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Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H review: Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H

Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H

Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
Expertise Graphics and display technology. Credentials
  • Once wrote 50 articles in one month.
Eric Franklin
10 min read

Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H - LCD display - TFT - 23"

Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H

The Good

The <b>Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H</b> has a visually striking footstand, a comprehensive OSD, color mostly devoid of hue problems, and good performance displaying movies and games. The monitor's brightness is fairly high, making it good for presentation tasks. The "trees saved" feature is well-implemented.

The Bad

The S23A550H has a nasty habit of washing out bright colors, and in certain tasks it pushes too much green. Also, its connection ports are a pain to access and the cable management feature is shoddily implemented. The better-performing and better-designed Samsung PX2370 is available for the same price.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H LED monitor performs well and the price is good, but it simply pales in comparison with its predecessor.

The Samsung PX2370 review is consistently the most popular monitor review on CNET. Not surprising, since it's the monitor I recommend the most, on nearly a daily basis, through other monitor reviews and nearly every monitor-related blog post. The PX2370's design, price, performance, and features make it one of the best TN displays we've ever reviewed. As you can imagine, anticipation for the PX2370's follow-up, the Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H, is extremely high. No pressure, of course.

We'll now take an in-depth look at the S23A550H to determine just what a difference a year makes.

Design and features
The Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H is the latest in the line of sleek Samsung LED monitors and, not surprisingly, looks like the illegitimate love child of the two previous entries, the PX2370 and XL2370. Like the XL2370, the S23A550H's design has a soft, rounded motif, without the sharp angles of the PX2370. The panel thickness of both the PX2370 and XL2370 is 0.7 inch, but it seems Samsung has abandoned its desire to keep the line quite this thin. At 1 inch thick, the S23A550H is more than one-third thicker than its sister monitors.

Other S23A550H measurements are more or less on par with the previous models, as the monitor showcases a 0.9-inch-wide bezel, a 22-inch-wide panel, and a 3.6-inch distance from the bottom of the bezel to the desktop. No VESA support is included. The bezel is tinged with maroon, a feature Samsung calls Touch of Color that wasn't present on the PX2370 or XL2370.

We absolutely love the design of the footstand. Good looks and stable. Interested now, ladies?

The S23A550H's most striking flourish is its footstand, which, at 9.25 inches wide and 9.5 inches deep, is even wider than the PX2370's. It's almost completely transparent and looks downright cool. The slightly oval footstand is also stable enough to keep the monitor from toppling if knocked around a bit.

A huge component of the PX2370's presence was the centrally located power button bathed in the glow of a surrounding white LED light. On the S23A550H, the power button has been moved to the lower right corner of the bezel and the space where the button is on the PX2370 has been taken by an unassuming, unspectacular motion sensor, which we'll talk about later.

The S23A550H's biggest design misstep arose from Samsung's desire to add an additional feature. The neck of the monitor is hollow, which should provide a neat cable routing pathway, that is, if you can actually feed the cable through. Unfortunately, the pathway is so narrow that doing this is impossible. The casing of the neck can be removed and the cables placed on top of the neck and then re-covered with the casing. However, because the proprietary power cable is so thick, we were only able to partially close the cover and actually broke off a small piece of the covering while trying to close it completely.

While the small hole at the bottom of the neck is big enough for the cables, the pathway in between the hole and connections is simply too narrow to feed cables through. A design misstep.

Once the covering is removed (make sure not to cut your hand removing it, as I did) you can organize the cables and then attempt to completely cover those cables again. We say 'attempt,' since we were unable to completely close the covering with cables inside.

Once closed, even partially, the cable manager does do a great job of keeping the cables secure and hidden. Still, more space inside would have made for a far less infuriating experience.

The power cable couldn't be fed through the narrow pathway of the cable router, thanks mostly to that fat part on the left. This same portion also kept the cable router cover from closing completely.

Instead of facing back, as on the PX2370, where they're very easily accessible, the connections on the S23A550 face downward, and because the display's neck is only a couple of inches directly below them, a clear line of sight to the connections isn't available, making them frustratingly difficult to access.

Since the top of the display's neck is in such close proximity to the connections and because the connections face downward and are embedded in the monitor in a somewhat deep alcove, connecting video cables has rarely been as frustrating. Also, as you can see, Samsung has done away with DVI as a connection option here, so if you're a PC user, be prepared to possibly invest in a DVI-to-HDMI cable.

Speaking of connections, Samsung made the decision do away with DVI on the S23A550H, which offers only HDMI and VGA as options. Since the display comes only with a VGA cable and doesn't include cables for HDMI or DVI-to-HDMI, an investment in at least one cable will be required for some users.

The S23A550H's build quality feels flimsier than the PX2370's (somewhat demonstrated by the brittle neck casing), but overall fairly solid for a TN monitor.

The On Screen 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 a button is pressed, a contextual onscreen menu guide lines up with each button, making their functions clear. Having the OSD buttons on the front of the monitor is more convenient than having them on the back, as they are on the PX2370.

The OSD includes all the typical Samsung features like Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness RGB color controls, six different color temperature options, and 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 S23A550H clearer from certain angles.

Eco Mode is your one-stop shop for all things power saving. Here you can switch on the motion timer, which puts the monitor to sleep if it doesn't sense movement after a user-specified time, and the ambient light sensor. However, my absolute favorite Eco feature is the tree icon, which grows larger with more and more leaves the more Eco Mode features you use to save power. It even gives you an estimated "trees saved" number.

Design and feature highlights
Connectivity: VGA, HDMI
Ergonomic options: 20-degree back tilt
Resolution: 1,920x1,080 pixels
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Audio: None
VESA wall-mount support: No
Included video cables: VGA
Backlight: LED
Panel type: TN
Screen film: Matte w/AG coating
Number of presets: 5
Overdrive: Yes
Picture options: Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, HDMI Black Level
Color controls: RGB and 6 color temperature options
Gamma control: Yes
Additional features: Magic Angle, Eco Mode

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

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
Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H
Samsung PX2370
LG Flatron E2290
HP 2310e

Contrast ratio
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP 2310e

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.

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.

Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H - LCD display - TFT - 23"

Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 7Support 8