Onscreen Menu and Features
The monitor’s menu follows the style of the P series I tested over a year ago.
I can find no fault with its interface. The menu is easy to navigate thanks to the properly positioned buttons and text labels (as opposed to menus of some other monitor makers who prefer to leave only icons, without labels, at the top menu level for the sake of beauty).
When you choose any menu item, the respective section fills the entire menu screen.
The first section contains Brightness and Contrast settings, Sharpness (the monitor has no problems with sharpness, so you can leave this setting as it is), response time compensation mode, and the MAGIC subsection.
The latter contains two Magic technologies from Samsung: MagicBright (a few Brightness and Contrast presets) and MagicColor (automatic color enhancement technology). The latter is generally useless unless you are fond of unnaturally oversaturated colors, but the former is a very handy way of quickly changing the monitor’s screen brightness when you switch from one activity to another, for example from a text-based application to a game. I mean, it will be handy if you assign the switching of the MagicBright modes to the monitor’s control button. Otherwise, choosing a MagicBright preset will take too much time.
The SA850 does not have too many MagicBright modes but most users will never require more than two or three of them: a low-brightness one for productivity applications, a medium brightness mode for photographs and a third mode with maximum brightness for games and movies. You can also find the option for enabling dynamic contrast here.
The second section of the main menu is about color-related settings: RGB adjustment, color temperature modes, and three gamma modes (the exact values of gamma are not indicated).
The third menu section is where you can enable Picture-by-Picture mode, choose between two image interpolation variants (stretching the image to the full screen or keeping its proportions intact; 1 to 1 rendering and custom proportions are not supported), and adjust the position of the image.
The PBP subsection allows you to enable or disable the namesake mode and adjust the contrast of the image from the second video input. The rest of the settings are going to be the same for both video inputs.
The monitor’s housekeeping settings are so numerous that they take more than one menu page. The most interesting options on the first page are the ECO subsection (I’ll talk about it shortly) and the behavior of a constantly pressed control button (increasing the Brightness setting from 0 to 70 can be quite an irritating process with slow monitors, you know).
The second page allows you to choose the function of the user-defined control button, reset all the settings and set up a shutdown timer. The first two features are useful but the third one is hardly necessary.
The control button labeled as ECO can perform one of three functions: to open the ECO menu (to set up the lighting and motion sensors), to open the MAGIC menu (with Brightness and Contrast presets), and to switch between the interpolation modes.
The ECO menu turned to be quite extensive. First of all, you can enable the motion sensor to check out if there is anyone in front of the monitor. The sensor reacts to motion rather than distance, so you may want to turn it off if you keep the same posture for a long time (for example, when watching movie). Otherwise, the monitor may think that you are gone and will just shut down. This feature is overall rather useless because every modern OS can turn the monitor off after a period of user’s inactivity.
The ambient lighting sensor is implemented properly. You can set up its sensitivity as well as the level of screen brightness corresponding to the current level of ambient lighting. I guess this feature is really useful, especially if the level of ambient lighting changes greatly throughout the day in your home.
It is also here that you can learn how many trees you have saved by lowering the brightness of the screen. Saving trees is important indeed, but you shouldn’t do that at the expense of your eyes, so do not hesitate to choose whatever brightness is the most comfortable to you. Saving your eyes is important, too.
Finally, the Information option reports the number of the currently used video input and the current display mode.
Thus, the functionality of the SyncMaster SA850’s menu is no different from that of other midrange versatile monitors. The selection of setup options is perfectly conventional. The only unusual feature is availability of two sensors for motion (which is rather useless) and lighting (this one can be helpful). The menu is overall easy to use, intuitive and logically structured.