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Samsung SyncMaster 305T

30” LCD monitors have been round for a few years (Apple introduced its first 30-incher back in 2004, for example), but they used to be rather unaffordable for common users. The prices have moved down lately (well, a price of $1800-2000 is still quite high, but the 30” Apple Cinema HD cost over $3000 when it was released) and such models have begun to receive more attention from users as well as manufacturers. More 30” models are available now: the mentioned Cinema HD, the Dell 3007WFP, and the new SyncMaster 305T…

As opposed to the 27” SyncMaster 275T with its large pixels, the 305T has a pixel pitch of only 0.251 millimeters at a resolution of 2560x1600. Only 19” monitors with a resolution of 1600x1200 (like the Iiyama AU4831D) had smaller pixels, but they never became popular due to high price as well as to the too small pixel size. The huge size of the 305T screen implies that the user is going to sit farther from it than from a rather small 19” monitor and the pixel pitch will have an even bigger effect.

Besides making you enable the scaling of fonts and interface elements of the OS and applications, the large resolution of the 305T imposes restrictions as to what graphics card you can use with it. As I wrote at the beginning of the article, this monitor only worked normally with a Sapphire Radeon X1650 while the Radeon X1300, despite its declared support for Dual-Link DVI and 2560x1600 resolution, could not work with it.

With a huge screen (to remind you, there have never existed CRT monitors of that size!) it weighs only 12kg which is not much for such a long diagonal. The monitor’s appearance resembles the above-described 275T except for the control buttons – I’ll talk about them shortly.

The monitor is made of matte black plastic except for a gray insert between the front and rear halves of the case. The stand allows to change the height (from 80 to 155 millimeters) and tilt of the screen and to rotate it around the vertical axis. You can replace the native stand if necessary, but a lot of stands and mounts for monitors won’t do in terms of maximum weight and fastening plate size. You’ll have to choose from among mounts intended for LCD TV-sets and plasma panels.

The monitor’s controls are a surprise. It has only three buttons: Power (designed like on the 275T), Brightness Up and Brightness Down. That’s all. The monitor does not have any other settings. It lacks an onscreen menu and even lacks an onscreen brightness adjustment slider. It does not support MagicTune.

This is similar to Apple’s monitors for which this set of buttons is long common. I guess there is a technical reason here. Available processors for monitors cannot handle the huge data stream (the resolution of 2560x1200 pixels at 60fps and 24 bits per pixel amounts to 5.5Gbps!). The brightness adjustment is implemented through the backlight lamps and does not load the monitor’s processor at all.

Is it good or not? Well, the lack of settings is not good. Just refer to the previous section of the review where I managed to correct the gamma curves of the SyncMaster 275T using one of its settings. Of course, these settings – contrast, color temperature, gamma compensation – can all be specified on the graphics card level, but this generally leads to a less precise representation of colors than when you use the monitor’s own settings. Moreover, it is just easier to use the monitor’s buttons or a special-purpose program (MagicTune) than to browse through the graphics card’s settings which have become so profuse in the current drivers from both AMD/ATI and Nvidia.

Another question is if the brightness adjustment range is wide enough for comfortable work under different lighting. Or will you have to lower the excessive brightness of the screen with the graphics card’s settings? Theoretically, if the brightness setting can reduce the screen brightness to comfortable level even for working in a dim room, the contrast setting becomes unnecessary (it would only reduce the monitor’s dynamic range), but most of today’s monitors are so bright that you can’t do with the brightness setting only.

A very scanty set of inputs is another remarkable feature of this monitor. It has neither an analog D-Sub nor video inputs, offering only a digital DVI-D and a USB hub. The hub’s four ports are all placed at the back and are only convenient for connecting permanent peripherals like a mouse or keyboard, but not for removable flash drives. The lack of an analog input is not a problem, though. No graphics card would handle the resolution of 2560x1600 pixels with an acceptable image quality.

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