. This was a long way ahead than any modern TN Film, PLS or IPS panel could offer which only really reach up to around 1000:1 in the best examples. We had actually been hoping for a little more to be honest though since we had seen static contrast ratios of ~3000:1 from previous AMVA + W-LED tests (BenQ EW2420W) and also from a couple of cPVA + W-LED alternatives (NEC EX231Wp and Samsung F2380). This screen has a specified 5000:1 static contrast ratio and is using a newer generation of AMVA panel. We had hoped that the contrast ratio might have reached up to closer to this figure really, but the 2412:1 calibrated spec is still very good.

 

 


Contrast Stability

I wanted to see how much variance there was in the screens contrast as we adjusted the monitor setting for brightness. In theory, brightness and contrast are two independent parameters, and good contrast is a requirement regardless of the brightness adjustment. Unfortunately, such is not always the case in practice. We recorded the screens luminance and black depth at various OSD brightness settings, and calculated the contrast ratio from there. Graphics card settings were left at default with no ICC profile or calibration active. Tests were made using an NEC branded and customised X-rite i1 Display 2 colorimeter. It should be noted that we used the BasICColor calibration software here to record these, and so luminance at default settings may vary a little from the LaCie Blue Eye Pro report.

OSD Brightness

Luminance
(cd/m2)

Black Point (cd/m2)

Contrast Ratio
( x:1)

100

285.9

0.11

2599

90

265.1

0.10

2651

80

243.3

0.10

2433

70

221.7

0.09

2464

60

199.6

0.08

2494

50

177.7

0.07

2538

40

155.4

0.06

2590

30

133.1

0.05

2662

20

110.6

0.04

2765

10

87.9

0.04

2625

0

65.2

<0.02

-

 

Luminance Adjustment Range = 220.7 cd/m2

Black Point Adjustment Range = >0.09 cd/m2

Average Contrast Ratio = 2582:1

The luminance range of the screen was wide with a full adjustment range of 220.7 cd/m2. At the top end the screen was very bright, with a maximum luminance of 285.9 cd/m2 when at 100% brightness. This was just shy of the specified maximum brightness from Philips of 300 cd/m2. At the lower end you were able to reduce the luminance down to a nice low 65.2 cd/m2 through changes to the backlight and brightness setting. This means the screen should be fine for use even in darkened lighting conditions if needed. A setting of around 25% should return you a comfortable luminance close to 120 cd/m2.

Black depth was very good across the range thanks to the modern AMVA panel. This ranged from 0.11 down to 0.02 cd/m2 and beyond. 0.02 cd/m2 is the measurement limit of the i1 Display 2 colorimeter device so it's not possible to record the actual lowest black point when at 0% brightness.

We have plotted the luminance trend on the graph above. The screen behaves as it should in a linear fashion, with a reduction in the backlight intensity controlled by the reduction in the OSD brightness setting.

Static contrast ratio remained very high and stable across the range, with an average figure of 2582:1 which was impressive. It was much higher than any IPS, PLS or TN Film panel can offer and was certainly a strength of these new AMVA + W-LED panels. We have provided a graph showing the stability of that contrast ratio across the range of brightness adjustments. The small deviations may possibly be down to rounding errors though given how high the CR is, but we've included it for reference anyway.

 


Dynamic Contrast

The Philips 273E3QHSB features a dynamic contrast ratio (DCR) control within the OSD menu and the manufacturers spec boasts a DCR of 20 million:1. Philips refer to this as 'SmartContrast'. Dynamic contrast ratio involves controlling the backlight of the screen automatically, depending on the content shown on the screen. In bright images, the backlight is increased, and in darker images, it is decreased. We have come to learn that DCR figures are greatly exaggerated and what is useable in reality is often very different to what is written on paper or on a manufacturers website.

For this test I would use the colorimeter to record the luminance and black depths at the two extremes. Max brightness would be recorded on an almost all white screen. Black depth would be recorded on an almost all black screen. In real use you are very unlikely to ever see a full black or full white screen, and even our tests are an extreme case to be honest. Carrying out the tests in this way does give you a good indication of the screens dynamic contrast ratio in real life situations however.

The DCR feature is available in all 3 preset modes, and it has a simple on or off setting you can select.

 

Dynamic Contrast

Specified DCR Range

20 million: 1

Available in Presets

standard, internet, game

Settings

On / Off

Max luminance (cd/m2)

308.4

Min Black Point (cd/m2)

0.04

Max Dynamic Contrast Ratio

7709:1

We tested the DCR feature when in the 'game' preset mode as it seemed to offer the maximum range in adjustments. During this test you could see that if you switched from a black to white screen, the DCR changed the brightness of the screen at a reasonable pace but in a nice smooth manner. It made the full transition between the two extremes in around 5 seconds. The maximum luminance measured was 308.4 cd/m2 and the minimum black depth was 0.04 cd/m2. This gave us a useable dynamic contrast ratio of 7709:1 which was pretty good.

It might not be as high as the crazy specs you will see advertised like the supposed 20 million:1, but at least it worked in real life applications unlike many other displays. Some screens actually turn the backlight off completely when a completely 100% black screen is shown. In real uses you would probably never see content like that so it's pretty unrealistic, but does allow manufacturers to quote crazy specs based on unrealistic factory measurements. Here the 273E3QHSB did not do this, and so goodness knows where their 20 million:1 spec came from? The DCR did seem to control the backlight as high as its maximum luminance, and in fact reached a little higher even than the 100% brightness setting we had measured in the 'standard' preset mode. Even if the DCR could control the full backlight range at the lower end as well (let's say for arguments sake down to 0.01cd/m2), that would give us a DCR of 30,840:1 which would be much higher but still nowhere near the 20 million:1 figure. To get a DCR of 20 million:1 you would have to be turning the backlight off in which case the black depth would tend towards 0.00 cd/m2 and in fact give you a DCR of infinity:1!

We would like to start seeing realistic DCR figures being quoted from manufacturer really, not made up numbers which don't translate into real performance. I'd rather see a screen with a useable DCR of 7709:1 like the 273E3QHSB than a screen with an advertised 100 million:1 which only works in the most extreme and unrealistic circumstances that a user will never see.

 
Viewing Angles


Above: Viewing angles shown from front and side, and  from above and below. Click for larger image

Viewing angles of the 273E3QHSB were characteristic of an AMVA panel. Horizontally they were reasonably wide although there was a contrast shift from an angle of >40 either side which made the image go pale and yellow quite noticeably. From a wider angle still the image had a more pronounced white tinge to it and you can pick this out from the images above. Vertically they were a bit more restrictive with a fairly noticeable contrast shift detectable with even a slight movement up or down, and a pale tinge to the image being more obvious. From below this again added a yellow tinge to the image quite noticeably. However, the viewing angles were certainly better than TN Film matrices in these regards, and free of the obvious vertical darkening you see from TN Film technology. However, they were not as wide as IPS or PLS matrices and the contrast shifts were more noticeable unfortunately.

There was also a pretty obvious off-centre contrast shift which is inherent to VA panel types. Using a test image which shows a dark grey font on a black background you can easily test this 'feature'. From head on, the text was invisible and largely lost within the black background. This is down to the pixel alignment in a VA matrix. As you move away from a central line of sight the text becomes lighter and is more easily visible, especially from an angle of about 45. This is an extreme case of course as this is a very dark grey tone we are testing with. Lighter greys and other colours will appear a little darker from head on than they will from a side angle, but you may well find you lose some detail as a result. This can be particularly problematic in dark images and where grey tone is important. It is this issue that has led to many graphics professionals and colour enthusiasts choosing IPS panels instead, and the manufacturers have been quick to incorporate this alternative panel technology in their screens. I would like to make a point that for many people this won't be an issue at all, and many may not even notice it. Remember, many people are perfectly happy with their TN Film panels and other VA based screens. Just something to be wary of if you are affected by this issue or are doing colour critical work.



Panel Uniformity

Measurements of the screens luminance were taken at 35 points across the panel on a pure white background. The measurements were taken using BasICColor's calibration software package, combined with the NEC customised X-rite i1 Display 2 colorimeter. The above uniformity diagram shows the difference, as a percentage, between the luminance recorded at each point on the screen, as compared with the reference point of a calibrated 120 cd/m2. This is the desired level of luminance for an LCD screen in normal lighting conditions, and  the below shows the variance in the luminance across the screen compared with this point. It is worth noting that panel uniformity can vary from one screen to another, and can depend on manufacturing lines, screen transport and other local factors. This is only a guide of the uniformity of the sample screen we have for review.

Uniformity of Luminance

The luminance uniformity of the 273E3QHSB was reasonable with around 70% of the screen being within 10% deviance from the 120 cd/m2 calibrated central point of the screen. In the most extreme cases, the luminance dropped down to 102 cd/m2 in the lower left hand corner. It was also slightly higher just below the central area, reaching up to 121 cd/m2 maximum. The left hand edge seemed to be a little darker than the rest of the screen, ranging down to 105 cd/m2 average at -14% deviance.


Backlight Leakage

Above: All black screen in a darkened room. Click for larger version

As usual we also tested the screen with an all black image and in a darkened room. A camera was used to capture the result. The overall appearance of the screen in this test was very good, and the black content was rich and dark thanks to the high contrast ratio. You could detect some very slight leakage from the backlight in the bottom corners and the right hand edge seemed to be a little lighter than the rest of the screen. In practice this shouldn't present any real problem at all and it was pleasing to see no severe backlight bleed on this panel.



General and Office Applications

The Philips 273E3QHSB isn't like many other 27" screens in the market. It does not offer a massive WQHD 2560 x 1440 resolution and instead sticks with a smaller 1920 x 1080 resolution across its 16:9 aspect panel. While this of course has some cost saving advantages, and is perfectly suitable for multimedia use, it is not as good for general day to day office work. This relatively low resolution on such a large screen means there is a 0.311mm pixel pitch and the text appears large as a result. This might be good for those with any kind of eye sight issues, and for those who prefer a larger text size for a lot of web and text based work. However, you need to consider that this same 1920 x 1080 resolution can be found on small screens as well, including 21.5" diagonal models. On screens that size the resolution is arguably a little too high and text is a little too small, but on a 27" diagonal sized screen I personally think it is too low. The screen is certainly comfortable for a lot of text reading, but it just doesn't look quite as sharp and crisp as a higher resolution equivalent. You do also really miss the desktop real-estate when coming from a 2560 x 1440 screen to this.

The resolution is still adequate for side by side splitting of content on the screen which is useful. The digital DVI interface offered a slightly sharper image quality than the D-sub analogue interface and so should be used wherever possible for your PC connection. At least with the AG coating being pretty light here the white backgrounds did not appear too grainy or dirty as they can on some modern IPS panels.

There is a specific 'internet' preset available from the OSD menu which seemed to make the text a little sharper in fact which was interesting. You will definitely need to turn the brightness control down considerably to make the screen comfortable, as it is far too bright out of the box. You may want to reduce the brightness down to ~25% to achieve a low enough luminance for comfortable working in normal lighting conditions. The backlight does afford you adjustment down to around 65 cd/m2 as well for working in low light conditions.


The screen sadly does not offer any USB ports which I think are always handy for connecting external devices. There are also very limited ergonomic adjustments available from the stand with only a tilt function provided. This does allow a reasonable adjustment range back and forth, but height adjustment is certainly missed. There are no added functions such as ambient light sensors or human motion sensors here, but Philips have included 2x 2W stereo speakers which should be ok for some casual 'office noises' and the odd mp3 or YouTube video.
 

 
Above: photo of text at 1920 x 1080 (top) and 1600 x 900 (bottom)

The screen is designed to run at its native resolution of 1920 x 1080 and at a 60Hz recommended refresh rate. However, if you want you are able to run the screen outside of this resolution. We tested the screen at a lower 1600 x 900 resolution while maintaining the same aspect ratio (16:9) to see how the screen handles the interpolation of the resolution. At native resolution the text was sharp as you can see from the top photograph. As I've already discussed, on a screen this size it can look a little big, and does not appear as crisp and sharp as on a tighter pixel pitch screen (e.g. 27" with 2560 x 1440 resolution). When you switch to a lower resolution the text is more blurry of course. There was fairly high levels of overlap of the pixels but text was still reasonably readable. Native resolution is recommended where possible of course for optimum picture quality and to avoid reducing the resolution even further than the relatively low 1920 x 1080 starting point.

 


Responsiveness and Gaming

The 273E3QHSB  is rated by Philips as having a 6ms G2G response time which implies the use of overdrive / response time compensation (RTC) technology, used to boost pixel transitions across grey to grey changes. The AU Optronics M270HW02 V1 AMVA panel being used is rated by AU Optronics with a 12ms ISO response time (black > white > black) for reference.

Before we get in to the side by side screen comparisons I want to quickly talk about the 'SmartResponse' control available through the screens OSD menu. This is just Philips' name for their overdrive technology control and the option is available within the 'picture' section as shown above. This allows you to manually control the level of overdrive / RTC impulse being applied to the pixels, with options for off, fast, faster and fastest available. Overdrive is designed to help improve pixel responsiveness and reduce motion blur and ghosting in practice by speeding up the transitions the pixels make to change from one colour to another. You may wish to read our specs section for some further information about overdrive / response time compensation.


The screen was tested using the moving car test in PixPerAn, a good bit of software for trying to quantify differences in real terms responsiveness between monitors. As a reminder, a series of pictures are taken on the highest shutter speed and compared. The images above are the best case examples from the screen with the SmartResponse setting at each level.

In the 'off' mode there was a high level of motion blur which was easily noticeable to the naked eye. The car blurred quite badly and the pixel responsiveness was clearly quite slow. Switching to the 'fast' setting made a slight change. You could see a small drop in the blur and the car appeared a little sharper than before. The blur did seem to be a little darker though in practice and is captured in the photo above as well. This appears to be a small degree of overshoot where the RTC impulse is poorly controlled. It is helping to boost the overall responsiveness a little but is introducing a slight dark trail instead. Switching to 'faster' again sharpened the image a little and reduced the blur and in the 'fastest' setting this was improved slightly again. Overall the 3 different levels of overdrive made only small improvements to the actual responsiveness of the pixels it seems. There was an improvement in the moving image quality as you scrolled through these options and the 'fastest' setting did seem to return the best performance. However, the overall pixel response times were still behind other panels we have tested and there was still a moderate amount of blur to the moving car. There was some minimal dark trailing caused by the RTC impulse but nothing too severe. It's good to see Philips have added an additional level of control over the overdrive impulse but it seems it still doesn't make up for the fact that the panel technology is very slow, at least in the generation being used here.

 


Display Comparisons

The screen was tested again using the moving car test in PixPerAn for the display comparisons. As a reminder, a series of pictures are taken on the highest shutter speed and compared, with the best case example shown on the left, and worst case example on the right. This should only be used as a rough guide to comparative responsiveness but is handy for a direct comparison of the impact of this setting:


27" 6ms G2G AU Optronics AMVA (SmartResponse = Fastest)


27" 8ms G2G AU Optronics AMVA (AMA setting = Premium)

I have provided a comparison of the 273E3QHSB first of all against the only other 27" AMVA panel we have tested, as used in the BenQ EW2730V. The responsiveness of the Philips screen was a little ahead of the BenQ with a slightly less noticeable blur and a sharper image in practice. It wasn't a huge difference at all, just a slight improvement down to the slightly more aggressive overdrive impulse most likely.
 


27" 6ms G2G AU Optronics AMVA (SmartResponse = Fastest)


27" 5ms G2G Samsung PLS (response time = faster)


27" 12ms G2G LG.Display H-IPS


27" 6ms G2G LG.Display H-IPS


27" 6ms G2G LG.Display H-IPS


If you then compare the 273E3QHSB with 4 other 27" screens we have tested which use IPS or PLS panel technology there are more pronounced differences. The 273E3QHSB is shown here with SmartResponse turned to 'fastest' since that had returned us the optimum performance in these tests. However, even with the overdrive control turned up to its highest setting there was still a pretty noticeable level of motion blur apparent, even though a lot of the more severe ghosting and blurring had been removed. Compared with the other 27" screens here it was less responsive unfortunately. The HP ZR2740w was perhaps closest with a fairly high level of blur of the moving image, but not quite as high as with the Philips model. The new Samsung PLS model, S27A850D performed very well and was faster than the IPS based 27" models shown here in fact.


27" 6ms G2G AU Optronics AMVA (SmartResponse = Fastest)


24" 6ms G2G LG.Display e-IPS (Video OverDrive = On)


24" 8ms G2G LG.Display e-IPS


23" 8ms G2G LG.Display e-IPS (W-LED)


Above is a comparison of the 273E3QHSB against some popular models in smaller sizes. Again these other 3 models are IPS based. The HP ZR2440w had performed very well in these tests and showed a much lower level of motion blur to the 273E3QHSB in practice. There was a very slight dark and pale halo trail evident in those tests but it was very slight. The Dell U2412M and U2312HM again offered low levels of motion blur but a more obvious dark overshoot trail was introduced. Sadly the AMVA panel of the 273E3QHSB could not keep up with these fast IPS models. Sadly even this generation of AMVA panel being used here did not seem to be inherently responsive.




27" 6ms G2G AU Optronics AMVA (SmartResponse = Fastest)


27" 1ms G2G CMO TN Film (Response time mode = Advanced)


24" 2ms G2G AU Optronics TN Film (AMA = On + 120Hz)


22" 3ms G2G Samsung TN Film + 120Hz

I've also included a comparison above against 3 gamer-orientated screens, including the 27" TN Film based ViewSonic VX2739wm. While it is the same size as the 273E3QHSB, it is very different of course. That model is aimed primarily at gamers and even has a 1ms G2G quoted response time. It also uses a TN Film panel and so has restrictions in some areas, such as viewing angles. It performs a better than the 273E3QHSB though in these tests as you might hope. It is of course as expected considering it is a gamer-orientated TN Film model but the motion blur is almost completely eliminated and the movement is much smoother.

The other two models here both featuring heavily overdriven TN Film panels, and are combined with 120Hz technology. The pixel responsiveness of both of these is considerably ahead of the 273E3QHSB as well, but more importantly the 120Hz frequency allows for improved 120fps frame rates and the support of 3D stereoscopic content as well. The recently tested BenQ XL2420T offers some very fast performance and is a screen purely aimed at gamers. The Samsung 2233RZ arguably remains our champion if we base it purely on the responsiveness tests. Both these screens perform faster in practice though thanks to their 120Hz support, giving you smoother moving images and higher frame rates.


The responsiveness of the 273E3QHSB was a little disappointing to be honest. We had been quite disappointed with the BenQ EW2730W when we tested it in this way but we were perhaps hoping for some improvements with this new generation of panel. The BenQ was using a slightly older M270HW02 V0 panel from AU Optronics, whereas the Philips screen uses the V1 revision. We had heard some reports of improvements being made to AMVA panels in this regard more recently, but it did seem that this V1 generation was not one of them. The access to the 'SmartResponse' overdrive control was welcome, and you can at least turn that up to help reduce some of the blurring and ghosting. However, even at maximum setting the screen showed fairly high levels of blur and was not really suitable for high-level gaming as a result. It falls behind some of the modern IPS and PLS panels available in this sector when it comes to gaming. You may of course find it adequate for some more moderate gaming and for movies, but those wanting to play first person shooters or play at more competitive levels might want to look elsewhere.



Additional Gaming Features

Aspect Ratio Control - The screen offers two options for hardware level aspect ratio control. There are settings for 'widescreen' which will fill the whole screen regardless of the input resolution, and for '4:3' which will always force a 4:3 aspect ratio regardless again of the input resolution. These seemed quite odd options to be honest. There was no way to automatically maintain the same aspect ratio as the source for instance and no option for any kind of 1:1 pixel mapping. This was quite a restrictive set of options available and we would have liked to have seen more.

Preset Modes - There is a 'game' preset mode available from within the 'SmartImage' menu if you want a mode with boosted brightness and a more unnatural feel. It also seems to over exaggerate the sharpness of the image. The dynamic contrast option is available in all three preset modes which some users may want to use. This works to a reasonable level of ~7700:1.

 

Input Lag

We have recently written an in depth article about input lag and the various measurement techniques which are used to evaluate this aspect of a display. We have also improved our method by adopting the SMTT 2.0 tool which is used to generate the results below. Please see our full input lag testing article for all the details.

Input Lag Classification


To help in this section we will also introduce a broader classification system for these results to help categorise each screen as one of the following levels:

  • Class 1) Less than 16ms / 1 frame lag - should be fine for gamers, even at high levels

  • Class 2) A lag of 16 - 32ms / One to two frames - moderate lag but should be fine for many gamers. Caution advised for serious gaming and FPS

  • Class 3) A lag of more than 32ms / more than 2 frames - Some noticeable lag in daily usage, not suitable for high end gaming


For the full reviews of the models compared here and the dates they were written (and when screens were approximately released to the market), please see our full reviews index.

 Class 1

Our tests here are based on the new format using SMTT 2.0. We have provided a comparison above against other models we have tested to give an indication between screens. However, please note that many of the other screens tested here were using older stopwatch methods and not the SMTT 2.0 tool. For reference, those shown as darker blue lines were tested using SMTT 2.0.

The Philips 273E3QHSB showed an average display input lag of only 6ms during this test, ranging up to 8ms maximum. This was very good and should not present any problems at all, even for fast gaming. The lag of this screen has been categorised as CLASS 1 as detailed above.

For more information about the SMTT 2.0 tool, or to purchase a copy please visit:

http://smtt.thomasthiemann.com/index_en.html

 


Movies and Video

 The following summarises the screens performance in video applications:

  • 27" screen size makes it a pretty good option for an all-in-one multimedia screen and comparable to smaller LCD TV's in size.

  • 16:9 aspect ratio is more suited to videos than a 16:10 format screen, as it leaves smaller borders on DVD's and wide screen content.

  • Native 1920 x 1080 resolution can support true 1080 HD content

  • Digital interfaces 1x DVI and 1x HDMI support HDCP for any encrypted and protected content

  • Good to see an HDMI connection available which is very popular with external devices including games consoles and Blu-ray players. Would have perhaps been good to see DisplayPort as well which is becoming increasingly popular and more widely used.

  • Black depth and contrast ratio are excellent. Detail in darker scenes and shadow detail should not be lost due to these measurements.

  • Dynamic contrast ratio is available and works well, allowing for a DCR up to around 7700:1

  • No specific 'Movie' preset mode available so you will need to set up one of the three available modes to your liking for watching videos.

  • While not very fast, pixel responsiveness should still be adequate for movies and video which should be able to handle fast moving scenes without issue. I would recommend using the 'fastest' SmartResponse setting for optimum responsiveness.

  • Pretty wide viewing angles thanks to AMVA panel technology meaning several people could view the screen at once comfortable and from a whole host of different angles. Not quite as wide as some other technologies such as IPS, and the off-centre contrast shift can be a little annoying depending on your line of sight.

  • Limited ergonomic adjustment range available from the stand with only tilt available. It could prove difficult to obtain a comfortable position if you are watching from various locations and angles. Height adjustment would have been useful.

  • No significantly noticeable backlight leakage, and none from the edges which is good. This type of leakage may prove an issue when watching movies where black borders are present but it is not a problem here.

  • 2x 2W integrated stereo speakers available if you want, along with audio pass-through and a headphone socket. Might be useful for the occasional video but of course the speakers aren't up to a great deal.

  • No picture in picture (PiP) or picture by picture (PbP) modes available on this model.

  • For PAL sources, we have tested the screen and confirmed it will support the full native resolution of 1920 x 1080 at 50Hz refresh rate.

 

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Conclusion

The Philips 273E3QHSB left us with some mixed impressions really. Getting some of the bad out of the way first, we had perhaps hoped for more from this newer generation of AMVA panel. The pixel responsiveness of this panel was still fairly poor and even with 3 levels of overdrive available it could not compete with other rival technologies. We had also hoped for more in the way of contrast ratio as we'd seen figures of ~3000:1 before from cPVA and AMVA screens, and with an advertised 5000:1 on this model we had hoped for another improvement in this field. In reality it didn't reach more than ~2500:1. Still amazing of course and offering very low black depths, but just not living up to the expectation. The screen then also suffers from the other main issue with VA matrices, that being the somewhat restrictive viewing angles as compared with modern IPS and PLS offerings. Panel technology issues aside, we were a little disappointed by the rather limited stand adjustments, the basic feel of the OSD software and also the odd and limited aspect ratio controls.

Having said all that, and I don't wish to sound overly negative, the screen was impressive in other areas. As I've said, black depth and contrast ratio were amazing, and far better than anything you can get from TN Film, IPS or PLS panels. The dynamic contrast ratio even worked in practice up to about 8000:1 which was pleasing. Input lag was very low, uniformity was very good, and the screen offered a decent enough range of connections, including the popular HDMI. The addition of integrated stereo speakers was a nice extra as well. Best of all, the Philips 273E3QHSB retails for only ~240 GBP. That is massively less than some popular 27" models like the Dell U2711 (600) for instance, and also less even than many modern TN Film based models which tend to retail commonly for ~300 in the 27" sector. Yes, the 273E3QHSB might be lacking a few features, but as a very low cost alternative to the mass of TN Film models, and with a few benefits of AMVA to boot, it's an interesting option for many price-conscious buyers looking for a big screen.
 

Pros

Cons

Very low black depth and excellent static contrast ratio

Poor responsiveness from AMVA panel

Good uniformity and no significant backlight bleed (may vary)

More limited viewing angles than IPS and PLS

Low input lag

Limited ergonomic adjustments from the stand

 

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