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Samsung SyncMaster 215TW LCD Review

Samsung SyncMaster 215TW LCD Review


Supplied by Samsung

It is not every day that you find a monitor that has it all—larger than average size, a top-notch panel, great ergonomics, tons of features and every input imaginable. Most monitors seem to compromise in one area or another and the ones that are truly exceptional, come with an exceptionally high price to match. The Samsung SyncMaster 215TW hopes to prove that compromises are not necessary and that performance can be delivered without a hefty price tag.

Specifications

(specifications from samsung.ca):

  • Screen Size: 21 inches
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:10 (Standard PC Widescreen)
  • Resolution: 1680×1050
  • Colors: 16.7 Million (8-bit Panel)
  • Brightness: 300cd/m 2
  • Contrast Ratio: 1000:1
  • Response Time: 8ms (gray to gray)
  • Viewing Angle: 178°/178°
  • Inputs: Analog RGB,DVI Digital Link (with HDCP support), Component Video, Composite Video, S-Video, RCA Audio, PC Audio Input.
  • Special Features: PIP (Picture in Picture),Integrated Audio, MagicBright2, MagicRotation and MagicTune.

As you can see, the specifications are impressive. 300Cd/m 2 and 1000:1 contrast should make this a very bright and vivid display putting it at the head of the pack (as far as rated specifications go). At 21 inches, it is another one-off monitor. More and more panels seem to be trying to fill the rather large widescreen gap between 20.1 and 24 inches. Samsung’s recently reviewed 225BW is another example of this. I personally think that there is a lot of potential interest ‘in the middle’ as few people can afford the big 24 inch widescreen models. You may think that one inch does not matter, but I can tell you that it does look noticeably larger than 20 inch displays like the Dell 2007WFP. The 1680×1050 resolution is pretty expected at this panel size and is common to 20.1 inch widescreen displays.

The 215TW is packed with input options, including HDCP DVI and a slew of A/V inputs (component, composite and S-Video). It even has an integrated speaker system and PIP making this a potential television replacement.

A Closer Look

The 215TW came packaged well in a cardboard box and styrofoam reinforcement.

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The monitor itself is very aesthetically pleasing and has a narrow bezel. I have always been fond of Samsung’s minimalist LCD appearance—nothing too flashy. Our sample is flat black, although Samsung also produces a silver model too.

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The monitor ships with a protective pin in place to prevent the panel from rising unexpectedly as you get it out of the box. The 215TW uses a very simple stand that has a relatively small footprint. Although it is not much to look at, it is sturdy.

215TW_SOUNDBAR

The integrated speaker is very low profile and about half the thickness of the monitor. I’d actually consider it to improve the looks of the panel. As expected, the audio quality is not terribly good, however, it is very convenient for an office environment or for easy access to a headphone jack.

215TW_BUTTONS

The 215TW employs on-monitor controls. The buttons have a nice solid feel to them and the power indicator glows a pleasant blue color when powered on. I’ll get more into the actual OSD features of the monitor in the next section.

215TW_INPUTS1

215TW_INPUTS2

There is no lack of inputs on the 215TW: Analog, DVI, Component Video, S-Video, Composite Video, RCA Audio (two L/R pairs) and PC Audio. Most of the inputs are on the bottom of the unit (probably the most frequently used) but the S-Video/Composite and an additional audio RCA pair are found at the left side of the monitor. It would have been nice to have all inputs at the bottom of the monitor but I suppose it would have been awfully crowded there. I was pleased to see an internal power supply. No bulky external bricks are required.

Ergonomics

The 215TW’s allows for a great number of ergonomic adjustments. Aside from the ‘tilt’ function supported by just about all LCD monitors, the monitor has height adjustment, left-right swivel and even portrait rotation.

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You can manipulate this monitor into a wide variety of positions.

Function and Adjustment

The OSD of the 215TW is feature packed and allows numerous adjustments.

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Under the input menu, you get resolution and refresh rate status as well as an opportunity to select the active source. Because there are so many inputs on the 215TW, you can even rename them to a handful of predetermined names (like VCR, DVD Player, Cable Box etc)

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As mentioned earlier-there is no shortage of inputs. Five different image sources can be selected including Analog (RGB), Digital (DVI), AV (Composite), S-Video (as stated) and Component Video (as stated).

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The picture menu provides many of the tuning options for the monitor. Brightness, contrast and color adjustments can be made here.

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The MagicBright system allows for selection within the OSD, or via a hotkey on the front panel. Each of the modes allow for quick selection of different brightness/contrast presets. This is very useful for switching between Windows and darker movie/game environments. Any custom adjustments that are made are automatically saved as the ‘custom’ MagicBright preset.

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Color adjustment can be made from the ‘Color Control’ menu. There are several presets available. I will elaborate in the performance section, but the color reproduction on the 215TW is excellent. Little, if any adjustment would be required.

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Many PIP (picture in picture) options can also be changed. All of the AV sources can be selected. You can not use PIP between the two PC interfaces—only between a PC interface and the AV interfaces. The size of the PIP window can be changed, along with the position. There is a split screen mode available called ‘picture by picture’ as well. There will be more on PIP in the next section.

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The OSD is transparent by default, and looks pretty cool. It can get annoying depending on your background so it can be adjusted. Language settings and the ‘reset to defaults’ option can be found in the ‘Setup’ menu.

Samsung also includes quite a few software tools with the 215TW. I won’t get into too much detail, but here is an outline of the tools and their functions.

MagicTune : MagicTune allows the adjustment of many settings from the operating system. Everything from MagicBright presets to color adjustments can be done via software. I was pleased to see that Samsung now offers MagicTune for Mac and PC as well as Windows 64 bit operating systems.

215TW_MAGICTUNE1

MagicRotation : MagicRotation is a nifty tool that automatically rotates the screen image when the monitor is moved into ‘portrait’ mode. It sits quietly in the system tray until the screen is rotated. It worked flawlessly for me.

Samsung magic rotate

Samsung.com

AV Features

The 215TW is unique, in that it supports a whole slew of AV inputs. I hooked up my trusty home theater DVD player to the unit and it did a great job via the S-Video and Component inputs. Watching DVD videos on an LCD is an very different experience that takes some getting used to—mainly due to the immense detail they can produce over standard televisions. The integrated speaker makes the 215TW a standalone AV solution. Volume can even be controlled via the ‘on monitor’ controls. The 215TW would undoubtedly be a great console gaming monitor as well.

My favorite feature is the PIP. It works wonderfully and scales very smoothly. Nothing like watching ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ while surfing the Short-Media Forums!

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Performance

Quite a few sites objectively measure performance using specialized tools and analytical techniques. Although these methods do provide a very quantitative measure of performance, I prefer to put a monitor through real-world tasks. In the one month I get to sample this monitor I put it through all sorts of trials and tribulations. I make the monitor my primary monitor for daily use. I look at and judge the monitor as an everyday consumer, computer enthusiast and a gamer—commenting on the different performance categories accordingly.

Sharpness: The 215TW produces a sharp and clear image via DVI. Its slightly larger pixel size does not impact clarity in the slightest bit (unless of course you want to view the monitor from a two inch distance). Text is very easy to read and detail is very evident at the native 1680×1050 resolution. At below native resolution, the 215TW does an excellent job up-scaling (one of the better monitors I have seen in this regard). This monitor is a joy to use for every day computing, surfing the web, etc.

Brightness: T he brightness level of the 215TW is excellent. I don’t have any way to measure the 300cd/2 rating, but I can tell you that it is a very bright monitor. It is not lacking at all in this regard. Because of how bright the 215TW is I found that some adjustment needs to be done when viewing dark movies or in dark game environments (like Doom 3). The MagicBright2 preset system makes this very easy to do.

Color: The color reproduction of the 215TW is fantastic right out of the box. I found it to be very natural and warm without being too red. I find that many panels emphasize the ‘cool’ part of the spectrum too strongly, but not the 215TW. Samsung definitely tuned this monitor prior to rolling it out. This monitor would be a good choice for those who do graphics design or photo work.

Viewing Angles: The 215TW is very forgiving when not viewing ‘head-on’. Brightness remains strong and uniform until head-level is beyond the left/right edges of the panel. At about 45 degrees horizontal, the brightness fades slightly, and color quality does not appear to be impacted much at all. Vertical angles are less forgiving but still excellent.

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Backlighting and Black Reproduction : Black reproduction is nice and deep on the 215TW and contrast is good (especially for such a bright monitor). Backlight uniformity is not perfect, but it is very good across the entire panel and only a very small amount of bleed is visible at the four corners. It is important to note that bleed is only visible with a totally black image and brightness/contrast levels do play a role in this. Adjustment does help. Overall, it does very well in this regard.

Response Time and Gaming : I play a lot of FPS games and response time is a very easy and enjoyable category for me to test. I have been using this monitor as my primary display for about a month now and have got some time into Doom 3, Half Life 2 and even some Quake 3 Arena. The 215TW performs admirably and has proven itself to be a great gaming panel. I have no way of quantitatively measuring the 8ms gray to gray response time but I can tell you that this is a quick panel. I did not notice any ghosting. The great black reproduction also made the 215TW very enjoyable to use in games like Doom 3. The tremendous brightness and accurate color really brings out the best in games—the Lost Coast demo was simply awesome on the 215TW.

215TW_HL2

215TW_D3

Gradient Banding: The 215TW produced very smooth gradients with accurate color. I was especially impressed by the gray-scale reproduction that appeared natural and uncolored. Frequently, gray scale gradients appear to have a warm/cool tinge to them—not with the 215TW.

Banding

A Quick Note On Input Lag/Delay

There has been a lot of talk recently about LCD monitors exhibiting ‘input lag’. This does not appear to impact CRT monitors. ‘Input lag’ is commonly perceived as delayed response to user input (via mouse/keyboard etc). This is something totally separate from ‘ghosting’ or ‘response time’. Although the real cause for input lag is not fully understood at the time this article is being written, it is most likely exacerbated by DSP (digital signal processing) within the panels. Our friends at behardware produced an excellent article on the subject worth taking a look at.

There have been some reports that the 215TW exhibits some input lag but it is important to note that all LCD panels appear to exhibit this to some extent. From my one month evaluation period with the 215TW, I have not experienced any noticeable amount of input lag. I get responsive, predictable and smooth mouse movement and response in fast-paced FPS gaming is instantaneous to my eye. I have no doubt that there is some delay present but I would never consider it to be a ‘problem’ based on my subjective observations. I consider myself fairly picky when it comes to LCD panels as well—hence my trusty old NEC Multisync CRT still being used daily. Not every person has the same tolerance to these types of delays so although I do not notice it, that does not mean it is non-existent. If you are concerned about this, I encourage you to visit your local computer shop and try one out for yourself.

Price and Availability

You will not have difficulty finding the 215TW. Although still fairly new, it is available at numerous retail and online locations globally. As far as price is concerned, the 215TW is not a cheap monitor but you get what you pay for. It can be had for around $475USD/$550CDN. I’d consider the 215TW a perfect choice for someone who wants a quality ‘larger’ sized panel and does not want to pay the huge price premium for 23-24 inch panels. Overall, it is a good value.

Conclusion

The Samsung SyncMaster 215TW is without a doubt, a winner. Awesome color reproduction, great brightness and clarity, good backlighting, tons of inputs, quick response, excellent ergonomics, HDCP and a good size. What more could you ask for?

If you are in the market for a quality widescreen panel, you need not look further than the Samsung SyncMaster 215TW. I would highly recommend this monitor.

This product is rated as an Outstanding Product by Icrontic.

Thank you again to Samsung Canada for their continued support of this and other tech oriented communities on the web. As always, please visit our forums! We welcome any and all feedback. Let us know what you think of the 215TW!

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