One of the improvements to the high-end monitor space over the last few years has been the inclusion of additional features in top-end displays rather than forcing gamers to pick between various capabilities. It’s become more normal to see capabilities like FreeSync and G-Sync, HDR, high refresh rates, and curved screens available on the same monitor SKU. Samsung’s new line of QLED-based gaming displays exemplify this trend.
At the top of the stack, there’s the Q9 Odyssey, a 49-inch behemoth with a 32:9 aspect ratio, 5120×1440 resolution, HDR1000 support, a 240Hz refresh rate, G-Sync and FreeSync 2 support, and a 1000R curved screen (the lower the “R” number, the higher the amount of curve). For those curious about the resolution, 5120×1440 works out to a 7.4MP image, slightly lower than 4K’s 8.3MP (3840×2160). PPI is ~108, which is a bit higher than the 32-inch 1440p display I use now. Specs on the 49-inch G9 and the lower-end G7s (32-inch, 27-inch) are shown in the lengthy infographic below:
We can’t evaluate the value of a display like this without knowing the price, which Samsung has kept carefully under its hat thus far. $ 1,000-$ 1,200 seems a safe bet, based on prices for last years’ model. The value question, though, isn’t just about price — it’s about how well these features all work together. Here, there’s a little intrinsic conflict.
FreeSync and G-Sync are technologies intended to maximize frame smoothness and avoid the hiccups and jerks that V-Sync can introduce. Both of them work well, but they also show their maximum effectiveness at low frame rates. 30fps with FreeSync/G-Sync is far smoother than 30fps without it. At 60fps, the difference is still visible but makes much less of an impact. At sustained speeds above 100fps, I’m not sure how visible the impact would be. Games that can maintain this high of a frame rate tend to look extremely smooth no matter what.
If you buy a 240Hz refresh rate panel because you intend to run games fast enough to take advantage of it, you probably don’t need FreeSync or G-Sync. If you want to take best advantage of FreeSync or G-Sync, you probably don’t need a panel that runs at 240Hz. There are other benefits to FreeSync 2, including less latency and better tone mapping for HDR content. But the primary marketed capability of both G-Sync and FreeSync is their ability to run content smoothly — and that works a bit against the utility of ultra-high refresh rates.
The smaller versions of this panel are only rated for HDR600 rather than HDR1000, but HDR gaming on PC is still in its relative infancy, especially compared with consoles. Back in 2018, RockPaperShotgun compared the experience of getting HDR working on PCs as requiring “the sort of obsessive and painstaking tinkering usually reserved for audiophiles, Linux users or people who wear fascinators to posh racing events. It can, like those comparisons, end up being a gateway drug to a permanent state of gnawing dissatisfaction with the thing you’re supposed to be watching/playing/have squatting on your head like technicolour spider.” The situation didn’t improve much in 2019.
The benefits of technicolor spider-squatting are self-evident and will not be debated here. The point is, HDR gaming on PC is still a pretty dodgy issue. The value proposition of HDR should also be considered relative to the content you play. With that said, an HDR1000 panel is as good as you can purchase now, and likely to hold its value better over time than an HDR400 panel. Since monitors tend to last quite a while, you could conceivably invest in the capability now and plan to have a well-positioned panel on multiple features for the foreseeable future.
It’s worth thinking about the interplay between which features you need and how you intend to use the display. But the advantage to a panel like this — if you’re willing to pay for it — is that you’re well-positioned for pretty much every near and medium-term gaming and content trend.