LG UltraGear Gaming Nano IPS 27GP950 test: is it really the right choice for consoles?

The advent of HDMI 2.1 with support for 4K at 120 Hz and Variable Refresh Rate, has paved the way for a new generation of IT extraction monitors, dedicated to gaming and next generation consoles. At LG, one of the proposals is the monitor of the UltraGear Nano IPS 27GP950 series. As the name suggests, it is a 27-inch monitor with an IPS-type LCD panel, which favors viewing angle and color rendering. This is a clearly 4K resolution monitor and support for frame rates up to 144Hz and even 160Hz with overclocking mode. For consoles there is precisely support for 4K up to 120 Hz and compatibility with AMD FreeSync Pro and Nvidia G-Sync, with the former ensuring at least VRR on Xbox Series S and X.m , 1199 euros, but the monitor is currently on promotion for 799 on LG.com. Let’s find out in detail.

Ultra slim design and with a crown of light

In terms of design, the first feature of the LG UltraGear monitor is the fact that the display is essentially bezel-less, with a plastic border no more than a couple of millimeters thick around the panel. Then in reality it is necessary to deal with the non-active matrix part of the screen itself, about 4 – 5 mm on the right, left and upper sides, and about 1 cm on the lower one. From the front, therefore, logos, serigraphs or buttons are not visible, with a very clean design.

In general, for a gaming monitor, the lines are not so extreme. The pedestal lets go to an inverted V-shaped base with sharp edges, and offers the classic height adjustment and tilting up and down, plus the ability to rotate the screen in portrait mode. On the back of the pedestal, characterized by bright red inserts, there is a sort of cable passage to accompany the changes towards the input panel, on the right side of the circular structure that characterizes the rear panel, otherwise rather thin.

The second distinctive feature is in fact given by the Sphere Lighting 2.0 dynamic lighting system, consisting of a circle of RGB LEDs placed on the back and protruding from the screen like a turbine. The lights can be controlled in different ways, to illuminate the back wall in “ambilight” style. The few controls are placed centrally under the lower frame of the screen, in the form of a mini-joystick for accessing the settings menu, and a wheel that allows you to select the operating mode of the Sphere Lighting 2.0, which can be better configured with the appropriate software to be installed on the PC.

Thanks to the HDMI 2.1 KVM switch but nothing

In terms of connections, the monitor offers two HDMI 2.1 inputs and one DisplayPort 1.4. With HDMI cables, the monitor supports 4K signals up to a refresh rate of 144 Hz, while with DisplayPort you can enable the “overclock” mode that allows you to set the output of a PC up to 160 Hz. The monitor is compatible with both with AMD FreeSync Premium Pro that Nvidia G-Synch, plus VESA Adaptive Sync. LG does not explicitly mention the VRR of the HDMI specification, but we could not verify it works with the PlayStation 5.

The monitor is equipped with a USB 3.0 hub, but with only one upstream port, so it is not possible to share USB peripherals connected to the monitor with multiple devices. For peripherals there are two USB 3.0 ports, which can be used for connecting mouse and keyboard, or any other device. The mini-jack output for headphones completes the picture.

HDMI 2.1 aside, there is no console-specific optimization

Although HDMI 2.1 makes LG’s UltraGear Nano IPS appealing even for use with next-generation consoles, we are always faced with a “PC first” approach. The LG 27GP950 is first of all a PC monitor, and like all products of this type, here too we find the usual OSD not very usable and with settings reduced to a minimum, especially as regards the video settings. The reason is always the same: why invest in a video processor of any kind for a monitor, when you can do everything from a PC? And so those who instead use a console will find themselves dealing with the usual factory image presets and adjustments that allow you to adjust the white balance, brightness, contrast and little else in a very superficial way.

The menu allows you to choose between the Gamer 1, Gamer 2, FPS, RTS, Vivid, Reader, HDR Effect, sRGB presets, plus two calibrated profiles that can only be used with the LG Calibration Studio software. Aside from the sRGB profile, the other presets take advantage of the native gamut of the screen and are designed to have more or less vivid images with various types of video games (FPS mode, for example, makes details on shadows more visible). In HDR mode the presets are reduced to Gamer 1, Gamer 2, FPS, RTS, Vivid. Gamer 2 is the one closest to the reference for playing HDR content and with the maximum brightness offered by the panel.

Among the specific functions for gaming we find the Black Stabilizer item, which allows you to adjust the visibility of shadow detailsthe frames per second counter and custom viewfinder for shooters. The overdrive of the panel is adjustable with the “Response Time” item and is adjustable on three levels, of which the fastest one is recommended only for signals with a refresh rate higher than 120 Hz. The UltraGear Nano IPS is a monitor with backlight partially dynamic and therefore we find a parameter to adjust the “speed” of local dimming.

Inaccurate factory calibration, but LG Calibration Studio comes in handy, only on PC

The LG monitor offers several pre-set image modes, most of which are designed for different types of games even before fidelity. There is only one preset that can be defined as pre-calibrated and that is sRGB, even if the level of precision of the factory calibration is still just sufficient.

It is true that the ColorChecker test offers an average DeltaE around the acceptability threshold of 3, but the white balance offers a colder color temperature than the reference, even by selecting the “warm” parameter from the on-screen menu. LG offers its own calibration solution, with the free LG Calibration Studio softwarewith support for popular consumer colorimeters. We have tested the software, which is not very sophisticated, verifying its effectiveness.

By targeting the sRGB standard, we achieved a marked improvement in calibrationwhich is saved on a special memory bank dedicated to the LG software and called “Calibration 1”. A second bank, called “Calibration 2”, keeps the previous calibration saved in case a new adjustment procedure is performed. It should also be noted that the calibration thus performed is valid only for the specific input to which the PC is connected and cannot be copied to another. Unfortunately, LG’s software also doesn’t offer support for HDR modes. As often happens in this area, by activating the HDR mode on the PC, the monitor disables most of the adjustments (however rather limited even for SDR signals) and there is little we can do by intervening on the display side.

The monitor basically performs a minimum tone mapping, keeping itself aligned with the PQ curve, except for a slight roll-off in the vicinity of reaching the peak brightness, which stands at around 721 cd / m2 by selecting the “Gamer 2 Mode” preset. However, the color calibration in this case is not very accurate. In the case of use with a PC, the problem is relative, as it is always possible to use different solutions to perform a calibration by working on the LUTs on the video card side, but those who choose this monitor for use with a console will have to settle for these factory settings.

LG claims 98% DCI-P3 color space coverage. The data is quite realistic in terms of coverage of the 2D gamut (on CIE 1976 space). Going to analyze the color volume, however, the gamut of the 27GP950-B monitor reaches 95% of the DCI-P3 space compared to the maximum luminance of 721 cd / sqm, which is a very good result. The contrast ratio, the HDR, stands at a value of 4280: 1 (12 stops of dynamics).

That 5% is lost in part on low lights, due to the high black level in HDR mode, and a little on shades ranging from yellow to red.

Good for gaming, but watch out for the dark

Once calibrated, the monitor offers a very natural color rendering. The opaque and anti-glare coating effectively absorbs ambient light and allows you to perceive a good contrast ratio, with apparently deep blacks, in an illuminated environment. As a PC monitor, the performance is satisfying and it is certainly a valid solution for photo editing. Being a gaming monitor, the parameter that most interests is certainly the response time of the LCD panel. LG declares a GtG value of 1 ms. What we can say is that when the screen is driven at 160Hz or 144Hz, no drag effects are felt due to the response time of the liquid crystals. At 160 Hz, the MPRT is just over 4 ms. At these frequencies, the overdrive instead has practically no effect on the perceived level of detail, and indeed by setting it to the maximum you get only evident halos due to the over-shoot.

At lower frame rates, moreover, it’s not that the impact of overdrive changes who knows what resolution in motion. We measured a maximum of 350 lines at 60 Hz with the test pattern we usually use for TVs, a still good value without frame interpolation, and by varying the intensity of the overdrive the finer detail does not change, only the intensity of the halos and a thin contrast of dark lines on a light background. Deactivating it therefore results in a cleaner image, without any real sacrifice in terms of moving detail. Much better to aim for higher vertical frequenciesPC permitting: to manage games in 4K at 160 Hz you need a lady video card, but already at 120 Hz (the maximum frequency supported by consoles), the yield in terms of response time seemed excellent to us.

Where LG’s UltraGear monitor convinces the least is on the front of the perceived contrast ratio when the ambient light is reduced. Already by switching to HDR, if you can appreciate the high brightness of the screen, you immediately notice how the black level rises significantly. Turning off the lights in the room, however, one soon realizes how the black level is really high and how the local dimming system is more of a distraction than a help: the monitor is not full array, but of the LED edge type, and local dimming works roughly and with vertical bands. Just a small logo at one corner of the screen, and the band remains fully illuminated, making the darker scenes a collage of more or less bright spots. This is not only harmful for viewing video content such as movies or series, which is certainly not the main intended use of a product of this type, but even with video games where there is an abundance of dark environments, the rendering is not very satisfactoryespecially in HDR mode. It is the main flaw of almost all HDR gaming monitors, at least all those that do not use a full array or MiniLED backlight, which however have even higher costs. It is therefore better not to be seduced by the dark and use the monitor while keeping the environment illuminatedin order to make the deficiencies in the low lights less visible.