22" Monitors Roundup: Part 1

This roundup is all about 22" LCD monitors that have hit the shops but recently. A couple of years ago this diagonal just didn’t exist although 23" and larger monitors were already available and even enjoyed some popularity. So, we are going to discuss 7 22-inch models from BenQ, Dell, LG and Samsung.

by Oleg Artamonov
08/12/2007 | 08:53 PM

As I wrote in one of my earlier reviews dedicated to 27” and 30” monitors, the transition from CRT to LCD technology made monitors with really large screen diagonals available not only in a financial but even in a purely technical sense.

 

This transition is not limited to the growth of the screen, though. LCD matrixes can also be easily made any size and the specified size of the matrix equals the effective size of the image precisely whereas 21” and 22” CRT monitors didn’t differ much in their effective display area. Both had a specified image size of about 20”. Today, if you buy a 22” LCD monitor, it is really one inch larger than a 21” LCD monitor.

This roundup is all about 22” LCD monitors that have hit the shops but recently. A couple of years ago this diagonal just didn’t exist although 23” and larger monitors were already available and even enjoyed some popularity (making allowances for their high price). Thus, the arrival of 22-inchers is not another stage of progress but an occupation of a market niche previously unattended to.

Unfortunately, the reason for the introduction of such models has determined the range of technical solutions employed in them. These are inexpensive home/office monitors with TN matrixes meant for processing text, playing games, and watching movies.

Testing Methodology

Visit the following link for a description of our testing methodology and equipment and an explanation of the specified and measured parameters of LCD monitors. The article is called Xbit Labs Presents: LCD Monitors Testing Methodology Indepth. That article is going to help you if you feel overwhelmed by the numbers and terms used in this roundup.

BenQ FP222Wa

Response Time Compensation technology is nothing new for monitors with smaller screen diagonals, but RTC-enabled matrixes are yet rare in the new 22” market sector. Striving to make as much profit as possible, the manufacturers prefer to release a simpler product first and then attract the buyer to subsequent models with various improvements.

The FP222Wa is an example of that marketing policy as it is based on a TN matrix with a specified response time of 5 milliseconds. As you know, this number indicates a lack of RTC and, accordingly, a rather low effective speed. The large viewing angles appear in the specs due to the measurement method. They are measured by the reduction of the contrast ratio to 5:1 rather than to 10:1 as for other matrix types. There’s no mistaking it: the vertical viewing angle is quite poor visually.

This monitor has a humble appearance with its simple black stand and light-silver screen bezel. If the latter were not so wide, the FP222Wa might pretend to a certain elegance of appearance, but the bezel is in fact 5-10 millimeters wider than in most competitor products and its light color and flat surface make this even more conspicuous.

The stand allows to adjust the tilt of the screen. It can be replaced with a standard VESA mount if necessary.

The monitor’s got an analog input only (but BenQ offers the slightly more expensive FP222W that has a DVI input as well). The power adapter is integrated into the case.

The monitor’s controls are located on its left panel and are not visible from the front. You can’t see their labels from the front, either. So, if you change your monitor settings frequently, you either have to remember the position of each button or turn the monitor around. The buttons are all the same to the touch and are designed as a single block except for the Power button. It’s hard to explain the reason for this absolutely anti-ergonomic solution. Neat buttons or at least labels cannot spoil a monitor’s appearance while the necessity to look for the buttons may be irritating for the user.

The Input button is an interesting one. The FP222Wa having only one input, its function is limited to displaying the text “Input: D-Sub” on the screen. It’s unclear why they didn’t make this button the last in the row and sealed it with a plastic plug in the model that lacks digital input. The manufacturer doesn’t leave an unconnected DVI connector in the model without digital input, so why is this practically useless button left?

The onscreen menu is quite convenient. It has a logical structure and offers all the settings typical of this class of monitors. Alas, the position of the buttons makes controlling this monitor inconvenient. No matter how clear a menu structure may be, it is no pleasure using it when you have to fumble for the necessary buttons by touch.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast are set at 90% and 50%, respectively, by default. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness setting to 50% and the contrast setting to 43%. The brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 205Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced perfectly, without banding, but this proved to be almost the single good thing about the way the FP222Wa reproduces colors.

The monitor offers three preset modes (including a dynamic contrast mode) you can switch through with a single button. You should use them with discretion because the factory settings can greatly distort the shape of the gamma curve leading to a loss of details in darks or lights. Moreover, dark halftones merge into the same black color when you select a contrast value below 20%.

The Photo mode settings look like a bad joke to me. The blue curve is so high that the monitor makes no distinction between light-blue halftones. I can’t think of a possible use for this mode but it surely won’t do for viewing photographs.

Another thing I noticed when evaluating the image quality subjectively was poor viewing angles. Yes, TN matrixes are generally poor in this respect, but the FP222Wa is even worse than average. Its image gets dark when viewed from below, which is typical of such monitors, but also acquires a noticeable greenish hue.

The gamma curves look good at the default settings except for the small bend in the top right of the diagram. This bend can usually be corrected by lowering the contrast setting a little, but this method only makes things worse with the FP222Wa. When the contrast is reduced to 43%, the three curves all rise up, making the image paler.

The color gamut is standard for a modern monitor. It is larger than the typical sRGB space in the area of greens, coincides with it in the area of blues and is smaller than sRGB on reds.

The color temperature setup is somewhat confusing. On one hand, there is a very small difference between the levels of gray (except for the User mode in which the three sliders for red, green and blue are all just set at 100%). On the other hand, the monitor doesn’t offer a mode with a temperature between 6000K and 7500K although 6500-7000K is the most suitable color temperature for a majority of users and the sRGB standard demands 6500K explicitly. As a result, many people will regard the image in the Normal mode as too warm and in the Cool mode as too cold without the option of choosing an intermediary value.

The monitor’s matrix lacks response time compensation and its real speed stands far from the pretty-looking number in the specs: 17.3 milliseconds GtG on average with a maximum of 35.1 milliseconds. This is not a high speed at all.

The level of black and, consequently, the contrast ratio are good. The latter is over 400:1, which is an excellent result for a TN matrix.

The overall impression from this monitor is far from good. It’s got poor ergonomics and a slow matrix with small viewing angles. There are problems with the preset modes and the contrast setting, and it lacks a DVI input. All this means that the FP222Wa can only be recommended to undemanding users as a monitor for processing text in the first place. I also want to warn you against using this monitor with old graphics cards, integrated into the mainboard or discrete cards of the GeForce MX class. The image quality may prove too low when you use an analog connection and a resolution of 1680x1050 pixels. You’ll have to replace you card with a better one, but its better to go DVI instead.

Dell E228WFP

This is one more monitor with a TN matrix without response time compensation. We’ve got the first revision of this model marked as “A00” (it is not a test sample, but an off-the-shelf product, though).

The E228WFP specs are overall similar to those of the BenQ model I’ve described in the previous section. A somewhat higher contrast, but smaller viewing angles. There are no fundamental differences especially as the specified viewing angles of a TN matrix have little to do with reality. Let’s see if the E228WFP is any different in its real parameters.

The monitor features Dell’s traditional design. It is neat and even pretty, having a black case with a thin screen bezel (it is only a few millimeters narrower than the bezel of the FP222Wa, but seems to be much so due to the appropriate color and shape) and a silvery stand.

The stand is not as good-looking as in the more expensive models (e.g. in the Dell 2007FP and 2007WFP that were tested in our earlier review). It is plastic with a metallic core. The stand permits you to adjust the tilt of the screen. Height adjustment, portrait mode and rotation are not available. If necessary, you can replace it with a VESA-compatible mount with all the functionality you want. To release the native stand, you only have to press the button under the spot where the stand is fastened to the case.

This monitor is equipped with both analog and digital inputs. The power adapter is built into the case. There are no additional video inputs here. You can attach optional speakers to this monitor.

The monitor’s controls are placed in the bottom right corner of the front panel. Unfortunately, the visibility of the icons pressed out in the plastic (on the buttons and near them) is poor except for the Power button which is highlighted with yellow in Sleep mode and with green at work.

The monitor provides quick access to the brightness and contrast settings (as opposed to many other monitors from Dell, the E228WFP allows you to change its contrast when connected via DVI), to switching between the inputs and to the auto-adjustment feature.

The menu is user-friendly, offering all the necessary settings, except for image scaling options. This is the common problem of widescreen monitors with TN matrixes. They usually stretch the picture to the full screen size irrespective of the picture’s aspect ratio, although more expensive monitors with *VA or IPS matrixes do provide the option of scaling. This problem can be solved by connecting the monitor via DVI and selecting the necessary interpolation mode in the graphics card’s settings (available on cards from both AMD/ATI and Nvidia).

The monitor’s brightness and contrast (the latter can be controlled for a DVI connection as well) are both set at 75% by default. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I selected 62% brightness and 65% contrast.

When the contrast setting is set to zero, the image vanishes completely, so the lowest reasonable value of contrast is about 20%. Increasing the contrast to over 75% results in a loss of light halftones.

The brightness is controlled with the backlight lamps (by power modulation at a frequency of 270Hz) and does not lead to a loss of image halftones through the entire adjustment range. Color gradients are reproduced without banding at any brightness/contrast values.

The monitor’s got an ordinary color gamut, slightly larger than the standard sRGB color space.

The gamma curves don’t look well at the default settings: the blue curve goes too low.

But when you choose a slightly lower contrast value, the curves not only improve but become almost ideal. The three of them all lie in a dense group around the theoretical curve.

We measure the color temperature at the default settings so the above-mentioned defect couldn’t but affect the measurements. White is considerably colder than gray in the Normal and Blue modes. The difference is clearly noticeable by the eye. The level of blue is lower in the Red mode and the appropriate gamma curve improves: the temperature is normal now with a very small difference between the levels of gray.

The Normal mode becomes normal when you reduce the monitor’s contrast, but it then produces a warm picture at about 5800K which may not be appropriate for users who prefer colder colors. Unfortunately, the standard temperature of 6500K can only be achieved on the E228WFP in the Custom mode if you manually configure the white balance.

Ideally, taking a home user’s preferences as target values, the Red mode should yield a temperature of 5400-5800K, Normal – 6500K, and Cool – 7500K or higher.

I have to add that other monitors from Dell, for example the 2007WFP, had such small but irritating problems, too, but they were getting better with newer revisions. The manufacturer corrected the flickering of the screen, the banding of color gradients, etc. So, the problem with the color temperature setup of the E228WFP will hopefully be solved in the next revision of the monitor, but it would be better if such drawbacks had been corrected even before the monitor hit the shops.

The monitor’s average response time is 16.2 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 32.3 milliseconds. This proves once again that TN matrixes with specified speeds of 4 milliseconds (GtG) and 5 milliseconds (ISO 13406-2) differ practically by far more than 25%. If you want a really fast monitor, you should consider models with a specified response of 4 milliseconds or lower.

The contrast ratio is on an average level at about 300:1.

If it were not for the color temperature setup which yields a too low temperature in one mode and a too high temperature in the other mode and also produces high temperature dispersion at the default contrast setting, the E228WFP might be considered a good home or office monitor suitable for people who are not very particular about viewing angles and matrix speed. Alas, no 22” monitor can offer the former thing and only few of them offer the latter. If you buy an E228WFP now, you may have to set up its color temperature manually due to the lack of an optimal preset mode: the Normal mode is too warm and the Cool mode is too cold.

LG Flatron L226WT

This is a 22” TN-based monitor without response time compensation.

There are two noteworthy things in its specs: the manufacturer declares a dynamic contrast only, which explains the surprisingly high number in the specs. And secondly, the specified viewing angles are 170 degrees wide due to the relaxed measurement method. The L226WT cannot really compete with *VA or S-IPS matrixes in this parameter. It takes a slight deflection of your head downwards for the top of the screen to become noticeably dark.

The monitor’s got an ordinarily looking case painted gray and black. The stand is made from black glossy plastic, so you must be ready to clean it often from dust and fingerprints that are going to be much more visible on it than on a matte surface.

You can adjust the tilt of the screen only. Portrait mode and height adjustment are unavailable. The monitor’s native stand can be replaced with a standard VESA mount using the four threaded holes in the rear panel.

The monitor’s got analog and digital inputs. The power adapter is integrated into the case.

The control buttons are placed on the bottom edge of the case, near the left panel. This may be convenient for left-handed people but I was reaching for them with my right hand anyway. On the other hand, the L226WT differs for the better from BenQ’s monitors whose buttons are placed on the left, too, with the clearly visible labels that are painted on the front panel. But I guess the manufacturer should have added small grooves or something that would lead from a label to an appropriate button for tactile control (if the simplest and most ergonomic way – to return the buttons onto the front panel – is not an option).

The Power button is highlighted with a wide blue LED at work. You can turn the indicator off in the monitor’s menu if it distracts you.

The monitor’s menu is user-friendly and logically organized. The purpose of each item is clear without reading the manual. The setup process is made easier by the fact that the menu remembers the last changed item. For example, if you have adjusted the color temperature setting, the next time you access the menu it will open on the same tab, not on the first tab with brightness/contrast/gamma settings. A typical drawback of 22” monitors, there is no interpolation for non-native resolutions.

If your computer is running Windows, you can use the forteManager program to change any of the monitor’s settings. Alas, its interface is far from being ergonomic, either. It is the position of the buttons that is inconvenient when you’re using the onscreen menu, but with forteManager, it is the position of sliders in its window. The sliders are too small, and you have to take your aim more accurately with the mouse while most of the window is occupied by a Help text. I think it would be better if the program window was larger or the sliders were placed above or below the Help text and had a normal length. I also think that brightness and contrast sliders should have been placed on the same tab.

The EZ Zooming button switches the monitor’s resolution (the display resolution set in the Windows Display Properties) when the forteManager is installed. When pressed on, it changes the resolution from 1680x1050 to 1440x900 and otherwise. I don’t quite grasp the purpose of this feature because a 22” LCD monitor has large enough pixels even for people with weak eyesight. And the interpolation quality is rather poor (see the photograph above). Text and even photographs are greatly distorted in the non-native resolution.

By default, the monitor’s brightness and contrast are set at 100% and 70%, respectively. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white, you can reduce the brightness setting to 46% and the contrast setting to 50%.

Color gradients look striped on this monitor especially if you lower the contrast setting.

The monitor’s color gamut is perfectly normal. Many other models produce an identical diagram in this test.

The gamma curves look good enough, being slightly higher than necessary in the top left of the diagram. When the contrast setting is reduced below the default value (I want to remind you that we measure most of the monitor’s parameters at the factory settings), even this small defect is almost fully corrected.

The monitor offers five color temperature modes. Two of them, sRGB and 6500K, are in fact identical except that the user-defined brightness and contrast are locked in the sRGB mode.

The setup accuracy is poor. The difference between the temperatures of different levels of gray amounts to nearly 2000K even in the warm modes. And the calibrator couldn’t even measure the temperature in the cold mode. Most users are going to regard the monitor’s image as too cold. The average temperature is close to 8000K even in the 6500K mode.

The average response time is 14.3 milliseconds with a maximum of 23.9 milliseconds. This is a good speed in comparison with the two previous monitors that have a maximum of over 30 milliseconds. However, monitors with RTC-enabled matrixes deliver much higher speeds.

The contrast ratio is very good, a little lower than 400:1 in one mode and higher than 300:1 in the others. This is an excellent result for a TN matrix.

So, the LG Flatron L226WT is yet another imperfect 22” monitor. It is let down by the sloppy color temperature setup: the average temperature differs greatly from the target value and the temperature dispersion between different levels of gray is too high. Of course, monitors with TN matrixes cannot be used for processing photographs at a serious level due to their poor viewing angles, but the L226WT has a too poor setup even for home use. Other drawbacks are the faulty ergonomics (better than the BenQ FP222Wa, yet faulty still) and the relatively slow matrix.

LG Flatron L226WTQ

This model from LG differs from the previous one by only one letter in the name and is meant to solve the problem of high response time.

The models’ characteristics coincide in everything save for the response time. The L226WTQ features an RTC-enabled matrix with a specified speed of 2 milliseconds GtG. This monitor is likely to satisfy devoted gamers.

The tested sample of the L226WTQ combines a milky white with black. It looks splendid in the shop window as well as on a desk but you have to clean it frequently to keep its nice looks (a napkin is included into the box).

The case design doesn’t differ from the above-described L226WT. The stand allows to change the tilt of the screen and to rotate the monitor around the vertical axis. It can be replaced with a VESA mount if necessary.

The monitor’s got analog and digital inputs and an integrated power adapter.

The control buttons are placed on the left of the bottom edge of the case. Labels and icons are painted on the front panel and are easily visible, yet it is still inconvenient to use the buttons.

This is the ordinary menu of LG monitors, logical and user-friendly. It offers the option of disabling the blue Power indicator (which is large and may be distracting in darkness) but lacks any image interpolation options. This is normal for widescreen monitors with TN matrixes whereas monitors with *VA or S-IPS matrixes usually offer such options.

Like the L226WT, the monitor can be controlled with the forteManager program. When you install it, the rather useless EZ Zooming button begins to work. It switches the display resolution in Windows between the native 1680x1050 and 1440x900.

Quick access is provided to the f-Engine modes, to selecting the input and to the automatic adjustment of analog signal. You have to open the monitor’s main menu to adjust the brightness and contrast settings.

By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast. A 100nit white is achieved by reducing these settings to 40% and 45%, respectively. When the contrast value is higher than 82%, the monitor loses details in lights. When the contrast setting is too low, some of dark halftones are lost.

The brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 226Hz.

The L226WTQ has a normal color gamut for a modern LCD monitor: larger than sRGB in greens and smaller in reds.

Color gradients are reproduced correctly at the default settings but become striped at a reduced contrast.

The gamma curves look good at the default settings but the gamma value is rather too high. That’s why they bottom out in the middle and the resulting image has too high contrast and is darker than it should be. This can be corrected by stepping the gamma setting up in the onscreen menu.

As I wrote above, the monitor features f-Engine technology that offers three presets of brightness, contrast and color reproduction. One preset is defined by the user and the others are configured at the factory. Unfortunately, f-Engine doesn’t always have a positive effect on image quality. The increase of color saturation and contrast can distort the reproduction of colors greatly.

These are the gamma curves you get in the Movie mode: light red tones are lost completely and some of light blue tones are lost, too. So, if you want to have a more or less authentic reproduction of colors, you should use f-Engine modes with caution.

The temperature of white corresponds to the name of the appropriate menu item, but the temperature of grays is much higher. The image looks too cold overall and different tones of gray have different hues.

The response time is the parameter the L226WTQ can surprise you with. The response average is 2.2 milliseconds GtG with a maximum of 7.3 milliseconds. Compare this with monitors that lack response time compensation: notwithstanding the small difference in the specified speeds, the real difference is eightfold!

Everything comes at a price and the excellent response time is accompanied with a very high level of RTC errors: 25.7% on average with a maximum of 89.7%! This sounds like a record to me. RTC-related artifacts are visible on this monitor not only in specific game scenes, like with monitors that have an RTC error average of 10-12%, but even in Windows when you’re dragging a window or even moving your mouse pointer:

The photograph shows the pointer moving leftwards on a gray background. It is leaving a sharp white trail that disappears after two frames only.

The monitor’s contrast ratio is very good at 400:1.

The LG Flatron L226WTQ differs from its predecessor L226WT in one point only. It has an LCD panel with Response Time Compensation. It is indeed a very fast monitor but this speed is accompanied with visual artifacts that are perfectly noticeable in games as well as at everyday work. The L226WTQ is so far the worst monitor from this aspect. We’ve never had a monitor with an RTC error average of higher than 25%. The color temperature setup hasn’t improved since the previous model: gray is still bluish in comparison with white.

Note: Users have reported that the RTC mechanism is set up better in later revisions of the monitor’s firmware (in version 1.14 and later) but you can’t find out the monitor’s firmware version without entering its service menu.

Samsung SyncMaster 225BW

In an earlier review we already discussed Samsung’s new series of 20” monitors with TN matrixes, including the widescreen SyncMaster 205BW. The SyncMaster 225BW is in fact an enlarged version of it. These two models do not differ in their specs except for the different size of the screen.

Alas, the 225BW lacks response time compensation as is indicated by its specified speed of 5 milliseconds. It also lacks a dynamic contrast mode, so the specification shows an unexciting three-digit number.

The monitor employs one of Samsung’s standard case types, with a silvery front and a black rear panel. There are no glossy elements in this design. It is unpretentious but neat and pleasant, especially in an office environment.

The 225BW is shipped in two versions, with or without speakers, which differ by $15-20 in price. You can spend this money for a couple of ordinary desktop PC speakers that would provide a higher sound quality (just because the dynamic heads of monitor speakers are severely limited in size) but they have one drawback as they occupy an additional space on your desk.

The speakers for the SyncMaster 225BW are designed like a long narrow strip that is to be hung on to the monitor’s bottom.

There is a volume control on the right butt-end of the speakers (it is an ordinary wheel of a variable resistor) that also turns the speakers’ power off. It is accompanied with a LED indicator, and microphone and headphones connectors.

On the reverse side there are connectors for attaching the speakers to your PC. The speakers don’t have a power adapter of their own. They are connected to the monitor’s power adapter via a special connector on the monitor’s case.

The SyncMaster 225BW is supported by Samsung’s standard stand for this case type. It is not too compact or elegant, but its functionality is wide. You can tilt the screen, rotate it around the vertical axis and adjust its height within 10 to 20 centimeters (the stand can be fixed in the bottommost position with a wire pin for easier transportation). There is no portrait mode here, but it is not very valuable on monitors with TN matrixes.

The stand can be replaced with a VESA mount if necessary.

The monitor is equipped with analog and digital inputs and an integrated power adapter. There is a small round connector to the right of the D-Sub. It provides power to the speakers.

The monitor’s controls are almost perfectly designed. They are just simple round buttons on the bottom right of the front panel, with clear and readable black icons. The Power button is highlighted with a blue LED when the monitor is turned on and begins to blink in Sleep mode. This indicator cannot be disabled. The option of disabling it will only appear in the SyncMaster 2032BW and 2232BW models.

Quick access is provided to the MagicBright feature (a selection of preset modes with varying levels of brightness, contrast and color temperature, but, as opposed to LG monitors, without changing color saturation or the gamma compensation value), to the brightness setting, to switching the inputs and to the automatic adjustment of analog signal.

This is a standard Samsung menu. It is handy and user-friendly. You can also use the MagicTune software, available for Windows and MacOS, to control the monitor from your PC.

By default, the monitor’s got 100% brightness and 75% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I selected 50% brightness and 46% contrast. The brightness is regulated by means of pulse-width modulation of the backlight at a frequency of 150Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced perfectly at any settings. The monitor has a standard color gamut, like most other currently available models.

The gamma curves diagram looks good. The curves do not deflect much from the theoretical curve and lie in a dense group.

The color temperature is set up well for white and light-gray but grows up much on the darker halftones. This is in fact the same problem as with the LG monitors, just not so conspicuous.

The monitor lacking response time compensation, you can’t expect a high speed from its matrix. The average speed is 17.2 milliseconds GtG; the maximum is 35.0 milliseconds. This monitor is surely not for gamers who play dynamic games.

The contrast ratio hits the 400:1 mark just as we’ve seen with the above-described models. It drops twofold when the monitor is set up for low brightness.

The good point of the SyncMaster 225BW is its strong ergonomics. This is one of the few 22” monitors that offers screen height adjustment and does not hide the control buttons away from the user. Moreover, comparing the 225BW with the above-described models from LG and BenQ, it proves to be the only monitor whose preset modes (the MagicBright feature) do not distort the reproduction of colors but only change the level of screen brightness for switching quickly from work to a movie or game.

The rest are mostly problems. The monitor is based on a slow matrix that is much slower than RTC-enabled models. Its color temperature setup is sloppy, too.

Samsung SyncMaster 226BW

For many makers it is a common practice to use different LCD panels in one and the same monitor model. It can even be two different types of panels (for example, the Dell 2007FP and 2007WFP may come with both S-IPS and S-PVA panels). Using same-type panels from different manufacturers or different revisions of the same panel is a widespread practice. The specific panels are picked up basing on price, availability, shipment terms, etc.

Considering this, it is hard to understand the reason for the sensation provoked by the news that the SyncMaster 226BW comes with panels from three different manufacturers: Samsung, AU Optronics (AUO) and Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO). These are all TN panels with identical specs. I guess it is due to a psychological effect. In some batches of this monitor the panel type was indicated on the label and everyone could see what exactly panel was installed in the particular sample. As a result, any differences, including imaginable ones, between specific samples were attributed to the different panels.

I tested three versions of the SyncMaster 226BW for this review. The earliest one was offered to us by Samsung before the official release of the model and before the issue of different panels was brought to light. It had a Samsung matrix. Later we took two samples from retail shops. One had a matrix from CMO and the other from AUO.

The three versions all have the same specs, but a dynamic contrast of 2000:1 was indicated on the case of the very first 226BW whereas the off-the-shelf models we took from retail shops declare a dynamic contrast of 3000:1.

To learn the name of the matrix manufacturer, take a look at the sticker on the rear panel, under the connectors. If it reads “Model: 226BW [R] [S]”, then this is a Samsung matrix. If the last letter is A or C, then the matrix is manufactured by AUO or Chi Mei, respectively.

This method is not accurate, though. Sometimes the label doesn’t tell the panel type right. And there are batches of this monitor that don’t indicate the panel type at all (see the photo above).

In this case you can take a look at the monitor’s service menu. Set both contrast and brightness at zero, press the Menu button, then press and hold the Source button for 5 seconds. The screen will appear to show you the manufacturer and name of the panel. It is CMO M220Z1 in the photo above and AUO M220EW01 in the photo below.

If the appropriate line contains “AMLCD 220M1” instead of the manufacturer’s name, then the matrix is made by Samsung (the LTM220M1 model).

Now I put the matrixes aside for a while to discuss the rest of the monitor. I will describe the three versions all together because they are perfectly identical in most of their parameters.

The monitor has a black glossy plastic case with a matte silvery strip below the screen. This looks good, but dust and fingerprints are much more visible here than on a rough surface.

As opposed to the 225BW, this monitor uses a simpler stand that only allows to change the tilt of the screen and rotate the monitor around the vertical axis. The stand can be replaced with a VESA mount if necessary.

The monitor has analog and digital inputs and an integrated power adapter. It doesn’t permit to attach any kind of speakers.

The control buttons are located on the right of the bottom edge of the case. Their labels are pressed out in the plastic of the decorative silver strip and are perfectly visible at daylight. Their visibility is poor in semidarkness. From the point of view of ergonomics, labels made with ordinary black paint are still unsurpassed.

It’s easy to press the buttons. They are placed closer to the front of the case than in the above-described monitors from LG and have an elongated shape. This makes it simpler to control the monitor. Quick access is provided to switching MagicBright modes, to the brightness setting, to choosing the input, and to the auto-adjustment feature.

The Power button located nearby is highlighted with a blue LED along the perimeter. When the 226BW is in Sleep mode, this circle begins to blink. Unfortunately, it is impossible to disable the LED from the monitor’s menu.

It is a standard onscreen menu from Samsung. It offers the usual selection of options for monitors of this class. As opposed to the SyncMaster 225BW, the MagicBright menu now includes a dynamic contrast mode. The user-defined brightness settings are disabled in it.

By default, the monitor’s got 100% brightness and 75% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I selected 55% brightness and 60% contrast. The maximum value of contrast at which you don’t lose any of light halftones is 82%. The brightness is regulated by means of pulse-width modulation of the backlight at a frequency of about 170Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced correctly irrespective of the employed matrix.

As for the uniformity of backlight, there are small brighter areas along the sides of the screen on each sample of the monitor. I didn’t find serious problems although I had heard users’ reports that monitors with the AU Optronics matrix had a more irregular backlight. Again, our three matrixes were similar in this respect.

The color gamut is normal, slightly larger than sRGB in the area of greens.

The gamma curves are not quite good on the samples with Samsung and AUO matrixes. They are lower than necessary, resulting in a higher-contrast and darker picture, but jump up suddenly in the top right of the diagram. These problems can be compensated with the monitor’s settings. The bend in the top right disappears when you choose a contrast value lower than the default. The bottoming-out of the gamma curves can be corrected by choosing another gamma value from the menu. And still it would be better if the monitor had been set up accurately at the factory.

The CMO matrix doesn’t have such problems. The curves are not ideal, yet much better than on the other two samples. I suspect this is due to the fact that the model with the CMO matrix had the latest production date of all the tested samples and its setup may have been corrected back at the factory.

As for the color temperature setup, it is best on the Samsung matrix. Best, but not ideal. The difference between the temperatures of different grays amounts to 1000K even in the Normal mode. On the other two samples the difference is even bigger, reaching as many as 3000K. This is a depressing sight indeed: a normal white is combined with a bluish gray.

Alas, this can only be healed with a calibrator. But if the monitor is used at a contrast value lower than the default (which is often the case), you can have normal colors by choosing the Warm mode or lowering the too high level of blue by means of manual setup.

Despite the rumors about allegedly slow matrixes from AUO and Chi Mei, the three samples of the monitor all had similar speeds in my tests. Above is the diagram for the slowest of them, the monitor with a Chi Mei matrix. Its average response is 3.7 milliseconds (it is lower by a few tenths of millisecond with the other two samples) which is an obvious indication of RTC. It means that the SyncMaster 226BW is a very fast monitor irrespective of the specific version and the employed matrix.

The RTC error average is 11.6%. This value is similar between the three samples. It is acceptable (compare it with the 25.7% of the LG Flatron L226WTQ discussed above) and rather typical of today’s TN matrixes. RTC-related visual artifacts can be seen, yet they won’t disturb your gaming experience or work much.

The brightness/contrast measurements yield almost identical results on the Samsung and AU Optronics matrixes whereas the Chi Mei matrix has a higher brightness but a lower contrast ratio. These are insignificant discrepancies, though, and most users won’t notice them unless they put two monitors next to each other for comparison.

Thus, the versions of SyncMaster 226BW with different matrixes only differ in the setup of gamma curves and color temperature. And these differences may be not related to the matrix manufacturer at all. They may be due to differences in the firmware profiles written into the monitors at a specific factory or on a specific production date. At least you have seen above that the model with a CMO matrix is better than the model with a Samsung matrix in terms of gamma curves setup but worse than it in its color temperature setup.

The rest of parameters – response time, contrast ratio, brightness, and backlight uniformity – are so similar between the matrixes that most users are unlikely to notice any difference.

So I think that differences between the versions of the 226BW model with different matrixes are greatly exaggerated in forum discussions. Each of the three matrixes delivers the specified parameters (particularly, each features Response Time Compensation) and the growth of interest to this issue must have been due to the indication of the matrix type on the label whereas the rest of the manufacturers often provide no opportunity to learn which matrix the monitor is based on unless you take its case apart with your screwdriver. So, the reason for the hot discussion is psychological rather than technical.

Talking about the SyncMaster 226BW in general, it is yet another modern 22” monitor with both strong and weak points. It is a direct competitor to the LG Flatron L226WTQ (with the letter Q because the Flatron L226WT does not have response time compensation and roughly corresponds to the SyncMaster 225BW). Compared with the L226WTQ, the Samsung has a slightly higher response time and a less accurate setup of color temperature, but offers a lower level of RTC errors and somewhat better ergonomics. This monitor will suit people who want a home model for playing dynamic games. If your priority is color reproduction rather than speed, you may want to consider other models, for example the above-described SyncMaster 225BW.

Samsung SyncMaster 226CW: First Look

The monitor maker’s policy of producing a basic model first and then, after a while, introducing models with more advanced characteristics, refers not only to response time compensation (as you could have seen in this review, all the manufacturers rolled out RTC-less 22” models first although this technology had long been used in models with other screen diagonals) but to other innovations as well, for example to backlight lamps with improved phosphors that yield an extended color gamut.

So, the logical continuation of Samsung’s 22” series is the SyncMaster 226CW model, which is in fact a 226BW with an extended color gamut. We had a pre-sale sample of the monitor so we didn’t perform a comprehensive test of it. Many of the settings are going to be different in the final version of the 226CW. I’ll give you a brief description of it just for you to know what new products will come out in near future.

Externally, this monitor is an exact copy of the SyncMaster 226BW. It has a beautiful case made from black glossy plastic (on the photograph above the daylight lamps under the ceiling of our test lab are reflected in it) with a matte silvery strip below. Besides the monitor’s name there is a “Color Innovation” sticker that refers to the extended color gamut.

The monitor is equipped with analog and digital inputs. It has an integrated power adapter.

The control buttons are still located on the bottom edge of the case and are labeled on the silvery plastic of the decorative strip. The Power button is highlighted with a blue circle. It starts to blink with the same color when the monitor enters Sleep mode and, unfortunately, you still cannot turn the LED off in the menu.

The interface and structure of the menu have been left intact but the color temperature adjustment is replaced with the Color Innovation item that allows to choose from three image processing options: Brilliant, Mild or Custom. This must be meant for users who prefer various “image-enhancing” technologies to traditional technical settings. On the other hand, this new setting is not any more comprehensible than ordinary color temperature options.

And here is the result of the single test I performed over this monitor:

The color gamut is indeed larger than sRGB (the color gamut of the SyncMaster 226BW is shown for the sake of comparison so that you could see the superiority of the new backlight lamps). And it is large not only in greens but also in reds.

Alas, the triangle has shifted leftwards away from the area of yellow which is the payment for the purer and more vibrant green. Anyway, it is easy to see that the color gamut has indeed become larger overall.

So, while there are many considerable differences between the SyncMaster 225BW and the 226BW from their exterior design to characteristics, there is only one point of difference between the 226BW and 226CW, namely the extended color gamut of the latter. I have written in my earlier reviews that the color gamut itself is not a dominating characteristic for a monitor at large or for its color reproduction per se. It is just an addition to the other characteristics. A very nice addition, of course, but only an addition. The quality of color reproduction is mostly determined by the quality of setup of gamma curves and color temperature and by the viewing angles while the extended color gamut does not show up in too many practical situations. So, the choice between buying a 226BW now and waiting for the SyncMaster 226CW depends on whether you really need the extended gamut of the latter and how long you can wait for it.

Conclusion

The conclusion to my today’s tests is not an encouraging one. There is none among the half a dozen 22” monitors I have tested that does not have this or that serious drawback.

First of all, monitors with this screen diagonal are currently produced with TN matrixes only. It means that if you want a monitor with really large viewing angles you’ll have to consider 20-21” or 23-24” models.

Secondly, all the manufacturers released 22” monitors without response time compensation at first (monitors with this screen diagonal have appeared but recently, so the tested monitors mostly belong to the first wave of such products). They have a specified response time of 5 milliseconds as measured according to the ISO 13406-2 standard, i.e. on a black-white transition. Such matrixes are actually not very fast and have an average response of 15-17 milliseconds with a maximum of over 30 milliseconds. This makes them less suitable for dynamic games.

And finally, all the tested models have gross problems with color reproduction setup. TN matrixes are not actually meant for professional work with images, yet I think a home monitor must deliver true-to-life colors instead of queerly shaped gamma curves and a color temperature dispersion of 2000-3000K.

These drawbacks may be corrected in later revisions of the reviewed models and there’ll be leaders and outsiders then, but so far I have to confess that none of them is free from defects.

Choosing from the available products, the Dell E228WFP and Samsung SyncMaster 225BW look best among RTC-less models (such models are limited to text processing tasks and suit but poorly for games). They are neat and nice-looking, with convenient ergonomics and acceptable setup quality.

If you want to have a home monitor capable of handling dynamic games, you may want to consider the two models on fast matrixes, LG Flatron L226WTQ and Samsung SyncMaster 226BW. The former might be called the leader among the two if it were not for its high level of RTC errors. Its excellent speed is accompanied with strong visual artifacts you can easily see not only in games but also at everyday work. The SyncMaster 226BW has a worse color reproduction setup but it can be corrected more or less successfully by tweaking the settings of the monitor and graphics card whereas the problem with strong RTC artifacts cannot be solved. That’s why the model from Samsung is preferable to the Flatron.