Review: HP's 27-inch z27s 4K display
Issue: January 1, 2016

Review: HP's 27-inch z27s 4K display


PRODUCT: z27s 27-inch 4K display

PRICE: $699


- 3840x2160
- 1000:1 static; 5000000:1 dynamic
- 6 ms gray to gray (with overdrive)

Having a 15.6-inch 4K laptop, I’ve come to appreciate the crispness of Windows 10 and my apps, but decry the super small icons and menus when I’m working inside Maya and 3DS Max, which don’t really scale up to 4K well (Autodesk, are you listening?). I can force Windows 10 to scale through the OS and not have to be an inch away from the screen to see what shelf icon I’m clicking, but that poses some occasional display issues. For professional work, that’s not ideal.

So when HP contacted me about reviewing the Z27s display, I was curious, but not instantly sold on the idea of 4K on my desk. I have been very happy with the 27-inch ZR2740w screen I’ve been sporting, and pretty gaga over the DreamColor z27x I got to review last year, with its brilliant color accuracy and sharpness.

Now I like to sit on a monitor for a while before I report on it. I want to make sure I give it time to get into my workflow and become part of my desktop setup. It’s one thing to look at numbers and stats, but living with a monitor is important — it’s the thing you look at the most and should be the most scrutinized in any professional setup.

Having used the z27s for a while now, I am proud to say this is a nice screen to use. It is sharp, bright, and clear, with a very respectable 163dpi. While it’s not DreamColor caliber, the Z27s’ 10-bit color is quite good with the IPS panel (at a reported 99 percent sRGB gamut and 1.07 billion colors — I’ve counted them). And the fact that this is 27-inches makes all the difference. This is about the smallest I’d want to use at 4K, at least until my apps (Maya, 3DS Max, Nuke) adapt and have higher res icons and menus without forcing scaling through Windows 10. I can live with OS scaling with the laptop at 4K, but not at my desk. No sir.

So while the Maya interface’s UI icons are small, they are readable and workable at 27-inches for sure. But basically the 4K res (actual res is 3840x2160, which is actually UHD; real 4K is 4096 across to be nerdy about it) is heaven. Just have a capable video card that can drive this resolution at 60Hz to be easiest on the eyes (not that 30Hz is hard to look at, but 60Hz is smoother overall).

With UHD, there is just so much space to work — I can have windows side by side for days. Add to that the fact I mount this on an Ergotron LX articulating arm, and I can place the screen anywhere easily to suit what I need. During Starcraft II play, it’s about 12 inches from my face while I wait for the Zergling rush to crush my base.

When I have my Maya hat on, it’s about 18 inches away. I was concerned the monitor would not be held up by this monitor arm, which is rated for 24-inch screens, but at a scant 11lbs. and change, the Z27s is easily maneuvered, especially on an arm. The included stand gives you easy height adjustment with a solid 7lb. base that feels solid, but maneuverable.

The HP panel runs at about 60W pulling from the power outlet with a maximum draw of 92W, which is more or less standard compared to other 27-inch screens. The Z27s panel has an attractive bezel, thin, with five inconspicuous buttons on the lower right for all your control. The buttons feel a little less solid than I’d like, the plastic feels a bit hollow compared to the higher-end pro screens like the Z27x. Otherwise, I like the cabinet and panel very much, solid and light with a lot of connectivity options.

For ports, we have two HDMI 1.4 (one with MHL 2.0 for mirroring and charging portable devices), one DisplayPort 1.2, one mini-DisplayPort; with all four ports supporting HDCP. In addition, there are four USB 3.0 ports and a standard stereo audio jack for speakers. Using Picture-in-Picture (or Picture-by-Picture), you can keep an eye on more than one input at a time. Not something I use so much, as I have secondary and tertiary screens for other machines like my render slave, but I can see how P-in-P could be very useful.

At about $625, it’s a fair price for a screen of this quality. I’d say that the Z27s is mostly professional grade, but not high end. It most closely compares to Dell’s P2715Q, but costs about $100 more online and is lacking DisplayPort daisy-chaining, which at least helps reduce cable runs to the PC itself, but is in no way a deal-breaker.

As far as subjective user experience, this is a great primary screen for work and for play, too, with a respectable response rate rated at 6ms. Video playback is smooth, and fast motion does not cause jitter or ghosting. The LED backlighting is great, and I don’t see bright edges around the panel; it’s very even keel and smooth. The screen brightness is fantastic with really vibrant white and a fairly deep black for an industry standard 1000:1 static contrast ratio. While the Dell mentioned above has capability to be brighter (at 350cd/m2 compared to Z27s’ 300cd/m2), I can’t see that being such an advantage. At some point, things just get too bright, particularly if you need to sit closer than usual to see Maya’s tiny icons at 4K.

At the end of the day, while the Z27s isn’t the top of the professional line, this is a good screen for studio and for work-from-home use, though I would love to see the price drop to compete with the Dell unit better. While I’m at it, I’d also like to see the Z27x with a native 4K resolution for the high-end professional that wants DreamColor accuracy, though the monster Z32x may fit that space pretty well. And of course, there is the option for the Z27q, which is similar to the Z27s, but at 5K resolution and with stunning crisp dpi over 200. All in all, this is a nice screen to work on and I count myself lucky to have been using it.