LG 27GL850 review: why we named it the best gaming monitor

Plus a closer look at its Nano IPS screen, 1ms response time and more.

Recently, we named the LG 27GL850 the best gaming monitor on the market after several weeks of testing. This 1440p 144Hz display impressed us due to its excellent colour reproduction and motion handling, while a few missing features were forgiven thanks to its relatively affordable sub-$500 price point. Today, I thought it would be interesting to go into a little more detail about why this new monitor has earned our top recommendation, including a closer look at the monitor's innovative Nano IPS panel, its 1ms GtG response time rating and a few other curios that didn't make it into our summarised write-up.

The biggest difference between the LG 27GL850 and our previous picks for the 'best gaming monitor' spot is the sort of panel they use. While monitors like the Acer XB271HU and Asus PG279Q used AHVA IPS panels from Taiwanese vendor AU Optronics, this new monitor is built around a next-generation Nano IPS panel from LG Display, a subsidiary of the wider LG chaebol.

Nano IPS builds on the normal strengths of IPS panels, which are known for their wide viewing angles and accurate colour reproduction, by layering nanoparticles on the white LED backlight of the display. This layer filters out wavelengths of light that lie outside the intended gamut, allowing for more accurate colours within it. The Nano IPS specification therefore hits 98 per cent of DCI-P3 colour space, equivalent to around 135 per cent of the less-demanding sRGB gamut, allowing for more colour-accurate work and even support for HDR inputs.

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However, Nano IPS doesn't solve the largest issue with IPS screens - their relatively bright darks, relatively low max brightness, lack of local dimming and therefore below-average contrast in comparison to VA or OLED panels. That's why the 27GL850 isn't able to meet even the lowly DisplayHDR 400 standard, as this requires 400 nits of peak brightness and the LG monitor's backlight is only capable of around 350 nits. A widescreen variant of this monitor, the 38GL950G, does a little better to achieve 450 nits peak brightness, but even this is some way below the 1000+ nit mark at which HDR screens become truly worthwhile.

As well as improving on colour reproduction, the 27GL850 also outperforms previous-gen IPS monitors when it comes to response time with an independently-verified 1ms GtG rating. This metric measures how long it takes one pixel to change between two colours; the longer this process takes, the more fast-moving objects will leave a blurry trail behind them on the screen.

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With most IPS monitors sitting around 4 to 8ms of GtG response time, 1ms represents a significant improvement that should improve clarity of quickly moving objects (like enemy players in FPS titles, for instance). In our testing of the 27GL850, we found it easier to track players than on other 144Hz IPS monitors such as the Acer Predator XB271HU, which has a GtG response time rating of 4ms.

Note that GtG times are dependent on the overdrive setting used, with "faster" on the 27GL850 producing the lowest response times but also introducing noticeable overshoot, a visual artefact that adds a trail in front of quickly moving objects. We recommend using the second-highest setting, "fast", which is still noticeably better than equivalent settings on all other IPS-type monitors (and even competitive with 240Hz TN monitors) and doesn't incur noticeable visual degradation.

Interestingly, this LG monitor was first advertised as the 27GL850G with full G-Sync support, but has shipped as the 27GL850 or 27GL850-B. Somewhere between the initial announcement and launch, the decision was made to forgo the costly physical G-Sync module in favour of a software-only solution. This likely reduced the price by around $100/100 and the monitor was still certified as G-Sync Compatible by Nvidia, so it will work out of the box on both Nvidia and AMD hardware. The downsides to this decision are that VRR stops working below 48Hz and the option for overclocking to 165Hz has been removed - reasonable trade-offs given the price differential, at least in our book.

There are a few other minor points that seem worth covering too. We mentioned the slim bezels in the best gaming monitors write-up, but the way these are done is also different to what I've seen on most other monitors. Rather than having a plastic bezel that juts out beyond the screen, the bezels here are beneath the screen instead, meeting the side of the monitor at a right angle so you can run your finger from one edge to the other without ever feeling a bump. This isn'tuseful in any meaningful sense, but it does make the 27GL850 look a little more modern and minimises the appearance of a gap between each panel in a multi-monitor setup.

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A more substantive upgrade is the stand, which takes up relatively little desk real estate and offers 90 rotation, height adjustment, tilt and swivel. It can also be installed without tools; ideal for LAN parties and other situations where you don't have a screwdriver to hand. A 100x100 VESA mount is also available, if you prefer to use a monitor arm or another mounting mechanism. All I/O is clustered on the back of the monitor, with two USB 3.0 ports and a headphone passthrough joining the usual loadout of one DisplayPort 1.4 port and two HDMI 2.0 ports. The I/O is easier to access in this position, but reduces the working length of your cables compared to a more usual downwards-facing placement.

The on-screen display (OSD) is another bright point. First off, the 27GL850 starts off on the right foot by including an intuitive joystick on the underside of the frame instead of a confounding column of buttons on the back. (There's also an Windows or macOS app if you prefer.) Inside, the OSD includes modes for different game genres, a setting that brightens dark areas (to spot sneaky enemies) and several on-screen crosshairs (useful for no-scopes in CS:GO and hardcore modes in Call of Duty). None of these features are absolutely essential, but having more options is always appreciated and will no doubt be found useful by a certain proportion of users.

Given the specs and features of the 27GL850, you'd expect it to be an expensive proposition - and to be fair, it's certainly not a budget model at around $490/470. That's a lot of money to spend on any part of your setup, but in context this monitor is reasonably priced. Its closest competitors, earlier IPS monitors like the Acer XB271HU, are actually more expensive due to their inclusion of hardware G-Sync modules that simply aren't necessary for most users. Our previous best gaming monitor pick, the MSI Optix MAG271CQR, is normally a little cheaper but lacks the near-perfect colour reproduction and rapid response time of the 27GL850. Therefore, picking this new LG monitor as our top recommendation was an easy choice to make - and if you are in the market for a new display, this one should be the first you check out.

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About the author

Will Judd

Will Judd

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2.

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