Alas, the only difference in the menu design in comparison with the 214T is that the menu is smaller and doesn’t take up half the screen as before. The structure of the menu is the same. It is not confusing like the menus of the Acer monitors I have described earlier, but requires your pressing buttons too many times to access most of the options.
As opposed to the 214T, the 215TW lacks the MagicColor feature (increased color saturation), offers only three color temperature options (plus a user-defined mode), doesn’t allow to adjust the color tone by six coordinates. In other words, its setup options have been cut down to the standard selection any regular home monitor provides.
You can enable interpolation to work with resolutions that have an aspect ratio of 4:3. The image is always stretched to the full vertically while the horizontal size can be adjusted. Unfortunately, the monitor squeezes all images, even with a resolution of 1680x1050, to 4:3 format after you select the appropriate option in its menu. This setting works separately for the PC and video inputs.
The monitor can detect which of its inputs video sources are connected to and switches only between them on your pressing the Source button. Otherwise, with the five available sources of input signal, the switching would take a considerable time.
Picture-in-Picture and Picture-beside-Picture modes are available for the video inputs. You can specify the size and position of the window (by choosing from two and four variants, respectively) and adjust its brightness and contrast. There is a separate set of three MagicBright modes (plus a user-defined mode) for the video inputs. To access them, you should switch into full-screen video and press the appropriate button. When you switch back into Picture-in-Picture mode, the settings for the video window are saved. The menu also allows to choose which audio source will be reproduced in Picture-in-Picture mode.
There is one problem with MagicTune. The current version of the program (MagicTune 4.0) can’t synchronize hardware and its own settings correctly, so the changes that you make to the parameters of the Picture-in-Picture window in the onscreen menu are often reset as MagicTune starts up. Those settings are also reset when the monitor is unplugged from the wall socket (but not when it goes into Sleep mode).
By default, the monitor’s brightness and contrast are set at 100% and 68%, respectively. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white, it is necessary to choose 39% brightness and 40% contrast. Brightness is regulated with the backlight lamps in this monitor.
Color gradients are reproduced perfectly at any brightness/contrast settings, but the backlighting isn’t very uniform. You can see light spots in every corner of the screen in darkness. This is not a problem at work, but this non-uniformity becomes apparent in dark movies, especially if the monitor’s brightness is set high in its menu.
An interesting fact, the 215TW is almost free from the common problem of VA matrixes, the loss of dark tones when your line of sight is strictly perpendicular to the screen.
The gamma curves look good, except for the small hunch in the right part of the graph. It doesn’t affect the visual impression much, though. There’s hardly any difference in the onscreen picture before and after the calibration. The shape of the graphs remains the same at the reduced contrast. The monitor reproduces all the color tones in full in every case.
As opposed to the previous model, the 215TW offers only three color temperature modes (plus a user-defined mode). The setup quality is high. The temperature difference is big only on the darkest tones, which is insignificant, and only when you choose a cold white. It’s all perfect in the Normal mode that will suit a majority of users.
Alas, there was the same problem as with the 214T when I tried to measure the speed of this matrix. The backlight lamps would flicker even at the maximum brightness, so I couldn’t perform accurate measurements on gray-to-gray transitions. However, the diagram shows that the 215TW uses a very fast PVA matrix with response time compensation, and the problem with the growth of the response on dark tones has been successfully solved.
Like the 214T, this monitor has a very small RTC error. You can see RTC-provoked artifacts only at certain combinations of settings. In most cases the artifacts don’t show up at all.
The 215TW proved to be the best monitor among all included in this review in terms of contrast ratio, notching 500:1 at the maximum. The max brightness is 230 nits at that, which is quite enough for most applications.
So, where’s the catch? There isn’t. The SyncMaster 215TW is an excellent monitor that suits perfectly for work as well as for entertainment. With its neat design, accurate setup, an abundance of video inputs (including a component one), a matrix with a fast response, high contrast ratio and good viewing angles, and with a price of about $600, the 215TW is surely a leader of this test session and should be the first entry in your shopping list as you go out after a large monitor. On the downside are its rather inconvenient onscreen menu, which is somewhat compensated by the MagicTune program, and the certain non-uniformity of backlighting. But I’ve often met such drawbacks in much more expensive models.
Among the monitors included into this review, the NEC 20WGX2 is the main competitor to the 215TW. But the NEC costs more, lacks video inputs and screen height adjustment, not to mention its one-inch-smaller screen. A slightly faster matrix is in fact the single advantage of the 20WGX2 over the SyncMaster 215TW.