Samsung’s CRG9 might be the most ostentatious and OTT monitor we’ve ever reviewed. Not only is it a mammoth 49 inches from corner to corner and blessed with a 5120 x 1440 resolution, it also supports HDR and refresh rates up to 120Hz, and has a whole bunch of inputs.
The downside? At well over £1,000 this screen costs more than many gaming PCs on its own, suggesting it’s within the reach of the most well-heeled gamers only. But let’s see how far it goes towards justifying that daunting asking price.
Design and build: Concave and colossal
The monitor arrives in a formidable coffin-sized box, confirming my fears about its size: yes, this thing is big and bulky. It’s obviously wide (I mean, look at it) but it also extends back a surprising stretch, meaning you’ll need a desk both deep and wide to accommodate it properly.
I’ve always found curved screens for televisions to be a bit of a gimmick, but it makes a lot more sense for a desktop monitor as wide and large as this to have a concave display. Because you’ll likely be sat close to it, right in front of its middle, the display here really does have the effect of wrapping around you. The word “immersive” is overused in reviews, but the curvature really does draw you more into the on-screen action here – at least if, like me, you’re sitting about a foot and a half from the monitor.
The stand might be large, but it serves a purpose: it swivels and tilts with a pleasing degree of pliability and allows you to adjust the height too. You can also run cables up to the back of the screen through the stand arm, which will please anybody who likes to keep things neat and tidy.
The monitor’s controls are found on the bottom edge of the screen on the right side, and are fairly simple: a four-way joystick and on-screen display let you quickly adjust settings, while pushing the joystick inwards flicks the screen between fully powered and standby states.
Features: Double up
If you’re looking for a justification for shelling out over a grand on a monitor, here’s one angle to take: the CRG9 is basically two regular 1440p QHD monitors side by side. Its Picture-By-Picture feature means you can have one 16:9 source on the left side and an entirely different 16:9 source on the right. And with one HDMI and two DisplayPort inputs, it’s possible to have three sources connected at once.
Even in its regular “one source, one screen” setup, there’s so much space here that you can arrange two or even three separate windows on the screen at once without things feeling crowded. Browse your emails in one while keeping an eye on the football in the other and touching up your holiday snaps in a third – you know the drill.
But let’s get real: productivity feels like it comes a distant second to the CRG9‘s true calling, which is delivering games in a fashion far beyond what most of us are used to. To that end, the display supports frame rates of up to 120Hz and AMD’s FreeSync adaptive variable refresh rate technology.
You’ll ideally need an AMD GPU to get the full advantage of FreeSync’s smooth, stutter-free performance – my Nvidia GeForce-equipped PC wasn’t able to put this capability to the test. However, Samsung’s recently announced 2020 G9 Odyssey monitor, which uses the 49RG90 as its template, should be compatible with both FreeSync and Nvidia’s own G-Sync technology.
One last thing to note: the monitor doesn’t have built-in speakers. But if you’re spending this much on a gaming screen you likely use good quality headphones and/or desktop speakers already, so we can’t count this as a major criticism.
Performance: I see your true colours
What I was able to test out was the monitor’s HDR performance, which is glorious. Games like Hitman 2 and Blair Witch show off two of the main advantages of HDR, despite looking very different.
Blair Witch is dark and gloomy, as befits a first-person horror game set in some scary woods in the middle of the night, but the CRG9 fills that inky darkness with just the right amount of discernible detail. It looks almost real, and that makes it all the creepier when something horrifying does emerge out of the blackness.
Hitman 2, conversely, is typically a bright and vibrant game, and the monitor’s QLED colour reproduction renders locations like Miami and Mumbai in gorgeously saturated fashion. The HDR support, meanwhile, ensures that you can scope out both the brightest and darkest areas of the setting at once – all the better to track down your assassination targets and find the best hiding spots.
As well as the superb HDR and colour performance (the latter of which also impresses when you aren’t using HDR), the monitor’s brisk response time and refresh rate make for a clean, crisp and responsive image no matter how frenetic the game.
The monitor has some picture mode presets, including three for different game genres (RPG, FPS and RTS) which is a daft gimmick, but I do think competitive types will appreciate the Low Input Lag mode, which tweaks everything to shave every possible millisecond off of the lag. Personally, I found lag totally undetectable – but I’m not an e-sports type of gamer who’s living or dying on my reactions.
If you’re playing late into the evening and worried about the state of your peepers, there’s an effective eye saver mode that dims the display and cuts down on blue light. It really does drop the brightness right down, however, so unless you’re in a dark room the picture will lose a lot of contrast and punch.
Samsung CRG9 verdict
The CRG9 is certainly the most impressive gaming monitor I’ve ever used, and even if not precisely in its target market (my entire gaming PC, 24in Acer monitor included, cost about the same as this one screen alone), I found it made games a lot prettier and more involving.
It requires a lot more desktop space than the average monitor, but once you’ve got over its initially alarming size its advantages quickly make themselves apparent. Smooth motion, imperceptible lag, lush colours, realistic and delicate lighting – all these things work to make games more enjoyable.
Of course, you’d expect nothing less for £1,000-plus, and with that in mind we should caution owners of older or more underpowered PC hardware to beware: if your computer isn’t beefy enough, you won’t get as much out of this screen as you might expect. Your money may be better spent on a new graphics card, an SSD and a couple of sticks of RAM instead.
Another thing you might want to do before pulling the trigger is wait for our review of the newer G9 Odyssey monitor, Samsung’s latest generation of ultra-widescreen gaming display. While outwardly very similar to the CRG9, it includes tweaks such as a 240Hz refresh rate, Nvidia G-Sync compatibility and rear LED lighting that set it up as an even more advanced option.