Samsung’s latest family of BW monitors have hit the shelves boasting some impressive new specifications and a fresh new style. Today, I’ll be taking a look at the new 20” widescreen panel dubbed the ‘206BW’.
Specifications were taken from www.samsung.ca
- Screen Size: 20 inches
- Aspect Ratio: 16:10 (Standard PC Widescreen)
- Resolution: 1680×1050
- Brightness: 300cd/m 2
- Contrast Ratio: 800:1* (or 3000:1 ‘Dynamic Contrast’. More on this later)
- Colours Supported: 16.7 Million
- Pixel Pitch: 0.258mm
- Response Time: 2ms (GTG)
- Inputs: Analog RGB, DVI Digital Link (with HDCP support)
- Stand: Tilt/Swivel
- Special Features: MagicBright3, Vista Premium Certification
* The Samsung USA site specifies a 1000:1 static contrast ratio. 800:1 static in Canada..
The specifications above look pretty impressive for a monitor in this price range. The one figure that undoubtedly sparks interest in this monitor is the 2ms GTG response time. This figure is down from 5ms on its predecessor, the 205BW. Interestingly, Samsung has decided to post two different contrast ratio figures: a static and dynamic figure. The number most people will be familiar with is the ‘static’ ratio of 800:1 (1000:1 according to Samsung USA). Brightness is listed as a very healthy 300cd/m 2. Twenty inches is a little larger than the entry-level nineteen-inch monitors seen today, but this size generally has a finer pixel size with a 1680×1050—a resolution often used with larger 21 and 22 inch wide panels.
Dynamic Contrast / Static Contrast Ratio
There is now yet another specification for LCD monitors: ‘Dynamic Contrast Ratio’. Contrast is simply a comparative measure of the brightest white and darkest black that a display can produce. Static contrast (the number most people are familiar with) is measured when a single black and white image is displayed and the light and darkness is measured at different locations on the panel. ANSI measurement specification calls for a black and white checkerboard image to be used for this. Dynamic contrast measurements, on the other hand, are done over a period of time with differing images displayed. This almost always results in higher numbers. It is argued by some that dynamic contrast is a better measurement because real-world images are rarely static—especially when dealing with multimedia. It is important the note that static and dynamic ratios cannot be compared; they are two completely different measurements. Dynamic contrast is becoming a popular specification in the ‘Home Theatre’ world, so it is not surprising that PC displays are following suit.
Although with a ‘static’ image being displayed, the 206BW is rated for an 800:1 (or 1000:1 according to Samsung USA’s website) contrast ratio, it actually has the ability to vary the backlight strength according to what is being displayed on the screen. There is a profile ‘Dynamic Contrast’ in the MagicBright menu that is used to enable this. It was interesting to see this in action. Browsing to a website with a black background immediately caused the backlight of the panel to weaken, improving the black reproduction. Browsing back to a site with a white background (like google.com) caused the backlight strength to increase. If one were to measure the contrast at those two points in time, it would inevitably be higher than that of a single image being displayed. This is an interesting new feature.
A Closer Look
The 206BW came packaged in a smaller sized cardboard box with satisfactory styrofoam placement.
Although I am a big fan of reducing unnecessary packaging, additional packaging at the front of the monitor would allow for better protection of the panel.
Inside we find all of the essentials, including VGA and DVI cables, AC power cable, a software disc and documentation.
The 206BW does not ship with the stand attached to the monitor. It is a little difficult to attach on your own so you may want to ask a friend or family member to help hold the monitor while you affix the base. It attaches with a single screw from below the base as seen below.
The back of the monitor has its ports hidden by a plastic clip-on shroud. This is a nice addition for those who obsess over cable management.
Once the shroud is removed, the AC power port and RGB/DVI connectors can be accessed. As seems to be common to all ‘BW’ series monitors, inputs are limited to RGB Analog and DVI only. This is suitable for a vast majority of users and helps to keep the cost of the monitor low. Those interested in other multimedia connections or integrated audio should take a look at Samsung’s SyncMaster 215TW or the recently released 225MS.
The monitor itself is a thing of beauty. The ‘piano black’ glossy finish on the bezel gives it a very classy appearance. Definitely the best looking LCD I’ve seen to date. Style conscious individuals will appreciate the 206BW. As you can see below, it is like a mirror and marks up just as easily as one too. Be sure to keep your fingers off.
Stand adjustment is very basic. Swivel and tilt only. This is pretty common in this price range I’m afraid. It would be nice to see manufacturers include some degree of height adjustment in all LCDs. The Samsung 225BW did employ a height adjustable stand, but the newest 226BW and 206BW do not.
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 it as an everyday consumer, computer enthusiast and a gamer—commenting on the different performance categories accordingly.
Sharpness: The 206BW produces a very sharp picture via the DVI digital interface. With its small pixel size, detail is very evident at the native 1680×1050 resolution. The 206BW also does a very admirable job of ‘upscaling’ lower wide aspect resolutions (like 1440×900 for example). Good news for those with older graphics cards.
Brightness:The 206BW is a very bright monitor—too bright. I had to manually adjust brightness down to about 50% on the OSD to make it a bit easier on the eyes for day-to-day use. The ‘Dynamic Contrast’ MagicBright setting, which dynamically adjusts brightness, is a helpful feature in this regard. I have no way to measure the 300cd/m2 brightness rating, but I do not doubt it is close to that figure based on what I have seen. I must add that the MagicBright presets make it very easy to adjust brightness without navigating through the OSD.
Colour Reproduction: Colour reproduction on the 206BW is excellent. Right out of the box, it is warm and natural. There is no overemphasis in the ‘blues’ that is common among many entry-level monitors. I did not feel the need to adjust any colour specific settings. The vast majority of users will likely leave it as-is.
Viewing Angles: The 206BW fairs pretty well in this regard for a TN panel. Side angle viewing is good with only minimal loss of brightness and minimal colour degradation.
As with most TN panels, viewing from an angle below the monitor is not pretty. Thankfully, this is not a position most viewers will find themselves in and is not as important as side-to-side viewing angles.
Overall, I was pleased with the monitor as far as viewing angles are concerned.
Backlighting and Black Reproduction: Black reproduction is nice and deep on the 206BW and contrast is good (especially for such a bright monitor). Backlight uniformity is good with very little backlight bleed. There is a very small amount of bleed on the top and bottom of the display but is acceptable considering how bright this monitor is. Backlight uniformity is good through the centre regions of the monitor, which is most important. As mentioned previously, the ‘Dynamic Contrast’ profile automatically adjusts backlight strength to improve black reproduction with dark images.
Response Time and Gaming: This is always my favourite category to test. I got some fast paced Quake 3 and Half-Life 2 DM in with the 206BW.
I have no way of quantitatively measuring the 2ms grey to grey response time but I can tell you that this is a very quick panel. I did not notice any ghosting. Gamers will not be disappointed with the 206BW in this regard. For anyone who has not experienced gaming on a 20+ inch widescreen display, you do not know what you are missing. The experience is fantastic, especially with a responsive display like the 206BW.
Gradient Banding: Unfortunately, there is some gradient banding visible when using the ‘gradlin’ tool
Thankfully, the effect is not as bad as some panels but it is definitely there. The banding can be seen on both DVI and VGA interfaces.
Manual colour adjustment and ‘MagicBright’ profile adjustment did not seem to improve the banding much. I had used the 206BW for almost a week before running the ‘gradlin’ test and to its credit, I did not notice any banding during real-world use during that time. Although this is definitely not something we like to see in any monitor, the effect seems light enough that only those with a keen eye will notice.
More Than One Revision?
There has been some press lately surrounding different panels being used within the 206BW and 226BW monitors.
It appears that there are a few different revisions of the monitor out there. I have not used any other revisions of the monitor but I can confirm that the panel I reviewed is an ‘S’ panel (as can be seen in the image below).
Pricing and Availability
The 206BW can be found at just about any retailer and there are no availability issues. At the time of writing, it can be had to about $299 CDN if you keep an eye out for it on sale. I’d consider this monitor to be a good value considering its performance and target market.
The 206BW is a very good monitor for the price. Although it has some weaknesses like some gradient banding and an unimpressive stand, the positive aspects of the monitor greatly outweigh these. Excellent colour right out of the box, good viewing angles, an incredible response time and high value make this a great choice for the every day user and PC gamer. The 206BW is a very nice looking monitor with a beautiful piano black finish and subtle accents to top it all off. Overall, I was very pleased with the 206BW and would not hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for a good ‘bang for the buck’ widescreen LCD. I would like to sincerely thank Samsung Canada for providing Icrontic with this sample.
This product has received the Icrontic Stamp of Approval.
- Great colour reproduction without any adjustment
- Very fast response time—great for gaming
- Beautiful glossy piano black bezel and great overall styling
- Good viewing angles
- Very bright with good black reproduction
- HDCP support—for future multimedia compatibility
- Sharp picture and good up-scaling ability
- A very good value
- Gradient banding—not too bad, but still visible in synthetic testing
- Unimpressive stand—tilt/swivel only