The Samsung M70A Smart Monitor aims to fulfil two needs at once, serving as both a 4K computer monitor with a USB-C port, and a 32-inch smart TV with streaming apps and HDMI ports for when the working day is over. Can it do this and earn a place in T3's best 4K monitors guide? Let's find out.
In a world where millions of us are still working from home instead of the office, the Smart Monitor couldn’t have arrived at a better time. And, as well as offering regular computer connections and streaming apps, it also features Microsoft Office 365, so you can create and edit work documents in the cloud without even needing a computer (just a keyboard and mouse).
On a similar note, the Smart Monitor works with Samsung’s wireless DeX system, where recent flagship phones can turn the monitor into a simplified computer.
DeX and Office 365 are arguably only going to appeal to a small subset of buyers – because who doesn’t already have a computer to plug into the monitor? – but Samsung’s bid to strike a balance between work and play is an interesting one. Does it work? Read on to find out.
Samsung M70A Smart Monitor review: Design and setup
Firstly, a quick introduction to the Smart Monitor range. There are two models on offer; the M50A has a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 and is available with screen size options of 27 and 32 inches, and the M70A reviewed here is 32 inches and has a 4K resolution of 3840 x 2160. All three models are visually identical and have the same features.
Back to the M70A and we have a smart looking, if relatively inoffensive, computer monitor. The screen has a nice small bezel and sits on a compact central foot that offers tilting between -2 and +22 degrees, but no sideways or rotational movement. There is also no height adjustment, so you might need to sit the monitor on something to make it work best for you.
The Smart Monitor feels fairly well made, but its plastic construction and slight amount of wobble on its stand reminds you of its relatively low $399.99 / £399.99 price point. To be clear, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck here, but the hardware feels more like mid-range television than premium workstation.
The rear-mounted ports are easily accessible and include a USB-C connection that can also deliver 65W of power (to a laptop, for example) and a pair of HDMI 2.0 ports for connecting computers, games consoles and media streamers. There is also a pair of USB-A ports, plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for connecting to the web and to a wireless keyboard and mouse when using Office 365.
Setting up the Smart Monitor is more akin to a television that a computer screen. The included remote control will be familiar to anyone with a recent Samsung television or sound bar, and the setup process is similar too. Once connected to your Wi-Fi network, the monitor walks you through its various features, including DeX and Office 365, and encourages you to log into your Samsung account and install applications.
You don’t strictly need a Samsung account to use the monitor and there’s the option to skip that part entirely. But you’ll need an account if you want to download applications beyond those already installed (Disney+, for example). It’s then a case of opening apps like Netflix, Prime Video and iPlayer, and logging in to get everything working – just like a smart TV.
Samsung M70A Smart Monitor review: Features and picture
The M70A Smart Monitor is as much about features as it is picture quality. In that regard, the Tizen operating system is exactly like that on Samsung smart televisions and will be instantly familiar to anyone who owns one. A press of the home button opens a menu for switching input sources and browsing applications, making it easy to start a Netflix binge the moment you finish work for the day.
One of the more interesting features is how the display works with Microsoft Office 365, meaning you can access your work documents saved in the cloud and edit them using a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard paired to the monitor. This can feel like living in the future – a computing experience without the need for an actual computer – but in reality we wonder how many users would invest in a monitor but not have a computer or laptop at home.
There’s also wireless DeX support, which connects to most recent Samsung Galaxy flagship phones and creates a desktop PC-like experience on the Smart Monitor. Again, this is a smart use of wireless technology and may come as a surprise for Galaxy phone owners who didn’t previously know about DeX, but we wonder if anyone would use this exclusively for their home computing needs. We suspect the majority of Smart Monitor buyers will use it once or twice then hook up a laptop instead.
Apple users can take advantage of AirPlay 2 for sending content from their iPhone to the display, or for turning it into a wireless monitor for their MacBook. This works well enough, especially with iPhones, but when used as a secondary Mac display image quality isn’t perfect. You’re best off plugging in with HDMI or USB-C.
Lastly there is the remote control. Just like those included with Samsung televisions, it has a microphone for speaking to the Bixby voice assistant and controlling smart home devices via the SmartThings platform. Voice commands can be used to open apps, control media playback and interact with smart home accessories.
As for picture quality, the 3840 x 2160 4K resolution makes everything pin-sharp, even when sat close to the monitor at a small desk. The screen is flat instead of curved and at 32 inches with a 16:9 aspect ratio it’s a great size for both work and play. HDR10 is supported, but a typical brightness of 250cd/m2 isn’t much to write home about, meaning HDR content (while supported) isn’t the best.
Similarly, while the viewing angle is stated as 178 degrees, the image doesn’t always appear consistent when sat close to the screen. Glancing to the far edges while working causes a noticeable difference in contrast and white balance, which is most obvious when working on word documents or spreadsheets that are mostly white. This issue goes away when sitting further away from the screen, so if you have a deep desk this might not be a problem for you, and it’s not noticeable when watching from across the room.
The contrast ratio of 3,000:1 is acceptable and so too are the 8ms response time and 60Hz refresh rate – but if you are a serious gamer than those latter two figures might suggest you look elsewhere.
Samsung M70A Smart Monitor review: Price and verdict
At $399.99 / £399.99 for a 32-inch, 4K monitor with smart TV apps and USB-C, the Samsung M70A represents good value for money. Upping your budget slightly will get you a better monitor or a better television, but the combination of both at an attractive price point is what makes the Samsung stand out.
The display isn’t one for committed gamers and the low typical brightness will put off buyers wanting the best cinematic experience. But for most people, most of the time – and especially while so many are working from home – the M70A Smart Monitor is a solid all-rounder. If you need a screen that works as a workstation during the day and an entertainment centre in the evening – and the 32-inch panel and $399.99 / £399.99 price tag fit your needs – the Samsung M70A is definitely worth a look.
- More of a gamer? Then check out the best gaming monitors