Pros: Great image quality, 1.07 billion colors, Adjustable stand, Strong set of display settings
Cons: On screen display buttons are difficult to use, No speakers
When you think of high end monitors, HP might not be the first name that comes to mind since they're more known for their desktops and printers. They make standard commodity monitors as well as a growing number of high end business focused displays. Today I will be checking out their Z27s 27" 4K IPS display. How does it look? How does it feel to use? Who should buy it? We'll go through all of these so come along as we check out this panel!
Introduction and Unboxing
Included in the box is the pre-assembled base, the panel, an AC power cable, a USB uplink cable, a DisplayPort cable, a Mini DispalyPort cable, and some documentation. There's no HDMI cable included which is alright since you should be using DisplayPort to get the full 4K 60Hz out of the monitor. Rather than including an instruction manual, HP has taped a quick start guide right to the front. Since it’s a monitor, it's clearly not difficult to setup and use, but it is a good reference for the connection and adjustment options available.
The stand is very nice and offers the full array of adjustments. It has a wide matte black base as well as a cutout in the bottom for cable management. There are three tabs on the top which lock into the monitor without screws. It's also easily releasable vie a pull tab at the bottom which makes transportation very simple. It's made of a hard plastic coated metal and feels very sturdy. The stand offers tilt from -5° to +20°, swivel to 45° on each side, and a 90° pivot from portrait to landscape. It's also VESA mount compatible if you need even more.
Monitor Physical Overview
The monitor comes reasonably well equipped in terms of input options. From left to right we have a power switch, AC input, Kensington lock at the bottom, HDMI 1.4, another MHL/HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, Mini DisplayPort, audio jack, USB 3.0 uplink, and a two port USB 3.0 hub. There is no DVI input which may be an issue for legacy users, so keep that in mind. On the user's left side, we find two more USB 3.0 ports as well as a pull-out identification card with serial number and other product information. This is a great place to hide it and it's also captive so you won't lose it.
Here is the monitor fully assembled. Right away I noticed that the bezels were slightly larger than some other monitors in this range, but it's nothing too bad. All around is a simple textured plastic. While it doesn't look as nice as a brushed aluminum finish, it certainly won't attract fingerprints as much. The bottom has a silver HP logo, the product name, and the buttons for the on-screen display.
Rotating around to the back we see the monitor’s profile. It's pretty deep and measures about 10" from the front of the monitor to the back of stand. The monitor itself is about 3" thick as well. I'm sure they could have made it a bit thinner but the adjustable stand may not have allowed that.
The on screen display was a bit of a let-down. The buttons, located at the lower right corner of the monitor, are hard to find and feel terrible. They blend in to the bezel and the tactile feel is extremely mushy. Some buttons have raised bumps on the edges but if you push on those bumps, you'll push two buttons at once. Whoever designed this system clearly never tested it out to make sure it actually worked before they put it on the monitor. If you can get over that, there is a rather large number of settings you can adjust. From standard brightness and contrast, to color temperature, PIP, power management, sharpness, custom scaling, and more. Navigating the menus is made a bit easier thanks to the button hints that appear, but some were missing. For example, there is no back button on the color temperature. Despite being challenging to use, it gets the job done and you'll hardly end up using it anyway.
Image Quality and Performance
Now we can finally turn the monitor on to see how it looks. The Z27s is an IPS panel which theoretically gives it better viewing angles and color accuracy. If you're upgrading from a TN display the difference is very clear. The colors appear much more vibrant and natural. I was really happy with how the monitor looked.
HP advertises the monitor with a typical sRGB color gamut of the full 100% which is pretty impressive. It is also a 10-bit panel capable of 1.07 billion colors. Most monitors now are 8-bit with only 16.7 million colors so theoretically the Z27s can produce 64 times more colors. Now that doesn’t mean the image will look 64 times better though since that's not how color accuracy works. Below is the same 4K test image and a portion physically zoomed in. The Z27s has a very respectable 163 pixels per inch.
Viewing angles were great as well since that it's an IPS display. Below we see the same image taken from horizontal to the monitor and from standing up looking down. There's very little detail lost here. Also below is an image taken from about 70° to the left. Again image accuracy stays very high. The Z27s has a technical specification of 178° in both the vertical and horizontal, but no one is going to realistically view the monitor from that angle.
Now on to some more objective tests. Grayscale performance was pretty solid. There was some minor banding towards black and the Z27s couldn't quite differentiate between the final shades on the scale. If you do a lot of work with dark colors, there is a "Black Stretch" setting that can help though. Contrast was good although bright red tended to blur in the final shades. Green and blue however were just fine. I ended up turning the contrast down slightly from the default setting but that was the only adjustment I felt was needed. It’s not a full-fledged production color monitor, but it does a really nice job. It’s well above the quality from standard consumer TN displays.
In terms of gaming performance, the Z27s isn't marketed as a gaming monitor. It's only 60Hz, doesn't have any adaptive sync capabilities, and has a 6ms response time. For many games this is just fine, but I wouldn't recommend it for face paced eSports style games like CSGO, Dota, or LOL. The 6ms response time, while above typical 1-2ms of other monitors, it going to be more than adequate for nearly everything. It's highly unlikely that you will notice it unless you have an advanced testing setup. Anything under 8ms is considered fine for gaming.
I think HP really has a great monitor here. It's a looks wonderful and comes without the bells and whistles that drive up the price. At under $500, that puts it in a very competitive price bracket. I think this monitor is aimed at the prosumer or anyone else who really cares about image quality and what their monitor looks like. Someone who is just starting out in content creation could really benefit from the color accuracy and visual fidelity. It's not for everyone though. There are 27" 4K monitors for cheaper, but they won't look nearly as good as the HP Z27s!