Samsung SyncMaster LCD Monitor Review

By Eric Grevstad | Posted October 28, 2003

You can say that $1,299 is too much for anyone except a wealthy, status-seeking executive to spend on a monitor, or you can say that such a screen would have cost three times as much just a couple of years ago. It's like seeing the glass as either half empty or half full, except instead of a glass it's your wallet.

We prefer to say that, with energy- and space-saving LCD monitors rapidly replacing old-school CRTs as they descend toward mainstream price points — $400 to $500 today gets you not a 15- but a 17-inch flat panel, and luxurious 19-inch LCDs are $650 to $750 — there's nothing wrong with daydreaming about a super-deluxe display. Indeed, the daydream can make sense for high-resolution designers and graphics fans as well as desktop showoffs; a jumbo LCD is a lot easier to handle than a huge, heavy 21-inch or larger CRT.

And the SyncMaster 213T from Samsung Electronics America is easier to handle than almost any other monitor on the market. Not only does the 21.3-inch flat panel smoothly tilt and swivel to whatever viewing angle you please, but pushing a button at the back of its stately silver base unlocks a handy couple of inches of height adjustment.

That's nothing that many flat panels, such as Apple's desk-lamp iMac screens, can't do. But the Samsung also pivots between landscape and portrait mode, with supplied Pivot Pro software to let you switch the Windows display from the usual horizontal to a Web- and word-processing-friendly vertical page view. And with 1,600 by 1,200 (or vice versa) resolution, it's sharp enough for seriously detailed graphics work, though so big that we found ourselves scaling Web-browser text up a size for easier reading.

Choose Your Connection
The SyncMaster 213T has both VGA analog and DVI-D digital inputs, to work with older and newer PC graphics cards — or one of each, since a button on the front bezel lets you switch between video sources. Its power supply (75 watts maximum) is internal, so there's just an AC cord instead of notebook PC-style power brick; a plastic loop on the back of the 9-inch-deep stand helps reduce cable tangle, though it isn't as elegant as some LCD monitors' cable-routing covers and you'll have to leave enough slack to accommodate the pivot feature anyway.

The abovementioned bezel is a stylish silver color and 0.75 inch thick — not as vanishingly slim as some LCDs', but well suited for offices that can afford to put two displays side by side. Six buttons below the screen include a power button (overruled, as on many flat panels, by a second power switch at the rear); a one-touch auto-adjust for analog input; and plus and minus controls for brightness and for navigating the on-screen menu summoned and dismissed by the remaining two buttons.

Both the auto-adjust and the menu work capably and the latter isn't as hard to navigate as most monitors'. We were surprised, however, that such a high-end, graphics-pro display lacked sRGB or other color temperature (Kelvin) settingsm though you can manually adjust red, green, and blue levels (on a scale of 0 to 100 apiece), choose from three gamma values, or opt for a prefab reddish or bluish palette.

The Samsung's 0.27mm pixel pitch yielded impressively sharp images and text even at wide viewing angles, and its 25ms response time, while not ideal for fast-action gamers, was smooth in all but the fastest mouse-moving or Web-page scrolling. Though no LCD can match the flexibility of a CRT, the 213T also did an above-average job of scaling lower resolutions, such as 1,024 by 768, to fill the 1,600 by 1,200-pixel panel. Nor did we spot a single bad pixel when trying our test unit with an all-white or solid-color screen.

Our only real gripe, apart from the lack of design-studio-style color options, is one we've made in several desktop LCD reviews: Though the SyncMaster's contrast (rated at 500:1) is fine, we found its 250-nit brightness a bit dimmer than ideal. The factory default of 80-percent brightness and 50-percent contrast made Word or Web pages look gray instead of white; we had to push both values to 90 to 100 percent before getting satisfactory backgrounds.

Considering the Samsung's $1,299 price, these shortcomings push our vote toward the glass-half-empty side for demanding design or graphics workers, though the 213T is a terrific temptation for upscale office use — its imposing size, razor-sharp resolution, Gumby-like flexibility or adjustability, and the addictive option of flipping into portrait mode for full-page views are all fine features.

Adapted from HardwareCentral.com.

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