Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H review: Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H

Performance
We tested the Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H through its HDMI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using our own HDMI cable. The display posted a composite score of 91 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.

The merits of antiglare (AG) screen coating are much debated these days. Some viewers prefer the coating not be applied at all, while others favor only a limited amount. Still others are completely indifferent. AG coating doesn't adversely affect quality and it's strictly a question of preference.

That said, there is heavy antiglare coating on the S23A550H's screen, reducing potential reflections, but diminishing glossiness severely.

DisplayMate: The S23A550H displayed light gray up to level 251. White is 255, while levels below that are variations of gray. Once calibrated, the monitor could not distinguish between 255 (white) and levels 252, 253, and 254. This indicates the display will likely be prone to washing out light colors. As for dark gray, the S23A550H displayed down to level 3, pointing to a fairly low black level.

The monitor performed excellently in our Color Tracking, which looks for evidence of tint and hue problems. In our Dark Screen test, though, the entire screen looked very dark gray instead of true black, and backlight bleeding was noticeable in the lower and upper edges of the screen.

Text: Black text on white looked clear, without any obvious color tint problems. Fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8 size.

Movies: We tested the Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." While the Cinema preset provided the best overall experience with its vivid colors and high contrast, it crushed dark-gray details. Conversely, our calibrated setting (detailed below) displayed a brighter image in which dark grays could easily be seen, but didn't display the same high contrast and colors didn't pop as brilliantly.

Games: When evaluating the look of games on a monitor, the two most important features to consider are vibrancy and color. If the monitor can display games with a bright and vibrant cleanness, this goes a long way, and if colors pop with fullness and depth, games will usually look great.

StarCraft II on the Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H in the Game preset had decent vibrancy and while colors weren't oversaturated as they tend to be on the PX2370, they trended too far in the opposite direction and looked somewhat bland. Both the Game preset and our calibrated settings were suitable for games on the display, but slightly more color saturation for the Games preset would have been great.

To test refresh rate, we used DisplayMate's motion graphics tests and stared at a number of colored blocks as they moved around the screen at various speeds. The S23A550H displayed slightly less streaking than the PX2370, which itself shows some of the lowest levels of streaking of any monitor we've tested.

Photos: Overall, color in photos didn't pop the way it does on the PX2370, and we saw slight traces of green in certain faces and when viewing blonde hair.

Recommended settings: We used SpectraCal's CalPC to calibrate the Samsung S23A550H for bright-room viewing, resulting in the following settings.

Attribute Setting
Preset Custom
Brightness 79
Contrast 27
Color temperature Normal
Color settings R-63
G-62
B-59

If you find these settings are unsatisfactory, try the different presets, as they're well-suited for their tasks.

Viewing angle:
The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually from directly in front, about a quarter of the distance down from the top of the screen. At this angle, you're viewing colors as the manufacturer intended. Most monitors aren't designed to be viewed from any other angle. Depending on the monitor's panel type, picture quality at non-optimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when not viewed from optimal angles.

The Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H uses a TN panel so its viewing angle from the sides, top, and especially underneath is narrower than for high-end displays like the Asus PA246Q , which uses IPS panel technology.

As mentioned before, the S23A550H makes use of Samsung's Magic Angle feature, which we praised when it debuted on the PX2370. Here, however, possibly thanks to the washed-out light colors, we weren't as impressed. Magic Angle gives the option of changing attributes of the monitor to improve how it looks from certain angles. This does affect the clarity of text, but mostly it affects contrast. The feature works, but its uses are limited. For example, Lean Back Mode works only if your viewing angle is up to 15 degrees down from a perfect angle--any more than 15 degrees and it ceases to be useful. It's still a nice extra, but we'd love to see some improvements in future implementations.

Power consumption: The Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H showed a good Default/On power draw of 26.7 watts, which is close to the Samsung PX2370's 25.01 watts in the same test. Interesting results, given the PX2370's better overall performance.

In our Sleep/Standby test, the S23A550H drew 0.31 watts and the PX2370 pulled a lower 0.27 watts. As we expected, the monitors would incur near the same annual cost and, based on our formula, the S23A550H would cost $8.18 per year to run, compared with the PX2370's slightly lower $7.65 per year.

Brightness (in cd/m2)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Samsung SyncMaster XL2370
344 
Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H
251 
Samsung PX2370
246 
LG Flatron E2290
244 
HP 2310e
234 

Contrast ratio
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP 2310e
1,110:1 
Samsung PX2370
948:1 

DisplayMate performance score
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Juice box
Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H Average watts per hour
On (default luminance) 26.7
On (max luminance) 26.7
On (min luminance) 10.3
Sleep 0.31
Calibrated (200 cd/m2) 22.3
Annual power consumption cost $8.18
Score Good

Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.

Service and support
Samsung backs the SyncMaster S23A550H with a three-year parts-and-labor warranty that covers the backlight. It also offers support through a 24-7 toll-free number, as well as 24- to 48-hour turnaround e-mail and Web chat support.

Conclusions
The existence of the Samsung PX2370 precludes our giving the S23A550H our full recommendation. Both monitors can be found for as low as $280 and while the S23A550H displays mostly accurate colors, the PX2370 has better overall performance, especially when displaying games, movies, and photos. Also, the PX2370's connection options are easily accessible and overall we find it more aesthetically appealing. The S23A550H isn't a bad monitor by any means, but if you have a choice, the PX2370 is still the way to go. The S23A550H has a few useful and unique features, but they're not worth passing up the PX2370.

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Where to Buy See All

Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H

Part Number: LS23A550HS/ZA
Low Price: $262.61 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Display Type LED-backlit LCD monitor / TFT active matrix
  • Interface VGA (HD-15)
  • Diagonal Size 23 in
  • Pixel Pitch 0.2655 mm
  • Image Aspect Ratio 16:9
About The Author

Eric Franklin is a section editor covering how to and tablets. He's also co-host of CNET's do-it-yourself and how-to show, The Fix and is a 20-year tech industry veteran.