Samsung’s legendary G9 is returning. The new Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 takes the familiar but still outrageous recipe of a 49-inch, uber-curved, and ultra-fast gaming monitor and tops it off with cutting-edge backlighting technology and HDMI 2.1 connectivity to charge up the best gaming monitor and best curved gaming monitor lists for 2021. Spicy.

Of course, display technology on this grandiose scale will come at a cost, and this monster is exorbitantly priced. However, the massive VA panel does run at 240Hz, has a stated 1ms response time, and a rather ridiculous 2,000 nits peak brightness. Then there’s the brand-new backlight. On paper, that’s where the real showbiz magic happens. It is a mini-LED solution with 2,048 local dimming zones.

The original Samsung G9 was stunning in many ways, but with only 10 edge-lit dimming zones, it wasn’t quite the HDR experience. The new ‘Neo’ model promises to address this issue. And some more.

Samsung Odyssey Neo G9: Design and Functions

By numerous counts, the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 resembles its non-Neo forefather. The same epic 49-inch proportions are available with extreme 1000R curvature (note that, as with the original G9, only the middle portion of the panel is actually curved, while the extremities on either side flatten out). The screen resolution of 5,120 by 1,440 pixels is also carried over, as are the 240Hz refresh rate, 1ms grey-to-grey pixel response, and 95 percent DCI-P3 color coverage from the VA panel. Indeed, the LCD panel itself is most likely unaltered.

The backlight has been updated from a very simple edge-lit solution with 10 dimming zones to a full-array mini-LED backlight with 2,048 zones. The overall result is not only an increase in claimed peak brightness from 1,000 nits to an almost incomprehensible 2,000 nits, but also the promise of something much closer to real HDR capability across the panel due to considerably more granular control of the backlight.

Another important improvement is the inclusion of HDMI 2.1 connectivity. This increases flexibility in general and, more specifically, opens the door to this being a genuinely feasible PS5 monitor, PS4 monitor, or Xbox Series X display in the future, should Microsoft or Sony decide to support the Neo G9’s ultrawide 32:9 pixel grid. Even if that happens, no console will support the full 240Hz frame rate. That will continue to be a feature available only to the greatest gaming PCs and gaming laptops.

Elsewhere, the industrial design is identical to that of the original G9. So it’s upscale plastics with a Stormtrooper flavor to the main casing of the LCD panel, as well as CoreSync LED mood lighting. As previously stated, there are no integrated speakers and only a headphone connector for audio.

Samsung Odyssey Neo G9: Performance

The Neo G9, like the original G9, puts on a serious show. The sheer size and tremendous curvature provide a level of immersion that few if any, other displays can match. The 5,120 by 1,440 pixel grid, as previously stated, amounts to a modest pixel density for ordinary computing. There are better solutions for multitasking at this high price point. There are undoubtedly better screens for watching the video, as most TV and streaming programming is set to the narrower 16:9 aspect ratio, leaving most of the massive 49-inch 32:9 panel empty.

In other words, this screen is entirely dedicated to games. So, does it live up to expectations? Yes. No, it does not. The good news is that when it’s at its finest, this monitor completely socks you. Where HDR support is available, games perform extremely well. Cyberpunk 2077 is now the king of HDR eye candy, and it’s never looked more engrossing. The capacity of this panel to display both retina-searing sunlight and inky black shadows in the same image is a genuine delight.

Furthermore, pixel performance and latency are strong characteristics. Nobody does faster VA panels better than Samsung, and the Neo G9 is no exception. Call it an esoteric observation, but the clarity of text when scrolling through a webpage, enhanced by the 240Hz refresh, is quite remarkable. It’s about as nice as an LCD monitor can get in-game.

So, what’s the snag? The new mini-LED lighting isn’t the game-changer we were hoping for. Yes, it does provide you more control over the backlighting. However, in a PC context, its detailed implementation is quite clumsy. When navigating the Windows desktop, it’s all too easy to notice differences in backlighting power, both dynamically when moving objects like cursors and entire application windows, and statically across certain rendered elements, such as a dialogue box positioned between bright and dark background features.

It can be exceedingly unsightly and distracting at its worst. It would be unacceptable at any price point, let alone on a screen this pricey, from the standpoint of a pure productivity panel. These flaws are far more difficult to spot in-game. The desktop experience, however, demonstrates that, even with 2,048 dimming zones, comprehensive control of the illumination is still somewhat primitive.

PROS

  • Stupendously immersive gaming experience
  • Stupidly bright and punchy
  • Fantastic response and speed

CONS

  • Mini-LED backlight is surprisingly crude
  • Pixel density is nothing special
  • Insanely expensive

Samsung Odyssey Neo G9: Conclusion

The new Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 is fantastic but a touch imperfect, but in simply rational and value terms, it doesn’t make sense. It costs roughly twice as much as its predecessor and, by most accounts, does not advance the game. There are no more pixels, no more speed, the design remains unchanged, and the only added peripheral feature is HDMI 2.1, which isn’t particularly useful right now.

So it all boils down to that innovative mini-LED backlight. We have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it’s difficult not to be disappointed by how basic it turns out to be upon closer examination. On the other hand, the subjective experience in games, which is all that matters, is pretty darn good. The Neo G9 isn’t exactly the showpiece we expected. It’s difficult to endorse it as a real-world purchase. But if you have the cash and want the most spectacular PC-powered experience on the earth, it’s difficult to conceive of anything better. A 120Hz 4K TV or one of LG’s candidates for best OLED TVs, such as the LG C1 or CX, is unquestionably a superior pick for console gamers, and it’s also less expensive.