Philips is one of the largest electronics companies in the world. It, along with businesses like LG and Samsung, make everything from light bulbs to Blu-ray players. But unlike its competition, Philips hasn’t been a name I’ve heard recommended as much from the enthusiast computer display crowds. And that’s a shame, because the Philips Brilliance 297X6 office monitor we’ve sampled has proven itself to be capable, well built, and versatile for use with more than just word documents.
The Philips Brilliance 297X6 is a 27-inch curved monitor with a 1920×1080 resolution. Its general list of features include an MVA panel, AMD FreeSync support, flicker-free technology, and the ability to display mobile device content on the screen. Additional specifications are below.
Backlight type: W-LED Edge slim
Effective viewing area: 597.88 (H) x 336.31 (V) – at a 4000R curvature
Response time (typical): 4 ms (Gray to Gray)
Brightness: 300 cd/m²
Contrast ratio (typical): 3,000:1
Viewing angle: 178º (H) / 178º (V)
Display colors: 16.7 M
Signal Input: VGA (Analog), DisplayPort, MHL-HDMI (digital, HDCP)
Audio (In/Out): HDMI audio out
Weight with stand: 12.28lb
Product dimensions with stand: 24.8 x 18.7 x 7.4 inch
Power usage: 20.35 W
Once assembled, the Philips’ aesthetics are traditional but not unattractive. The screen is flanked by a matte gray bezel and supported by an equally toned, thin, crescent-shaped base. A metal tab bearing the company’s name accents the panel with a flourish of silver, as does the cylindrical neck. Meanwhile, the rear shell is a solid white.
Continuing the tour of the back, we find the power jack and four other ports. The latter take the form of VGA, DisplayPort, MHL-HDMI, and a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones and speakers. The box includes cables for nearly all of them, a welcome surprise, with the exception of Mobile High-Definition Link. If you want to connect your phone or tablet to the Philips 279X6, you may have to purchase a separate MHL-HDMI cable. Other amenities include a fair degree of tilt ranging from +20 degrees to -5 degrees.
The On-Screen Display (OSD) is manipulated via a small joystick underneath the bottom edge the panel. It moves in four directions, and after a small adjustment period, I found navigation to be quick and intuitive. Moving it up brings up source selection. Down is for volume control. Left gives access to the SmartImage presets, which Philips says analyze and optimize the image depending on the displayed content. They include Text, Office, Photo, Movie, Game, Economy, and Off. And finally, pushing the joystick to the right shows the expanded menus. There you can fine tune the picture format, brightness, contrast, sharpness, gamma, enable or disable several advanced picture options, and other standard OSD tweaks.
The most obvious property is the panel’s curve. It’s hard to dismiss when viewed off-center. And despite becoming more common, it still feels like a premium feature. That’s how marketing sells it, too. Words and phrases such as “immersive” and “puts you at the center” are lobbied about in heavy frequency. In practice, the effect is rather subtle while staring at the screen head on. It shouldn’t be the deciding attribute when shopping for a 16:9 display.
So the curve isn’t the wow factor I hoped it would be, but the picture quality does impress. At default settings with a color temperature of 6500K (there are six selectable temperatures ranging from 5000K to 11500K, as well as sRGB), the Philips 279X6 presents a very balanced image. Text is easy to read and detail is sharp. Its 4ms response time keeps motion blur at bay. Colors are accurate without being oversaturated. It doesn’t exhibit the blue or green push that often plagues lesser monitors. Furthermore, whites are pristine and blacks sufficiently inky.
Screen uniformity on our sample is quite consistent from a normal viewing angle. Curved panels are more likely to suffer from backlight inconsistencies because of their shape, and when looking at the Philips from extreme angles some of those issues are present and more obvious. But when seated only a slight amount of light bleed is visible at its lower corners. It’s practically imperceptible against normal content. White uniformity is similarly even, though from time to time I have noticed a small, faint lighter patch toward the right half of the screen. It too is only noticeable against certain backdrops, such as the white pages of a word document.
The monitor’s 178/178 degree viewing angles are also worthy of praise due to its Multi-Domain Vertical Alignment (MVA) panel. MVA technology hasn’t completely closed the gap between TN and IPS, but its deeper colors, high static contrast ratio, and wide viewing angles bring it much closer to the latter. Contrast shift is minimal. Swinging my head from side to side caused very little change. It’s still present, especially if you jump out of your seat, but it’s a far cry from the horrible dance of contrast and color changes a regular TN panel goes through. In fact, the thought of going back to my old HP Pavilion 2709m now fills me with dread.
The Philips 279X6 isn’t just built for office use, however. Support for AMD’s FreeSync makes it well suited for gaming. FreeSync is an adaptive-sync technology that when enabled eliminates screen tearing and reduces or outright eliminates irritating judder. It works by synchronizing the refresh rate of the monitor to the framerate being outputted by the graphics card. And when you see it in action, especially when comparing it side-by-side to a display absent the feature, it’s a revelation to behold. Gameplay is incredibly smooth and free of the artifacts associated with conventional Vsync.
There is a catch to AMD’s implementation of adaptive-sync. FreeSync only operates within specific refresh rates. The window is left to the display manufacturers to determine. Some have a range of 40-144Hz. Others, such as the Philips 279X6, may only be set to 48-60Hz. If the framerate drops below the minimum, the display will revert to using whatever Vsync setting you’ve chosen. AMD recently introduced Low Framerate Compensation (LFC) in a software update to address that issue, but it sadly only works if the maximum refresh rate is 2.5x higher than the minimum adaptive-sync variable. The Philips’ limited range leaves LFC off the table and requires you to stay within its 12-frame window for FreeSync to work. It’s worth mentioning that there is an easy though involved hack to increase the minimum and/or maximum ranges. There’s always a risk involved, of course, but because it’s largely a few driver tweaks, at most you may have to reinstall the default driver if your adjustments aren’t behaving optimally.
As good as the monitor looks and behaves out of the box, the same can’t be said for the majority of its advanced picture options. Many of them, from the six SmartImage presets to the SmartKolor, SmartTxt, SmartResponse, and SmartContrast settings, negatively impact image quality in one way or another. That’s not necessarily a surprise. After all, most calibrators will suggest disabling artificial enhancements. But if you want the 279X6 to look its best, you’re going to want to leave those settings off. To go into more detail, SmartKolor increases saturation at the cost of some finer details. SmartTxt overly sharpens text and introduces too many artifacts (the SmartImage Text preset is even worse). SmartResponse allows you to overdrive the monitor’s pixels to theoretically increase response times, but the Fast, Faster, and Fastest selections all produce inverse ghosting. The SmartImage Game present, which also increases response times, isn’t any better. SmartContrast adjusts the, you guessed it, contrast of the screen based on what you’re currently looking at. However, it’s not fast enough to be inconspicuous. The constant dimming and brightening of the screen proves a distraction. The SmartImage Movie preset suffers from the same weakness while additionally crushing black levels.
Picture settings aside, the Philips Brilliance 297X6 is a pleasing monitor that delivers balanced colors, punchy contrasts, great viewing angles, and decent gaming versatility with AMD’s FreeSync. It’s made me want to put my Hewlett-Packard out to pasture. The company has proven its craftsmanship and I’m looking forward to seeing what else they have to offer.