20" LCD Monitors Roundup. Part VI

Today we are going to discuss six inexpensive 20-inch LCD monitors for the office environment. These will be the solutions from NEC, Samsung and Viewsonic. Read our article for details!

by Oleg Artamonov
06/13/2008 | 05:13 PM

This roundup covers six 20-inch LCD monitors. These are mostly inexpensive models for the office environment where a super-fast matrix and a glossy case may be not only unnecessary but even distracting.

Testing Methodology

 

Click the following link for a description of our testing methodology, the equipment we use, and a brief explanation of what the specified and tested parameters of LCD monitors mean: the article is called Xbit Labs Presents: LCD Monitors Testing Methodology Indepth. If you feel overwhelmed with the numbers and terms this article abounds in, check out an appropriate section of the mentioned article for an explanation.

NEC AccuSync LCD203WM

This review begins with an entry-level model from NEC. At least, it is positioned as such. You will see shortly if the LCD203WM is indeed so entry-level. Not long ago we tested the LCD24WMCX model from the same AccuSync series that proved to be superior to some MultiSync series models in functionality!

The monitor has a high declared contrast ratio and large viewing angles. Well, the manufacturer doesn’t conceal the fact that he uses the relaxed method of measuring the viewing angles (by the reduction of the contrast ratio to 5:1). If the standard method were used – as for all matrix types other than TN – the specified viewing angles would be as small as 160 degrees.

The LCD203WM would be quite appealing – it is not bulky as most models from NEC and even has certain elegance – if it were not for the unsightly buttons and the conspicuous headphones socket. These two elements spoil the stern appearance of the front panel of the case.

The stand isn’t very pretty, either. It permits you to adjust the tilt of the screen, in a rather small range.

 

The stand can be replaced with a VESA-compatible mount using the fasteners at the back panel. On the other hand, such mounts are not widely available and cost quite a lot, especially in comparison with the price of an entry-level monitor.

The lack of a digital input is one more drawback of this model whereas the quality of the analog interface is far from ideal. When I connected it to a rather good graphics card (Sapphire Radeon X1650 Pro), I saw the text on the screen was fuzzy, not sharp. I could not correct this with the monitor’s settings. Although the effect is not strong, it may strain your eyes during long work sessions.

The monitor also has a line audio input for the integrated speakers and a headphones socket (on the front panel).

The monitor’s control buttons are centered below the screen. The Power indicator is built into the appropriate button.

Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature, to the sound volume, and to the brightness setting. The latter two functions are implemented with the “+” and “-“ buttons. The manufacturer might have provided more comprehensible labels, I guess.

Well, the lack of labels just seems to be NEC’s exclusive style. The onscreen menu contains icons only. There are no labels or hints as to what they mean. The menu is overall very unfriendly.

The monitor as 100% brightness and 50% contrast by default. I selected 40% brightness and 38% contrast to achieve a 100nit white. You should not increase the contrast setting above 50% as it leads to a loss of light halftones.

The monitor regulates its brightness by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 212Hz.

There is barely noticeable banding in color gradients at contrast levels other than the default one.

The monitor’s color gamut is standard enough. Perhaps the red color is shifted towards orange hues more than usual. It means the LCD203WM cannot display a pure red whatever settings you choose. As a matter of fact, you can only achieve a really good red only on an LCD monitor with LED-based backlight, but the LCD203WM is somewhat inferior even to other models with fluorescent lamps in this respect.

 

The brightness of the monitor’s backlight is quite uniform. The average deflection is 5.4% on white, the maximum being 9.8%. For black, the average and maximum are 5.6% and 20.8%, respectively. As the pictures above show (to remind you, these are not photographs but pictures based on the numeric data of the test), the monitor has a brighter center and darker sides.

The gamma curves betray exceedingly high contrast at the default settings. You can see it by the characteristic bend in the top right of the diagram. Otherwise, the curves look good.

The mentioned defect disappears as soon as you lower the contrast setting in the monitor’s menu. The curves are not ideal, yet lie close to each other now. There are no problems with the reproduction of darks or lights.

The monitor’s color temperature is set up well in the Native and User (by default) modes. There is a small difference between the levels of gray while the average value should be just fine for a majority of users. The image is neither too warm nor too cold in these modes. The sRGB mode would be even better if the image didn’t have a pink hue (this hue has no effect on the color temperature measurements because these numbers are indicative of the balance between red and blue and are not sensitive to the image getting greenish or pinkish). The cold-temperature modes are set up badly: the 7500K mode is more or less usable but the 9300K mode is too bluish.

The monitor offers a good brightness and a high contrast ratio. Although an inexpensive model, the LCD203WM is among the best TN-based monitors in these two parameters.

My last test is about the response time of the matrix. The monitor is declared to have a response time of 5 milliseconds but it is measured by the ISO13406-2 method that only takes the switching between black and white into account. As opposed to this, I calculate the average time it takes to switch between different halftones. The result is more indicative of the matrix’s real-life performance.

So, the response time average is 12.7 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 29.4 milliseconds. As you can see, the real value is not as pretty as the specified number measured by the “special” method is.

Highs:

Lows:

I usually offer my advice on the best usage of each monitor but I have to refrain now. After all, whatever applications you run on your PC, you have to deal with text. The LCD203WM has problems with image sharpness that affect your comfort when reading text. This doesn’t seem to be a defect of our sample only. The 22” AccuSync LCD223WM, which seems to use the same electronics as the LCD203WM, produces a slightly fuzzy image, too.

NEC MultiSync LCD205WXM

The LCD205WXM differs from the previous model not only with its number but also with the series: the MultiSync series traditionally includes more expensive monitors than the AccuSync line.

Well, the specs of the two models are identical. They seem to use the same matrix but differ in design, functionality and, perhaps, in setup quality.

The LCD205WXM has the typical exterior design of NEC’s MultiSync series products. There is quite a lot of models released in this or very similar case. The case is large indeed while the rounded-off bezel and back panel make it look even bulkier.

The stand is rather untypical for this product class. Such dual-hinge designs can usually be seen in more serious models. You can adjust both height and tilt of the screen simultaneously. The adjustment range isn’t wide, though. The height can be varied from 70 to 125 millimeters. The tilt adjustment is illustrated by the photos above.

If you need something more, you can replace the default stand with a standard VESA mount. You will find the necessary holes on the monitor’s back panel.

The MultiSync LCD205WXM is equipped with both analog and digital inputs. Near them there are line audio input and a headphones output (that’s not a convenient location unless you have your headphones permanently plugged into the monitor). The integrated speakers can be seen in the photo: they are placed in the square protrusions at the corners of the back panel and face downward at work.

The monitor’s controls are located in a separate block under the front panel like in NEC’s senior models. As opposed to them, the menu is navigated by means of two buttons (“+” and “-“) rather than one 4-position joystick.

Quick access is provided to switching the inputs and to the sound volume and brightness settings. Like with the LCD203WM, there are no icons accompanying the latter two buttons.

Alas, the menu is no better, either. It is simple, with a bare minimum of setup options (for example, it doesn’t offer the option of choosing the menu’s own position on the screen), and without text labels. The latter is especially inconvenient for inexperienced users. The most basic icons are intuitive but the symbols in the system settings submenu are not so obvious.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 50% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit white by lowering both to 41%. You should not increase the contrast setting above 45% as it leads to a loss of lights. The monitor regulates its brightness by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 209Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced normally at the default settings but get striped when you lower the contrast setting.

The monitor’s color gamut is exactly the same as that of the above-discussed LCD203WM. Their matrixes must be identical indeed. The color gamut is close to the sRGB space but with a more conspicuous shift of the red point towards orange hues than in most other monitors.

The gamma curves indicate that the monitor’s contrast is set too high by default. The lightest halftones are indistinguishable from white. You should keep the monitor’s contrast setting below 45% (it is 50% by default).

The mentioned problem disappears at the reduced brightness and contrast. The curves are neat and close to the ideal curve for gamma 2.2. There are no problems with darks or lights.

 

The white brightness is uniform. When the screen is black, the sides are darker than the center. This is confirmed by the numbers: the average non-uniformity of white brightness is 5.4% with a maximum deflection of 11.5%. For black, the average and maximum are 6.4% and 18.1%, respectively.

The color temperature setup is worse than in the previous model. Even if you don’t count in the temperature of white (it differs greatly from the temperature of gray because the monitor’s contrast is set too high by default; this problem disappears when your lower the appropriate setting), the picture is cold. The temperature is over 8000K in the Native mode and 9300K in the sRGB mode (although the sRGB standard requires a color temperature of 6500K). In the remaining modes the monitor yields a downright bluish picture.

So if the picture on the screen of the LCD205WXM looks too cold to you, you have to select the user-defined mode and try to adjust the color temperature manually by means of R-G-B sliders.

On the other hand, the monitor has a small dispersion of temperature between the levels of gray, so when you achieve the image tonality you need using the manual settings, you will also get an accurate color reproduction.

The brightness and contrast parameters are just as good as those of the previous model. The monitor boasts a superb contrast ratio even at a low brightness of white.

The LCD205WXM doesn’t have response time compensation, so we can’t expect any records from it. The average response time is 12.7 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 23.9 milliseconds. That’s not fast but comparable to other 5ms monitors.

Comparing the MultiSync LCD205WXM with the above-discussed AccuSync LCD203WM, the former is superior as its stand supports height adjustment while its digital interface solves the problem of image sharpness.

Highs:

Lows:

Recommended usage:

Samsung SyncMaster 2043NW

Samsung is updating its monitor series regularly. Recently the company has been introducing mostly home-oriented models shining with glossy plastic but now it’s time for business-class models featuring a more restrained exterior. The SyncMaster 2043NW is the junior 20” model of the new series.

Judging by the specs, this is yet another ordinary TN-based model without response time compensation. The declared viewing angles are wide especially as Samsung claims them to be measured using the honest method, i.e. for the contrast ratio reduction to 10:1. Does it mean TN matrixes have made a breakthrough?

Well, yes and no. On one hand, the technology is indeed progressing. TN matrixes are becoming better with each year, also in terms of viewing angles. But on the other hand, if you recall the measurement method, the viewing angle of an LCD matrix is the angle at which the contrast ratio in the center of the screen equals 10:1. Clearly, the specified viewing angles improve if the specified contrast ratio is higher. The contrast ratio of TN matrixes has really increased in the last years – this trend is confirmed by our tests.

Thus, TN matrixes of 2008 are better than TN matrixes of earlier years. However, this manufacturing technology cannot match S-IPS or PVA yet.

The monitor has a compact and neat black case. The plastic and the surface of the matrix are matte. This model comes in other colors as well, the front panel being matte silvery or glossy black. I guess the monitor looks best in the matte black version, though.

The stand allows you to adjust the tilt of the screen (the adjustment limits are illustrated by the picture above) and to turn it around the vertical axis.

The default stand can be replaced with a standard VESA mount. The photo shows the round cap that hides the fastening holes.

Like the above-discussed NEC AccuSync LCD203WM, this model is only equipped with an analog video input. But unlike the NEC, the SyncMaster 2043NW produces a sharp picture. For the monitor to set up accurately, I only had to press the Auto button. No further adjustment was necessary. I should note that I tested the monitor together with a Sapphire Radeon X1650 Pro graphics card. If you connect it to an integrated graphics core, the quality of the analog signal may be worse.

Touch-sensitive buttons are a characteristic trait of Samsung’s new series. The buttons are as many and placed in the same manner as in many previous models from this brand but you don’t have to press them now. Just touch them softly with your finger. The buttons respond correctly to every touch without misses or false responses. You don’t have to adjust yourself to these buttons or find a specific position for your finger. A quick sequence of touches is also processed correctly.

The onscreen menu is Samsung’s standard one. It is clear and handy. Among special functions I can note MagicBright (factory-set image modes I’ll discuss later), MagicColor (increases color saturation automatically), and ColorEffect (a few discolored modes; this feature is funny but its practical purpose is vague).

The button that used to select MagicBright modes in Samsung’s previous models can now be redefined in the monitor’s menu. Besides switching the MagicBright modes, it can now switch ColorEffect and MagicColor modes and, which may be most useful for some users, choose the interpolation variant for non-native resolutions (two variants are available: with the native aspect ratio of 16:10 and with an aspect ratio of 4:3).

The LED indicator is blue. It is not very bright and does not distract the eye. The LED is blinking in sleep mode. You cannot turn it off.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit white by selecting 30% brightness and 34% contrast. It is undesirable to increase the contrast setting above 70%. There are minor distortions in the reproduction of lights even at the default 75%. The monitor’s brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 376Hz.

The monitor’s color gamut is peculiar. Most monitors coincide with the sRGB color space in blues, but the triangle of this monitor is shifted upwards. As a result, it differs but little from others in reds and greens, but produces a slightly lighter blue than other monitors.

The gamma curves are good at the default settings except for one thing: the characteristic bend in the top right of the diagram indicates an exceedingly high contrast. It means light halftones are displayed like pure white.

This problem disappears when you reduce the contrast setting. The curves are neat enough now although do not coincide with the theoretical curve for gamma 2.2 (it is black in the diagram).

The color temperature is set up well. It deflects considerably on pure white which is the consequence of the high level of contrast. Otherwise, the setup is good. Most users are going to prefer the Normal mode.

According to my measurements, the contrast ratio of the matrix is rather average. You can compare this to the above-discussed monitors from NEC that delivered a contrast ratio of 500:1 and higher in some modes.

I noted the MagicBright technology above. It is very helpful if you use your monitor for multiple applications. MagicBright allows you to switch the monitor for a higher brightness to play games or watch movies and then switch it quickly back to the previous level of brightness without having to tinker with the menu settings. Of course, the usefulness of this technology depends on how correctly the modes are set up because the user cannot fine-tune them.

Well, it is all quite good overall although the Text and Internet modes are too bright. Their brightness should be lower by about 20% if they are to be used according to their names. So, I guess you should set the monitor up manually for text-based applications and switch into a MagicBright mode for games and movies.

The color reproduction quality is the same in the Text, Internet and Sport modes as at the default settings. The contrast setting is increased to 90% in the Game and Movie modes although the monitor has problems reproducing lights even at 75% contrast.

That’s not a big problem, but you should be aware of it if you care about color reproduction.

Besides MagicBright technology, the same button can enable the dynamic contrast mode in which the monitor is adjusting the level of backlight brightness depending on the onscreen image. If you need this feature – it is only useful in movies – you should know that the SyncMaster 2043NW comes in two versions. The version with the LS20MYNKB code doesn’t support dynamic contrast technology.

The last test is the response time measurement. The monitor is declared to have a response time of 5 milliseconds. This indicates the lack of response time compensation and, accordingly, a rather slow matrix.

Indeed, the monitor turns to have an average response time of 12.7 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 23.1 milliseconds. But the black-white transition takes 3.7+1.3=5.0 milliseconds, exactly as written in the product specs.

So, the SyncMaster 2043NW is a good and inexpensive office monitor that has a neat and nice appearance as well as a good setup. The main drawback is the lack of a digital interface. While modern discrete graphics cads easily handle 1680x1050 resolution, integrated graphics cores may have problems with image quality. You should be aware of that if you want to buy this monitor.

Highs:

Lows:

Recommended usage:

Samsung SyncMaster 2043WM

The next model from Samsung’s new series is more interesting. Designed alike to the 2043NW, it features integrated speakers (indicated by the letter M in the model name) and a digital interface.

The monitor’s specs are no different from the previous model’s: a TN matrix with good (for this technology) viewing angles and without response time compensation.

The monitor resembles the previous model externally with the addition of the bottom band for the integrated speakers. The speakers are small and sunken into the case, so they are not conspicuous and don’t spoil the monitor’s appearance. The SyncMaster 2043WM comes in two colorings: matte black (as in the photo above) and black-and-silver.

The stand has been revised considerably. The 2043WM has a fully functional stand that allows to adjust not only the tilt but also the height (from 70 to 155mm) of the screen and to pivot it into portrait mode. Well, the vertical viewing angles of TN matrixes are still not wide enough to ensure comfortable conditions in portrait mode when they become horizontal viewing angles. The native stand can be replaced with a standard VESA mount.

The SyncMaster 2043WM is equipped with analog, digital and audio inputs. There is also a headphones socket on the front panel.

The buttons are the same as on the 2043NW except that there is quick access to the sound volume instead of the brightness setting. You can also quickly switch the inputs, launch the auto-adjustment procedure, and select a MagicBright mode. The latter button (it is labeled as a square with an upward-pointing arrow) can be redefined in the monitor’s menu so that it switched MagicColor (increases color saturation), ColorEffect (discolors or tones the image) or interpolation modes (two variants, 16:10 and 4:3).

Every button, including the Power one, is touch-sensitive. The buttons react correctly, without misses or false responses, and process quick presses normally. The Power indicator is placed to the right of the buttons. It is blue and not very bright, but you cannot disable it. It is blinking blue when the monitor is in sleep mode.

The monitor has Samsung’s traditional menu, which is clear and handy. Among special settings I can note the above-mentioned MagicBright, interpolation mode selection, and the option of redefining one of the front-panel buttons.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit white by selecting 22% brightness and 25% contrast. The brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 179Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced normally at the default settings but become somewhat striped at reduced values of contrast.

The color gamut is similar to the one of the SyncMaster 2043NW. Well, it’s normal for the manufacturer to use the same matrix in so similar models. Compared with typical LCD monitors, blue is going to be lighter and less deep on the screen of the 2043WM.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is 6.0% with a maximum of 14.9%. For black, the average and maximum are 5.8% and 20.1%, respectively. The numbers are not quite good. The pictures show that the left part of the screen is darker than the rest of it.

The green and blue curves go higher than the ideal one at the default settings. The red curve almost coincides with the theoretical one.

It’s all the same at the reduced brightness and contrast except that the red curve goes higher now, too. Thus, the monitor’s gamma is higher than necessary, yet this is going to be inconspicuous in practice. Both darks and lights are reproduced without problems.

Well, you can improve the gamma value by using the monitor’s own settings. Choose Gamma3 in the menu and you’ll have almost ideal gamma curves as shown in the diagram above.

The color temperature setup is not perfect, though. There is a large difference between gray and white (this can be corrected by lowering the contrast setting in the monitor’s menu) and also between the levels of gray: over 1000K even in the Normal mode. Moreover, the monitor yields a very cold image. The Warm mode is more or less acceptable for typical ambient lighting while the Normal mode is going to look bluish to most users.

The brightness and contrast ratio are close to the results of the SyncMaster 2043NW. Well, these models surely have identical matrixes. The contrast ratio is rather average as today’s matrixes go.

Like all other modern monitors from Samsung, the SyncMaster 2043WM supports MagicBright technology, i.e. a few factory-set modes with varying contrast and brightness you can switch between quickly.

The MagicBright modes are set up quite normally although the Text mode is going to be too bright even for daylight, let alone the mild evening lighting at home. That’s why I’d recommend you to set the monitor up manually for text-based applications and switch into a MagicBright mode for movies, games and for viewing photos.

 

The Text and Internet modes are all right in terms of color reproduction. The gamma curves are neat; both lights and darks are reproduced well.

 

In the Sports mode the color temperature parameter is set at Cool. As a result, the level of blue is somewhat too high. The problem is not big and will hardly be conspicuous when you are watching sports events this mode is meant for.

 

The previous model had problems with the Movie and Game modes in which it had a exceedingly high level of contrast, making lights indistinguishable from white. Fortunately, the 2043WM is free from this drawback. Its Game mode is set up neatly and lights are reproduced correctly.

The 5ms matrix cannot be fast. Its response time average proves to be only 13.0 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 25.1 milliseconds. Take note that there is a threefold, rather than 20%, difference between TN-based monitors with specified response of 4 and 5 milliseconds!

So, the SyncMaster 2043MW is not as good as the 2043NW in terms of setup quality. This model is almost an ideal office monitor with its functionality and design, yet I had expected it to deliver a better color reproduction than typical office models. The 2043NW was taken from a retail shop while the 2043WM is a presale sample the manufacturer provided for us to test. Perhaps that’s why they differ in their setup quality, but I’m not sure.

Still, the SyncMaster 2043WM is not a bad product. It is quite good in comparison with many other monitors. I just expected something more from it after I had tested the junior 2043NW model.

Highs:

Lows:

Recommended usage:

Samsung SyncMaster 2053BW

While the two previous models from Samsung can be viewed as business-class products, the SyncMaster 2053BW is rather a home-oriented monitor as it has a fast matrix and a shiny glossy case.

Well, speed is the only difference from the previous models, actually. The specified response time of 2 milliseconds (GtG) surely indicates an RTC-enabled matrix. Otherwise, the parameters are similar to those of the 2043 series including the viewing angles which are measured using the “honest” method (by the contrast ratio reduction to 10:1). It means no breakthroughs, though. Yes, the viewing angles are somewhat better but the image still gets darker when viewed from below.

The SyncMaster 2053BW is beautiful. It has a black glossy plastic case (but the LCD matrix is matte, which is good because glossy matrixes are more of a trouble than pleasure), an elegant round stand, a stripe of translucent acryl along the bottom edge. The only worry for the user is that you have to clean this monitor often and handle it carefully because dust and scratches are just too visible on the glossy surface.

The default stand is inserted into a groove in the monitor’s case. I have already seen a similar screw-less fastening mechanism but it was less handy in the 32 series. It is easier to insert the stand in the new 53 series and you feel the moment of its fixing in place better.

The stand allows to adjust the tilt of the screen only. Moreover, you cannot tilt it forward. If you want a more functional stand, you can replace the default one with a VESA-compatible mount. There are fastening holes for that at the back panel.

The connectors can be found in a recess of the monitor’s back panel: analog D-Sub and digital DVI-D.

The monitor has ordinary (not touch-sensitive) buttons placed at the bottom edge of the case, below the decorative stripe of acryl. Alas, this is one of the worst locations for control buttons I’ve ever seen. This stripe gets in the way and you have to fumble for the buttons somewhere behind it. The labels on the stripe are hard to read under dim lighting. When I turned the monitor on for the first time, I thought there might have been shining labels here.

The manufacturer tried to do something like that with the label for the Power button. The blue LED of the Power indicator is shining downward, along the acryl stripe, highlighting its edges.

The selection of controls is traditional for Samsung. Quick access is provided to switching between the inputs and MagicBright modes (the latter button can be reassigned as in the latest models from Samsung), to the brightness setting, to the automatic adjustment of analog signal.

The menu is standard, too. It is clear and handy. Additional settings include MagicColor (increases color saturation), ColorEffect (produces a discolored or toned image), and interpolation mode for non-native resolutions (for 16:10 and 4:3 formats).

Besides, the monitor offers you the control over its response time compensation mechanism. It provides three modes rather than the typical On/Off option. I’ll discuss them below.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit white by selecting 36% brightness and 40% contrast. The brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 183Hz. You should not increase the contrast setting above 80% as it leads makes light halftones indistinguishable from white.

Color gradients are reproduced perfectly at the default settings but look barely striped at reduced values of contrast.

The color gamut differs from those of both models discussed above. It is absolutely standard, coinciding with sRGB in blues, being smaller than it in reds and larger in greens.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is 6.1% with a maximum deflection of 14.9%. For black, the average and maximum are 6.7% and 21.6%, respectively. That’s an average result. The pictures above show you that the monitor has dark triangles near the sides of the screen. The center of the screen is the brightest on white. On black, the bottom of the screen is the brightest spot, too.

 

The gamma curves are good at the default settings, betraying no serious defects. Both darks and lights are reproduced normally, the value of gamma being close to the required 2.2.

 

The curves improve at the reduced brightness and contrast. They get closer to each other. The curves are somewhat higher than the theoretical one in the left part of the diagram, but the difference is small and won’t show up in practice. The traditionally narrow viewing angles of the TN matrix are going to distort the image more than that.

The color temperature setup is acceptable. The temperatures of white and dark-gray deflect the most from the average value but the former can be corrected by lowering the contrast setting and the latter is rather inconspicuous for the eye. The monitor may seem to produce a cold image in the Normal mode which is set by default. Try switching into the Warm mode then. The Warm mode yields a temperature of 6500K just as demanded by the sRGB standard.

This monitor delivers a higher contrast ratio than the previous two models, yet doesn’t reach 400:1, either.

Like other monitors from Samsung, the SyncMaster 2053BW offers the MagicBright feature that allows you to change the levels of brightness and contrast quickly (with one button) by choosing one of preset modes. Moreover, the same button enables the dynamic contrast mode in which the monitor is automatically adjusting the backlight brightness depending on the onscreen picture. This may be good for watching movies although not all people appreciate this feature.

Each mode is adequately bright. The Text mode is indeed appropriate for working with text under mild evening lighting. The Internet mode is for text-based applications under more intensive ambient lighting. The remaining three modes are going to be good for games and movies.

 

The gamma curves are neat in the Text and Internet modes. There are no problems with the reproduction of darks or lights.

 

The curves are good in the Sport mode, too. “Bright” modes have a high level of contrast usually, but I don’t see this problem here. Lights are reproduced well.

 

Alas, the contrast setting is too high in the Movie mode. The red and green curves reach saturation in the top right of the diagram as the result. It means that some of light halftones are distorted. The distortion is very slight, though. It is impossible to notice it in movies.

 

It’s the same thing in the Game mode: the level of contrast is somewhat too high for two colors, red and green, but you can hardly notice this in practical application unless you use the Game mode for other purposes, for example for viewing photos instead of playing games.

The monitor’s menu not only allows you to turn response time compensation off (this technology is referred to as RTA by Samsung) but also to choose from two RTC modes:

When the RTC mechanism is disabled, the SyncMaster 2053BW becomes an ordinary 5ms monitor. Its response time average is 13.1 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 24.7 milliseconds. That’s not fast at all.

Mode1 enables RTC for some transitions while others are as slow as before. The response time average is 7.3 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 20.4 milliseconds.

Of course, there appear RTC-provoked artifacts. The average value of the RTC miss is 4.1% with a maximum of 46.1%.

RTC works for all transitions in Mode2. One column is surprisingly as high as 16.6 milliseconds but the matrix is quite fast on average: 3.4 milliseconds (GtG).

The level of RTC errors grows up, too. The average is 12.5% with a maximum miss of 65.5%.

What mode should you prefer? If you buy this monitor for work and for watching movies, you may want to turn RTC off altogether to avoid any possible visual artifacts. If games are your priority, you should choose Mode2 to have the highest speed of the matrix. And if you are going to use the monitor for both games and work, and the characteristic RTC-provoked artifacts (such as light shadows behind letters when you’re moving a window on the screen) irritate you, you should try Mode1. It is close to the RTC Off variant when working in Windows but much faster than it in games.

Ideally, I would like Samsung’s engineers implement the RTC adjustment option in a different way. Their implementation disables RTC for some transitions in Mode1 but I guess it would be better if the overall level of RTC aggressiveness changed, so that you could lower the level of RTC errors by increasing the response time somewhat. The matrix would have about the same speed for all transitions in each mode.

Highs:

Lows:

Recommended usage:

ViewSonic VG2030wm

Another inexpensive but full-functionality model ends this review. It is manufactured by ViewSonic.

According to the specs, the VG2030wm is the only monitor in this review to have viewing angles as narrow as 160 degrees and a contrast ratio below 1000:1. The numbers may not be very accurate, though. As I wrote above, the smaller specified viewing angles may be the consequence of the lower specified contrast ratio (because of the measurement method employed). You’ll see the real contrast ratio of the monitor shortly.

The VG2030wm is a tall monitor. A very tall one. If you don’t have a very low desk or a very high chair, do not buy it just for this reason alone. According to the requirements of ergonomics, your eyes should be level with the top edge of the screen or higher so that your sight was directed downward. The eyes are half-covered by the lids then and do not dry out. That’s a very important thing because we tend to blink less frequently when working and the drying-out of the surface of the eyes makes them sore.

I personally could not really adjust myself to the VG2030wm during the few days of my tests. I have an ordinary office desk and a good office chair with height adjustment but this monitor was still too tall for me.

The stand allows to adjust both the tilt and the height of the screen but the height adjustment varies from “high” to “very high” (180 to 255 millimeters from the desk to the bottom edge of the matrix). Compare this to the bottom limit of 70 millimeters the above-discussed monitors from NEC and Samsung have.

The reasons for such a solution are unclear. Yes, the integrated speakers add more height to the monitor, yet there is a large enough gap between them and the desk even in the bottommost position of the screen.

You can get rid of the default stand replacing it with a VESA mount.

The monitor has both analog and digital inputs, and a line audio input for the integrated speakers.

The control buttons are not quite good. They are placed on the right side of the case (but some users have the system case or stereo speakers placed right next to the monitor) and are also too small. The buttons are too close to each other while their labels are pressed out in the black plastic and are almost unreadable. Moreover, these labels follow ViewSonic’s tradition of being just numbers instead of comprehensible text such as “Menu/Exit” and “Select”. It is quite a bother to set the monitor up as the result.

Quick access is provided to the brightness and contrast settings, to switching the inputs, and to turning the integrated speakers off.

The single button you can find on the front panel is a large chrome Power button with a super-bright LED inside. This LED is always shining right into the user’s eye.

The menu is ViewSonic’s standard one. It is not very handy but contains all the necessary options. The only option that is present in the above-discussed monitors but missing in this one is the selection of an interpolation variant for non-native resolutions.

By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 70% contrast. I achieved a 100nit white by lowering both to 54%. The monitor regulates its brightness by PW modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 271Hz. Interestingly, you can increase the contrast setting up to 100% without losing details in lights.

Color gradients are reproduced without banding.

The color gamut resembles those of Samsung’s 43 series models discussed above: the entire triangle is shifted upward relative to the standard sRGB space. As a result, the monitor’s gamut is inferior to sRGB not only in reds but also in blues. By the way, the color gamut cannot be changed by setting the monitor in some special way because it is only determined by the employed RGB filters and the phosphors of the backlight lamps. The manufacturers seem to experiment in this area not only to improve the gamut (there are no enhanced-gamut monitors in this review, for example) but also for some other reasons, perhaps to make the backlight more economical or cheaper.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is 5.6% with a maximum deflection of 15.8%. For black, the average and maximum are 8.1% and 20.5%, respectively. The pictures above show you that there are bright spots, nearly merging into bands, along the top and bottom of the screen.

 

The gamma value is too high by default. The curves go lower than the ideal curve. It means the monitor produces an image which is darker and has more contrast than necessary. The monitor doesn’t offer a gamma adjustment option, so you can only correct this defect in your graphics card settings.

 

The curves improve when you reduce the brightness and contrast settings in the monitor’s menu, yet each of them, and especially the blue one, goes lower than the theoretical curve for gamma 2.2 (it is black in the diagram).

The color temperature setup is good. The temperature dispersion is within 500K in the 6500 and 7500 modes, which are the most important from a practical point of view. Curiously enough, the sRGB mode, which is obviously meant to meet the requirements of the sRGB standard, is set up worse than the 6500 mode as its temperature of white is too low.

The max brightness and contrast ratio are quite what you can expect from a modern monitor. The VG2030wm is not exciting from this aspect.

The monitor lacks factory-set image modes.

The RTC-less matrix cannot be fast, of course. Its response time average is 12.3 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 25 milliseconds.

Summing it up, the ViewSonic VG2030wm would make a good enough monitor if it were not for its terrible ergonomics (such as its very tall stand, super-bright LED, and unhandy tiny controls).

Highs:

Lows:

Recommended usage:

Conclusion

It’s not the first my review in which I cannot single out an overall leader among the tested products. None of the monitors is blameless.

However, Samsung’s new 43 series is noteworthy as it includes neat monitors that would look well both at home and in the office. They are practical and have acceptable setup quality. If you are looking for an office monitor, the SyncMaster 2043NW and 2043WM seem to be the best choice. But do not forget that they come with slow 5ms matrixes if you are buying a monitor for home, i.e. for playing games. Besides, the 2043WM model is not set up well in terms of color reproduction. Well, there are actually but few modern monitors in the inexpensive category that are set up perfectly.

The SyncMaster 2053BW is the more interesting option when it comes to gaming. It allows you to adjust its RTC mechanism even though not exactly in the way I would like.

NEC’s monitors are a real disappointment, especially the junior AccuSync LCD203WM that has problems with delivering a sharp image and lacks a digital input. The LCD205WXM is better but not free from drawbacks, too. Its sloppy color reproduction setup and unhandy menu are accompanied with a rather high price. It costs about the same money as a 22” model with similar characteristics.

Finally, the ViewSonic VG2030wm is a complete failure. It has acceptable parameters and setup but is downright terrible from an ergonomics standpoint. ViewSonic’s designers seem to have tried to pack all possible ergonomic flaws into one monitor – I just don’t comprehend to what purpose?