Roundup: Touch of Color Monitor Series from Samsung

Samsung engineers have always been by far among the best when it comes to exterior monitor design. However, they have absolutely outdone themselves in the Samsung Touch of Color aka ToC series. We are going to talk about 6 monitors from this series ranging from 19" to 26".

by Oleg Artamonov
11/12/2008 | 01:44 PM

Our typical reviews of monitors cover products from different brands that have the same size of the screen and fall into the same price category but this review is special. It is dedicated to monitors from only one brand and even limited to only one series. Although new, this series already includes quite a lot of models.

 

It is called Samsung Touch of Color or ToC. You can find official info about this series in the appropriate section of the Samsung website. The monitors themselves are marked traditionally as Samsung SyncMaster. Well, the exterior design is one of the most remarkable things about the new series as you will see shortly.

The models covered in this review share the same exterior, so I will first describe their appearance, ergonomics and onscreen menu and then test each of them individually.

Every ToC series model has a name beginning with the letter T: SyncMaster T190, T220, etc. The basic models do not have any suffix. The suffix P is currently used in the name of the T220P model to indicate its increased native resolution. The suffix G (T190G, T200G, etc) means a glossy matrix instead of a matte one. The suffix HD (T220HD, T240HD, etc) denotes an integrated TV-tuner.

Samsung SyncMaster Touch of Color Series

I will discuss the basic models of the ToC series with matte matrixes in this review with the addition of the T220P model.

Testing Methodology

Use the following link for a description of our testing methodology, the equipment we use, and for a brief explanation of what the specified and tested parameters of LCD monitors mean: X-bit Labs Presents: LCD Monitors Testing Methodology In Depth. 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.

You can also view all previous monitor reviews in our Monitors section.

Design and Ergonomics

Samsung’s designers had not been easy to find fault with before, but they surpassed themselves with their work on the ToC series. The exterior design of these monitors is excellent.

The key point of the ToC design is the shining-from-within plastic of the front panel. It does not actually shine although some reviewers thought it did when the Touch of Color was introduced at the expos in the spring of this year. The impression is strong, anyway. From a technical point of view, the monitor’s case has a transparent acryl panel covering the screen bezel and forming a decorative perimeter, and a second layer of toned translucent plastic underneath.

It is thanks to this translucent plastic that the effect of depth is created – although a photograph cannot convey it well enough. And this distinguishes the monitor from other models that have an acryl panel glued on top of ordinary opaque plastic.

The color of the monitor is chosen with taste, too. The plastic has a colored band along the bottom of the case that smoothly transitions into the black color of the rest of the bezel.

  

The color of the bottom band can be red, green or blue.

And this band indeed makes the impression of shining. But it doesn’t shine actually. It only reflects any light falling on the monitor.

The smooth outline of the ToC design resembles Samsung’s other models, particularly the SyncMaster 2032BW. The ToC is far more appealing, though. I guess it is going to be liked by people who thought the 2032BW to be too round and sleek as well as by people who are tired of standard square monitors.

The back panel is made from black plastic. The stand fits the case elegantly; the connectors are covered with a decorative cap.

Take note that the ToC monitor doesn’t have fasteners for VESA mounts. It is going to be a problem to wall-mount this monitor.

Glossy plastic looks prettier but also gets dirty and scratched easier than matte plastic. Greasy fingerprints are not very conspicuous on the front panel of the ToC monitor, yet they are more visible than on ordinary matte monitors. You will have to clean the monitor periodically with the included micro-fiber napkin. I wouldn’t recommend using any other material. If you scratch the monitor, you won’t be able to restore its appearance whereas even small scratches are going to be conspicuous on the glossy surface.

You may have noticed already that the monitor’s matrix is matte in the photographs. I didn’t process the photos – the matrix is matte indeed. If you want to have a glossy matrix, you should consider the models with the letter G at the end (e.g. SyncMaster T220G). I personally prefer matte matrixes, though. A glossy matrix produces more flares and is more difficult to keep clean.

The monitor’s stand only allows to tilt the screen backward. Tilting it forward or changing its height is not possible.

Attached to the monitor, the stand resembles the one of the above-mentioned SyncMaster 2032BW, but the method of fastening is different. Instead of a plastic cylinder that would go into a rubberized groove in the monitor’s bottom, there is now a steel plate. It is easy to attach the stand: it is just inserted into the monitor until a click. To detach the stand, you must put the monitor down and pull at the stand while holding the case with your other hand. This operation isn’t as complex as it sounds, though.

You can’t use the monitor with any other stand as the monitor has no other means of fastening one.

The touch-sensitive Power button is located on the front panel and labeled accordingly. The Power indicator highlights a small zone of the front panel right below the button (as shown in the photo above).The indicator is not very bright. In daylight it seems to be a fuzzy piece of light deep in the monitor’s case. It won’t be distractive in the evening, either. Anyway, you can turn it off completely in the monitor’s menu.

The remaining buttons are located on the right panel, and this seems to be the biggest drawback of the Touch of Color design. There are no labels on the front panel and you have to find the necessary button blindly or stand up and look behind the monitor.

The selection of buttons is the same as on other monitors from Samsung. Quick access is provided to the brightness setting, to switching the MagicBright modes (this button can be reprogrammed in the monitor’s menu), to choosing the video input to use, and to the automatic adjustment of analog connection.

Besides the buttons, you can set the monitor up using the MagicTune program. You can find it on the disc included with the monitor or download from Samsung’s website.

MagicTune is a handy but somewhat heavy tool. It may not work with some graphics cards and dual-monitor configurations. In case of such incompatibility you can try the DisplayTuner program from Nicomsoft.

The drawback of DisplayTuner is obvious. This program is developed by a third party and is not optimized for specific monitor models. Therefore it provides general settings only. You won’t find a list of color temperature modes or MagicBright technology in it. The program makes up for this drawback with its advantages such as ease of use, short start-up time, and support for profiles that can be switched through with hot buttons.

The senior and junior models of the ToC series differ in their connectors: the models with a diagonal of 22 inches and lower have analog D-Sub and digital DVI-D inputs.

The two senior modes (the 24-inch T240 and 26-inch T260) additionally have a HDMI input, analog and digital (optical S/PDIF) audio outputs, and a two-port USB hub (it is passive, so the combined load on its ports must not be higher than 500mA; it won’t be able to power an external HDD, for example).

The audio outputs are a notable feature. The HDMI interface can transfer not only video but also audio. The monitor doesn’t have speakers and cannot play the sound, but you can connect headphones or an amplifier or even a receiver with S/PDIF input to it.

Summing this section up, I should confess that the monitors of the Samsung ToC series are among the most beautiful ones I have ever seen. The company’s designers have managed to create a neat, graceful and appealing exterior without such trivial elements as chrome inserts, shining captions and blue LEDs. A ToC series monitor is attractive even when turned off, yet it does not distract your eyes from your work.

Alas, this beautiful exterior is achieved at the expense of functionality. You are limited in setting the tilt of the screen and cannot adjust its height. The controls are placed rather inconveniently, and the native stand cannot be replaced with a VESA mount. However, these problems are not very important for home users the Touch of Color series is targeted at.

Setup Options

The Touch of Color series uses the standard onscreen menu of Samsung’s recent models. However, I will discuss its options at length because I only provided a brief description of it in my previous reviews. I want to remind you that I gave my advice on setting any LCD monitor up in the Lenovo L220x review.

So, the onscreen menu offers six tabs. The first tab provides the most frequently used options, Brightness and Contrast. A list of MagicBright modes is also available here. These are factory-set image modes optimized for different applications. For example, you can set the monitor up manually for low brightness but switch into a brighter MagicBright mode to watch a movie or play a game. And then you can quickly get back to the manual settings. This is all much more convenient than just changing the Brightness setting every time you need to make the screen brighter or darker. You don’t even have to enter the onscreen menu to select a mode – this can be done “on the fly” with the Down button.

The Dynamic Contrast mode listed among the MagicBright ones does not just set specific values of Brightness and Contrast. When this mode is turned on, the monitor is automatically adjusting the intensity of the matrix backlight depending on the current image. The brighter the picture, the higher the backlight brightness is, and vice versa. I guess Dynamic Brightness would be a more appropriate name for this technology.

The Dynamic Contrast mode is meant to increase the dynamic range, i.e. the distance from the lightest and darkest color, in movies. Of course, increasing the brightness of the backlight makes both lights and darks brighter, but one peculiarity of the human eye (like the dynamic contrast system, it evaluates the picture at large) makes this drawback insignificant.

The monitor’s specified contrast ratio is usually declared for this mode. The level of white is measured on the brightest picture, and the level of black, on the darkest. The resulting contrast ratio proves to be very high, like 10,000:1 or higher. This number has nothing to do with the monitor’s standard operating mode and the ordinary contrast ratio of the matrix. The dynamic contrast mode is only suitable for movies. In other applications it will produce unpleasant fluctuations in screen brightness. You can see the effect of this technology in a simple way: open any image editor, even the simple Paint, and create a new and large picture in it. Fill this picture black – and you’ll see the screen get darker instantly. Fill it white, and the whole screen gets brighter.

The next menu item is called Color. The MagicColor option is Samsung’s exclusive image-enhancing tool. MagicColor increases color saturation, producing a picture with vivid but incorrect colors.

Next goes the setting of color temperature, i.e. image tonality from warm to cold. You’ll see in the tests section how correct this setting is.

The Color Effect option has appeared but recently in Samsung’s monitors and its practical purpose still evades me.

 

 

Above you can see four photos of the screen showing the same picture (three color gradients) at different Color Effect modes. As you can see, this feature can discolor the image in different ways. You can get a black-and-white or a toned image.

Although the Color Effect feature has little practical value, the manufacturers seem to have liked the idea. Similar features can be found in the new series of monitors from LG Electronics, e.g. in the Flatron W2252TQ.

The last menu option is called Gamma. It sets the value of gamma compensation. Increasing it makes the image darker and with more contrast. Decreasing it makes the image lighter. The industry standard requires a gamma of 2.2. Running a little ahead, I can say that most of the ToC monitors I tested have a gamma of about 2.2 without additional adjustment.

The other menu tabs allow to set the monitor up for analog signal (but I use DVI in my tests and recommend you to do so, too, because this type of connection doesn’t need any adjustment), to choose the position and timing of the onscreen menu, to reset the settings, etc. There are a few interesting things that should be noted.

First, the Down button, which provides quick access to switching the MagicBright modes when not in the menu, can be reprogrammed to switch the MagicColor or Color Effect modes. It can also be assigned the option of changing the image interpolation variant.

The models with a diagonal smaller than 24 inches have only two variants: the image is stretched out to full screen either irrespective of its original resolution or with restrained proportions. The latter variant is handy if you connect the monitor to a video source that can’t work with the aspect ratio of 16:10, for example to a TV-tuner. Unfortunately, the Auto mode works normally only with resolutions that have an aspect ratio of 4:3. Widescreen resolutions of 1280x720 and 1920x1080 (16:9 format) are squeezed in by half horizontally and are displayed with wide black margins on the sides. You can’t turn interpolation off and display the picture on the per-pixel basis on the junior models of Touch of Color monitors.

The two senior models equipped with HDMI input, the T240 and T260, have AV Mode that works for HDMI sources. When you enable this mode in the monitor’s menu, you can use a third variant of interpolation that is meant for 16:9 images in 720p, 1080i or 1080p format.

The ToC series models with a native resolution up to 1680x1050 inclusive (the T190, T200 and T220) feature response time compensation and have a specified response time of 2 milliseconds (GtG). Samsung calls this technology RTA. The menu offers three RTA modes: Off (you can turn RTA off to get rid of RTA-provoked artifacts if you don’t play dynamic games; the response time will still be high enough for work and for movies), Mode 1 and Mode 2. I’ll explain the difference between the latter two modes shortly.

Testing

 SyncMaster T190

The 19-inch SyncMaster T190 is the junior model in the Touch of Color series. It is a widescreen monitor with a native resolution of 1440x900 pixels, with response time compensation and dynamic contrast mode. Like every other model of the series, it is based on a TN matrix.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast by default. To achieve a 100nit level of white – this is a reference point at which the monitor’s color reproduction at low brightness is checked out – I lowered both settings to 25%. The T190 regulates its brightness by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 360Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced without problems at the default settings but look slightly banded at a reduced level of Contrast.

The monitor has a standard color gamut. It loses some yellows because its point of green differs from the sRGB one. Take note that the monitor’s color gamut is equal to or larger than the standard sRGB color space but does not coincide with the latter in shape.

 

The average nonuniformity of white brightness is 5.5% with a maximum of 16.9%. For black, the average and maximum are 5.1% and 17.4%, respectively. The pictures show that the corners of the screen are darker on a white background. When displaying a black background, the screen has a brighter center.

The gamma curves are acceptable at the default settings except that the blue curve sags somewhat.

At the reduced settings the three curves just merge into one and into the theoretical curve for gamma 2.2 (it is black) through most of the diagram.

The color temperature setup is very good. The different grays do not differ by more than a few hundred degrees in any of the modes. I can only find fault with the absolute values: the image is a bit too cold in the Normal mode.

You can correct this easily, though. Go into the Color Control menu and select the following values: R=57, G=50 and B=48. This will yield you a color temperature of about 6500K, just as the sRGB standard requires. The Custom column in the table above shows the effective temperature of different grays with this setup. Of course, I can’t promise that you personally are going to be satisfied with 6500K – this is only what the sRGB standard recommends. You can also set the monitor up for any other value if you have some patience or a hardware calibrator. When you have set the color temperature up, you should reduce the monitor’s brightness with the appropriate setting to the level that suits your workplace.

When the color temperature values of different grays are mapped on the CIE diagram, it becomes clear that the monitor has a deviation towards greens. You can only notice this in the Warm mode, though.

The monitor’s max brightness is even 10% higher than specified. The static contrast ratio is higher than 700:1. The above-described manual setup of color temperature (the Custom column in the table) lowered the maximum of brightness, yet it is still high enough for games and movies.

The MagicBright modes are set up correctly. Each of them has as much brightness as is necessary for the intended application. There are no serious color distortions. Take note that the Text mode is bright enough for a well-lit office and may be too bright for a home environment. So, I guess you may want to set the monitor up manually for working with text and switch into a MagicBright mode for games and movies.

The last column in the table corresponds to dynamic contrast mode. It was filled in in two steps. The level of black was measured on a black screen. The level of white was measured on a white screen. Of course, we had enabled the Dynamic Contrast mode before the test. The value of the level of black is in italics because our calibrator actually reported 0, which would yield an infinitely high contrast ratio. Like any tool, the calibrator has certain measurement accuracy. It is this accuracy, 0.02 nits, that you can see in the table. Thus, the monitor’s effective dynamic contrast ratio is no lower than 16,000:1.

As I wrote above, the SyncMaster T190 offers three modes of response time compensation which is referred to as RTA technology here: Off, Mode1 and Mode2. Mode1 (you can see the corresponding diagram above) provides an average response time of 8.4 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 19.3 milliseconds.

The average level of RTC errors is 5.4% with a maximum of 36%. It means that RTC-provoked artifacts won’t be too annoying. Unfortunately, I found artifacts when scrolling black text on a white background when a low level of contrast was set in the menu. So if you use your T190 for work rather than for games, you should turn RTA off altogether.

Mode2 provides an average response time of 5.4 milliseconds (GtG) but one transition in light halftones took as long as 26 milliseconds. It doesn’t affect the overall speed, though.

I want to note the difference between the RTA modes. If you look at the diagrams, you can see that the transitions fall into two groups. Some are performed at about the same speed in both modes while others are accelerated in the second mode. In other words, response time compensation is just turned off for some transitions in Mode1 but goes on working for other transitions.

This peculiarity of Samsung’s monitors made some reviewers who performed their response time measurements on black-gray and gray-black transitions only believe that the monitor had no response time compensation in Mode1 and was rather slow overall. This is not true as you can see. So if you read a disappointed report like “the manufacturer promised us 2 milliseconds but we have a response time of many times higher than that,” you should inquire about the measurement method. In fact, you can just look at the diagrams. If you see two-dimensional graphs like those we gave up using some three years ago with the arrival of response time compensation technology, you must know that the measurements are performed for transitions from black only. A true picture of the speed of a matrix can only be obtained by measuring the time it takes to perform all possible transitions. Of course, the results of such measurements can only be represented as a 3D histogram.

But let’s get back to the monitor.

The reduction of the response time is accompanied with an increase in the level of RTA artifacts: 12.4% on average with a maximum of 68.5%. These artifacts are conspicuous in games as well as at work.

The SyncMaster T190 might be regarded as a typical 19-incher if it were not for two special things. First, the T190 is one of the most beautiful monitors available. Its exterior design is superb. Second, the T190 proved to be set up quite well, at least in comparison with other inexpensive TN-based monitors. It needs neither calibration nor manual adjustment for home use. Thus, I can recommend the SyncMaster T190 as one of the best home-oriented 19-inch monitors selling today.

SyncMaster T200

The 20-inch T200 has the same specs as the T190, the size of the screen being the only difference.

The T200 has 100% brightness and 75% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit white by selecting 40% brightness and 42% contrast. The monitor regulates its brightness by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 323Hz.

Light halftones are indistinguishable from white at a level of Contrast higher than 88%.

The color gamut of the T200 covers the standard sRGB color space and is even larger than it in green and turquoise hues. However, the T200 is not counted among extended-gamut models.

 

The average nonuniformity of white brightness is 6.7% with a maximum of 15.5%. The average and maximum nonuniformity of black brightness are 5.5% and 21.3% respectively. The pictures show that the sides of the screen are darker than the rest of it.

The gamma curves are quite acceptable at the default settings. They do not betray any serious defects.

The shape of the curves does not change much when the contrast setting is reduced in the monitor’s menu, but all the three curves get somewhat higher. Both light and dark halftones are reproduced without problems.

The color temperature setup is a disappointment. There is a temperature dispersion of over 2000K in the Normal mode! As a result, although white looks like white, gray has a noticeable blue tint.

The table shows that the darker the gray is, the more its temperature differs from white. If the deflection were the same, you could just lower the contrast setting and use the monitor’s options to set the desired level of color temperature. You can’t do that with the SyncMaster T200, at least with the sample I dealt with. Anyway, I tried to set the monitor up – not calibrate it with a hardware calibrator but set it up using the options available in its onscreen menu. Reducing the contrast option to 50% and setting the color temperature sliders as R=51, G=42 and B=46, I achieved the desired 6500K as the color temperature of white, but gray was still bluish. You can read the numbers in the Custom column of the table above.

However, setting the T200 up manually makes sense: the pictures above show that that the monitor has a slight greenish hue in every preset mode. Although I did not correct the difference in the temperature of white and gray, I did get rid of the excess of green.

The maximum brightness of the T200 is lower than specified, but that’s not a problem. 250 nits should be enough for any application, even for watching movies and games under bright daylight. The Custom column shows the parameters achieved after the manual setting up of the monitor as described above. Of course, you can additionally lower the brightness of the screen with the appropriate setting to a level that is comfortable to you.

Like every other monitor from Samsung, the SyncMaster T200 offers several preset modes differing in brightness. You can choose a mode by pressing the Down button without entering the main menu. The table shows that each mode has adequate brightness for the intended application (except that the Internet mode is meant for viewing images rather than for reading text of web pages).

The last column in the table corresponds to dynamic contrast mode. It was filled in in two steps. The level of black was measured on a black screen. The level of white was measured on a white screen. The value of 0.02 nits for the level of black is the measurement accuracy of my Datacolor Spyder3 Elite calibrator. In fact, the real level of black might be lower than 0.02 nits but my calibrator could not measure it. In other words, the monitor has a contrast ratio of no less than 13,000:1.

The Text is the darkest of the modes and suits well for working in text-based applications under good office lighting. The gamma curves are the same as at the monitor’s default settings. There are no serious color distortions.

Some of the lightest halftones are displayed as white in the brightest modes, yet this defect is inconspicuous. Thus, the MagicBright modes are set up well in the SyncMaster T200 and do not introduce noticeable distortions into color reproduction relative to the monitor’s default settings.

The monitor has three response time compensation modes (the technology is called RTA by Samsung). When RTA is disabled, the response time average is 12.7 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 22.8 milliseconds. In this mode the monitor does not differ from models with a specified response time of 5 milliseconds.

Response time compensation is enabled for some transitions in Mode1: you can see very tall columns (compensation off) standing next to short ones (compensation on) in the diagram. There are no columns of medium height. The response time average is 6.8 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 19.9 milliseconds.

Response time compensation is accompanied with errors, of course. The average level of errors is 4.3%. The maximum error is 44%. RTC-provoked artifacts are not annoying but may be noticeable to the eye.

RTC is enabled for nearly every transition in Mode2 – one column is still tall in the diagram. The response time average is 2.8 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 16.3 milliseconds.

As the number of transitions with RTA is increased, the average level of errors is higher, too. It is 13.9% with a maximum error of 63%. The resulting artifacts are quite conspicuous in games and at work.

It’s hard to tell what RTA mode is preferable. I advise you to try each of them. If you use the monitor for work and movies, you may even want to turn RTA off altogether. From a technical point of view, Samsung’s approach to implementing different RTA modes is interesting: RTA is just turned off for some transitions. Frankly speaking, I prefer the approach of ASUS when compensation is enabled for all transitions while different compensation modes vary in the degree of aggressiveness.

So, the SyncMaster T200 disappointed me with its sloppy color reproduction setup. After the tests of the T190, I had expected the Touch of Color series to be not only beautiful but also good in terms of setup quality.

Let’s check out the other models of the series, though.

SyncMaster T220

The SyncMaster T220 is identical to the previous two in specifications, save for the size of the screen. Perhaps the tests will reveal some differences?

The monitor had 100% brightness and 75% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit white by choosing 40% brightness and 43% contrast. The brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 329Hz. Color gradients are reproduced perfectly at any level of contrast.

The color gamut nearly covers the entire sRGB color space and is somewhat larger.

 

The average nonuniformity of white brightness is 4.7% with a maximum deflection of 18.2%. For black brightness, the average and maximum are 6.9% and 24.5%: the sides of the screen are too dark and there are a few bright spots at the top.

The gamma curves look good at the default settings. There are no serious defects although the blue curve sags somewhat. As a result, blue halftones are going to have more contrast than necessary.

The curves improve at the reduced settings and even coincide in the right part of the diagram.

The SyncMaster T220 is just as good as the T190: its color temperature setup is ideal as TN matrixes go. The temperature dispersion among the different grays is not larger than a few hundred degrees. The temperature is very close to 6500K in the Normal mode just as required by the sRGB standard. Thus, the T220 has no problems with color reproduction.

I should limit my comment to the sample I tested, though. Unfortunately, setup quality varies too much in the home monitor class. The difference in color reproduction between different models of the ToC series is an example. Therefore I am not sure that all samples of the T220 model will be set up as well as this one. However, this is possible: the sample I tested had been taken from a retailer at random.

The CIE diagram with the results of the measurements testifies to the high setup quality, too. A small deflection towards greens can only be noticed in the Warm mode if you want to notice it. The deflection is acceptable in the Normal and Cool mode and is not conspicuous at all.

The maximum brightness is close to the specified 300 nits. The static contrast ratio is 600:1, which is a typical result for a last-generation TN matrix.

Like every model from the Touch of Color series, the SyncMaster T220 has five MagicBright modes differing in brightness (the Sport and Movie modes also differ in color temperature which is set at Cool in the former and at Warm in the latter). This is a handy feature for a home monitor because you can quickly increase the monitor’s brightness when switching from text-based applications to photos, movies or games and reduce it back afterwards.

The first two modes are rather too bright. For example, you need a brightness of 70 to 110 nits, depending on ambient lighting, to work in text-based applications comfortably. Here, the level of brightness is as high as 140 nits. So, you should set up the monitor manually for office applications, use the Text mode for viewing photos, and switch into the Internet and other modes for watching movies and playing games.

Color reproduction doesn’t change in the MagicBright modes. The brightness of the screen is the only changing parameter. The diagram above shows the gamma curves in the brightest mode (Game). You can see that they are no different from the gamma curves at the monitor’s default settings.

Like the two previous models, the T220 has three response time compensation modes: Off, Mode1, Mode2. When response time compensation is turned off, the monitor is as fast as models with a specified response of 5 milliseconds. Its response time average is about 13 milliseconds (GtG) but there are no RTC-provoked artifacts.

Response time compensation is enabled fully for some halftones and disabled for others. As a result, the response time average is reduced to 9.4 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 30.9 milliseconds. This longest transition is between white and a very light gray – the ghosting is not conspicuous on such transitions. The other transitions are shorter than 20 milliseconds.

The response time compensation mechanism is not ideal: its average miss is 3.1%. The maximum miss is 46%. These errors are not annoying but may be conspicuous.

Surprisingly, there are still transitions with disabled RTA even in Mode2. The total number of such transitions has reduced so the response time average is only 4.9 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 19.1 milliseconds.

Although the number is close to 5 milliseconds, you should not think that the monitor’s Mode2 is comparable to models with a specified response time of 5 milliseconds. It is actually far faster. The difference is in the Gray-to-Gray method of measuring response time. The response time of 5ms monitors is measured using the less accurate ISO 13406-2 method and, as I wrote above, corresponds to the T220’s RTA Off mode. When measured according to the GtG method, the monitor has a response time of 13 milliseconds in that mode.

The level of RTC errors is higher in Mode2: an average miss of 10.5% with a maximum of 47%. This is quite a high value considering the zero contribution of those transitions for which RTC is disabled.

Anyway, the SyncMaster T220 is a good monitor thanks to its neat color reproduction setup, which is a rare property among modern home-oriented models.

First Look: SyncMaster T220P

While the three previous models had the same specs as other models from Samsung as well as from other manufacturers, the T220P is special at the moment. It is a 22-inch monitor with a Full-HD resolution of 1920x1200 pixels.

This reminds me of the Lenovo ThinkVision L220x that has the same resolution and size of the screen and is also based on an S-PVA matrix. Alas, the T220P employs a TN matrix.

Another notable difference from the T190, T200 and T220 is that the specified response time is now 5 milliseconds (ISO) instead of 2 milliseconds (GtG). In other words, the T220P does not have response time compensation. By the way, every Touch of Color series model with a native resolution higher than 1680x1050 lacks RTC.

The other monitors in this review were taken by us from retail shops at random, but the SyncMaster T220P was provided by the Russian office of Samsung Electronics. Off-the-shelf samples of this model may differ from ours, for the better as well as for the worse. My practice suggests that presale samples sent out for testing often have poor setup. Therefore this is only a preview.

The monitor had 100% brightness and 75% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit level of white by choosing 45% brightness and 50% contrast. The brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 331Hz.

Now that I have mentioned the Lenovo L220x, some samples of it could not produce a sharp picture, but the T220P is free from this problem.

The T220P is a monitor for people with good eyesight. The pixel pitch is small, so you have to move closer to the screen or scale everything up. On the other hand, this property enables the T220P to display images sharply and draw fonts very neatly.

Color gradients are reproduced without defects at the default settings. It is only at a contrast of 40% and lower that barely visible banding appears in them.

The monitor has a standard color gamut. It covers the sRGB color space, being even larger than the latter in greens.

 

The average nonuniformity of white brightness is 5.6% with a maximum deflection of 18.5%. For black brightness, the average and maximum are 6.8% and 25.6%. The pictures based on the measurement results show an X-shaped pattern typical of many monitors.

The gamma curves are very sloppy at the default settings. The blue curve is higher than necessary as its value of gamma is too low. For red, the value of gamma is too high. I hope these are only defects of a presale sample.

The curves have moved closer to each other at the reduced settings, but still do not coincide.

With such gamma curves you can’t expect any miracles from the color temperature setup. There is a few thousand degrees of difference between the levels of gray, which is not only unacceptable for any image editing but even looks unpleasant.

Trying to set the color temperature up better, I lowered the contrast setting to 45%, set the color temperature option (in the Color Tone menu) at Custom and moved the appropriate sliders (in the Color Control menu) into the following positions: R=50, G=35, B=17. You can see the result in the last column of the table above: I didn’t even match the modest result of the above-discussed SyncMaster T200.

The CIE diagram confirms my point: the dot for dark gray does not even fit into my diagram in the Cool mode. There is a small deviation into green in every mode, but it is not a big deal considering the catastrophic difference in the temperatures of grays.

The maximum brightness is about 250 nits. The contrast ratio is about 600:1. These are normal results.

The MagicBright modes are set up adequately. Each is just bright enough for the intended application. So if you select Text, you indeed get as much brightness of the screen as necessary for working in a text-based application under ordinary office lighting. My calibrator cannot measure the dynamic contrast ratio because the level of black is below the calibrator’s measurement accuracy. So I can only say that the monitor’s dynamic contrast ratio is not lower than 13,000:1.

Color reproduction in the MagicBright modes is no worse than at the manual settings, except that light halftones are indistinguishable from white in the Game and Dynamic Contrast modes.

The SyncMaster T220P does not have response time compensation (which is called RTA by Samsung) and its speed is rather low: an average response of 14.4 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 27.6 milliseconds.

Although the results of this sample of the SyncMaster T220P are downright disappointing, nothing is lost yet. It was a presale sample, and I hope the T200P will be set up better when it comes to the market. Sometimes we don’t even publish the test results of a presale product when it proves to be too raw.

From a technical point of view, the SyncMaster T220P may be interesting due to its native resolution. There are very few 22-inch models with a resolution of 1920x1200 pixels. Thanks to that, the monitor allows watching Full-HD video and also delivers a sharper and smoother image in comparison with ordinary 22-inch and 24-inch models. Superbly drawn and elegant fonts, high level of detail, no over-sharpness effect in photographs (this effect is noticeable on monitors with a large pixel pitch) are the highs of the T220P. On the other hand, if looking at small images strains your eyes while the pixel pitch of typical 19-inch models looks normal, you are unlikely to be satisfied with the T220P.

SyncMaster T240

The two senior models – 24-inch and 26-inch ones – differ from the above-discussed monitors not only with the size of the screen. They also feature a HDMI input and an integrated USB hub.

HDMI is nothing really new (just as HDMI-DVI adapters), but the T240 and T260 are among the few models that offer full support for audio-over-HDMI. Although these monitors do not have integrated speakers, they can output the sound they receive via HDMI not only in analog but also in digital format, via optical S/PDIF.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast by default. To achieve a 100nit white I lowered the brightness and contrast settings to 40% and 45%, respectively. The brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 180Hz.

The color gamut is perfectly standard. The ToC series uses neither LED backlight nor lamps with improved phosphors, and every model from this series has a color gamut that is overall similar to sRGB.

The average nonuniformity of white brightness is 6.3% with a maximum deflection of 22.2%. For black brightness, the average and maximum are 6.8% and 25.6%. Not very good results: the sides of the screen are dark while the bottom is bright.

The gamma curves are acceptable at the default settings. The blue curve just sags a little.

At the reduced settings the curves improve and coincide through most of their length.

The T240 is just as good in terms of color temperature setup as the T190 and T220: the difference between the levels of gray is not higher than a few hundred degrees, which is an excellent result for a home monitor based on a TN matrix.

The T240 doesn’t require manual adjustment, yet I set it up for a color temperature of 6500K as required by the sRGB standard. To do this I set Contrast at 70% and set the color temperature sliders as R=50, G=43, B=42. You can see the result in the Custom column of the table above.

The CIE diagram testifies to the high accuracy of the monitor’s setup. If you feel like fault-finding, you can note the small deviation of the white dot into greens in the Normal mode, but this effect can’t be noticed with a naked eye. Moreover, it disappears if you reduce the monitor’s Contrast setting.

The max brightness and contrast ratio are perfectly normal. The above-described manual setup lowers the maximum brightness just a little.

The MagicBright modes agree with their respective names. The Text mode is meant for good office lighting, though. If you are working with text at home under dim ambient lighting, you may want to adjust the monitor’s contrast and brightness settings manually to reach a comfortable level and use the MagicBright technology for viewing photos, watching movies and playing games. The monitor’s dynamic contrast ratio is no lower than 13,000:1.

The T240 does not have response time compensation and its speed is rather low as the consequence. Its response time average is 14.6 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 28.2 milliseconds. This is quite enough for office applications, movies and not-very-dynamic games, but devoted gamers may want to prefer a faster monitor.

So, the T240 is a good product, boasting not only the pretty looks typical of the ToC series but also superb setup quality. Its only downsides are the rather high response time and the notable nonuniformity of brightness.

SyncMaster T260

The 26-inch SyncMaster T260 is the last model in the Touch of Color series. It has the same formal specifications as the T240, except for the size of the screen. Thus, it has a HDMI input, two audio outputs, and an integrated USB hub.

By default, this monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast. I selected 40% brightness and 42% contrast to achieve a 100nit brightness of white. The monitor regulates its brightness by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 180Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced perfectly, without banding.

The color gamut is standard, nearly coinciding with the sRGB color space.

 

This model features good uniformity of brightness. The average nonuniformity of white brightness is as low as 3.7% with a maximum of only 11.0%. For black brightness, the average and maximum nonuniformity is 5.9% and 17.0%.

The gamma curves are separate from each other and the theoretical curve at the default settings.

The curves improved at the reduced settings, yet are still quite far from perfect.

Funnily enough, the ToC series models alternate in the quality of their color temperature setup. The T190 is good, the T200 bad, the T220 good again, etc. The T260 complies with this rule. Its color temperature setup is awful. The temperature dispersion among the different grays is as large as 1000 degrees and more.

Trying to improve the monitor’s color reproduction, I lowered Contrast to 40% and set the color temperature sliders as R=67, G=50 and B=32. However, dark gray still remained much colder than white as you can see in the Custom column of the table above.

Besides the difference in grays, the CIE diagram shows a shift towards greens. The shift gets larger in the warmer modes.

The max brightness and contrast ratio are quite ordinary.

The MagicBright modes are distinctly different, but the first two – Text and Internet – are too bright to be used for the intended applications. I would recommend you to set the monitor up manually for comfortable brightness, switch into the Text mode for viewing photos and use the Internet or brighter modes for games and movies.

Talking about color reproduction, the Game mode, which is the brightest one, has a bend in the top right part of the blue curve, indicating excessive contrast. This defect can hardly be perceived with a naked eye, though.

The gamma curves look no worse than at the monitor’s default settings even in Movie mode, let alone the less bright modes.

The monitor does not have response time compensation so its response time average is a modest 14.9 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 25.1 milliseconds.

While the failure of the T220P could be explained by the presale sample, the failure of the T200 by problems of the particular sample, the T260 leaves no room for further indulgence. It is a third monitor from the ToC series whose setup is very far from ideal, to put it mildly.

Conclusion

If my tests of the Touch of Color series were limited to the 19-inch and 22-inch models, I would call this series impeccable. If they were limited to the 20-inch and 26-inch models, I would have to say that the form does not match the contents.

Fortunately, I have tested six models, including the presale SyncMaster T220P. The results are most controversial. The T200, T220P and T260 are set up awfully, but the T190, T220 and T240 are not just good, but among the leaders of their class. I can only make guesses as to the cause of this divergence. Perhaps Samsung does not take the problem of setting up the Touch of Color series seriously, even though the series is positioned into the premium market sector. Perhaps they use matrixes from different makers and of different quality in one and the same monitor model. Anyway, my tests make it clear that you cannot be sure of high setup quality of every ToC series monitor.

On the other hand, three out of the six monitors are so good in terms of color reproduction that they do not need any additional calibration to be used as home monitors (and what other use can you suggest for a beautiful monitor with a TN matrix?). Such an accurate setup can be but rarely seen in modern monitors of this class and you should keep this fact in mind, too.

You may argue that the three successful ToC models are just as good as other models from Samsung and other brands in the rest of parameters such as ergonomics, response time, viewing angles, brightness uniformity, etc, whereas color accuracy can be improved by means of a hardware calibrator purchased separately (for example, a DataColor Spyder2express).

Well, a calibrator costs money. Even though its price may not be too high, this is a considerable addition to the cost of a 19-inch or even a 22-inch monitor. Moreover, the ToC series features an exceptional exterior design. I guess these are among the most beautiful monitors I have ever seen.

So, you should certainly take a look at Samsung’s Touch of Color series if you are choosing a home monitor. It deserves your attention not only because of its nice exterior design but also because of its good setup quality. But as I’ve found out, gems can be defective, too. So, spend a few minutes of your time to check the monitor out at the shop before you purchase it. You should look at the reproduction of gray in the first place: dark gray must not seem bluish in comparison with light gray.