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Samsung SyncMaster XL20: Error Correction

The Error Correction section is about monitors we have already reviewed, yet we’ve got more tell about it. For example, if the manufacturer has released a new revision.

In my first review of the SyncMaster XL20 I noted its indisputable advantages such as LED-based backlighting and a huge color gamut that came at a price three times lower than that of its opponents. I also noted a number of drawbacks. Particularly, the XL20 was set up less accurately than you might expect from a monitor of its class.

Recently I had a chance to deal with a newer revision of the XL20, the latest available at the moment. I won’t repeat the full review of the monitor – you can follow the link in the previous paragraph for that. I will just run over the drawbacks I noticed before to see if Samsung has done anything about them.

Instead of a “consumer” calibrator Pantone Huey the monitor is now equipped with a more advanced X-Rite Eye-One Display (also known as GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display because X-Rite purchased GretagMacbeth some time ago). It is a special version for Samsung that is guaranteed to support monitors with an extended color gamut. Using the included software the resulting profiles can be written into the monitor’s rather than the graphics card’s LUT, which is equivalent to full-featured hardware calibration.

The XL20 did not emulate sRGB and AdobeRGB color spaces accurately. It delivered a superb color gamut in its standard mode (“Custom”) but its color gamut in sRGB or AdobeRGB mode would be much smaller that desired.

Alas, this problem persists still. The native mode is indeed superb but in the sRGB mode the monitor loses all its colors and proves to be worse even than models with ordinary backlight lamps. None of the vertexes of the color gamut triangle matches the corresponding vertex of the sRGB triangle. There are just minor improvements for the better here.

A third problem of the XL20 was a sloppy color temperature setup. The difference between the temperatures of white and gray was indecently high. The developer has solved this problem. Without any additional calibration the temperature dispersion is within tens of degrees. This is not a record-breaking result (NEC’s UXi series monitors have an even smaller dispersion), but acceptable for a monitor of this class.

As a drawback, the color temperature is fixed at 5500K in the sRGB and AdobeRGB emulation modes. You can’t change it since the appropriate menu item gets locked.

Also in the color temperature menu there are still unclear labels like Warm4 and Cool3 instead of specific numbers. 

Another problem our readers have pointed out is the non-uniformity of color temperature on the screen surface. It is due to the fact that monitors with LED-based backlighting employ triads of red, green and blue LEDs instead of white LEDs. If there’s no independent regulation of the brightness of each LED in the triads, the resulting color temperature of different triads is going to differ a little due to the variations in the parameters of LEDs. Since each triad highlights its specific part of the screen, the color temperature of the image proves to depend on what point of the screen we measure it at.

I measured the temperature of white in six points of the screen to check this out. And the difference proved to be considerable indeed, up to 360K.

So, the SyncMaster XL20 has become somewhat better than it used to be before. Its color temperature setup has improved. Its color space emulation modes have become more accurate. It comes with a more advanced hardware calibrator. But on the other hand, it still has a number of problems. The emulation might be even more accurate while the non-uniformity of color temperature on the screen might be compensated at least with software means (i.e. with the same calibrator).

Anyway, although the XL20 is still a monitor that is mostly meant for people whose main priority is the enhanced color gamut, the new revision of the monitor (which is currently coming to retail shops) is a more appealing buy overall. Hopefully, Samsung will be improving this very exciting product further.

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