An all-in-one screen that covers all your video viewing and playback needs in a single, slick-looking device is an awfully tempting proposition. That the Samsung Series 5 T27A550 does this for a price of around £414/$430 while offering a generous 27-inch screen diagonal only sweetens the deal.
In use, however, there are issues. It's weakest as a PC monitor on several counts. The lack of DVI or DisplayPort connectivity can lead to scanning issues, and the tilt-only stand lacks the flexibility you really want from a PC. Plus, while the Full HD resolution is perfect for HD TV and movies, it makes less sense on a 27-inch PC panel. Even 22-inch monitors now offer the same resolution. So all you're getting is larger pixels, not more usable desktop real estate.
It's also worth noting that BenQ offers its EW2730V 27-inch monitor for a very similar price. OK, it lacks a TV tuner. But it sports a much higher quality VA LCD panel with a 3,000:1 native contrast ratio and thus significantly betters colours and black levels.
As an HD TV, the news isn't that much better, even if the context is a little different. For starters, 27 inches is no big deal in the world of HD TVs. Prices for large HD TVs have positively collapsed in the last 18 months.
You can now buy a Full HD 42-inch plasma screen for under £400. The Samsung Series 5 T27A550's price will get you at least 32 inches of conventional LCD HD TV. And given the screen's lack of DVI or DisplayPort connectivity, it's hard to see how it's more or less of a PC monitor than any HD TV with HDMI connectivity. What's more, the lack of native Freeview HD support means you'll need some kind of external box to watch HD broadcasts.
That said, the My Downloads USB playback feature does give it a lift above both the HD TV and PC monitor norm. It certainly makes it more flexible for playing back video files. However, it's hard to imagine using this feature frequently if you have the Samsung Series 5 T27A550 hooked up to a PC. At best, it might be handy as an alternative to booting your PC.
If space is at a premium, a single display that provides monitor duties, a TV tuner and supports set-top boxes and games consoles is extremely handy. For a TN screen, it also offers decent image quality, in part thanks to the use of an LED backlight. The relatively modest 1080p resolution also means you won't need an epic graphics card to play games.
Jack of all trades, master of none, we're afraid. As a PC monitor, the pixel pitch is too coarse. Worse, the lack of DVI or DisplayPort connectivity could cause problems with AMD graphics cards. As an HD TV, it's not terribly big and lacks native Freeview HD support.
Inevitably, the attempt to provide all-in-one capability results in a lack of excellence in any one metric. To keep the price bearable, Samsung had to use a TN panel and that puts a cap on image quality and vibrancy, despite the use of an LED backlight.
As a PC monitor, the 1080p resolution isn't a great fit with the 27-inch size, which ironically limits its appeal at this price point as an HD TV. As does the missing Freeview HD support.