26. March 2008

My Samsung SyncMaster 226bw (Test / Review)


 The Samsung SyncMaster 226bw at my desktop

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I have finally got a new monitor! After sending back my Samsung SyncMaster 245b because it was too noisy, I now got a Samsung SyncMaster 226bw.

First of all a few facts:

Screen size: 22“
Connections: VGA and DVI
Speakers: No
USB-Hub: No
Resolution: 1.680 x 1.050

Design

The design of the SyncMaster 226bw remotely resembles those of Samsung TV sets. The frame is shiny-black with a silver streak at the bottom. The stand is colored in the same simple but shiny black. Speakers are fortunately not included.

The controls are at the lower border of the casing. Except the small labelling they are virtually invisible. Only the silver power button is placed more noticeable – especially because of its bluely glowing status LED. Fortunately, it is not so bright that it would be annoying when watching movies or something.

The screen surface of the 226bw is matt which makes me personally very happy. I have heard though, that there is some kind of a religious war going on between defenders of matt and defenders of shiny, so this is probably a matter of taste. :)

Stand

Despite looking quite nicely, the stand is not really good from a ergonomical point of view. It is not possible to adjust the height or turn the screen upright (which would be called pivot function, I think).

 Maximum uptilt of the 226bw

It is possible to tilt the SyncMaster 226bw upwards by about 20° which should be more than sufficient for most cases. The stand is so low that this little bit of buffer could come in handy.

 Maximum downtilt of the 226bw

The downwards-tilt is more than disappointing, though. Some test claimed that it can be titled by 5° forward. My specimen of the 226bw is definitely not able to do this. I did not measure the angle, but subjectively I would say that it can not even be tilted completely upright (see picture). This can become quite problematic: If you are sitting a little lower, for example in your couch watching a movie, you are screwed. The small viewing angles of the screen darken the picture. It quickly becomes way too dark. In my case, I ended up placing stuff under the back part of the stand to tilt the whole construct. It goes without saying that this is not exactly a very stable solution…

At least it is possible to rotate the SyncMaster 226bw, but I rarely use this feature.

It is beyond my imagination why Samsung ships this monitor with such a bad stand. The missing pivot function and height adjustment are quite normal in this class. The virtually non-existant option to tilt it downwards is not normal. I even consider the standard-5°-option quite tight, but felt -1° is just not enough.

I bought an alternative stand to solve this problem. My 226bw is now hold by an Ergotron Neo-Flex. This stand can be used with all monitors with a VESA connection. For another 40 Euros I can now tilt my monitor 5° forward, easily adjust the height and even have a pivot function. Rocks. :)

Please note that one of the readers of the German version of this review pointed out that his specimen can indeed be tilted 5° forward. This surprises me. I do not know wether he has another version of the 226bw or if my version was damaged or poorly attached. Unfortunately, I can’t check this easily anymore because my new stand is already installed.

Image quality

The Samsung SyncMaster 226bw uses a so-called TN panel. This is the cheapest kind of TFT panels, but also the one with the worst color range and the narrowest viewing angels. Better panel types usually cost several hundred Euros more, so I don’t complain about Samsung’s choice of panel type. :)

Like all screens with TN panels the SyncMaster 226bw is very vulnerable to color distortions when the optimal viewing angle is not used. Especially the vertical angle has almost no tolerance. I read somewhere that the 226bw has very limited viewing angles even compared to other TN displays. Personally, the limitation does not appear worse than with other TN screens to me.

By the way, these limited viewing angles also explain why I haven’t spotted a monitor with TN panel and pivot function, yet. In the upright position there is almost no working viewing angle anymore. Since the monitor is then very high, the angle to the upper corner is different than the angle to the lower corner. Therefore, the colors in the upper area are always different than in the lower area. The rotation also swaps the vertical and horizontal angles. The former vertical angle is not the horizontal. Since this former vertical angle is especially touchy the brightness changes if you move your head just slightly to the left or right. When you are too close to the screen and a delicate motive is displayed you can even see the brightness difference between you left and right eye. :) (Just to be clear I want to state this again: This happens only if you turn your display 90° upwards using the pivot function of a third-party stand like the Neo-Flex)

For the standard office use the image quality is very much ok. Some colors appeared a little strong to me with the factory settings, but I adjusted the saturation and now they seem withing normal limits. Only the gray colors seem to trouble my 226bw. On single-colored areas there appears a slight yellowish fog. I can only see this phenomenon on a fixed physical position on the screen, so I suspect that the panel is of lower quality in this area (or maybe even damaged during transport or something).

Unfortunately, I did not do much image processing since I have my new monitor, so I can’t say much about that. Due to the use of a TN panel the SyncMaster 226bw certainly will not compete with professional standards – but no monitor of this class can do that. I believe that the 226bw is good enough for “home-use image editing” where absolutely reliable colors are not required.

Video

Movies (or more generally all moving images) caused one annoying problem with my SyncMaster 226bw: It created unpretty artefacts which looked much like pictures with reduced or broken colors. It took me some time to figure out that this problem can be solved by disabling the RTA function.

As far as I know, RTA is Samsung’s “overdrive” technology. I believe this overdrive is meant to get faster reaction times from the panel. My version of the 226bw seems to have a poorly working overdrive which messes up the colors. When I turn this RTA thing off, everything is fine.

I also did not experience any disadvantages after turning RTA off. I wonder why it is turned on by default if it breaks colors… strange. I guess that my 226bw does now have a slower reaction time, which might be a problem for hardcore gamers. So if you want to play fast games: Beware of this problem. Personally, I don’t care.

VGA

The monitor is connection via VGA to my laptop. This seems to work well. The sharpness is perfect and there are no artefacts from a sharpen filter (with sharpness set to 44).

troublesome color for the 226bw

Unfortunately, some screen ares show slight (and sometimes even strong) noise. I believe the VGA signal is jammed somewhere along the line. The supplied VGA cable also looks suspiciously thin. Maybe it is not well shielded.

Especially gray shades like the one sampled on the right get disturbed. I can see slight “brightness waves” travelling through the screen. Interestingly, these waves freeze when I push the “print” button on my keyboard, so maybe the reason for the problem is more within my system than the 226bw.

Fortunately, this noise appears seldom enough so that I’m not too annoyed. I should test a better cable somewhen…

Noise

I returned the „large brother“ of the SyncMaster 226bw, the 245b (see my 245b-review) because it was too noisy. The 226bw is fortunately less loud, though still not perfect. As with the 245b, it’s loudness depends on the brightness setting.

If the 226bw is set to a brightness of 70 or brighter, I can not hear it from my working position. When I place my ear next to the casing I can detect the humming of the power adapter, but fortunately I never work in that awkward position. Those of you who read the 245b-review already know how touchy I react to noise, so I guess one can say that the 226bw is practically noiseless at bright settings.

In darker settings, however, I can hear a strange noise. Depending on the exact setting it is more or less loud, but always too loud for me. When I had just got the monitor, there was a dark setting (5) in which I could hear it but at an acceptable noise level. Unfortunately, this setting is now louder as well.

To be fair, I should note that not every monitor even has such dark settings. Apple’s Cinema Displays, for example, are even in the lowest brightness settings very bright. It also depends on the person how annoying the noise is. People with a loud PC probably wouldn’t care as much as I do.

It’s still a pitty, though…

Service

Fortunately, I did not have to test Samsung’s service quality in relation to my SyncMaster 226bw. :) I was very pleased with the service in relation to my former 245b, so I guess the service quality will be equally good for the 226bw.

Conclusion

Pro:
++ pretty
+ relatively cheap
+ noiseless in brighter settings
+ adequate image quality

Contra:
– bad stand
- image noise over the VGA connection (could be my system, though)
- noise in darker settings
- you have to choose between fast reaction times and video quality (see chapter about video)

Alternatives

People who care not too much about loudness should take a look at the SyncMaster 245b. Besides the loudness-problem it really rocks and offers a large screen for little money.

My next try in the 22“ class would be a Chimei CMV-222H – but since I did not try it, I can say nothing about it.

Updates to this article

16.4.2008: Discovered the RTA setting and updated the review accordingly. (changed conclusion)

Topics: displaymonitorreviewSamsungtest

6 Comments »

  1. Hey Florian great review and thanks for writing it.

    I came across your review via Google while I was searching for the noise problem with the Samsung 226BW. As my Samsung 226BW also has this noise problem with the brightness control and I wanted to find out if my monitor was faulty, or if all the new Samsung 226BW’s are made like this now.

    Now my noise problem starts at around 65 and is the loudest at 35 and no noise can be heard once you lower it to around 10.

    I don’t know where, what month or year your 226BW was manufactured in. But I can tell you mine was manufactured in February 2008 and it was made in Malaysia.

    BTW I upgrade to the Samsung 226BW from the Samsung 940BW which I never heard a single sound from.

    Anyway, last night I asked my flat mate to sit down in front of my 226BW and I asked him if he could find anything wrong with it. He sat there for a good ten minutes and said no. He said that it looked perfect to him. Then I asked him don’t you hear that noise? He then said what noise? I said that buzzing, humming noise coming from the monitor. He then looked at me strange and said he could not hear anything. So I said oh well never mind. But I know the noise is there as I can hear it.

    So perhaps I am just as sensitive to noise as well! Either way this noise was never there with my Samsung 940BW.

    So what does one do?

    Comment by Erica — 31. March 2008 @ 4:55

  2. Thanks for the extensive description.

    I guess one can’t do anything about it – other than getting another monitor. I think this is some basic problem with the backlight, so I would hope for new monitors with LED backlights – I don’t know if these are yet available, though.

    By the way, you seem to be lucky that your SyncMaster 226BW is silent below 10. I wish I could mine in such dark settings.

    I’m generally a bit frustrated that it is so hard to judge the loudness of a monitor before you actually buy one and test it yourself. As you described with your flat mate, many people just don’t notice the noise and therefore you can’t really trust reviews… *sigh*

    Comment by Flo — 31. March 2008 @ 9:11

  3. The RTA function was causing me problems too. I’m a web designer, and it was really annoying that the colors on my Samsung were not the same as on my Mac. After going through every setting in the menu I came across the RTA-thing, which cleared up a whole whack of problems. I wanted to find out what the RTA-thing was, and came across this site. Thanks for clearing it up!

    Mark

    Comment by Mark — 27. April 2009 @ 22:13

  4. I’ve been having same 60hz hum problem with LCDs. I have gone through three models, acer H222, acer H233, HP’s W2338H. When calibrated to my tastes, the humming appeared.

    In case anyone wants to do more research on noise, search the ‘net for noise from CRT TVs. They can develop electronic noise from capacitors, power supplies, flybacks, etc. These frequencies are mostly in the 15-16K range (no, your hearing isn’t getting better as you age). I thought I was losing my mind until I found this out.

    I suffer from tinnitus, induced usually by continuous noise from fans, motors, crowds, etc. Call me overly sensitive, but its a real problem for me.

    Comment by S K G — 2. July 2009 @ 2:12

  5. Thanks for this article. I too love my 226bw, but, I too am bugged by the humm / buzz. I returned my first one because of it and my second one was buzz free (basically) for about the first year. Then, I moved into my new, more quiet, Zen like home office and I am noticing it again! :-(

    I appreciate what you said about turning down the brightness – I never thought of that — turning it to 90 reduces the humm some, which is better. Odd that the hum gets loud again in the 70-80 range.

    Like someone said above, I guess I just live with it, or, search for another monitor.

    I’m also curious like someone mentioned above, I wonder if newer, LCD Backlit monitors will be better?

    Oh well, guess I need a water fountain / fall for my new office! ;-)

    Comment by Jeffrey W. Cox — 23. October 2009 @ 19:38

  6. I asume you mean “LED backlit” instead of “LCD backlit”? :) I guess LED backlit screens will not have this problem. My theory is that the humming is caused by the way the backlight is dimmed and I think LEDs are easier to dim. But that’s just a theory, I never tested a LED monitor.

    Finding another monitor without this problem can be tough though. Every single screen that I have tested made a sound at some brightness level. Some more, some less, but all did. I just bought a Samsung P2450 and it is only silent at 100%. The Dell 2709W was silent at 0% and 50%.

    Comment by Flo — 25. October 2009 @ 11:38

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