Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Samsung SyncMaster XL20
- Excellent colour reproduction, ships with a hood, versatile stand, USB hub
- Supplied colour calibration tool doesn't have Vista drivers yet
For users who work with colour-sensitive applications such as image and video editing, this screen can't be beat. It was pretty much flawless during our colour tests and its viewing angles were excellent. If you're a pro, this screen is well worth considering.
Price$ 2,499.00 (AUD)
This monitor is designed for professional graphics artists and photographers. It's a 20in monitor with a native resolution of 1600x1200; it relies on LED backlighting, instead of fluorescent tubes, and it ships with a colour calibration tool.
The bad news is that the calibration tool, X-Rite's Eye-one Display 2, doesn't have drivers available for Windows Vista yet. A hood is also supplied in the package, which attaches itself to the top and sides of the screen to keep ambient light from reflecting off it.
This monitor is Samsung's first to use LED backlighting, which aims to produce more natural-looking colours, and a wider colour gamut, compared to monitors that use a fluorescent tube as a backlight, yet it doesn't have an exorbitant price tag. It also seems to reduce the monitor's heat emission slightly. During our tests, the screen's colours were superb and it did, indeed, produce less heat as we're accustomed to from a screen over 19in. Its power consumption will vary between 50W and 76W depending on how high the brightness level is set.
Different viewing modes can be used with this monitor: sRGB, AdobeRGB, in addition to emulation, calibration and custom modes. We used sRGB for our tests, which we found to be excellent.
Viewing photos on this screen was an absolute pleasure. The contrast, even in very dark photos, was accurate; intricate details in shadowed areas of photographs were perfectly viewable and subtle colours were easily distinguishable. Gradients didn't suffer from stepping and colours were vivid, without being overly saturated. Whites also looked pure; they weren't too bright and blown out, nor did they suffer from blue or yellow tinting. The greyscale tests in DisplayMate, as well as the colour gradient tests, pretty much showed this monitor to be perfect.
Likewise, we didn't notice anything untoward with the monitor's sharpness. With a resolution of 1600x1200 its dot pitch is small anyway, and curves and lines are rendered beautifully without any jaggedness. The large resolution allows big jobs to be viewed easily, but it means that users will have to sit fairly close to the screen to view all image details accurately.
One quibble we've had about LED-based monitors in the past has been their poor viewing angles. On this screen, the viewable angles are as good, if not better, than most screens we've seen. Indeed, the rated viewing angles of 178 degrees seem to be spot on the mark as we were able to view images from the side without noticing any colour shift or contrast changes.
As for the monitor's stand, it's very versatile: it can tilt, rotate, pivot and rise. Users can view their work either in landscape or portrait mode, but will need to manually change the orientation using the graphics card software. While the monitor does ship with a program that can automatically detect and re-orient the screen (Magic Rotate), we couldn't get it to run properly in Windows Vista. For connectivity, users can plug into the DVI-I or DVD-D ports, and a USB hub is also present on the screen for convenience.
The image can be tweaked extensively using the on-screen display program, which, apart from the usual luminance and individual colour adjustments, also allows for gamma, sharpness and colour tones to be adjusted.
The bottom line with the XL20 is this: if you want a relatively inexpensive LCD screen on which to work on important colour projects, then it can't be beat. Its colours were excellent during our tests and its viewing angles are second to none. The monitor is supported by a Zero Pixel Defect policy and a three-year on-site warranty, which includes a swap service.
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