I expected the Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H to be a worthy successor to the Samsung PX2370. I was wrong, and while the S23A550H wasn't a bad monitor, it failed to live up to the performance and smart design of the best TN monitor to date. It stands to reason then that I went into the SyncMaster S23A350H's review with low expectations.
Does the S23A350H benefit from the fact that I didn't expect much from it, or is it just another S23A550H?
Design and features
The 23-inch Samsung SyncMaster S23A350H (SA350H line) is one of several new LED-based monitor lines released by Samsung this year. A few months ago we reviewed the S23A550H. The S23A350H has a similar design, but looks more like a traditional Samsung monitor.
A soft, rounded motif permeates the S23A350H's design, without the sharp angles of the Samsung PX2370. As with the S23A550H, Samsung has abandoned going ultrathin with the S23A350H's design. Its initial depth is about 0.8 inch, but the back of the panel extends another full inch to include the connection options, and at its thickest the S23A350H measures about 1.8 inches.
Other S23A350H measurements are more or less on par with the previous models, with a 0.9-inch bezel, 22-inch panel width, and 3.3-inch distance from the bottom of the bezel to the desktop. VESA support is not included and the monitor's frame is tinged with maroon, a detail it shares with the S23A550H. Unique to the S23A350H however is its washboardlike grooved back.
The S23A350H has a typical-looking foot stand, measuring 10.1 inches in diameter; however, the back of the stand includes a hook that acts as a cable router, which, unlike the cumbersome cable router on the S23A550H, works smoothly. The slightly oval foot stand is also stable enough to keep the monitor from toppling if knocked around a bit, although it doesn't prevent wobbling in the slightest.
As with the S23A550H, Samsung made the decision to do away with DVI on the S23A350H, and gives it only HDMI and VGA as options. We understand that people use their monitors for more than just connecting to their computers, but since the display comes only with VGA cables and doesn't include cables for HDMI or a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, most people will need to invest in at least one additional cable. The Dell S2330MX offers only HDMI and VGA as well, but Dell smartly included an HDMI-to-DVI adapter, something we wish Samsung would have done at least.
The onscreen display (OSD) array is located horizontally along the bottom right side of the bezel, to the left of the power button. The buttons are touch-sensitive areas and offer no tactile response when pushed; however, once one is pressed, a contextual onscreen menu guide lines up with each button, making their functions clear. Having the OSD buttons on the front instead of the back as they were on the PX2370 makes them easier to use.
The OSD includes all the typical Samsung features like Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, RGB color controls, six different color temperature options, and five presets for Custom, Standard, Game, Cinema, and Dynamic Contrast. Magic Angle attempts to mimic wide-viewing-angle displays by adjusting the brightness, contrast, black level, and gamma to make the screen on the S23A350H clearer from certain angles.
The S23A350H is missing the really well-implemented Eco feature seen on the S23A550H. Instead, the S23A350H's Eco feature is limited to brightness control only.
In terms of build quality, the S23A350H feels slightly sturdier than the S23A550H, which was plagued with a brittle neck casing. Overall the S23A350H is very solid for a TN monitor.
|Design and feature highlights|
|Ergonomic options:||20-degree back tilt|
|VESA wall-mount support:||No|
|Included video cables:||VGA|
|Screen film:||Matte w/AG coating|
|Number of presets:||5|
|Picture options:||Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, HDMI Black Level|
|Color controls:||RGB and 6 color temperature options|
|Additional features:||Magic Angle, Eco Mode|
We tested the Samsung SyncMaster S23A350H through its HDMI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using our own HDMI cable. The display posted a composite score of 93 in CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.
The merits of an antiglare (AG) screen coating are much debated these days. Some people prefer the coating not be applied at all, while others favor only a limited amount. A third set of viewers are completely indifferent. AG coating doesn't adversely affect quality and its merits or lack thereof are strictly a question of preference.
That said, there is heavy AG coating on the S23A350H's screen, reducing potential reflections, but diminishing glossiness severely. A glossy display can increase the perceived contrast of a monitor screen--which some people prefer--but it can also be difficult to see in direct sunlight.
DisplayMate: The S23A350H displayed light gray up to level 253. Every level between 1 and 255 (considered white) is a variation of gray. Once calibrated, the monitor could not distinguish between 254 and 255, thereby performing better than the S23A550H, which topped out at 251 and washed out colors during real-world use. The S23A350H's performance here indicates the display will likely not be prone to washing out light colors. As for dark gray, the S23A350H displayed down to level 2, pointing to a low black level.
The monitor performed excellently in our Color Tracking test, which looks for evidence of tint and hue problems. In our Dark Screen test, light struggled to break through the veil of the monitor's black panel, making the entire screen look very dark gray instead of true black. Additionally, slight 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 S23A350H using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." The Cinema preset provided the best overall experience, displaying richer colors and deeper blacks than we saw on the S23A550H.
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, clean, vibrant look, this goes a long way. If colors also pop with fullness and depth, games usually look great.
The game Torchlight on the Samsung SyncMaster S23A350H in the Game preset had decent vibrancy and while colors weren't oversaturated as they tend to be on the PX2370, they weren't as bland as on the S23A550H either. Both the Game preset and our calibrated settings were suitable for games on the display.
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 S23A350H displayed slightly less streaking than the PX2370, which itself has shown some of the lowest levels of streaking of any monitor.
Photos: Overall, color in photos didn't pop as on the PX2370, but we saw much less green in faces and hair than on the S23A550H.
Recommended settings: We used SpectraCal's CalPC to calibrate the Samsung S23A350H for bright-room viewing. The following settings are what the monitor was adjusted to after calibration.
If you find these settings are still unsatisfactory, try the different presets, as they're all well-suited for their appropriate tasks.
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 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 S23A350H uses a TN panel, so its viewing angle from the sides, top, and especially underneath is narrower than you see on high-end displays like the Asus PA246Q, which uses IPS panel technology. As mentioned before, the S23A350H makes better use of Samsung's Magic Angle feature than the S23A550H does. This is in part thanks to the S23A350H's better handling of color.
Magic Angle gives the option of changing attributes of the monitor so that it looks better when viewed 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 S23A350H achieved good power consumption, with a Default/On power draw of 26.3 watts, close to the Samsung PX2370's 25.01 watts in the same test.
In our Sleep/Standby test, the S23A350H cost 0.38 watt and the PX2370 pulled a lower 0.27 watt. As we expected, the monitors would incur near the same annual cost, and based on our formula, the S23A350H would cost $8.11 per year to run, compared with the PX2370's slightly lower $7.65 per year.
|Samsung SyncMaster S23A350H||Average watts per hour|
|On (default luminance)||26.3|
|On (max luminance)||26.3|
|On (min luminance)||9.9|
|Calibrated (200 cd/m2)||22.6|
|Annual power consumption cost||$8.11|
Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.
Service and support
Samsung backs the SyncMaster S23A350H 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.
After the disappointment of the S23A550H, it's great to see the S23A350H perform as well as it did in our tests. With its sound and sensible design, great performance, and useful and robust OSD, the S23A350H is well worth its very low asking price. It could have included a DVI connection or adapter, but if you don't mind a small investment at MonoPrice.com, that isn't much of an objection.