Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H review: Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H

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The Good The Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H 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.

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6.9 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 8

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.