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Samsung SyncMaster XL20

The SyncMaster XL20 is not only Samsung’s first attempt to enter the market of professional monitors (sticking to the definition I’ve given at the beginning of the review, I don’t regard Samsung’s P and T series as professional – these monitors are good, but without any exceptional qualities), but is also one of the first monitors with LED-based backlighting. It has only a couple of opponents with the same backlight technology: the above-mentioned NEC SpectraView Reference 21 and the EIZO ColorEdge CG221 (it is comparable to the NEC in both capabilities and price). The XL20 is expected to come to shops in March at a price of $2000 whereas the LED-highlighted monitors from NEC and EIZO cost as much as $5000-6000.

The SyncMaster XL20 also features a hardware calibration option, the calibrator being included into the monitor’s price. Introducing this monitor, last-year press-releases mentioned the X-Rite Huey calibrator (also known as Pantone Huey) and it is indeed included with our sample of the monitor. But some time ago Samsung decided to ship the XL20 with a more advanced calibrator GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display 2. This is the same calibrator as is recommended for use with EIZO’s ColorEdge and NEC’s SpectraView series. It’s not yet clear if there’ll be a version of the XL20 without a calibrator.

So, what’s wrong with the Huey, anyway? It is an inexpensive (about $90 in retail) calibrator for home use whose main feature is the ability to measure the level of ambient lighting and adjust the screen brightness appropriately. Competing products, like the ColorVision Spyder2Express, do not offer this option.

The Huey spends most of the time resting on a special stand that should be placed near the monitor and tilted at the same angle as the monitor’s screen. The grey circle in the calibrator’s center is an ambient lighting sensor which is lit exactly like the monitor’s screen if you place the calibrator properly. By the way, the NEC monitors don’t need this function of the calibrator because they have their own sensor and automatic brightness adjustment whereas the XL20 has not.

There are two rows of suction cups on the reverse side of the device. You can use them to fasten the calibrator on the screen. The three small holes on the right are photo-sensors.

In order to calibrate the monitor, the Huey is fastened on the screen and its software lights up different-color fields under it, one after another. Then the calibrator measures the color displayed by the monitor and calculates the correction value.

The main problem with the Huey is that it calibrates the basic colors only, i.e. pure red, pure green and pure blue, all at the maximum brightness. Other calibrators, including the above-mentioned ColorVision Spyder2Express which is comparable to the Huey in price, works with a few grades of brightness of each of the basic colors, from near black to full brightness. In other words, the Huey takes the measurement in only one point of the gamma curve (in the rightmost point, to be exact) whereas other calibrators measure in several points, thus providing an opportunity to correct the shape of the curve.

The Huey can be considered only as a home user’s helper. It cannot correct the problems of a poorly set-up monitor, but simplifies and automates the process of setting up the screen brightness and color temperature. It also allows to automatically adjust brightness depending on the ambient lighting.

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