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So what exactly is the Samsung SyncMaster C23A750X, or Central Station, as it's also called? Samsung refers to it as an "IT hub," but I think a more apt description would be "wireless monitor/docking station." It's a standalone monitor with a number of inputs, and it connects wirelessly to your Windows 7 or XP laptop.
First, connect your desktop peripherals (keyboard, mouse) via USB to the Central Station's base. Then, insert the included wireless USB dongle into your notebook's USB 2.0 port. Now, whenever your laptop comes within a 5-foot radius of the Central Station, it will connect wirelessly to all of your desktop peripherals as well as the 23-inch monitor, without you needing to touch any cords or adjust any settings.
Cool concept, but does it actually work and, if so, how well? Also, and maybe more importantly, is it worth the $450 dollars Samsung is asking? Keep reading to find out.
Design and features
The 23-inch Samsung SyncMaster C23A750X's panel resembles that of the Samsung PX2370, with its front portion encased in a transparent plastic covering, sheltering a black chassis underneath. The panel has a thin bezel, about 0.75 inch on the left and right sides, and its profile is as thin as the PX2370's, measuring about 0.7 inch.
On the back, the monitor's glossy panel is completely flat, aside from a 3.75x 5.5-inch area in the bottom middle, where the hinge meets the panel and protrudes out slightly. The corners are somewhat rounded, although not as much so as other, softer Samsung designs like the P2770FH. The matte screen has an antiglare coating, covering the edge-lit LED backlight within.
The base of the C23A750X is narrow, with a rectangular shape and a smooth, convex top. The stand measures 5.25 inches wide by 9.25 inches long and at those dimensions is, unsurprisingly, quite wobbly when knocked from the sides. In fact, thanks to this design, it may well be the easiest monitor to topple we've found yet. On the base's front is a black, glossy plate adorned with a silver Samsung logo. On the lower right side, aligned horizontally from left to right, are the menu, hub, and power buttons.
Above the black plate is a dark, silvery section where the navigation controls for the onscreen display (OSD) menu and the source button are located. These controls glow, thanks to a dim white LED light underneath.
The left side of the base features two USB 3.0 downstream ports, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack. The USB 3.0 ports can be identified by their blue connectors, while the two USB 2.0 connectors on the right side of the base are white. The back of the base features a VGA port, Ethernet port, and USB upstream port.
The C23A750X was made with a double hinge design: the first hinge allows height adjustment from 1 to 4 inches from the desktop, and the second allows the panel to tilt back a complete 90 degrees, until it faces directly up.
Pressing the menu button brings up the monitor's OSD. The OSD consists of typical monitor options such as Brightness, Contrast, and Sharpness, as well as a response time option. Also featured is Magic Angle, which allows you to view the monitor from specific angles with minimal color changes.
Presets include Custom, Standard, Game, Cinema, and Dynamic Contrast. There are also specific color controls, including Red, Green, and Blue options. Color tone can be adjusted from warm to cool temperatures, and for fans of gamma control, Samsung includes three different levels to choose from.
The Eco Savings options simply consist of brightness shortcuts that adjust the display's luminance to 75 or 100 percent.
Thanks to its LED lights, the navigation interface can be easily seen in the dark, but the actual buttons, or in this case, touch areas, were not as consistently responsive as we would have liked. The lack of any tactile response is the most likely culprit.
Aside from its ridiculously wobbly base, the C23A750X is a well-designed, fairly sleek package with a large number of features.
|Design and feature highlights|
|Connectivity:||HDMI, VGA, Wireless, USB|
|Ergonomic options:||Dual hinge: 90-degree back tilt and height adjustment|
|VESA wall-mount support:||No|
|Included video cables:||VGA|
|Number of presets:||5|
|Picture options:||Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness|
|Color controls:||RGB controls, Normal, Warm, Cool|
|Additional features:||USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Ethernet, wireless connection to PC|
Note: Due to compatibility issues with both DisplayMate and Central Station, we were unable to test Central Station wirelessly with DisplayMate on our test systems.
We tested the Samsung SyncMaster C23A750X through its HDMI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using an HDMI cable from our vast collection. The display posted a composite score of 94 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests. The C23A750X gave mostly equal performance to the Samsung PX2370, but also improved on the PX2370 some areas, as we saw smoother linear progression from dark to light colors in a few of the color tests. There were a few areas where the C23A750X came up short, however, its most egregious offense being found in the area of backlight bleed-through. On dark screens, the edge-lit LED backlight very noticeably shines through on the bottom and top of the display.
Text: We saw no color problems with black text on a white background. Fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8 size.
Movies: We tested the Samsung SyncMaster C23A750X using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." Vibrant and deep color was the name of the game, as the C23A750X presented the movie at a quality on par with the PX2370. We also saw fairly deep blacks for a TN monitor, but nowhere near as deep as we've seen on IPS and VA screens. Also, colors looked accurate without overemphasizing red, as the PX2370 tends to do.
Games: Because of our intimate familiarity with StarCraft II (SCII), it remains our favorite tool for judging color quality and vibrancy in games, and in the Game preset, we saw a vibrancy that matched the PX2370's legendary vibrancy level. Colors popped, without appearing oversaturated.
To test refresh rate, we used DisplayMate's motion graphics test, which throws a number of colored panels around the screen at various speeds, making it easy to detect streaking. With the C23A750X, we witnessed very little streaking, matching the performance of the PX2370.
Photos: The last few monitors we've tested in CNET Labs have delivered photo performance with an inescapable green push, producing photos of faces that look greenish and sickly. The C23A750X rivals the PX2370 in the photo arena, but doesn't surpass it. There was still a slight tinge of green, but unlike with some previous monitors, we were able to correct it to our satisfaction with a simple OSD tweak, detailed below in the "Recommended settings and use" section.
Viewing angle: The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a quarter of the screen's distance down from the top. At this angle, you're viewing the colors as the manufacturer intended them. Most monitors aren't made to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on the monitor's panel type, picture quality at nonoptimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when they are not viewed from optimal angles. As is typical with TN panels, we noticed a color shift on the C23A750X when viewing the screen from about 6 inches to the left or right of center.
Thankfully, Samsung outfitted the C23A750X with Magic Angle, which adjusts the monitor's image so colors are closer to normal when viewed from specified angles. You still won't find the kind of off-angle performance you'd expect from an IPS monitor, but it's much improved over the TN norm. Check out the viewing angle section of our Samsung PX2370 review for more on Magic Angle.
Recommended settings and use: We found the Game and Cinema presets were indeed the best choices when viewing games and movies, respectively. As we mentioned above, when viewing photos, there is a slight tinge of green to faces, but this can be resolved with the following settings:
It would be an incredibly tall order to find a monitor that failed at performing general tasks, and indeed when for use of Word or Excel, surfing the Internet, or any other casual endeavor, the C23A750X gets the job done without any problems.
The C23A750X isn't suited to tasks that require very accurate color, given its TN roots. If precise color values are something you require, an IPS monitor like the excellent but much more expensive Dell UltraSharp U2711 is much more appropriate.
The C23A750X is obviously more than just a monitor, and in this section we'll describe our experience while using it as a wireless docking station.
We used two laptops and a desktop to test Central Station using the included wireless USB dongle. There's also the option to use a traditional wired USB connection, but that's just not quite as exciting.
After we installed the drivers, the dongle didn't detect the C23A750X until we opened the Hub menu on the monitor and turned on Auto Wireless Detection. In two out of the three installations we conducted, it was also necessary to access our Windows screen resolution control panel and make sure the C23A750X was enabled.
According to Samsung, the USB dongle connection has a 5-foot-radius limit and beyond that things aren't expected to function as smoothly, and will eventually not function at all. We found that we could get about 6 to 7 feet away before severe lag hampered our experience. When we brought the laptops back into the C23A750X's wireless radius, performance suffered for a few seconds as the monitor resynced, before working smoothly again.
We looked at "Green Lantern" footage from WonderCon using QuickTime and noticed a small drop in quality when playing the movie over wireless USB rather than HDMI. This can be seen in the very first scene, as Sinestro, back to the camera, walks toward the Corps. Using wireless, there's obvious pixelization on the small of his back, but through HDMI, no pixelization is evident. When playing Call of Duty: Black Ops wirelessly, there was a definite degradation in visual quality in the game and a noticeable dip in frame rate, but control responsiveness didn't seem to be affected. In static, high-resolution photos, we saw no obvious visual differences between the two connection options.
Keep in mind that we were looking for these inconsistencies and most viewers would not notice the difference. Still, it must be said, at least for video and games, you won't see the exact same visual quality using wireless that you get from HDMI. If for whatever reason you're looking at reference material that requires precise color values, you'll probably want to use HDMI, just to be safe; however, if that's the case, you'll likely want to use something more accurate than a TN-based panel monitor in the first place.
The C23A750X has the option of turning on an accelerated charging rate for its two USB 3.0 ports. Although the ports charged our iPhones faster than USB 2.0, plugging the phones directly into the wall was still the fastest charging option.
We experienced some instability with the Ethernet port and had to make sure our Ethernet cable was pushed as far into the port as possible. Even while it was locked in, if the cable was not deep enough in the port, the network would drop.
The Alienware M17x conundrum
When we tested on the Alienware M17x, we ran into a few problems that we couldn't reproduce on the other two test systems. It should be noted that the M17x was being used as a workstation before the tests and had many programs installed on it, a high number of which launched at start-up.
First off, we were unable to connect the C23A750X to the M17x in clone mode. There was an option for extend mode, but none for clone. Also, with tons of programs running in the background, the M17x occasionally froze when switching from HDMI to the wireless connection, forcing a hard reset of the laptop, before it functioned properly again. After disabling most of those start-up programs, we no longer experienced this.
On one occasion, when we took the laptop out of the C23A750X's 5-foot radius and then reentered it, the screen went black on both devices and we were unable to revive it, again forcing us to restart the computer.
To be clear, when using "cleaner" test systems, which were an Asus G73Jw and a newer M17x, we had no difficulties. The syncing just worked. You can leave the area with your laptop, come back to your desk hours later, and experience the satisfaction of your laptop automatically syncing with Central Station again, without needing to open the laptop or press a single button.
The Samsung SyncMaster C23A750X achieved fair power consumption, with a Default/On power draw of 29.6 watts, compared with the Samsung PX2370's 25.01 watts in the same test. In our Sleep/Standby test, the C23A750X used 2.8 watts and the PX2370 pulled a lower 0.27 watts. Based on our formula, the C23A750X would cost $10.78 per year to run, compared with the PX2370's $7.65 per year.
|Samsung Central Station SyncMaster C23A750X||Average watts per hour|
|On (default luminance)||29.6|
|On (max luminance)||29.6|
|On (min luminance)||13.4|
|Calibrated (200 cd/m2)||29.6|
|Annual power consumption cost||$10.78|
Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.
Service and support
Samsung backs the SyncMaster C23A750X 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.
As a traditional display, the C23A750X performs well, with the same vast number of OSD options we've come to expect from Samsung monitors. A few idiosyncratic differences it had with one of our test laptops aside, the C23A750X also works as a wireless docking station.
As good as its functionality is, however, we feel the $450 price is a too high. The monitor itself would probably run about $300, and as novel and useful as the added functionality can be, we doubt it would be worth an extra $150 to most users.
That being said, if you have the money to spend and are a laptop user who is constantly moving around with it, Central Station provides a level of convenience you've likely never experienced, and it will probably be of high value to you.